More death and burial folklore from famous hillbilly folklorist Vance Randolph:
Time Stops: When a death finally occurs, one of the bereaved neighbors rises immediately and stops the clock. Everybody knows that if the clock should happen to stop of itself while a corpse is lying in the house, another member of the family would die within a year, and it’s best not to take no chances.
Reflections: The next thing to do is cover every mirror in the house with white cloths, which are not removed until after the funeral. This is done out of consideration for those who may come in to view the body, for it one of them should glimpse his own reflection in the house of death, it is believed that he will never live to see another summer.
“New Fangled Customs”: In some houses, immediately after a death occurs, the chairs are all turned up so that nobody can sit in them, and people who come into the presence of the dead are forced to stand. Randolph could never find the source of this belief and was told by one old-timer that it is a new-fangled custom, brought into the country by some outlanders about 1880.
Dirty Laundry: When a hillman dies all his bedding and articles of clothing are immediately hung on a line outdoors. People coming far down the road see this and know that the patient is dead. In predicting a sick man’s demise, I have heard people say “Poor Jim’s britches will be a-hangin out most any day now!”
Neighborhood Cleanup: The hillfolk have a veritable mania for washing dead bodies; the moment a death occurs the neighbors strip the corpse and begin to scrub it vigorously. A man may be dirty all his life, and in his last illness his body and bedding may be so foul that one can hardly stay in the cabin, but he goes to his grave clean. All of the work connected with a death- washing and dressing the body, is done by friends and neighbors. Not one of the near relatives of the deceased will have any part in these doings, except in the direst necessity.
Today’s tip: Perfect your yodel.