Right now, Leona is expecting two of her schoolteacher friends down from Fredericksburg. I think they're coming to get help on their tax reports, to do some shopping, and of course to go see the doctor. They are expected in this afternoon and will be here several days. So Leona has a fine chicken cooking and preparing to get quite a variety of foods.
I don't want to make your mouth water too much because there isn't a better cook, I don't think, in the world than she is. So we will be eating handsomely as well as entertaining. Leona is a member of about a dozen clubs. On the average, I'd say she'd have three meetings a week and most of those clubs, I suppose, bring flowers and food or both. So it's quite a pleasure I guess to do so, but it's a task too.
When I left Bland in nineteen and eighteen to go to college, I severed a lot of acquaintances, so that in making up these stories for you, or accounts for you, I am going back into early memories because most of my life has been spent away from Bland. I have not lived in Bland since I got married but I spent most of my time in other parts of the state of Virginia. I find very little difference in the people of Virginia everywhere I go, except that there are pockets over the state of Virginia in which there is very -- extremely bad conditions.
Pockets, there's one just north of Richmond, about 20 miles, another out in western Virginia about the same distance, and some in the eastern part of the state. And one out in the western part of the state. But they were worse than the conditions in Bland, and had a mixed population. (tape change)
I left Bland at the age of 18 and have spent very little time in Bland County since then. Also, I was such a home lover that even as a young boy, I did not travel over a large part of Bland. Another apology. Therefore, the accounts I have been making are of those things which were vividly impressed on my mind.
I was blessed or cursed with a good appetite and with the best of food. Therefore, I didn't fail to eat and satisfy that part of my animal appetite. Also I had the finest sisters and a devoted brother along with wonderful parents and uncles and aunts and their relatives and on the whole, I had good neighbors. Some were worthless and some were ingenious and made considerable progress in life. But they were accepted not on the basis of their wealth, but on their fellowship. I learned much from the poor as well as from the rich.
There is so much to be remembered. I have been talking especially about the religious part. Man is, in a sense, a religious animal. Secondly, by nature, man was given a slightly superior type of intelligence to other animals. Also by nature, man was given a very inquisitive mind. And since most of the great events in nature -- the storms, lightning, and thunder, the snow and rain and sleet, sunshine, wind -- those things were not easily explainable. We may understand them today in part, but only in part.
Fortunately for mankind, the environment in this here place is unanswerable. Regardless of whether you live in a spot of only a lot or two, or whether you encircle the earth, you cannot begin to answer all the questions and all the mysteries which are provided.
In fact, they are like the boy who told me about this farm that was on the rocky side of the mountain, Walkers Mountain. He said that when he went to climbing up rocks, that every time he picked up one, he uncovered two more. In nature, every time we find a reasonable answer to one question, it raises two more questions, or more than two more. And the easy answer was discovered by most of the races of mankind. To answer that things or gods or acts of gods are part of a god's world. God could answer everything. And when you are taught that, why it becomes a fundamental part of your life. So it's easy to continue to go to God for the answers.
I remember when my sister Maude asked your great, great grandfather, John Ashworth, if he believed that Jesus Christ was divine, and he said, no, he believed that he was one of the most wonderful men that ever lived.
Once when I was a young fellow, I went with your uncle Jim Ashworthover on Big Walkers Mountain to go fox chasing with the Townsers. Father had two hounds and Jim Ashworth one or two, and the Townsers had one or two. So we wanted to combine our hounds to give us fuller course in a fox chase. We got over to Mr. Townsers. The father of the family seemed to be the only one up, so he entertained Jim and I with stories. He said the people today were not courteous like they were when he was a boy. He said when he was a boy, they were always courteous. At that time he said the women all rode sidesaddles and all of them had riding skirts.
He said one hot summer day when he was at some meeting, one of these ladies came riding up and she was a spry young lady, and he went to help her by helping her off the horse and to hitch up her horse for her. But she was so spry that she just jumped off of the horse before he got there and that, as she jumped off, her skirt hung on the horn of the sidesaddle and pulled her skirt up around her neck.
Said it was hot summertime and she left off all the rest of her clothes or her underclothes. He said, "I was so thoughtful, I just pulled off my hat and I rushed up and held my hat over till I got her skirt off of the saddle and kept her from any great embarrassment." Well, that impressed Jim and me very much.
Old Dr. J.P. McConnell, president of Bradford College, founder of the college -- he was a professor at Emory & Henry when I went there -- but when Bradford College was founded, he was named as its first president. Dr. McConnell said that he learned long ago that people remembered his foolishness when they forgot his wisdom. And he had a great string of jokes but there was one that happened to him.
The organizer in southwest Virginia organized Southwestern Virginia, Incorporated. And they asked Dr. McConnell to address the mixed banquet of ladies and gentlemen which met in a hotel in Bristol. By that time, Dr. McConnell had gotten to be very stout and usually wore galluses, but in addressing at hotel at the banquet, he and his wife seemed to be in a hurry and he left off his galluses. He didn't discover that fact until he got up to address the group.
My sister-in-law, Ada Smith, and her husband, Dr. Smith was there. Ada said that at first she thought that the napkin was slipping down, and then she discovered that it was his britches falling. His britches fell all the way to the floor. Ada said they wasn't supposed to do that. And finally when it quieted down, and Dr. started again, some woman over in the corner of the room would snort and then they'd all laugh a while again and then he'd start his speech again and then someone else would begin to laugh and they'd all have to stop and laugh a while.
Well, speaking of the Townsers, they lived near old man Lawsofer Harper (?). Old Lawsofer had a couple of sons -- Ward and Whist. Both of them were older than I was and they owned, between them, a saw mill when my father decided to build a house. Whist stayed there at home for a total year. Well, he didn't stay in the house, but they built a dry kiln to dry the green sawed lumber, and he slept in there at night. Finally Whist married -- married Marcia Balfour Hoge --, and the time went by, and he was expecting to become a father, so he went to Mrs. Bert Green, Leona's aunt Green. Her husband was a doctor. He went to her and asked to borrow her geography, that he wanted to give an exceptional name to his child. In due time, the child arrived, and by that time he had found a name from Missouri or Minnesota or some one of the states, and he named her "Meville”. In due time, a second child arrived, and this one was a daughter, too, and he named her, from Vermont, "Vernal". When the third one arrived, he decided to give the third one the name of a bottling company in Roanoke that had gone broke and out of existence, and it was "Devaux". We received the Bland County weekly newspaper, the Bland Messenger, and by golly, these names -- Vernal and Meville and Devaux. And this about his names is the honest-to-God truth.
The house that Father built is still standing on the north side of Highway 42 and is a beautiful house. Father did a right good job in building it.
One morning while the house was being built, Father got up early and noticed that his principal barn was on fire. He had had some horses in the barn so he rushed out, threw the door open and fortunately the horses ran out.
Then he threw the cutting floor doors, two of them, open and went to pull the grain drill out, and grabbed it and pulled it out backwards. The flames were sucked through these doors, open over his head, and almost burned Father to death.
It burned his hands and arms and his neck and his back, and shoulders, so that for six months Father couldn't do anything except nurse his burns. The blisters would have a whole teacup full of water in them. And he suffered greatly. The doctor came and bathed him in aloe water to ease the suffering and had to care for him for this whole summer.
It is strange what the memory picks out to cherish and store away. We remember, it seems like, the unimportant affairs and forget the important things. Once I was engaged helping my brother Peery harvest oats. It was a hot, dry summer day and the oats were very dry. I was using the cradle cutting the oats while Peery was following behind tying the oats in bundles.
When he went to tuck the oat stems under with a boll, an oat straw went into the back of his nail and ran away down about two inches and broke off so he couldn't get it out and he told me to get it out. Well, the only way I could get it out was to cut in down at the upper joint at the front end and try the pull it out.
So I took my barlow knife and split a place, and was trying to get ahold of the straw to pull it out. Peery bobbled around and almost fainted, fell to the ground with his head bobbing side and side. "C'mon, now, and get that out of there. Get it out. Don't fool about it." And nothing would do but I had to go on and pull that straw out, and then we continued with our work. Somehow nature manages to take care of people when it ought to kill them.
Peery was driving down Brushy Mountain with three moderate-size saw logs on the wagon, a two-horse wagon. And he was up on top of the third wagon driving along, sort of on the side of a road that we'd cut through the bushes there, without his sitting at the wheel on the upper side, struck a little stump that we'd cut off, and it wasn't more than four inches high, but it was high enough to cause the wagon to turn over.
And as it turned, Peery wasn't able to jump above it but he jumped about 20 feet on down the hill, so far that when the wagon finally turned over, it hadn't got to Peery. But we turned the wagon back up and came on out with it.
The house which Father built was a two-story house of the conventional sloping roof type, and when he put the framing up, the rafters came together up at the peak and nothing would do me as a young fellow but to get up and show that I could walk along the top of these rafters without holding anything. I don't know why, but there was a show-off streak in me, and I believe in a lot of people.
From my Uncle Jim Muncy, we got the remains of an old pair of sharp pointed skates. I don't know what he was doing with them or how he came to have them but he had them. Anyway, I arranged some leather straps. Pa always kept some leather -- cow hides, calf hides -- and he didn't seem to object to us cutting them up and using them when we need to, so I cut a couple.
I put buckles on them, punched the holes out so that I could fasten these skates on. Without letting Mother or Father know, I slipped over to this creek where there would be some patches of ice, 15 or 20 feet long, you know, and by and by I learned to skate. I could get along pretty well.
By that time, I wanted to show off that I could skate. So when they started sending me to school down at The Slide where your great uncle Miller Thompson had his mill down, and it was covered with ice, so I got down and some one or two people passing saw that I was fixing -- fastening on skates, and wondered if I could skate and what I would do when I had them on. So I put on the skates down there and they were on the high hill up above, almost 50 yards, I guess, watching me. I knew they were watching me and I was glad they were watching me and I pretended that I couldn't stand up. I tumbled down and after I tumbled down three or four times, I took off and cut dido and skated forward and backwards and skated on one foot and then on the other foot. And I was a hero for one time.