The Times They Have Changed 

Ralph Clark,Wayne Clark and Ed Sarver talk about the Pinch Creek and Hollybrook area to their nephew,Daniel Clark.('95)


Ralph: And it's all gone I mean the cutting down of timber has destroyed a lot of the water here in the county. Seriously, like, I mean, you know, you get up in the morning and milk 10 or 12 cows, clean the barn, get ready to go to school, and then when you came home in the afternoon it was get rid of the school clothes and go out and go to work and putting up hay and I mean, Bland County was just a poor county. I mean you had, well, most of the people, like I said, went out of the county over to Bluefield and worked at Silers, Siler Lumber Company, Hardwood Lumber Company and then what didn't do that ended up in the coal fields, working in the coal mines or hauling coal and stuff like that, and cutting timbers. It was just brutal work.

Daniel: What were you all into, like what did you all do?

Ralph: Well I mean, from the time I was old enough, when I was 15 years old, hell, I went to driving a truck hauling logs and cutting props and hauling them to the mines and stuff like that. Anyway that you could support a family, I mean, everybody had to work and that was it, you didn't have no spare time and in the summer time, you put up hay, you hoed corn, and cut corn, shuck wheat, and you know, there was nothing easy about it, I'll put it that way, there was nothing easy about Bland County. God, people today, Jesus Christ, I mean they've got it made, it is different as day and night.


Uncle Ed: The real fun time was Halloween.

Ralph: That's the truth!

Uncle Ed: You didn't get nothing for Christmas. Halloween we go out, down the roads and cut trees down across the roads and block school buses and turn over peoples' outside johns.

Ralph: That was the fun time, that really was the fun time.

Uncle Ed: You didn't get nothing for Christmas.

Ralph: Christmas time, shoot, if you got a toy, you were a lucky son of a gun, I mean, I can't remember it, but Mom had pictures of it, of a little red wagon, I think Dad paid 5 bucks for it and it was loaded up with groceries, you know, the money bought a lot, but there weren't none of it. That was just it.

Hard Times

Uncle Ed: Back in them days, they weren't no money, very few dollars ever exchanged hands.

Ralph: That's right!

Uncle Ed: You growed your corn, you growed your wheat for your flour, you, uh, to get corn meal and you take for example, you'd take two to three bushel, the man would grind you two and he'd take a bushel.

Ralph: He'd take a bushel, right.

Uncle Ed: When it came time to thrash your wheat. . .

Ralph: Shauffer, wouldn't it, that came by?

Uncle Ed: Or whatever it was. . .

Ralph: Shauffer, I think he was the one that had the thrash machine and what he did was he'd go from farm to farm and everybody just follow along with the sucker, and he'd thrash say Dad's wheat and everybody help thrash his and then they'd move on up to say Ed's wheat, Ed Williams, and they'd thrash his and they maybe go on to Jim's and they thrash his.

Uncle Ed: But what they'd charged you, he would charge for x number of bushels of wheat he would thrash, he would take one. He didn't take no money, you'd give him a bushel of wheat and he'd thrash you two or three, or whatever, you know, that's just an example of what happen. I mean, buying a little salt and pepper and sugar, what groceries you bought, you raised your own and then some.

Ralph: Well, Mom would keep out one ham, we'd kill, we usually kill five or six hogs, and they'd keep out one ham for Christmas and the balance of it, Dad would take over to Sisson Brother's in Bluefield and would trade it for sugar and flour a lot of times and we didn't go buy no twenty-five pound bag of flour, you went and bought 500 pound of flour and stacked it up, I mean, so it had to last you all winter.

Uncle Ed: Beans, brown beans, you didn't buy no five or ten pound bag of beans. . .

Ralph: Oh, no.

Uncle Ed: You bought a 50 pound sack of beans.

Ralph: Yeah, you bought a 50 pound sack of beans. You didn't go to the store and buy a two pound bag of beans like you do today, you'd go to the store and get a sack of beans.

Uncle Ed: The crap is so high now, the package cost more than the food that's in it cost.

Ralph: Oh Lord, God yeah, I mean, that's the truth, really, but I mean, well, by the time I was 15, why in the summer time if it wasn't working on the farm, you was cutting, you was using a cross cut saw, cutting timber, to haul to the mines. Ed, there, he started cutting timber, I guess, what 16 or 17, what somewhere in that neighborhood?

Uncle Ed: Oh, I was younger than that. I worked in the coal mines when I was 16 and was driving a coal truck.

Ralph: That's right, you lefted home way before I was old enough to even cut and went to driving a coal truck. Seriously, Bland County was hard work. People that came up, forties, my gosh, it was hard work.

Uncle Ed: Porchie Helvy was the only man I know in the county that had a tractor.

Ralph: I guess he was. . .

Uncle Ed: In Pinch Creek.

Ralph: Yeah, he was the only man that had a tractor that I can remember.

Daniel: You went to the coal mines?

Uncle Ed: I went to driving a truck, hauling strip coal, started courting down there and met my wife, and got married, and then got drafted and went into the service for 2 years. I came back out and the coal mines petered out and went to work at the brick yard for about 6 months and went on to the Northern Western Railway for 7 years, and that started to get kind of ify and that's when I went to Richmond to Reynold's Metals and worked for 31 years and then retired from that.

Daniel: Who did you work for in the coal mines?

Uncle Ed: Romano Brothers. They owned the company. We just hauled, Bernie, Ralph's dad, Ralph, myself, Emory, a whole bunch of us, went in there and drove trucks and hauled the stuff.

Ralph: I guess, well heck, I guess a heck of a lot of guys, the Williams, some of the Williams went down there and hauled coal for a while.

Uncle Ed: Charles Havens.

Ralph: Charles Havens, uh, Dewey Williams. Dewey hauled coal and that was about the only money around here, other than cutting timber.

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Uncle Ed: Then you all came back and started hauling manganese. . .

Ralph: Yeah.

Uncle Ed: I never came back here, after I went into the service, I never came back here.

Ralph: That's right, then I guess it was probably about '55, '56, something like that, then they started hauling, digging iron ore and iron ore business was pretty good there for, I guess about 3 years, I reckon, and we dug it, the iron ore up on Flat Top Mountain, back there, hauled it to a washer down here at Hollybrook and they washed it down there and separated the manganese from the rock and dirt and they hauled the manganese down to Newport, I believe it was the little town, and loaded it into rail cars down there and that brought quite a bit of money in, the coal fields went to the dogs and we had 4 trucks at the time and we didn't know what we was going to do, and I went down and seen Gordon Gusler and Gordon said, "I'll take all the trucks," and I said, "I can give you 2 tomorrow and I'll get 2 more ready," for they had different beds on them than what the coal trucks had. We hauled manganese there for quite a while. Then after that was over, I guess my next turn was, I went to Richmond for a while and worked for the Power Co. down there building power lines and then came back from Richmond and got drafted into the army. I stayed in the army for 3 years and then went back to Richmond and retired from Sears and that was it.

Daniel: When you work over manganese and coal, and stuff like that, what was the pay there?

Ralph: My God, we use to haul 8 ton I guess was what we held with big side boards on, hauled 8 ton of coal and you shovel it most of it in basements, for like $8 a ton and you was furnishing the damn truck and everything. You got about 8 bucks a ton for it.

Uncle Ed: When you was hauling tipple, just driving a truck, you didn't get but $1.50 a load.

Ralph: That's right!

Uncle Ed: I think it was $1.50 a load. If you made 8 trips, you was burning the wind.

Ralph: Well then, when we went to hauling manganese in '55 or '56, we got $33.33 a load and round trip it was probably 70, I'd say a good 70 mile and you had to burn the road up to make a 100 bucks. You'd haul 3 loads and you was there at daybreak to start loading and you finished up it was after dark. If you made 3 loads, you made $100 a truck, that's what they made, you made 3 trips, you made 100 bucks, of course, that was furnishing the truck and the whole nine yards.

Uncle Ed: I remember your dad bought his first truck from Porter Stafford, I think. . .

Ralph: Yeah.

Sawing Wood

Uncle Ed: Down at the saw mill, an old stub nose Ford and we could haul wood to Pearisburg and everywhere else for 24 dollars a load and Bernie got half 12 dollars, that's how he bought and paid for that truck and that's how he got started in the trucking business.

Ralph: In rough times, I've hauled it, wood to people's homes and got as little as 12 dollars a load for it.

Uncle Ed: That was slab wood.

Ralph: Slab wood from the sawmill and got 12 bucks a load for it.

Daniel: You all have a sawmill going?

Ralph: Yeah, Dad had the sawmill, he had the sawmill, well most of my working career there was a sawmill off and on. We had a sawmill down there below the house, it was down there, I don't know for 2 or 3 years and then we had a sawmill we put in down in Giles County. We cut the timber from Celenese Corp., and I guess that probably ended it, and the timber we cut down there a lot of it was so big that you couldn't cut it on a regular sawmill, we hauled it to Bluefield and sold it to Siler. I believe Siler Lumber Co. was a big mill over in Bluefield, a big band mill and we'd haul it over there, the logs we couldn't cut.

Uncle Ed: Me and Daryl, my brother-in-law, my wife's brother, came up here and cut props for Bernie. . .

Ralph: That's right.

Uncle Ed: with a cross cut saw and a axe for a penny a foot.

Ralph: Yeah, that's right.

Uncle Ed: That's what we got, one penny a foot. An 8 foot prop bought you 8 cents.

Ralph: God, Almighty, Darn! Well that's exactly right, I remember when you got a penny a foot to cut them son of a guns and you load the darn truck down, you'd load the bottom down say with 40 or 50 14 foot timbers and then to even out the load the top of it with 8 foot timbers and you had to have heck of a big load to get 50 or 55 bucks out of that sucker. You had to have a heck of a load. You go down there to the mines and say where do you want to unload at and you'd look up at the sky looking at the timber pile and he'd wanted them right up there! Then, I think it was Eisenhower that brought all those Hungarians over here and one of them got a job timber checking down there and that sucker for ungodly reason took a liken to me and usually if I was there early in the morning, he'd let me put my timbers in the cars going into the mines and from there it was pretty easy. But go down there in the mornings at Jenkinjones, or at some of those places, my God, you'd pick up a 14 foot prop, you'd carry this end and lay it down and come up and get this end and lay it down until you unloaded the truck. Bland County was serious work, so help me God, it was serious work. Blake Williams down here God. . .


Uncle Ed: You know where Aunt Minnie lives don't you?

Daniel: Uh um.

Uncle Ed: We use to have to come from her house all the way across over here to Dick Barry's and get the milk cows and drive them back across the hill over yonder, milk them, turn them back, go to school, get out and do the same thing in the evenings, after you done walked to Hollybrook School and back and have to come over here and get them daggone cows and find them in the woods and in the fields over here and drive them through, what do you call them?

Ralph: Cattle guards?

Uncle Ed: Two fences up there side by side, you run them through a chute, from this side and over to the other side down to the barn and milk them.

Ralph: I guess most of Bland County thrived off of what little farming you got and most of that like Ed said, most of that was for food and what little bit of money was made, was made from the timber business and that was all the money that was made.

Uncle Ed: Porchie Helvy was one that paid to help him put up hay for 5 cent an hour.

Ralph: Porchie would give 5 cent an hour to go down there and help him put up hay. He was probably the only man in the holler that had any money. 5 cents an hour.

Uncle Ed: But you could take a quarter and go down to the store and buy you a bag of bull durm or stud horse tobacco and a bag full of candy and Pepsi cola or something like that for a quarter. You know eggs are the only things that hasn't changed, I can remember years ago, you use to get a nickel for an egg and it ain't more than that now.

Ralph: That's true.

Uncle Ed: You'd get a nickel apiece for a egg. They took them to Bluefield and sold and peddle them over in Bluefield.

Trapping and Hunting

Ralph: Hell, we use to catch rabbits too.

Uncle Ed: We got 75 cents a piece for them, if they were gutted, Uncle Henry did and he'd take them to Bluefield.

Ralph: Take them down and sell them to Uncle Henry and he carry them to Bluefield and sell them.

Uncle Ed: There was more on fur, at that time, than anything.

Ralph: Yep.

Uncle Ed: I caught a mink down here the dog treed when we were possum hunting, treed in the bank down there. We dug it out thinking it was a possum or something and it was a daggone mink. We got $75 dollars out of that mink hide.


Ralph: You were rich man. . .

Uncle Ed: And the dog done chewed him up. Back then if you sold possum hide, pole cat hide, any kind of fur was high, before they started all these breeding farms and stuff.

Ralph: We use to kill squirrels and sell them for 15 or 20 cents apiece.

Daniel: Really?

Ralph: Yeah.

Uncle Ed: There was a bounty on crow.

Ralph: Crow! That's right, there was a bounty on crow for 25 cents.

Uncle Ed: You got 25 cent on crows head, take them to Bland Co. Court House up there.

Ralph: You cut that sucker, cut the top beak off and skin the top of his head and that part of it and the top beak and take it up to the Courthouse and I believe it was a quarter. . .

Uncle Ed: There's chicken hawks. . .

Ralph: Chicken hawks were 50 cents.

Uncle Ed: Yeah

Ralph: Chicken hawks were 50 cents and crows were a quarter, and you go out here with a .22 rifle and shoot yourself a damn crow and then you'd have enough money to go buy you a box of shells with. That's right. I forgot about that. Crow was 25 and chicken hawk was 50 cent.

Uncle Ed: They had a bounty on them. I mean chicken hawks use to be, I've seen chicken hawk come down and take hold of a full size chicken and fly off with that sucker.

Ralph: I guess probably the last one I can remember killing, Jerry Williams and I were down here, right down here at the gate, by Dick Barry's line, and there was one sitting on a tree on the other side of the ridge, but we didn't have anything but .22 rifles, and that sucker was watching us on this other side and we knowed we couldn't kill it so I told Jerry, "You watch the chicken hawk stay over here where he can see you and I'll crawl down and crawl around and get up under him and shoot the sucker," and I crawl down the holler and down around and shot that sucker and when I did, that b---h came out of the tree and popped off both legs right into my pants. We got half a buck out of that sucker.

Uncle Ed: 50 cents was a lot of money, especially kids.


Daniel: You went to Hollybrook School?

Ralph: I guess Hollybrook School. . .

Uncle Ed: We walked down there, there were no buses.

Ralph: I guess Holly brook was the only school for a while that you went to. Later on, you went to Hollybrook through the ninth. . .

Uncle Ed: And then to Bland. . .

Ralph: And then you went to Bland and that lasted a few years and then they switched over from Bland, when you graduated from Holly brook you went to Rocky Gap, but that was school there and if you went any farther you went up to Bland.

Daniel: How many grades did it take to finish?

Ralph: There was 12 grades.

Daniel: There was 12?

Ralph: Yeah. You had, I believe it was 9 at Hollybrook and you had to go, yeah you went 9 down there and then you had to go Rocky Gap or Bland.

Uncle Ed: Ole Harry Byrd was the principal down there, must've been a legend. Remember Harry Byrd?

Ralph: Yeah, he a big scar down his face like that, that sucker could go down a list of figures like this and when he come to the bottom, he told you what it was and he use to laugh and tell everybody that they opened up his head and put an adding machine in there. Yep, Ole Harry, then after he left there then Alice Mustard too over, she was the principal of the school down there and I guess she was the last one that I can remember down there, Alice Mustard.

Uncle Ed: We use to walk down side of the woods, went down by Porchie Helvy's field, didn't go across Berry Ridge.

Ralph: Yeah, we went around the cliff down there, down the creek and through the fields to the school house.

Uncle Ed: A lot of times we didn't make it, we'd stop and play hooky and go fishing.

Daniel: Did you ever get caught for that?

Uncle Ed: It didn't mean much back then. Back then your parents needed you for work and what school you got, for work then came first. People then had farms and that was your livelihood and that was what you lived off and that came first, school was second. You worked on the farm or whatever it was to make a living.

Ralph: They depended on you, I mean the family depended on. . .

Uncle Ed: I guess why they had big families, 'cause if they didn't, they couldn't make it, because the kids did the work.

Ralph: That's right, they'd say if we got 5 boys, we got 5 boys to work. That's just the way it was.

Daniel: Were there a lot of kids at the school?

Uncle Ed: The school wouldn't hold that many. Hollybrook wasn't but what?

Ralph: There were 2 rooms in the auditorium and the folding doors in that, there was a room off to the right, one, two, three, four or five rooms was all there was to it.

Uncle Ed: But you take then, all there was, were farms and they weren't but, Grandpa Williams had one, Bernie had one, Vance Blankenship had what you'd call a farm, and Porchie Helvy, there weren't but four in this whole holler and Uncle Jim had one, five small ones in this whole holler, that was all that lived in here from all the way down and now there's what 2 dozen homes down through there, there weren't but five houses in the whole holler, cling to Holly brook, once you past Porchie's, Porchie owned so much land, there was nothing till you got to Holly brook.

Ralph: You got down there where Henry bought and he bought that off at Hollybrook school there, I can't remember the guy's name that owned that farm in there, but Porchie and that guy right there owned the bulk of the farming land. I mean, the rest of them had little farms, like we had down here, I don't know. . .

Uncle Ed: Porchie didn't have no kids.

Ralph: No.

Uncle Ed: Shoot, I guess Bernie, you all the most, you all had 13 right? Everybody else had 3, 4, or 5, there wouldn't probably wasn't 40 or 50 kids that went to school.

Ralph: I doubt, seriously, if there was 50 kids when I started Hollybrook, I'd say probably 50 people down there. . .

Uncle Ed: Yeah.

Ralph: I mean, that was from the first through the tenth.

Uncle Ed: I doubt it, if it was that many.

Ralph: I doubt seriously too.

Daniel: Did you all get into any trouble at school?

Ralph: Pardon me?

Daniel: Did you all get into any trouble at school?

Ralph: Everybody played hooky and stuff like that every once in a while.

Uncle Ed: The worst problem I ever got into when I went to that school up there, when they built that little one room school up there at Holly brook, where Dad lived at Sam Hyton. . .

Ralph: Oh yeah, I know where you're talking about, yeah, I remember now.

Uncle Ed: One ole boy, me and Harvey Blankenship didn't like him, and he was always in trouble, so we went and made a paddle and drilled holes in and gave it to the teacher. The first thing we got into trouble and she wore our tail out with that sucker, I grabbed it away from her and threw the damn thing away, and she told my dad about it and he gave me another one.

Ralph: Back then a teacher busted your can, I've had mine busted. . .

Uncle Ed: That's what wrong with the system today, teachers back then would wear your tail out and if your dad found out about it, you'd usually would get another one when you got home. . .

Ralph: Then you'd got a bigger one when you got home, that's right.

Uncle Ed: I mean, they'd take a paddle or switch and put stripes on your tail.

Ralph: There was a boy down at Hollybrook. . .

Uncle Ed: They can call it what they want to, but it didn't hurt me any.

Ralph: Heck no, it didn't hurt anybody.

Uncle Ed: A lot more discipline than what they've got now.

Ralph: Yeah, and had more control too and that's the truth.

Uncle Ed: They had control, if you mess up, you just figured on the consequences.

Ralph: Yep, but there was a boy down there at Hollybrook, I can't think of what that boy's. . . Spangler and he was they'd called a blue baby and anyway the principal was Cassell, Cassell was down there for a while, I forgot about him, anyway they busted your can then, and they whipped this boy and course, I guess he bruised easy you know, and his mother came up there to the school house and like I said they had folding doors over here might be the 7th and 8th and over there the 9th and 10th and there were folding doors in between and when they wanted to have some kind of meeting or something they'd open up the doors and people had bored holes through the doors to look from one side to the other. She came in that school house and said, "If I were a man, I'd go through you like a doze of salz," for whipping that boy you know. His ole lady was teaching us, and there was probably 15 or 20 holes they'd bored through them doors and everybody was up and had an eyeball sticking through there looking trying to see what was going on and she was trying to make everybody sit down and everybody was standing up peeping through them holes. She said, "I'll go through you like a doze of salz."

Daniel: What, did they whip you for skipping and playing hooky and all that?

Ralph: Oh yeah, you're daggone right, you got your can busted, you better bet your sweet life, if you played hooky from school you got your tail busted if they found out about it. Like Ed said, then you got one when you got home. But that was probably the biggest thing in school, I mean, 2 or 3 guys decide they was going to lay out all day, and then, you didn't do nothing, you went down to the creek and fished something like that, because there was nothing else to do.

Daniel: Did you all have a lot of fights down there, what did they do about stuff like that?

Ralph: Busted your tail.

Uncle Ed: Most of them waited until they got out of school though.

Ralph: They'd argue and carry on and then after school was over why you might have one after school, I know I remember having one with Emory Burton and the teacher told me, that was when we were finally riding school buses then, and she told me this afternoon you've got to walk home, and wouldn't let me on the school bus and I had to walk home. I walked down to the foot of the hill from the school and Tyler Finley was the driver, Tyler stopped and picked me up and he laughed and said, "She didn't say I couldn't pick you up." He brought me on home. I mean, they'd keep you after school and tell you, you had to walk home.

Daniel: Who was your teacher?

Ralph: Like I said, Irene Faulkner probably taught the lower grades and then what the guy's name that I said had the adding machine in his head, Harry Byrd, he taught the upper grades and then Alice Mustard. . .

Uncle Ed: There was another man a slim tall, what was his name?

Ralph: I can't remember.

Uncle Ed: Was it Updike?

Ralph: Updike! Right! Right! Updike came down there and taught for a while too. That's right, I forgot about him, Garland Updike, he taught down there too. I know there was 2 or 3 of us guys out in the hall one day, just carrying on you know, hitting around on each other. He came up there and pulled his shirt back and said, "Hey, you boys are going to get a man into it in a minute." He never did say anything about it but, like I said, if you were caught fighting or something like that, they'd usually busted your tail and that was it. Like I said, every teacher had a paddle laying on the desk or either in a desk drawer. Yep! They had control of what was going on and I don't think it hurt anybody. I really don't think it hurt anybody.

Uncle Ed: Now you try to discipline kids, they want to stand up in court and sue you and everything else.

Ralph: You was going to school, school started in September and say September 15 was time to cut corn, you didn't go to school, you cut corn. And it was the same was in the spring of the year, I mean, if you were in school and say April and school was usually out in May, and come April, it was time to plant corn, I mean the day had come to plant corn, you plant corn and the same way with killing hogs, came time to kill hogs, you stayed home and killed hogs. Work was important then, very important, because the family depended on the young people to do the work, 'cause there was so much of it. Like I said, we was a big family and somebody had to feed them.

Daniel: Well, you graduated from Bland, didn't you Wayne?

Wayne: I quit in the 7th grade.

Daniel: You quit in the 7th grade.

More Work and More Fun

Wayne: Yep!

Daniel: What, did you go to work?

Wayne: I quit!

Daniel: You just quit. Well, you had to work when you were growing up didn't you?

Wayne: Yeah.

Daniel: What all did you do.

Wayne: I worked in the trash business and. . .

Ralph: Yeah, they had the trash business going.

Wayne: Loaded props, and worked at the sawmill.

Uncle Ed: Their daddy was into everything.

Wayne: Built houses.

Daniel: Sound like you all stayed busy.

Ralph: Tried to make a living, that was the number one priority really, just trying to make a living. That was the number one priority: try to make ends meet.

Uncle Ed: When the railroad started going down I got out of this country period.

Ralph: Like I said, there wasn't a half a dozen jobs around, the coal fields and that consisted of hauling timbers or working at the sawmill, some people did that and some worked in the coal fields and that was basically all the daggone work around here, until they opened up the iron ore and that lasted 2 or 3 years of hauling manganese.

Uncle Ed: Small shops around Bluefield.

Ralph: Yeah, you had a few shops around over there and then I did electrical work for the mines.

Uncle Ed: The main thing around here was timber for the mines and lumber. . .

Ralph: That's it, and tried to raise enough on the farm to eat. That was life!

Daniel: Well, what did you all do for fun, like hunt, fish?

Ralph: Everybody hunted and fished. Like Ed said, fun day was Halloween and I loved to hunt and loved to fish and I had me a little dog and we treed squirrels. You started squirrel hunting in September and then you started rabbit hunting on usually the day we killed hogs, you went rabbit hunting.

Uncle Ed: That was usually Thanksgiving.

Ralph: Yeah! That was right around Thanksgiving, we'd kill hogs that day and after we'd get the hogs killed and hung on the pole and then we'd take the dogs and go rabbit hunting.

Daniel: You all didn't have dinner for Thanksgiving or anything like that?

Uncle Ed: Heck no!

Ralph: You know, we had farm goods. We didn't have no turkey or nothing like that.

Uncle Ed: Like Christmas, we always went rabbit hunting on Christmas morning.

Ralph: Yeah, that's right, Christmas we went rabbit hunting.

Uncle Ed: If you had any kind of toy, you made it.

Ralph: Hell yeah! I've got a scar right there and right there where I was trying to whittle out a bulldozer.

Uncle Ed: We use to take boards and slope them off and carry water up on the side of the hill and freeze ice over it at night and get on that thing and ride off it. It's a wonder we all didn't get killed.

Ralph: People made do with a lot less than what they've got today. When it came down to stuff like that, when it came down to toys and stuff like that. I mean, you just didn't have it.

Daniel: You all didn't have radios or TVs or stuff like that?

Ralph: We had a radio, I'd go down to his brother's there, Riley's on Sunday afternoon and we listen to all the, they use to be a bunch of mysteries that came on, on Sunday nights and Riley and I would sat down there and listen to them, "The Squeeking Doors," and "The Shadow."

Uncle Ed: Bout all that you got to listen to during the week, you got to listen to the news and. . .

Ralph: Quite right.

Uncle Ed: or Morgan Beatey came on news at night and sometimes you got to listen to Sam Spade or something like that or maybe get to listen to the Lone Ranger, and that was it because it was battery operated. We didn't have no power.

Ralph: No, I can remember, I carried water for 10 cent a gallon to the guys that built the power line. I'd carry water to them and they would give me 10 cent a gallon for the water. I carried water to them up and down the holler and of course, they'd give me all the dynamite wire, all the caps had, what, 4 six foot wires on them, the dynamite, and they'd give me all that wire and of course, the kids at school made toys out of the dynamite wire and I'd take it to school and sell it for whatever I could get a penny or 2 pennys out of it.


Uncle Ed: Ninety percent of everybody made moonshine or sold it and we use to go along the roads and pick up empty whiskey bottles. They'd give us 5 cent for a pint bottle or 10 cents for a quart bottle to put their shine in. We used to make money like that.

Daniel: Was there a lot of moonshine business around here?

Ralph: The moonshine business was about gone when I came up, I can remember a couple, Mitch French had a still. . .

Uncle Ed: Elmer Myers. . .

Ralph: And Elmer Myers had a still. Good God, most of your big farmers had a still at one time or another or had something to do with one or knowed where one was at, including the deputy sheriff.

Daniel: So, they didn't really crack down on the stills around here?

Ralph: Oh yeah, well they did, but they were still around.

Uncle Ed: They couldn't, they could never catch anybody.

Ralph: They were still around, Mitch French had one up on the mountain and he'd get up there beside the still and pray and you could hear him all the way off the mountain and he was up there making liquor a praying keeping people from coming up there.

Uncle Ed: His wife was a real church woman. Sugar was rash then. They came over checking him and he took 100 pound sack of sugar and put it in bed with his wife, and said she was in there in bed sick. One time, he dumped out a load of mash on the side of the mountain and they was a flock of turkeys that got into it and got so drunked they just keeled over and she went down there and though something had happen to them and died and plucked their feathers out of every one of them and they were just stone drunk from eating that mash. She picked every one of them turkeys she thought they was dead, of course, they used feathers then to make pillows and mattresses. .

Old Sue

Ralph: Yeah, that's another thing . . .

Uncle Ed: Back then you didn't throw away anything but, the squeal of the hog.

Ralph: Yeah, that's right, and the same thing with a darn chicken, you saved the feathers.

Uncle Ed: And beef, cattle, when I was growing up, I didn't even know you could eat cow.

Ralph: Hell no, neither did I.

Uncle Ed: They didn't kill cows, they killed chicken and hogs, but if you had any steers, they went to market and sold them for money. I didn't eat a piece of beef until God, I don't know, I was probably 14 or 15 years old, didn't even know you could eat a cow. First cow, I ever seen killed, was the one your daddy sold to Palmer Carroll over yonder in Bluefield and they came over here and killed and skun it out down there by the apple tree.

Ralph: That was probably the first one I'd ever seen, and I remember another one, we had an old cow named Sue, and she watn't nothing but an old pet and the . . .

Uncle Ed: I remember her . . .

Ralph: And the old man killed her and every kid like to died, because he killed the cow and they didn't want to eat the damn thing.


Uncle Ed: I think the funniest thing . . . Remember Uncle Ed had bought that hound dog, and she killed a bob cat by herself and she was called Queenie.

Ralph: Ole Queenie, yeah.

Uncle Ed: We used to, like I said, come over here and get the cattle and drive them across and down to the barn over there and she would run along and grab at their heels and tails and stuff like that and that ole cow had her tail full of cockleburs and she run up and grab the cow by the tail and got them cockleburs hung up in her teeth with the hair and that cow went off the side of the hill over there and that dog was beating at the beat going yep, yep, yep, yep, yep yep, I thought she was going to be dead by the time she got to the bottom, but she finally swung her loose by the time she got to the creek, but that cow was sailing off that hill and that dog hanging right on her tail, she liked to beat that dog to death.

Ralph: Everybody had a favorite dog, Blake and them had Thunder, Ole Thunder was a rabbit dog. I had one, his name was Cricket and Ed Williams and them had Ole Queenie . . .

Uncle Ed: The closest I come to killing a man was over Ole Thunder, but I ain't going to go into that . . .

Ralph: Right! That's right! Him and I had one of them same problems too! He was going to shoot one of my dogs, but that was the thing man, hell, your dog . .

Uncle Ed: We went possum and pole cat hunting 3 or 4 times a night--we didn't care possum anything we got caught, cause if you catch one it was money.

Daniel: What about a coon?

Uncle Ed: Never fooled with any coon.

Ralph: You know coon . . .

Uncle Ed: I never got into it until his daddy got into it when he got Cricket.

Ralph: When I got Ole Cricket, and that was probably, I would say I was probably I was 16 or 17 years old and Ole Cricket was the first dog I'd knowed that would run a coon and I would take him in the daytime and rabbit hunt him and then Dad would give me hell because I would wear the dog out rabbit hunting and he'd want take him out coon hunting that night and that was it. I guess that was the first coon hunting that I ever got into really. There weren't no deer here in this country. There weren't no deer at all, no deer, no turkeys.

Daniel: Really, what did they do to bring them in?

Ralph: In somewhere in the 50's, last part of the 50's I guess or the middle of the 50's. If you hunted in this county you had to have a damage stamp. A damage stamp costed you a dollar. They collected the money up at Bland and what the money was originally stated for was to pay farmers for animal damage. I can't remember how much money was up there like three thousand or four thousand, I don't know. I know it was a lot of money back then. What we wanted to do was stock game here in the county and they told us if we formed a club and used the money to buy game with, that they would turn the money over to the people, and they sent to Yellowstone National Park, and bought deer and I believe the guy that hauled was B.C.Umbarger out of over there around Wytheville or Rural Retreat and they charged something like, uh, five or ten dollars extra if it was a buck to dehorn the buck and they hauled the deer in here. Then later on, the fire service, the first turkeys in here the fire service came in here and dumped them out by airplane.

Daniel: By airplane?

Ralph: By airplane, they dumped them out by airplane, and where them bitches hit, that's where they stayed. There was a bunch out down here on Rt. 100, and there was a great big old sycamore tree there, and every one of them congregated in that sycamore tree and the guys would go down there at night and shoot the damn things. That's how the turkeys got started.

Daniel: You all couldn't hunt the deer until they got up?

Ralph: If a man walked up through here, if a man walked up this holler and seen a deer track, he was so proud that he'd seen the sucker that he would cut it out in the mud and take it home and show it to somebody. There was no deer here. I can remember the closest deer hunting around here was Bath County. Everybody went to Bath County and hunted deer in Bath County. Then the next county to open up would be either, I guess, it was Giles County was probably the next county to open for deer, and there's another county around Wytheville in Max Meadows in that area somewhere, over in there was a county to open up for deer. But Bland County didn't have no deer until the 50's.

Daniel: When was the best hunting, do you think?

Ralph: For deer?

Daniel: Yeah.

Ralph: Right today.

Daniel: Today?

Ralph: You've got more deer, rabbits, turkeys. . .

Daniel: Pheasants?

Ralph: No, turkeys, grouse, there was always bear in Bland County as long as I remember. Two of your big bear hunters was big Hulk Bowen and. . .


Uncle Ed: There use to be a pile of elk.

Ralph: Yeah, they caught elk one time and stocked Bland County with it.

Daniel: Really?

Ralph: Yeah, Bland and Giles had elk in it, they was down here back in Dismal, they had one or two. . .

Uncle Ed: Oh what, up on Walker's Creek, Wolf Creek?

Ralph: Wolf Creek.

Uncle Ed: On them mountain farms.

Ralph: Back in there, they had elk that they brought in here and stocked. I don't know, they had 2 or 3 seasons before they finally killed them all out, because they took a disease and I believe they were eating snails and some kind of a worm that they got in their brain and finally they was just walking in a circle until they just died. The last one I seen was down here at White Gate and it looked like a 3 or 4 pointer and that sucker was standing out in the field walking around and around and some biologist from over at Radford at the college, I think they killed it and took it over there.

Uncle Ed: The last one I heard being killed, when they had a special season that costed you $50, a state trooper killed it in the road over at Dismal, that's the last one I heard of.

Ralph: But they died out too, the farmers killed a lot of them, Ramsey and them would kill them, because they would go into the corn field. I heard Shuelar tell me, they would go into his corn field after he had cut his corn and take their horn and stick into a shock or corn and just scatter just all over the world. They killed a lot of them because, I mean, hell, you depended on your farm and if they destroyed everything you had to eat, you didn't have nothing. Shuelar Ramsey and a bunch back in there killed a lot of them because they were destroying their farms. They did have elk, that's right.

Daniel: Where did they bring them from?

Ralph: They came from Yellowstone, I believe, they were brought in here from Yellowstone and put out, and I think Ole Staney might have done that. I don't know how they were brought in here, but I'm pretty sure they were trapped in Yellowstone and brought in here. I can remember Dad killing one, and we had an ole meat shed outside, and going out there and there was a humongous leg of meat hanging in. . .like Ed said, I never seen a beef hind quarter before, I mean, at the time, all the beef was sold to the market and they had that big hind quarter of elk out there and Mom would go out there and cut steaks off that elk and we'd eat it. Dad had killed that one and that's the only one I had seen. Now, I took pictures of 18 of them. They were coming out down there round the state farm. Cliff Burton went down through there one morning, and Cliff had a camera and I crawled up the line fence and took pictures of them up there in the field. I guess that was the last bunch of them other than that one that came out down there that died that kept walking around in circles, I'm sure he'd died and that's the last one of I'm sure of in this county.

Uncle Ed: Your dad killed three one time.

Ralph: Yeah, Dad killed three one time.

Uncle Ed: It was right at dusk dark and he seen them coming, and one jump through an opening or something and he'd pop at it, another jump through and he'd pop at it and another one would jump through and he'd pop at it, and he didn't think he had hit nothing, and he went over there and there was three of them down.


Ralph: Yep! Sure did! Ah yeah, that was the biggest enjoyment was hunting. Most everybody loved to hunt and fish and that was the biggest thing. Summer trout fishing, they had bake sales and everybody went trout fishing. That was a big day.

Uncle Ed: Bigger than the first day of hunting season. Nobody went to school on the first day of trout fishing.

Ralph: Yeah, cause trout season at that time use to open up on a certain day at 12:00 and it didn't necessary mean that it would be on Saturday, it might be Monday, it might be Tuesday, I don't know, something I'd say something like the 15th of April, regardless of what day that fell on, other than Sunday, that's the day trout season opened up. Like I said, everybody laid out that day, nobody went to school that day. Shady Grove Church up there on No Business, whatever the church of No Business, all the women would get out and cook and have bake sales and all that stuff. It was a big day, trout season was a big day.

Daniel: Was it stocked, or was it. . .?

Ralph: They would stock trout, well, they was stocking it then. Back then, you could go back to the head of the creek, like back here at Norfork, I've caught trout out of Norfork 13 inches long and you could go to Dean Branch, Dean Branch had native trout in it, No Business had native trout in it. The head of all these creeks before the water. . .

Daniel: Mire Branch?

Ralph: No, Mire Branch. . .these creeks over here were too hot and you had suckers now, oh Lord, you had white suckers that came up these creeks down here that was shoot, 4 or 5 pounds. Now you don't have a mud hole, but I think it was Ed's dad Grandpa Sarver, his birthday was sometime in April and I know one Sunday him and Uncle Henry was down there at the house and we down to the creeks and walked up the creeks to see if the white suckers had started running and we caught two and they were probably 2 feet long.

Daniel: Really?

Ralph: Out of the creek by Mom's house. . .

Daniel: Did you eat them or?. . .

Ralph: Oh yeah, they were good eating fish, yeah, they were good eating fish.

Uncle Ed: Hogs suckers weren't, they were full of bones, but the white suckers were good.

Daniel: That's about all there is now, is hog suckers.

Ralph: Yeah, we use to have white suckers come up in theses creeks, I mean, oh gosh, people took gigs and went down there at night, take .22 rifles, shoot them with .22 rifles and gig them and stuff like that.

Daniel: Well, how deep was the creek around here?

Ralph: That hole of water there, right there, in front of Mom's was up under your arms. There use to be a whole of water. . .

Uncle Ed: Right there in the field where the sawmill use to sit was called the swimming hole.

Ralph: Yeah, and there was a hole of water back here in Norfork, that we use to go back there and it was so deep and so long, that we took inner tubes and get in the inner tube and fish it. Now that's how far the water has gone down. So right there by Mom's house we use to dive in it and all down through the fields there was holes of water you could go in swimming in cause we use to go down there and put up hay.

Uncle Ed: I guess I dynamited them all out.

Daniel: Say what?

Ralph: Ed dynamited them all out.

Uncle Ed: I dynamited them all out. When I went over there and started working the coal fields, I use to get all the dynamite and stuff I wanted. There was an old place called well hole over there at Porchie's at one time. I tied a half stick on a rock, a stick I believe it was, brought that thing over a big hole of water, man, that thing went off, everything looked like I had done struck oil, the stuff went so high.

Ralph: That cliff right there is big as an oil well, I don't know, that thing has gotta be 50 feet and that went over the top of the cliff. That was fun!

Uncle Ed: Then me and my brother-in-law went over and dynamited the peach tree. . .

Ralph: Yeah, dynamited a peach tree!

Uncle Ed: That thing had roots that came way out into the water and the fish would go up under there and you couldn't get them out, so I told my brother, "We'll get 'em one day, I'll bring some dynamite over there." So I got me some dynamite, stick of dynamite or two, chunk them off back under that old peach tree and we backed off over there and touched that stuff off. My gosh, the limbs that fell out of the trees, it's a wonder it didn't kill us, looked like sardines floating down the creek in little pieces of fish. Gosh darn, that ole guy over there that owned that property must've been deafer than I am; he was plowing with a team of horses and never looked up and he wasn't but 75 yards from us.

Ralph: Kept on plowing!

Uncle Ed: He kept on plowing and the limbs were falling out of that tree that big around.

Ralph: Well actually, that's the kind of things people did for fun really. That was all the fun things to do, but it was good.

Uncle Ed: Good ole days!

Ralph: Was that!

Uncle Ed: Hard work.

Ralph: Yep!

Uncle Ed: But it was nothing to come this holler right here and jump a dozen or two grouse everywhere you went. The wild cats use to be in here up to your yin yang.

Ralph: Gosh yes. Come up through here. . .

Uncle Ed: With a kerosene lantern and them things would get up on the side of the hill and holler at them lights and squaw and carry on and raise cain and them ole dogs would run up under you between your legs and bristle off all scared to death.

Daniel: Was there a bounty on wild cats?

Uncle Ed: Nah, not that I knowed of.

Ralph: I didn't know of any bounty.

Uncle Ed: I don't know of any, well, I don't know of anybody that ever killed one up in here.

Ralph: Not that I know of. I really don't know of what happen to them, but like Ed said, you could come up through here at night with a lantern. . .

Uncle Ed: Well, they use to be thick down Dismal didn't they?. . .

Ralph: Yep!

Uncle Ed: Down there where you all use to haul manganese at.

Ralph: Yeah, manganese at, at the mine seat, you'd see them suckers run across the road and they'd probably be a day go by that you didn't see one. The mountains back here was full of them and they just disappeared and like I said, I don't know of anybody that killed one.

Daniel: They weren't hunted or nothing like that?

Ralph: You could come up here and go outside and build you a little fire and 15 minutes after you'd build it, you'd hear one screaming, but they just disappeared, I have no ideal of what happened to them, but, like I said, they use to be plenty of bobcats in here, but you don't see them no more.

Daniel: Well, what did you do for fun, Wayne?

Wayne: Broke out windows.

Daniel: On Halloween?

Wayne: No.

Uncle Ed: Anytime.

Wayne: Yeah, anytime, broke out windows, painted Cliff Burton's car, painted it red.

Daniel: You painted Cliff Burton's car?

Wayne: Yeah, it was jet black and I painted it red with a paint brush.

Daniel: Did you get into trouble for that? Didn't get caught?

Wayne: No, he just laughed.

Uncle Ed: Bill Faulkner, got him more than anybody. He was working somewhere, bought that '44 coup.

Stealing Roosters and Sucking Eggs

Ralph: Um hum.

Uncle Ed: We all didn't have nothing, we were all walking, we was all at Johnson's, I use to come to the church down there and he use to get the girls down there and go spinning out of the church yard down there with that thing and we tied a chain to it one time to a tree, he went spinning out of there and left the rear end sitting on the ground. Somebody dropped a bunch of cap blocks where the Berry Ridge started at through there one Halloween and around that curve here he come, he seen them blocks and he couldn't stop awhump, awhump, over top them cap blocks. We use to steal chickens every now and then. We go down there at what they called. . .the ole road that went across the Berry Ridge there. . .we use call that our ole stomping ground. . .we'd go to Bluefield stay over there until everything closed, then we'd come back down there and spend the night, build us up a big fire and spend the night there. A couple of us would sneak off to somebody's farm and snatch a couple of chickens and bring them back down there and put them over the fire and roast them and stuff like that.

Ralph: That was fun days, that was fun, yeah.

Uncle Ed: That ole rooster that I sold over. . .to what was his name?. . .I'll never forget that as long as I live, there was a guy that had a store over on No Business, on No Business wasn't it?. . .We walked across the ridge to No Business. . .

Ralph: No Business.

Uncle Ed: And I don't remember who stoled the rooster to start with, I took it over and sold to him, and he took it up and put it in his pen. Then about a week later we walked over there, walked in the pen got the rooster out, took it over there and sold it to him again, and the third time, he said, "Daggone, seem likes I've see the rooster somewhere before." We had done sold him the same rooster three times. Gosh, what was it, I can't think of that guy. . .

Ralph: God, I know who you're talking about. . .Radford?

Uncle Ed: No.

Ralph: No.

Uncle Ed: He was Farlow, I believe. . .Julius French.

Ralph: Julius French.

Uncle Ed: We use to steal eggs and take a needle and punch a hole in them, suck 'em out and then sale empty hulls. Back then, they had big ole egg crates, must

Ralph: I think it held 24 dozen, 12 dozen on one side and 12 dozen on the other side.

Uncle Ed: We was up at Tyler French's, he use to have 'em up there at the store, we used to have 'em in paper bags and he would watch us and count 'em as we stuck them down in the box. I don't know what people thought when they got 'em to Bluefield and broke them eggs open and there was nothing there but a hull.

Daniel: Papa Keen said he use to do that: poke a hole in it with a needle. He said he got a hold of some bad ones one time. . .

Uncle Ed: I guess that stopped him from sucking eggs.

Ralph: I remember sucking eggs! Yep! That was it! A lot of hard work in Bland County!

Daniel: What, did you have a girlfriend here?

Ralph: Everybody had a girlfriend you know. I guess the first movie I went to was. . .

Uncle Ed: The trouble with a girlfriend was if you could get to her before somebody else. . .

The Movies

Ralph: Yeah, that's right! Who was it that had the theaters down at Hollybrook?

Wayne: Oh, Henry Sarver?

Ralph: No, no, Henry had the drive-in down at Pearisburg. Oh, lived up there on the hill. Anyway, he had a movie down there, it was upstairs over an old store, and I think it was for 15 cents you got to see the movie, if you could get your hands on 15 cents and everybody wanted to keep going, 'cause back then they had a movie and they had a serial, what they'd call a serial that went along with the movie, and they'd show you bits, like you'd see a bit today, maybe 5 minutes of it, and then it would be continued to the next movie. Of course, you wanted to go back to see the next movie cause you wanted to know what went on in the serial and Farlow, Farlow had the first movie down there.

Daniel: In Hollybrook?

Ralph: At Hollybrook, Farlow had the first movie down here at Hollybrook up over an ole store down there, use to be an old store down where Hollybrook School's at, go on pass the school on the left hand side down there just before you'd get to the creek upon that hill, use to be a great big old wooden building up there and he had the theater up there and he'd show movies over there on Friday and Saturday nights and like I said 15 cents you would get to see the movie and get a Coke and some popcorn and that was life, really!

Ghost Stories

Daniel: Was there any other places like that, like stores and what?

Ralph: Dad had a little store for a while and we ran a little store. Everybody congregated around little stores. Then we'd walk to Hollybrook over there, there was a little store, we'd go over there and everybody sit around Sheular Ramsey and them ole guys would tell all these old ghost tales. We'd sit around and listen to them tell ghost tales and then we'd be scared to walk home. Then, well, we use to walk all the way up to Pumpkin Center, what they'd called Pumpkin Center. We'd walk to Lodesca Blankenship had a little store up there, and we'd walk to Pumpkin Center and like I said, nobody had much money and we'd sit around and talk you know and everybody talked about hunting and fishing and whatever you know, and then you'd walk back home. It would be so dark, you couldn't even see your hand in front of your face. We didn't have no flashlights and you didn't have no lights, so you just had to huff it. That would be it. We'd walk up to Pumpkin Center on a Saturday night. Then she got a TV, I guess she's the first woman around here that got a television in the store . We'd all sit around and watch television, Friday night fights, and we go up there and watch the fights on TV. Those were the things you did. Nobody had a car. I guess I was probably 16 when I got the first car I ever owned. I think I gave 225 dollars for a '49 Ford. Then we'd go to Pearisburg then. Of course, I was working then, I was driving a truck 5 days a week. Drove the truck 5 days a week and then for a while there I ran the projectors at an outdoor movie down there and I'd go down on Wednesday night they'd show a movie and I'd go down there and run the projectors and then Friday night and Saturday night and I'd go down there and run the movie. That-a-way, I got a little money and got to see the movie free. Uncle Henry use to let my car in free and he'd laugh, I'd take everybody I could with me and fill the car up and everything else you see. He'd say, "When Ralph parks his car, you never know how many people is coming out of that sucker." They'd come out of the trunk and everywhere else. Like I said, there wasn't that much money and everybody wanted to go to the movies. We'd fill the car up and the back end up. He charged like, I think it was so much for a car, like 50 cents and we'd all head down to Pearisburg to the movie. That's good ole Bland County!

Daniel: Do you remember the first movie you went to see?

Ralph: Pardon me?

Daniel: Do you remember the first movie you ever went to see?

Ralph: Yeah! It was a western movie, uh something like Buck Jones or something like that. My Dad took me to see the first movie I'd ever seen. It was in Bluefield. We took a load of timbers to the mines and was coming back and we stopped in Bluefield and Dad said, "I'm going to take you to the movies," and we went to see the movie and the first time I ever went to see the movies it was over there. Of course, I was working then and that's the first one I can remember seeing, it was a western movie. But, Bland County, boy, as far as I know, everything went on around here was timber and farming.

Daniel: You all have a garden?

Ralph: Aw, everybody had a garden. Everybody had a big garden. That was your living. That was your livelihood. Your potatoes and things that you could can. I mean, we'd get out there and break beans for 5, 6, or 8 hours breaking beans and can them. Of course, we had a day or two before school started that Mom use to make blankets for the beds and she'd buy cotton and take the sacks that you bought your cow feed in was printed sacks. You'd take the sacks and spread them out and put cotton in between them and then sew stitches and stitch the two sacks together with the cotton in the middle and that's how you made your blankets for the winter. Bottom chairs, we use to bottom our own chairs, take a binder twine and when the bottom wore out in ole chair, you'd put a new bottom in it with binder twine. Take binder twine and make a new bottom for the chair, I've did that too.

Daniel: So you all make most of your own stuff?

Ralph: Yeah! You know, we had furniture, but nothing wore out, because you had to repair it. You didn't have the money to go out and buy it again. So if the bottom wore out in a chair, instead of throwing that sucker away, you made another bottom for it. Like Ed said, money was tough, very few people had any money. It was tough back then.

Kids Playing

Daniel: What kind of games did you play? Steve said something about a game you all use to play, Smokey the Bear or something?

Ralph: I can't remember it. We use to play Cowboys and Indians. You fed the cows the falter and shuck the corn off the falter and of course, you fed the falter and they'd eat the blades off it and then we'd take the corn stalks and play Indians and chase each other with corn stalks and throw corn stalks at each other. That was one of the games we played. Back then a lot of people made gravel shooters. Everybody made gravel shooters, you know, and shoot stuff with them. I have killed rabbits with them. Like I said, Dad had a sawmill and we'd take the old saw teeth and shoot with the gravel shooter and we'd kill rabbits with them and I've done that too. Everybody had to find a way of amusement to go along with the hard work, but hard work was the big thing.

Daniel: Who did you play with, being you were the first child and you didn't play with your brothers and sisters?

Ralph: To tell the honest to God's truth, I can't remember playing with anyone other than myself, cause there wasn't anybody else around. Well now, my younger uncle Emory, he was more. . .My grandmother passed away right after he was born, so he was at the house, so he was probably like my older brother. So him and I, you know, growed up together and he was like my brother because from as long as I can remember, Emory was at the house and of course, Ed, the guy that was just here, he lived there too. Ed lived at the house for a while, Riley lived at the house for awhile and because their mother passed away and Emory and I played more than anything else. We grew up together, cause we were like brothers and I guess somewhere along the line, I remember we got an ole a cap buster, a pistol, and we use to chase each other playing Cowboys and Indians with them, either corn stalks, shooting cap busters. We'd go out in the woods and find us a grapevine, play like you were Tarzan or something like that. The boys would get together and walk somewhere to a swimming hole and go in swimming. We use to walk from the house all the way to Norfork, like I said, the creeks back there were high and we'd go back there and go in swimming, because the water back there, at that time, I was probably 5'1/2" tall at least, and we'd go back there and a lot of the holes of water back there was over your head. We go in swimming back there, we'd walk back there and go in swimming and fish and stuff like that. And a girlfriend and she might live in Holly brook, she might live at the Narrows and well you walked down there to see her.

Walking and a Dead Man

Daniel: Huh?

Ralph: That's right! You didn't have no car, so you walked, you walked to go see her. Huckleberry's wife, I think, was from the Narrows and he walked from Pumpkin Center to Narrows to see his wife and he married her.

Daniel: And they were married?

Ralph: No, when he was dating her!

Daniel: Aw!

Ralph: He would walk from Pumpkin Center all the way to Narrows to see his girlfriend on the weekends!

Daniel: I don't know about all of that! But. . .

Ralph: I'm serious! That's facts! I'm serious as a heart attack! I mean, you know, you didn't have no automobile, so you walk to whoever you were going to see!

Daniel: And Papa used to walk. . .

Wayne: Walked from Virgil Myers to over. . .

Daniel: Wolf Creek?

Wayne: Wolf Creek. Go over there and get cornbread and milk and stuff, all the way over there. ..

Ralph: They walked across Wolf Creek Mountain. Grandpa and them lived on one side of the mountain and Wolf Creek was on the other. The Clarks settled through the Wilderness and up on the mountain there and also over one Wolf Creek side and they would walk across the mountain to visit each other on Sunday. There was a spring, I've been to the spring, Dad took me up there to it, there was a spring about two thirds of the way to Wolf Creek Mountain, and a lot of Sundays they would walk to that spring and meet there at that spring and Mom and Dad took me up there when I was a baby, just a baby, they walked up there to that spring on a Sunday and sit up there just to be doing something. Walked up there with me, when I was a baby and sit around that spring, and it was a spring in the side of the mountain and the prettiest white sand around that spring, it was the only one on that mountain like that. But anyway, they walked out up on the mountain. But that's the truth! Really! Well, I remember, a guy named Fascio, that lived in Pumpkin Center and he used to walk to Hollybrook, that's the first dead person I'd ever seen, that I mean, remember, OK, we use to go to Sunday School from here we'd go up to the church up there by Grandpa Clark's, and that guy use to walk from Pumpkin Center down to Hollybrook to date this girl and one Sunday morning, he was walking down there to see his girlfriend and some of the guys decided they were going to harass him, and they stopped the car, he walked, they had a car, they stopped the car and started harassing him and he shot one of them and killed him there on the road and shot another one and then he ran into the woods and I think he gave himself up 2 or 3 days later to Virgil Myers, came into Virgil Myers and gave hisself up. But that is the first person I can remember dead was that guy laying on the side of the road there. . .

Uncle Ed: Hotchclaw. . .

Ralph: Huh! James Hotchclaw, that's what his name was James Hotchclaw. That's who it was. But them boys from Hollybrook, he was going down there to date that girl and they would harass him. Anyway, I'll tell you another thing, were you here when that boy came in here from Kentucky and we went down there to the graveyard, put the sheets on and old flour sacks?

Uncle Ed: Come up the road there, and they hit me up the side of my head with a pop bottle, 'bout killed me! Swap the crap out of me with Pepsi cola bottle!

More Ghost Stories

Ralph: There was a graveyard down there on the hill below Ina's and he had to walk across there and he came in here, he stayed over on Kimberling. . .

Uncle Ed: Geez, we were just talking about him the other day, Tabors. . .

Ralph: Tabor

Uncle Ed: Tabor, he was kin to them.

Ralph: Yeah.

Uncle Ed: Gosh, what were their names?

Ralph: Gosh, I know who you're talking about. . .

Uncle Ed: I swear, I can't think of their names. . .

Ralph: But, he was kin to them and I think he was from Kentucky or somewhere else, well, anyway, he came in over there and walked over there to the store and he had to go by that graveyard. . .Ed and a bunch of them had them 25 pound flour sacks and sheets and they got down there in the graveyard and got behind the tombstones and when he came through down there. . . yeah. Old people believed in ghost, old people really believed in ghost! You could go down to Hollybrook, and Shular Ramsey and them people down there sit down there and tell you stuff about a woman walking through the mines up there where we use to get manganese at and they'd tell you could see where this woman walked through the mines in the dead of winter and you'd start tracking her and all of sudden the tracks would disappear. They'd tell about a man riding through Dismal on a white horse at dark after dark you could see that white horse going through Dismal. They use to tell us all that stuff and we get scared to death and then we'd have to walk home. You'd start across the Berry Ridge and it dark as heck and the trees on all sides of the road and you could imagine all kinds of stuff, man.

Uncle Ed: Yeah, they use to believe that stuff.

Ralph: They sure did! Why, I heard Grandma Clark talk about, uh. . .

Uncle Ed: When my dad was a-courting, when he crossed a last bridge at the curve there an old mail box. . .

Ralph: Yeah.

Uncle Ed: He was coming home one night from courting, he had a revolver, pistol, I don't know what it was, said there was two eyes looking at him. "Who is that?" (still didn't say nothing), "I'm telling whoever it is, I'm going to shoot!" (still didn't say nothing). He said he blasted 5 or 6 times with that pistol, eyes were still there and he hauled tail. It was that old fox fire on a stump, you know you use to see that ole fox fire. . .

Ralph: Yeah, right! Yep, fox fire.

Uncle Ed: Your dad was telling me one time he was courting and was walking down by Elmer Myers, and he had a big ole collie dog.

Ralph: Yeah, that's right, I remember that too!

Uncle Ed: He said it was blacker than a dungeon, he said you had to feel gravel to stay on the road, he said all at once something put his hands on his chest, he said, "My Lord!" He said come to find out is was Elmer's big ole collie dog, he was so scared he got the dog by the collar and took him on home with him.

Ralph: Ole Hub Blankenship, Hub came up there to the house, aw man, he was as white as that towel, scared to death, he was 'bout half kicked in the tail, you know, anyways, he was walking up the road and somebody's collie dog fell in behind him and he got up there at the house and he said, "Bernie, I swear to God, I don't know what it was, but it would run, and I'd run, it would stop, and I would stop." By the time he got to house, that sucker, he couldn't even breathe. He was scared to death, man! Old people, you know, would tell all kinds of ghosty stories, all kinds of stuff. Ole Shular was the world's worst, we'd sit over there and listen to them tell stuff and then we'd tried to get home and start across the Berry Ridge and then anything moved the faster you'd run, the lighter you got.

Uncle Ed: I don't know what it was back then, but it wasn't probably 10 cars or 5 cars on this road, Wilderness Road.

Ralph: I doubt seriously if there was 5 cars a day.

Uncle Ed: I can't remember if people taught that or not, but we could be walking to the store daytime or whatever, if you heard a car coming, man, we'd haul freight to the woods, jump off the banks, or run into the woods or something or another. I never did understand why. . .

Ralph: I never did understand why either. I've did the same thing.

Uncle Ed: I remember me and Jack a couple of us walked down to the store and bought a big ole watermelon and was going to bring it back home and eat it, we got to the Berry Ridge and we heard this car coming, we jumped the bank, he dropped the watermelon, that thing busted all to pieces. We sat there and ate leaves and watermelon and sticks and everything, we ate that thing up. But it was just something we did.

Ralph: You go over on the Berry Ridge and sat over there, Monday through Friday and you might never see a car and you might see one. Now on a Sunday afternoon it picked up a little bit but they built that road out of creek rock. That road through there was built out of creek rock, and when it was first put there. Then years later, when they came through and finally put a hard top through there, but they hauled creek rock out of the creeks and poured that road through the Wilderness with it. That's the way it was! Yeah, I've hear ole Huckleberry tell us, Ellis, he'd tell us about walking up there in Pumpkin Center all the way down to Narrows, that's where his wife was from and he'd walk down there at night to see her and then turn around and walk back home. That's before my time, but people use to start to Bluefield and they'd go through the Wilderness and they'd spend the night on the other side of East River Mountain, then they'd go into Bluefield and then sell their goods and come back to the foot of East River Mountain and spend the night and then they'd cross across the mountain and then come on home. It took 3 days to go to Bluefield. They'd take their goods from over here and Ellis. . .well, I don't know if Ellis ever held a steady job at any one time in his life, that I know of, he might have haul coal for somebody for a while or worked at the sawmill a little bit, but most of Huckleberry's life, he'd go buy a goose here, he'd go to the next farm and maybe buy a duck, and over here and maybe buy something else and traded it and that's all he did. He traded this and traded that and traded this and he'd go out from house to house. I know he laughed one day he was laughing about selling a load of wood, he asked this lady if she wanted to buy a load of wood, and she said, "No I just got a load," and he said, "Do you think your sister might want a load?" She said, " I don't have a sister." He said, "Do you think if you had one, she'd want a load of wood?" He was a card. They caught him down there one time. They had just put the scales up and he was driving a truck for Ward Wolfe and when they caught Huckleberry they asked him, they said, "Is your name Wolfe?" He said, "No, my name is Gorilla, Wolfe will be along in a minute!" Huckleberry was a card!

Daniel: Why did they call him Huckleberry?

Ralph: God only knows! I don't know. I really don't. He's been called Huckleberry all my life. How he got that nickname, I'll never know. That's what they called him, Huckleberry. But he was a bird. Henry, Ed's uncle, my great uncle, he use to do the same thing. He did a lot of peddling too! Him and Huckleberry were a lot in competition with each other, selling goods and stuff like that. Henry had sold this lady 2 loads of wood, anyway, uh, he dumped a load and was going back for another load. So Huckleberry drives up to the lady's house, you know, and starts talking to and finds out that Henry had already sold here a second load of wood and was gone to get it, so Huckleberry, some way come around and talked her into taking the load of wood, so he dumped the load of wood and she said, "I guess you know I paid Mr. Sarver for it already." he was trying to beat Henry out of a load of wood, and he got hooked out of a load of wood. I said, "What did Huckleberry do?" Huckleberry said, "I got into the truck and left!" Ole Huckleberry he was a bird! God, he drove that old International truck and there wasn't a spot on that truck that wasn't a rust bucket. Hauling wood. We use to go down to Rock Hill and get a load of peaches and bring 'em back here and sell them suckers.

Uncle Ed: I'd never got so tired of peaches in my life!

Ralph: Get on the back of the truck and holler, "Peaches for sale, peaches for sale," all through the back streets into town, Bluefield, down Narrows, Pearisburg, and do the same thing, go down there and get a load of watermelons and sell them suckers. Peaches for sale, yeah, peaches for sale.

Uncle Ed: They came in baskets too, you just loaded the truck up with loose peaches.

Daniel: Did they sell real good? Or. . .

Ralph: I guess, we made some money. . .I guess we bound to made some money on them. . .

Uncle Ed: We always got rid of all them.

Ralph: Yeah we did. Always sold them all. We never had any left. I know we use to drive them around for 2 or 3 days at a time, with a load of peaches.

Uncle Ed: Go down there and stay all night in the cab of that damn truck and get up the next day.

Ralph: Yep! I've done that too! We'd do that go down there and sell all day long, if you run out of time, you just pulled the truck off to the side of the road and crawl up in that son of a gun and go to sleep, next morning, start selling peaches again. That's right, sure did! Watermelons and peaches.

Daniel Clark class of 1995

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