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Stinking Creek by John Fetterman

This is the story of a Kentucky mountain community, and one of the very best books to come out of modern Appalachia. Written by a professional newspaperman with soul, Stinking Creek is one of the most honest books I've ever read. He avoids "evaluating hillbillies,"avoids playing the role of the expert. He respected the good people of Stinking Creek enough to simply listen to them, and let them tell their own story.

Hear Frank Patterson, a retired miner:

"I used to work in the mines. Lord, that was dangerous. My God, they got killed every day. Sometimes five and six a day. But people wasn't gettin' no other work. A man'd get killed; another'd take his place."

"Those lamps on your caps burned lard oil. They had a little ol' wick, and the smoke stayed in your face all the time. We didn't have no fans to clear the air out. Oncet we dug a channel straight up for fifty feet to the top of the ground. Then we put a furnace under the hole to burn coal in. It would make a draft and draw air through the drift mouth. If the air got heavy, you'd have to go to where the air was. Times, the air got so dead you couldn't get your breath. Oncet the air was gone, and the lamps was jest sparkin' 'stead of burning. I said, 'Let's get out,' and I run to the trapdoor. I was so weak I couldn't open it. I lay down with my face against that door tryin' to get me some air. I got to feelin' better with that air, but I heered my buddy strugglin' back in the coal vein. He was just about gone when I got to him, but t got him out of there."

And Henry Brown, age 81:

  "My legs have give way and my eyes water so bad I can't see," Henry complains. But he can identify a mule several hundred yards down the road from his porch. "From my knees to my neck I'm sound as a dollar. Feel like I'm sixteen in all that part of my body. But my head stays stopped up. I had a notion to go to Lexington and see one of them head specials. These doctors here know very little more than I do. One wanted to experiment on one of my girls. I said, 'You experiment on one of your own girls, you want to experiment.' "

"There's a heap of good healing stuff right here on this mountain. There ain't a weed on this globe but what's a benefit if you know where to put it." He pointed a veined finger toward the slope behind his house. "Right thar's a ragweed. You could be running off at your bowels. Nothing but water. You bile down those ragweed tops and make a tea. Drink half a cup. It'll stop. Blackberry roots do the same thing. A bowel complaint on anybody is well right off."

"Hit's a weed around here - we call it niggerweed or sometimes iron blood. Dig the roots. It makes your iron blood. If you ain't got enough iron blood and get run down, you may have enough of the other blood but no iron blood. Brother, this niggerweed Will put it in you. And swamp root. It's good fer different things. Bile it down into a strong tea, and there stands the prettiest blue oil on top of that water you ever saw. It's good for your kidneys. Bile it down good and strong,"

"I tell you what I always wanted to eat a big bowl full of clear grease and some biscuits. That was my main eatin'. But now I can't eat no breakfast. Now, the biggest thing I live on is milk. I got a good cow. She's a four-year-old blocky cow. I wouldn't sell her fer no kind of money."

ISBN: 0525472665

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