Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Up and at' em

Get going, get busy, as in Up and at 'em--there's a lot of work to be done. This colloquial idiom, often uttered as a command, uses at 'em (for "at them") in the general sense of tackling a project, and not in reference to specific persons.

This is not quite a satisfactory definition for me. It loses its history.

My mom used to barge into my room on early school days, flick on the light switch and cheerfully and loudly announce "Up and at'em", to rouse me out of a perfectly good sleep. Did your mom do that? I think it was a fairly common way of announcing the morning since we did not have our own rooster at that time. I have been known to do it to my son, but it is not a habit the way it was with my mom and her family. My grandparents did it too. Get up, hurry up...

So why?

Well, in 2005, when we celebrated the 225th campaign to Kings Mountain in Elkin, I found it used in a speech by Col. Ben Cleveland to the militia in Draper's book, Kings Mountain and its heroes on page 195.

"The enemy is at hand and we must be up and at them. Now is the time for every man of you to do his country a priceless service..."

The light bulb went ON!... OH, this is what my grandparents say up and at them, not up and atom!!!

I made a drawing and had T-shirts silk-screened the UP and AT' EM!! right across the top for our event. It was the first I'd ever heard this term in its correct context. It was inspiring to me, but the importance of inspiration came later when I brought some tee shirts to the Yadkin Valley Historical Association Fair in Yadkinville the next year. A woman for Forsyth county made the observation that it was just like "Let's Roll", the stirring words that fortified the men and women on flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.

Chills, huh?

And you thought this just came from the our superhero cartoon Atom Ant. Well, now you know. At least that's what I'm claiming!

Now, up and at'em. You have only 15 days left to make a case to the NPS if your county is not yet in the NHA.

Up and at'em. Now is the time...

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