Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cuddle Doon

"The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht
Wi' muckle fash an' din,
"Oh, try and sleep, ye waukrife rogues,
Your faither's comin'in."

My mother, Nova Hicks Bussey, had a great talent for reciting poetry from memory. She was expressive in the classical sense and made each poem come alive. After each recitation, she held us, me for sure, spellbound with stories of how the poem applied to life. We learned of the grief suffered by The Village Blacksmith--a very strong, feeling man. And, the aging man recalling the regret of the little girl who surpassed him in a spelling bee--Mother found many good lessons in School Days--after all, how often is it that someone unselfishly wants you to succeed, even at their own loss?

Little Nell taught us that mothers love all their children the same, whether they are lazy, industrious, helpful,or sullen. At the end of this poem, Mother would ask,

"Now, which child did the mother love best?"
We'd shout, "Little Nell!"
"No" mother would reassure us, "She loved them all the same".

What a relief to me, an obstinate child who yearned to be loved the same as the others.

Back to Cuddle Doon. How did Mother learn to recite it in the proper dialect? Over my life, I've often bragged how Mother could recite Cuddle Doon in the Gaelic or Scottish. I've asked many people if they know this poem. No one I talked to ever had.

They never heed a word I speak.
I try to gie a froon.
But aye I hap them up, an' cry,
"Oh, bairnies cuddle doon!"

The mother has her hands full with Jamie, Rab, and Tam as, at the end of a long day, she coaxes them to go to sleep before their father comes in from work. Mother wanted us to understand how it was with herself and her 6 children. I never asked Mother how she learned this poem. Most of her selections were from her youth when memorizing poems was a standard educational tool.

We studied poetry and memorized too, but none of my teachers ever mentioned Cuddle Doon. Teachers had their own biases of course. For example, a high school English teacher--in the 50s of course--wouldn't let me recite Anabelle Lee because Poe was an alcoholic.

I have wondered if the verses were handed down from her ancestors who came into Virginia from Ireland, Scotland, and England in the late 1700s. They traveled into the isolated, beautiful hills of Appalachian East Kentucky where they chose to settle, drawn to the lush, green mountains that reminded them of home and to the seclusion of the hollows and creeks that promised they could remain independent in their new homeland.

Just a reflection: In Thomas Hardy novels, characters often use words and phrases that I find familiar and similar to those found in Appalachian East Kentucky. I have determined that "hain't" and "ain't", drilled out of us as children,mean two different things and make logical sense when used in Hardy's native contexts. Of course, we, in order to be perceived as literate, learned modern day English.

Why did I not ever ask Mother where she learned Cuddle Doon?

Recently I landed quite a treasure trove of books from brother Rod and his wife, Helen. I was overjoyed! At home, I gathered all the books around me and began browsing--so many treasures. There was one of my favorite books,The Haj, >in hardback!I'll reread it soon to help me further understand the Middle East. There were 3 hardback dictionaries which I have already begun to peruse. And, One Hundred and One Famous Poems, published in 1958! I was excited to find many favorites like Renascence, by Edna St. Vincent Millay; Grass by Carl Sandburg; Paul Revere's Ride and Hiawatha's Childhood by Longfellow--

and, suddenly, there it was, on page 90--Cuddle Doon by Alexander Anderson (1845-1909. With further research I found that Cuddle Doon was a familiar poem to the children of Scotland in the generations preceding me--my mother's generation. Enough said! I'd love to hear from anyone who may have had this poem recited to them.

Cuddle Doon

by Alexander Anderson

The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht
Wi muckle faught and din.
"Oh try an' sleep, ye waukrife rogues,
Your faither's comin' in."
They niver heed a word I speak,
I try tae gie a froon,
But aye I hap' them up an' cry
"Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!"

Wee Jamie wi' the curly heid,
He aye sleeps next the wa'
Bangs up and cries, "I want a piece!"
The rascal starts them a'.
I rin and fetch them pieces, drinks,
They stop a wee the soun',
Then draw the blankets up an' cry,
"Noo, weanies, cuddle doon."

But ere five minutes gang, wee Rab
Cries oot frae neath the claes,
"Mither, mak' Tam gie ower at aince,
He's kittlin' wi' his taes."
The mischief in that Tam for tricks,
He'd bother half the toon,
But aye I hap them up an' cry,
"Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!"

At length they hear their faither's fit
An' as he steeks the door,
They turn their faces tae the wa'
An Tam pretends tae snore.
"Hae a' the weans been gude?" he asks,
As he pits aff his shoon.
"The bairnies, John, are in their beds
An' lang since cuddled doon!"

An' just afore we bed oorsel's
We look at oor wee lambs,
Tam has his airm roun' wee Rab's neck
An Rab his airm roun' Tam's.
I lift wee Jamie up the bed
An' as I straik each croon,
I whisper till my heart fills up:
"Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!"

The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht
Wi' mirth that's dear tae me.
But soon the big warl's cark an' care
Will quaten doon their glee.
Yet come what will to ilka ane,
May He who rules aboon,
Aye whisper, though their pows be bald:
"Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!"

If you're still reading this post and know some of the Scottish or Gaelic dialect, maybe you can shed light o the quote below which was written into the memoirs of my grandfather, whose grandmother was from Ireland. (since she was Sally McKinney, I tend to think there's also Scottish heritage there)

Our wheat was ground into flour at home by the hand-mill or by horse power, then baked in “pones.” They called it biscuit bread. I remember Mother would say to us children, “Watch children, there might be a beard in that bread; there is a hole in the sarch". Does anyone know what this means? It's either an old dialect or a typo!

Love and Peace to all who read this!
Judy Bussey, July 17, 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Making Fudge, now--and Then

==of Memories...No Recipe Needed
January 28, 2011 at 2:24pm

...poured some sugar into a pan, added about 1/2 as much milk & brought it to a boil. When a drop of the hot syrupy stuff felt just right in cold water, I took it off the heat and added a big spoon of peanut butter, stirred in a little butter at just the right time & turned it out onto a buttered plate. It started to harden before it cooled. I hope it doesn't *turn to sugar*. Sandy and I scraped the pan---my mind flooded with childhood memories.

If we have some milk, we can make some candy, if we have some sugar.

Making fudge was a standard evening treat all year long in our coal camp home. We didn't have a recipe, but knew the proportions of the ingredients--how much sugar we had determined how much milk we needed. Whether we had enough milk left for Daddy's thermos of coffee for the mines was a huge deciding factor.More than once Mother made one of us get up at 4:30 AM to go to Mary Capellis and borrow milk. It was a mortifying experience to be the chosen child. Mother was furious and we knew just to shut up and go get some milk.

There were 8 of us at home most of my life and at times 10, when 2 beloved grandchildren stayed for a few years. How wonderful when we made fudge! As a child got older, he or she could help make the fudge. Mother wasn't exactly good at following the rules of cooking, but we knew it would always taste good. Sometimes we held the pan in a sink of cold water and stirred and stirred and stirred, hoping it would get hard. Sometimes Mother just told us to spread it on crackers. Sometimes it would get hard as a rock. We loved scraping the pan--as I always let my children do too. We always ate every drop, no matter what. Some of my finer memories are with my sisters and brothers up David, *wondering if the fudge will get hard*.

Today, my fudge was hardening just right so we could cut a bite or two while it was still warm and it's delicious. I'm wishing Tommy were here to enjoy it. So many good memories around food. That's just the way we are and I know you are too.

Now, I'll go back downstairs for another bite....hope it hasn't *turned to sugar*

Another winter's day made better ...

Stay safe and Warm,



The Cat Hole

Recently, on Facebook, Descendants of David were motivated by a photograph of the Company Store to reminisce. I remembered playing in the "Cat Hole" where all the store paper waste was trashed. It was a room with a door located on the back delivery porch of the store where they discarded paper trash. The door was never locked and we often went there after 5PM, when the store closed.Papers were waist high and, on a good day, we'd find charge pads with good paper and carbon still attached. Gold!

We played "office","store" and other games that let us use that precious carbon paper.So lucky was the child that got to be the clerk or the secretary because they got to do the writing. We would find would letters and memos with blank backs so perfect for an endless supply of writing paper. We had to buy notebook paper and couldn't use it for play. This memory is circa 1949-1956.

Did you ever play like this?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Just some random, jumbled thoughts.

Christmas makes me sad and I've been sentimental for a few days.My mind goes back to the ice cold winter in David, Kentucky and the only really warm place was around the coal heater in the living room. My mind wanders to coal mining memories...

Just yesterday I was telling a young'un how sister, Karen Bussey O'Rourke and I would unlace Daddy's work boots, during the 1940s-50s. He'd always bring us a bite of his lunch cake as a treat.(One 20 something asked me "what's a lunch cake"?) Coal dust everywhere, on the cake wrapping and all over the floor, on our hands and then of course our grubby little faces. That was the best cake ever!

There were the heartbreaking coal mine songs..Mother sang Dark as a Dungeon by Merle Travis--she'd sing and we'd cry. I remember another sad refrain about a child who dreamed of a coal mine explosion and awakened with this sad plea, "Oh, Daddy don't go to the mines today for dreams have so often come true.Please don't go down into the mine today, for I couldn't live without you." Mother would sing and we cried. yet this is a good memory which speaks to the deadly dangers my father and all underground coal miners faced. Daddy worked 34 years in 30"-36" coal.

Years later when it was my job to "get Daddy off off to work", I remembered to never watch him leave so he'd have good luck that day.Now I'm wondering if other coal miner children had that same superstition.

I honor my father for this sacrifice he made for our family of 8+2 grandchildren along the way. We never had an extravagant Christmas but always got candy--a Sawlog Peppermint stick, horehound candy (for Daddy) and stockings full of apples, oranges, and nuts, and always a real coconut. After we punched a hole in the hard shell and drank the delicious "milk", Daddy would tell us it was monkey pee. We repeated this many years as children. Daddy would laugh so hard to think he'd tricked us.

As for the Miner's Child's Dream, I posted, below, the original lyrics copyrighted 1910, London, England (I assume, although it could have been London, Kentucky) I my research, I found many versions, but since my mother was born in 1919, I'm assuming her version was very close to this one give or take a few "lads" , "whilsts", and "eres". She sang "Daddy" not "Dad". Of course, her singing style for these old ballads was uniquely Kentucky Mountain. A little Old Regular Baptist, too.


(Robert Donnely, Will Geddes)

A miner was leaving his home for his work,
When he heard his little child scream;
He went to his bedside, his little white face,
"Oh, Daddy, I've had such a dream;
I dreamt that I saw the pit all afire,
And men struggled hard for their lives;g her ver
The scene it then changed, and the top of the
Was surrounded by sweethearts and wives."

Don't go down in the mine, Dad,
Dreams very often come true;
Daddy, you know it would break my heart
If anything happened to you;
Just go and tell my dream to'your mates,
And as true as the stars that shine,
Something is going to happen today,
Dear Daddy, don't go down the mine!

The miner, a man with a heart good and kind,
Stood by the side of his son;
He said, "It's my living, I can't stay away,
For duty, my lad, must be done."
The little one look'd up, and sadly he said,
"Oh, please stay today with me, Dad!"
But as the brave miner went forth, to his work,
He heard this appeal from his lad:

Whilst waiting his turn with his mates to descend,
He could not banish his fears,
He return'd home again to his wife and his child,
Those words seem'd to ring through his ears,
And, ere the day ended, the pit was on fire,1958
When a score of brave men lost their lives;
He thank'd God above for the dream his child had,
As once more the little one cries:

From Only a Miner, Green
Copyright Lawrence Wright Co.
Note: Published in London, 1910. This is the original. The more common
version (Doc Watson from Vernon Dahlhart) is a rewrite

My Father, Dawson Ellard Bussey is on the left, lying in a low seam/tunnel a mile or two underground, 1958. RIP Daddy

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Presence

      It's very difficult to go through the "Holiday Cheer" when we know so many people who are sad, or lonely ,or who have no gifts. We lived in the coal camp until I was 16. The old stereotype of coal miners working like brutes all week and drinking all weekend has some truth for our family--and especially at Christmas. The Bussey children always stuck together through the Christmas fights, the crying, the remorse, and finally the joy of having a tree and a meal ready, and a few toys for the little ones. When Daddy and Mother settled down, Daddy would play boogie woogie and Blues on our old upright piano. We'd gather round and sing such songs as Chattanooga Choo Choo, Four Leaf Clover, Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy, and many more. He did great Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong songs too! Mother even wrote a Christmas song once and we all had parts to sing. So, we knew joy and had deep love for each other. 
      Most of you may not know that my mother left in 1960, the year I graduated PHS at age 16. Sister Karen and baby brother Johnny stayed with Daddy who had just moved to P-Burg. The story goes that Johnny walked Mother to the bus station in Prestonsburg and said, "I won't cry Mommy, if you don't". It was a sad time and Karen's story haunts me. I don't even remember where I spent Christmas that year, and I still feel guilt that I wasn't with my little sister and brother. But, they made it through a special Christmas with a stronger bond than ever. I hope you enjoy Karen's Story. I'm guessing the year was about 1961-2.

Christmas Presence

        We didn’t know we would be alone.  I don’t think it was planned that way.  Most of the older kids were married or were somewhere else.  Mother lived in Ohio, and she had no money to come home.  Daddy was at the Blue Bell CafĂ©, I think.
        It was Christmas Eve. There was only the two of us.  I was sixteen, and Johnny was twelve.  We each had our own memories of other Christmases.  I remember when Johnny and I shared a bicycle one Christmas (boy’s bike, of course).  We always got books.  We would hammer our Daddy’s socks to the wall behind the coal stove.  On Christmas morning, we would find them stuffed with candy, nuts, and fruit.  One year I actually heard jingle bells on the roof, I swear.
        Mother used to melt paraffin wax and mold candles in empty milk cartons. When she added silver or gold glitter, they became Christmas wonders.  Mother loved small trees with blue lights and “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”.  Daddy used to bring home boxes of fruit and all kinds of candy. I can still smell oranges and think of Christmas.  Our memories were all we had that night, because we were alone.
        Behind our house, in Kroger’s parking lot, was a Christmas tree lot that had closed for the year.  Trees that no one wanted were lying around on the ground.  Johnny and I looked at each other and thought, “Why not? Who would care if we took one?”  We dragged one tree through the parking lot, across our backyard, up the steps, and through the back door.  We found a tree-stand stored on the back porch, and got the tree propped up in the living room.  We got Mother’s blue lights and strung them around the tree.  We couldn’t find any ornaments, so we made bells using tin foil wrapped around paper cups and sat them in the tree. No popcorn and cranberries for us!  The tree was beautiful when we plugged in the lights, but we were not quite satisfied with the way the room looked.
        Well…the second tree was easier to use because we broke off the branches before we went into the house.  As we placed the pine boughs around the room, we were happy. What could we do next…?
        We had some egg nog and decided to look around for something to add to it.  We began searching for Daddy’s hiding places for empty whiskey bottles.  We found several in the top of his closet, and one under the mattress.  Putting the few drops of whiskey into the egg nog, we were ready to celebrate.
Now, the cigars.
        The highlight of the evening was sitting on the back stoop with our egg nog, smoking a cigar, and looking at the stars.  It was a beautiful night.  The weather was mild for a December night, so we didn’t need jackets.  Neither of us liked the egg nog or the cigar, but as we sat there, we shared a closeness that has never left us.  We felt so alone…but not alone.
        I don’t remember the Christmas presents that year.  That was not important…but I’ll never forget the gift that Johnny and I gave to each other; the gift of another’s presence…just being with someone and being glad you are not by yourself.  I think we were feeling very sorry for ourselves; like no one knew we were there.  Christmas came anyway. 
        The thoughts that are running through my mind more that 30 years later still echo with that loneliness.  Also I feel a deep love for my brother Johnny who shared that Christmas with me.  When we talk about it now, we laugh…but inside there are tears that no one sees but us.

by Karen O’Rourke
December, 1991

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dark as a Dungeon

First recorded by Merle Travis on Aug 8, 1946, Hollywood, CA, originally released as Capitol 48001.

ORIGINAL MERLE TRAVIS LYRICS, transcribed from Capitol 48001:

It's as dark as a dungeon way down in the mine...

I never will forget one time when I was on a little visit down home in Ebenezer, Kentucky. I was a-talkin' to an old man that had known me ever since the day I was born, and an old friend of the family. He says, "Son, you don't know how lucky you are to have a nice job like you've got and don't have to dig out a livin' from under these old hills and hollers like me and your pappy used to." When I asked him why he never had left and tried some other kind of work, he says, "Nawsir, you just won't do that. If ever you get this old coal dust in your blood, you're just gonna be a plain old coal miner as long as you live." He went on to say, "It's a habit [CHUCKLE] sorta like chewin' tobaccer."

Come and listen you fellows, so young and so fine,
And seek not your fortune in the dark, dreary mines.
It will form as a habit and seep in your soul,
'Till the stream of your blood is as black as the coal.

It's dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew,
Where danger is double and pleasures are few,
Where the rain never falls and the sun never shines
It's dark as a dungeon way down in the mine.

It's a-many a man I have seen in my day,
Who lived just to labor his whole life away.
Like a fiend with his dope and a drunkard his wine,
A man will have lust for the lure of the mines.

I hope when I'm gone and the ages shall roll,
My body will blacken and turn into coal.
Then I'll look from the door of my heavenly home,
And pity the miner a-diggin' my bones.


The midnight, the morning, or the middle of day,
Is the same to the miner who labors away.
Where the demons of death often come by surprise,
One fall of the slate and you're buried alive.

Mother used to sing this song to us and the lyrics haunt me still. The coal mines haven't really changed. Brave men and brute labor are still required to mine the precious fuel in the most dangerous of circumstances. In In 2010, coal miners are still making a hard living.My mind goes back to the risks Daddy and other miners faced each day as they lay on their sides for the 1-2 mile "joyride" to the face of the coal under the mountains of Middle Creek.At the face, they crawled on their knees to mine coal. In addition to the constant pain of miner's knee, they endured slate falls, "shooting from solid" dynamite casualties, and the ever present shortage of breathable air. Has the situation changed?

Before the implementation of mine safety laws there were strategies in place to make the mine appear safe.In the early 40s for example, air was diverted to where it was needed most-to the sections inspectors were visiting on a specific day. Before the ventilation laws, air was short on many sections in any given mine. Needless to say, many miners were short of breath on those days. My father gasped for breath all the time and died with 25% breathing capacity. Why did they continue to go in? They had no other way to support their families.

Maybe we'll discover the real cause of the most recent West Virginia mine disaster where 27 men were recently killed in a methane explosion in an AT Massey mine.I sincerely hope it isn't the result of preventable human error. Companies are still (allegedly)lax in their efforts to ensure safety. One primary safety law for coal companies is to provide adequate ventilation so miners can breathe and methane cannot accumulate in deadly, explosive proportions.

I wish peace for the families those who have died in the dark-as-a-dungeon coal mines.

And peace those whose families look the other way as their miner leaves for work, to avoid bringing them bad luck.


Tulip Poplar Shadows in the Night-Response from Fellow EKY Appalachian, Pau Shepherd

I remember a huge Tulip Poplar that stood half way up the road to my house in "Fisher Holler". I know it was a Tulip Popular because, as Girl Scouts, we learned the leaves of all native trees. The company, Princess Elkhorn, installed a street light just up the road from that big tree and at night it cast shadows that were alive and terrifying. The only rule we had was to be home by dark. There were times, though, when I found myself running up that road scared to death in the pitch black of night in the narrow hollow. The shadows played in the middle of the road, but I had to run through them. I couldn't walk on the sidewalk which was too near the hedgerows and hills where monsters or Indians or ax murderers were hiding. I'll never forget this mad dash of terror.

I would arrive home breathless, facing 9 steps up to our front porch. Nine more hurdles and I'd be safe. The steps were open at the back and there was sure to be someone underneath waiting to grasp my ankles. I could feel their grasp as if it were really happening. I moved fast.

Finally, safe at the door, I was relieved to see sisters and brothers sitting around the dining room table doing their lessons or listening to the radio. Mother might be telling an interesting story or just entertaining them in some fun way. Mother might be reciting poetry or telling details about some famous movie. Peggy or Toby might be making homemade peanut butter fudge.Daddy was always asleep after dark so we were warned not to wake him. We could have fun as long as he didn't wake up--since he got up about 5AM to arrive at the mines by 6.

After 1952, I would have found them in front of our 17" Black and white TV, dishes done, floor swept, lessons done, and coal brought in.

Found sparingly in New England, the Tulip Poplar is abundant on the southern shore of Lake Erie and westward to Illinois. It extends south to north Florida, and is rare west of the Mississippi River. Its finest development is in the Southern Appalachian mountains, where trees may exceed 170 feet in height.

I just learned that the Tulip Poplar, another variety, is found only in one other place in the world. A specific mountain range in China. I'd like to learn more about this and the lives of the people in those hills.


Comment from Reader, Paul Shepherd, fellow Appalachian Kentuckian:
Good morning Judy. Been reading your blog and just want to say how much I enjoy it. The things you write are so familiar. Growing up as a child I can say I experience them in my home. the games you played. The fear of someone lurking in the darkness like a tiger or lion waiting for you to enter that spot where it knows it can easily grab you and whisk you away and no one would ever know where you are.I remember being out late at night my friend letting me out at the main high way, Soon as he pulled away there I was all alone sometimes it was a beautiful clear night with the moon reflecting off the mountains or it could be one of the darkest night low over cast as I walked down the lane 500 feet or more each step I took the fear was increasing by the moment.At the end of the 500 feet I had to make a sharp left turn another 100 feet. By this time a cold sweat was seeping under my clothing."Lord will I ever make it to my safe bedroom, Then just like you at the end of the 100 feet. Thing got worse but I have two choices to enter into safety. To my right I can climb up this bank to the back door, but what if something knows that is the way I'm headed and just as I reach for the door handle it will reach around the corner from the darkness pull me in where I will never again see the light of day.
Then there is the way straight ahead at the end of 100 feet long steps going up to the front door made of nothing but two runners and 15 or more steps. There are shadows being cast under neath dark as black and ever step is opened under neath.As I step on that first step I feel the rush flowing through my body, the tingling, the coal sweat dripping as my hair starts to move up my neck going onto my head. I've got to do something fast. I let out a sound and start running up the steps missing ever other one. Get to the door thinking what ever it is it must be right on my heels, oh God let the door be unlocked or I am doomed. These things were very real and I some times wonder Lord how did I make it.