Friday, October 28, 2005

Signs and Wonders from Maggie Hammons: The Haunted Wagon

Maggie Hammons Parker, about 1930

If you're interested in traditional Appalachian string band music, you may have heard of Pocahontas County's Hammons family. Folklorists have collected a number of unique tunes and tune versions from the musical family members. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, Carl Fleischauer and Alan Jabbour of the Library of Congress put together a 120-page booklet and record collection which is currently available on CD, as "The Hammons Family: Traditions of a West Virginia Family and Friends." Brothers Burl and Sherman Hammons and their sister Maggie Hammons Parker are recorded telling stories and riddles, singing songs and playing fiddle and banjo. These published recordings include a number of stories with a supernatural component. There are ghostly manifestations, witchcraft, strange animals, and "signs and wonders." CD Cover: The Hammons Family: Traditions of a West Virginia Family and Friends The topics are similar to much of what I've heard since I moved to Pocahontas County, although Maggie, Burl, and Sherman were particularly good at telling stories. I've decided to withhold the witchcraft stories, because I believe the people who have told them to me would not like them published. They aren't "nice" somehow. Most of them have a sexual component, and some include accounts of serious wrong-doing in the community. I suspect that Maggie would not have told Fleischauer and Jabbour these stories if she had understood how many people would hear or read them.

The stories I am presenting here share the perspective of my other Pocahontas County tales: "I'm not afraid of the unknown, but I saw something." Wondering what it was, Maggie's dad, Paris Hammons, told her this story.

Maggie Hammons Parker, about 1970

That was over on Clover Creek. [My dad] while he was a-sangin'...they was two old women a-pickin' berries. And she asked him where he was camped old log camp...."Why," she said, "that place is hanted, everybody that's ever stayed there...." He said, "What do you call a hant?" She said, "You'll find out," she said, "they hear something there." She said, "Are you not afraid?" "No sir," he said, "I always try to find out what anything is when I hear a noise...."

And so he said along in the night....he was a-sitting there smoking...he heard a wagon a-comin'....he said it kept getting closter and closter, closter and closter. And finally at last he said he stepped--stepped out on the outside, for he could hear it and he said he heard it was a-comin' right down the creek.

And he said it was so rough, a wagon nor nothing could have got over that. And he said he heard it was a'comin' and he just walked in and told John [McCombs] "John, get up," he said, "they's a wagon and team a-coming down here." He said "I don't want to hear it, that's that hant," he said "that's a'comin'."

And he said John jumped up, it was no trouble to get him up; and down, right down to the edge of the creek he said they went....There never was a wagon nor nothing else could come down that creek, he said there was big rocks up in see the creek had almost went dry....And he said you could even see the fire a'flyin' out of them rocks and not a thing. Not nary thing only the roar of it. And it come right by 'em now, he said, passed right by 'em and went right on out of their hearing, right down the creek--it just kept that creek, he said. And he said you couldn't see a thing, or nothing, only just the sparks of the fire that the horses--you know how their shoes'll knock--well now, he said that was all you could see.

And he said it was just as plain a wagon as ever he did hear one; you can hear it a'comin' over them rocks, they's a'standin' right--pretty near right to the bank of the creek. And never seen a thing. "Now," John said, "let's leave here." "Why no, he said, "we'll stay here," he said, "why that ain't goin' to hurt you, only that noise," he said, "and that ain't a'gonna hurt you."

....Now he said that was one noise he heard that he never did know what it was.

The quote is from "The Hammons Family: Traditions of a West Virginia Family and Friends," as are the two photographs of Maggie Hammons Parker. If you're curious, you can visit the link and hear samples of many of the tracks on these two CD's.

1 comment:

poisonedsurvivor61 said...

My daddy John Mullens grew up alongside the Hammons' on the Williams River. I've heard many stories, but would love to know more. They would not allow local TV reporters to film them, playing music or telling stories, due to their superstitious nature about those sorts of things (electricity). While in my teens, I met Sherman Hammons on several occasions, playing music on his front porch. My daddy played music with Sherman & his boys during one of our visits.