Our mother owned a piece of property on a plateau half-way up the hillside
across from our previous home. When we had lived previously at Scuddy, this was where we
did a lot of our gardening. Dad bought the house next to it from his former father-in-law
for eleven hundred dollars. The house had originally been a two room log house, but later,
a kitchen and storeroom had been added. There were thirty-five acres of land with a huge
amount of timber, a barn, and lots of grazing land. There were a lot of fruit trees. There
was a deep well next to the porch. Two apple trees were so close to the porch that we
could reach and get some. There were plenty of paw paw and persimmon trees. Paw paw trees
were not too tall. They were pear shape with several large seeds. They were deliciously
unique. We also had a large wild strawberry patch. This piece of property was the very
best that anyone could have ever owned. There was a sled road from the main road leading
up the hill for a quarter of a mile. Then, the whole piece of property would open up. It
was a huge plateau that we called a table with green grass and a real nice house and all
those fruit trees. A huge barn was nearby. There was a stream running down on the right
side from a coal mine; just large enough to put your feet in and dream. The view from our
porch was spectacular. In the evening, we could hear our neighbors down below talking. We
could see across to the other mountainside where some of our friends lived. If we wanted,
we could raise our voice and talk to them. Dad would be rocking his chair on the front
porch and trying hard not to go to sleep. Finally, when the chickens went to roost,
he would get up and go to bed. A little later, he would tell the rest of us to come
I had noticed some willow chairs on a neighbor's porch and I
thought that they really look great. Since the construction was very simple but were very
strong, I thought that I could make those from the many willow trees on our property.
Without my father knowing, I ordered a saw and a hammer from Sears and Roebuck by C.O.D.
the price was $2.98. Two weeks later, he came home from shopping and said that there was a
package from Sears and Roebuck that he never ordered. He looked at me and asked if I had.
I told him that I had because I wanted to make some willow chairs to sell. He was very
upset that I had not told him and he was going to return the package. A neighbor was
visiting at the time. Dad asked the neighbor what should he do. The neighbor told him that
maybe he should go ahead and pay for them to see what I could do. Dad gave me the money to
pick get the package. I made several porch chairs. Willow wood was the best to use
because one could bend it into almost any shape without its breaking. I was able to either
sell them or take a trade for one. Baxter said that when he went back to the farm to visit
a few years later, there were a couple of chairs still sitting there. When I began selling
antiques, these rustic willow chairs were some of the hottest items on the market
and even today they are in great demand.
Dad started farming again. He was raising three hogs in a pen he
built and was growing lots of vegetables. He, Fred, and I had shaved the weeds off about
two acres of land to plant corn. He needed a mule to do the plowing so he bought one,
Barney. People in the mountains owned mules. There were very few horses. A mule is a
crossbreed between a male jackass and a female horse. It is infertile. A mule is smarter
than a horse. A mule will eat until it is full and will stop. A horse will eat until it it
can eat no more. A mule knows when a load is too heavy and will not pull it even though
you can whip it unmercifully. A horse will kill itself by pulling too heavy a load. The
mule is a very sure-footed animal. Thus, it is used in the mountains more than a horse.
Dad bought a three year old mule named Barney. Well, Barney
was something else. Dad was very religious. One day, we three were in the cornfield with
Dad doing the plowing and Fred and I would be doing the hoeing. At first, Old Barney was
doing fine until he bit the top of a corn stalk, Dad slapped his side with a plow rope and
said stop it. About two more rows, he got another one. Dad said again in a louder
voice "stop it". Another two rows and he did it again. This time, Dad stopped
and went up to him and in a loud voice, yelled "Damn you, I told you to stop it"
and slapped the Ole Barney with a big switch. The mule stopped and would not move. It took
some time to get him started again. Fred wanted to laugh so badly that he looked as if he
were going to explode. He could not hold it any longer. He said in a loud voice to Dad
that he had just lost is religion. Dad put the switch down and took off after Fred.
Finally, he stopped running and told Fred to get back and start hoeing corn. Fred came
back, but he couldnt stop giggling. We finished plowing the corn and went home. Dad
told Mother what had happened. She told him to forget it and ask for forgiveness for his
cursing and he did. Later in life, he was ordained as a Free Will Baptist minister and
attended the church at Happy.
He wanted to build a smoke house for his bacon and hams. As I
stated before, there was a lot of timber on our property, but it all was on top of the
hill. Dad would cut down four huge trees with an ax, trim of the branches, and chain them
together. He would hitch Barney to the logs and bring them home. He needed a lot of logs
so he had to make several trips. Marcus and I would cut them into sizes and notch them.
Dad would get on one end and Marcus and I would get on the other and lift them into place.
This was going pretty well until one day, the logs clipped Barney on the back legs. Barney
was skittish and he would always take off running if something scared him. Needless to
say, Barney started going down the hillside at full speed. Dad had the rope around his
arms and couldnt get loose. After about a hundred yards, Dad was able to let go of
the reins. Further down the slope, the logs hit a big rock and the chain broke and Barney
kept running. Dad came home all scraped and bruised. He old my mother that he had a mule
for sale. Mom asked him how was he going to get the rest of the logs that he needed down
the hill. He said that he would pull them by himself. He would tie two logs together and
pull them down that hillside. We finally finished the smokehouse just before we had to
slaughter the hogs. We were one of the few families that had meat all winter. Little did
we know at the time that there would be a shortage of meat in the grocery stores next
spring. We had more than enough for ourselves so Dad sold some of his bacon and hams to
the local grocer. We made a few dollars and other people had some meat.
He bought another mule that was about twenty years old. I used to
ride him quite often around the pasture. Sometimes I got up enough courage to race him at
full speed. I found out that it was much easier to ride at a faster speed. One afternoon I
was riding about full speed when Fred ran out and shouted "stop". Stop he did,
but I kept going and landed on my stomach. The breath was knocked out of me and Fred ran
up to me and asked me if I were hurt. I got enough breath to ask him why he did that. He
said that he just wanted to know if he said stop, the mule would stop. In the winter
months, Marcus and I would haul coal on a sled to some of our neighbors for fifty cents a
load. We used to make movie money that way. The last load that we hauled was to a woman
who lived about a hundred yards up on the hill. There was a lot of snow on the ground and
it was cold. She said that she would give us fifty cents. We would have to carry it up to
her house in burlap bags. We hauled the coal to where we had to carry it, but I told
Marcus before we carried the coal, we should get paid. He agreed so we asked for our
money. The lady said that she only had a quarter in script and would pay us the other
quarter when she got it. We wanted the money that day because we were planning to go to
Vicco to see a movie. We told her that we were not going to pack that coal up that
hillside in that snow for a quarter because we knew that we would never see the other
quarter. We took the coal home. Dad told us that he had his doubts about this woman paying
us. He gave us the fifty cents to go the movie. This was the same lady who had said that
she had seen the pilot in the aircraft..
In the fall, we started school again at the same school before we
left Scuddy. I was now in the seventh grade. There were also Fred, Baxter, and Robert
Alvin attending school. Things had changed while we were away. The school was now divided
into two sections with a curtain down the middle with the first four grades on one side
and the upper grades on the other. Our neighbor, Betty (Elizabeth) Mullins, was teaching
the younger students and her daughter Norine was teaching the higher grades. Betty had an
eight-grade education and Norine had finished high school. She had graduated from Mt.
Carmel High School at Vancleve, about eight miles north of Jackson on Highway 15. I had a
pretty good relationship with the two, but was never very close. Even though they were not
college graduates, they were knowledgeable teachers. I was back with the children who I
had as schoolmates from the primary grade. It was as if I had never moved away.
One day, Norine announced that she had made arrangements for our
school to play a ballgame against the Georges Barnch school. Georges Branch is a hollow
between Scuddy and Vicco. That is one game that I will never forget. The ball that we
always played with was a round stone with black tape around it. She had bought a new
softball for us to take to the game. We had never seen one before. We had to walk about
two miles to the school. Some of the children were too small to go so they had the day
off. The rest of us strutted all the way there bragging how badly that we were going to
beat them. We got there around ten and they were waiting for us. All the children and some
parents were around the ballfield laughing and joking. We were to bat first. It was three
up and three down. I was playing in the outfield and I did not get a chance to bat. The
first batter on the other team hit a ball over my head and scored a run. The second batter
hit the ball so hard that it split the seams and was completely flattened. It was
destroyed. I have never heard of this happening again. We had no other ball so the
ballgame was over. We threw the ball into the woods and walked home. We were devastated. I
hope that kid made it into the major leagues.
In the middle of the winter the branch would freeze over. As
kids, it never bothered us because we could skate on it without any problems. It was fun.
One Friday evening, Betty made the announcement that we were not to walk on any ice going
home. If we did, she would whip us on Monday. To get home, we either had to walk across a
willow log over the branch or on the ice.Several of us chose the ice. On Monday, Fred and
I put a book inside our clothes to protect our rear end. I was sitting there with a silly
grin when she asked what was the matter. She had forgotten about the licking. Three of her
pets had been skating with us and I wanted to test her to see if she would whip them. I
reminded her about her promise. She told everyone that skated on the ice to come forward.
Fred and I stood up, but the girls didnt. They denied it. I told Betty that she was
not going to whip just Fred and me. Fred and I went to the cloak room to remove the books.
That is when he and I decide to jump out a window and go home. On the way home I met Dad
and he asked me why I was not in school. I told him the whole story and I was quitting
school. He gave me a long look and said, " Son, you can quit school if you want. If
you quit, you will wind up in the coal mines like me. If you want a better life go back to
school and take your punishment and graduate. The only way that you are going to make
something out of your self is with an education". Fred and I went back to school the
next morning and took our punishment. I got off pretty easily, but Fred was brutally
whipped. I never did have any have any more to do with the three who did not confess. If I
had known that they would get away with it and gotten the whipping that we got, I would
have kept my big mouth shut. If this had happened to me today, I would have had them up on
charges. First of all what one does outside a playground is no business of a teacher. It
is the parents responsibility. Second, Freds punishment bordered on brutality.
During the school year, two graduate students from Mt. Carmel
High School in Vancleve, Ky. came to our school. Mt. Carmel was a religious high school
and most of its graduates would become missionaries either in the Kentucky Mountains or
overseas. They were allowed to speak to the students about their religion. Can you
imagine this happening today? They had a contest to see who could remember the most Bible
verses that they would assign us. They would come each week and test us. I won the contest
and I received a New Testament as a prize. Little did I know at the time what I had
accomplished. They contacted Mt. Carmel and told them about my family and me and
recommended me for a free eight-grade through high school education. After completing the
school year, I found out about this and I gladly accepted. This was in 1945.
Meanwhile, Watson was with General Patton's army in Germany and
we kept up with the news on the radio on how the army was advancing. My mother wanted to
live long enough to know that her son was safe before she died. When Germany surrended in
June, we received a letter from Watson that said he may be shipped to Japan to fight the
war there. Finally the Japanese surrended on August 15th.
On August 16th, my father informed me that she had taken a turn
for the worse. He told me to go to all of my aunts and inform them that she was dying. I
was thirteen at the time and I started walking through the mountains to each one's house.
Aunt Bertha Asher lived at Fusonia, Aunt Amanda Johnson lived at Viper, Aunt Melvina
Stogner and Aunt Sally Hall lived on Masons Creek, and Aunt Cynthia Shively lived at
Sassafrass. They were all able to come to see my mother before she died on the 19th. On
the 21st, they put her casket on a sled and it was hauled to the bottom of the hill where
a dirt road led up to the cemetary. A group of men carried her up to the graveyard. The
entire community was there to pay their respects. When the service was over and they
started to lower her into the grave, three of Uncle Taylor's daughters sang "Will the
Circle be Unbroken".
I told my father that I did not want to go to Mt. Carmel. He told
me that for me to go to high school was my mother's greatest desire. So on August 26th, my
father took me to Mt. Carmel. This was the last time that I ever saw this home.
Will the Circle Be Unbroken
Original Version of
Will the Circle be Unbroken
There are loved ones in the glory,
Whose dear forms you often miss;
When you close your earthly story,
Will you join them in their bliss?
Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, by and by?
In a better home awaiting
In the sky, in the sky?
In the joyous days of childhood,
Oft they told of wondrous love,
Pointed to the dying Savior
Now they dwell with Him above.
You remember songs of heaven
Which you sang with childish voice,
Do you love the hymns they taught you,
Or are songs of earth your choice?
You can picture happy gatherings
Round the fireside long ago,
And you think of tearful partings,
When they left you here below:
One by one their seats were emptied,
One by one they went away;
Here the circle has been broken
Will it be complete one day?
Will the Circle Be Unbroken
I was standing by the window
On a cold and cloudy day
When I saw the hearse come rolling
To carry my mother away
Will the circle be unbroken
Bye and bye Lord bye and bye
There's a better home a waiting
In the sky Lord in the sky
I said to the undertaker
Undertaker please drive slow
For that body you are carrying
Lord I hate to see her go
Well I followed close behind her
Tried to hold up and be brave
But I could not hide my sorrow
When they laid her in that grave
I went back home Lord that home was lonesome
Since my mother, she was gone
All my brothers and sisters crying
What a home so sad and alone