Friday, November 23, 2018

"The Rock and the Nail"

"The Rock and the Nail"

The following is from the "Herald-Sun" (Durham, North Carolina), 15 July 1995.

A North Carolina folklore expert tells unique stories of Person County, the area that sits on the Virginia border, in his new book.

Person County's oral tradition is unique because the county sits on the Virginia border, says an expert on North Carolina folklore.

James Clark, a humanities professor at N.C. State, is writing a book about the folklore of North Carolina's 100 counties.In Virginia, the law of primogeniture meant the eldest son by law inherited the entire estate from his father. The younger sons - with nothing - went across the state line to find land.

North Carolina, and especially the border counties, became a land of younger sons.

``The important boy stayed up here, the rest had to go to Carolina. It's still conversational in the tier of counties that separate Virginia,' Clark said. ``It's a sense of being caught between two worlds.'

The 19th century's Industrial Revolution - and Person County's perch just on the edge of it - also helped shape the county's character, Clark said.

Some people left Person to work in mills in other towns, and some left to farm elsewhere.

More so than in other counties, Clark said. Person's physical remains of the past fill the countryside.

Old tobacco barns dot Person's landscape, and memories of old farm implements and tobacco-curing techniques are still vivid among the living.

``Traditional methods of farming, tobacco-curing methods - there are still people alive who can explain how daddy did this,' Clark said. ``Person County hasn't been urbanized in the way Wake, Durham and Orange have, but it's always been on the fringe of that.'

At the same time, the coming of textile mills also defines much of the county's folklore.

Residents still see the Person County city of Roxboro as divided into areas defined by the three textile mills that operated there. The mill house architecture of those three distinct areas still characterizes the city.

Clark said each county seems to have its own historian.

In Person County, Louise Winslow, who recently died, was a well-known keeper of the lore. Winslow, known as ``Mama Lou,' and her husband - Jimmy Winslow, known as ``Daddy Jim' - added a rusty nail and a rock to their Labor Day stew before cooking each year.

Grandchildren Mac and Tripp would listen as Mama Lou told the tale of a hungry soldier who showed up at a woman's door and offered to make magic soup with his magic rock.

The woman agreed and decided that adding some of her own ingredients would improve the magic soup, at that point only water and a rock.

After the woman finished the soup, many ingredients had been added, and the soldier had a full meal.

Person County Folklore: The Rock and the Nail. / Publisher: [Raleigh, N.C.] : Humanities Extension/Publications, North Carolina State University, 1994. / Description: 60 p. : ill. ; 28 cm. / Notes: Title from cover. "Dr. Jim Clark led the Person County folklore collecting seminar which Person County Extension Homemakers had organized in Roxboro during the spring of 1994." / Copy in North Carolina Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

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