Mountain People Are Not Hillbillies and I Can Prove It
I watched Deliverance the other night for the 2nd or 24th time when something suddenly occurred to me...I'm a mountain person, and I resent the implications that mountain people are toothless, shirtless, shoeless, tactless, overall wearing, swine screwing idiots. Actually, I don't resent the movie at all. It's a classic. However, I do intend to set a few things straight about mountain people.
My Swiss and Scottish ancestors came to America in the late 1700's and settled in the Blue Ridge Mountains which is part of the Appalachian Mountains. My father moved us to the valley at the foot of the mountains when I was about 3 years old, but we still spent every Sunday and every holiday (except for Columbus Day and Labor Day...oh, and Groundhog Day) in the mountains visiting our mountain family. I believe this qualifies me to clear up some of the silly hillbilly rumors and reveal fact from fiction.
The biggest misconception about mountain people is that they are toothless. Every single one of my relatives has teeth. I have teeth, my parents have teeth, living or dead all my mountain kin has teeth. However, I can't say that all of them had real teeth that actually stayed in their mouths. My cousin and I once found our grandfather's false teeth in the backyard. We took them to my grandmother who in turn yelled for my grandfather to come collect his teeth because it was time for lunch. I don't know how his teeth ended up in the yard, but it could be that my grandmother knocked him upside the head and they went flying out of his mouth and into the yard.
With that said, I've never known any mountain person to run around in public with no teeth unless they had good reason. What good reasons could there be to run around with no teeth you ask?
1. To scare young children.
2. Taking ones teeth out, especially at the dinner table, is a common mountain party game.
3. False teeth are best cleaned outside of one's mouth, and this should be done at least once a month because snuff leaves horrible stains.
4. It's also advisable to take false teeth out prior to engaging in a clan fight.
Speaking of clans, mountain families are very clannish, and while there are many different types of clans, the one I'm going to talk about, the mountain clan, isn't really known to those outside of the mountain community. As with some clan societies, the mountain clan always has an official leader, and this leader is always a woman. In my family the clan leader was my grandmother and before her it was her mother. It gets passed down from generation to generation, and it's an excitingly powerful responsibility. For example, my grandmother made all the rules, everybody followed her rules, and she decided when it was time to commence hating on someone. This target of hate could be a family member who fell out of favor with her or it could be someone outside of our blood who was stupid enough to offend someone within our blood. Either way, you were expected to follow suit or have her wrath turn on you full force.
I can't reveal too much about secret mountain clan stuff here, because it would be very bad for my health, but I will also confirm that feuds are real. They're real because mountain folk stick together, and if you offend any single person of a particular family, then you offend that person's entire family tree along with all future generations yet to be born. The important thing to know is that feuds don't involve killing these days. That stopped at least 5 years ago. All that's necessary now is a mean sneer or spitting snuff juice on the toes of a rival clan member or evoking a mountain curse upon the offender which in turn gets genetically mutated and passed on to every person ever born into the offending clan throughout eternity. Oh, and we can do Kung Fu now too.
A Mountain Ninja Teaches Kung Fu
Feud Versus Duel
A mountain feud should not be confused with a mountain duel. A feud involves one family fighting with another family outside of the clan. A duel involves internal conflict between clan members of one family, although sometimes a feud can result in a duel between two people birthed from different clans. Internal conflict does happen from time to time, and it's perfectly fine for one family member to hate on another family member, but it's never ok for someone outside of the family to do this. The last duel that I'm aware of involved my great-grandfather who died in a pistol duel with a cousin. This is actually true. And it's also true that after my great-grandfather was shot and killed by his cousin, the family simply dug a hole in the backyard and buried him and his teeth.
Now, let me to back up just a little to the part about spitting snuff juice on a rival's toes. There are plenty of jokes about how mountain people don't wear shoes, and this happens to be true, we don't like shoes very much. We'll wear slippers or flip-flops if we have to leave the mountains, but overall it's customary to just not bother wearing shoes at all, and there are certain advantages to this that simply can't be ignored. For example, at 14 years old I could crush and extinguish a hot cigarette with my bare foot. My friends in the valley were amazed and often begged me to demonstrate this skill to countless city folk. It was a fun way to make new friends, but I don't advise you to try this unless you've been shoeless for at least 10 years.
While we don't care much for shoes, we do wear shirts with our overalls, and we don't have sex with family members or animals. The only time I didn't wear a shirt with my overalls was on my wedding night, and I have never dated or married a cousin nor have I had the urge to do so. Although, I will admit that when I was conducting some genealogy research, I did discover that my great-grandmother married a 3rd cousin. Or maybe it was a 2nd cousin. Ok, it might have been a 1st cousin, but I'm not sure and there's no proof any longer because I burned those records while evoking a mountain curse on a certain nameless family.
So listen up!
In summation, mountain people have teeth and whether these are real teeth or false teeth doesn't matter, we will bite you all the same. Clans are real, feuds and duels are real, and not wearing shirts with overalls is only true on one's wedding night. We don't like shoes and we really don't like outsiders with soft feet and no cigarette stomping ability making fun of it. We don't marry or have sex with our family members or animals, and any evidence of that will be properly burned during mountain curse ceremonies.