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I'm working on paper for SAMLA 88 on riddles in James Still's novel River of Earth. There is one I can't seem to find an answer for. It goes like this:

First green
and then yeller, (sic. yellow)
All guts
and no tallow.

Any help would be appreciated.

Edited for context. The riddle takes place at the end of the book, which is set sometime around 1900. It is about rural Appalachia.

Excerpt from the book:

"You've every one got buttermilk mustaches," she said, laughing quietly. We wiped them off with the backs of our hands, and then we played a riddle game.

Euly had first go.

As I went over London Bridge
I met my sister Ann,
I broke her neck and drank her blood
And let her body stand.

"That hain't the way I heered it," I said.

As I went through the guttery-gap
I met my Uncle Davy,
I cracked his skull and drank his blood
And left his body aisy.

Fletch was anxious for his riddle, fearing we would know the answer.

First green and then yaller,
All guts and no tallow.

Euly and I smiled, knowing what this thing was, but we guessed wild.
"A parrot-bird?"
"A corncob?"
"Johnny-humpback?"
"Now, no," Fletch said.

Fletch got down from the table and crawled about, blowing the whistle Uncle Samp had made for him. "I'm an engine pulling sixteen coal gons," he said.

The answer(s) to the first two riddles is a bottle of wine/spirits.

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  • $\begingroup$ The options are too numerous. Maybe you could supply a bit of context for this riddle? I know from [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_of_Earth ]Wikipedia that the book takes place in the Appalachia region. However perhaps you can tell us who asks the riddle , of whom, or in what context (unless it's just an idle pastime, this could offer a clue.) $\endgroup$ – mr23ceec Oct 11 '16 at 15:24
  • $\begingroup$ Also the time. It seems one of the characters (the narrator's grandmother) was married in 1868, which would place the the narrative somewhere in the late 19th century. This would mean something like "traffic light" is out. $\endgroup$ – mr23ceec Oct 11 '16 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, yeah. Context. So the riddle takes place at the end of the book, which is set sometime around 1900. It is about rural Appalachia. I should have mentioned that this takes place as part of a three riddle game. All three siblings ask a riddle. $\endgroup$ – Cee Tee Oct 11 '16 at 22:46
  • $\begingroup$ Clearly, that is not the answer, is it? $\endgroup$ – Sid Oct 12 '16 at 16:23
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My guess would be

a banana

Explanation:

First green
and then yeller, (sic. yellow)

It starts as green, and as it ripens it turns yellow

All guts
and no tallow.

It has guts, I suppose meaning a soft uniform substance, but its guts are not tallow which is a word for fatty animal tissue

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  • $\begingroup$ I think I got it actually. You're close though. Through out the book Pawpaw's, a cousin to the banana and native to the region, are mentioned and used as a chief metaphor for the narrator. Riddling sessions are used as sort of the gate way and close to his coming of age journey, during both scenes fruit features heavily. It's a pawpaw! $\endgroup$ – Cee Tee Jul 10 '17 at 2:56
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I think @gstats has it but it could also be -

Pumpkin

First green and then yeller, (sic. yellow)

a pumpkin starts green and turns yellow as it first behind to ripen.

All guts and no tallow.

I've heard the term "pumpkin guts" used here and there to refer to the gooey, stringy, tangled mess of seeds and gunk in it's centre. Pumpkins certainly don't contain tallow.

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I don't think this is right, but here's a different approach:

A fighter/boxer/brawler with more bark than bite.

First green

Green as in "newbie"/greenhorn

Then Yeller

Cowardly

All guts

Brave/foolhardy

No Tallow

I'm stumped on this one...

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  • $\begingroup$ i was thinking yellow might mean cowardly too, but I couldn't fit in the rest of it! No Tallow in this case might mean a lack of body fat? idk. Also the guts part makes me think of the phrase 'yellow bellied coward' $\endgroup$ – MMAdams Oct 10 '16 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ @MMAdams I actually think this whole bit is the red herring. I think gstats has the right answer $\endgroup$ – Charles Koppelman Oct 10 '16 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ @MMAdams Without this red herring, though, the puzzle is less-than-satisfying. I think that the green/yeller/guts would have been more familiar/colloquial to the original readers than to us. $\endgroup$ – Charles Koppelman Oct 10 '16 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ yes, gstats is probably right. $\endgroup$ – MMAdams Oct 10 '16 at 19:09
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Could it be

A Thief

First green

Green reflects the thief’s envy of another’s belongings

and then yeller, (sic. yellow)

The thief becomes Yellow or cowardice once caught in the act.

All guts

The thief has been shot or injured severely, showing guts.

and no tallow.

The body of the thief rots upon death.

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  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It’s a riddle, if you have the answer then by all means go for it, don’t however shoot someone else down for giving it an attempt. $\endgroup$ – Karm Oct 11 '16 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ @ArbitraryKangaroo It's a bit rude to call somebody else's answer "horrible" and "nonsense" without even giving a reason for it except "you can fit any answer to any riddle" - no you can't! Riddles are solved by finding an answer that fits all the clues - if you want to call that a "curvefit", fine, but don't ridicule someone for coming up with a possible answer and explaining how it fits each clue in turn. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 11 '16 at 15:08
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I'm thinking some kind of crop. Hard to tell which:

Pumpkin (0.1% fat) and banana (0.3% fat) as mentioned above. Corn is widely grown in Appalachia, starts out in a green "sleeve", but yellow on the inside (alternatively turns yellow when the cob ripens.) contains 4.7/100g fat, which is pretty high for 'no tallow.' Tobacco was also widely grown in Appalachia, green when picked, yellow when (well right before) smoked. Long standing associations with masculinity (guts) and weight-loss (no tallow). Peas, I think were grown in Appalachia, but too lazy to check. yellows as it ripens (not everyone eats pas ripe, but it is a grey-ish yellow when fully ripe for splitting/planting.) 1.2% fat. Beans, same deal (although they are more brown then yellow, but exact coloration varies by breed) ~1% fat. Wheat, the most widely grow crop in the world. Stalks turn yellow when they ripen. ~0.5% fat

and others

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    $\begingroup$ explicitly not corn, as per source: 'knowing what the thing was we guessed wild: "a parrot bird?" "a corn cob?" ' $\endgroup$ – mr23ceec Oct 11 '16 at 16:22
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I would go for

Leaves

First green

Leaves are usually green in color

and then yeller, (sic. yellow)

They turn yellow usually during the Autumn season

All guts

The pitcher plant has guts too!

and no tallow.

Of course not. leaves are just that-leaves.

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