|George Buster Singleton|
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Old sayings never die; they just fade in time” was originally published in the Jan. 25, 1996 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)
Throughout the early days of this country, many of the local people depended on the old sayings that were handed down from generation to generation.
Today, we have forgotten these sayings and predictions of the weather and the signs of the heavens and the many things to look for in the event of a coming marriage or of birth or death. We have no place for predictions about our farm animals and the seasons of the year. Since farming has become so technical, you would consider someone crazy if they related these old tales and sayings.
In talking to a group of senior citizens a short time ago, all tried to remember a few of these sayings that circulated around the countryside during the years of their childhoods. I was asked to relay to my readers some of those that I remember from the early days there on the farm.
I have collected and written down hundreds of these old sayings. Since my space is limited, I will only mention a few that might be of interest, in case any of my readers decided to marry or start farming as they did in the old days when the mule was the main link in a successful farm.
First, we will talk about love and marriage and some suggestions on the starting of a family.
It is said that if a young lady puts onions under her bed, it will attract a boyfriend to her house. Should you get lipstick on your teeth, it is a sign that your boyfriend loves you. If you have a dimple in your chin, many hearts you will win. Then, if a girl has a dimple in her chin, she is not to be trusted.
Remember, it’s bad luck to marry exactly on the hour. And, remember, girls when you are washing your hands and get water on the front of your dress, you are going to marry a drunkard. A young lady should never have a pet cat before she considers marriage; she will be an old maid always. Also, a young lady should never marry a man whose last name starts with the same letter as hers.
Here are a few tips on pregnancy and childbirth. If a pregnant woman crawls out of bed over her husband, he will be the one who will have morning sickness. If a woman loses a tooth for each child she has, her feet will grow a size larger for each child. If an unborn child is overdue, it will be born on the first full moon.
Once the marriage and the starting of the family are over, it is time to begin to notice the seasons for the planting and harvesting the crops that are to come.
Here are a few tips that might help. Should the bark grow heavy on the trees in the summer, look for a cold winter. And, if it thunders in February, it will frost that same day in April. Also, an extra skin on onions means that it will be an extra hard coming winter.
Should it rain on Easter Sunday, it will on the following four Sundays. Always keep an eye on your pet cat; if it sneezes, that is a sure sign of rain. Should you need rain for your crops, kill a snake and hang it in a bush. This is a sure bet that it will rain. If chickens roll in the sand, this is a sure sign of rain.
To those of you who might be starting out, here are a few hints on planting and the gathering of the crops.
Remember that dark nights during Christmas mean a good crop year. It is said that if the month of March is wet, it will be a bad crop year. For a good crop of beans, plant them on a full moon. Never plant vegetables that grow on vines during the evening hours. Another good sign is to plant crops when the dogwood leaves are about the size of a possum’s ear. Stoop close to the ground to plant okra, and it will start bearing close to the ground.
To make sure that your pepper is hot, be sure that you are angry when you plant it. Never plant your peas until the whip-o-wills start singing. Don’t forget to plant your watermelons during the full moon.
Some signs to look for that will bring good luck during these hard-working days on the farm are always good to know. For example, always carry a bone of a black cat in your pocket; this will always bring good luck. Always eat dried peas and hog jowls on New Year’s Day; this will surely bring you good luck. Search for a turtle with a broken tail; this, too, is a sure sign of good things to come.
Always, if you see a gray mule, kiss it on the nose; this is a good luck charm that never fails (that is, if you don’t mind kissing a mule). Each time you find a dead frog, draw a circle around it, spit on it and make a wish. This is a sure way for your wish to come true.
With all good luck, there are signs of the bad. Here are a few pointers to watch for.
Never carry the ashes out after dark. Make sure that your first visitor on New Year’s Day is not a lady; this always brings bad luck. Never wear other people’s new clothing before they wear them. Should you make the mistake of cutting your fingernails or toenails on Sunday, this will surely bring on bad luck. You should never comb your hair on New Year’s Day.
Never sit in a window or carry a yard rake into the house. And, remember, a wife should never buy her husband a ring after they are married; this brings bad luck by the sackful.
Never let the sun go down without naming a new baby. Never count your teeth; this also will bring on bad luck. And never, never wash yourself on the Friday before and after Christmas. If you should ever borrow salt, never pay it back; this is bad luck. Never sing at the eating table, and never sit with your legs crossed on Sunday.
Another good pointer to remember is to never wash clothes or mop or make beds on Monday. To fall over a chair is always bad luck and to sweep the floor with two brooms at a time is a no-no.
You should never take a salt shaker from someone else without first setting it down. You should never gather eggs after dark. Be sure to never watch someone go out of sight whenever they are going somewhere. Never walk on the cracks in a sidewalk. Be sure never to sweep the bottom doorstep or stir your buttermilk with a knife. These will surely bring on bad luck.
Never cook onions and potatoes at the same time, or use the eraser of a pencil before the pencil is sharpened. And above all, never go possum-hunting before sundown; you will never catch a possum if you do this.
In writing this article, I have tried to pass on some good points and information to those who might need and use it. If I have helped someone in just a small way, my time has been spent wisely. So, in closing, I leave for you this bit of information; take heed: never put the hair of a gray mule’s tail in a glass of water. It will surely turn into a snake.
Know and remember these things; they are very important.
(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School, served in the Korean War, moved to Monroe County in 1961 and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)