Monday, January 2, 2012

An Urban I-talian in Rural North Cackalacky

Karen and I moved into Dad's house in Bear Creek North Carolina in November, but the reality of it is just begining to sink in. I finished growing up in rural New York, so I realy wasn't expecting the big culture shock that is part of every day life here. I went to the small general store in the near-by town of Goldston the other day, where I introduced myself to a fellow shopper, with whom I had struck up a conversation about local amenities. The first time I said my name I could see the gears turning behind the poor fellows eyeballs, so I repeated myself, and through some cultural filter my new aquaintence latched onto "Troy" (a common occurrence in North Carolina) and paired it with a phrase that almost made me laugh out loud. "Ye'r not from arround here, are you Troy?" he asked in a genial way (no, I didn't hear distant Banjos, I'm sure he didn't mean anything by it).

A few minutes later he introduced me to his wife, forgetting the "Troy" he introduced in this fashion: "This here's Danny, he's an I-talian fellow from Neew York" (the "New had an extra long "ew" to it). I understood the "Danny" thing, people hear my last name and associate me with Danny DeVito. Taking no offence I steered him back to "Troy" and found out where I could buy some chickens, and the best place to get Rabbit food and laying crumbles, and all about "The Devils Tramping Grounds" which were in Bear Creek, on the other end of 902 from my house. All-in-all he was very friendly and helpful, but I parted from his company with the distinct impression that he had viewed me as a rare and exotic creature, an oddity of nature that he had to point out to his wife. Don't get too close, honey, he seems friendly, but he might bite!

As to the Devils Tramping Grounds, tradition says that it is a patch of ground in the woods of Bear Creek where plants will not grow within a circular path supposedly tramped down by the devil as he paces arround plotting evil against humanity. Supposedly nothing left inside the circle is there the next morning, and no-one can remain there overnight, though there is much evidence to the contrary since the stories surfaced in the 1930s.

This is oddly reminiscent of a site in Italy not far from the town of Piedimonte Matese where my father's maternal grandfather came from. The name of the place is "Passeggiata Del Diavolo" which translates to "The Devil's Walk" or "The Devil's Footprints". The area is volcanic, and there is a set of footprints in volcanic rock. People used to believe that the devil left them there as he paced or danced around on the lava, but scientists now believe ancient humans left their footprints in ash as they fled the volcano.

So, calling me Troy or Danny, that's sooo North Cackalacky, but imagining the Devil's been pacing arround in your back yard, that's either North Carolinian, or it's I-talian.

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