The Economy of Dry Fork (cont.)

There was also work helping the white neighbors on their farms below the black community. Noah Charleton spent the week living with the Frenchs and working on their farm. This was not always employment that was looked up to in the community. Nate remembers his father this way.

”He worked with white folks. That’s all he did. My dad was always the kind of man, he never stayed at home--- he stayed with white folks. Right down the road at that empty house...? Right down the road--- Billy French. He stayed down there, y’know. He stayed down there with them and come home on the weekends. He’d go back on Sunday evening. He didn’t stay at home. But it wasn’t my daddy bringing nothin’ up there--- cuz he was bringing stuff up there on the weekends. He’d bring enough to eat on the weekends and then he’d leave on Sunday. Nah, he’d... I don’t guess he hated us or nothing like that, but he was a man just like grandaddy. He just lived with white folks all his life.”

Nate’s grandfather, father, and Nate, himself, were butchers and would help whites and blacks with killing and butchering their stock.The work went both ways and often whites would help blacks with their farm work. Hog killing and processing was by necessity a group activity and by choice a social one. Benny Lockhart, a long time white resident of Dry Fork, would help Ferge and Lige Tynes every fall in working up a bunch of hogs. This was a time to tell stories, drink moonshine whiskey, work hard, but have a good time as well.

“Course we had 3 or 4 old big iron kettles and 4 or 5 tubs sittin round outside. We had them full of good clean water too. Course we had runnin water there and we get t'ere bout good daylight and start killin hogs. And when we got done that day why, get em all hang up. We hung em up high where a dog or nothin couldn't get to em. And be a couple colored women up ere. They'd come down t'ere that day and start cookin, they was good cooks and they was clean too. We would never quit for dinnertime. Most time be 2 or 3 o'clock before we got all the hogs cooked. Then we all went in and sit down eat a good hotmeal. And laugh and talk and the women they'd go home, and we'd uh sit d'ere till the next morning. You had 3 or 4 nice clean couches in the old Jack Tynes house, 3 or 4 cots if you wanted to lay down you could. And next mornin we get out t'ere, some go to cuttin up, some grindin sausage, some rendering lard, all that stuff. And we'd work t'ere till we get em all in and fixed up and salted down and ever thing, sometimes it'd be way in the night. I stayed up ere as high as two nights at a time. You know stay d'ere the night we killed and after we killed then the morrow we go to workin them hogs up and sometimes it'd be dark and Lige had some lights down ere and we just work right on till we had ever thing took care of. Then 2 or 3 days after that after we got all the meat fixed up, took care of, why we go back up ere, sit round and talk and clean up ever thing round t'ere. Rake up a hair, put up a tools we used, and drain the water out the pan, cover it up. Then it was over with then. Till the next year.”

Many sought employment outside of the valley and were able to make a decent wage in the coal mines and on the railroad. These were two industries that would employ blacks to some degree and the combination of these jobs at various times for different families enabled them to continue farming and prosper. Historically, blacks were able to gain a foothold in some skilled and semi-skilled jobs in these industries before unions began to reserve the best jobs for whites. The geography of the area made this possible. Just over East River Mountain was the main railroad from the New River to Bluefield and then to the coal fields of Southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. Bluefield was a railroad center and jobs were plentiful. The life that the land could provide was limited, but with income from the mines or the railroad, a man and his family could have a better life. Marvin Tynes remembers his dad, Ferge working on the railroad for many years.

“ We were born in the log house, except for my brother George, he was born in Bluefield, my daddy was working on the railroad. He moved out of Bluefield and back to Rocky Gap and built a log cabin over here. He was only working like three days a week on the railroad. He walked across the mountain to catch a train and go up into Bluefield to work. He walked over to Hardy and then went to work. He worked second shift over there. “

Fred Saunders spent much time in the mines and Pete’s father, Rueben worked in the coal fields for thirty-one years. He would come home as often as possible. The wagon trail over the mountain to Hardy and Ingleside was well worn from Dry Fork residents treking and returning from work. Nate Charleton worked on a railroad crew off and on for periods of time. Nate laid track.

“I’d go down to Norfolk and work on the railroad and I’d come back... I just worked on the railroad--- they’d take me anytime, I’d go back.”

Nate and a crew would live in a pump car on the tracks. They lived and ate separately from the whites, and they were paid less and their grub was even different, but Nate enjoyed the life and he enjoyed the travel on his railroad pass. He worked and traveled, but he would always come home to Dry Fork.

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