You Do Not Have to Believe All I Say 6

The crowd that was searching had an arrangement that when they made a find, that they was to fire a gun so that they'd all come together and meet at a certain place.  So Uncle Jess gave the signal.  And got down there and some half a dozen people waiting for him as he came up with the old man and mule. And with every step of the mule he was (makes sound of heavy breathing again).  And Uncle Jess said he rolled off, and as they pulled him off of the saddle,  (sound of heavy breathing) he caught his breath like that, and Uncle Jess says, “I just remarked, ‘Damn you, don't you bite me again.’"  And he said, "Well, when I said that, the whole crowd left and I had to carry him all the way out of the woods home."

When it was decided that I should go to college, Uncle Jim Muncy took out a piece of paper and he wrote down on the slip of paper that I owed him $200 which he was letting me have to go to school, and had me to sign the paper.  And Father, of course, signed it to make the note worth something.  So I went down, went over to Wytheville -- probably that took me a little while -- and bought an extra garment or two to put in a little trunk I had, and Father helped me on the train and told me that since I had never been on a train before, not to be afraid, that the conductor would tell me when to get off.

I went on my way, down to Emory & Henry.  We got there, and they assigned me a room, and Jim Ashworth[30] came down.  He was going to room with me and go to school, too.  So we started in rooming together and after the classes stopped -- I think Jim had been there about ten days or two weeks -- and I came in from class, and his trunk and suitcase were gone and nothing was said to me as to why he had left.

I found out from the college that he had collected his part of his money which the college refunded to him and that he had gone home.  I had no idea why in the world he had gone home.  He hadn't expressed to me a single idea, not expressed to me one time any dissatisfaction or any reason for quitting Emory & Henry.

Later, my sister, Mable[31], said that he thought he had the itch[32] and he didn't want anybody to find out that he had the itch, not even me.  So there I was, all alone in the college and my roommate was gone.  But it wasn't long before a very fine young man by the name of Harry Williams, an upperclassman, came in.  He had had a little trouble with his finances and he was a little late getting there.  So he came in and I got him for a roommate.  He was a very delightful person to room with.  It so happened that when spring came around, Jim Ashworth came back down to Emory & Henry and roomed and boarded in a private home.

I know that Jim wanted to get some more college credits.  I'm sure that was one reason but I think the other was that he probably wanted to get off to play baseball.  He loved baseball so much and he taught me a lot of baseball as a youngster and we played together and hunted together and had been more or less pals, though he was much older than I.

So he was back there, the time came for baseball, we went out and after some days of scrimmaging and practice, they selected the baseball squad and they chose me on the squad but they didn't choose Jim.  That greatly upset him, I think.

Anyway, he stayed a few months and -- probably to the end of the term, and then he went down to Abingdon, and had a job with the Internal Revenue.  He talked to me later about his experiences with the Internal Revenue, going out and trying to catch bootleggers -- hiding, watching their activities with high powered glasses from quite a distance.  Then after that, he came back to Bland and married Angie Bird[33] and started working for Uncle Jess Muncy.

Uncle Jess Muncy had gone over to along Wolf Creek to build a store over there.  The lumber company had bought up the timber in Bland and built a railroad from The Narrows up to Bastian.  They were doing some mining as well as hauling out lumber.  Uncle Jess saw a chance to sell fertilizer and some other goods to the farmers.  He built a store there and took Jim in for a partner.  Wasn't long though until they decided that it wasn't working out.

So, for some reason, Uncle Jess brought a lawsuit against Jim, and Jim had transferred all of his property to his sister's farm and to his sister Rosa's[34] hand, and his other property into his wife's hand.  So, the lawsuit brought by Uncle Jess against him ended.  But Uncle Jess never said anything unkind about Jim after that.

Uncle Jess was the type of a man that, he didn't carry a grudge against anyone.  He was down on Kimberling one rainy day in the cold weather and got delayed there 'til late at night, and he went into a house, and then told the lady that he had come in to spend the night with her.  And she said, "You can't 'spend the night with her' because my husband's not at home."

Well, Uncle Jess said, "I'm going to spend the night here and if you don't want to stay, you can go somewhere else, but I'm spending the night."  And he did lie down in front of the fire and spent the night.

I don't think there could have been a better place anywhere to study nature than Bland.  Bland is really, practically on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains.  And as you undoubtedly know, the Great Smoky Mountains has a larger variety of flora and fauna -- especially flora -- than the New England states have.  The ice which swept over the New England states and destroyed so much of the flora did not stretch over the southern Appalachian Mountains to destroy the flora there, so that the Great Smoky's is one of the wonder spots of America.  So rich in its flora especially.  There's also considerable fauna there, but mostly the flora.

My mother, in fact all of the family, but Mother was a great lover of flowers and birds and of nature.  And of culture in every way.  She had had a limited education.  She had gone to a private school a little bit in Burke's Garden, but she was a student all her life. So she encouraged the children in every way.  And for some reason, she encouraged me to make a collection of wild flowers, of various flowers, and gave me a spot on the north side, a shady side of the old house where the soil was very fertile and there I planted quite a variety of ferns and ginseng and some of the orchids which grew.

On a cliff along the creek of the edge of our farm, I climbed where it was really dangerous to climb, but children like to overcome a little danger, and I found a very frail vine about 15 inches long that had a little blue flower on it that I never had seen.

I carefully took it up with the roots and brought it in.  My sister, Maude[35], who was quite an amateur botanist to say the least, looked up the plant and found that it was monkshood, which is a common flower but was not grown there in Bland because it was poisonous to eat.  But I planted this.

As I said, it was about 16 inches tall, a frail little thing, and it grew at least 10 feet up the edge of the house.  It was magnificent. Some of the neighbors wanted slips to plant from it later.  I spoke of planting the ginseng there.  That was one of the ways Peery and I made a little bit of money, was digging ginseng and sometimes some other plants.  But ginseng firstly.

I had some very pretty ginseng growing there.  I expected to find a very valuable root.  By and by when I dug one up, I found the rats had gotten ahead of me and had completely eaten the valuable part of the root.

But one time, I did find over in the woods on a steep place where people couldn't get around very well . . . (tape runs out)

I'll get back to Brother Sheffey.  Aunt Amanda Petree kept hundreds of letters written by men in the Civil War. As I mentioned before, she has a letter written by her friend while they were camped at The Narrows, Virginia.  He wrote about Sheffey getting married a second time.  He said a man was riding along with Sheffey going on his way to get married.  Brother Sheffey said, "God Bless Jesus.  I feel just as good as if I were going to church.  Glory be to God."

I remember when the first telephone lines was built in Bland.  The line ran down by our house from Bland to The Slide or Point Pleasant, and the switch from that line ran across the high ridge at our place to Trackers Neck.  It was built by a family by the name of Tickles.  There were several brothers there at the time.

When the lightning struck it, it crumbled the line up for two or three hundred yards into little short bits. When the line was first built, the birds were not used to it and they flew against the line and killed themselves.  You'd find them just everywhere.  Dead birds.  They'd flown against the line.  Father saw a ruffled grouse fly against the line, and drop down.  It didn't kill it, but it was able, after fluttering about on the ground a bit, and fly away.

But the birds got used to the power line sometime, and of course they use some different material now so that it don't break the line up in little pieces when lightning strikes it.

We didn't think enough of it for Father to install a telephone in the house, but my cousin Peery Muncy[36] and I were going down the road one day, throwing rocks.  We were going to see ___, so he decided to throw it at the insulator on one of the telephone poles a good distance away.  It must have been about ten feet.  I had to show my skill.  I got down and threw at the insulator.  It happened that my throw went too true and breaks another one to pieces, and the telephone line sagged down about half way to the ground.

I have to say to my credit, I went home and told Father what I had done.  And he scolded me for doing it, but he called the repairman, and paid for it, and a new insulator put on, and worked putting it back.

The Tickles which I mentioned, were four of those brothers, three of them that played later, played baseball with me, played baseball as mature men, and they had the thrashing machine one year.  They were thrashing at Aunt Amanda's and I was carrying water for them, when a rain storm came up and forced them to come in out of the rain.  And they saw that the rain was going to continue some bit.  One of them said, "What's there to do?"  And said, "Let's sing."

So they hunted up this songbook, and the songbook they had -- a hymnbook -- was published with shape notes -- not round notes, but shape notes.  "Do" was one shape; "re" was another; "mi" another way, and they all had names, so these Tickles opened up to a new song, said, “Let's try this one,” and one sang the leading part and one sang bass and one sang the tenor.  And they'd sound off on (sings)  "doooo   mi".  They'd start in and after they'd sing the notes through, then after they'd sing the notes through, they'd go back and sing the words to it after they'd learned the tune.  And they entertained themselves that way during the intermission period from their work during the rain storm.  They ___ ___ ___ to see the proper things, I guess.

But the citizens as a whole, were highly commendable people.  There were a few who would use profanity, but the masses did not use profanity unless it was a special occasion.  If their heads were really exercised, to give relief to their anger, they might use a curse word but otherwise, cursing was forbidden.

And at Sunday school in the morning when they had Sunday School -- usually they'd have Sunday School during the hot days in the summer and close down for the winter.  They would have preached in the winter.  I remember Father taking me with him to church.  It was cold enough in the church that he opened up his coat that he had on, overcoat, and his other coat, and wrapped me up inside with his arms around me while they preached.  Of course, I didn't know what they were saying, but Father tried to keep me warm.

These people were just like the rest of us, they had some good traits and some bad traits.  Chewing tobacco was a common practice.  The wood heating stove had a box around it full of sand.  And the men who chewed tobacco, they sat on one side of the church and the women on the other.  And the men who sit nearest the stove would spit their ambeer in the box there.  But if it wasn't convenient to sit near the stove and they didn't have a spittoon close, why they spat on the floor or on the wall or on somebody's hat if they didn't like your hat.

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copyright 2001-2005 Lawrence J. Smith