Jack was interviewed by Angela Williams (rghs 01).
My name is Jack Agee, and I was born on July the twentieth of 1948. I was born on Kimberling Creek, Route 612 in Bland County. My father was Paul Agee and my mother was Dorothy Agee. My mother, I believe was born in Grundy, Virginia somewhere on Slate Creek, but Im not sure. She moved here as a girl. My father I believe was born on Kimberling Creek, I believe to the best of my knowledge. He could have possibly been born on Wolf Creek in Giles County, and as a little boy moved hard person. He was kind of ill-tempered. He wasnt a big guy. He was about the same size that I am. He was a hard, honest hard worker when he was younger. Like most men in the hills, he liked to drink and fight. He liked to hunt, and he loved the outdoors. He could be meaner than heck. He was mean to kids and mean to the neighbors. People were different in those days. It seemed like they had to fight to survive. Survival was more of a struggle then. It required more, more of these character traits in a person. He went hunting. He didnt fish much but hed make us go catch fish for food. I hunted with him and many other people as a child. My mom was the finest lady Ive ever known. Shes the best mom in the world.
My grandmother was Rose Agee, on my fathers side. She died before I was born, I believe, the best I can remember. Im sure she did. My grandpa was James Agee. We called him Jim. I vaguely remember seeing him once as a child. He had only one leg at the time. He had his leg amputated. And on my mothers side, I never met my grandmother. She died before I was born. I remember seeing my grandpa on my moms side up until he died. I was about seventeen. I knew him well. He was a tall, skinny, old fellow. Tight as a bark on a tree. He was a tight wad. Im not sure how my grandpa on my dads side lost his leg. It was possibly poor circulation. No one ever told me. He came out of North Carolina. I think as a young man when he came out of North Carolina, I believe, then he met my Grandma Rose. She was a Smith I believe. She was from a family of moonshiners. Some good ones too, some Smiths from Floyd County. They were good liquor makers. He married her and moved in here. I think he was wanted by the law when he came in here, and he hid in the woods and raised his family. I believe, the best I can tell that that was what happened. He was wanted by the police in North Carolina for God knows what. But anyway, he stayed in hideout until the day he died. When he died he had two double alt head thirty eight pistols under his pillow when he died. He said that he was never to be taken alive. I dont know what he did. He was a hard working logger. He was a timber-man, and they say he could handle a team of horses, better than any man in the county. He worked hard, he was a very hard worker. He had a reputation of being fair and honest small man though, but they said he wouldnt bother nobody, but you didnt want to bother him. He was a man that you didnt fool with.
I have one brother thats still living. His name is Paul Agee, Jr. Then I had a younger brother, Jimmy. He died from spinal meningitis when he was about eighteen months. I have four sisters that are living, Barbara, Brenda, Kathy, and Marsha. All of them live in Bland County, except Brenda, and she lives in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The first eight years of my life I lived in a sawmill shanty on Mont Millers farm. Then we moved from there to another house in the holler up in Boggle Holler. I think it was the Boggle Holler. Thats what they called it, Kimberling Branch or something up there. Im not sure of the real name up there. We lived there from the time I was eight, until I was about twelve. Then we moved from there to an old house, they called the Ball House shack, and it was about to fall down. It had no windows in it. Dad was sick and disabled, and he couldnt work. The neighbors would. Back in that time there was no welfare to take care of you. The people would take more, they were quick to take advantage of you in those days. They would work you to death for nothing, and if you had nothing, they would barely give you enough to live off of. So they could work you all day. They didnt want you to have anything else. They were afraid you might leave, afraid you might leave town if you got any money. Some neighbors were good to us, and some were very mean to us, when we were kids. The richer they were, the meaner they were. The poorer they were, the kinder they were.
What to play when we were children. We never got to play much. We played some tag and some hide and seek. We caught lightning bugs in the summer. We’d go out in the summer at night time and catch lightning bugs. We walked around and we had no flashlights. There were no street lights at that time, no dust to dawn lights. Most of the time, when I was growing up, we had kerosene lamps. We didn’t have electric lights, because you had to pay an electric bill, that was two bucks a month. Nobody had any money. They’d turn your power off. There was no welfare system to turn it back on. You had to work and turn it on yourself or you didn’t have any. So there wasn’t a who that went on in our life when we were kids. Some of the neighbor boys, some of them would have a baseball game on Sunday somewhere. Everybody worked six days a week, you didn’t play then. Sometimes you’d go and learn to look up on your work like cutting corn, and shucking it and different things like that, as fun, because you were going to have to do them anyway. You might as well. There were kids everywhere. The valley was full of kids, young people. You were always doing something like this with the other kids. You never got paid for it, maybe a meal or something, but you never got paid for it when you worked in the neighborhood. You might get a couple of tomatoes to take home with you, or a handful of potatoes, or something, but never any money. People didnt hire you to mow yards and stuff back then. Once I did have an uncle that gave me a quarter to mow his yard, and thirty five cents to mow his whole yard. He was nice. He was kind to me.
We didnt get any toys, didnt have any toys. At Christmas you would get a toy, one little old toy, and that was it. Sometimes it would be a little toy gun, or a little something of that nature, maybe one balloon for Christmas. For fun, mostly wed climb trees. Wed throw rocks and stuff play with. A bicycle in the community was a rare thing then. Maybe one of the kids somewhere would have one, but there was very few of them around. Toys were scarce. You had to get rocks, sticks, and wed bat rocks with them. You didnt even have a ball.
We had to do about everything concerning chores around the house. We worked in the fields. We had to chop wood, work the gardens, cut weeds and grass, gather eggs, feed hogs, milk cows, feed cows, and feed horses. From the time you were big enough to walk, till you left home. You just did anything that needed to be done. I had a dad that said, shut up and do it. If you didnt, you get the hell beat of you quick. I guess that my least favorite was bending over and pulling the weeds. I guess that was about my least favorite. I liked that about as little as anything. I didnt like bending over all day pulling weeds. I didnt mind standing up hoeing them, but I didnt like getting down, bending over pulling out plants all day. In the hot sun, it was pretty rough. I dont really believe that I had a favorite. I dont really think there was a good chore.
None of our houses had insulation in them. Some were lined on the inside with cardboard boxes, some had wood boards on the inside, none had any insulation in the attic or walls or anything. Few of them had electrical wires. Just one or so wires come off an electrical line, and hung down around the ceiling. There were no outlets in it anywhere, to plug anything into. Except room, and that was it. Youd screw it in there. There used to be old-fashioned ones around. You would screw it into a light socket, and then the light went in the bottom of it. Then youd plug it in. It had a plug-in on each side of it. That was your total of plug-ins in the house, which you had no electrical appliances much anyway. So it didnt really matter. It wasnt that big of a deal. Drop cords were used a lot, and run through the house and stuff to try and transfer electricity from one place to another.
We didnt have running water. We drank spring water and creek water and all kinds of water. The first three houses that I lived in, didnt have a well. You had to get it out of a spring. So, if it hadnt have been for typhoid shots , wed have all died from typhoid, Im sure. As children we wouldnt have lived, if it hadnt have been for the typhoid vaccines you got in school. The free health department neighborhood, through the whole Appalachian Mountains. If it wasnt for the government giving all of these kids these vaccinations, half of the population of these children wouldve died in this country. We had springs, open springs. You just dipped water up out of them in a bucket and carried it, and drink it. In the summer that stuff would turn blue and green looking, and that was all that you had. You drinked it or you did without, and when you get thirsty, youll drink any kind of water. We lived as children did in third-world countries today. If it hadnt have been for the doctors sending in those public health nurses in here to vaccinate us, there wouldnt have been a many of us children that wouldnt have died.
We cooked our food on a wood stove. We had a wood cook stove. We never had an electric stove. The entire time I lived until I left home, we never had owned an electric cook stove. It was always a wood everything on it. You heated the house with wood. We never did have an electric heater. If you didnt cut the wood, you froze. That was it. Youd go out and chop wood, or freeze to death.
We washed our clothes in an old washer machine. It was a ringer type washing machine. When the power would go off, because you couldnt pay for the power, you scrubbed them on a scrub board. You would just build a big fire out in the yard, got the water hot, and stuck a scrub board down in it. Youd get a big bar of lye soap, and scrubbed the hell out of them. It was hard, but it worked. Of course, you didnt have but about two shirts and two pair of pants. There wasnt too much to wash.
My dad cut my hair. You would set down in a chair and hed say shut up , and hed shave your head, and that was it. He got out an old pair of hand clippers. I still have them somewher old clippers and an old pair of scissors, and he would cut your hair off. One side would be long and one side would be short. It didnt matter though. Thats how your hair was cut. The neighbors would come on Sunday, because Dad owned a pair of clippers. He traded them up somewhere, I dont know where he got them. The neighbors would come and relatives and bring all of their kids. Dad would set them under shade tree in the yard and they would talk, and he made me cut all of the kids hair. By the time I was twelve years old, I was a right good barber. I cut a lot of peoples hair. So as time went on, I moved on down to Eddisons Blankenships store, and cut hair on his porch for a quarter a head. I made some pretty good money at it on the weekends with Eddisons electric clippers. I cut a lot of these grown mens hair as children down there, Puss Havens and them. All them boys, all them Havens boys. All hair for twenty-five cents on Saturdays.
Horrors of an Outhouse
We had an outhouse. We never had a bathroom with indoor plumbing until I moved away. I went to Washington and lived before I ever had an indoor toilet, in my life. Everybody had an outhouse. It was very cold in the winter, very cold. In the summer lots of bees, snakes, and stuff hung around there. It was kind of nice, it wasnt no big deal. You just had to get used to it.
We grew about everything in the garden. We grew everything, beans, corns, carrots, beets, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, just anything. If it would grow, you grew it. We grew rhubarb, we raised sugar cane patches, and made molasses. It didnt matter if you could eat it, we grew it. We worked in the garden from daylight till dark in the summertime. We didnt go play in the summertime. We went to work in the garden every morning. We worked at it until lunch and went back to work till dark. We carried water in buckets from the creek and droughts and water it. It was very important that it grew, because it kept you alive in the winter. Dad would set under a shade tree with a big switch, and whack the ground to make sure you you would keep working. You didnt stop. My favorite food out of the garden is the potato because you can fix it. You can fix it anyway, and its always good.
I went to school at Bland Elementary. Then I went to Bland High School in the tenth grade. I finished the tenth grade at Bland High School. When I finished the tenth grade, I left home and I never did go back to school. I never got to finish. I went to the old Bland High School that burned down. I went to the old high school that burned down through the fourth grade. I went to the first grade in one building and I went to the Wagner Auditorium on the side. I went upstairs in an old building to Mrs. Stewart in the second grade, then back to Mrs. Mustard for the third grade. Then some where else for the fourth, I dont remember where Marge Thompson taught, with a coal stove set right in the middle of the floor. It was an old one room, red brick sided, with a tin roof on it. It set right up there down below where the schoolhouse is now, between the ag shop there and the old lunchroom. There was a one room schoolhouse set right there. It was an old building is what it was, actually a shed more than anything. It had a coal stove setting in the middle of the floor, and we went hunting one time and caught a skunk. Youd come in and set near that stove and that skunk smell got so bad. They made us walk home from school cause you couldnt have classes. Youd get it on your clothes and you couldnt get rid of it. So anyway, and some of the guys used to slip and put skunks in there and stick them under something to hide them in the room. So you couldnt have class, you know? Youd have to day.
There was about thirty-five or near forty of us kids that went all the way through school together. There was a big class full. It was a good group of kids there. Some years, grades were bigger than others but we had a right good size group. We were part of the post-war baby boom, right along in there. It was right after the war ended and the men came home, and had lots of babies. Right along about that time.
We studied basically the same things that you all study today, history, math, and stuff. Geography, we used to study geography. I think they have abolished it from the curriculum now. I think its very valuable, a very good subject. It ought to be reinstalled as part of your class. Geography is a wonderful class. You might not think so at the time, but it is. Being as we are, now becoming a universal society.
We were poor and we didnt have anything to eat. So the state furnished us kids with free lunch. It was a program in school They would get used to you and they knew who you were. They would come in and assign you free lunch at the beginning of the year. They knew who was poor and who wasnt. It was a small county. Everybody knew who was in poverty, and who had the money to pay. Lunches were only ten or fifteen cents a day at that time. Lunches were just pennies. We didnt even have pennies. We didnt have a dime a week to spend or anything. We didnt even have in the chores of a month. Kids throw away more money in a day, than we had in a month, or maybe even a year.
We got to school by an old bus. All the way out through Kimberling Valley out in rain or shine. Bus driver would come and you went to school back then. If there were flooded creeks, youd get out and put chains on and spin through the snow. Youd dig your way to school and back, you got to school. It was important that you went to school. School was considered a very important that we did.
My teachers in school were Ethel Phillips, Myrtle Stewart, Georgia Mustard, and Virginia Stafford. I cant remember the womans name that taught sixth grade. There was Marge Blankenship, Lena Burton, and Marie Groseclose. Then I got into high school. I cant recall my eighth grade teacher. Then there was Claude Stowers and Dale Davis. Most of these people are deceased now. Most of them are dead and gone, but they were wonderful teachers, others didnt behave. Theyd slap you up the side of the head. My God you were there to learn and they intended to teach you, whether you wanted to be taught or not. You were going to get taught and its a good thing. A lot of kids today know stuff that they wouldnt have known if the teachers wouldnt have pounded it in them.
I got paddled and punished a lot. We were good kids in a sense, but we were just like all kids are. We were full of mischief, the boys especially. We didnt do a whole lot of bad things, but you werent allowed to do anything back then. They were just so strict. People were real strict in school. You were there to learn and that was it. You werent there to have fun. You were there to learn. We got punished and paddled. I dont even know how many times I got paddled. I wouldnt even want to say, probably a hundred of paddlings, maybe more, probably more, and I deserved way more than I got.
You looked forward to holidays at school. Youd draw little things, make little paper things, like for Thanksgiving youd maybe make a little paper turkey to hang on the wall in the room or something. Youd have turkey in the cafeteria that day for lunch. Halloween, you would have a little goblin or something. A black cat up on the wall or something. There wasnt too many. Christmas was a big holiday in school. You got a present for somebody in class. You would get somebodys name in class. It was a pretty big holiday, Christmas was. For Valentines Day you would always get your sweetheart a valentine. At first it wasnt much important. Of course they usually wouldnt give you a second chance, but you did it anyway. The kids were pretty shy back then. They didnt know what they know today, and they didnt say what they say today. They didnt have the thoughts and ideas that they have today.
I dont remember having too many pranks being pulled at school. I remember the guys, we were kind of afraid of our teachers. So, we didnt pull many pranks on your teachers, because they would wear your butt out for it. I can remember they used to let kids smoke in school but you had to bring a permit from your parents to smoke. So there was an old teacher, named Clause Stowers, was a wonderful man. He was one of the finest teachers I believe there ever was. He would go down and hang out with the kids, to smoke behind the old cafeteria at lunch. He loved to smoke Tarytens. Claude was a World War Veteran and he a loved him, because he associated with them. The rest of the teachers smoked in the teachers lounge. Claude went down and smoked with the kids. He liked children. He was a history teacher , a wonderful man. He coached baseball and stuff like that. Claude would go down and hang out with the kids. He was one of the guys. We were one-on- one with him. He was a different kind of teacher. He taught me more than any teacher, I guess that I had ever had. But hed hang out with us, so they would go in the school house and theyd get silverware. They would slip up and be talking to him, and hanging out with him, and patting him on the back. Then theyd slip spoons and forks in his jacket pockets, and when he came back after lunch break, the smoke break, hed come into class and be up there teaching. Hed reach in his pocket to get him a cigarette, cause hed smoke right in class. When he had the urge forks and spoons and he would say, Well, where in the world do you reckon I got them. Then he would find some more later in the other side. Hed have all of the silverware from the cafeteria in his coat. He had no idea where it came from. Hed take it back to the lunchroom, but thats one of the pranks that we ever pulled. The older guys pulled it on him, I never did. I always respected him a lot. I just never got old enough to pull a prank on him. He was a wonderful person.
As a teenager we used to work a lot, but there wasn’t anything to do. The only thing you could do was play on the ball team, the basketball team. They let you play a little bit of volleyball in school That was it. There wasn’t no any football. They caught us with a football at school one time, in the eighth or ninth grade, and damned near expelled us over it. There was five us playing touch football, and they almost expelled us for having a football on the grounds of the school. That’s how the football was used, you didn’t play with it. I don’t know why, though. They played some baseball, but I wasn’t old enough to play it at the time, or wasn’t good enough to play. I was too short to play basketball, so basically, I never got to play any sports. As a teenager I didn’t get to do anything. We had dogs and we hunted. Some of us guys would get together and hunt on a weekend or a week night. We’d just slip off and go hunting, catch a coon or something like that. That was about it. You had no car, no way to travel to do anything. You couldn’t go pick up your girl, cause if you had one, you didn’t see her, except at school.
I never got to play any actual sports. Id say hunting and fishing required very little tools. There was no over head to it to speak of. I enjoyed hunting a whole lot. It was about the only sport, well fishing was the only sport, and swimming in the creek was the only thing we could afford to do. We swam a lot and fished and stuff like that a lot. That was one of the greatest forms of recreation we had.
During the winter, we only had one bitty sled. Some of the neighbors had bigger sleds. Wed go a steer it. You couldnt guide it, it was so dangerous. One guy hit a tree, and near killed his self on it cause he couldnt avoid it. They ice-skate, some of the neighbors did. I was too little at the time to go over there, when they had the ice skates. By the time I had gotten bigger, the kids had all grew up and gotten married, and had moved off and took those ice skates with them. Our group never had any ice skates, so we didnt get to do that. We used to have a few fires, and sled ride at night, and stuff like that. That was cheap; It didnt cost a lot to do that.
We courted mostly at school. In school, and school outings, and things like that. I guess as far as I know cause there wasnt a lot of them that had vehicles. I cant remember when people started getting vehicles. girls. The girls I didnt see them dating that many guys. It seems like they just hung out a while and got married. Im not sure that was too good. I had a girlfriend when I was about fifteen or something like that. She came here from Marble, Maryland, Andrews Air Force, where her daddy was at. She stayed with her grandparents in the summer. I would just slip up into the farm, and me and her would sneak out in the bushes, and kiss and stuff. Wed hold hands and kiss, and that was about all youd do, you never thought of anything else. One day she gave me a big kiss. It was my first kiss. She went to give me a kiss, and she was sitting on a horse. She bent over and when she kissed me, the horse lend over and stepped on my foot. So, I had a horse standing on my foot, and a girl kissing me. I tell you that was a pretty exciting moment. do. I never forgot it. I was about fifteen and I got my first kiss. It was a pretty exciting day. I had a sore foot and I was going around starry-eyed all in one day.
I didnt go on dates. We didnt have anyway to go on dates. I never took a girl out on a date, till I was almost grown, before I got a car. I used to hangout and when I got older and moved away to the city, to the ghetto. In the ghetto, the houses were close together, so you didnt need a car. Some of the boys had cars, and we all met at the drive-in restaurants and down through the neighborhood. You didnt need a car to date your girl Then you could walk up and down the street and hold hands and stuff and go to the movies. The movie theater was in walking distance.
Love and Marriage
I met my first wife in the neighborhood where I lived. It was with all the poor white people, working class whites. There was a lot of crazies and drunks that lived there. It was just like any ghetto, only it was integrated at that time. There werent blacks, there was all poor whites. Poor blacks lived one place and poor whites . Rich whites lived off by themselves, but I met her in the neighborhood, then I married and divorced that one. Then I met a second wife at a party some years later, at a party in Virginia some years later. Her daddy was a multi-millionaire. She was a beautiful woman. I married her and we didn't lived together too long. I dont know whatever happened to her, but anyway we divorced. Then I met my wife now at a hospital as a patient. She was my nurse. I was in the hospital sick from God knows what. I had a bloodclot, thats what it was. I had a blood clot in my leg anddating and dated for nearly five years. Then we got married, then we had a little boy.
We got married at a church in Bastian. The first time I was married, I was married in Manassas. The second time at a Justice of the Peace in Manassas. Then the third time, was at a church in Bastian. My weddings were kind of basically simple. No matter how big of a party you have, youre still just as married with no party as you are with a ten thousanddollar wedding. We didnt really want much of a festivity. So, we just kind of got married,real quietly and that was pretty much it. There wasnt a big wedding and no big shindig. I didnt go on a honeymoon for my first marriage. The second one, I went to Texas,to the beach of Corpus Christi, Texas. We had a right good time. The third one, we didntgo on a honeymoon. Well, we had already traveled all over the country before we married.So, there wasnt many places we could go. Wed been everywhere to go name is Brenda, and we had one kid together. She has a step-daughter though. Jessica and the son is Cody. Jessica was born in Germany, and Cody was born in Princeton, West Virginia.
Back in the day, it was much easier to raise a child. You could raise five kids to the one today. There wasnt no money or anything, but there wasnt anything to spend money on, if you had it. Society was set up different than it is set up today. We create things to spend money on today. We make little plastic things, little gizmos. We do everything, little things that flash on the walls and TVs and everything. They cost fortunes in money that basically if you could just go out and mow the grass, and raise some flowers. Youd have no need for that stuff. We create ways to make money in America and to waste time. Were not getting much out of it. I cant see it. I watch TV all the time and have no idea why I do it. Its a total waste of life.
Hollybrook was a town, was full of a lot of uneducated people. Very few of them had a high school diploma. There was lots of alcoholism. There was a lot of good people in Hollybrook. There was a lot of drinking and fighting though. Just chaos on Saturday nights. When you were young, you didnt go down there cause somebody would beat you up just for the heck of it, you didnt have to have any reason. They didnt even know who you were. They would just take them out in the street and beat them up. mentality of the community. It was something on Saturday night though. The good Christian people stayed home and set on the front porch and minded their business. They probably had a loaded gun behind the door in case the drunks raided them or something. It was just your typical hillbilly, redneck little town. It had its little problems but that was about it. There was nothing here, but a little store on the corner. There was no entertainment, what so ever. Nothing else to do, but get drunk and beat each other up. That was it.
The weather was, well. . .it was cold and snowy in the winters. The springs werebeautiful, and the summers were hot, like they are today. The falls were beautiful. Theseasons were pretty more though. We had less clothes in the winter to wear, so it seemed colder. The houses werent insulated, so it seemed colder. The winters seemed much colder then, for the simple reason that we were more exposed to the weather than we are today. People didnt live as long back then because of the exposure to the weather. They worked harder, and had no medicines. People definitely are living longer, living longer and healthier these days. People were strong and hardy back then, but it didnt seem like they lived that long. They say that hard work wont kill you, but its a lie. It will, hard work will kill you! Ive seen it kill a lot of people, disabled them and everything else.
We had deep snow storms when I was a kid. They just came and you learned to live with them until they left. The creeks went down, and you could get to the other side. It might be a little frustrating, but you d just find something to do, till the water went down. You could swim in the creek and maybe drown. If you wanted to go visit a neighbor, you just waded through snow to get there or you just stayed home. You learned to deal with it. People werent so impatient, as they are today. People were very patient back then. Theyre very impatient today.
We celebrated Christmas the same way we do today, except there was less food, and everything was made by hand. You didnt go out to the store and buy it, you didnt go out to a restaurant or anything like that. You made everything you had, presents and gifts and candy. Occasionally you would get a few pieces of store bought candy, but not much. I mean other people may of had more, but in my neighborhood, the people I grew up with, I had force of Christmas. Back then we celebrated the birth of Christ, Jesus Christ out Savior was born then. I dont think people today have any idea why we do have Christmas, but back then, Christ was the first thing on the agenda. Today, I dont even know if they still mention him, most places dont.
We had a little tree that had been whacked out of the woods somewhere. We never bought one. We whacked it out, and stuck it in a little bucket or a coffee can with rocks, and we used that as a tree holder. We had a little bit of homemade decorations on it, that was it. A few bulbs that we keep forever and I still have one of those Christmas bulbs today, from when I was a child. My momma saved it for me, she saved me one bulb. Our presents were just wrapped in a little old piece of paper or just put it in a bag if there wasnt no paper. It had your name wrote on it or something. You never had to worry cause there wasnt too many of them. It wasnt hard to find because we didnt have that many presents.
We used to dress up for Halloween. We didnt have any money for a fancy mask and stuff like that, so wed take us a brown paper bag, and you would always cut eye holes and a mouth hole out of it and then you painted stuff on it with a crayon. Make it look like hair or whatever. Youd paint hair and a mustache on it. Then youd stick it over your head and that was it. That was the only kind of mask you had, you had no money for a real mask. You didnt go buy a Halloween mask, it was never heard of. You didnt even know where to find one. There werent any in the stores at that time. Of course the kids that had more money seemed to have more things than us poor kids out in the country. Some of them painted their faces and different things instead of using a paper bag. We went door to door and we went down. The older guys, as we got older we hung out with the They would go out and tear down road signs, cut trees in the road, and stuff. Theyd also run cattle into other peoples fields. They would do just all kinds of crazy stuff. Theyd put wagons up on top of barns, just set them places you couldnt get them back down. Theyd reassemble them on a roof or something. I wasnt real big at the time so I didnt do too much, but I remember one time they were cutting a tree across the road and Lauren Faulkner shot the shotgun at them and he shot Eleanor Robson in the neck with a sixteen gauge shotgun. They had to go to the doctor and get them taken out. There was nothing ever said about it, but he was the one that done it. Nothing was ever done about it. Back then when you shot somebody, youre just shot, I guess. No police were called or anything. If it would have blinded one of them, it would have been a terrible tragedy just because they were out on Halloween night cutting down a damned old tree. They could have cut it up the next day for fire \wood, it wouldnt havemade a difference.
I remember for Easter we had eggs. I cant remember much of nothing about theFourth of July. It just came and went. It was just another day they had somewhat of a celebration, well not too big of a celebration. No mention of New Years, New Years just came and went. It wasnt never celebrated in the country. Easter,Thanksgiving, and Christmas were about the only holidays that were celebrated. You didnthave all of this time off from work. Memorial Day people are accustomed to. I can remember when people started to pay attention to the war deads and stuff like that. Ialways had a lot of respect for the war dead back then.
Hunting and Fishing
We hunted back then with sticks, rocks, and clubs, anything you could. There wasnt any ammunition and stuff. The guns that we had and stuff were incredible, like the guns and stuff we have today. God, were the heaviest armed nation in the world. Were better armed today as citizens in this country than some militaries are. Back then were rare, though. You didnt have the money to buy them. So wed take dogs and go out and catch all these varments. Most of them we ate and some of them that werent fit for food. Youd skin them and youd take the furs and you would sell them and get money to buy things that you needed. Every fish that you caught, you ate! Youd bring it home and clean it and youd eat it cause it was food. Wed hunt every kind of animal, rabbits, squirrels, coons, and groundhogs. There werent no deer or wild turkey. There werent any of them. The only thing you could find to eat was squirrel, rabbits, grouse, and things like that. If you could get a hold of one and beat it to death with a stick. If you didnt have a gun and if your dog could help you catch it. You and the dog could team up and club it to death. You brought it home and you ate dinner. Otherwise you didnt have any meat on your table. You may have green beans would cook him. You brought that sucker home and if the dog didnt get him, you ate him.The dog got the bones.
We ate groundhogs, coons, squirrels, rabbits, and grouse. If you could get them however. There were no wild turkeys. I can remember when they started putting them in Virginia. There were no deer, but there were a few elk down here in Giles County till the poachers killed them out. I can remember elk being here. When I was a kid they actually used to have on your Virginia hunting license, that elk hunting in Virginia was prohibited. That was back on your hunting license years ago, but its not mentioned today, cause theres no elk left. They poached them all out.
I have millions of hunting and fishing stories. Well, a million hunting stories, and not many great big fishing stories. Lord, we made a life out of living in the wilds, out in the woods. Ive hunted with all kinds of people twenty years. But Ill tell you its been a great way to spend life, out of doors. As I get olderI dont put emphasis on shooting animals as I do being out with my friends and getting to spend time watching the wood pickers, the birds, and the trees. To make sure that the earth is okay out there. I just like to go out there and make sure its alright and that its still out there. I hope it stays there forever. I hope that we dont destroy it. I think that hunting is better for the environment than its ever been. I think that hunters are the only hope weve got for the environment and for the woods. If the hunters died, I believe also that the environment will go with it because people with greedand destroy it.
In the old days when we didnt have any guns to shoot with, it was when they firstput the deer in here, the woods were full of deer, big deer! They were everywhere. You would see them everywhere, all in the forest in the country through here, which belonged to Pocahontas Fuel Company. It was Virginia Hardwoods and then they sold it to PokyFuel. They cut all this timber down through here and logged it to get timber for the coalmines, which made tons of deer browse. The Virginia Fish and Wildlife stocked deer inhere. It wasnt too many years with all that food, brush, and briers and stuff for them deer toeat, that we had quite a good deer population going. Back in those days, when the firstdeer came around, people looked at them and would say my gosh theres a deer! I canremember the first three I ever saw off the school bus. Ive never seen anything sobeautiful in my life. Youd never think of shootinyou in jail for it. I would never dare! The deer were quite large and quite plentiful. Peopledid poach them as I came to find out later in life. One here and one there you know. Iremember the first one I ever saw that I shot. We went up in the woods in the woods one morning and my dad, my brother and I. He took a rifle along and kept telling us a story about this big deer that was living up in the woods, back up in the woods that he would like to shoot for food. I never had no idea how you killed one. I had never even seen one killed. We were walking along that morning through the woods, and we got up there and we forgot something. So he said, you go back to the house and get it. I dont remember what it was. Well wait right here on this log for ya, he said. So I turned around and went back to the house and ran about a half a mile to the house, and got whatever it was and ran back. There they sat on the log. So, we set there a second. We got up, and I cThere was some people right over, three, or four hundred feet away through the woods, shucking corn in a corn field. A bunch of people were talking, and they got real quiet. Dad told us to be real quiet. So in a minute they went back to talking and shucking corn, and we got the deer. We drug him across the woods over onto the property where were hunting. Ive been arrested for poaching a few times. It was nothing serious, just ignorant rules. Things like posted land, being on posted property, and things like that. Thats about it. Ive been arrested for over the bag limit, too much game. Stuff as you do when youre young and not too bright, you know. Things you wouldnt. youre not proud of. When youre young, you dont think sometimes. Young people dont think sometimes. They never think of the consequences of their actions. I was just like all young people. I did things that I wish I hadnt of done. Thats over and done, but then we just have to learn to live with it.I hunted down in Texas for Havillena pigs. I didnt get any, but I had a great time.
I work for myself right now. I roof houses, trim trees, and stuff of that nature. I do little repairs for people, fixing stuff, you know. Im just manage.
They guys have a thousand and one stories of all kinds, from pranks, to getting drunk on the job, falling through houses, tearing down stuff, running over stuff, burning down.
Id have to say that the best sheriff ever in Bland County would be that of Bob Patrick, probably because he said, You didnt go bother somebody unless you was called. That was your duty. If you were called, you went investigated things, only if you were called. If you werent called, you stayed home and minded your own business. I think that the law enforcement could learn a lot from that today. If they would just do that. I dont think that the law enforcement has come to term with that, realized it that the more you mess with people, the more wrong that.
Bland County Fair
Ive attended the Bland County Fair just about every year of my life since I was a kid. I still go even today. It has changed a great deal. The fair was a big deal when I was a kid. It was about the biggest deal of the year. There wasnt anything bigger than the fair all year, and everybody came out of these woods. They came, their whole family came, the women and children, and everybody came. They came down and they had a big time. There was a lot of them. I was never in any of those fights. I never was in any fights at the fair that I ever can remember. I seen a couple but I never was in any of them, not to my memory, I wasnt.They had the swings, the tubs they called them. It was a little thing kind of like a miniature bathtub that you sat down in or something. And the ferriswheel and that was about it. In the old days, it was about the only rides they had. Then they came along with newer ones and better ones as time went on, til they got up to what theyve got today. The tubs were just basically on an arm and it went up and down and around and around. It was about two of them on each arm. There was about six arms on this thing. The whole thing turned around. It went around in a big circle. Then the little tubs on the end of the arms went.
The first car that I ever owned was an old Buick, and I never got it out of the yard. I never could get it started. I never could get the thing to work, it was a piece of junk. Then I bought a fifty-five Pontiac that could run. I paid, I think two hundred dollars or maybe two hundred and fifty dollars for it. It ran great. It was an old big black thing, look My favorite car of all the cars Ive ever owned was a little fifty-eight Volkeswagen. A nineteen fifty-eight Volkeswagen. It had little itty-bitty lights in it, tail lights in it. It had a little bitty back window, and a little thirty-two horse power engine. It didnt have a heater, the heater didnt work in it. In my day, I soon learned as I started along with a nice little car. With a nice car comes girls. As you get older in life, about twenties you realize that girls and wheels go together. If youre not driving in the neighborhood I lived in, at twenty years old youre socially dead.Throughout my life I dont think that there was just one single person that had an impact on my life. I dont think that there was just one. There was a lot of people that I came in contactwith. There was one rule that one of my teachers taught me that I remember. This old guy taught me this. He taught school, Clark Stowers. He taught me something. He said, You always remember this and live by it.. Youll do all right, he said. Youll be okay. He said, If a task is once began, do not leave it til its done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or dont do it at all. He said, Stick with that through out your life and you'll do well. I think that President Kennedy was a good man. He was a politician of course. He was a politician, and all politicians are the same. You werent allowed to speak bad about your president back in them days. You shut up and listened. You were to be seen and not heard. When I was growing up and what I got out of Kennedy, cause see the TV wasnt like it is today, you didnt have all of this television, all of this radio and stuff. To listen to radio, and stuff was rare. To see TV was rare. Kennedy was killed about this time people started getting televisions in their house everywhere. The rich people had them, but you didnt talk about working class people. They just started buying little black and white TVs cause nobody had colored television except for the very wealthy. Anyway, but Kennedy seemed like he was, what we see abouthim. I heard that Kennedy had been shot when I was in the hallway of the old Wagner auditorium, when they converted it into a school room after the old school had burned down. It was while they were building the new school. I had just come up the steps on the left side and came into a classroom. Claude Stowers had an old radio in his hand, some kind of old radio. He was saying, Oh God, this is terrible! My God! With that radio, he said, be quiet and listen to this! He had this radio turned up as loud as it would go cause they didnt have these radios like boom boxes that we have today. A radio was a rare thing to have around. Somebody was doing the news. I dont remember who it was. It said that President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas Texas. People just couldnt believe it. It was just a shock to everybody. Everyone should read about President Johnsons life when the opportunity is up. That man was an old country boy from down in Texas, in the prairie. He was out there in West Texas. There aint nothing out there but cactus and old longhorn cow. Come out of that place and was a basic nobody. He ended up President of the Unites States, which was quite an accomplishment. He was a great old big gangly-legged, short ol country boy. He drank too much liquor sometimes. He just beat his way right on through politics and right into DC. I admired him for it. I think basically that JohnsonI had a couple of relatives that were cousins over fighting in the Vietnam War. I didnt believe in the Vietnam War. I would of never got drafted. If I had of gotten drafted, I would have went to war, I would have went through boot-camp, and I would have went off to fight. I dont know. I didnt believe in that war. I didnt believe in it then, and I dont believe in it today. I hate that we lost all them young men over there. I dont know til this day. Nobody cares.I remember Nixon, and I liked Nixon. I voted for Nixon, and I would vote for him again tomorrow. He was alive and ran for president, Id vote for him again. He was a great president and a great man. I loved Richard Nixon, but I didnt care much for his wife, Pat. She was a closet drunk and a drug attic. I thought the world of Richard Nixon. I voted for him. I know a lot of Republicans that voted for him, and lie today and tell you they didnt. Theyre liars, they did vote for him. Theyre crazy. He was one of the best presidents we ever had. He didnt do anything any other president didnt do. He just got caught. He was hanging out with a bunch of flunkies that didnt know what they were doing. If they knew what they were doing, he never wouldnt have. In my opinion, America has lost its way. Its lost its way morally. The country is going to hell in a hand basket morally. Im not sure militantly. Were at the point militantly to where we got weapons that can explode the planet. They are dangerous, terrible weapons. Weapons that can wipe the population, the human race, and everything else on earth off. Youve always got to remember when you kill off the human race, everything else is going to die with us. What kills us, kills birds, snakes, dogs, rats, everything. Weve got out foot soldiers and stuff like that. Were getting less of them, and more and more weapons. Were getting into a high tech situation, and I think the wars are going to be fought differently. I think that tiresome is going to be one of the main things of war. I think there will be more civilians killed than soldiers in wars to come, through tiresome. I believe it wont be long. I dont think well have to worry aboutit.Ive been all over the Unites States, yet never been all over the world. I have no desire to see too much of the world. I would always like to leave, and go to a few places I havent been. Ive lived, Ive met people, and done stuff all over this country around here. Ive done just about all of it. Ive got a few other places I want to go. I have never seen any place I wouldrather live than Bland. The main advice Id give to the young people of today is honesty and hard work. Thats it. If you dont go that route, with honesty and hard work, you might make money, you might come up with all kinds of wealth and money, but your peace of mind and your self-respect will be gone. Youll have the money. You may end up with alcoholism, drug addiction, and maybe suicide, cause these things will eat at you. These things will eat away at you. You will always look back, and now this stuff dont seem to matter much in your youth. That self-respect and stuff in your youth is something that you dont care about, but when you get older, itll become more of a treasure. When you get older, you start to look back. You think about things. You might have done this differently.Sometimes my life was quite a party. It was quite a trip, a journey. Its been quite a journey this far. Ive enjoyed it. Ive lived a good life, a darn good life. Ive had fifty years to put it all on tape, but itd take fifty years to put it all on tape.The worst of times in my life would probably have to be the too much drinking. Too much drinking, Id say. I had problems with alcohol in life. Ive had a few mere health problems, but thats just okay. The biggest health problems Ive had in life would be the too much alcohol. Id steer clear of alcohol if you want to have much of a future. Youd better stay the hell away from that stuff. That stuff is a bad brew. That stuff will ruin you. Itll destroy your life. Its destroyed people everyday, by the tens and thousands. Everyday its ruining people everyday.
My life has just been good. Its been great. I wouldnt change anything. I would change anything about it. Everything is fine like it is. I feel good today. Im glad to be here. Im glad that I got to do this interview. This has been great, and Im glad to do it. Thank you for coming down and picking me. Thanks for choosing me. Thats nice that you did that.