CLAY COUNTY HIGH
I started high school in the fall of 1946. Norris was a senior that year. I was so shy that I walked into the classroom backwards. I almost missed the roll call because I was too shy to answer. The first year I went to Clay County High, Norris, Darlene Cook, and Maxine Schoolcraft walked with me. They were all seniors. Sometimes I would be late getting ready and I would have to run to catch up with them. That became a habit with me. The neighbors would joke about it. I could make the two and one-half miles to Cornwell, where we crossed the river to catch our bus, in about 20 minutes (?) sometimes. We rode to Clay, about 12 mi. from Cornwell; on bus number six, driven by Kenneth Sizemore. One time I missed the bus, and I hitchhiked to school. I caught a ride with a man who was in a hurry. He grumbled all the way about those winding roads from Spencer to Clendenin. He said that he wore out two tires on that road. Every time he took a curve, his tires squealed. That was the scariest ride I ever had. . Mrs. Burnside, Ben’s wife, saw me catch that ride, and she later told me she was concerned about my safety. (She rode the school bus from Cornwell to Dulls Creek School, where she was a teacher.)
A few times, I left home too late to catch my bus; so I stopped at the Porter depot, where I caught the train into Clay. I arrived at school about 20 minutes late when I took the train. It cost me twenty cents to ride the train from Porter to Clay.
Went to Clay County High,
Walked on many a railroad tie,
Had to catch the bus at seven-thirty,
And several times I was tardy.
Then I rode the train,
Got there just the same.
That cost me twenty cents,
Enough to buy 100 sugar mints.
Took Vo Ag,
So I would never have to beg.
“Learn to do by doing” was our motto.
Did good, but I still don’t deserve a halo.
I started high school in the fall of 1946. Norris was a senior that year. He was three years ahead of me because he scored so high on his achievement tests that he was allowed to skip the eighth grade and go directly into high school. During my first year at Clay County High, Norris, Darreline Cook, and Maxine Schoolcraft walked with me to the bus stop on Rt. 4 at Corton. They were all seniors. Sometimes I would be late getting ready and I would have to run to catch up with them. That became a habit with me. The neighbors would joke about it. I could sometimes make the two and one-half miles to Cornwell (where we crossed the river to catch our bus) in about 30 minutes. We rode to Clay (about 12 mi. from Cornwell) on bus number six, driven by Kenneth Sizemore. One time I missed the bus, and I hitchhiked to school. I caught a ride with a man who was in a hurry. He grumbled all the way about those winding roads from Spencer to Clendenin. He said that he wore out two tires on that road. Every time he took a curve, his tires squealed. That was the scariest ride I ever had.
In the spring of 1947, the year Norris graduated from high school, Dad bought a plow horse, or a draft horse, mostly Clydesdale—about two years old. We called him Frank. Norris gazed silently at Ole Frank. I think he hated to leave home because he liked Ole Frank.
Norris went to work for the Oil Well Supply Company. He moved to Charleston, on Huron Terrace, just off Piedmont Drive. I went there to stay overnight with him at every chance I got. I had to walk from the Greyhound Station on Summers Street through Fries Alley, a notorious red light section of town, often after dark. I felt entirely safe. At that time, we didn't have so much violent crime. I did a few invitations from some “ladies of the night”, but I ignored them. One evening I was walking past Lee Field (the football stadium) when a young black man called to me, “Hey, come here Buddy.” “Will you look at my ear?” It was too dark for me to see much except the blood. He had been in a fight, and someone used a straight edge razor on his ear.
When Norris was home, between the two of us, we ruled the roost as far as our other sibs were concerned. If they got into our space, we clobbered them. Norris claimed the bathroom (It was designated by that name even though it had no plumbing.) as his private domain while he was in high-school; and, after he left home, I took over; but when I tried to assert my rights with our sisters, I got clobbered. They ganged up on me! So that was the end of male dominance in our family.
Sometime before Norris left home; we fenced off most of the new ground and converted it to pasture. That left about an acre of new ground around the old house that Dad built for uncle Weldon and Aunt Ruby. The first year after Norris left, Ole Frank and I plowed that acre with a turn plow for the first time. The process was rather slow because we had to stop very frequently when we hit a root or stump. Because Ole Frank was slow, the plow didn’t jerk too hard. But those sudden stops were hard on Ole Frank. Ole Frank was a draft horse. He was not particularly fast. That was very suitable for me because I did not like to race through the rows; and, now, I didn’t have Norris there to push me. Now that I am thinking about it, I don’t know how I did most of the work by myself.
After Norris went away to work, I worked alone most the time, just Ole Frank and me and Bingo, our dog. Mother would send my sister’s to the field to bring me some lunch when I was working on the hill, next to the house that dad built for Uncle Weldon and Aunt Ruby.
Dad hired Van Hanshaw to mow the hay for us. I did not use the mowing machine. I did, however, use the rake. We borrowed the rake from Uncle Cornelius. One time, the wheel of the rake caught on a tree as I came around a curve in the road between Uncle Waitman’s field and our orchard. One of the arms on the rake hit a bush and splintered. Van Hanshaw noticed to break some time later, and he fixed it without saying a word to me about. We harvested the hay by loading it on a sled and hauling it down the hill to a place near the barn where we had built a platform for it with a pole sticking up through the middle. Two or three people pitched the hay onto the platform while I walked around the center pole tramping down the hay. I got hot and sweaty, and itched from the tiny scratches on my skin; and I sometimes got dizzy from running around the pole. That night, I had dreams about it. I trampled hay all night in my sleep. It wasn’t unusual for me to work all night in my dreams after a hard day in the field. But we had to make hay while the sun shined. Mother often said, “He’s working those boys too hard.” It was often said,” All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy.” I know that we did work hard in those days; but the kids that get ahead today also work hard, especially in sports. Are they dull boys?
Across the creek from our house, we owned twelve acres, and about ½ acre of that was in truck crops. That’s also where we had our brood-sows and our rabbits when I was in high-school. Some of that was also fenced off for our milk-cows, but the fences weren’t kept up after we turned our new-ground on the hill into pastureland. The piece of land at the Peck spring (about ½ acre) was another separate parcel. That’s where we kept our bees. We had about five hives of bees. We kept them across the creek against the hill facing our house, facing the morning sun. Dad always robbed the bees, and no one else in the family got near them. He used a face net to keep them from stinging, and he used a smoker to control them when he worked near the hive. But one time he got stung on the heel; and he had to walk on crutches for several days. It was an exciting time when the bees decided to swarm. We could tell that they were about ready to swarm when they started gathering up on their hives. That would last for several days. We would keep an eye on them. Then one day, we would hear a loud sound as they left their hives, swarming around the queen bee. We would get out some pots and pans and bang on them to make enough noise that the worker bees could not hear the queen. That caused them to land on something. Then we would get an empty hive and place it close to them. Then we would gently peck on the beehive to draw their attention to it. Eventually, the bees would settle into the hive. Then we would have a new colony of bees. We would get a new colony of bees about once a year.
About 1945, Dad got title to about thirty acres of hillside land connecting the hilltop farm to our bottomland property where our home sat.
Norris went to work for the Oil Well Supply Company. He moved to Charleston, on Huron Terrace, just off Piedmont Drive. I went there to stay overnight with him at every chance I got. I had to walk from the Greyhound Station on Summers Street through Fries Alley, a notorious red light section of town, often after dark. I had a few invitations from some “ladies of the night”, but I ignored them. One evening I was walking past Lee Field (the football stadium) when a young black man called to me, “Hey, come here Buddy.” “Will you look at my ear?” It was too dark for me to see much except the blood. He had been in a fight, and someone used a straight edge razor on his ear.
In 1947, the same year Norris graduated from high school, we got a new plow horse. He was mostly Clydesdale, a draft horse, and about two years old. We called him “Frank”. Norris gazed silently at Ole Frank. I think he hated to leave home because he liked Ole Frank.
Now that I am thinking about it, I don’t know how I did most of the work by myself. After Norris went away to work, I worked alone most the time, just Ole Frank and me and Bingo, our dog. Mother would send my sister’s to the field to bring me some lunch when I was working on the hill, next the older house that dad built for Uncle Weldon and Aunt Ruby.
We were all mad at Harry Truman in 1948. There was a lot of labor strife, and at one point, he nationalized the railroads and some other “essential industries”. That was not popular with either side. Some of the men jested that they were “working for Truman now.” Dad wasn’t very happy with him either. Just a few days before the election, I mentioned to Dad that I didn’t think Harry could win. Dad answered, “I don’t know about that.” Dewey got too cocky. Late in the campaign when he was a sure winner, he had made a very candid speech about labor – he showed his true sentiment – and that cost him the election. The labor vote was very powerful at that time.
When I enrolled in high school, I indicated that I wanted to pursue a college prep curriculum along with Vocational Agriculture. Mr. Taubert was my homeroom teacher. (I had four years of Vo-Ag classes under him.) I was so bashful that I almost got counted absent my first day in high school because I was afraid to answer the roll call; but I took public speaking classes with Mrs. Harris, and I entered the public speaking contest at our regional FFA (Future Farmers of America) meeting. Mrs. Harris and Aunt Icie Hope McCune stayed after school to help me practice (I stayed over-night with Aunt Icie and Uncle Pat.) my speech about soil conservation. I was awarded second place in the regional contest.
The Vo Ag and Shop building was about 30 yd. down the hill from the high school building. Between classes, we had to scramble to get from one building to the next. One time I was walking up the hill from the Vo Ag Building, when somebody threw a snowball at me. I threw one back at him and missed. A snowball went through a window in to the shop, and somebody behind me said, “You knocked out a window.” I pretended that I didn’t hear him. That afternoon when I went back to homeroom, someone asked Mr. Talbert if they found out who knocked out the window. He shook his head, “No”. I didn’t hear any more discussion about it. This is the first time that I have uttered a word about it. I don’t know whether someone covered up for me, or whether Mr. Talbert and Mr. King knew who did it. I was president of the FFA club and Vice President of the Hi Y (h.s. version of YMCA) at that time. That would have been quite a scandal if the whole school had discovered that I did it.
One of my FFA projects involved the purchase of a pair of Poland China pigs. I received two pure bred pigs from a member in Zanesville, Ohio. I agreed to return three pigs after one year. Dad built a modern brooder pen across the creek near the hillside. It was well ventilated and it had guardrails around the wall to prevent the sow from crushing her babies. That project came out very well. The female had six piglets her first litter. When they were old enough to wean, I returned the three that I promised to my FFA chapter; and we raised the other three and butchered them the next winter when they weighed about 250 pounds. Before that we had always raised OIC pigs. We had one that we called "Ole Israel". We named him for Israel, a young man who lived at the top of Camp Hill. His father was Sheridan Lee, a man known as a horse trader. The Lees were very quiet in the neighborhood. They looked after themselves, as they didn’t bother anybody. I didn’t know them very well. But they had been in Clay County for several generations. (I understand that both Mr. and Mrs. Lee lived to very old age.)
On April 20, 1950, I went to the principal’s office to register for the draft. Mr. Parker C. Black recorded my data. For an identification mark, he noted the scar on right chin. (I got that mark when Granvel was a newborn. Mother was still in bed. She was always prescribed ten days of bed rest with each child. I was carrying an empty lard pail on my way to Aunt Julie’s to get some buttermilk, and I stumbled and fell on the bucket. The metal lip, which anchored one end of the pail handle, cut open my chin. I went back home, and Mother rinsed it out with Mother’s milk--direct from the spigot).