15 September, 2019

Haint Misbehaving

Haint Misbehaving


"You'd better stay close to us or Soap Sally will get you. Mama, don't tell her that." The memory of the exchange between my mother and grandmother isn't exactly vivid but it has stuck with me for over 60 years.

"Who is Soap Sally?" I asked. My Appalachian grannie was only too happy to introduce me to the hag that roamed the mountains in search of wandering children. "If little children don't stay close to their parents, Soap Sally steals them and makes..." My mother quickly diverted the conversation so that her mother could not give me the full, gory scoop on old Sal. My mother knew that if I heard the entire account of that long-told Appalachian lore, she'd have me sleeping with her and my dad until I was 30. If you've any interest in just how evil Soap Sally was, you'll have to Google her. The havoc she spread is just too gruesome for our website.

Did you know that a spider webbing down is an omen of unexpected company? Well now you do. Of course everybody who is anybody knows if a black cat crosses one's path, bad luck will befall. If the ebony feline darts across the road while one is in an automobile, a lick on the finger to make a quick X on the windshield will circumvent the ensuing siege of mishaps. In my youth I heard that if you sweep under someone's feet it will make that person lazy. Even at a tender age it seemed if a person sitting on their fanny had to lift their feet feet so the floor could be swept, that person is already a bit lazy. I did not point that musing out to my grandmother. Placing a hat on a bed, well let's just say do it at your own risk.

Not all tales from my heritage are cautionary. As a kid, my parents moved several times. Each time we left a house, my mother cleaned that sucker from stem to stern. It was her gift to the new occupants. She also left a penny (heads up) over the front door to bring them good luck.

Appalachia is not the only culture to rely on oral histories to explain and control. It has been occurring for centuries. The forerunner to Soap Sally was the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, teaching children to stay close to home for safety. Walt Disney's movie, Bambi, was lauded and loathed for its cruel reality. Appalachian parents could not park the kids in front of the TV for Mr. Rogers to raise while they planted, cooked, hoed, reaped and sewed. They loved their babies and did what had to be done.

I don't believe everything my grandmother told me but who knows, maybe I'm here to opine because I stayed close. Soap Sally wouldn't go near a child under the watchful eyes of an adult who loved her.

Come up and see us and we'll keep the Haints at bay.

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