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Foxfire Four

March 26, 2017

I just reread Foxfire 4, one of a series of books about skills and crafts of people who were pioneers in the Appalachian Mountains of the southern United States.  Wikipedia has an article on the Foxfire books.  They were written by students at a high school in Georgia, based on visits the students made to people living in the mountains.  In addition, they contain photographs and drawings made by the students.

The articles are all about the people who originally settled the Appalachian Mountains, and how they lived and farmed the land.  Until recently, they had no electricity, no running water, and no roads.  The stories are based on their memories of how they used to do things, along with information passed down from their ancestors who settled the area.

They subsisted from small farms and gardens.  They built almost everything they needed to live there, including all of the farm equipment and the log houses.  The book, for example, describes how to make knives and how to carve bowls.  One of the craftsmen even built large stone buildings, using mostly unskilled labour.  The book also describes two different ways to make a fiddle from local wood.

The people of the Appalachian Mountains made their living from small farms and from the logging industry.  Before roads and motor vehicles appeared, they did all of this by hand, or with horses, mules, or oxen.  The book contains a great deal of information about the early logging industry in this area.

I found the book to be quite interesting, even though most of the skills described there are obsolete now.  In fact, they are not even needed by the people who live there now.  Some of the things they built, using mostly local materials, are still quite impressive.  Others are crude and utilitarian.  I enjoyed the book.  Some of their techniques have been widely used, with differences only in small details.  Most of them are historical artifacts.  I’m not likely to follow their examples today.  It is amazing to find out how people used to live when they were limited to local resources.


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