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mountain wisdom


completed reading 'Dear Ma'am' by Stella Walthall Patterson (given to me by the lovely D. -thank'ee) which tauts itself as "the refreshing adventures of a woman who at the age of eighty found a new life in the wilds of the Siskiyou Mountains near Happy Camp, California".

I would like to pass along some tidbits of wisdom, luscious vocabulary, and old skool slang from the novel's narrator which we could all use in these fast paced times. Sprinkle some of these sage snippets into your vernacular to drop some time-tested knowledge on the kiddies:


"stepping out like a young thing"

biddy knot - hair bun

quaint - attractively unusual or old fashioned 

reduce 20 or 30 pounds - lose weight 

beckoning finger of adventure

"And I have learned that if you say you have to do even the maddest thing "for business reasons" people will nod in agreement, while if you say you're doing it for no reason on earth except that you want to, impassioned objections will be voiced" (p. 9)

solicitous - characterized by or showing interest or concern

"they caught me coming and they caught me going" - 

wintry -cheerless, cold

"what couldn't be cured must be endured"

unslackened - not slowing


in a jiffy - quickly, short time

"as old as Methuselah" - according to the Hebrew Bible, the oldest person ever to live; any living thing reaching great age


breathing apparatus - lungs

played out all over - tired

decrepit - elderly, infirm; worn out or ruined because of age or neglect

dint - impression or hollow in a surface

maraude- roam in search of things to steal or people to attack, raid and plunder a place

powerful quick - soon

festoon - a decorative chain or strip hanging between two points; wreath or garland

famished - very hungry

"I knew the night wind would blow itself off, but the River was there to stay forever, making weird music like some goblin radio of the mountains" (p. 19)

attended strictly to the business of sleeping

"A stay dog might have come up to the bars to investigate them and left his autograph" (p. 20)



"mean little hunch" - unkind feeling of greed


gone a-glimmering

forthright - direct and outspoken; straightforward and honest

up a stump - out of luck

insipid -lacking flavor, vigor, or interest


"Sure enough, there it was, not far away, open to the whole world of fresh air and mountain vision, with a simplicity of architecture that belongs to men in the open. A pole laid between two logs, and that was all." (p. 33)

sundry - of various kinds, several

voluble - speaking or spoken incessantly and fluently

out of kilter - out of whack

"flower garden rioting in color and perfume...I loafed along, lost in the ecstasy of flower worship" (p. 41)

"there's no accounting for the foolishness of people...I quit trying to do it years back" (p. 43

plumy - describing a tail upon a dog

Stuff and nonsense! - exclaimation dismissing fanciful thoughts from the head

salubrious -health giving, pleasant, favorable to or promoting health or well being (thanks M-W)

"It is quite a task", Milly went on, "but I have heard that to be a lady you should know your Emily Post. And I do want to be a lady. But it's much easier to be just what you are." (p. 49)

tenderfoot - city folk

the name Millicent

"At least they knew I hadn't gone into a state of coma or amnesia or something interesting like that." (p. 55)

gamboling - skip about in play (M-W)

pussyfoot - walk/sneak past quietly

'rail at him' - let loose one's grievances of another verbally

in defiance of decency

shanty goats

wild hallooings

dicker - (n) the number or quantity of 10 especially of hides or skins; (v) bargain

"He was too odorous. Only real friendship and understanding can thrive in a garlic atmosphere" (p. 64)

doleful - full of grief, cheerless (m-w)

slovenly - untidy, especially in personal appearance (m-w)

craven - lacking the least bit of courage (m-w)

holding high carnival - running wild

"a confusion of small tools" - jumbled mess

purlieus - outlying or adjacent district; a frequently visited place (m-w)

joli - french: pretty, nice, bonny

friable - easily crumbled or pulverized (m-w)

dulcet - sweet to the taste, pleasing to the ear (m-w)

'at long last' - finally

warmed-over = reheated

hinted broadly - blatantly

duds - clothes

reticule - a drawstring bag used especially as a carryall (m-w)

perforce - by force of circumstances (m-w)

buffaloed - bewilder, baffle, bamboozle (m-w)

riffle - shuffle, leaf through hastily (m-w)

"Since no meal in the Siskiyous is considered worthy of the name without beans" (p. 102)

chamois - a soft pliant leather prepared from the skin of the chamois (a small goatlike bovid) or from sheepskin (m-w)

quicksilver - mercury (m-w)

treed - force a hunted animal to take refuge in a tree, force someone into a difficult situation

palaver - idle talk (m-w)

magnanimous - showing or suggesting a lofty or courageous spirit, nobility of feeling and generosity of mind (m-w)

reticence - reluctance (m-w)

solid seat - pair of pants with the rear intact

lug - big clumsy fellow (m-w)

languorous - promoting weakness or weariness of body or mind (m-w)

umberuffen - touch wood, knock on wood

didy - diaper

"setting everything a'sparkle" - the effect of frost in the morning

"a besetting sin of mine, leaving things at loose ends" - persistently leaving things half-done

"by the great horn spoon" - I swear (derived from back in the day when humans carved their spoons of horn)

"horse doovers" - fanciful corruption of hors d'oeuvres

conking out - passing out, falling asleep

indignant - feeling anger or annoyance at what is perceived to be unfair treatment

togs - set of clothing for a specific use

 "Weeks before, I had refused to leave my little cabin to spend a proper Christmas out in the world with my family - where beautiful trees were turned into a framework to hold blazing lights and glittery gimcracks. Very pretty they were, too, but I preferred to stay where the trees would keep on growing after Christmas, just as they had done before. Some called me stubborn, others used the words "slightly unbalanced."" (p. 174)

suet - raw beef or mutton fat

"This was going to be a joy" 

fastidious - attentive or concerned about accuracy and detail, cleanliness

compunction - feeling of guilt or moral scruple that follows the doing of something bad; pricking of the conscience

"My word, it was cold"

pemmican - concentrated mixture of fat and protein used as food

asperity - roughness of surface, sound, or temper; unevenness; a tiny projection from a surface

"But I learned a lesson - very valuable at my time of life. Never disturb a bachelor's bed,; never touch even one of his old newspapers; and never, never, clean up his tool house" (p. 183)

civet - small nocturnal mammal

prodigal -spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant

rakish - Having or displaying a dashing, jaunty, or slightly disreputable quality or appearance

doldrums - spell of listlessness or despondency

sot - drunkard

draw up - pulled over to the side of the road 

heel - a dishonorable man, a cad

soak - drunkard

"plain whistling in the dark" - be confident that something good will happen when it is not at all likely

sprinkle - drizzle

harum-scarum -lacking a sense of responsibility; reckless; with abandon

stolid - phlegmatic; calm, dependable, and showing little emotion or animation

"facing the music" - to receive punishment; to accept the unpleasant results of one's actions

"In the mountains men don't wait to be asked to help. They head right for where they're needed" (p. 238)

surety - beyond doubt, certain; in finance a promise by one party to assume responsibility for the debt obligation of a borrower if that borrower defaults

loquacious - talkative

kick off - die

unalloyed - of metal, no alloyed, pure; in emotions - complete and unreserved

effervescent - liquid giving off bubbles, vivacious, enthusiastic 

scamp - rascal, rogue, playful young person

truculent - eager or quick to argue or fight; aggressively defiant

everlastingly hornswoggled - get the better of (someone) by cheating or deception

got a good notion - lookin' to

'you're not a total loss' - playful denigration

knocked off - leave to go elsewhere

'feeling low in my mind' - not feeling optimistic about

"fat and sassy" - describing a mule

'the bunk' - the worst, bad

"those are extremely noble reasons for giving up the life you love. Just a little too noble for everyday use" (p. 251)

first-rate - great

"I don't aim to miss him no more" (p. 251)

lummoxes - clumsy, stupid persons

yelping - crying about, mentioning often

happy confusion

"Nobody can get along well unless they're needed by someone" (p. 260)


all in all this is an easy, breezy read with delightful turns of phrase. 

~ expression ~

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