Uncle Charley Forman owned the “Hardwood Lumber Company” that included a one-man sawmill. He and Aunt Julie (sister to my Grandmother Boggs) ran the Post Office/Country Store. They raised seven daughters in their two-story, white house. They were the only family in the area that had a two story house and indoor plumbing. By our standards, they were very rich—but we didn’t know that we were so poor because we were better off than most everybody else on Porters Creek.
Pete Hall’s house overlooked Peckfield. It was sheltered on the side of the hill away from the wind. On a rainy day, when I could not hoe corn, I liked to watch him work in his blacksmith shop. Onetime, our cow got into the orchard and foundered on green apples. She bloated so badly that she could hardly breathe. We called on Uncle Pete, and he dosed her with Epson salts. She expelled the contents of her digestive system in a violent eruption from her backside, and she was soon standing and acting normal.
Mr. Shoun and, later, French Cogar managed the United Fuel Gas Company’s Porter Station. Uncle Hence Estep (who was also the pastor of our community church that was housed in the Porter School building) was an employee at the Porter Station. Sometimes, Fred Cogar (another employee) rode his horse by our house on his way to work. Pete Hall, who was married to Aunt Rosa (Grandpa McCune’s sister), had a blacksmith shop; and he served as the animal doctor when we had a sick cow. He also castrated our pigs and helped us butcher hogs
The major portion of the local residents was Schoolcrafts and Boggses. Tob and Ollie raised eight children in their two-room shack, and my parents raised eleven children in our two-bedroom bungalow. Dad worked for the Hope natural Gas Company at the Cornwell Station, and Tob Schoolcraft worked on the B & O Railroad maintenance crew. The rest of the Schoolcrafts (Adam, Ward, Tip, and Charles) worked in timber for Uncle Charlie. We were related to almost everyone on the creek, except the Schoolcrafts; and it’s possible that we had some remote relationship with Ollie Schoolcraft (Tob’s wife) because her maiden name was Clendenin, a name far back in our (Boggs) family history. Also, Gladys (Ward’s wife was a Nichols, daughter of Andy Nichols) was distantly related to my mother. Between the ages of six and nine years old, I spent most of my free time with the Schoolcrafts. (At age nine, I learned to hoe corn and then spent almost every hour with Norris.) They lived next door to us, across the creek. Tob and Ollie had eight Children: Red, Don, Maxine, Curt, Betty, Cheryl, Gay and Jean. I use to go fishing with Red and Don. Somebody told me that the Schoolcrafts were an Indian tribe, and I remember that “Tip”, Tob’s father, had eyelids of the Mongolian type. He must have had a lot of Indian blood.
Tip was a very interesting character. When he was over 70, he still lived in an old shack around the bend and took care of his mentally challenged son, Charles. Tip wouldn’t take any kind of welfare, and he considered Social Security to be a handout. He was entitled to it; but, because he hadn’t paid into it, he considered it a handout. At the advanced age of 72, he still worked in the timber for the standard wages of $2 per day. He was adamant that when it “came his time”, he wouldn’t go to a hospital. He didn’t want any doctors to cut on him. He wanted to “die in one piece.” Tob had a good job, and he was the most respectable of his family. He was the focal point of an extended family that included his brother Adam (a WWII veteran), who married Ollie’s sister Ida, Ward (who was very independent and never came around Tob’s place and didn’t seem to associate with the rest of his family), Charles (who lived with his dad, Ethel (I think, the youngest, who was at Tob’s house very often), and Edith, Bud Rucker’s wife); as well as Ollie’s brother Dewey Clendenin and sister ?.
Dewey was a bachelor and he lived with Tob and Ollie for a long time (during the depression). Dewey appeared very old (for his age). He walked with a staggered gate; but I often saw him walking the footbridge across the creek (about 100 yards from our house), carrying a burlap sack of coal on his shoulder. I got my mouth washed out with soap many times for repeating some of the words that I learned “behind the barn” from them, but their knowledge of nature was equivalent to that of the American Indians. They knew how to “gig” (spear) frogs, how to set a “trout line” across the river and bait it with dough balls to catch catfish and carp, how to set a “dead fall” to catch mink, how to tan a hide, and how to harvest ginseng. (That’s just a few examples of their skills.) They also cut their own firewood, and they sometimes dug coal out of abandoned “dog holes”. They could smell a Copperhead from 100 ft. away. (They said that the Copperhead smells like cucumbers; but I never smelled one.) I use to go fishing with Red and Don. They set a trout line across Elk River and baited it with dough balls. They caught lots of catfish on that kind of bait.
The Schoolcraft boys always had a car. One time I was out at night with Don and his lights went out. He got out of the car and put a penny in the fuse box. Another time, when he ran out of gas, he drained about a pint from the bottom of the tank. He put a little hose into the bottle and fed the gas directly into the carburetor. That was enough to get us home. “Red” (Aaron) was the oldest of the Schoolcraft boys, and he was very crafty. I’m sure that he had a very high IQ. Once, he tried to explain to me how an oscilloscope instrument worked, and he said that we would soon have television sets to replace radios. He was at least six or eight years older than I, and he left home as soon as he was old enough to be on his own. Ollie didn’t hear from him for several years, and she worried a lot about him. When they finally got a letter from him, he was in the Navy. By that time, Don had also joined the Navy, and Ollie proudly displayed a two star banner in their window. I think that Red and Don made a career of it and that both took “enlisted man’s retirement” after 20 years of service. I hear that Red died as a highway pedestrian statistic at a relatively young age.
One time Norris and I were playing “follow the leader” with Red and Don Schoolcraft. We were sliding down the hill, and we went under a hemlock tree. Red went first, followed by Don; then Norris and me. As I slid under a lower limb of the hemlock tree, some flying insects attacked me. I thought they were hornets. Now, Norris tells me that they were yellow jackets. That explains some incongruities. First, I don’t remember seeing a hornet nest. Two, I don’t remember ever seeing a hornet nest that close to ground. Three, I do not remember ever seeing a hornet nest in a hemlock tree. But the story I wrote about it a few years ago, before Norris clarified these issues for me still makes sense to me. Number one: I was wearing my long Johns. Number two: I did get about 40 stings. It was a very frightening event for me.
Saved by my Long Johns:
I have always found --
That when hornets build their nests close to the ground,
There will be a mild winter without much snow.
But it often takes a hard blow to show
What we don't know.
And that blow often comes as a great surprise –
Hits you right between the eyes.
That's what happened to me, one warm day,
When we went up the hill to play.
We were coming back down,
Sliding on the ground.
We all slid under a hemlock tree.
There were three boys in front of me.
Someone stirred up a hornets nest.
Disturbed the inhabitants from their autumn rest.
(We were having an Indian summer,
and those hornets were in mild slumber.)
There was a loud buzzing sound,
And hornets flew round and round.
One hit me squarely between the eyes.
Others tried stinging through three plies.
Covered me from head to toe.
How many hornets, I don't know?
But my long Johns got in the way,
Saved me for another day.
It was a lucky thing that Mother did not know
That we would have such mild weather.
She had already sewed me in for the winter.
Most of what I knew about sex, I learned from Don and Red. Donald was a lady’s man. Of course, it helped that he had a car. My parents warned me about girls. We were afraid of getting a baby laid on us. There was also the problem of social diseases. In those days there was no penicillin. It is my understanding that, for gonorrhea, they use some kind of salve and it eventually went away. But after a number of recurrences, it was untreatable. I got the impression that once you had it, you could be a carrier from then on. I heard about a lady who was blind because her mother had gonorrhea when she was born and the infection got into her eyes.
One afternoon we were playing in our front yard when Curt became irritated by one of my sisters. He scolded her with a loud, “Twin!” (He couldn’t tell them apart.) as he slapped her. To retain my honor as a protector of my younger sister, of course, I had to retaliate. Curt took one glance and me and started running towards his home. By the time he got past our gate into the middle of the road, I caught up with him and started to wrestle him to the ground. He picked up a rock about the size of a baseball and smacked me across the bridge of the nose with it. My nose started dripping blood. I was used to having nosebleeds, and it didn’t panic me; so I held him down and bled into his face. Ollie saw the scene from across the creek, and she nearly panicked. She yelled, “He’s killing my boy!” “He’s killing my boy!” I hadn’t touched a hair on Curt’s head. That’s the only time in my life that I ever had a physical confrontation when the other guy went home bloody.
I remember helping Curt carry coal in burlap "coffee sacks" from Ad Holler. We crawled into an abandoned coal mine to dig out the coal with picks. Also, we sometimes walked along the railroad to pick up coal that was dropped from the rail cars when they went fast around a bend.
Sometimes we picked wild strawberries along the railroad track. Passengers threw their scraps off the train as they went by. The seeds sprouted and grew new vines. These were seedlings, and the berries were small; but they tasted very sweet, with a little tartness. (How I would like to bring back that taste.)
Neighbors: Uncle Charlie owned a house across the creek from Porter school near the railroad track. Ward and Gladys Schoolcraft and family (Daisy, Myrtle, Bertha, Thelma and Darrell) lived in it when Porter school was still in session. Thelma was badly burned while they lived there, and she was treated by the Shriner's Burn Center. They attended there before the county closed it. I believe that they had moved into Uncle Guy’s house so that Aunt Lula and her extended family could move into Uncle Charlie’s house.
Aunt Lula (Aunt Julie's twin sister) moved into that house (from Jacks Bend) after her husband, Burton Cook, died. Darlene and Keaton lived with her (I believe that Keaton was her grandson.) Her youngest son, Bobby, was in the Navy. In my second year of high school, Bobby got out of the navy and started school at Clay County High on the GI Bill. He would meet me at the foot of Porter creek and we walked together to our bus stop. I believe that Bobby Cook dropped out of school after one year. (I don’t remember him going for more than one year.)
We never locked our front door, but Dad was very vigilant that we lock the basement door (the back door). That’s because there were hungry people in the neighborhood who would slip into our storage areas (in our case, the basement) and steal food. We didn’t lock our chicken house, but the “chicken thieves” didn’t take enough of hens that we would miss them. We usually had about fifty hens, and we didn’t count them every day. They didn’t take enough that you would miss it unless you were keeping count. We kept up to 100 jars of canned foods, bins of apples and potatoes, etc. in our basement.
One time, I used Ole Frank to move some furniture for Blondie Cook. I piled the load onto a sled. It was summer and the ground was dry; so I should have used a wagon instead of a sled. However, we did not have a wagon. The load was really too heavy for Ole Frank. I had to rest him several times. When we got within 100 yards of Blondie’s house, Ole Frank bulked. He wouldn’t go any further. When I yelled at him or slapped him with the rope, he would lay back his ears and kick up his heals. He just would not go any further. After about a half-hour of trying to coax him to go the rest of the way, I finally had to unhitch him from the sled and carry the items the rest of the way. The mattress was the hardest thing for me to carry. I managed somehow to get the job done. Blondie moved into Uncle Guy’s house. Uncle Guy had already moved his family back to Charleston.
On April 7, 1946, my little sister Connie was born. She was number ten in our family. The others were Norris, Dallas, Dorothy and Dorcas, Wilda, Norma (deceased), Granvel, Douglas, and Earl. (Arthur was born on April 22, 1948.)
In 1946, the REA brought electricity to our home. That was one of the new deal projects initiated by FDR. Before that, we had natural gas in our home. Mother cooked with gas, and we heated our home with gas. We used gas mantels much like those used in Coleman Lanterns. When Dad built our house, he laid a line around the bend and hooked it was up with the United Fuel Gas Company line. Most of our neighbors burned wood or coal.
A Sign of the Times: One time, I went for a walk with my older brother and several of our friends of mixed company. We were about halfway up left hand, when the older ones paired off and disappeared. They left me with Bertie (one year older than me). She kept saying she wished she was with Charlie; he would give her a thrill. I only held hands with her. I was scared of girls. A windstorm came up, and it started getting dark. The trees were bending in the wind. Uncle Hence had been preaching that the signs of the times (Roosevelt was the Antichrist and the NRA was the mark of the beast) showed that the end of the world was near. I thought the world was coming to an end; and I wanted to be home with Mother at the end of times. I took off runnin’; and Bertie couldn’t keep up with me. As we passed the Schoolcraft house, Ollie saw us. She later told Mother that she saw Bertie chasin’ me and (pointing toward our house) told her, “He went that-a-way.” She thought we were havin’ a Sadie Hawkins Day race.