Un-looped

Just a quick post to let anyone who tries to contact me (email, phone, text, blog comment, nominating committee for a presidential appointment to the Bipartisan Commission on Examination of Belly-Button Lint, etc.) that I will be out of the loop for a week.  Dawny and I will be visiting a park that has little to no Verizon signal and no internet.  No over-the-air TV reception, either.  Might as well be on the dark side of the moon.  Wish us luck!

Hungry Mother

“I don’t really get along with kids,” I told the sweet young staff member who was trying to find someone to fill in for her on Campfire-and-Marshmallows night.  “I mean, I do have one of my own, and I love him a lot–heck, I would let him have the last piece of pizza–but most others really get on my nerves.”

“That’s OK,” she replied without batting an eyelash at my curmudgeonly confession.  “Most of the campers who show up are adults.”

It turned out she was heading to Florida to help with Hurricane Irma clean-up efforts.  It is one thing to be a bit of a grouch.  It is quite another to be selfish in the face of selflessness and not do your part in providing assistance on the home front.  So, I accepted the task.

Besides, the evening would have one slice of saving grace:  part of my job would be to talk about the Legend of Hungry Mother, the legend that gave this fine state park in southwest Virginia its name.  And I do love history.  And stories.  And the challenge of unraveling a strand or two of truth from the tapestry of an engaging tale.

The event turned out just fine.  Several couples came with their children.  We enjoyed s’mores over a roaring fire and had a nice informal session where I talked a little about the park and its namesake legend.

Thanks to an idea that came from Miss Joyce, campground boss-lady extraordinaire who runs the office with the efficiency of a school teacher tempered by the grace and hospitality of a true southern lady, we started the evening with a perfect ice-breaker of a game.  That afternoon, Joyce and I had been discussing variations on the legend that gave Hungry Mother State Park its name and she reminded me of the childhood game where you whisper something into one person’s ear, they pass it along to the next person, and so on and so on, until the last person announces what they heard.  It is inevitably quite different from the original.

So, that evening around the campfire, I began our chain-whisper-legend with the first listener, whispering into her ear:  “There’s a 10-point stag up on Molly’s Knob waiting for a flat-footed bear to bring him a cheese and pepperoni sandwich.”

After completing the circle of whisperers, it had morphed into:  “A four foot man is bringing us a cheese and pepperoni sandwich.”  I was surprised we didn’t get a pizza by the end.  Perhaps if the chain had been longer and the participants hungrier, we would have.

For those of you who were not around the campfire that evening, here is the park’s version of the Legend of Hungry Mother, rooted in early American folklore:

Native Americans destroyed a settlement in a valley south of where the park currently is located.  Among the survivors taken to the raiders’ base camp to the north was a woman named Molly and her small child.  Molly and her child escaped and wandered through the wilderness eating berries to survive.  Molly finally collapsed and her child wandered down the creek until he/she found other settlers.  The only words the child could utter were “hungry mother.”  When searchers reached the foot of the mountain where Molly had collapsed, they found her, dead.  The mountain became known as Molly’s Knob, and the stream, Hungry Mother Creek.

A less exciting version (Indian raiders being totally absent) has a woman and her child living alone in a cabin on one of the mountain knobs in the area.  She apparently suffered some very hard times and starved to death.  When fellow settlers discovered her body, they found her child had survived because of the food the mother had left behind.

When the state park was developed in the early-to-mid 1930s, the creek was dammed to form Hungry Mother Lake and much of the surrounding area became park land.  As completion neared, there was great controversy over what to name the park.  Several options included:  Forest Lake State Park, Walker State Park, and Southwest Virginia State Park.  Thank goodness more imaginative heads prevailed.  A local newspaper referred to it as “Hungry Mother Park,” after the creek and the old legend, and the name stuck.

Complaints poured in over the name.  Many thought it terribly ugly.  One local news editor/historian lamented the choice, saying they might as well call it “Starvation Park.”  It was built and dedicated during the height of the Great Depression, so I can see how that might be a sensitive point.

Mack Sturgill, in his 1986 book, Hungry Mother:  History and Legends, concludes that key developers and promoters of the park gave it the name and promoted the accompanying legend as an advertising ploy.  Sturgill likens the stunt to “putting an old tale in a new bottle with a provocative label.”  He points out that the legend was not even widely known locally until after the park claimed it and that there are serious doubts about the content of the tale.

Whether you want to criticize or praise the park’s name, let alone delve into history to challenge the legend itself, you have to admit that the name, Hungry Mother, is catchy.  Consuming.

The tale also goes to show one feature of historical “fact” that has not changed over the course of time…

 

. . . Capture the imagination, you create memory . . .  Craft it through repetition, you manufacture truth.     CE-9/20/17

 

 

Sources:

Virginia State Parks website, link:  www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/hungry-mother;

Sturgill, Mack H., Hungry Mother:  History and Legends, 2nd Ed. June 2001 (reissued by Friends of Hungry Mother State Park and sold at the park gift shop);

Linford, Margaret, genealogist and columnist for swva today, April 14, 2014 article, “String of Pearls:  Mystery and Controversy of Hungry Mother State Park’s Name.”  I can’t get the link to work but you can easily find it by googling key words.

Where’s the Beef?

Where’s the beef???  In Mom’s freezer and, pretty soon, in my tummy!!!!

Mom and I went camping with our Texas cowpoke friends in Missouri a bit ago.  I love the fella, Mr. John.  Those are his feet that I am cuddling up to in the photo to the left.  He knows just where and how to pet me.  As for the lady, Miss Carol, I worship her.  She always has a pocketful of my favorite cookies, and she loves to dole them out to me piece by piece.  It is a lovely game.

Better yet, Miss Carol transferred half a dozen packages of ground cow from her freezer to ours.  She knows I am on a special diet and wanted to contribute to my good health and longevity with beef straight from their personal herd.  Mom says it is magic meat and will probably get me at least through Christmas.  Not bad for a sick old girl that she had all but written off a few short months ago, eh?

Mr. John says that I look great and that Mom is just overreacting to stuff the vets told her.  I really like how that guy thinks.  I also totally agree with him, but I am not letting on.  I am enjoying all the special treatment I’ve been getting, especially the home-cooked diet.

Anyways, we had a great time together.  Lots of walks and visits.  Mr. John and Miss Carol’s house-on-wheels is bigger than ours.  We all fit in there just fine and nobody stepped on me once, though I have to admit I tried my best to trip Miss Carol a couple of times when she was on her way from one spot to another carrying food.  Even if I couldn’t get her to drop what she was carrying, I was hopeful more cookies would spill from her pockets if she went down.  I suppose it is just as well that I did not succeed.  Something tells me that Mom would have banished my old bones from our get-togethers should I not be on her definition of good behavior.

One day we spent a couple of hours outside and, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was.  Mom and our friends were trying to see something funny that was happening up in the sky.  They put weird, dark glasses on their faces and stared up at the sun.  Silly people.  Don’t they know that will give you a headache?  Things did get funky for a while, though, when the sky, trees, and grass all shifted to deeper, cooler shades, the cicadas stopped singing and end-of-the day critter songs took up the oddly-slacking chorus.  But it didn’t last long, and I knew all was well with the world when the cookies and walks resumed.

Our friends didn’t just treat me really special on this visit.  They were super nice to my Mom, too.  Mom had a birthday while we were together and they spoiled her even more than they spoiled me!  That’s all right.  Even Moms deserve a little spoiling now and then.

Back to me.  I was really sad when our visit ended.  Mom and I rolled out of the campground and she told me that our friends were going to head back to their ranch in Texas.  I cried and whined for a bit, then I took a long nap.  Everything looked better when I woke up, even though my ears hurt because Mom was howling (she calls it singing) along with the radio.  Mom says we will get to see these friends again in just a few short months and, before then, we will get to see other people that we love.  Meanwhile, I can enjoy the gift that is in our freezer and–to get to the real meat of the matter–I can relish the memories of all our good times.  So many, many good times.

Yes.  Dogs have great memories.

Especially me.

(Note from Mom to all scientifically-minded readers out there:  The picture of the eclipse included above–taken with a simple i-phone and no filter–shows the brightness of the eclipsed sun (around 98%) at the bottom of the photo.  How many observant eyes noted the curious crescent shape above and to the right?  Somehow, the eclipsed sun’s reflection ended up in those clouds, masquerading as a crescent moon.  Please explain.  Because I cannot.  Feel free to use the comments section so that others can see your explanation.  The prize will be another mystery-puzzle based on a ground photo taken around the same time.  So, come on people, make an educated–or intuitive–guess!)