My father was one of the hardest working men who I have
ever known. He stood six feet and two inches tall. He was rock solid. His physical
strength was unbelievable. He and my older brothers would go to work at the mines at four
in the morning and get home at four in the evening.They would take a bath and work on the
farm until dusk. The old saying was that we went to bed when the chickens did. We always
had three hogs, a cow, and a lot of chickens. During the summer months when the mines
would slow down, he and my brothers would cut timber to sell to the coal mine owners for
mine posts. There were lots of times when he and I would pack two burlap bags of
vegetables, tie four chickens together, and start going door to door from Scuddy to Vicco
selling our produce. He would have a burlap bag on one shoulder and the chickens on the
other and I would have a bag of potatoes and cabbage. We sold everything before we came
home. He also sold Blair Products from Lynchburg, Va. in his spare time. Blair products
were mostly kitchen items, such as cake and pie filling, baking powder. and etc. It was
much like Raleigh products. He and I would walk four miles to the train depot at Jeff to
get his shipment of products. By walking we would save fifty cents on taxi fare. We would
take a taxi back home.
When he went back to work, I took over selling the
products. For a eleven year old child, I did pretty good for my self. One time I was in
Martin's Department store in Vicco and I saw a pair of overalls that I wanted. They were
ninty-five cents. I wanted surprise my mother by letting her know that I had used
some of my money to buy clothes. When she asked me how much that I paid for them, I
proudly told her. She didn't say too much, but I got the feeling that I did not get a
bargain. When she washed them, they shrunk up so small that my six year old brother could
hardly get into them. I never bought any more clothes.
Our house was located half way up the hollow
on seven acres of land on the left side of the branch. We had a four room house made with
standing pine boards with two inch strips of wood over the joints. There was a
chimney between the two front rooms to keep the house heated. The inside walls were
covered with newspapers and wall paper over that with no insulation. Without exaggeration,
I can say that it got mighty cold in the winter months. We would stand near the fire with
our longjohns on until we got hot and then we turned around to warm the other side. We had
a large castiron cook stove in the kitchen-dinning room that also helped to warm the
house. We had ladderback chairs that our neighbor made for two dollars each. When we
walked in the house from the porch we entered the main bedroom. There was no living room.
There were two beds, one for our parents and one for five childeren. The bed frames
were cast iron and we slept on a feather bed that our mother made from chicken feathers.
There was another bedroom for our older brothers. Next to it was our walk-in pantry where
we kept all of our canned fruits and vegetables.
We had a two-room building that was used for corn
and and pickling crocks. When my brother Roy married Agnes Wooton, it was converted
into living quarters for them. His two daughters, Gwendlyn and Shirley were born in
this house. We had a well next to the house and a two-hole toilet further away from the
The branch that ran by our house was deep and wide
enough in some spots for us to swim and catch small fish. We used a limb from a tree with
piece of twine and a safety pin. Once in a while we got lucky and caught one. If we
wanted to go to the Kentucky River, we had a better chance to catch something that we
could eat. To get there, we used a path that went past the Spencer home up the mountain,
through the cemetary, and down a sled road to a place called Pinchin Rock at the edge of
the river. This was near Fusonia. The older men would use trout lines to catch catfish.
There would also be some one who would resort to using dynamite. I spent many days on the
sand by the river with my pole line in the water wishing for a little luck. Sometimes, I
would give up and jump in the water with them.
In 1939, the state decided to build a road up Scuddy
Hollow, over the mountain and down to Fusonia connecting us to route 7. To do this, they
had to go through our property. Our father fought this, but he was told that he had no
choice. He was out of work at that time. He said that he would let them go through if he
could have a job. They gave him a job at a dollar a day digging the road. They went
through to the edge of our property and stopped. It never went any further. Our farm was
destroyed. He decided to build Roy a house on the road. They lived there until Roy's wife
We never went hungry and always had clean clothes to
wear. Our clothes was a shirt and a pair of bibbed overalls. Shoes were saved for the
winter months. Most all of the children went barefoot including a lot of adults. We
ate from tin plates and drank from tin cups. For breakfast, we would either have cereal
which was boiled rice with milk and sugar or lumpy oat meal or we had bacon or ham, eggs,
fried potatoes, and biscuits. A typical supper meal for us was pinto beans with a piece of
fatback, corn bread, fried potatoes, and a glass of milk. If we did not have fresh milk,
we would use a can of condensed milk. We would have to dilute it with the proper amount of
water. It wasn't as tasteful as fresh milk but it was just as healthy. On holidays, we
usually had chicken and dumplings, mashed potatoes, green beans and sometimes a salad of
lettuce and green onions with bacon fat as a dressing. For Sunday supper, we had a glass
of milk and cornbread. Our mother took care of the house and could she cook.
In 1941, my mother went to the hospital to deliver
twins. Unfortunately, they died at birth. She had always wanted twin girls. While she was
there, she was diagnosed with cancer. She was a very heavy woman when she went in but she
only weighed one hundred pounds when she returned home. It was a shock to everyone. All
the neighbors were there including Roy's wife Agnes. They all brought some of their best
dishes. I thought that she was dying and I was crying. Agnes put her arm around me and
told me that she was going to be all right. She was partially bedridden until her death in
1945. Even while she was sick, she was there for us. Our greatest treat was when she would
bake molasses cookies on Saturday and we had them that night with a cold glass of
As I said, Dad always had a lot of chickens and eggs. It was very
common for someone coming to him to buy a chicken. Chickens were two dollars each. We also
had a lot of neighbors who had a penchant for stealing. When Roy moved to his new house,
Dad converted the building back into a corn shed and hen house. The hen house had an
opening about sixteen inches square so only chickens could get in, or so thought. Dad kept
a close count on his chickens. One morning two chickens were missing. He knew that someone
had stolen them. Marcus, Dad, and I were walking to the grocery store when we passed a
neighbor's car. Four chicken legs were sticking out from the trunk. We knew that these
were the stolen chickens. Marcus ask Dad what he was going to do. He said,
"nothing". These peole were very poor and had nothing to eat a lot of
times. He told us that if these people had to steal to get something to eat, let them
have them. He never let this family know that he knew about the chickens. If they had
asked him, he would have given the chickens to them. Another time, he knew that some of
his chickens were missing. He told my mother that this had to stop and he was going to do
it. He borrowed a gun from our neighbor. He sat in some weeds above the hen house. About
ten that night, he heard the chickens scattering about so he sneaked up to the opening.
Soon a hen was pushed out with a hand holding it. When the man was half way out, Dad put
the gun close to the man's face and asked him what he was doing. Dad knew the man. The man
looked up and said, " I am trying to steal a chicken. You ain't going to shoot me are
you Bob? " He told the man no, just put the chicken back and don't try to steal any
more. Word got around and no more chickens were stolen.
He decided that he wanted to raise guienas. These also were for
sale at two dollars each. They were something else. They roosted in trees high up on the
hill side. Their nests would be in the fields. One could find their nests by tracking eggs
that were laid in a hurry before they got to their nests. One day a man came to buy
one. Dad told me to catch it for him. I went up to catch one and I was just about to grab
it when it flew to the other hillside. I ran down the hill and up the other one when it
flew back. This happened about three times when Dad told me to quit. Two dollars is two
dollars and I wasn't about to give up. Finallly, the guiena got tired and flew into a fence at the botom of the
hill. I ran down and got it and proudly gave it to Dad.
Brenda May Tarpley
"Little Miss Dynamite"
Clyde "Red" Foley
"Peace in the Valley"
"A white sport coat and a pink carnation"
James "Jim" Reeves
"Four walls to hear me"
"Bashful Brother Oswald"