Theo Stillion was one of Morrison’s more talkative interviewees. Covering a wide variety of subjects, her recollections touched on everything from church life to childbirth to ghosts to the Ku Klux Klan. Her many stories help paint a picture of the mindsets and practices that made up Salt Creek Valley life.
Stillion, born in 1914, began her interview with a humorous story about her childbirth.
Her father’s decision to only plant potatoes if there was not a newborn baby in the house may sound like a funny piece of family lore; however, it provides a telling example of folk farming knowledge. Stillion also shows how Church-going farmers combined their religious calendars with agricultural ones saying , “…Good Friday was a good day to plant potatoes.”
Stillion also recounts the birth of a younger sibling. Though she remembers being 17 years old at the time, she told Morrison that she didn’t know her mother was pregnant and that she just came home from school to a new baby. Morrison’s research showed that this was not uncommon due to both strict religious ideas and the high rates of infant mortality.
The superstitions mentioned by Stillion regarding the black ribbon on a box of children’s clothing represents part of a world view that accepted the existence of ghosts and otherworldly signs, or warnings. Even though a tradition of telling ghost stories for entertainment was popular among Salt Creek Valley residents, that does not mean they thought these stories were simply fiction. Stillion’s superstitious tales dealt with her grandfather and were told absolutely without guile.
Not all of Stillion’s scary stories were fun and games. In this clip, she recounted the fear of a Ku Klux Klan night raid through the Valley.
In spite of fears, both supernatural and very human, Stillion painted an image of a happy life before Lake Monroe. She described a childhood surrounded by nature and full of hard work, with a wistful nostalgia for earlier times.