Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for July 23, 2014 by Steve Weems

Betty McCall, who we called Granny, would often whistle while she worked. No harm in that, except I am told that Great Uncle Otto McCall would say, “A whistling woman and a crowing hen always come to some bad end.”

I was reminded of this saying when it was quoted by a lady in the audience for a recent presentation on Ozark superstitions sponsored by the Carroll County Historical Society. Susan Young, the Outreach Coordinator for the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale, was the entertaining speaker.

For a reference, she used Vance Randolph’s 1947 classic Ozark Magic and Folklore and she read the opening line that “The people who live in the Ozark country of Missouri and Arkansas were, until very recently, the most deliberately unprogressive people in the United States.” As a group we contemplated whether or not there was an implied insult. I don’t believe that there is as Vance Randolph, a one-time resident of Eureka Springs, loved all things authentically Ozarkian.

Susan Young began the evening talking about the old belief that a cat will take away a baby’s breath. Cats used to have their necks broken for acting suspiciously around newborns because of this saying.

If you drop a dishrag, company is coming. In my mother’s family, if you drop a case knife, company is coming.

Many of the old beliefs of the Ozarks, of course, came from other places. The hills of Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina, shared many of these beliefs as so many settlers to the Ozarks originated from these states.

Frequently, the old superstitious sayings had to do with luck. For instance, if you find a horseshoe in the road and the open end is towards you, spit on it and throw it over your left shoulder for good luck. If the closed end is towards you, you’d better keep walking.

Susan Young asked if anyone had a buckeye in their pocket for good luck and two did. I used to carry a buckeye around until I lost it, which I suppose could explain a great deal.