Curious Legend of
the Kentucky Mountains--Four or five versions of this curious and strange
legend come into my collection over a period of about six years (1948
to 1954) from an isolated region of the Kentucky Mountains. At first I
did not know what to make of it but, having also collected a few versions
of the "Bear's Son" story minus the half-bear, half-man introduction,
I guessed that this was that introduction now broken away and told separately.
It now appears to be a distinct legend since Dr. Archer Taylor refers
me to the long search for American versions by Mr. Rudolph Altrocchi.
and now that I reflect on this item I realize that it is not unique to
Kentucky mountain folklore.
During my youth in these mountains it was not unusual to hear a rumor
of some half-wild man, naked and hairy, being found in the woods, living
close to animal state.
This kind of Romulus-Remus legend seems to stick in the minds of the folk.
But how this particular legend made its way into eastern Kentucky is a
mystery to me.
The following version was taken down in pencil in 1950 from the lips
of Lee Maggard, who lived in a small cabin on the south slope of the Pine
Mountain range near the small lumber town of Putney, Harlan County, Kentucky.
He had heard it on Maggard's Branch, Leslie County, KY.
"Once there was man out huntin', he got lost and after a while he
begin to get hungry. He came to a big hole in the ground and he thought
he would venture down into it. He went down in there and he found that
the old Yeahoh lived in there. There was deer meat hangin' up and other food
piled around the walls. The man was afraid at first, but Yeahoh didn't
bother him and he went toward that meat to get him some. The Yeahoh walked
over and looked at the knife and said, "Yeahoh, Yeahoh," a time
or two. He cut it off a piece of the meat and he started eatin' it.
Well, the man stepped over to the middle of the pit and took out his flint
and built him up a fire. And the Yeahoh watched him and looked at the
fire and at the flint and said, "Yeahoh, Yeahoh" again. The
man put his meat on a stick and br'iled him a nice piece and started eatin'
it. The Yeahoh watched him and acted like it wanted a piece. The man cut
it off a piece of the br'iled meat and reached it over, and the Yeahoh
commenced to eatin' it up and smackin' its lips and saying, "Yeahoh,
Well, the man lived there with it a long time and they got along all right.
After so long they was a young'un born to 'em, and it was half-man and
half-Yeahoh. And the Yeahoh took such a liking to the man it wouldn't
let him leave. He got to wanting to get away and go back home. One day
he slipped off and the Yeahoh follered him and made him go back. Went
on that way for a good while, but he picked him a good time and slipped
away. This time he got to the shore where they was a ship ready to set
He got on this ship and he looked and saw the Yeahoh comin' with the young'un.
It screamed and hollered for him to come back and when it saw he wasn't
goin' to come, why, it just tore the baby in two and held it out one-half
to him and said, "Yeahoh, Yeahoh". He sailed on off and left
it standing there.
The version that Dr. Taylor refers to in my book _South from Hell-fer-Sartin_
is called "The Origin of Man." Another version was given to
me by this teller's grandson. It has the same title and contents, except
that the Yeahoh has six children and tears them all in two and throws
them after the embarked man. Another text, similar to the one given above,
was accidentally erased from my tapes.
The following text was recorded from Joe Couch, Appalachia, Virginia,
in 1954. He had heard it from his people while he lived in Perry County,
The Hairy Woman
One time I's prowling in the wilderness, wandering about, kindly got lost
and so weak and hungry I couldn't go. When it began to get cool, I found
a big cave and crawled back in there to get warm. Crawled back in and
come upon a leaf bed and I dozed off to sleep. I heard an awful racket
coming into that cave, and something come in and crawled right over me
and laid down like a big old bear. It was a hairy thing and when it laid
down it went chomp, chomp, chawing on something. I thought to myself, "I'll see what it is and find out what it is eating."
I reached over and a hairy like woman was there eating chestnuts, had
about a half a bushel there. I got me a big handful of them and went to
chewing on them too. Well, in a few minutes she handed me over another
big handful, and I eat chestnuts until I was kindly full and wasn't hungry
any more. D'rectly she got up and took off and out of sight.
Well, I stayed on there till next morning and she come in with a young
deer. Brought it in and with her big long fingernails she ripped its hide
and skinned it, and then she sliced the good lean meat and handed me a
bite to eat. I kindly slipped it behind me, afraid to eat it raw and afraid
not to eat it being she give it to me. She'd cut off big pieces of deer
meat and eat it raw. Well, I laid back and the other pieces she give over
as she eat her'n. She was goin' to see I didn't starve.
When she got gone again I built me up a little fire and br'iled my meat.
After being hungry for two or three days, it was good cooked--yes, buddy.
She come in while I had my fire built br'illing my meat, and she run right
into that fire. She couldn't understand because it kindly burnt her a
little. She jumped back and looked at me like she was going to run through
me. I said, "Uh-oh, I'm going to get in trouble now."
Well, it was cold and bad out, so I just stayed another night with her.
She was a woman but was right hairy all over. After several days I learnt
her how to br'ile meat and that fire would burn her. She got shy of the
fire and got so she liked br'iled meat and wouldn't eat it raw any more.
We went on through the winter that way. She would go out and carry in
deer and bear. So I lived there about two year, and when we had a little
kid, one side of it was hairy and the other side was slick.
I took a notion I would leave there and go back home. I begin to build
me a boat to go away across the lake in. One time after I had left, I
took a notion I would slip back and see what she was doing. I went out
to the edge of the cliff and looked down into the mountain, and it looked
like two or three dozen of hairy people coming up the hill. They were
all pressing her and she would push them back. They wanted to come on
up and come in. I was scared to death, afraid they's going to kill me.
She made them go back and wouldn't let them come up and interfere.
Well, I took a notion to leave one day when my boat was ready. I told
her one day I was going to leave. She follered me down to my boat and
watched me get ready to go away. She was crying, wanting me to stay. I
said, "No, I'm tired of the jungles. I'm going back to civilization
again, going back."
When she knowed she wasn't going to keep me there, she just grabbed the
little young'un and tore it right open with her nails. Throwed me the
hairy part and she kept the slick side. That's the end of that story.
(C) ?? (I neglected to credit whoever it was that sent in these tales,
please let me know.)
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