The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

A Great Jumper

As Told By Leonard J. Turley
Preserved By Edith T. Medley ©

Issue: September, 1987

People in the mountains have a language all their own. Some folks say they don't even speak English. But many of their expressions are more or purer English than some of those used by other Americans.

We seldom use the word poke in speaking of a paper bag, but it is still in common usage in the Blue Ridge and other mountain areas of the southern Appalachian chain.

The same is true for the word turn as applied to an armful. Instead of saying an armful of firewood, many of our mountain friends refer to it as a turn of wood.

Body is often used instead of the word person, especially when reference is made to the person doing the speaking. Instead of saying a person or someone never knows what to do, the mountaineer would say a body never knows what to do.

There are many other good old English words still used by these direct descendants of British forebears. The word tote is heard as often as the word carry along with other colorful words and expressions. I was a drummer, better known today as a salesman, in this scenic part of our nation for many years and I can remember one time hearing a storekeeper use three of these words in one sentence. He came into the store carrying an arm load of hickory wood for the fire, as he threw it down beside of the stove, he said, "My! That's the heaviest little turn a body ever toted." Good words every last one of them, but seldom heard in the cities and flat country.

Not all of the words making up the mountaineer's vocabulary have been handed down to him by his English ancestors. Many belong exclusively to the mountain people. Words have been coined to suit the occasion and although some seem a bit unusual, no doubt all of them have good background for their particular use.

I had another unusual experience which involved the way the mountain man talks. A storekeeper asked me if I was going up the mountain when I left his store. After replying in the affirmative, he asked if I would mind giving one of the local residents a ride. And being a fellow that liked company I was glad to do so. That's how Zeke became my passenger.

Now, Zeke was a handsome, strapping young fellow with very little to say, only a 'yes' or 'no' to the questions I asked as I attempted to draw him into conversation. Around and around the hairpin curves we went making our ascent. When we were near the top, Zeke finally said something without my prompting, "This is where I get out."

I looked all around and there was no sign of a house, crossroad or even a path. I asked Zeke where he lived.

"Oh, hereabouts."

"How far from here?" I inquired.

"Just a couple of jumps." he replied as he stepped out of the car and took off up the steep incline. And as far as I could see, there was nothing on either side that resembled any sort of habitation.

But I know if that kid meant to take a couple of jumps to the right, they would not have taken him more than five or six feet, but if he had jumped to the left he would have landed about ten thousand feet down the other side and that is truly so.