Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Day Papaw's Rooster Crowed: A Mountain Superstition Come to Life

Happy Halloween!  One thing this day makes me think of is old timey mountain superstitions.  There were so many I heard growing up.  A couple of the most memorable were, "Don't tell about your dreams before breakfast or they'll come true," and "Whenever you leave a place, look back at it as you go, and you'll return there again."

Having heard the latter, made me turn around and steal a glance at my mamaw and papaw's farm whenever we headed back north after many a visit as a little girl.  Visits there were always special, and I most definitely wanted to guarantee that I would return.

"Glancing back"
I'm all grown up now and certainly put no stock at all in superstitions anymore.  But despite that, there is one Appalachian superstition that will haunt my memories for the rest of my days.

Now, I truly believe that this was merely a coincidence...but when I was a little girl, I witnessed an old  and ominous mountain superstition play out.  And it just might raise a few hairs on your head!

We were down to visit my mamaw and papaw on their Eastern Kentucky farm.  It was like many a visit before...  My mom and dad were helping my grandparents out in the garden and around the farm, and a couple of my sisters and I were loitering around the old chicken lot.

Papaw's chicken house
My papaw kept and raised chickens for years and he'd always turn them out during the day.  They'd go to roost on their own every evening, and then he'd shut the chicken house door for the night.

My papaw, an Eastern Kentucky farmer
So, like any other day, the chickens were all roaming about hither and thither as they pleased.

Where Papaw's chickens would roam
Then at some point, Mamaw came by from her work in the nearby garden and began chatting with us girls.

Mamaw with one of my sisters
And, right there, mid conversation...it happened. There was an old pile of logs near where we were standing, and suddenly Papaw's rooster hopped right up on those logs and began crowing loudly.

Mamaw looked at us, and the words she spoke to us will remain with me 'til my dying days.  She said, "The old folks used to say that when a rooster gets up on something and crows right next to you like that during the middle of the day, somebody's about to die."

The old chicken house in the mountain mist
At that point, we all went on about the rest of our day...not thinking another thought about the words Mamaw had spoke.

But it wasn't long before evening started to settle over the hills.  We all headed to the house as suppertime neared.  And then the old black rotary phone that hung on the wall began to ring.  It was news and it wasn't good.  One of my great uncles had been taken to the hospital...and it was serious.

Before morning, he was dead.

Honestly, in all the chaos of a death in the family, Mamaw never even realized that her earlier remarks had materialized right before our eyes.  And I think us girls were aware that with death so recent, commenting on the strange occurrence was just not yet appropriate.

A few years later, we mentioned it to Mamaw.  But at that point her aging mind had long forgotten that she had ever even spoke of the old superstition with us.

Papaw & Mamaw
It was an eery thing that we watched play out in those mountains that day Papaw's rooster crowed.  And it's a thing I hope to never witness again.

Yet don't worry, it was just a coincidence.  But if this story gives you a nightmare tonight, you might not want to tell anyone about your bad dream until after breakfast!


  1. I grew up in Southwest Virginia. I remember being told that if we were to see an owl in the daylight it was an omen of death

    1. Gives me the willies, Brenda! :) Thanks for sharing!

  2. In September of 2017, My dad was in his last days. Everyday prior to him being so close to death we would feed the birds right outside his window. He loved to watch all the birds come and go. The morning of the day he passed away, we noticed that no birds had came to eat. He passed away September 5th at 441 pm. Once the funeral home came and took him to the funeral home. I was on the porch right outside his window and a cardinal came, then more birds came. I really believe that animals sense death and other things. I am a eastern Ky girl as well. I have also heard about the rooster crowing as well.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Connie! I am so sorry to hear about your dad passing. Blessings to you!

  3. My family and I are from Letcher Co., Ky. We moved to northeastern Ohio when I was 4 1/2. Even though I was not raised in Ky I grew up hearing all the various stories they experienced. I don't remember hearing about mountain superstitions. I would have to ask my mother who is 88 now and has all her faculties. I enjoyed your post.


    1. Thanks, Tricia! I have several ancestors from Letcher County myself! :)

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