West Virginia's Appalachian
Music and Literature: Humor
Hold Your Breath
Ernest Caynor has lived in West Virginia all his life, and
he has told this story of his boyhood to his children many times. This
recording was made while Mr. Caynor was telling the story to his grandchildren.
This is a good example of how the oral tradition of
folk literature works—stories are passed down through the generations.
When I was a boy, about twelve years old, I worked on a farm
owned by William Blake. And we were in the hayfield, mowing hay, and I was following
the machine, and while I was following that machine behind, we cut into a bumblebee's
nest. And I told Mr. Blake, I said, "There's bumblebees."
And he said, "Get away from the horses."
And I said, "They're stingin' me!"
He says (They were in my hair, they were all over me.) And
he says . . . I said, "They're stingin' me!"
He says, "Well, hold your breath."
And I said, "Hold your breath?"
He said, "Yes."
So I held my breath and the old fellow told me later, he said,
"When you held your breath," he said, "it just looked like, your
jaws looked like a balloon a blowin' up." And I hollered, "Hold your
breath! They're stingin' me to death!"
And he said, "Well, run and get away from the horses."
And the reason for that was if a bee stang the horses, the horses would run
And I said I had to take a day off from work cause I was swelled
so bad from the bee stings. And that was the tale of my bee sting.
So a few days later, we were mowing hay below the house, and
I was shockin' hay, and the old man would cut it, and I said, we cut into a
bumblebees' nest or a yellow jackets' nest about every meadow we went in. So
the old fellow was a rakin' the hay and I was shockin' hay that day, and he
made a mistake. He raked and he tried to miss the bees' nest, but he made a
mistake and he raked it up in the windrow. And he was right below me, and I
said, he went "Ohh!" And he reached up and got his nose and he picked
that bee off the end of his nose.
And when we went in to dinner that day, his wife, whose name
was Grace but he called her Jakey, and she said, "Will, what in the world
is the matter with your nose?"
And I said, "Mrs. Blake, a bee got on his nose, but he
didn't hold his breath!"
Virginia's Appalachian Music and Literature in AppLit