National Geographic : 1949 Jul
Appalachian Valley Pilgrimage Today, milk, poultry, meat packing, cold storage, and electric cooperative associations are mutually owned and operated. Rockingham calls itself the "turkey capital of the East." Last year the county produced 500,000 turkeys, almost half of the State's entire crop. It takes seven months to produce one 20-pound turkey. But at Broadway, Virginia, a processing plant can dress 5,000 Thanksgiving birds a day. Farmers are not one- or two-crop men. On individual farms turkey raising is worked in with crop rotation. Blood-tested poultry is nursed in the midst of an apple orchard: or milk cows and beef cattle graze on one hill while sheep jump lightly over rocks in the adjoining field. Practically every sizable town has a co operative cold-storage locker plant for freez ing and storing foods (page 18). Farmers slaughter their cattle and hogs and store their meat in rented individual lockers. Vitamins and Antibiotics from Elkton Near Elkton, onetime camping ground for Stonewall Jackson's army, Merck & Co., Inc.. manufacturing chemists, supplied our armed forces during World War II with tons of anti malarial atabrine. Today the plant helps supply vitamin-conscious Americans with thia mine and riboflavin and produces the new antibiotics, streptomycin, dihydrostreptomy cin, and penicillin (page 7). At Harrisonburg, the Bible School of co educational Eastern Mennonite College trains students to serve in the Mennonite Church. It was the afternoon recreation period when I arrived. Wearing white caps so tiny that they looked like baby bonnets and armed with tennis rackets, girls poured out of the build ings. Reaching almost to the tops of their ankle-laced tennis shoes, their gay print dresses were a contrast to black cotton stockings. When I mentioned the color and length of the dresses to a school official, she replied, "I believe you have in mind the Amish Men nonites. We are more liberal. As to length, we do not prohibit the girls from wearing shorter dresses. We leave that to the dictates of each girl's conscience." Coming out of the building, I heard that American two-toned "wolf whistle," with the accent on the last tone. Written, it might look something like "Whew-whew!" I couldn't repress a smile when, looking in the direction from which the whistle came, I saw two teen aged Mennonite boys waving to me. Today in the Shenandoah Valley rural singers use some of the same syllables em ployed in medieval times. Because they sing fa, sol, la, fa, sol, la, and mi, instead of do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti, they are called "fasola" singers. In a Blue Ridge mountain cabin I heard one of the mountain people sing from a "shape note" hymnal. Starting on absolute pitch, without the aid of even a tuning fork, he sang in a high falsetto, using the syllables, fa, sol, la, rather than the words. He told me his singing-master father taught him to "hear" the musical sound of each note by its shape. At a farm near Harrisonburg, German Men nonite Joseph Funk printed his shape-note hymnals more than a century ago. Today in the tiny village of Dayton, Virginia, his de scendants still print shape-note music. Stepping off the street into the little pub lishing house, I closed the door on a modern world to spend a delightful half-hour in an Old World atmosphere. At his roll-top desk, littered with letters, ledger books, and sheet music, sat Funk's great-grandson, Will H. Ruebush, puffing on his corn cob pipe. "So you want to know something about shape notes, do you?" he asked, pushing back his green eyeshade and fumbling through the mass of material on the desk for a blank sheet of paper. "Can't ever find anything. Got hundreds of letters to answer from all parts of the country. Answer them myself. Our books go to every State in the Union." In a fine Spencerian hand he wrote down the seven notes and their shapes for me: do,A;re, o;mi,0;fa,1L;sol,O;la, 3; and ti, V. Augusta County, Rockingham's southern neighbor, clings to old customs. Every year a modified jousting tournament is held at the base of Natural Chimneys, the seven Cyclo pean towers of rock which rise more than 100 feet above a level plain. It all started, I was told, when a local belle, courted in the summer of 1821 by two swains, was unable to choose between them. Someone suggested she "bestow her favor" upon the winner of a modified jousting test. The event was such a success that Valley families have held a tournament every year. Folklore of Mountain People Some of the people living in the Allegheny Mountains have retained the folklore of their Scotch-Irish, English, and German ancestors. At a guest lodge in the Alleghenies the owner asked me if I had ever heard of the custom of "bellsniggling." About a week before Christmas the men, wearing women's clothes, and the women, dressed in men's clothes, all wearing home made masks, come to her door, she told me.