Monday, May 17, 2010



Since my retirement in 2005, I have been busy writing, traveling, and gardening. My first book is shown to the left and has received the following review from my writer friend, Becky Mushko:

In this book, Peggy shares her memories of growing up in Hopkins Gap, a small Allegheny Mountain community northwest of Harrisonburg, Virginia. This book contains a treasure trove of traditional folkways from western Virginia. From birth customs to death customs and through virtually every rite of passage in between, the book takes the reader on a journey of remembrances.

Peggy spotlights real people with real names and real faces One interesting character is Peggy paternal grandmother, Molly Shifflett. She was the community healer or granny woman. Grandma Molly explains how she acquired magical powers to heal babies, grownups, cows, and even horses. “She claimed her power to be a granny woman came from being born after her father drowned in a creek when flooding waters washed his horse and wagon downstream. She talked about her powers as if to legitimize her skills, much the same as modern doctors display diplomas on the walls of their offices. She often said, ‘Here’s how you can get the powers. You can be born the seventh child in the family, you can be born the seventh child of the seventh child, you can be born on Christmas day, or you can be born after the death of your father. That’s how I got my powers. I was born after my daddy died’.”

Peggy shares her memories of watching her extended family collaborate, cooperate, and get a job done on hog butchering day. All the sights, sounds, and smells that take us from the hog on the hoof to the pork on the plate are vividly presented.

Throughout the book the “red flannel rag” appears as a symbol of “healing and purity.” First, it appeared around the neck of Cousin Virgil where his mother placed it on the first cold morning in October. It later appears as a filter to cleanse the impurities from moonshine whiskey. Peggy’s mother used a “red flannel rag” to heal pneumonia. Finally, it was tied in the mane of a mule to prevent a local witch from causing the animal to balk.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of this book is the way in which Peggy presents the logic behind Grandma Molly’s healing powers and the logic behind the use of the “red flannel rag.” She traces the practices all the way back to Celtic tradition, so that the reader can understand why the “red flannel rag” was used in a variety of contexts. In her review of The Red Flannel Rag, Dr. Grace Toney Edwards, Director of Appalachian Studies at Radford University, said, “For the reader just looking for a leisurely Sunday afternoon read, The Red Flannel Rag will hold you in your chair as it offers you a pocketful of laughs, an occasional tear in the eye, and a heart full of memories from an Appalachian past.

This book is available by emailing pshiffle@radford.edu.


2 comments:

  1. Hearing Peggy tell about some of her childhood experiences at a Red Hat lunch in Roanoke, VA, and then deciding to buy one of her books ("The Red Flannel Rag") proved to be a very rewarding experience. I am 81 years old and my parents grew up in small towns in Alabama. The tales I heard from them through the years were very much like the ones in Peggy's book. I'm looking forward to reading more. Thanks! Tillie

    ReplyDelete
  2. Our book club in Harrisonburg, VA just read The Red Flannel Rag. I am wondering if there is a way to have my copy signed by the writer. I have given many copies of this book away over the years and was saddened when I discovered that finding books was difficult for our book club members. It appears as though it may well be time to reprint this wonderful story which resonated with so many of my friends.

    ReplyDelete