The Bill Doug Hole
Some of my best memories of growing up in Southeast Kentucky are centered around the many hours I spent at the Bill Doug Hole. I have no idea how it got the name, but the Bill Doug was, and I suppose still is, the deepest hole of water on that part of the Kentucky River, near Whitesburg. The place was a favorite spot for swimmers and fishers of all ages, but usually only teenagers and pre-teens were willing to make the walk it took to get there.
On one side of the river a massive chunk of rock had fallen away from the cliff and into the river, possibly eons ago, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the hill. The huge rock made a dandy place from which to dive into the cool, clear water on a hot summer's day. On the other side of the stream was a small sandbar, which was ideal for resting up after a swim, or for just lying there soaking up the sun.
The Bill Doug was about a mile, more or less, from my grandmother's house on Tunnel Hill, but when I was young and full of vinegar, such a distance meant nothing. When I was in the mood for fishing, I'd dig up a dozen or so juicy earthworms, put them in a tin can with a little dirt, and head out for the Bill Doug. I'd walk down to the bottom of the hill, cross the river on the railroad bridge, then turn left onto the well-worn path to the fishing hole.
I remember how pleasant it was walking under the cool canopy of the big sycamore trees that lined the river's bank. On the way, I'd find or cut a slender stick five or six feet long, wrap 15 or 20 feet of white twine around the small end of it, then tie on a fishhook. If I didn't have a piece of lead to use as a sinker, I'd tie a small pebble onto the line.
At the fishing hole, it took some nimble footwork to get over several of the larger rocks, but it was usually worth it. As someone once said, "A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work." The hole held catfish, red-eyes, horny-heads, and shiners. I didn't care what was biting, as long as something bit. I'm sure there were large and smallmouth bass in the Bill Doug, but it was not until years later that I learned how to fish for them.
Most of us boys, when we went swimming in the Bill Doug, wore jockey or boxer shorts, or cutoff jeans. Some of the braver lads, if they were reasonably sure that no females were approaching on either side of the river, would go skinny-dipping. But I, being the modest soul that I am, always wore my jockey shorts.
One sultry day when a bunch of us boys were enjoying a swim, there appeared, just beyond the sandbar, a group of Girl Scouts on a field trip. Here, I thought, is my chance to impress a few young girls. I climbed up the big rock as far as I dared, struck a pose like an Olympic diver, and hit the water. I dove as deep as I could, then shot up through the surface like a submarine-launched missile; minus my shorts.
Well, the reactions from the girls ranged from screams to giggles to stunned silence. The flustered scout leader hurriedly gathered her girls together and herded them on up the riverbank and, thankfully, out of sight.
Oh, yeah, I made an impression on them all right. But not in the way I'd anticipated.
228 Saunders Ferry, Apt. N-196
Hendersonville, TN 37075
Mr. And Mrs. John Owsley
Eastern Kentucky is a land blanketed by rolling hills and scenic valleys. As a youth growing up in Knott and Perry Counties, I roamed this area visiting relatives and friends.
My family, both on my mother's and father's side, is from a small place in Knott County called Vest. My father, John Owsley, was born there on November 27, 1900. My mother, who was two years older than my father, was born in Vest on July 28, 1898. Her name was Sylvania Wooten.
I remember as a child how hard life was for them. My father loved farming, but had no luck at it. As the family kept growing, he felt he needed to make a move to Perry County, where he could get a job working in the Ajax Coal Mines. We moved to the little town of Bulan, about five miles east of Hazard, when I was school age. Dad worked for the Ajax Coal Company for several years, until his health began to deteriorate from breathing all of the coal dust. My mother worked just as hard as my father, taking care of four children, gardening, raising chickens, selling eggs, and keeping several borders from time to time. They always seemed to find a way to keep us all going.
However, the time finally came when my parents had to move from Bulan to Phoenix, Arizona, because my father had black lung disease, and the doctor thought the drier climate of the West would be good for him. By this time, I was in Europe doing my part in WWII. It was 1943.
My parents returned to Bulan in 1948. They quietly settled back into the tiny mountain community. I was back from the war by this time and had started a family of my own. Like most of the young men of my day, I got a job working in the coal mines and stayed with it until there was little work to be had.
I, eventually, had to pack up, say goodbye to my family and friends, and head north, where I was told there was plenty of factory work for anyone wanting a job. For nearly 35 years, I lived in Michigan City, Indiana. I retired from U. S. Steel in Gary, Indiana, in 1984.
After living in Dayton, Tennessee, for five years, following my retirement, I made my way back to Bulan and the home where I grew up. The house holds many fine memories for me of my parents, and the good times I had growing up there. I remember that my mother was always cooking, cleaning, or canning something. My father worked in the garden when he wasn't at the Texaco Filling Station he ran for nearly 20 years in Bulan.
My parents are gone now. The house passed to me, following their deaths. I sit on the big wrap-around porch and admire the rose bushes my mother had planted on the hill in front of the house many years ago.
I can look out past the well of mountain stone my father built more than 70 years ago and see the aged grapevines he planted. I remember how he enjoyed picking the vines clean when the grapes were ripe. He would turn them over to my mother, who used to make wonderful jams and jellies.
The grapes are cared for and picked by me now, and usually are given to my neighbors. Mom and Dad are buried at Bearville, on a quiet hillside away from the noise of traffic and not far from where they were both born and reared. They rest among generations of family, who spent most of their lives in the hills of Eastern Kentucky.
82 Dewey Drive
Bulan, KY 41722
Going to school is an experience, but attending a one-room school is really an experience. I remember attending the Hildreth School (Nicholas County), with the huge bell in the tower on the roof, ringing for miles to tell children that it was time for school. Ringing the bell was a special privilege, reserved only for the older boys in the class (girls did not ring the bell, since Women's Lib was unheard-of then).
I remember the giant pot-bellied stove, which stood in the center of the building. It was the teacher's responsibility to come in early in the morning to build a fire, so the room would be warm when class time came. Large seats, reserved for the older children, were placed close to the window, so in the wintertime the older children would be cold, while the younger ones were warmed by the wood-burning stove's fire. The tables were turned in the spring, however, when the window provided breezes on warm days.
I remember reading the Bible before classes began, reciting the Lord's Prayer, and saying the pledge. We didn't know, at the time, that our civil rights were being violated. We could use a little violation in this day and age! It was probably the only religious training a lot of children had.
I remember following the path outdoors to the restroom, and having to drink water from the cistern just outside the door. Everyone drank from a bucket. If you did not own a cup, one would be made by folding a piece of paper which, although not fancy, suited the purpose.
Of course, some things never change. Like today, recess and lunchtime were looked forward to with great anticipation. Some of the favorite games played were baseball (with homemade balls, made by cutting strips of rubber from an old tire tube, then rolling it tightly into a ball and covering it with string), tag, and hide-and-go-seek. Girls didn't play ball, though. Instead, we made houses out of rocks, complete with furnishings. Back then, the best toys came from the toy boxes of our imaginations.
No matter how many times you hear the stories of parents walking countless miles to school, you can never really appreciate it unless you have done it yourself. There were nuts to gather on the way, grapes to pick, or vines to swing on. It was easy to get sidetracked on the way to school. Back then, walking was a way of life (busing was unheard-of). We fared quite well, until a rain or snowstorm came up.
A final word for the brave teachers who had to cope each day with 20-plus children, ranging in age from 5 to 20, teaching the three R's (reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic). A special place should be reserved in Heaven for these giving, dedicated people, who helped mold the lives of so many children. The small, one-room schools may be a thing of the past, but they still live in the memories of those who had the pleasure of answering the call of that bell in the tower on the roof of the one-room school.
8221 Orangeburg Road
Maysville, KY 41056
The Most Dreaded Day Of The Year
If Christmas was the day that we most looked forward to, I would suggest that the day we most hated to see (during the 1940s) always came in the summertime. The school year on Linefork (Letcher County) has a most peculiar schedule. If memory serves me correctly, I believe that we started to school in July (after the corn had been "laid away"), continuing through the following March. There were short breaks during this period for harvest, stir-offs, and maybe wood cutting.
Motor vehicles were uncommon on Linefork, especially above the mouth of Turkey. The sound and sight of a motor vehicle was something that aroused great curiosity all along the creek. One always heard the straining of a vehicle's motor (probably locked in low gear) long before it was seen. Sound had a way of being heard over great distances along those bottoms and hills.
It always happened right after the start of the school year, and it always happened about midday. Sometimes we were still in the schoolyard running off some of the cornbread and buttermilk lunch. Had the exact day been known ahead of time, every kid in the Cedar Grove School would have been hiding in the hills or under a house. The dreaded moment was always preceded by the sound of a straining motor. I would break out in a cold sweat when I heard this sound, and I began praying that this vehicle would pass right on by the school, knowing full well that it was going to drive right into the schoolyard.
You have probably guessed by now that this day was all about. It was the day for getting shots! I have often wondered about two things concerning shots: 1. Did Mr. Arthur Watts, our teacher, know the schedule ahead of time?; and 2. Why did it always happen right after lunch? I think I have figured out the answer to the second question. It probably took a half-day to get from Whitesburg to the school. I'm hoping there are still some teachers around that might know the answer to the first question.
By the way, I have never overcome the dread of getting shots, although I had them on many occasions, including the Korean War, and for several extended assignments overseas. Due to cancer I even had to inject myself twice a day a couple of years ago. I am thankful that I am not a diabetic.
Greensboro, GA 30642
Before School Buses
Our folks moved to Crittenden County, Kentucky, in the late fall of 1927. We lived there on a farm, which was about two and one-half miles from the school we attended. The school year began in July and ended in late January or early February.
Most children went barefoot all summer and until the weather grew too cold to do so. I remember walking to school and how hot our feet would get on the hot, dusty roads. This was especially so as we returned home from school after a long, hot day. I remember how we would run from one tree to the next, so as to cool our burning bare feet in the shade.
In winter, we had to deal with the cold. I remember as children, we would cry because our feet would hurt so from the cold before we reached the warmth of the schoolhouse. I remember one cold morning, a little girl named Mary Bell had a hole in her glove. Her small finger on one hand had turned completely blue by the time she reached the schoolhouse. I remember how she cried and cried, as the teacher attempted to get the blood circulating again in her finger.
During the rainy seasons, the mud would get so deep it made walking a tough job. We wore high-topped overshoes. Sometimes the mud would be frozen in the mornings, but by afternoon it would thaw to a sloshy, slippery mess.
When we were very young, sometimes Daddy would saddle up Old Harry, and he would set my younger sister in front of him, and I would sit behind him; as he carried us to school. Occasionally, Daddy would hitch Harry to the peddler's wagon and carry us to school. There were some areas along the way of gooey, sticky mud, and I still remember the popping sounds made by Harry's hoofs, as he pulled them from this gumbo to repeat it with the next step.
We wore straw hats to school in the hot, summery weather. There were some larger girls living on the road we did, and it was their delight to take our hats and sail them as far as they could. Of course, we would cry, as we scrambled over fences and up and down ditch banks to retrieve our hats. I suppose older kids have always picked on the younger ones.
There was another incident when I was probably in the third or fourth grade. I would look through the mail order catalog and see the little girls with curls, ribbons, and bows in their hair; and wearing their pretty, ruffled dresses. Our dresses were homemade and probably rather plain. Mama did not have time to iron all those ruffles for three little girls, considering all the work it took in those days of scrub boards, flat irons, and coal-fed cookstoves; not to mention the gardening and caring for our baby brother.
I suppose most little girls have a desire to be pretty, and in my vanity, I thought curly hair would do it for me. If there were perms and beauty shops then, they were certainly out of our reach. Mama cut strips from a tin can and wrapped them with pieces of a warn out bed sheet. As she rolled my hair on these improvised curlers, I envisioned Shirley Temple-like curls, but alas this was not to be. Instead of beautiful, soft curls, my hair stuck out in all directions. When I arrived at school, one of the girls promptly nicknamed me "Draketail." I guess I finally lived it down. However, I doubt I ever bugged Mama anymore for curly hair.
School days were long. Classes began at 8:00 a.m., and the day ended at 4:00 p.m., if I remember correctly. Walking so far to school, we were always hungry by the end of the day, and most of us had eaten everything we had in our dinner pail. One day, as we were on our way home, we met two brothers who were on their way to their homes from a trip to town. They stopped and asked if we would like some wild grapes. There were several of us kids in the group, and with one voice we yelled, "Yes," for we had eaten wild grapes before and knew how tasty they were. However, these grapes were high above our heads.
The two brothers were older and wiser than we were, so they told us to open our dinner pails and book satchel. They stood up in their road wagon, where the grapes were well within their reach. They kept us so busy catching bunches of grapes that we did not have time to taste them before those fellows were on their way. That's when we learned not all wild grapes are good to eat. I am sure that those boys had quite a good laugh at our expense.
In the summertime, some of our "city kin," who had cars, would drive out in the country to visit. Otherwise, we never saw anyone, except close neighbors or the children at school. Sometimes, Daddy would hitch up the team and drive us to the adjoining county to visit our grandparents. I suppose our isolation would help explain the following incident.
There were several of us children walking along together on our way home from school, when we heard the sound of horse hoofs coming along the road. We looked behind us and saw this Negro man riding along in his horse-drawn buggy. I don't think any of us had ever seen a Negro before. Everyone headed for the fence beside the road, scrambling over it, and running headlong across the field. Everyone, that is, but me. I had to see that my kid sister was safely over, and by then the buggy was too near, so I struck out down the road as fast as my legs would carry me.
I'm sure this gentleman must have stopped when he realized how frightened we were. However, I did not look back until I got around the corner of the road (country roads did not have curves, they had corners, as they snake across the country to each and every home site). When I felt I was out of sight, I crawled up into the weeds and briars of the fence row and hid until the sound of buggy wheels and hoof beats told me all was clear. I waited in my hiding place until the rest of the kids showed up.
We moved back to Webster County before the next school year started. That is where we completed grade school and high school. Though we still walked to school through fields and along dusty and muddy roads, we were indebted to our parents for the work and sacrifices they made to give us all a high school education.
I was also indebted to a kind neighbor, who carried me by rowboat to the main road when Tradewater River flooded, as it frequently did. I can't forget our dear, compassionate kin, who allowed us to stop and leave our muddy overshoes in their house. They lived fairly near the school, where the streets were paved. There, we could make ourselves more presentable before going on to class, especially if we had just come through a downpour of rain.
Marjorie E. Wood
314 Wood Road
Princeton, KY 42445
My One-Room School
I attended the Buckeye one-room school, in Carter County, Kentucky, from 1937 to 1944. It was located out of Pactolus, about four miles from Grayson.
There was a little table at the front of the room, where the first grade sat. Other desks seated from one to three, with the eighth grade seated in back. We carried water in a bucket on a pole from the Tom Martin farm nearby, since there was no drinking water at school. We all drank from the bucket at the rear of the room, serving ourselves with a large aluminum ladle. We packed our lunches that we stored in the cloakroom in the rear of the room, where we kept our coats.
Our teacher taught all eight grades, covering a variety of subjects. I received an excellent education. Hazel Horton was my teacher one or two years, and Katherine Hannah taught the others. I was double promoted and took the first and second grades in one year. We had one chapter from the Bible that we read each day, said the Pledge of Allegiance, and sang songs; such as My Old Kentucky Home, America, and others.
We played Red Rover, Annie Over, and the Mulberry Bush at recess. For recreation, we pole vaulted the small creek that ran near the Buckeye School. On the few occasions when I fell in, I would go to my grandparents', Ed and Maude Kiser, house in Pactolus and get a change of clothing.
We had two outhouses, one for the boys, and one for the girls. Only one person at a time could go. We had no electricity, and coal was burnt in the pot-bellied stove, in the center of the room. For a time before the buses ran, the state paid individual drivers to haul the five or six students at the end of the line to Pactolus. Then we walked about one and a half to two miles across the big bridge at the dam of the Little Sandy River. At the dam, there was a grist mill, where corn was ground for home use. It has been told that certain students walked the top beams of the bridge, but I shall say no more on this subject, as I had a few nightmares about falling from the top through the years.
My parents were Lewis and Erie Everman Kiser. My sister, Evelyn, recently celebrated her 60th wedding anniversary with her husband, Paul Bradford, of the Crane Creek/Hopewell area. My brother, Robert, was killed in WWII, in 1944 in Italy. I will be celebrating my 49th wedding anniversary soon. I have two younger brothers, James and Phillip. We lived on a farm in the Anglin Curve/Pactolus area near the Greenup County line on Route 1.
Those indeed were the good ole days.
Frieda K. Gwinn
7819 Harlem Road
Westerville, OH 43081
Crab Orchard, City Of Memories
My family and I bought a home and moved to Crab Orchard. Being a writer, I wanted to learn all I could about the city I would spend the rest of my life in. Crab Orchard, I learned, is one of Kentucky's smallest cities in size, but not in memories. At one time, presidents, governors, noblemen and women, educators, diplomats, and the very rich Kentucky horsemen came to Crab Orchard.
Here, they gathered for rest, health, recreation, sports, and games. Also, they could rest under shade trees, lounge in spacious rooms and broad verandas, and drink healing waters. They could take part in numerous forms of fun indoor and outdoor activities that made for health and happiness.
The Crab Orchard Springs Hotel was world famous and was known as "The Saratoga of the South." It had 200 rooms, a beautiful golf course, and lake. It was where many social events, fancy dress balls, and masquerade parties took place. For over 100 years, this hotel and spa were set apart from other early hotels in the area, because its guests came from the richest and finest families of the South. A fire brought an end to the history of this wonderful place in 1939. \
The Crab Orchard Baptist Church, where my wife, Lavern, attends church, was organized back in 1791. During the Civil War, the United States government confiscated this building. They used it as a hospital. This church was part of the great revival, which swept our great state from 1870 through 1873.
In the Crab Orchard Cemetery, amidst a circle of 30 graves of Civil War soldiers from Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Texas, stands a monument with an inscription which reads: "Here, off duty, the last reveille, rest the Southern soldiers, few in number, who were slain in this and adjoining counties during the War of Secession. They fell among strangers unknown, un-friended, yet, not unhonored. For strangers' hands have gathered their ashes here and placed this shaft above them that constancy, valor, sacrifice of self, though displayed in fruitless enterprise."
Although, today, Crab Orchard is still a growing community, it will never outgrow its wonderful memories of the Crab Orchard Springs Hotel, the Crab Orchard churches of the past, or the sad memories of the Civil War days; which is the way it should be, For the past (be it good or bad) is the foundation upon which we all must build our future.
William Jerry Ayers
1321 Walnut Street
Crab Orchard, KY 40419
I remember completing my first shave when I was a sophomore in high school. My parents grew up in Breckinridge County, Kentucky. They married in 1913 and took up farming there. Times were hard, and when they lost some stock and a barn that they couldn't replace, it was decided to move the family to the city and try earning money by working for some business. I was five years old when we settled in Louisville, and aside from frequent visits to my grandparents, uncles, and aunts, most of whom remained farmers all their lives, we never left the city again.
By the age of 16, I was being kidded, occasionally, by my classmates about the "peach fuzz" that plagued most teenage boys. Each succeeding time that I examined my face in the medicine chest mirror in our small bathroom, I grew more aware of the wispy hairs that were appearing on my upper lip and jowls. This was the height of the Great Depression, and one day, when I overheard one of my classmates tell another that my daddy must be too poor to afford a razor, I decided to shave as soon as I got home. The fact that one of the girls in my class also heard, and snickered after glancing in my direction, served to heighten my resolve.
Foregoing the time I usually spent playing ball after school with my buddies, I pedaled my big balloon-tired Schwinn American Flyer straight home, arriving about 3:30 p.m. I knew that Dad always got home from work at five each day, and I wanted to complete the defuzzing job before he arrived. Now it was not because I was adverse to any helpful hints he might give or any comments he might make about my decision to shave, but mostly about the fact that I was going to have to use the prized straight razor that his father had given him, when he began shaving, that powered my decision to do the job alone.
Most men during this era used straight razors, because the "thin" and "blue" blades for the Gillette safety razor, which the affluent class preferred, cost more than the average worker could afford. At the top of the experience was the barbershop shave, a 15 or 20-minute procedure that involved lying back in the big barber chair with your eyes closed, while the tonsorial artist wiped your bearded face with a warm, damp cloth, before applying a smear of hot lather that was then covered with a steaming towel taken from a nearby metal container. Only once, after I got older, did I allow myself the luxury of a 15-cent shave. After a twice-over with the straight razor (once with, and once against the grain), another round of hot towels, and a splash of bay rum, or perhaps it was witch hazel, I felt like a new man.
Making sure Mom was busy elsewhere, I went into the bathroom, locked the door, and began the procedure I had watched my dad use many times. He had a big, white shaving mug, which I carefully took from the cabinet. The inside held a round piece of William's shaving soap, and when he moistened his brush, plainly marked on the handle, "Genuine Badger Hair," and whirled it rapidly around inside, a mound of lather would rise to the top.
A couple of dabs under the hot water, a brisk turn on the soap, and I was ready, or so I thought. Carefully taking the ivory-handled razor from the long, slim case in which it was kept, I was about to apply it to my jaw when I remembered Dad always stropped it 20 or 30 times before actually doing any shaving. Holding the end of the soft leather strap that hung beside the cabinet, I opened the razor, held it at a sort of half-mast position, and slowly began to run it first up then down the piece, as I had seen him do. Having to turn it over each time between strokes was a bit daunting, but I quickly got the hang of it and began to speed up. Bad error. A few fast licks, and failing to make a complete flip on a return stroke, the blade caught the edge of the strop, and cut it about a quarter of an inch before I could stop.
I stood staring at the damage for a couple of minutes before finally realizing that there was not a thing I could do. Turning to my face, I devoted my full attention to fuzz removal. Having seen what a slight miscalculation could do to a piece of leather, I worked slowly and gingerly over my virgin jaw and chin, wiping the cuttings on a piece of toilet tissue. Finishing, I checked the lather and was surprised that what I removed was hardly visible to the eye. Aside from cutting Dad's strop, which neither he or I ever mentioned, I felt my first shave went remarkably well. Later, offering my younger brother a feel of my stubble, he refused, with, what I thought to be a rather hateful and hurtful comment, "Nothing from nothing still leaves nothing!"
Jos. H. Morton
2802 Del Rio Place
Louisville, KY 40220
Honeymoon In Kentucky
In the spring of 1948, my husband and I decided to take a belated honeymoon to Kentucky. My husband, John, was born to Kennie and Myrtle Wireman in Waldo (Magoffin County), Kentucky, on November 16, 1925. To me, it was the most beautiful sight to see. All the pretty flowers growing in the mountains and valleys were so beautiful.
We have come back there quite a few times, and as our two children, John and Ranee, got older and able to travel nicely, we would go more often. For years, we have talked of coming to a Wireman reunion. In 1996, we made it down to good old Kentucky. We went to church and sang with the people. They had beautiful voices. The minister was a cousin of my husband. Later, we went to his cousins for dinner, and it was a beautiful meal.
My husband passed away March 19, 1997, so we made it just in time. Kennie and Myrtle had nine children: John, Joanne, Mike, Howard, Irene, Barbara, Harlan, Homer, and Paul. Kennie celebrated his 98th birthday February 2, 2000.
429 Perrett Road
Marshall, MI 49068
Eagle Mill And Nolin, Ky.
As I look to the 1920s, I suddenly realize I am getting old. I remember the old Eagle Mill in Larue County, when it was quite active. There were two houses, a one car garage, and the mill. The mill was powered by the Nolin River. There was a bridge across the river, and the dirt road ended at 31 West, just north of the Nolin Road. We moved to Nolin (Hardin County) in 1929.
There was electricity in our home at Nolin, powered by the Kentucky Utilities Company. The river left the Eagle Mill shortly after we moved. The O'Banions lived in the other house. After Mr. O'Banion died, Mrs. O'Banion and her son, Harry, moved. The other house burned down, and a brick house took its place.
Last summer, I went back to see the old place and discovered the brick house is no longer there. The only thing left is the foundation of the mill, signs of the old river bed, and the old barn that was old in 1929 when we moved away. The barn is in need of much repair, but I still have fond memories of the old two-story house beside the now departed road. The farmland lies between the Nolin River and Middle Creek. When the river flooded, the old two-story white house was located on an island.
I was at Eagle Mill when time came for me to start school. My aunt, Ella Rae Beams Dixon, took me to a friend's house on a horse, across Middle Creek. Miss Amy Reed was the teacher. By recess or noon, I usually had managed to escape. I would go back the way I came, take my time, and catch my ride back across Middle Creek.
I also remember the one-room school at Nolin. I was more comfortable there. Quinmore Pearl was my teacher. He could propel an eraser very accurately. He was a man of very firm convictions. The schools were consolidated in 1935, and I was bussed to Glendale for one year. After Glendale, we were bussed to Sonora. I graduated in 1941 from Sonora High School. I went into the United States Army in February 1943. Sonora High School became a middle school. It is still operating. The old gymnasium burned while I was away in the Army.
Nolin has all but vanished. There are a few houses still standing, but most are in need of repairs. The post office is gone. The Nolin Milling Company is gone, with scarcely a trace. The horseshoe court has been gone for years. J. L. Harris' Grocery and Hardware is completely gone. The old hotel and bank are gone. The school is gone, as well as the blacksmith shop. The church is very near gone. The old L. and N. Depot is gone, but I still have my many happy memories of the little town I call home. The old house I grew up in is barely standing.
What happened to Nolin? Some people's answer to this would be progress.
Emmett B. Beams
4600 Valley Station Road
Louisville, KY 40272
The springtime always reminds me of Mom going out in our fields at Keavy (Laurel County), with a big apron or a dishpan and kitchen knife to collect "sallet greens." She collected various kinds of plants that she knew were edible when cooked. Some of their names, I recall, were lamb's quarter, bear paw, wild lettuce, mustard, poke, blue thistle, white plantin, careless, watercress, white daisies, dock (both narrow and broad leaf), white top, and dandelion.
I never did find out how she learned so much about edible wild weeds and other plants. I suspected it might have been passed down from some of our alleged Cherokee ancestors. We had them on all sides, according to hearsay from the grandparents. They would never allow me to probe into this part of my ancestry.
Our diet during the dead of winter lacked fresh vegetables. We had pork, eggs, milk, butter, cow peas, biscuits, cornbread, and canned or dried vegetables. These might have been lacking in certain needed vitamins and enzymes.
Mom would wash and clean the greens, then cook them in a pot with a ham hock, or at least a piece of "sow belly" for seasoning. We always relished the special dish, and we often added a sprinkle of vinegar to give it some zip. We ate it, heartily, but frequently suffered diarrhea with the first meal of greens. I came to believe it was our digestive systems adjusting to fresh greens in our winter diet.
My dad was a steam fitter in the L. and N. Railroad shops in Corbin. He was often home, because of a railroad layoff at the time when the "sallet greens" came up. The cause of the layoff was a strike in the coal mines in the mountains to the east. The L. and N. made most of its income locally from hauling long strings of loaded coal gondolas to Northern cities.
There was a rumor that miners usually chose this season to strike, because they could pick greens to supplement whatever else they had in their cupboards in the absence of a paycheck. I doubt that this was the reason, but mine strikes often coincided with the appearance of "sallet greens" in the fields and fence rows.
751 Kentwood Drive
Oxnard, CA 93030
Crippled Mule, Lying Rider
For reasons that I shall never understand, my father bought, swapped, or traded for a mule with a crippled, crooked hind leg. In order for the mule to use its leg, it was necessary to have a special shoe made, just to allow her to make contact with the ground. A piece of iron welded to her shoe, in a length long enough to solve her problem, caused her to have an odd look, and in a fact, made an iron leg.
They called her Peg, a name she had when I first saw her; and one that was suited to her condition. She was a young, intelligent, well-built, really fine-looking mule; if you didn't notice her iron hind leg. This mule could trick you into thinking you could trust her, but she had a mean streak in her a mile wide and would use it anytime she caught you not looking. She liked to bite, sling her head and hit you with it, and was always ready with that iron club of a leg.
No one wanted to ride her, not only because of her temper, but also for the way she swayed back and forth, like riding a camel with every step she made. The heavy iron shoe was not only ugly to look at, but it also caused her to stumble, bringing attention to her and the rider.
Being the oldest son now living at home, it was my duty to help with the chores normally done by others. In the country where we lived, a weekly supply of corn meal was prepared by grinding about two bushels of shelled grain for a family of eight. Alfred Huff owned a blacksmith shop and grist mill, about two miles across the mountain from our home. The mill operated each Wednesday afternoon.
My father owned another mule, whose name was Barney; young and even-tempered with a slick body, a joy to ride. But this afternoon, I was told to put a saddle on old Peg and head for the mill. Being about 12 years old, and not wanting to be seen by some of the young ladies in our neighborhood riding this crippled mule made for an undesirable afternoon. Just getting her out of the pasture was not easy, and everyone knew that she was looking for a chance to bite, kick, or step on you, just for the fun of it. Peg also knew that to mess with me was a mistake, and that a price would be paid if she did; so we got along very well, at least we put up with each other.
Finally, Peg was loaded, and off we went over the mountain, headed for Alfred Huff's mill and blacksmith shop. We had made this trip before (to have her special shoe made to order, which formed a part of her iron leg). She was taking the trip in style, and all was going well until, looking ahead, I spotted two men on mules loaded with grain, going to Huff's for processing their weekly supply of meal.
It was not my intent to join these gentlemen, knowing their attitude toward all young people. It seemed to me that one of these fellows considered himself, especially, over-bright, having knowledge of all living things, and also the dead. This may not be true, but it was my gut feeling that it was so. He was known over the neighborhood as one who stretched things all out of proportions, and was, in his opinion, an extra-wise fellow.
Animals have a way of communicating with each other that people do not understand, and Peg began to pick up the pace, until we were soon upon them. She just had to join the pack. They did not seem to notice me, but they immediately noticed my mule. They discussed her condition, and how she had managed to survive with a crippled leg, since most mules would have been put out of their misery, immediately, upon breaking a leg. They wondered why this one was spared. From listening to the men talk, it became apparent that they would soon be asking this idiot for information about my mule.
Having already made up my mind to show these smart fellows a thing or two, I was prepared to give them a dose they would never forget. Finally, the one who was so wise, stooped so low as to pop the question.
"Sonny, would you happen to know anything about how this mule got herself crippled, and why it was that she was let live in this awful condition?" he asked.
"Sure," I said. "I was right there when it happened." This was a lie. So the story began.
"You remember a couple years ago, we had a very wet spring, and everyone was late getting their corn planted, and when it was time to hoe, we still had wet weather? Well, it was a Sunday morning when my father spoke to my mother and said, 'Polly, I know that it is not right to work on the Sabbath, but it's either plow this corn or lose a crop.'
"He hitched this young mule to the plow and worked as fast as he could, plowing row after row, getting done all he could before the rains came. Noontime came, and he was making his last turn, ready to stop for lunch, when a bolt of lightning struck her.
"It was something that I shall never forget; my father and this mule both lying on the ground, with the thunder and lightning all around, and the rain beginning to fall. Father soon got up and looked at the mule and said, 'I have had a close call. This mule has saved my life. If she had not been here, the lightning surely would have struck me.' We looked after her, feeding and watering her, until she was on her feet.
"Not having any way to put a splint on this mule's leg, and I don't know anyone foolish enough to try to, the leg grew in the shape you now see it." I was sure they could see that I was putting them on, but they never said another word to me the rest of our trip. They believed every word I had spoken.
Now they were sure it was the steel in her iron leg that drew the lightning into her body, or it could have been the Lord warning my father not to show contempt, or disrespect for the laws of our fathers. It was notice from God that my daddy should have been in church, instead of plowing corn.
I never met these people again, that day or in the weeks that followed. I had about given up on news getting back to my father, and I hoped that it never would. My dad, with the razor strap in hand, a day or so later, called for me to come to him. Now it was plain to see that I was in deep trouble. Not knowing just what rules had been broken, I asked him why, and for what reason I was being punished.
My father said, "Lying, lying, lying, my son, for the Lord knows you are the biggest liar that ever lived."
As I stepped up to take my licking, my father began to laugh. He put the leather strap down and said, "Son, you have topped the king of all liars." He was talking about a fellow named Arch Ross, whom some people believed sometimes, but not very often.
Years have passed, and time has dimmed my memories of Peg. But the memory of my father, and the days we spent on the Rock House Fork of Big Willard; and the good times roaming the woods, small streams, cliffs, and the mountain tops of Daniel Boone National Forest, located near my childhood home, will live on.
City life was never a part of my childhood. Walking to Hazard was a distance of 12-15 miles through creeks, forests, and mountains. It was not possible to go there and return the same day. Some of our kinfolks from the coal camps like Blue Diamond, Harvey, Hardburley, or Hazard, would tell us about the movies and drug stores; where ice cream and other goodies could be had, but we never had a chance to go there.
The movies, at that time, were silent, and you had to be able to read or just listen to the music and use your imagination. Sound was added to the movies in 1927, and from that date on, they were called "talkies." One of the first movies I had a chance to see had a train in the film. This train was so real to me that I was ready to move out of its way. When we left the theater, I went looking for the tracks it came in on. I was ten years old at this time, and the world was so new at that age. Now I am 82.
What a change from those days 70 years ago!
Donald D. Caudill
21315 D' Herde Road
Gulfport, MS 39503-9283
Little, Kentucky, Does Exist!
(Note: A few issues ago, Carl Howell shared a postcard taken at Little, Kentucky. He asked if anyone knew anything about that community. Here is an answer, a memory of Little).
I am a descendant of one family who lived at Little, Kentucky, from 1899-1999. Oh yes, Little was there. A small community of about three square miles, located in Greenup County, Kentucky, along the Ohio River; where the C. and O. (now CSX) Railroad crosses the Ohio River into Ohio, and then moves on to Detroit, Michigan. There are two divisions of the railroad located there: the main line runs to Cincinnati, Ohio, while the northern junction runs to Michigan.
Mabel Mackoy was a girlfriend of my father, William "Bill" Bush, while he was in his teens. She was Lizzie Mackoy's daughter. Let me say that Lizzie Mackoy brought my mother, May Allen, to Kentucky from Pike County, Ohio, where she had been left an orphan. May must have been 10 or 11 years old. She did all kinds of jobs, such as running errands for people, watching their children, washing on the washboard, cleaning, and just doing anything the lady of the house taught her to do. She always had food and a good warm bed.
Let's see, there were the Mackoys, Gammons, Damrons, Bushes, Ruggles, Johnsons, Walkers, Williams, Flannagans, Richards, and the Littles. These I knew, but the others I can't remember. The Littles owned a large farm and had a lot of land holdings. The only industry around was the railroad.
Sometime between 1904 and 1907, a small Christian church burned. The families rebuilt it, because there was a sizeable pool nearby, where they baptized people. The new church was named Siloam, after the Pool of Siloam in the Bible (John 9:7). I don't know how many families lived there, as I was not born yet.
My parents, William and May Allen Bush, talked of these people visiting each other, and the burying of many of them. I can remember lots of the people. Four or five families were railroaders, including my father. The Richards owned the grocery store and post office. The Little Post Office was located in the home of the Littles. When they moved away, the name remained.
The land where the C. and O. Railroad built a raised fill to the new railroad bridge, crossing the Ohio River into the state of Ohio, was owned by the Littles. Many men were brought in to do a lot of the manual labor. The Mackoys donated land for the new church and cemetery, and many of them are buried there. This graveyard is known as the Mackoy Cemetery.
There are a lot of homes at Little, some very nice ones. One was owned by a millionaire, Dr. Scott McKell. It's a place where hundreds of Indian skeletons were dug up in an area known as Black Bottoms, a farming community of very rich soil. Archaeologist came from the University of Kentucky to dig for some time. In times past, Indians lived in these bottoms beside the Ohio River. A big battle had taken place there many years earlier. Skeletons were uncovered and taken to UK. Many of them were placed in schools, hospitals, and museums around Kentucky.
Siloam joins Frost, Kentucky, on its west or north border. South Shore is just about two miles farther west. Indian Run is almost in Boyd County, to the south. Oliver was the big lock and dam, but is now closed, replaced by a bigger high-level dam farther down-river. As far as I know, my brother and I are the only ones around to tell this. We are 78 and 76 years old. Many people died with the typhoid fever, and then some just moved away.
My father worked for the N. and W. Railroad in Ohio for 17 cents per hour, later getting a job with the C. and O. as a section hand. He worked his way up to the position of foreman for Section No. 205, which he worked for 40 years. My oldest brother, a railroad brakeman, was killed in a locomotive explosion near Chillicothe, Ohio, the largest C. and O. ever had. My younger brother, also a railroad brakeman on the C. and O., later worked up to conductor on Amtrack (now retired).
A nephew worked as system superintendent (now retired) in Jacksonville, Florida. Also, a grandnephew is a conductor for CSX Railroad, and is in training to be an engineer. He works in Cincinnati, Ohio. By the way, his last name is Howell.
You can say we were all railroaders. We've traveled much of the western United States: Washington, Oregon, California, Texas, and other states, because of the passes issued to railroad workers. I'd say we used them well.
We are very proud of Little, now called Siloam.
Allene Bush McGarey
2515 Oaklawn Court
Ashland, KY 41101
Editor's Note: There is also a small community called Little located in southern Breathitt County along KY Highway 1110. With the closing of its post office in recent years, Little residents now officially get their mail at Saldee.
I wanted to share with you a wonderful part of Kentucky where my brother, Taylor Stidham, and I spent about four years of our lives: a place called Kenvir (also known as Black Mountain), in Harlan County.
My parents, Palmer and Margaret Lalie (Neace) Stidham, had moved to Dayton, Ohio, in 1946. From there, Dad took my brother and me, leaving my mom behind for the time being, and moved to Kenvir. I remember that big mountain we crossed and descended, going down into Harlan Town. Dad had found us a place to live in a boardinghouse there.
After he was hired at the Black Mountain Coal Mines, he learned (through a friend) that someone was moving out of a company house at the No. 1 camp, so he rented the furnished house, taking over the payments on the furniture. He then sent for my mother, who was still back in Dayton, Ohio, to come join us.
The camp was located west of the commissary (the company store), the theatre, post office, Baptist church, drug store, local saloon, and the company boardinghouse. I remember that a little bridge led over to the camp. Once in the camp, there were eight rows of houses that went up the hill from the dirt road. Along the beginning of each row, adjacent to the road, was a creek. A little farther from the creek was the L. and N. Railroad line and the main paved (and only) road that led to Red Bud and Evarts.
In between the rows of houses were outhouses, one for every two families.
At the end of the camp was the local dump. When it would catch on fire, it would smell. Glenn Robbins (who helped with this article) said he would drag tree trimmings from the dump and plant them on the hillside, where they grew into mature trees.
The camp was a peaceful place to live. In the evening, the children would take their bikes and have races. At times, we would rollerskate on the dirt road, which was a lot of fun. The store on wheels, which was a bus, came through on certain days. It was a great treat, when we had the money to buy lots of goodies, balogna, cheese, bread, candy, cold drinks, and little cups of ice cream with sticks (yummy), and the prices weren't very high. But to us, with little money, they seemed high.
My father was an Apostolic minister. He had a broadcast program on a Harlan radio station on Sunday. He bought a Model-T car, which he was proud of, and would sometimes drive us to school. Most of the time we walked, which was a long distance from the camp. We took a winding road that snaked up a hill to the school.
Black Mountain School had no lunchroom. We had to walk home for dinner and then come back. Mom would prepare a warm lunch for us. There was a little store below the school called the Brown Store, where we could sometimes buy treats. Over the hill from the school, on the other side of the road, was the Church of God. I attended once and sang.
There were a lot of heavy snows in those days. It was the era of the hit song, Bing Crosby's "White Christmas;" and country music's main singer, Hank Williams, whose big hit at that time was "Your Cheating Heart." We had a wonderful Christmas program.
The school had a merry-go-round in the auditorium. Glenn Robbins and the guys in his class helped assemble it. It was great fun for all the children. There was a dress code for girls: no slacks or blue jeans. I remember, too, how we all lined up in the auditorium for our first polio and diphtheria shots, and all the others that went with them. I had just started in the 5th grade.
My teacher told us students about the Titanic, which sank in the Atlantic Ocean in 1912. He said he was a fortunate 12-year-old and had been rescued from that ship, while many went down.
My eighth grade teacher, Mr. J. P. King, would give us a lesson in math, namely how to do square root, which I'd never heard of. While I was thinking to myself, "I can't do this," Mr. King pointed to me and said, "You'll be the first to figure it out." He was right. He lifted my morale and caused me to be more determined.
My dad talked about the coal mines and the president of the United Mine Workers Union, the late John L. Lewis. He said Lewis helped get more wages for the working men in the Union. When there was trouble or an accident at the mines, the whistle would blow. When we heard that sound, we knew something had happened.
We went to the theatre and saw movies that are classics today. I remember seeing Gene Autry, and a movie about Bambi (the deer). I never forgot hearing him holler for his mother.
There was a family who lived next door to us by the name of Black. He had a daughter named Peggy, who was about eight years old. My dad helped rescue her one day. He was sitting on the porch, while Peggy was playing beside the front fence. A truck came up between the houses, loaded down with watermelons. The sides of the truckbed were wobbly, and the roads between the houses were narrow. A ditch ran along beside them. The truck was backing out, when it rolled over to the fence and over Peggy.
Watermelons were spilling out all over the place. My dad saw what happened, jumped the fence, and started yelling for help. Mr. Robert Black, in the meantime, was concentrating on the driver of the truck. After the truck was pushed back up onto the road, Peggy lay without a scratch, down beside a huge post, which had fallen. Everyone called it a miracle.
When I graduated from the eighth grade, my parents enrolled me at Evarts High School.
Recently, Glenn Robbins sent me two aerial shots of Kenvir: one showing the road leading to the school, the other describing how the road crossed the railroad tracks, going east to the school and Disney. There was a group of houses, referred to as the new camp, and the bridge that led into Camp No. 1. The photo also shows the CCC road that runs up to the lookout fire tower on the mountain. It was named after the Civil ian Conservation Corps, built during the time of the Great Depression.
The hospital at Kenvir also sat up on a hill. Glenn Robbins and my family lived in the same camp. He lived in row five, while we lived in row six.
I wonder how many Kentucky Explorer readers can remember those days. It was a great time in my life, like a shove into the future, where there were many opportunities to help me cope with life.
32 N. Horton St.
Dayton, OH 45404
e-mail: [email protected]