The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Do You Remember Country Sounds?

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1991

Issue: November, 1991

The first and foremost sound that brings back memories is the sound of rain on a tin roof. Many people spent their childhood sleeping upstairs next to a tin roof and enjoyed listening to the rain on it. It's the most soothing sound in the whole world. A lot of people remember this sound, but have you thought about other sounds you may have taken for granted?

Remember the sound of milk hitting a galvanized tin pail when a cow was milked? It formed a rhythm if the milker was skillful. Did you ever milk a cow? If a person is in the habit of milking, they usually lean in toward the cow and even rest their head on the cow's side as they milk. There is a clean, fresh hay smell about a milk cow.

Do you remember the sound of a rooster crowing? It was a country alarm clock for many. If a rooster crowed at night it was considered bad luck though. It was also considered bad luck if hens crowed.

Do you remember the sound of wind blowing through the trees? In the summer it made a different sound than it did in the fall when the leaves began to get brittle and dry. Do you remember the sound it made in the fall when you walked through piles of dry leaves? No child could resist kicking the leaves and rolling in them. Wind seemed to whistle through bare winter branches.

Do you remember sitting outside on the porch about twilight, listening to the birds and trying to pick out which bird was which by its call? The first bird call most children could recognize was the bob-white. Did you ever whistle "bob-white" and wait to see if it would answer back?

Do you remember seeing lightening and counting how long it was until you heard the thunder to see how close it was?

Do you remember waking up to the sound of mother or grandmother lifting the eye-lids of a wood stove, building a fire to start breakfast?

Do you remember a time when there was so little automobile traffic that if you heard a car, you automatically ran to the window to see who it was?

Do you remember a time when airplanes were smaller and flew lower? You could hear them coming and run outside to watch until it was out of sight and wave to the pilot.

Do you remember the sound of a cricket? A lone cricket sometimes got into the house and chirped louder than its small size could account for, making it easy to hear but difficult to find. A cricket on your hearth was considered good luck.

Do you remember knowing what your chickens were doing by the sound of their clucks? A woman would pause in her work, cock her head to one side and say, "a hen just laid an egg," or "go see what's bothering the hens."

Do you remember the sounds of letting a bucket down into a well? There was the squeak of the windlass and the bucket hitting the water. You knew by heart how long it would take for the bucket to hit the water. Then there was the sound of the tin dipper against the side of the water pail. Well water was so cold and fresh tasting, especially if you had been working in the fields.

Farm families were in tune with the sounds around them. They knew and understood every one of them. The sounds became second nature to them and soothed them or alerted them to danger on almost an instinctual basis. Many of the sounds are becoming extinct, like the sound of milk hitting a tin pail; some of the sounds have become so commonplace that we cease to hear them - like automobiles and airplanes.

You can reproduce one of the nicest sounds of all. If you like the sound of rain on a tin roof, try this. Get a piece of tin and attach it outside your bedroom window. Then, when it rains, you can go to bed and listen to the wonderful sound until it soothes you to sleep. Another thing you can do is go to an old building with a tin roof when it is raining and take a hand held, battery operated tape recorder. Make your own tape of rain hitting a tin roof and you can play it back any time you want to hear it.

You can also make a game of sounds for small children by recording many different sounds and seeing if they can guess what the sounds are. This makes a particularly good game to keep them occupied if you are going on a long automobile trip, and it will increase their awareness of the sounds around them.