The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Y'all Come

By Martha Cockrell Robinson © 1991

Issue: April, 1991

Translated from "Southernese" to the English language, this means "All of you are invited to come visit us." The way we said it saved time and got straight to the point. And back then, it was said sincerely. I doubt that many people today would extend a blanket invitation to kith and kin and friends to come for a visit. Back then, if you happened to meet a relative or friend on the street and stopped for a chat, the usual thing when saying goodbye was to say, Well, "y'all come."

Folks meant it too. It was ok to just drop by for a visit. After chatting for a while you'd be invited to stay for dinner or supper, whichever was coming up next. At our house, Maw would go out to the chicken yard and select a frying chicken (or two, if an entire family had shown up on her doorstep), wring its neck, douse it in boiling water to loosen the feathers, then pluck the feathers off. After the feathers were all off, she'd hold the chicken over a burning newspaper to singe any remaining soft feathers off, then cut it up and fry it to a mouthwatering crispness in the iron skillet on the kitchen range. Along with fried chicken would be biscuits and gravy, potatoes (mashed or fried), fresh vegetables, and probably a peach or blackberry cobbler, along with iced tea (in the summer) or coffee (in the winter).

My brother, sister and I grew up during a time when children were not considered important. They were to be seen and not heard, to speak only when spoken to. And when it came to mealtime, the "big" folks definitely had the advantage! The grownups ate at the "first" table. They got all the good stuff - the best parts of the chicken and the best part of everything else. They sat around the table and ate and ate and ate - and laughed and talked and ate some more. Or so it seemed to hungry little folks who were waiting their turn to be called to the "second" table.

After the grownups finished eating they'd push back from the table and have another cup of coffee or tea and "chew the fat" some more. All the while, we hungry "chillern" would be outside under the shade tree waiting our turn to eat. We had been sent outside and told not to "hang around the table" while the grownups were eating. By the time we did get to eat, all the good meaty pieces of chicken were gone and we got the bony pieces like the back, the neck and maybe a drumstick.

After the meal, more likely than not, Maw would insist that the guests spend the night. If the invitation was accepted, that meant the children slept on pallets on the floor and grownups got all the beds. This was standard practice with all our kinfolk and friends. If the visitors included children, we had fun playing together and sleeping on the pallets.

The words "Y'all come!" were taken literally back then, and even though it might be a little bit inconvenient at times, nevertheless guests were always made to feel welcome and were treated as though our household was honored by their visit. Today you don't dare show up at anyone's home without a special invitation, especially not at mealtime, and definitely not to spend the night. Everything now has to be planned down to the nth degree. Nowadays, one plans the menu and goes out and buys the "fixin's" and cooks the meal. Back then, everything was on hand already, just waiting for some family to respond to the invitation "Y'all come!"