Articles & Stories

Life Was Simple in Ten-Mile Creek In Perry County, Ky.

Writer Shares Treasured Memories Of The Hard
But Good Life Of The Mullins Family Of Eastern Kentucky

By Golden Mullins Noble - 2006

As a child growing up on Ten-Mile Creek near Hazard in
Perry County, Kentucky, I look back and think of the simple means of living that were a far cry from the modern conveniences of today.
There were five girls and three boys born to my parents, Floyd and Cassie Holliday Mullins. We were reared in a very simple, three-room house which was by no means air-tight. We were so thankful to even have a house.
Since all the neighbors that lived in the hollow had the same living conditions, we felt as important as everyone else. We had no transportation and were unable to go very far from home, so we did plenty of walking.
Mother and Dad were the disciplinarians in our household. From very young children we were taught to obey our parents, and if we did not obey we knew what the consequences would be. We knew they loved us, and we respected them.
Each of us children was assigned a chore, and we did it. I remember very vividly of having to stand in a chair to wash dishes after family meals.



"Cliff John," who once lived in this rock cliff, peddled fruits and vegetables in the Ten-Mile Creek area of Perry County during the 1930s and 1940s. Golden Mullins Noble has vivid memories of this man as he exchanged fruits and vegetables with her mother, Cassie Holliday Mullins, for butter, milk, eggs, and fresh pork.

(Photo courtesy of Golden Mullins Noble.)


 

 

We had a woodburning stove that was used for cooking and baking and also for heat during the winter months. Mother used heating irons to iron our clothes. She made the most of our clothing and each piece had to be ironed. Dad made the furniture for our house. My grandfather, Elias Mullins, owned a sawmill where Dad sawed the lumber to make the furniture. Grandfather was an Old Regular Baptist preacher. I went with him many times on his preaching circuit.
Dad built a wooden shelf to store our cookware. He attached it to a wall in the kitchen. Near this shelf was a table used to keep the water bucket, dipper, and wash pan. In the other part of the kitchen was a long, wooden eating table with benches on each side. Our house had two bedrooms and in each were two beds and a fireplace. A sewing machine, which was a necessity, was kept in Mom's and Dad's room.
Containers of milk were hung in the well to keep cold, but later we were able to purchase a small icebox and a white kitchen cabinet for the dishes.
We each knew what had to be done to prepare for the cold, snowy, winter months, so at daybreak we were up and ready for work. After a breakfast of homemade biscuits, sausage or bacon, eggs, gravy, and milk, we were off for the cornfields or the garden. We worked until noon when we were called home by a large dinner bell. The noon meal was prepared by one of us girls. It seemed that I was volunteered for that job quite often.
After the noon meal and a short rest it was off to work again, until just before dusk. After the day's work the cows had to be brought from the pasture and milked, also the animals had to be fed and cared for. Cows were used for milk and butter, chickens for meat and eggs, hogs were used for pork and lard, and beehives for honey. Horses and mules were used for transportation in peddling, for plowing the fields, and to run the gin mills, which pressed juice from the cane to make molasses.
I always looked forward to late fall when it was time for molasses to be made. We owned a machine which was called a gin mill that was used to press liquid from the stalks of cane. As the horse walked around in a circle, pulling a bar attached to the presser on the machine, a large tub was placed under the presser to catch the juice. When the tub was partly filled, the juice was put into a molasses pan which had several compartments. A large trench had been dug under the pan and a wood fire was built. Parts of the pan were heated at different levels, since all the juice had to be made into molasses at different intervals. The juice was boiled and stirred with paddles until it was formed into thick molasses. The foam that formed on top of the molasses is what we ate with a stick of cane. We called this a "stir-off."
We planted almost every seed and plant that we knew of; such as beans, sweet and field corn, peas, tomatoes, squash, cabbage, lettuce, onions, beets, okra, peppers, radishes, carrots, Irish and sweet potatoes, greens, peanuts, watermelons, and cantaloupes. We also had an orchard of apple, pear, peach, and plum trees; which fruits were used for cooking, canning, or eating raw. Nothing was wasted. The food that was not used during the summer months was canned, pickled, or holed-up for the winter. We dug deep holes in the ground and stored our potatoes and cabbage for winter. We also canned and dried our meat. Hominy, made from field corn, was a favorite of the family. In the late fall we would gather the field corn and a portion of it was taken to Grandpa's grist mill to be ground into meal.
Even the dried out blades (fodder) from the field corn were pulled and put into shocks which were used to feed the horses and cattle during the winter. We also made our own medicines from herbs found close to our home.
Some necessities we could not produce such as sugar, salt, and coffee. To get these items we saddled up Mom's horse, got all her peddling goods ready to take and sell at the coal mining camp about 15 to 20 miles away. We made sure she would have an ample supply of blackberries and blueberries which we children had picked from the wild. We carefully wrapped the eggs in catalog pages. Canned food in glass jars was wrapped and placed in the saddle pockets. We also gathered lots of fresh fruit and vegetables for the trip.
The horse was always well-loaded as Mom climbed onto the saddle around dawn. We would always listen for the horse's hooves to come back down the dusty road, because we always knew our Mom would bring us candy and other goodies.
I treasure all these memories and I am so thankful for my parents who instilled in me the need for good moral character and respect and also good work ethics.
A few weeks ago an engineer who works for a coal company came upon a cliff while surveying which had once been used for someone's home. He took a pictures of the cliff. Since he knew I had been reared only a short distance from this cliff, he brought the pictures to me and inquired about who had once lived under this cliff.
I remember, very vividly, seeing "Cliff John," as we called him, coming from his cliff home, carrying on his back a coffee sack full of fresh fruits and vegetables he sold to Mother, which she would take on her peddling trip. Many times Mother would invite him into our home to rest and have a meal, but the invitation was always refused, but he never refused the milk, eggs, butter, or fresh pork which Mother paid him in return for the fresh fruits and vegetables.
When I saw these pictures they brought back so many sad memories. I always felt sorry for this poor man, and I wish I could have helped him, but it was not within my power, since I didn't have the very best of living conditions myself.
Mother made sure that her children attended school every day possible and that we went to Sunday School every Sunday. It was at Sunday School, under the direction of some wonderful missionaries, that I accepted the Lord as my Savior, for which I have always been grateful.
I can remember as a very young child lying in my bed at night and dreaming of some day being able to have a good job, a big house, able to drive a big Cadillac, and yes, even owning a store of my own. I'm blessed that the Lord has allowed me to have all that and even more. He has not only allowed me to have needs but my wants by my doing my part of hard work and being honest with my fellowman.


Golden Mullins Noble, 3108 KY HWY 28, Hazard, KY 41701, shares this article with our readers.