Foxfire: From fiddle making to horse trading

Foxfire coverOne of my favorite activities when I’m sitting at the reference desk waiting for a student to ask me a question is to explore new books. Sometimes we’ll have a cart full of new reference books waiting to go; other times I’ll use the catalog’s “new items” section to search for newly received books or videos. One fairly new release is The Foxfire 45th Anniversary Book: Singin’, Praisin’, Raisin’.  [Ekstrom Library 3rd floor book stacks F106 .F695 2011]

This anniversary book is part of the Foxfire series which started out as a student writing exercise by a new teacher in a Georgia school. He asked his students what they could do to make learning English interesting.  They decided to start a magazine in which they would write articles based on community interviews.[1] In addition to capturing their interest the assignment captured aspects of a disappearing culture – from dressing hogs to making quilts. Many of the magazine’s articles were later published as books. While we don’t have the whole series we do have a number of the books, including:

  • The Foxfire book: hog dressing, log cabin building, mountain crafts and foods, planting by the signs, snake lore, hunting tales, faith healing, moonshining, and other affairs of plain living
  • Foxfire 2: ghost stories, spring wild plant foods, spinning and weaving, midwifing, burial customs, corn shuckin’s, wagon making and more affairs of plain living
  • Foxfire 3: animal care, banjos and dulcimers, hide tanning, summer and fall wild plant foods, butter churns, ginseng, and still more affairs of plain living
  • Foxfire 4: fiddle making, springhouses, horse trading, sassafras tea, berry buckets, gardening, and further affairs of plain living
  • Foxfire 7: Ministers, church members, revivals, baptisms, shaped-note and gospel singing, faith healing, camp meetings, footwashing, snake handling, and other traditions of mountain religious heritage
  • Foxfire 9: general stores, the Jud Nelson wagon, a praying rock, a Catawban Indian potter, haint tales, quilting, home cures, and the log cabin revisited
  • Foxfire 10: railroad lore, boardinghouses, Depression-era Appalachia, chair making, whirligigs, snake canes, and gourd art

Besides being a great way to learn about Appalachian culture, the books have been praised as instructional tomes on all kinds of skills from fiddle making to horse trading.

[1] The Foxfire Fund, “Foxfire Magazine” http://www.foxfire.org/magazine.html. [Accessed January 29, 2013.]



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