Because I grew up in a small, suburban Yankee town, quite a few things were new to me when I moved to rural Cabarrus County.
For example, I'd never heard the word "puny" used to express sickness. I'd never given the first thought to learning to can tomatoes. And I didn't know a thing about home remedies like putting snuff on a sting.
Since then I've learned a lot about country ways. Recently I met a Cabarrus County native who appreciates the old ways.
Bobby Almon tells great stories, and he's just so nice. He grew up "dirt poor" and remembers how thrilling it was when his family first got running water in their home.
Bobby loves history, especially the history of everyday people, and does what he can to keep it alive. He collects all kinds of household items - now antiques - that help us remember how people lived in times gone by.
From the past, Bobby seems to collect not only artifacts, but people as well. For years he lived in a haunted house on Old Concord-Salisbury Road. While others may have found living with a ghost a little unsettling, Bobby befriended his specter, calling her "Miss Daisy." He figures she felt comfortable with him and all his antiques and recalls that she comforted him in times of sickness or sadness.
He seems to be sensitive to things and people from the past. He can tell you about the many houses that are haunted in Mount Pleasant and stories about ringing phones (when there's no phone line going to the house), bobby pins that appeared out of nowhere and all kinds of sounds in the night.
But the most interesting story I heard from Bobby Almon was about the time he was badly burned as a little boy and his neighbor "talked the fire" out of him. Bobby's parents were about to take him to the hospital when his elderly neighbor came by. She said some words to him, and all the effects of the burn disappeared. Years later, when Bobby was a young teen, the neighbor taught him how to talk fire out, and he's been doing it to help people ever since.
As I've asked other people about this phenomenon, the locals invariably reply that they knew someone who could talk fire out and that it always works. Bobby said that's been his experience. He's used the ability to talk out sunburn for co-workers after beach vacations and all kinds of people, and it never fails. When people thank him, Bobby always replies that it's not he who heals, but the Lord, and that's whom they should thank.
I love talking with Bobby Almon because I love learning about the old ways - especially ways to treat sickness when doctors or hospitals weren't readily available. We can all learn from the past.