You Do Not Have to Believe All I Say 10

Anyway, it was a Saturday in the fall of the year, and I knew it was a good fishing day so I got my fishing tackle out and old Bob, my favorite fishing horse, and I went down to Big Walkers Creek.  Old Bob was such a good old horse, I could ride him in the creek and right up and I'd see a hog sucker and stop the horse and he would stand perfectly still until I would drag the hook into the fish's nose and bring it out.

Well, I caught about 15 or 20 nice suckers and went back home and got there about 11 o'clock and decided that it was time to get the teacher up.  So we aroused Jammerson, and Mother had a good dinner ready, and I showed him the fish that I had caught, and he ate dinner or a mid-day meal.  We always had breakfast, dinner and supper, that was the meal.  Breakfast, dinner, and supper.  So we had dinner, the mid-day meal, and after Jammerson had eaten a good dinner, and my mother was one good cook -- everybody in the world knew that.

Jumping off the track, I was attending a picnic of some of us younger folks once, and I picked up a tart and ate it and I said, "This certainly is good."  One of the girls said, "Well, it ought to be, your mother made it."  Well, Mother was one of the sweetest cooks and sweet in every way in the world, but when it came to cooking, she knew how to do it.

So Jammerson was able to eat all right, and then I decided it was time to return him to Bland Courthouse to his boarding room.  So I got out the horses and I started up the road again, with him still holding the bridle up in the air although he could see that we didn't hold the bridle way up like that.  And he was still going up when the horse was coming down.

As we're riding on up the road, he says, "Andy.  Andy, I don't understand you.  You went everywhere that I went last night and you haven't been asleep at all.  You didn't go to bed last night or sleep and you haven't been asleep today and right now you're wider awake than I am."  And that was the truth.

At that time we slept when we wanted to sleep, and we stayed awake when we wanted to stay awake.  But I got him back to the school building and came back home and I presumed that I put in the usual good night's sleeping when I got back home.

Anyway, that was my last year at Bland High School.  Father and Mother and all the rest of the family decided that the farm wasn't big enough for Peery and me to spend our days farming, that one of us would have to do something else and they selected me to go to college, and they told me that I was to go to college that fall time if I could get the money.  And I borrowed the money, signed the note, and Father took me over to Wytheville to G. S. Bruce's[50] grocery store.  He bought me an extra shirt or two and an extra pair of socks or two, and one or two other items, and bought me a trunk to put them in, and took me down to the train.  And I'd never been on a train and he told me not to be afraid, get on the train,  and he showed the conductor my ticket and told him where I wanted to go and that he would tell me when to get off and not to be uneasy about it.

So I started down the way to college, hardly had ever been away from home before in my life but I was going to a strange college where I knew no one.  But on the train, there happened to be another young fellow and he heard me say I was going to Emory & Henry and he was on his way to Emory & Henry -- he'd been there before -- so he came around and introduced himself to me.  And when we got down to the capital of the educational world, Emory & Henry College, they told me and I got off.  And I went in and was assigned to a room.  And Jim Ashworth came down to stay with me.

Well, the railroad running east and west, going west from Emory & Henry goes up a pretty steep grade.  The old freight trains had a lot of trouble on that grade.  (makes uneven sound of the train)  Anyway, I was asleep at night. I had been thoroughly trained that there was a heaven and a hell -- the preachers had especially emphasized the hell, that place of fire and brimstone where the angels got a great delight in peeping across the void and seeing the sinners boil while they were so happy.  I said angels, I meant God's way of getting even with the sinners in our world was to send them to hell and repay 'em, of course, and anybody knows that's lived long ought to go to hell.

Well, I somehow got to dreaming that I was in hell and that the whole of things were somehow caving in on me and I began to wake up, and I could hear that (makes sound of train) old train, you know, and the wider awake I got, the worse I got frightened.  But by and by, I got wide awake enough to discover that it wasn't hell -- but I was at college and maybe I'd find out something of what hell was like while I was in college.

I believe that I previously told you that Jim Ashworth came down and was going to room with me.  We had a room together and it wasn't long after school opened, until the freshman class called out and wanted all the members of the freshman class to come down on the college campus or athletic field if you wanted to practice for football.  The college was not allowed to play intercollegiate football, but we had games between the classes and that was important.  So Jim and I went down, I had never seen a football or basketball, I had learned baseball pretty well, but I never had seen a basketball or football when I went to college.  Jim and I went down and we was watching them, and someone who had taken charge as a coach of the class team from some school that had football, he said he wanted someone to scrimmage against.

He asked us if we wouldn't scrimmage against him. I asked him what he meant by scrimmaging against him.  He says, "Well, you get over there and when you see someone come carrying the ball, you catch him any way you can and throw him down and stop him."  So I said, "By golly, we can do that."  And Jim and I got out in front of the team.  And I guess there was some other boy or two.  I don't remember.

But anyway, when they started, we sailed in after them.  I knew how to tackle a man in a way, and I grabbed him. Now presently, the fellow who was coaching, he said, "Here, you come and you get in here and be the tackler on the regular team, and when they send boys in there, you be a substitute and get over there."  But Jim, older man and stronger than a horse, they didn't give him a job.

I think that injured Jim's pride but I played in every football game that they had while I was in college, that I could play in.  That is, I played four years on the freshman class.  And then they had the habit of having the Virginia students play the Northern Virginia students, and I did so. 

Of course, we just got on any old suit we had or any old baseball suit we might have had, and played.  It's a wonder to me we didn't get killed.  But anyway, we survived.  And, I am sure I told you that Jim helped me.

When spring came, I went out for baseball, and Jim was back, and Jim went out. He taught me about all the baseball I knew, except I did have a book about baseball that I studied better than I did the Bible.  With more pleasure and more understanding.

And I loved to throw.  And I got so that I could hit the ball a long distance, and when it came to selecting the baseball squad, they selected me but didn't select Jim.  That ruined his pride.  He never did like the coach of the baseball team, either.

Well, they gave me a beautiful blue baseball suit and I put it on, and I really strutted.  But I didn't get into any game 'til after I had been a substitute for a game or two.  The manager came around and told me that that baseball suit would cost me twenty-five dollars.  Well, I didn't have any twenty-five dollars.  So I said "Here, I don't have any twenty-five dollars.  You'll have to take this suit back."  He said, "Well, if you're going to do that and turn your suit back, why didn't you tell me that, and why'd you come out in the first place?"  But I told him I didn't know about it, but that didn't satisfy him, but he took the suit back and gave it to some other boy.  I didn't pay any attention to baseball any further during the four years of college -- except that several times after the regular team was formed and wanted to scrimmage, I would pitch against them, and not to my discredit, I won several games.  I was a scrub pitcher.  And I was taken along, though, out to a town near Emory & Henry to play a scrub game.

And we had a young fellow, Harold Dyer, who came in later, that was a real pitch, and he didn't have a catch.  So he and I would pitch one inning apiece and catch the other.  So, he really was a wicked pitch.  And I caught one of his curves on the end of my finger and that finger still looks like a dog's hind leg.  I didn't have any money to go and get it set, and it still is a handicap to me.

But when the second year came around in college, I couldn't stay out of athletics any longer, and I learned that a basketball suit wouldn't cost but four dollars.  I decided I'd go out for basketball.  I'd never seen a basketball either, until I went to college.  They didn't have but two, one that you practice with that was overgrown, oversize, but they had one new one they used for games.  Or maybe two.  I can't be positive about that.  But I played for three years on the basketball team, and it was in basketball that a fellow jumping over me socked his elbow into my nose, and it left me so I had to breathe through one side and spit blood out of the other.  Anyway, that was my principal athletic career at Emory & Henry College.

Speaking of baseball, I will say that when I went down as principal of schools at Emporia, that they had State Little League, and they asked me to go over and play once.  I went over to South Bastian, Virginia, and pitched, and foolishly, I did let them get one hit off of me.  But I had to go home and work on the farm in the summer, and that ended my athletic career.

Well, here I am again.  I don't believe that my parents ever bought me a toy in my life.  My father was a genius at making toys.  And there's as much fun in the making as there was in the possessing.  We knew how to make our own bows and arrows and crossbows and arrows.  I made one and I figured out a trigger that I could pull like a shotgun trigger to release the string, and I couldn't duplicate the crossbow today if I tried to.

My father showed us how to make pop guns out of elders.  Get a good straight elder that had no joint in it and a Hickory stick and whittle out the punch part.  And go up to the attic to get some tow.  He kept some from old time, tow that they used in the old mountain rifles and you punch it through to make good bullets that we could shoot from our pop guns and, oh, pretty well go 15 or 20 feet. 

Or we could take a twig off of a lilac bush, cut a plug-like for the end of the pop gun.  Once we built that, there's a little stopper off of a lilac bush, put it in the end of our otherwise pop gun, and have a squirt gun and squirt water all over people.  My mother didn't approve of that, but we did it just the same.

And we made our slings.  Now a sling shot is something we make out of rubber, that's a gravel shooter.  We'd make gravel shooters, always we had gravel shooters.  We could occasionally kill a bug with gravel shooters.  But the sling shot, that is we'd cut two long leather strings.  I say long, at least four feet long.  And one of them we would fix a loop around it so we could fasten it around our right wrist, and the other side of this thing, we held in our hand, and we'd put the rock in that and whirl it around over our head and hurl it.

We could easily hurl it a hundred yards.  We never got to the point that we could control it to the hair's breadth like the Biblical account of it, but we could throw it far enough for it to be dangerous.  My brother could always throw harder than I could, but he was older so he was supposed to surpass me in a good many ways, and he did.

We made our own sleds.  There never was a sled ever bought by the family.  We made them, we sawed the boards out and the runners.  Sometimes we'd go to the woods and get runners to make a big horse-drawn sled which is almost a sleigh. But the sled which we usually used in coasting, we made out of Father's planks.  Father had always a pretty good supply of lumber -- valuable lumber, fine lumber, but he never did object to us cutting it up to make toys.  And we learned right much.

Back when Oscar Stafford[51] was building our house -- I was, I guess, about 14 at that time.  Anyway, he said I could do better work than anyone he could employ.  I think he said that for two reasons, though.  One was that the work I did as a carpenter was free, I never charged him for it, and the other was that he had fallen in love with Mable.  But he was an older man, and bashful and he didn't know how to approach her to tell her, and Mable, she was shy and we would tease her.  Anyway, he never got a date with her, and he asked me if I supposed she would give him a date if he would ask her, and I told him he'd have to find that out for himself.


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copyright 2001-2005 Lawrence J. Smith