PAINTSVILLE — Clyde Roy Pack, an award-winning humor columnist with The Paintsville Herald and other weekly newspapers throughout Eastern Kentucky, has published his sixth book, Pretty Babies Grow Up Ugly and Other Old-Time Beliefs.
The book features hundreds of old-times cures and superstitions he collected while drawing “Poison Oak & Country Folk,” a weekly cartoon that began in 1983 in The Mountain Chronicle, a former weekly newspaper published in Paintsville. The cartoon ran in several papers until 1998.
The book, written with his son, Todd, is illustrated with 24 classic “Poison Oak” cartoons.
“When I was drawing the cartoons, people would send me old cures and superstitions they’d heard over the years,” Pack said. “I was going through a stack of those old cartoons a while back, and I was struck by what those old cures said about my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generations.”
In the book, he writes, “Life was hard, and life was short, and these mountaineers didn’t really have the tools to understand the world around them. They weren’t stupid, but they weren’t educated, either, so the signs and superstitions, handed down through the generations, were all they had.”
The title of the book is one of several old superstitions mountaineers had about babies.
“Some people used to believe that pretty babies grew up ugly, and that ugly babies turned out pretty,” said Pack, who retired from teaching art and English at Paintsville High School in 1994. “Luckily, I started out kind of in the middle and didn’t change much.”
Old-timers also used to believe that:
• If you think about a child too much, it will die.
• You’ll have a headache if a bird picks up the combings of your hair and makes a nest of them.
• If you put a child under a bed on its ninth birthday, it will stop growing.
“That’s one of my favorites, because it’s funny and very specific,” Pack said. “I guess nothing bad will happen if you put a child under a bed on its eighth birthday or its 10th birthday, but I still don’t know why you’d put a child under a bed in the first place.
“That’s what I like about these old cures and superstitions,” he said. “They show us how people used to think and try to make sense of things.”