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The Harvest and the Reapers

The Harvest and the Reapers: Oral Traditions of Kentucky

Copyright Date: 1974
Edition: 1
Pages: 110
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  • Book Info
    The Harvest and the Reapers
    Book Description:

    The oral tradition of Kentucky is one of the most rich and interesting in the nation and has attracted a number of outstanding men and women -- scholars and writers, teachers and singers -- who have devoted their energies to Kentucky's folk and their ways. Some have collected examples of the state's unique speech patterns and word usages. Others have recorded local place names and the legends that surround them, or the yarns and tall tales transmitted from one generation to the next. Musicians have sought the authentic mountain folk songs, both old and new, and gifted writers have woven details of their Kentucky upbringing into poems, novels, and stories.The Harvest and the Reapersilluminates the work of those who labor tirelessly to preserve Kentucky's oral history and traditions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5031-4
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-7)

    Kentuckians throughout their history have developed a self-image shaped and sustained by a love of tradition. The intertwining expressionsofKentuckians andaboutKentuckians reinforce each other. Things people have said and written about the Commonwealth and its people have created a reputation for them to live up to, a reputation for high-spirited living and romantic anachronisms, at times implying mysterious and forbidden doings as well as broad humor and adventurous action. Kentuckians expressing themselves in song and story, and even in everyday speech, have established their image for the nation at large. Actually, it is not a single image;...

    (pp. 8-16)

    The farther back one traces the precise nature of folklore in and about Kentucky, the more one must rely on fragments of texts and allusions such as the one to the hunters of Kentucky cited above. Verification of a growing Kentucky mystique throughout the nineteenth century depends on the literature of the period. Much of that literature is “fugitive” or “sub-literary,” ephemeral sketches and fictions which appeared in newspapers or even less substantial outlets. Such materials were often anonymous or credited to a pseudonym. They suggest a body of popular lore which provided the raw material for some of the...

    (pp. 17-31)

    In 1972 a folklorist driving along a country road in Edmonson County stopped to ask directions. He was trying to find an elderly farmer reputed to be an expert wielder of a broadax. A sturdy middle-aged resident responded enthusiastically to the inquiry, observing that the man who could use the broadax was his uncle. He went on to describe the older man’s skills. “He’s a glib old man,” he said. “He can do almost anything with his hands.”

    The folklorist made a mental note of the word “glib” associated with handskills. It was something to check in the dictionaries. His...

    (pp. 32-43)

    Leonard Roberts, a tireless collector of old-fashioned folktales in eastern Kentucky, contributed “Polly, Nancy, and Muncimeg” to the 1955 volume ofKentucky Folklore Record, and thereby illustrated the problem of identifying Kentucky tales. In his note on the tale, Roberts indicated that he had collected it from Tom Couch, age ninety-two, in Harlan County. After recording the Tom Couch version (in writing because there was no electricity for a tape recorder), Roberts tape-recorded a version from Tom’s son Jim, age fifty-two.

    The tale is about three girls who receive an inheritance. Two of the girls receive the valuable property, while...

    (pp. 44-59)

    The great ocean of world story rolled on for centuries, and the lore of millennia was preserved in human memory before man invented writing systems. A recognition of language as symbol is as essential to the folklorist as to the poet. Accounts of experiences involving humor, tragedy, loyalties, group solidarity—things that matter to individuals and small groups—may not find a place in historical documents or belletristic literature, but persistence in oral tradition is testimonial enough of their continuing force. In an era of almost universal literacy this rather obvious truth may be overlooked. A classroom anecdote illustrates the...

    (pp. 60-79)

    Every year thousands of school children read a few ballads in their literature textbooks. “Sir Patrick Spens,” “Edward,” and “Get Up and Bar the Door” appear regularly as specimens of poetry, sometimes clearly identified as songs, sometimes not. Often a student who has seen the selections in a literature textbook goes on through life thinking of them as rather quaint poems, like Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” in a peculiar dialect.

    It fell about the Martinmas time,

    And a gay time it was then,

    When our good wife got puddings to make,

    And she’s boiled them in a pan.

    This is...

    (pp. 80-90)

    Jean Ritchie’s account of the arrival of settlement school teachers echoes these beginning lines ofThe Quare Womenby Lucy Furman. The book is a romance created in the historical setting of the settlement school period. It was an immediate success following its first printing in 1923. Furman’s use of authentic Kentucky mountain folklore continues to be an interesting aspect of a novel which is otherwise too quaintly sentimental for most modern tastes. The folkloristic content ranges through the various categories: language, folk history and legend, song, beliefs and practices.

    One can abstract a lexicon of regional dialect fromThe...

  11. 8 SUMMING UP
    (pp. 91-95)

    Kentucky of the 1970s offers many opportunities for folkloristic inquiry. After two centuries of growth and change the image of Kentucky is vastly more complicated than it was when eager pioneers settled the virgin land. Intertwining strands of imported and home-grown expressions combine to produce an idiom of the people that is always both old and new, always a unique blend in its time and place. Collection and study continue to bear fruit.

    When Herbert Halpert left Murray in the 1950s, he shared his field-collected materials with the growing Western Kentucky Collection at Bowling Green. D. K. Wilgus kept adding...

  12. Published Sources
    (pp. 96-98)
  13. Unpublished Sources
    (pp. 98-98)