A violin and a deck of playing cards were forbidden. They were the tools of the Devil. They should not be in any religious home. You may shout and dance to the glory of God at church, but you must never dance to the music of a violin and banjo and the joy of man and woman.
There is power in the holy tome. The Bland preacher refused to give my brother's church membership certificate to him when he moved from Bland County to Maryland. Since he moved to Maryland, he became an elder in the church there and served for 23 years as an elder. A preacher talking to our aged lady about the holy tome said "If I say 'the dog jumped upon the rabbit and the rabbit ran into the brush heap,' it has no effect, but if I say (chants the same words) it's different." The blessed lady jumped up, clapped her hands, and shouted "Glory to God!" Chanting has long been a practice in some churches. It was practiced especially by the Baptist Church in Bland.
But I forget that a few years I had lived are only a flick in the light of time. I suppose the frivolous is a part. It may not be distinguished between the frivolous and the profound.
Father never would shave on Sunday. Mother had a habit of making Sunday bread on Saturday and cooking most of the food that we ate on Sunday, on Saturday. They were very much like Moses. When he was told that one of his men was picking up sticks on Sunday, he said take him out and stone him to death and they did.
Uncle Tom Muncy was sitting on the front porch when Molly came by on her way to church. He said, "Good morning, Molly. Come here and let's talk a while." "No," she said, "I am on my way to church." "Oh," said Uncle Tom, "come in. The shouting won't begin for an hour yet."
Uncle Tom's daughter, Stella Muncy, was on her way to Sunday School and a small water snake bit her. She said she wasn't going to Sunday School anymore because God let a snake bite her on the way to Sunday school. And she didn't.
Well, in Bland County, revival meetings were important events. They were important many years ago. And from the Bland County Messenger, the weekly newspaper, it is a serious practice there still, the holding of revival meetings. I suppose that can be explained. Otherwise, a number of the Bland County citizens backslide between revival meetings.
Long ago, the circuit rider brought in a woman preacher one time. After she had preached a few days, she would like to close her sermons by shouting and at the end of her shouting she would faint. One time when she fainted, two of the ugliest men Bland County ever produced, and they produced a lot of ugly men, who were ugly even to the Lord. But these two super ugly men run up to help the lady preacher when she had fainted.
Uncle Tom went up after and grabbed the two by the shoulders and jerked them up, and said, "Stand up and get away from her. If she should come to and see you two over her, she would think sure she was in hell."
Uncle Tom was a lawyer. A widow who inherited a considerable sum of money sought his advice. This woman weighed perhaps two hundred and fifty pounds, and curious, she came down to the farm and asked him if she should marry Joe Black. If people would say that Joe Black married her for her money. Uncle Tom said, "Madam, I can't think of any other reason why anyone would marry you."
Uncle Tom went on like that all the time. When he went to Virginia Military Institute, the upper class cadets told him as part of the hazing that he would have to fight two freshmen at the same time. He would fight the two if they would tie one hand behind him. They tied one hand behind him and he knocked and bumped and kicked and knocked the other two out.
Uncle Tom was quite an orator. He spoke at political campaigns as far west as Montana. Once he was in a town somewhere where he was unknown. He pretended like he could not talk and motioned to a little shoe shine boy that he wanted a shoe shine. By and by, when this boy was at work shining his shoes and another boy came by with his outfit and he said, "I see you have one."
And the other boy shining shoes said, "Yes, I have one, and there's something wrong with him. He can't talk." And the little boy looked at Uncle Tom and he said, "He's a big ol' son of a bitch, isn't he?"
The monuments Uncle Tom's friends and admirers built of Uncle Tom on the Bland Courthouse Square, are already showing age only -- after only about 50 years.
Most of the water from Bland County flows into the New River, a small amount flows west to the Holston River. Some claim that the New River is second in age only to the Nile River. There were no mountains in Bland at one time and then they became, as scientists say, a part of the Appalachians which reached almost nine miles high. Now, they are only one, or two, or three miles high. These changes have been going on and they will continue go on in Bland.
My mother had four brothers: Charles, James, Tom, and Jess. And she had two sisters, Rhoda and Josie. Her father, my grandfather, Andrew Jackson Muncy, was a student at Emory & Henry College when the Civil War broke out. After the war was over, he was a justice of the peace, a school teacher and a farmer.
His oldest son went to VPI. That was Uncle Charlie Muncy, and he became the clerk of the county and a farmer and a cashier and founder of the Bank of Bland. Uncle Jim Muncy was a doctor. Poor old Tom and Uncle Jess were farmers. Uncle Jess and father were cronies. They hunted together. Uncle Jess told me that he killed or captured 27 bear.
Once he went hunting at Moosehead Lake in Maine. He had an Indian guide that spoke no English and he did not know how to talk the Indian language. He said that the moose call up there in Maine was the lonesomest sound on earth. He said that he never was so glad to get away from any place and back home as he was to get back home to Bland from Moosehead Lake mountains.
Uncle Jess demonstrated farm machinery at the St. Louis World's Fair. And he brought home to Mother a thimble.
He and Father were joint owners in a mowing machine. Uncle Jess always rode the mowing machine while he worked for Father. One time when I was old enough to use a mowing scythe and help trim up the leaves and grass around the fences, Uncle Jess stopped the machine way across the field at a distance and started hollering for help.
I was afraid that he'd cut himself some way on the mowing machine, so we started out in a hurry but when we had gone a distance, we heard him say, "Call the dog." We called our little Fox Terrier by the name of Tip.
When Tip got to Uncle Jess, Uncle Jess was holding his sleeve with one hand tight. Then, when the dog got there, he turned the sleeve loose and shook his arm and a big rat jumped out. In a few minutes Tip would kill the rat.
Uncle Jess said the rat was coming up through the clover that he was cutting, and he thought he'd throw the cutting blade up and kill the rat, but the rat jumped on the cutting blade, ran up his britches leg and into his shirt and he tried to kill it in his shirt with a tool out of his box, but the rat bit him, ran out his sleeve, and he was determined that he was not going to let that damn rat get away! So he didn't get away.
As a barefoot boy, perhaps you never followed the mowing machine. I don’t think you did. Well, you missed a lot. I followed Uncle Jess for hours. Once he passed under an apple tree where there was a hornets nest. I was about 20 yards behind, I guess, he wouldn't let me come close for fear I might walk too close and get cut. He drove along from the apple tree out and stopped his horses and jumped off the machine and he came back to the apple tree and he walked up and drew back his fist and with a "Damn you," he knocked the hornets nest completely off and jumped on it with both feet and killed all the hornets. Uncle Jess said that he wasn't going to let those hornets sting him on the ear and get away with it.
Well, he was a hero to us children and to all children. I could fill a whole spool of tape with stories about Uncle Jess. And good ones, too.
One of his grandsons now owns the old Muncy home place. He is an electrician, a person with the electric company, a graduate of VPI, but he loves the farm and now he is raising hogs by the thousands. He is a member of VPI and helps with their demonstrations. He had last year or the year before, 21 varieties of hybrid corn on exhibit, and asked people to come in and see his exhibit and decide what type of corn they wanted.
Uncle Jess' oldest daughter, Addie, never married. She was a farm horse crazy woman. Crazy about the farm and about all livestock, but especially about horses. She traveled all over the country to horse shows and wrote articles for two or more magazines about the horse shows.
Another one of Uncle Jesse's children, his son, is living in Costa Mesa, California. And he is a professional photographer of colored pictures and a maker of brochures promoting various causes.
When I was a boy, Bland County, along with the rest of the South, was barely recovering from the Great Depression. I don't mean the so-called Hoover Depression, though that depression was not caused by that great man, Herbert Hoover. It was a very small event compared to the depression brought on by the South in the Civil War.
People who had lived through the Civil War, like my grandmother, would not let anything be destroyed. We, as children, could not throw away a scrap of bread or the core of an apple or any food. Something would eat it. Everyone wore patched clothes, not clothes with ornamental patches added but clothes with holes in them repaired by patches. Everyone wore cord shoes.
Almost every citizen in Bland County depended on the farm for the products they needed for food especially. And to produce something to sell to buy a suit of clothes or a few store-made articles. We lived mostly off of our own farm.
I was just starting to tell about Uncle Jess Muncy being called in to doctor Bertha Thompson who had stuck a butcher knife in herself in cutting a piece of sole leather there in the store.
Uncle Jess went in and saw that she was so fat that it was impossible to sew up properly, so he trimmed the part of the fat off, sewed her up and referred her to the doctor, exactly what he had done. The doctor said that was exactly what he should have done and she recovered entirely satisfactorily.
One of our distant relatives in Bland, as an old man, wandered off into the mountains in the cold wintertime and disappeared. When he didn't return after a day or two, they went in search of him.
Finally, Uncle Jess Muncy, out there while riding his mule in to the mountains, located the old gentleman who had died or had frozen to death. Uncle Jess said the possums had come and eaten his eyes out and that he was a pretty tough lookin' something. But back there in the mountain, Uncle Jess said that he thought it would be too bad to report to the town what he had found and have them to take the ambulance out and have to cut a way through the timber to bring the man out, that he would just save trouble by picking him up and putting him on his mule. Uncle Jess was riding in the mountains there on his mule.
So he said he picked him up and threw him across his mule in front of him and as the mule started down, bouncing up and down, the old man's breath would come in and out, in and out (makes sound of heavy breathing), with every step that the mule would take.