Did You Know that Hollering was Fundamental Communication on Farms?

Spiveys Corner Town Sign

Sitting on a buggy field in Spivey’s Corner, NC for the National Hollerin’ Contest (note: no “g” at the end of hollerin’) and it turns out there’s history, function, and art–it’s not just seeing who can yell the loudest.

Holler at You Later

In the days before phones (which far outnumber the days since we’ve had them) there was the innate need to communicate with your farming neighbors. Yet the very nature of being on a farm meant neighbors were acres away.

Enter hollering.

A holler in the morning to let neighbors know that everyone in your clan woke up healthy. Makes you think…

A holler from the house to the field to say that dinner (lunch) is ready.

A holler for the midwife, carried from farm to farm until the midwife got the call, and she of course knew who was due.

A holler for each animal, similar to their own sounds, when they strayed too far.

A distress call so neighbors would come running. And it’s the foundation of the sirens used by emergency vehicles like police cars and ambulances!

BTW, the hollers are all sounds, not words. Easier to hear and they carry farther.

Voices Carry

The sound carries better in the afternoon. The festival intentionally held the contest late in the day. I don’t know why it carries differently by time of day, but even the contestants mentioned it. It echoed, which was amazing.

Do YOU know why sound carries better in the afternoon?

The Hollerin’ Contest

This was truly a contest, not a festival like the others I so dearly love. And that’s ok. There’s room for all sorts of celebrations of Americana.

The contest started with an entry for whistling (impressive) and conch blowing (painful), which was used to greet ships). Then turned over to hollerin with categories for youth, teen, the ladies’ cal,l and men. Watch videos to get a sense of the different styles and for more insight about this form of communication. And it is worth the time to watch each, not just because I filmed them. They all have merit – I promise!

What forms of “back-then” communication can you share? Love to learn!

Spiveys Corner Hollerin Contest



5 Responses


Your Comments Can we expect to see wrastlin” at some time?

we can only hope!

Did anyone notice that the word “capital” on the monument is spelled wrong? The “i” and “t” are transposed.

well, they’re not the spelling capital!
good catch!


These videos were terrific and I am glad I watched them all. The teen was amazing but then the woman and the man were fantastic too! I had no idea about this and learned so much from this blog!

My family has a “holler” that we use when we are looking for each other in large, crowded places and sometimes when we enter the house to announce we are home. It is hard to describe, but souns a little like we are saying a drown out phewwwww that goes up an octave at the end. It is a strange and unmistakeable sound and we always locate each other “phewing” back and forth until we can see each other. My nieces and nephews do it now as well.

I loved this post and plan to share it with my family.

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