Dallas E. Boggs, PhD

The future becomes more meaningful when the past is illuminated.   

                                                     MY STORY

 

I was born on April 20, 1932 in our country home  

on 

Porters Creek Road, Bomont), West Virginia 

-- the second child of Ira and Nellie (McCune) Boggs. My older brother, Norris, was born on July 11, 1930. Porter—best described as a village or a hamlet—was a whistle stop on the B & O Railroad. We had a post office(in a little country store), a one room school, a railway depot, a natural gas compressor station, and a saw-mill. (Population: about 45 or 50 within a two square mile area). The nearest town is Clendenin (about 12 miles), and our county seat is Clay (about 20 miles). Clendenin is on Elk River about 25 miles North of Charleston (The State Capitol), and Clay (the county seat of Clay County) is about 25 miles (via State Rt. 4) from Clendenin.

Our family, on both sides, derived from Scotch Irish Ancestors that arrived, in what is now Central West Virginia, in the 1750’s (prior to the American Revolution). They mixed—to some extent—with Native Americans, mostly Cherokees. On my mother’s side, we are Scotch Irish and Black Irish. “Black Irish” is also a moniker for Appalachian peoples of mixed race (European, Native American, Middle Eastern, and African American), often referred to as “Melungeons”. Mother’s maternal grandmother was a Deel, and her maternal great grandmother was a Gibson. (Both of these names are familiar in Melungeon family trees.) Her paternal grandmother was a Reed, whose father was said to be “full-blooded German”.

My mother said that her maternal grandfather, William Conley, came to see me when I was an infant; that he was 110 years old; that he was a veteran of the Civil War; and that he could jump and click his heels twice before landing. (Evidently, she mistook her grandfather for her great grandfather, who served in the Virginia Cavalry and died from war wounds in 1866.) My mother did not know that side of the family well. Grandma McCune disowned them because they “cussed, drank and gambled”. She did not want her children exposed to that.

My father was 13 years older than my mother. His late marriage is explained by his being “Shell Shocked” in World War I. He spent several years in and out of rehab after the war. (While in his 70’s, he wrote a book about the war and his life experiences.) For 35 years, he was employed full-time by the Hope Natural Gas Company at Corton, W.Va.; and he worked on our one-horse farm most of his free time. My mother was a full-time house-keeper and parent. She was 24 yrs. old (b. April 18, 1908) when I was born, and my father turned 37 that year (b. May 1, 1895).

I was born during the depths of the Great Depression, but I didn’t know that our country (or the World) was in such a Financial Crunch. Our father had a steady job throughout most of the depression; and we were much better off than most of our neighbors. How could I have ever thought our family was amongst the Poor?

OUR HOME

We lived in a two bedroom white bungalow with a full basement (816 sq.ft.), 

surrounded by steep Appalachian hills.

 The front faced a single lane dirt road at the foot of a steep hillside and rock cliff, and the back door faced a rippling creek (Porters Creek) with a little tributary that we called “Ad Hollow”. There were two bridges between our house and the school, which was about one mile below (as the creek flows) our house. The school, the post office, the United Fuel Gas Company compressor station, and the depot were all within a quarter mile of Elk River. Porter is a meandering creek that runs into a meandering river, which runs into the Kanawha, which empties into the Ohio, which empties into the Mississippi. Upstream from Bell, WV, the Kanawha is known as the “New River”. Contrary to its name, the New River is the second (to the Nile) oldest river in the world.

Porters Creek

Now, I might be meek; but I ain’t weak.
Cause I was born’n raised on Porters Creek.
Butted heads with many a sister and many a brother;
But we still love one another.
I often slept at the foot of the bed –
Two at the foot and three at the head -- on Porters Creek.

I ain’t no fool, 'cause I went to school -- on Porters Creek.
The teacher used a switch; but she seldom left a welt.
SHAME was mostly what I felt.
Mother said, “You’re still better’n that witch.”

Played “Cowboys ‘n Indians.”
The cowboys would nearly always win.
But, “What the heck!”
It was still politically correct, then.
Carved my initial on many a tree,
Stubbed my toe seven times in a row,
An’ got stung by many a bee -- on Porters Creek.

Hoed corn for two dollars a day.
Big brother thought I was very slow.
But I thought I had a hard row to hoe;
and we all got the same amount of pay.
Included free dinner, with all we could eat –
Plenty of beans an’ taters;
An’ lots of fried green t’maters –
Good home cookin’ that couldn’t be beat -- on Porters Creek.

There wasn’t any street crime.
(THERE WERE NO STREETS!)
An’ no-body did time.
(THERE WERE NO JAILS!)
But I had to dodge many a rock,
An’ still took many a knock -- on Porters Creek.

If I’d known then what I know now,
I might have stayed behind the plow.
'Cause the air is pure, the water runs clear,
the birds sing loud,
and the Rhododendron blooms proud--on Porters Creek.

Went to town every Saturday nite.
Watched th’ cowboys an’ Indians fight;
An’ then I walked back
By way of th’ railroad track.
Sometimes the wild cats rattled th’ leaves at night;
And I didn’t always have a light.
But Daddy said, “You don’t need to fear.
Bobcats don’t go hungry here -- on Porters Creek.”

Sunday was the LORD’S day;
And we weren’t allowed to work for pay.
The preacher prayed both loud an’ fast;
And we never knew how long th’ sermon wou’d last -- on Porters Creek.
Now Mother an’ Daddy, don’t despair!
When th’ roll is called, I’ll be there! -- on Porters Creek
                by Dallas E. Boggs

 
We had a hedge around the base of the house to hide the bare concrete of the basement walls (about 2½ to 3 feet off the ground). The foliage included white and pink hydrangeas, azaleas, and snowballs. Wisteria vines rested on trellises at the north corner of the front porch. Every spring, little house wrens built their nest in the vines under the eaves of the porch. The nest was just outside my bedroom window, and I loved to hear their sweet songs early in the morning. I would climb up and peek into their nest after they laid their eggs, observing them until the eggs hatched and the babies were born. (We were careful not to handle the baby birds because we were warned that ants would infest them if we left fingerprints on their bare skin.)

In the lower yard, we had a witch hazel tree with a flower bed around its base. Hollyhocks and Coxcombs were some of our favorite flowers. We also planted snapdragons, Sweet Williams, and petunias in that section of the lawn. Along the fence in the front yard, we had chrysanthemum, crocuses, gladiolus, dahlias, Easter lilies (daffodils), tulips and bleeding hearts (columbines). There were a few forsythia bushes along the fence in the lower yard. We had some more flower beds in the middle of the front yard. Marigolds, petunias, and zinnias were among our favorite annuals for those beds. Between the fence and the road, we had Bearded Irises (“wild flags”) and gladiolas.

Rhododendron grew naturally on the hillside across the road—facing the front entrance to our house. Some large tiger lilies came up every year along the rock wall at the back of our house, and there were some large lilac bushes, some hibiscus and some Rose of Sharon (“Dog Day Bushes”) along the fence in the back yard. Ground ivy grew wild on the borders of the back wall. It made a nice ground cover, and Mother often used it for medicinal purposes. It was supposed to be good for a “spring tonic” or for treatment of colds and flu. To find the way to the outhouse, you took the path most traveled. It was located next to the creek at the lower end of the garden above the house and near the walking bridge that went to the garden on the other side of the creek.

There were some elephant ear magnolia trees—we called them “cucumber trees”—in the lower yard. They had a large white flower in the early spring; and, when the pedals dropped off, the stamen became a large seedpod shaped like a cucumber. The leaves were very large, maybe a foot long and six inches wide, and they made very good shade tents for newly transplanted tomato plants. They were quite different from the magnolia trees we see in Tennessee. I understand that there are as many as three hundred different varieties of magnolia trees. (Ours were deciduous, and the most common ones in Tennessee are evergreen.) We had a clump of hemlock trees in the corner of the lower yard closest to the creek with a rope swing between two of these trees. When I was about four years old, I was swinging very high and fell out of the swing, knocking out two front teeth, leaving a gap for a few years—until my permanent tooth grew in. Mother waited for a good rain to soften the ground before pulling weeds from the flower beds—so that the flowers were not uprooted. The soil around our home was mostly sand (DeKalb), which was very good for rooting new cuttings; and Mother was an expert in starting new plants. Whenever she was visiting one of her relatives, friends, or neighbors, and saw a new rose bush, she often asked for a slip off that plant. She had several growing in different spots in our yard.

Facing the road, the front porch was fenced with white rail banisters. Concrete peers supported the floor of the porch, and concrete steps with concrete wings led from the porch down to a cement walkway extending to the road. A swinging seat hung on chains suspended from the ceiling. I don’t know how many times one of us got a knee stuck between the banisters. We were like the monkey that couldn’t get his hand out of the cookie jar because he couldn’t let loose of the cookies. All we had to do was to extend our leg so that the knee joint straitened to a smaller diameter so we could get our leg out in the reverse direction from which it went in; but sometimes our leg may have swollen so that they had to lubricate it with soap to slip back through the perpendicular rails. We never had to call the fire department to get us out (We didn’t have a fire department!), and we never had to cut the rails (banisters) to free a kid’s knee.

CHILDHOOD

Three months after I was born, a flood caused our concrete basement floor to crack, and it also washed out the backyard. (Flash floods were common in those days because people farmed the hillsides, causing quick runoff). Dad built a six-foot rock wall that is about one hundred yards long—all the way from the corn-crib and the upper end of our main garden to the lower corner of our yard. Uncle Pat McCune (Mother's brother) and some of our other relatives used levers and pulleys to pull huge rocks from the creek bed. They finished filling in the yarn and leveled it off with horse drawn scrapers and rollers. We experienced flash-floods almost annually---didn't have dams on the river (Elk)---and people cleared the hill-sides for their one-horse farming---and, when there was a "cloud-burst," the waters rushed off those hillsides like water off a horse's back.

When I was about eighteen months old (My father had a car, a coupe with a rumble seat at that time. I think it was a “Star Roadster”), we made a trip to Falls Church Virginia to visit Uncle Ray and Aunt Meriba. I think that I remember being delayed by flagmen at the rock quarry just above Uncle Guy’s house, where a steam shovel was being used to move huge stones that were being hewed into building blocks for walls holding up bridges, etc.

I don’t recall when we no longer had a car, but I do remember the Red Diamond T Truck that Dad used in the timber a few years before World War II. I remember the deep ruts in the roads where they were hauling logs out of the woods—and the slabs and boards they used to fill in some of the gulches in the log roads to keep the truck from getting stuck. We ordered most of the food, which was delivered once per month on a pickup truck. The monthly order consisted mostly of a sack each of pinto beans, sugar and flour, a gallon of Crisco, some salt and pepper, shredded coconut, a sack of chicken feed, meshed grains for the pigs, etc.

When I was two years old, Mother gave birth to identical twin girls—Dorothy May and Dorcas Fay. When Mother was expecting the twins (and she was very large!), Norris once provoked the need for Mother to give him a spanking, but he ran from her. When she started chasing him, he looked back over his shoulder and challenged her with, “Mummy, didn’t that docky tell you not to yun?”

The twins were born on September 6, 1934, and Wilda was born on June 23, 1936. Mother had a hired girl to help her most of the time when we were little. At one time, one of the Hall girls helped her, and Pauline Smith (our first cousin) stayed with us for a little while. Maude Burton lived with us for a few years.

When Norris grew out of his clothes, I got to wear them. One time I threw a temper tantrum because Norris got some new pants and I didn’t get any. I would have to accept his hand-me-downs. His old denims had a small tare in them, and I ripped them the rest of the way up the leg. I got a spanking, and I was so upset that I decided to leave home. I got as far as the corn-crib above the bend in the road. I wanted to go to Grandma McCune’s house (our second home), but I didn’t know the way (and it would have been a twenty-two mile walk). I stayed in the corn-crib (the pouting shed) for an hour or so, calmed down and went back to the house. Nobody missed me. I guess that Mother was just too busy to notice my absence—Dorothy and Dorcas (the twins) and Wilda were all wearing diapers.

One time Mother had told us to save some of the fried chicken for Daddy’s pail, but Norris and I ate all of it. So we decided to get more for Daddy. We went to the barn and got a big fat hen. Norris wielded an axe, and I put the chicken’s head on a block of wood. Just as the ax fell, the chicken moved its head. The ax missed and cut off the chicken’s beak, left it hanging. The chicken flopped and got away from me. It went into the bushes, but our dog Smitty flushed it out, and held it until we could get hold of it again to finish the job. (Oh! What a pity. Somebody poisoned my dog Smitty). Mother said that was her best layin’ hen. But it didn’t go to waste, and we didn’t have to get Aunt Julie to fix his pail. Besides, those biscuits that Aunt Julie fixed were just big enough for one bite.

The first snowfall was an exciting event. From our cozy bunker, we watched the snowflakes tumble to the ground, spinning like feathers, as we sang: “The old gray mare, she’s losing her feathers. The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be—many long years ago. The old gray mare, she broke down the singletree—many long years ago.” We usually went barefooted, when the weather permitted; and when Uncle Pat brought his city-slicker sweetheart to meet us, we stood behind the couch or a chair to hide our dirty feet. (Our feet grew so much during the summer that we had to get new shoes for start of school in the fall.)

Decorating the Christmas tree, cut from the top of a small hemlock tree in the adjoining woods, was one of our most pleasurable seasonal activities. We made chains with colored paper that was cut into strip about ¼” wide and 3” long. We glued the ends together with a simple flower in water suspension, and we used a flour paste to imitate snow on the tree. Dad bought a few decorative glass bulbs for the tree and a small box of tensile. We also hung strings of popcorn on the tree. This was a family event, and every-one of us made a contribution to the project. I knew weeks in advance what my siblings and I would get for Christmas. Dad hid them in the closet, and my prying eyes didn’t miss them. The cowboy gloves and the cap busters I received one Christmas is one of my outstanding memories. Of course, I didn’t tell anybody that I had snooped, so my sisters were surprised when they got their dolls on Christmas day. One year we got a red wagon large enough to tow each other around. Unfortunately, Dad decided that it was strong enough to hold a large bolder when he lined the Peck-spring. It broke down the wagon and it was never repaired. The stocking that we laid out for each of us was filled with a banana or orange and some English walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts (filberts) and hard candy.

One winter, we were playing out in the snow; and Dorothy got so cold that, when she went into the house to warm up, she got too close to the gas space heater in our living room. She caught her dress on fire. She was jumping up and down and screaming when Mother caught her and put the fire out. She received some pretty bad burns on her back. Dr. Harper treated the burns with Ungintine ointment.

MARBLES

When we weren’t hoeing corn, fishing or swimming, bob sledding, riding trees or grapevines, playing marbles was one of our favorite pastimes (1938-1946). Dad didn’t want us to play keeps. (He said, “I’d rather see you boys drink than to gamble.” His Grandfather Boggs had to sell the family farm to pay off a debt from cosigning a note for his neighbor’s gambling debts.)

There were basically two kinds of marbles-- glassies and aggies. Glassies were, of course, made out of glass, and they had a variety of swirled patterns and colors in each one. Some were a solid color, but most of them had some sort of swirl pattern. Aggies, made from a special rock, were used for our shooting marbles. There were also steelies, which were made out of steel ball bearings and were usually outlawed because, when they hit a crockie or a glassy with one of those, it broke the marble. (You had to have a destructive vent to want to use steelies.)

The most popular game with marbles was called “Ringer”. Usually the game was played by drawing a big circle out in the dirt; and this, usually, was sandy dirt. You would take a stick or a pocketknife and draw a big circle on the ground of agreed‑upon size (at least three feet and no more than ten in diameter). Each player puts an agreed‑upon number of target marbles ("miggles") in the center. There would usually be four or five marble shooters, and each person would ante up a couple or three marbles to put into the circle. Target marbles must be at least two inches from each other, but no more than three inches. Each player takes a turn lagging to the edge of the circle from a point ten feet away. The closest to the line has the choice of going first or second (and the others play in order of their closeness).

Players shoot their marbles from outside the ring (as close as can be without hunching over the edge of the ring) to strike the target marbles and knock them out of the ring. Players must shoot knuckles down, with at least one knuckle touching the ground, unless agreed otherwise at the start of the game. (Fudging is not allowed. That’s when you take your hand off the ground and get a forward motion going while you flip the marble with your thumb.) Then the first shooter, keeping his knuckles out of the circle, would shoot. He would shoot his aggie into the circle into the other marbles, trying to knock the best‑looking marble out of the circle, but at the same time he wanted his marble also to come out of the circle. That's because if his marble stayed inside the circle, then people were privileged to shoot at it, and if they knocked it out of the circle, then they got to keep it.

You kept shooting as long as you knocked a marble out with each shot. When you missed, or your taw aggie stayed in the ring, it was the next person's turn. (It’s kind of like billiards where you keep shooting as long as you can put a ball into the pocket.) If a player's shooter remains in the ring after his turn, it becomes a legitimate target and must be ransomed if captured by another player. So they always wanted to make sure that their aggie came out of the circle after hitting the other marble. So you try to make them spin, travel quickly after they hit the other marble, and get out of the circle. If you hit one too solidly--and you had to hit them pretty solid to knock the other marble out of the circle--your aggie would stay inside the circle and you would lose an expensive marble. The taw (usually an aggie) was the thumping marble, or the one you shot with. The winner is the person who has captured the most marbles when all target marbles have been knocked out of the ring. Ringer can be played "for fairs," in which case the marbles are returned to their owners after the game, or "for keeps," in which case the players retain all captured marbles. That meant that if you won a marble you stuck it in your pocket and the other guy lost it. The game was over when the other guy lost all his marbles. That's where the expression came from, "He lost his marbles."

What marked the aggies and made them so pretty was that when they hit another marble, sometimes it would put a little moon in it. You know, like a little new moon? And so when you saw a well‑used aggie, it would have little new moons under the surface of it all the time. Aggies came in all sorts of colors. The rust‑colored ones were my favorites. They ranged from some white to some almost pure black. But black ones were pretty scarce.

The other type of marble game was called Chasies.

Players agree on the course to be followed. The first player shoots or rolls his marble down the course. The second player attempts to shoot or roll so that his marble hits the first marble. If it does so, or if it comes sufficiently close so that the second player can touch both marbles with any part of one hand, then the first player pays a penalty of one marble. If it does not, then the second player must shoot or roll and the first player must chase. Play continues until all reach the end of the course. This was a popular game for two players. When the “twins” were young, our rug on the living room floor had checkered patterns that made natural boundaries for our marbles games. We used the patterns on the carpet to mark out our boundaries. When the weather prohibited us from playing outside, we would shoot our marbles across the living room rug, all day long (when our little twin sisters, Dorothy and Dorcas didn't get in our way).

Most boys had a little canvas sack with a drawstring around the top. They carried it around their neck, and you could tell by looking at someone's sack or at the bulges in their pockets about how lucky they had been. Grandpa Boggs smoked Bull Durham tobacco in his pipe. It came in a little cloth bag with a drawstring, and he save those bags for us to carry our marbles in.

____________________________________

Norma was born on January 5, 1938, and Granvel arrived on July 17, 1939. Mother gave birth to all of us at home. When the contractions started, Dad would say, “Go get Aunt Julia.” Somebody walked a mile to Aunt Julia’s, and then she had to throw on her head scarf and rush to our house. I don’t think she ever got there late or missed one of the blessed events. Somebody called Dr. Harper (one of the two brothers), and he had to drive the twelve miles or so from town. (They charged $25 to deliver a baby, and $5 for an ordinary house-call.) I understand that Norris arrived before the Dr. got there. We kids were sent off to a neighbor’s house where we stayed until given the ready message to return home. I do remember somebody putting on the water to boil and gathering up clean sheets and towels. Once I sneaked and watched Dad bury the placenta. I went back to the spot and uncovered it, punched it with a stick, and covered it again. (That was the beginning of my scientific curiosity.) I had heard jokes about ignorant hillbillies and the after birth—like the one who, when he was told that he would be expected to eat the after birth (like the animals do), he asked, “Can I have salt on it?”

We had a battery operated radio that connected to our wire close line for an antenna. We listened to Country and Gospel Music: "Walking the Floor Over You" (Ernest Tubb), "The Great Speckled Bird" (Roy Acuff), "Rye Whisky" (Tex Ritter) and to barbershop Quartets (Cap, Andy and Flip). Dad loved to keep up with professional boxing—On June 22,1938, Joe Lewis knocked out Max Schmeling in the first round. Our battery was low, so we went to the neighbors’ house to listen to that fight. The contest was so short that it seemed hardly worthwhile to walk that far and sit in a crowded room to hear it. But, on the other hand, we didn’t have to sit too long in that sulfur laden atmosphere with those snickering boys who lived on ‘taters and the musical fruit.

During the "great depression", Uncle Weldon and Aunt Ruby stayed with us for a few months. They (Maxine, Deloris, Dexter, Uncle Weldon, and Aunt Ruby) all slept in our living room. The couch (We called it a “Davenport”.) made into a bed; and, I believe, they brought in a bed of their own. Uncle Weldon worked for the WPA. (People ridiculed the way they worked – “one working, one coming and one going.” But I distinctly remember when Maxine once tried to sit on her daddy’s lap after work, and he said, “I’m sorry Honey, but Daddy’s just too tired to hold you.” He must have been one of those “working”.) Uncle Weldon had a dog that he tied to a doghouse in the garden above our house. The dog died from a rotten smelling wound that wouldn’t heal. They later moved into our chicken house (after Dad cleared out all of our chickens and after they cleaned it out). Later, Dad had a house built for them on our farm on top of the hill, near the apple orchard.

Douglas—born August 1, 1942—and I both had to have assistance (forceps extraction). We were both breech born. Doug had a broken arm and a bruise on his head, and my neck was injured. Mother said that when I arrived the Doctor laid me aside because he was more concerned about saving my Mother, but when he noticed a gasp from me he picked me up and gave me a whack. I wonder if some of my quirks have something to do with that short period of anoxia at birth (There went my genius!).

When Granvel was a baby, Mother had a nervous breakdown (most likely postpartum depression—or maybe “cabin fever”). That was the first of the three episodes that I remember. Dad said, “Go get Aunt Julia.” Aunt Julia came to our house and stayed with her for a while. She was very effective in getting Mother calmed down, perhaps because Mother respected her so much. (Mother was as flawed as anyone else at criticizing people and repeating gossip, but I never heard her say the least negative thing about Aunt Julia.) Dad called Dr. Harper, and he gave Mother a sedative that calmed her down; but she was still nervous for two or three months. She did not want any of us children out of her sight. Mother was later diagnosed with manic-depressive (bipolar) disorder, but I believe that her episodes were caused by “cabin fever” as much as anything else.  (Norma said Mother went into deep depression after Dad died).

Somebody of that era said, “Southern madhouses are full of women who were stifled.” One of the sayings attributed to Yogi Berra is “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.” In a comparable way, some scientists may argue that 90 percent of our personal qualities are the inherited (nature), with the “other half” environmental (nurture). Other scientists and educators prefer to reverse the figures, accenting nurture. (Shinn, R. L. The New Genetics, Moyer Bell, Wakefield, Rhode Island & London, 1996.) Either way, “our genes load the gun and our environment pulls the trigger”. (The relatively new field of epigenetics is rapidly unraveling some of these mysteries.)

When Gravel was two years old, he developed double pneumonia. His fever was so high that he went into convulsions. (That was shortly before penicillin became available.) Dr. Harper gave him sulfa-drug, and that saved his life. When he started school at Bomont, he had a lot of trouble with the teachers. They couldn’t teach him to read. They were very frustrated with him, and they punished him for not learning. We had a hard time getting him to go to school. One time I had to drag him down from on top of the outhouse to get him onto the school bus, while the bus driver (Kenneth Sizemore) impatiently waited for him. One time Mother helped him memorize his lesson; but when the teacher called on him, he started “reading” from the wrong page, and she got very angry.

Those teachers could scare the pants off you—just by frowning. They both had “buck teeth”. When they frowned, their teeth became very prominent (like rodent teeth). They must have sucked their thumbs till they were ten years old. I must say that they practiced good hygiene. Their teeth were as white as pearls. They both had their “Pets” who tattled on the other kids, and we were always taken by surprise after we confided in one of the "tattle tells". I was naive, and I got more paddlings than most of the kids. (Like my Dad, I always trusted the wrong people.)

________________________________________

Our version of a summer vacation was two week stay with Grandma and Grandpa McCune, usually after July 4 (when we had the corn laid-by, or between the first and second cultivation). They lived in a log house with a lean-to kitchen with no gas or electricity. They cooked with wood, heated the rest of the house with coal, and lighted it with kerosene lamps. They had a cellar that was built into a dugout space on the hill behind their house and stayed cool all summer. I remember Grandpa McCune snoring in the room next to where I slept on a corn-shuck bed. At first, I didn’t recognize the sound; but it seemed to occur each time I breathed. I would hold my breath to make it stop, and sometimes it did go away! Grandpa died in 1943, but I remember his visits to our house. He loved to sit by the fire, chew tobacco, tell stories and quote the Bible. He also loved to tell yarns about “Uncle Saul” and the Civil War, and he always chuckled at his own stories.

Grandpa raised tobacco for his own use. He cured it in a barn at the edge of their yard, and I remember climbing in the rafters where he hung his tobacco. He made his own tobacco twists, and he had some kind of a humidor box to keep it fresh. He put a few slices of apple in the container to provide moisture and flavor for the tobacco.

We used to tease Uncle Bill about eatin’ ground hog meat. We’d say, “Here comes Bill, sniggerin’ a grin. Groun’hog grease all over his chin.” I liked squirrel meat better’n ground-hog. Sometimes Uncle Pat would bring home two or three squirrels. He would skin’em and gut’em and Grandma would boil’em until they were real tender. Then she made squirrel gravy and a big pan of huge biscuits. We sopped our biscuits in that squirrel gravy, and ate them with that squirrel meat and it tasted sweeter and sweeter the longer we chewed. Then Grandma would bring half gallon of piccalilli out of her cool cellar, ‘n we’d eat ‘n eat, until we couldn’t stay on our feet. Then I’d lie on grandma’s lap and take a little nap. Grandma would sing, “I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck—You bet your sweet life I do.” Grandma McCune was very loving. When she came to visit us, she slept in our bed with us. I remember snuggling up to her, and I kept very warm. “She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes. She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes. I will get to sleep with Grandma—when she comes."

THE SCAVENGER

One day after school,
Uncle Pat said: “Let’s go look for my mule.
I haven’t seen him since Thursday.
He must be very thirsty.
The weather has been very dry
Since the first of July.
The spring on the hill has been low since June,
Without enough water to fill a teaspoon.
That mule is no fool. Something must be wrong,
For him to be gone for so long.”
We climbed up a winding path to the an open field
About a hundred yards wide,
With no place for that mule to hide.
Uncle Pat said: “That mule is nowhere in sight.
Let’s go back down this trail to the right.”

About half way down the hill,
We saw where that mule had taken a spill.
He was laying right on his back,
About three yards from his track.
I said: “Uncle Pat, that mule has been dead for a spell.
He’s already startin’ to smell.”

Just then a fat ‘possum jumped outta that mule and
Ran right past my feet.
He was dragging a piece of spoiled mule meat.
I said: “Uncle Pat, I don’t think I’ll ever eat ‘possum again.
I’ll be thinkin’ about where that ‘possum has been.”

The Boggs Family:

Grandma and Grandpa Boggs both lived long lives. We got to see them often because we could walk to their house--on what is still a dirt road and is now called "Boggs Run"--only about two miles from our home on Porters Creek. They settled there in 1911. I have fond memories of them; but they were not as nurturing to us as were our Maternal Grandparents. (I suppose that it is not uncommon for children to be more bonded to their maternal grandparents.)

                   BOGGS FAMILY REUNION

Grandma and grandma lived up Left-hand
In a wooden house of Jenny Lind design.
It had one room for cookin’, two for sleepin’
And another to dine.
Then there was one room with a big fireplace.

When we went there,
To our Mother’s despair,
Daddy sat in a rocking chair –
Reading about the war –
And what all our boys were fighting for.

Grandpa worked crossword puzzles,
And grandma churned the butter.
They didn’t say anything to one-another.
Then more of the family would come –
From far and near,
Along with others we all held dear.

They set up outdoor wooden tables
And covered them with cloths.
People brought big platters –
With every kind of chicken n’
Ham n’ vegetables and broths.
There were plenty of rostin’ears,
Sweet potatoes, greens n’ beans, fruits,
Cakes n’ pies and all kinds of good things
For eatin’ and drinkin’ --
With free for all thinkin’.

Then someone would PRAY
And we’d all eat and then PLAY.
We met relatives by th’ dozens –
Uncles, Aunts, Great Uncles, Great Aunts,
And twice removed cousins.

Before the distant travelers got ready
For their return trip.


PORTER SCHOOL

I clearly remember my sixth birthday. It had always been my understanding that when I became six years old, I could go to school. But, now that I had turned six, they said I would have to wait until September. I threw a temper tantrum. Mother pacified me somewhat by promising me that she would talk with Uncle Cornelius about it. A few days later they let me visit the school for one day.

In September 1938, I started the first grade at Porter School. There were eighteen students in one room, including grades 1 through 8; and Uncle Cornelius Boggs was our teacher. Bertha Schoolcraft and I were the only ones in the first grade. “Birdie” was seven years old, and I was six. She could count to 100 on the first day of school. I was ashamed that I could only count to ten. That evening, Mother and Norris taught me to count beyond 100. Our little country schoolhouse was in the middle of Uncle Charlie’s pasture field, and when the horses, “Nell and Cole”, were out (when they weren’t working in the timber or otherwise occupied), we had to maneuver ourselves very alertly as we crawled through the fence and across the open field to the schoolhouse. Every morning, we lined up and pledged allegiance to the flag and then marched in and took our seats. Uncle Cornelius sang a song for us before we started our lessons. “Good Morning! Good Morning! The sun shines about us today. So we work while we work and play while we play. That’s the way to be happy and gay (Gay had a different meaning in those days. I had heard of “Sissies”, but not “Gays”.

In one of my earliest memories of school, some boys were teasing me about Birdie. I threw a rock and hit Charles Schoolcraft on the shinbone. Someone told Uncle Cornelius, and I got a switching. It didn’t hurt, but it embarrassed me a lot. Norris told Mother and Dad, but they were not the least bit sympathetic with me. On another memorable occasion, the county health nurse came to Porter school to vaccinate us for small pox and diphtheria. Some of the kids squalled, even before they got their shot. I was very brave, but the syringe separated from the needle while it was still in my arm. The nurse reconnected them without taking the needle out of my arm. It hurt some, but I did not cry. I held back because I was ashamed to cry in front of all the other kids.

The first sign of spring was when it was warm enough to go barefooted and coming home on a bright sunny afternoon to see Dad planting potatoes—on St. Patrick’s day—with blackbirds (cow birds) following the furrows. The longer days, noisy peepers (toad-frogs), tad poles, the flowering of the red-buds, the dogwoods, forsythia, tulips, daffodils, dandelions, and Mother going green picking are other memories of springtime. One spring, I left my shoes at home on a day when the weather turned cold. I walked that afternoon home in an inch of snow.

School would be out about the first of May. “School’s out! School’s out! The teacher let the fools out.” To celebrate our last day of school, we walked about a quarter of a mile up a hill to the “Devil’s Tea Table”—where we ate our brown bag picnic lunches and Uncle Cornelius handed out presents for various achievements. I received a "dollar watch" for perfect attendance. I was very proud of it, but I wound it too tight and broke the spring. Robert Burton was staying at our house while on a leave from CCC camp. He tried to fix it for me, but couldn’t. Robert was Maude Burton’s brother. Maude was our “hired girl”. She lived in with us and helped Mother, receiving room and board plus $5 per week. At one time, during the depression, her brother Merdy and her father were homeless, and Dad cleared out our chicken house and let them move into it. They were like our extended family to us.

When I was eight years old, I was running around the yard, pretending to be a motorcycle—sputtering with my tongue. I ran into a concrete banister and bit my tongue nearly half off. Uncle Waitman took me to Dr. Harper in Clendenin. The doctor sewed my tongue without giving me any anesthesia. I sputtered, spraying saliva into the doctor’s face, but I did not cry or scream. Dr. Harper was so impressed that I could withstand that much pain that he called Uncle Waitman into his operating room to demonstrate my bravery. (My dad had trained me to be a good soldier.) After they took me home, I continued to bleed so much that they took me to Statts Hospital in Charleston. My tongue swelled so much that I couldn’t close my mouth, and I had to drink my nourishment through a straw. I stayed there for six or seven days.

An attractive young woman, Holly Samples, was our new teacher for my third school year. One day while we were standing beside the creek, some girls dared me to go on the ice. It was against the rules. When I took the dare, they told the teacher. She whipped me with a switch. It didn’t hurt much; but I cried because my feelings were hurt.

Dorothy and Dorcas started first grade to Miss Samples. About halfway between our house and post office we had to walk through Peckfield. In the wintertime and, it was very cold. The wind swept down between two hills, and the pipeline right-of-way clearing acted as a wind tunnel. One year, snow drifted so high that we had to tunnel through it at the intersection with left-hand. One cold winter morning, when they were walking with us to school, just as we got around the bend before and Uncle Charlie’s house came into view, Dorothy and Dorcas were so cold they couldn’t go any further. Dorcas cried, “I’m freezing. I’m freezing”. Somehow we got them going again, and we made it the rest of the way to school.

BOMONT SCHOOL

The next year, Porter school was closed. We had to go to Bomont School, about two miles up Porters Creek from our house; and they improvised our transportation. Mr. Frank Pugh drove us to school on the back of his blue pick-up truck. It had a cattle bed to keep us from falling out, and wooden benches on each side for us to be seated. Before the school year ended, we got a new bus, #16, driven by Ken Sizemore. It was like a large van, and it seated about sixteen passengers.

My teacher was a widow lady named Goldie (Samples?). When I was in the fifth grade, she married a Thompson. She taught grades four through eight. Her sister, Glenna Kearns, taught the first three grades. There were about the 40 students in our room and 20 in Glenna’s room. Imogene Shamblin rode up front with the driver. Her parents said she was too sensitive to the cold.

Mrs. Thompson paddled me on three occasions. The first time happened when she caught me jumping from then schoolroom window. The second time some kids told on me for carving “Mrs. Goldie Thompson” on a beech tree. I was excited that I heard she was getting married. She was not impressed. She said she was paddling me for carving on trees, but her forthcoming marriage was just gossip at that time. I think she was offended about my premature announcement. I was in the seventh grade the third time I got paddled. We were taking a history test and Jimmy Bostic, sitting to my right, opened the text book to the page containing the answers. He nudged me. I looked at the page; but I didn’t see anything that helped me on the test. After the exam was over, Mrs. Thompson said “Dallas cheated.” I said, “No, I didn’t cheat.” She said, “I know you did. I saw you. I’m going to paddle you for lying.” (In retrospect, I think that was the way she had of avoiding punishment for the instigator. There were some kids she wouldn’t touch. She resented us Porter kids more than those who had been transferred earlier from Queen Shoals.) These paddlings really hurt, but the embarrassment was the worst part of it; I was too ashamed to cry. (That made her hit harder.) They were administered at the front of the room, where all the kids in the room could watch (That encouraged the sadistic ones to tattle on other kids.) She usually gave us ten licks with her wooden paddle, about eighteen inches long, three inches wide, and a half inch thick at the working end; and she swung it about her whole arm’s length to hit our bottoms.

I made good grades in school, and I didn’t need to cheat. The only Cs on my report card were in music. I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket! Every six weeks, we had to sing a solo. I always tried to sing “Billy Boy”. I knew the words, but I didn’t do well with the tune. At Bomont School, I joined the 4 H Club. I went to two sessions of summer camp at Bradley Field (near Clay—where the Clay County High School is now located) twice. One year, I won three ribbons at the county fair. As I remember, my cabbage, potatoes and cucumbers were the most attractive specimens on exhibit.

Norris and I liked to play in the woods. We had a favorite refuge up on the hill, near the old gas well, that we called the “bear rock”. It was really a tunnel between three rocks that fitted together like a cave, where a bear might hibernate. We could craw down into it and play card games. (A few years ago, I went back to see that rock; and I could hardly get my big foot into the entrance.)

In the fall of the year, when the leaves were wet, we liked to ride our sleds (homemade from oak boards that Dad stacked near the chicken house) down the hill on the slippery leaves. We used a road (above the Peck spring) that was built for equipment going to the old gas well on the hill above the rock cliff in front of our house. Many times, I rolled off the sled and banged my head (on a rock or something) following a sudden stop at the bottom of the hill. (That accounts were some of the scars on forehead.)

We made our own corncob pipes, whistles, slingshots, and acorn pipes. One Christmas, we did get a new store bought sleigh with metal runners, and we liked to ride it down a slope at the bend in the road above our house. We would stay out and play as long as we could stand the cold. Sometimes, when a car came by we would grab onto its rear bumper and ride behind it as long as we could hold on. In retrospect, we did some very dangerous things.

Whenever the census asked my mother about our politics, she replied: “My Ol’ Man is a democrat, and I’m a republican; the baby’s wet, and the cow’s dry.” (That was during prohibition—when the “drys” squared off with the “wets”.) During election years, our home was not always a peaceful atmosphere. The following story is based on a real experience. The part about my mixing up my Dad’s politics with his religion is fictitional, but that was purely intentional. Now-days, when somebody asks me what was my Dad’s religion, I answer “He was a Democrat.”

Politics & Food: One time they were discussin’ religion, Mother said she was a Methodist, and that Daddy was a hard shell Baptist. I said, “He ain’t no Baptist. He’s a Democrat.” I didn’t mean to start nothin’; but Mom said, “Fried rats and stewed cats are good enough for Democrats.” That started a rowel, and Mother wouldn’t fix Daddy’s pail. So he asked me to take his pail down to Aunt Julie’s and ask her to fix him something to take to work with him. That was embarrassing, but Aunt Julie was very understanding, and she never said anything to anybody about it. (Aunt Julia was an Angel!)

In those days, political parties spread slogans to stir up voters. One that has stuck in my mind went around during Roosevelt’s run for his third term: “If Roosevelt is reelected, we’ll have a dictator.” The answer was, “But if Dewey is elected, you won’t have a dick—or a tater.”

Dad always filled the bottom of his pail with black coffee. Then he started having stomach problems, and the doctor told him to stop drinking so much strong black coffee.

Once, in about 1945, Norris and I borrowed some of Uncle Earl’s cigarettes, and he caught us smoking them while sitting up in the hemlock tree in the lower corner of the yard, near the creek. He didn’t say anything to us, but he did tell Dad. A few days later he (Dad) bought us some cigars. He said, “If you are going to smoke, smoke a man’s smoke.” Norris smoked his and he did not get sick. But I got sick as a dog. I spent a whole afternoon lying on the bed so dizzy that I kept my feet hanging out over it trying to keep the bed from moving. The bed kept going around and around. Mother said that I turned green. But she couldn’t help me. I just had to tough it out until I felt better. From that time I could never smoke a cigarette without getting dizzy, and riding in a car with somebody smoking made me nauseous. (Norris later became a chain smoker, but he was able to "kick the habit".)

Halloween was a very special occasion for us kids. About three days before Halloween, we went out tick tacking. That meant that we took bags of shelled corn with us to people’s houses after dark and threw corn onto their roofs to make loud noises. We also hid in the bushes when a car went by threw corn at it. We also soaped windows. Soaping windows was dangerous for us; not because we were afraid of getting shot, that because when somebody challenge us we would run so hard that we wouldn’t see where we were going. Many a kid (including me) has run into a clothesline and nearly hung himself when doing Halloween tricks. On Halloween night, we went from house to house trick or treating—mostly tricking. One of our favorite tricks was pushing over out houses. Another was pushing over fodder shocks. One time Bruce and Blain were with us when we pushed over several of Uncle Charlie’s fodder shocks. The next day, Uncle Charlie confronted Bruce and Blaine about it. They admitted their role in the mischief and also told on me. Uncle Charlie confronted me about it and I lied. I broke another one of the commandments. That meant that I wasn’t a Christian anymore. I had backslid.

When a couple got married, we would “bell” them. That means that we would go to their house with cowbells, pots and pans, or anything that would make noise; and march around their house ringing the bells and banging on the pots and pans. The couple would come out and acknowledge us, and then we would go home. Pie socials were an annual event at the Bomont School. Usually a small band of entertainers was invited to put on a show for us. The unmarried females in the community each baked a pie that went to the highest bidder, who got to eat the pie with her. We also had an ugly man contest, and Uncle Waitman usually won that one, with his crooked nose and his good humor.

When we went swimming in the river, we had to tell our mother a fib about where we had been. (I think that is what caused me to have dreams about coming home naked. In those dreams, I always found a towel, or something, to cover up as we passed Uncle Charlie’s house. He had seven daughters.) She was afraid for us to swim in the river. Her brother Ursel drowned in the river at the mouth a Porter. He was only eighteen years old. That was a tremendous shock to her. I was afraid that somebody would tell mother. We usually told her that we had been swimming in Peck hole. I could swim the river when I was eight years old. I learned to swim in Peckhole. I was sitting on a huge rock, afraid to go into the water. Someone pushed me off the rock. He said, “Sink or swim!” I swam! I could only swim dog fashion. I never did become comfortable with the overhand style.

One time Norris and I were walking to the river, when we saw a strange slobbering dog standing in the middle of the road. We were sure that it was a mad dog. We didn’t say anything. Both of us just took off running up the bank to climb a tree. After a-while, we went to the post office and told Aunt Julia that we had seen him mad dog. Mad dogs carry Rabies. If they bite you, you will die. Hydrophobia is another word for rabies, which means “afraid of water”.

We were also afraid of snakes. One time, Norris and I were going to Aunt Rosie’s house, running up the path through the woods. Norris yelled, “Jump! Snake!” There was a big the copperhead lying across the path. We both jumped over it. Uncle Elmer killed a lot of snakes, mostly rattlers and copperheads.

We often stayed over-night at Aunt Rena (McCune) and Uncle Albert Smith's house. They were a bigger family than ours. (Fourteen children altogether, including one that died as an infant.) Jimmy was about my age, and every time we went there, Jimmy and I had to test our wrestling skills. I didn't look forward to that contest, but it was a ritual (and I nearly always won.) Pauline, Arlene, Gail and Larry were older than me, and I don't quite remember the order of birth.

They lived on the Kanawha County side of Elk River, along State Rt.4 (at "Smith Bottom"). In the winter time, we could cross Elk River on the ice, but most-times we walked to Corton (about 2 and 1/2 miles and crossed on the Swinging Bridge then about 1 1/2 miles up Rt 4 to get to their house. We could stay overnight there because they had a bigger home than ours (It was two stories, and ours was a two bedroom bungalow.) Like us, they didn't have indoor plumbing; but we thought they were "rich". Aunt Rena was like a second Mother to us. Uncle Albert was a quiet person, but very talented. (For example, he played a Banjo and sang Happy Songs, and he handmade outdoor wicker furniture.) They had some good bottomland for a huge garden and some hill-top land for growing corn to feed their hogs, and chickens. Sometimes, we (Norris and I) would help our cousins with their farm chores. Like our family, they were almost self-sufficient. Of course, there was nearly always "behind the barn" boy-talk; but the Smith Boys were pretty civil (unlike most of our ornery Porters Creek neighborhood boys that lived in weathered grey unpainted rough lumber houses with tar paper roofs.)


BACKSLIDIN'

     One time Uncle Hence was holdin' a revival, and he said the world was gonna end, and them that wasn't saved would go to Hell and burn in eternal damnation.  But if you would come up front and pray and accept Jesus as your savior then you could be with him in Heaven.

I was bashful and scared to go up and pray in front of everybody; but I didn't want to burn in Hell, so I broke down and surrendered and went to the alter, crying all the way.

Uncle Hence said all you have to do is believe and I finally said, "I believe."  Then I had to testify, and I said, "Pray for me that I will always be faithful."

I testified again and again, every week. Then one day I slipped and broke some eggs, and I said "Oh Shit!”  Daddy didn't hear me, so I didn't get my mouth washed out with soap;  but the Lord heard me and I knew I'd already backslided.  The next time something bad happened to me I said "Damned!"Aunt Julia heard me, and she said, "It's time for another revival."

After we were transferred to Bomont School, the Porter School building became available for church services and Sunday school. I think that Uncle Charlie owned the building. Norris and I attended Sunday school and church nearly every week. Uncle Hence Estep, our preacher, belonged to the Advent Christian denomination. After services, we usually went to a movie in Clendenin. Dad did not like for us to go to the movies on the Sabbath, but he agreed to let us go we if we would first attend church.

FARMING

When I was nine years old, I was old enough to hoe corn. I hoed right along with Dad and Norris. But I couldn’t always keep up with them. I think that part of my problem was that I was too thorough. Then again, I was slow. Norris and Dad nearly always finished ahead of me, and then they and would have to come back and help me finished my row. When Norris and I worked together, Norris would become very frustrated with me. Sometimes, I thought I just got a harder row to hoe. I was reminded of that yesterday when I was standing in line at Kroger’s, and my line seemed to move the slowest. It is part of my luck.

We had two cows, about 50 laying hens, and three hogs.  We had three gardens, the upper bottom and the lower bottom and the one across the creek. We planted about ¼ acre of sweet corn, one-quarter acre of Irish potatoes, ten or twenty tomato plants, ten or twenty cabbage plants, a bed of lettuce, a few rows of onions, a few hills of cucumbers, cantaloupe, squash and pumpkin, a few rows of carrots, some bush beans and some half runners, some beets, some radishes, and about four rows of sweet potatoes. We had an acre of corn and on top of the hill. We mowed the grass between our apple trees in our orchard to make hay. The new orchard covered about two acres, and old orchard had about 1 acre. We had about two hundred-apple trees altogether, ten or twenty peach trees, a few cherry trees, and two or three plum trees.

We had about five hives of bees. We kept them across the creek against the hill facing our house and 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 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. One time Mother was picking lettuce in the garden about thirty feet from the hives, and a bee stung her. She went berserk. That started another nervous breakdown; and she didn’t get over it for several weeks.

When I was about ten years old, Dad decided to clear some new ground. Uncle Charlie had already cut most of the timber--down to mining post size. We had to clear away the waste logs and limbs, under growth, etc. We piled all of the smaller trash onto the larger chunks and let it dry well enough to burn. When the weather was right for burning the brush heaps, we would set fire to them; and we would have some great bon fires. We had to be careful to keep the fire from spreading. If of the timber was too dry and there was too much danger of the fires escaping, we would wait until another day to burn the trash. Sometimes the county would issue an order to prohibit burning because of the danger of forest fires. (Sometimes, in the fall season, a simple spark from a coal burning train would set off a forest fire.) We never let one of our fires spread. If we had, it would have cost a lot to fight the fire; and it may have destroyed some neighbor’s timber or some of his crops or even his home. We cleared about two and a half acres of new ground adjacent to our new orchard. We call this our “new ground”. The following spring, we planted corn on the new ground. First, it had to be plowed; and that was very difficult. Dad did all of the plowing. It was too dangerous for Norris and me. He had to use a root cutter plow. Sometimes the plow would hit a stump or a large root, or anything that when would stop the plow suddenly and cause it to bounce. That could cause broken bones, and it was also hard on the horse.

In about 1945, our tomato vines blighted. The vines turned yellow and dried up, and the tomatoes on the vines got dry rot. We used rotenone powder on the plants to fight the blight. Our potatoes also blighted. Fortunately, the potatoes underground had mostly matured before the vines dried up; so the blight didn’t affect our potato yield very much. Before the blight hit us, we could grow almost perfect tomatoes and potatoes without any insecticides or powders. Pete Hall said that the blight was cause by “all that pollution in the air”. I did not pay much attention to him about that; but now that I see what’s happening to the trees in the Smokey Mountains, I wonder if he wasn’t right. I had not heard of acid rain at that time.

One spring, we ordered about one hundred baby chicks. We put them under kerosene-fired brooders to keep them warm, with little fountains for them to drink from and feeding trawls to hold their nourishments. We covered the floor with very clean and fragrant crushed corncob litter. Within about six weeks, the male chickens were big enough to fry. My mother’s fried chicken tasted a lot like our modern Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Maybe the Colonel stole my mother’s recipe!). We kept the females for layers. We usually had Leghorn hens, but occasionally we would order some Rhode Island Reds. Rhode Island Reds were good for their meat. White Leghorns made good laying hens.

Dad built three cages made with wire mesh nailed onto two by fours. They were box-like structures, on legs, about three feet off the ground. The adjoining cages measured about three by three feet, with tin roofs. Then he got us some rabbits; and he placed a little box, something like a doghouse built for a small dog, inside the cage of each female rabbit. When the female became pregnant she would start building a nest inside the box. The hair under her chin grew long and thick. She pulled her own hair from under her chin to build the soft downy nest for her babies. The tiny babies were born without any hair and with their eyes closed. We soon had rabbits running out of the ears. Within about six weeks, the babies were big enough to eat. The meat was very tinder and good for frying. It tasted a lot like chicken. Dad would hold the young rabbit by the hind legs and whack it on the back of the neck with the edge of his hand. He then decapitated the rabbit and skinned it. The rabbit was taken directly to the kitchen; cut up floured and fried. It made a very good meal. I don’t know why we stopped raising rabbits. I don’t think we had any when I started high school.

WORLD WAR II

On December the 8th, 1941, it was cold morning; and we were waiting for the truck to pick us up. Someone said the Japs had bombed Pearl Harbor. Earlier, we had gathered scrap metal to send to Japan to help earthquake victims. Now, they were throwing it back at us.

During World War II, we had blackout drills. A whistle sounded at the Cornwell station, and we had to turn all of our lights out. These drills lasted for about an hour or so—until the next whistle sounded. Food was rationed. We were allotted so many food stamps per person in the household, and these were collected by the grocer when we bought food. We were issued gasoline stamps and stamps to buy tires. Dad traded his gasoline stamps for food stamps—or something. What I remember most was the long lines to buy lard. The stores got in lard once a week, or lest often, and the word would get around somehow. We got one bucket of lard (5 lbs.) per person in line. Of course, we butchered hogs; but the homegrown lard did not last through the summer. We saved our used fat, and somebody collected it for the war effort (to make During World War II, we had blackouts. A whistle was sounded at the Cornwell station and we had to turn all of our lights out. These drills lasted for about an hour or so—until the next whistle sounded. Food was rationed. We were allotted so many food stamps per person in the household, and these were collected by the grocer when we bought food. We were issued gasoline stamps and stamps to buy tires. Dad traded his gasoline stamps for food stamps—or something. What I remember most was the long lines to buy lard. The stores got in lard once a week, or lest often, and the word would get around somehow. We got one bucket of lard (5 lbs.) per person in line. Of course, we butchered hogs; but the homegrown lard did not last through the summer. We saved our used fat, and somebody collected it for the war effort (to make  nitroglycerine). We sold seeds for 10 cents a package and the proceeds were supposed to go to feed starving Russian children.

When the weather was very hot, we would hoe corn until noon, return home for dinner, and then go swimming until the shade came over. Then we would go back to the field to hoe corn until about suppertime. During dog-days we were not allowed to go swimming. There was quarantine due to the dangers of getting infantile paralysis (polio). We did often get boils and carbuncles—which may have been caused by contaminated water.

James Douglas (named for World War II Heroes, Jimmy Doolittle and Douglas MacArthur) was born on August 1, 1942, and Earl (Named for our Uncle Earl McCune, 101st Airborne) arrived on March 1, 1944.

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, Granvel, Douglas, and Earl. (Arthur was born on April 22, 1948.)

We peeled off our shirts every spring as soon as the weather warmed. I nearly always tanned sunburned before I tanned every summer. We looked like “little Indians.” We thought that made us look healthy—tall, dark, and handsome. We did not get electricity in our home until after W.W.II. We were thankful to FDR and his alphabet soup of agencies, primarily the REA, for the project. We did have natural gas all along; so we had gaslights. (They were made brilliant by a filament, or mantle, covering the flame—like the ones still used in gas powered camping lanterns.) I did stay up sometimes and read by gaslights until 11 pm when Dad came home from work; but I didn’t do that very often. Mostly, we went to bed with the chickens, but I can’t say that we got up with them. I remember that those few extra winks in the mornings were precious to me. I had to leave home at 7 am to walk to Cornwell to catch the bus. Oversleeping by 15 min. caused me to miss my bus a few times.

When Dad built the house, he ran a line of galvanized pipe (maybe 1 inch in diameter) to the sulfur spring (about 100 yards up the hill) so we could have running water to the kitchen. Eventually, the pipe corroded and stopped up. The drain from the kitchen sink to the creek also stopped up, and Dad ran a 2 inch pipe out of the kitchen window to drain the water onto the lawn. (We didn’t have a septic system.) Lighting struck the pipe and ran into the sink, tearing up the floor at the base of the sink. About 1945, Pete Hall helped Norris and me dig a well in our front yard next to the garden. (His labor was in exchange for us helping him clean out an old well on the ridge above his house—a well that “was dug by slaves during the Civil War.”) When we hit a coal seam, Pete advised us to stop; so we went down only about eight or ten feet. The water was mostly “surface water”, and when there was a drought, it would nearly go dry; and the water became stagnant, with wiggle tails swimming in it. Sometime around 1979, somebody (Norris?) paid to have a drilled well with a pump put in so Dad and Mother could have running water and indoor plumbing.

We all experienced the usual childhood diseases: itch, chicken pox, mumps, measles (both kinds), and whopping cough before we finished elementary school (How did my parents sleep through that?); but I had perfect attendance in school until the eighth grade. I missed my first school day when I had the measles, and it’s a wonder that I didn’t have severe complications. About all of my siblings were sick with them on a cold morning when I decided to go to the post office to get the mail. I got the mail and started home, but the ice on the creek under the bridge near the post office was too enticing for me. I decided to test it, and I fell through, getting wet up to my waist. I walked home, through Peckfield, in wet clothes. The next day, I came down with the measles. I was so sick that I had to miss a day of school for the first time.

Around the time I started the eighth grade, the wildlife dept. turned some deer loose in our county. I don’t know how long the deer had been extinct in that part of the state (Dad didn’t mention seeing deer when he was a kid). A young buck that had become tame because it had been injured (It had a split hoof.) came around the schoolyard, and it became a pest (trying to mount some of the students, etc.). The game-warden finally took it away. When I was in high-school, Mr. Hanna brought a road-kill deer to us for the cafeteria. (Now, the deer in WV have become a pest.)

At Bomont School, I joined the 4 H Club. I went twice to summer camp at Bradley Field (where the high school is now located) in Clay. One year, I won three or four ribbons in the county fair exhibits.

THE NEIGHBORS

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.

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 began my Freshman Year at Clay County High School in the fall of 1946. During that school year, I walked with Norris, Darreline Cook, and Maxine Schoolcraft to the bus stop on Rt. 4 at Corton. (All of them were 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.

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.)

BUTCHERING

Winter was the big time for killing hogs when cold weather was an aid to preserving the meat and when hogs were fat. When a cold spell that promised to hang on a few days blew in, it was time was time for butchering—time to put away the year’s supply of meat. Usually a neighbor or two came in to help (Pete Hall was always there, and I remember Mel Lipscomb helping us on at least one occasion.), and they received a parcel of fresh meat for their helpfulness. Early in the morning on butchering day the big black wash tub was filled with water and a roaring fire built under it. A scalding barrel (a sixty-gallon drum) was set up nearby, the back end slanted into a shallow hole at about a twenty degree angle and the open end low and convenient for receiving the carcass of the slaughtered animal. Slaughtering was done by a blow on the head with a sledgehammer or by a twenty two rifle shot to the head. Either way, the downed hog received an immediate knife stick to the jugular vein, and the throat was cut from ear to ear. This allowed the blood to drain freely from the body and made for a less bloody dressing later on. With a man at each hind leg, the porker was dragged to the scalding barrel and heaved in, headfirst, hind legs protruding slightly.

When the water in the pot reached the right temperature, not quite boiling but scalding hot, big bucket-fulls were heaved into the barrel, dousing the carcass. We turned it rapidly and rolled it about (hind legs serving as handles) so as to give all parts a good exposure to the hot water. Only the extreme rear portion missed this hot bath, as it protruded from the barrel.

During the scalding process there was a frantic snatching at patches of hair, from moment to moment, to determine at just what point the hair began to slip well. Water not hot enough was ineffective; too hot, it set the hair; underexposure failed to loosen the hair and overexposure would set it. Both timing and water temperature required careful judgment. You have to put the water at about 145 degrees. One year we put in four sprigs of pine tops and three tablespoons of soda to make the hair slip easier.

When the hair slipped easily, carcass ends were exchanged in the barrel. A bit more hot water was added (Sometimes a hot stone, heated over the hot coals in our fire, was dropped into the barrel to reheat the water), and the rear end was soused and doused in the hot bath until the hair slippage on that end was just right. At this point, the whole thing was hastily pulled from the barrel onto boards or a sheet of tin, to keep it out of the dirt, and we set to scraping it with our knives. Scraping had to be done in a hurry, for, once cold, the hair set. If the skin started to cool, we put a burlap bag over the carcass and poured scalding hot water over it to reheat the hair before it set. When timed just right, the hair and the outer layer of skin yielded well to scrapers’ knives, leaving a beautifully clean and white carcass.

 After the hog was scraped completely, it was then gangled. Gangling is where you cut through the skin of the back of the leg and pull the tendon out so you will have a place to hang the hog by. Slits were made in each hind leg at the hock (gambrel), between the bone and the big tendon, and the sharp ends of the gamlin stick inserted in each. The gamlin stick, about two feet long and sharpened on both ends (shaped somewhat like a singletree), served to stabilized the carcass and hold the hind legs apart, an aid to dressing (disemboweling). With a rope attached at the stick’s center the carcass was hoisted, head down, by means of a pulley (most often by manpower alone) to a scaffold or a tree limb and anchored at just the right height for dressing. We placed a tub under the hanging carcass, and Pete Hall, with a sharp knife, laid open a thin seam down the abdomen from the anus to its throat. Then, beginning at the anus, he opened the belly, very slowly, placing one hand carefully inside to hold back the entrails. (A cut or torn gut would allow the contents to spill out and contaminate the flesh it touched, to say nothing of the terrible odor.) On male hogs, he carefully cut away the genitals and tied them, giving particular attention to the urinary track to prevent spillage.

He cut the insides and let them fall into the tub below. Liver, heart, lights (lungs), and melt (sweetbread) were removed and we set aside the intestines to be trimmed of fat for lard or soap grease and cleaned for sausage casings. (We saved everything but the squeal.) Chunks of liver and melt quickly found their way into buckets for supper, some going to the neighbors.

In the meantime we doused the hanging carcass with clean water and rinsed it free of blood. Then we took it to the basement and placed it on a table of thick, heavy boards, where Dad cut it up. I have a vivid memory of the big beautiful hams he so expertly cut out, running a knife around the bone to make way for handfuls of curing salt. Shoulders were separated, being prized right next to ham, and the head and feet were removed and sent to the kitchen, where Mother chopped up the ears, tongue, and trimmings. She mixed this mess with spices and vinegar, and packed it in a crock where it would set for several days to make souse, or headcheese. Sometimes, but not often, Mother pickled the feet; and sometimes we used the scraps and trimmings for sausage instead of souse.

Dad used a regular wood ax to chop the ribs loose from the backbone and cut them into chunks just the right size to season a pot of turnips and greens. If you save the backbone, you scrape it down, and then you cut the tenderloin, or backstrap. I wanted the tenderloin and backbone out of mine. We stripped the spareribs from the belly portions (called middlings, or side meat) for dinner. When they were fried brown and served with milk gravy and hot biscuits, they were delicious.

We cut a great deal of the fat away from lean portions. The fat was rendered into lard. The lean meat for sausage and fat parts for lard were separated as we cut the meat, so when we got ready to stuff the sausage all we had to do was to grind the meat and stuff it. The lard was put into the tubs and allowed to cook on an open flame. We scraped our own casing and stuffed our own sausage. Hams, loins, shoulders, and middlings were salted heavily and let set a day or so. When all the parts had been cut, we rolled them in sugar cure. We then place it on a board with the skin up so that it can drain overnight. The next morning we rerubed the meat and hung it up so the wind could dry it out. Later, they were resalted, sometimes with a mixture of saltpeter, and packed away in wooden boxes, which Dad made and which he called meat boxes. After some time, perhaps about two weeks, we removed selected portions from the salt pack and hung them over a slow smoldering hickory fire from which rose a pungent smoke that completed the curing process.

Thus, our meat supply for the year—hams, loins, shoulders, middlings, and sometimes sausage—was cured and at hand for our sustenance throughout the year. The reason pigs were the staple for meat in those days was that there wasn’t a good way to preserve beef. Without freezers, the primary way to preserve beef is to dry it, and that was not convenient. We did butcher one old milk cow when I was a kid. Dad built a wooden window box above the ground level in the basement. We left the basement window open, and the beef stayed frozen most of the winter. The meat was tough, but we sliced off pieces of it and pounded it with the edge of a plate and then pan fried it. The meat ("cubed steak") got sweeter and sweeter as we chewed it—and we had to chew and chew. I really liked the beef (for a change). We bred our milk cows to Hereford bulls because the calves brought more when we sold them for beef or veal. (We did not butcher our own except on the one occasion when we butchered the old milk cow.

_____________________________

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.

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).

COLLEGE

In 1950, I applied for a scholarship to the West Virginia University College of Agriculture and was awarded $200 from the Sears-Roebuck Foundation. That was enough to pay for my tuition and fees and my books, but I would have to work for my board and room plus other expenses. They advised me that a freshman was not allowed a job on campus during the regular term. I could enroll during the summer term, and if I earned enough points, I could continue to work part time. I enrolled in Chemistry for two six-week terms during the summer of 1950.

Aunt Icie and --- Cova Strickland recommended me to Miss Price for a job in the University Cafeteria. I worked about 20 hours per week that summer while taking two six-week terms in Chemistry. I got all As, which gave me enough grade points to be eligible to work during the rest of my tenure. The old student union, the “Mountainlair,” was housed in a war surplus Quonset hut. The enrollment had grown so rapidly after World War II that temporary structures were put up all over the campus. Yet, the total enrollment on the University campus in 1950 was only about 5,000. That was still a huge place for me, however. I worked there after getting laid off at the cafeteria. Those “damned democrats caused budget problems at the cafeteria. I thought Miss Price was just bias, but it turned out that the Governor and his purchasing agent had set up a dummy company to do business with the state. All purchases were made through their business and the skimmed 15% from the top. Later, they both got sent up for their scheme.

I completed my freshman year, which included quantitative and qualitative chemistry. I enrolled in a summer work program sponsored by the American Guernsey Cattle association during the summer of 1951. They sent me to the Dunwalk Farm in Far Hills New Jersey. I earned $60 per week plus room and board. Mostly I helped milk (twice per day) about forty Guernsey cattle. I was required to work about 10 hours per day with one day off every two weeks. I learned to drive by taking the jeep out onto the Dunwalk Farm roads. Onetime I got lost and drove all the way up to Mr. Dillon’s mansion. I had to turn around in the driveway in the back of the mansion. I jockeyed the vehicle because the jeep has large joints up front (for the four-wheel drive) and it won’t turn on a dime.

The first time I took my driver’s test, I failed because I couldn’t back into a parallel space between two drums. I got a new learners permit and then went out to another testing station in the country where there were no sidewalks this time I passed because they didn’t have me back up the car (that old Studebaker) for parallel parking. So I passed.

When I returned for the next fall term, I had an invitation from Dr. Walter Lewis to come and work for him in the Biochemistry Laboratory at the Agriculture Experiment Station in Olgaby Hall. Since I had completed courses in analytical chemistry, he said that I would be qualified to do analytical work and to do chores such as keeping the glassware clean. The following summer, I took two terms of organic chemistry and continued to work in the research lab in Olgaby (sp) Hall. For my Junior year, I received a Regional Scholarship from the Sears Roebuck Foundation. Dr. A. H. VanLandingham, my faculty advisor, accompanied me to Chicago to receive the award.

All freshmen at WVU were required to take ROTC. The following year, I elected to continue, and I selected the Air Force division (AFROTC). My specialty would be “logistics and supply”. The summer after my junior year, I had four weeks of training at Lawson Air Force Base at Fort Benning, GA. I completed four years and received a “Completion of Training Certificate”. The Korean War was over, and they no longer needed Second Lieutenants. I turned down offers of Pfc. in the Regular Air Force or a commission in the Air National Guard. (The National Guard did not qualify one for the GI Bill.)

During the Korean War, there was a lot of labor strife, and at one point, Truman 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.” I was proctor in the dorm during my junior and senior years. That paid for my room and board.

After Air Force camp, I went to Saint Louis for two weeks at the Purina Farms with William H. Danforth, followed by two weeks at Camp Miniwauka. (On a Danforth Foundation Scholarship)

GRADUATE SCHOOL

During my senior year, I was accepted for a graduated research assistantship at the Cornell University School of Nutrition. My major professor was Dr. L. A. Maynard, who authored our text book on Animal nutrition. I was impressed with his clear style of writing, and was determined to accept his offer. (Dr. Lewis wanted me to apply at Perdue, his Alma Mater, to study under Dr. Whistler.)

I rented a room in Ithaca and took Biochemistry 101 for the summer of 1954. I shared an apartment in College Town with Dr. Poonsadki Sambhavaphol for the following year, and moved to another apartment with Hugh Daubeny for my second year in Ithaca. I met Hugh while serving as a guinea pig on a nutrition study to provide guidelines for establishing the minimum daily requirement for vitamin C. We received 8 mg per day. The initial plan was for a three month study, but it was extended to six months. They followed the levels of vitamin C in our blood serum.

When I was in the school in nutrition, Dr. Maynard threw a party for the whole department. I skipped the party because they served cocktails the party and I didn’t want to be around people who were drinking. (I was a teetotaler.) The following summer Doctor Williams threw an outdoor picnic party for us, and I didn’t attend that either—for the same reason. That got me into trouble. Dr. Maynard called me in his office and said I had two strikes against me. One, I didn’t go to his party; and two, I missed the picnic. He said, “Nobody could afford to be so independent, unless he is a genius—and, you are not a genius.”

The next time there was a party was when one of my fellow students was celebrating the passing of his qualifying exam. It was on a winter evening at his house out in the country. It’s snowed that evening and most people could not make it to the party. I was lucky because I and three or four others rode with Jack and he was driving a Volkswagen. We got out and helped push the car up the hill to our friend’s house. Since our host had prepared for about 30 people, and only a few of us got there, you can imagine that we had a pretty wild party. That was the first time I ever drank beer, and must have had two or three. I know I felt good, but must have made a little scene because somebody gave me the hot foot. I attended one or two more parties at Cornell before I left there, I don’t remember ever being wild again at a party.

My research (for my thesis) was about imbalances of minerals (calcium, phosphorus and magnesium) in the diet of guinea pigs, and the study was published in the Journal of Nutrition. After completing my MNS degree, Dr. Maynard recommended me for another graduate assistantship to study under Dr. H.H.Williams for a Ph.D. degree. I chose to major in Biochemistry with minors in Organic Chemistry and Physiology. Dr. Blomquist (Chemistry) and Dr. J.A. Dye (Physiology) were my minor professors.

Sometime in the spring of 1956, Veronica Robinson (who was another subject in the nutrition study) introduced me to Barbara Lee, a graduate of Washington State University who had recently enrolled at Cornell in the Foods and Nutrition Department of the School of Home Economics. Sometime later my room-mate, Hugh asked me to fill in for him on a date with her. That started a courtship that resulted in our getting married on August 31, 1956. Hugh volunteered to move out and let Barbara move into the tiny apartment with me.

Nine months and two weeks later, our first daughter was born. I had agreed with Barbara that we would name her Ann Louise, but I was expecting a boy and hadn’t given much thought to naming a girl. (My chosen name for a boy was “Robert Wayne”.) But I was so mesmerized with our new baby that I wanted a more glamorous name for her. I selected Susan Ann, and Barbara went along; but she declared, “From now on, I will name the girls; and you can name the boys.”

We enrolled Susan in the nursery school, and Barbara continued graduate work for a while before she dropped out to work in Dr. Leonard’s laboratory, Department of Endocrinology at Cornell. She worked there until late in her pregnancy with Jean, during my fourth year at Cornell.

POST GRADUATE

 I got a job at the University of Delaware and we decided not to wait till too close to Barbara’s due date to move her. We found an apartment in Newark and moved Barbara and Susan in while I returned to Ithaca to finish the lab work for my PhD thesis. Jean was born in Wilmington, Delaware in September, 1958. I was in the process of finishing up my lab work for PhD thesis, and I already had a position at the U. of Delaware. Barbara’s due date was in October; but, because she had a family history of early deliveries, we decided to move her and Susan two weeks ahead of me. We rented the bottom floor (furnished) of a two story house in Newark, DE.

Two weeks later, I received a call that Jean Patricia had arrived one month early (on September 14, 1958). I stayed up all night to finish the last run on my lab work before leaving for Delaware. I finished my thesis and got my degree the following February (1959). The second year in Delaware, we bought a home in a housing development in the outskirts of Newark, where we lived for two years. Our number three daughter, Gail Elizabeth was born on June 8, 1961.

I gave up my combination teaching-research job at the University to take a full-time research position with Dr. Harry Waisman in the Dept. of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. We stayed for two years before moving to a new job at the Sonoma State Hospital in California. Leta Malissa was born in Sonoma on April 24, 1964. Our next move was to Pacific State Hospital in Pomona, California. I was approved for a new grant that would have kept me in Pomona, but the newly elected Gov. of California (Ronald Reagan) cut our budget, and we had to move again. Barbara was expecting again, and it was very close to her due time.

I got a job at The Clinical Research Center in Children’s Hospital at Ohio State University in Columbus. Mary was born early, while I was in Ohio making arrangement for our move back east. We moved to Reynoldsburg, near Columbus, and I worked at Children’s Hospital until 1972.

I had a three-year grant from NIH from 1970 1973. I was studying histidase. I collaborated with Jackson Lyn, who worked at the Battelle Memorial Laboratories. He stabilized enzymes by binding them to cellulose. I took my enzyme preparation to him and he stabilized it for me. When I visited his laboratory, I reported to the front desk, and they called him to come and escort me to his lab.  On one or two occasions, Jackson suggested “but don't you to come to the back door and sneak in.” “I played cat and mouse with the security all the time.” One time, I called over there and ask for Jackson. The telephone operator answered, “I'm sorry. Jackson died in his sleep last week. His wife was awakened when Jackson rustled enough to awaken her. She got up to see about their baby. When she returned, Jackson was motionless, and she couldn't arouse him.” The autopsy showed no marks on him; and the cause of death was determined to be sudden death syndrome, which is extremely rare in adults. (That happened during the height of the Cold War, and I have always wondered whether there was a linkage between Jackson's "Cat and Mouse Games" and his ultimate fate. Battelle contracted a lot of secretive government contracts.)

My research grant ran out that year, and I decided that I couldn’t take the stress of grantsmanship any longer. It was during the time of economic troubles from the Vietnam War (a “guns or butter issue”). I was told that my last NIH grant was one of five proposals that were approved, and that only one out of twenty of those was funded. I decided to go into the commercial lab business; and Scientific Advances , a subsidiary of Battelle Memorial Laboratories, formed a new company “Metagen, Inc.” to specialize in testing for genetic disorders in children and unborn fetuses. Unfortunately, the project was short-lived because we didn’t get a rapid response from the doctors, and SA decided it wouldn’t give them a quick return on their investments.

Somehow, Jim Gott, who was a regional director for a medical insurance organization heard about me; and he helped me relocate to West Chicago, Illinois, to help Miller Pharmacal Company, founded byDr. John J. Miller, set up a new Laboratory (Biomedical Data, Inc.), specializing in measuring minerals and trace elements in human hair. After about four years, we got out of Bob Moravac’s back yard and moved into a newly remodeled building on Roosevelt Road in West Chicago. That move was anticlimactic. I felt at a dead-end.

Leon Kast proposed that we start a new venture. Leon Kast, Howard Cohn, Drake Leoris and I formed a general partnership (each investing $10,000), and Howard sold 25 limited partnerships ($250,000). The new business (Rapid Medical Services) was almost ready to open for business, when Howard’s untimely death occurred. The business was slow to get off the ground, and Leoris decided that they couldn’t afford to pay my salary of $35 k per year, when he could get a biochemist at $10 k per year. They let me go, and hired an Indian Ph. D. in my place. They soon put the company into bankruptcy. The other partners got a huge tax deduction, but I didn’t have any taxes to write-off.

I had to sign up for unemployment, and that hurt my pride. When I saw a notice on the board at the unemployment office—“Manpower Wanted”, I applied at the directed location and found that it was for a CETA program that would pay me a minimum wage and cover my expenses, including tuition and fees, to attend a training program at the College of DuPage in food service administration. After taking courses in Food Preparation, Management, etc., I found that I was now qualified for Registration with the American Dietetic Association as a Dietician (under a grandfather clause). I barely met the deadline before discontinuation of that program by the ADA.

I left Illinois with an old Eldorado Cadillac Hardtop that I bought for $250. I had to install a new fuel pump before I left. On the way to West Virginia, I had trouble keeping the engine running. The motor wasn't getting enough power when I turned on the headlights. The motor would almost CONK out. After I got to West Virginia, I pulled aside and called Earl to take me the rest of the way to my parents’ home. We came back the next day got car to take it the rest of the way to my parents' home. Edward found a loose wire to the alternator.

I made two or three trips to Montgomery Alabama, where I stayed with Edna for a week or two while looking for a job; but I had no luck finding worked there.

Next, I went to Wilda’s in home Tampa, Florida. Joe got me a job in construction working for Mr. Ryan, at minimum wage. On the first day of that job, they had me tear out a pipe up under a building. The next day, my muscles were so sore that I could hardly get out of bed. Ryan's dad was working on the job. He had gone bankrupt, running a nursery and the Bahamas. He told me that he had to get help getting out of bed during his first week or two on the job. We had another project where we poured hot tar on roofs. When the temperature was over 90° and the wind humidity was more than 90%, sweat poured off our foreheads, but we got accustomed to it. Joe was the Gopher (Gopher for this and Gopher that). I worked on that job for about three months.

With the help of an employment agency in Chicago, in October in October, 1980, I got interview with Mississippi Valley food service in Jackson Mississippi, and they hired me as a food service management trainee at King’s Daughters Hospital  in Brookhaven, Mississippi. After six months at Brookhaven, MVFS transferred me to
Tyler Holmes Memorial Hospitalin Winona, MS. While there, I passed the American Dietetic Association test that qualified me to be a Registered Dietician.

Barbara stayed behind with our daughters until Leta graduated from high school; and I, being very lonely without her, spent a lot of time in local taverns. Wesley Crawford had an old shack way out in the country off the main roads. I went there often, and one of my drinking buddies was Ruth. Ruth lived on one of the back roads away out in the country. Her boyfriend often left her stranded, and she would ask me for a ride home. We became good friends.  After about a year, Barbara joined me in Wynona; but Ruth continued calling me, asking me for a ride home from the bar. I would tell Barbara that my friend George had a flat tire and I was going to go help him. On one occasion, when Ruth called me, I ask Barbara to go with me. I don't know what Barbara said to her, but Ruth quit calling me; and, after that incident, when Barbara brought up the subject, I would say, “Well, you made me Ruthless!”

To My Sweet Wife

Whatever we know,

We still have room to grow;

And there are times in life,

That a man does not always

Share with his wife.

In the meantime, be assured that

If we can’t get along without a spat,

We must tolerate each other --

Because there’s no way

I would give you up for another.

-- Dallas E. Boggs

Uncle Bill died shortly after we left Mississippi, and they buried him in the Smith Cemetery, located at the top of the steep hill behind Aunt Rena's and Uncle Albert Smith's home place--near Corton, WV. WV is well known for locating its burial grounds on the apex of its steep slopes; but the road to this one goes straight up; and you wouldn't expect a passenger vehicle to make the climb. I, having been away from the hills for many years was almost scared out of my pants when I was a passenger in one of the several vehicles making that climb. It provoked me to express my feelings in the following verses.

Smith Hill

Next time, I'll write my will
Before I go up that hill,
Where they buried Uncle Bill.

I thought we wouldn't get there alive,
But Debbie took her Blazer,
And that hill didn't even phase her—
With that Blazer in four wheel drive.
She headed straight up that hill--
Where they buried Uncle Bill.

We made our own track.
Nothing could hold that Blazer back!
It rolled right over a great big rock,
And climbed all the way to the top.
Of that hill,
Where they buried Uncle Bill.

I said, "Thank you, I'd rather walk back down."
But Paul didn't even frown.
He just said, "If you follow your old track.
The wind'll hold you back."
Debbie said, "Paul! Shut your mouth."--
As she headed that Blazer South—
Back down that hill,
Where the buried Uncle Bill.

I continued working at Tyler Holmes Hospital as Dietary Director until 1984, when the hospital was downsized from 70 beds to 30 beds; and I felt that they couldn’t afford me anymore. I voluntarily resigned, and we moved to Dunbar, WV to manage my brother Earl’s store on Roxalana Rd. When we had to close that business, I got a job as Dietary Director at South Charleston Community Hospital. That job lasted a little more than one year; and (in December, 1985) I found a job in Nashville, TN with the WIC program administered by the Tennessee Opportunities Program for the State of Tennessee. We moved into a small utility apartment on W. Douglas Ave. in East Nashville, where we lived for 18 years (It was not a good Neighborhood, but the rent was so low we couldn't afford to leave there.) My job lasted about six months. (A new Governor took office, and his Attorney General ruled that the arrangement between the State and TOPS was illegal.)

There was a suitable job opening in the State of Washington, but we would have to move again and start all over. By this time I wanted to get out of the rat race. (I could say that I was "burned out".) I found Temporary employment until I turned 55--an age qualifying me to get help from a CAPS program, which referred me to Opryland Theme Park. They hired me as a food service worker. I worked there until the Park closed in October, when I transferred to the Hotel. From that job, I went to Sky Chefs, Inc. on Hanger Lane in Nashville.

I worked in the food prep division for about a year -- until the Cooks position became available, and I took that job (I would now get experience that I had wanted for a long time to full-fill my interests in the food business, and I enjoyed the job of bulk cooking for 50 employees at a time and preparing first class meals for American Airlines.

DRINKING

When I was in the school in nutrition, Dr. Maynard threw a party for the whole department. I skipped the party because they served cocktails the party and I didn't want to be around people that were drinking.

Following summer doctors Williams threw an outdoor picnic party for us, and I didn't attend that either--for the same reason.

That got me into trouble.  Dr. Maynard called me in his office and said I had two strikes against me.  One, I didn't go to his party; and two, I missed the picnic.  He said, nobody could afford to be so independent, unless he is a genius—and, “You are not a genius.”

The next time there was a party that was when one of my fellow students was having party for passing his qualifying exam.  It was on a winter evening at his house out in the country.  It's snowed that evening and most people cannot make it to the party. I was lucky, because I rode with Jack; and he was driving a Volkswagen.  There were four or five of us in his car, and we got out and helped push the car up the hill to our friend’s house.

Since they had prepared for about 30 people, and only a few of us got there, you can imagine we had pretty wild party.  That was the first time I ever drink beer, and must have had two or three.  I know I felt good, but I must of made a bit of a scene because somebody gave me the hot foot. (Stuck some matches in the crease between the sole an top and then lit them).

The next time I got happy was at the University of Wisconsin in 1963.  With Dr. Waisman out of town, we had a party at which we spiked grape juice with 200 proof alcohol and cinnamon spice.  We banged on pots and pans and had a wild time. While in Madison, I started going downtown once awhile and having a beer. But I never got really soused.

I started drinking regularly after we moved to California. I would meet my crew at the Rustic Inn every weekday after work, and we would have a few glasses of draft beer while we played horse (roll the dice).  The loser had to buy a round.

I never got drunk, drinking  just enough to loosen my tongue. One evening, I do remember walking up London Ranch Road after dark and meeting a car.  I stepped aside to let him pass, and I stumbled into a deep culvert.  I was relaxed enough that I didn't get hurt, but I have always wondered about the driver of the car.  What did he think when he saw me walking by the road and then suddenly disappear?

 I drank at the rustic just about every day during the two years I was at Sonoma; and when we moved to Pomona, near Los Angeles, to work at Pacific State Hospital, I thought that I would not have a place to drink. But I soon found one, and I continued to drink a few beers most every day.  But I never got drunk.

After we moved to Columbus OH, I joined the V. F. W. as a social member so that I could get six percent beer on Sundays.  I did get a bit intoxicated a few times the never really got falling down drunk. (Have you ever heard what happens to a frog who is placed in boiling water? He jumps out. But when placed in lukewarm water, he remains there and becomes comfortable where he eventually dies.  have you ever heard what happens to a frog who is placed in boiling water? He jumps out. But when placed in lukewarm water, he remains there and becomes comfortable where he eventually dies.have you ever heard what happens to a frog who is placed in boiling water? He jumps out. But when placed in lukewarm water, he remains there and becomes comfortable where he eventually dies.have you ever heard what happens to a frog who is placed in boiling water? He jumps out. But when placed in lukewarm water, he remains there and becomes comfortable where he eventually dies.have you ever heard what happens to a frog who is placed in boiling water? He jumps out. But when placed in lukewarm water, he remains there and becomes comfortable where he eventually dies.have you ever heard what happens to a frog who is placed in boiling water? He jumps out. But when placed in lukewarm water, he remains there and becomes comfortable where he eventually dies.have you ever heard what happens to a frog who is placed in boiling water? He jumps out. But when placed in lukewarm water, he remains there and becomes comfortable where he eventually dies.)


The next time I got happy was at the University of Wisconsin in 1963. With Dr. Waisman out of town, we had a party at which we spiked grape juice with 200 proof alcohol and cinnamon spice. We banged on pots and pans and had a wild time. While in Madison, I started going downtown once awhile and having a beer. But I never got really soused.

I started drinking regularly after we moved to California. I would meet my crew at the Rustic Inn every weekday after work, and we would have a few glasses of draft beer while we played horse (roll the dice). The loser had to buy a round.

I never got drunk, drinking just enough to loosen my tongue. One evening, I do remember walking up London Ranch Road after dark and meeting a car. I stepped aside to let him pass, and I stumbled into a deep culvert. I was relaxed enough that I didn't get hurt, but I have always wondered about the driver of the car. What did he think when he saw me walking by the road and then suddenly disappear?

I drank at the rustic just about every day during the two years I was at Sonoma; and when we moved to Pomona, near Los Angeles, to work at Pacific State Hospital, I thought that I would not have a place to drink. But I soon found one, and I continued to drink a few beers most every day. But I never got drunk.

After we moved to Columbus OH, I joined the V. F. W. as a social member so that I could get six percent beer on Sundays. I did get a bit intoxicated a few times the never really got falling down drunk.

When we lived on Scott Street in Wheaton, I once lost my car.  I was driving home from the V. F. W. club in a snow blizzard, and I had make a few runs at the little hill off Main Street to Scott Street.  Somebody behind me got out of his car and came to my window.  He said why don't you just park it over there. “You’re only a block from home, aren’t you?” He pointed me to the parking lot behind the hardware store.  I parked there and went home; but the next morning I didn't remember where I parked my car.  I was embarrassed.  I got in the old Chevy that George and given me, and I drove over to the Gables with the motor knocking loudly.  I didn't find the car.  Then I suddenly remembered parking it behind the hardware store. After I lost my job, I drank pretty heavily.  I would walk home and pass out. (I drank at a pub within three blocks of home).



After we moved to Carol Streams, a suburb of Wheaton, I had too many at the Gables a few times. I would go home and sleeping it off. I do remember driving slowly up Gary Avenue with a caravan behind me.

After I went to Mississippi, and was alone a lot of the time, I began to get falling down drunk.  That continued after we went to West Virginia and got worse in Nashville. Fortunately, I was careful about driving in that condition. But, in 1991, the supervisors at Sky Chefs kept giving me trouble and accusing me of having a drinking problem. (There was a lot of "back-biting" because other employees wanted my job.) I decided to appease them by signing up for a Treatment Program.

 On my first day in the 28 day program, somebody said:

Write a letter.
You’ll get better.
You can recoup.
Tell the group.
They’ll let you cry —
Anything to get by.
So I wrote a letter,
And I slowly got better.
 

Dear Ethyl,

You were only a delusion.
You caused me much confusion.
Many times I missed the clue --
That I should abandon you.
The first binge was a great thrill --
Until I got the bill.
After a night on the town,
You really let me down.
I had a gigantic head
When I got out of bed.
I should have been rich,

But you put me in a ditch.
I just tried another round,
Until I hit the ground.
When I came to,
I was missing a shoe.
I said, "I'll give it another try."
But no Cinderella was I.
I crawled on all fours --
Until I found some open doors.
From what I could surmise --
Through my bleary eyes,
The sign on the wall said,
"Welcome to Friendship Hall."
I have said farewell to many a foe --
And did not know --
That, in a little while,
We should reconcile.
But you are my nemesis.
It's not enough to build fences.
We must blow up all of our bridges,
Into tiny little smidges.
The chasm must be very wide,
With no place for you to hide.
Farewell, my fair weather friend.
I am on the mend. 

(I haven't imbibed since then.)

A few months after I left the Treatment Center, the Business Manager for our union (HERE--Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees, International) passed away and her job became available. I was selected (by the Board Members) to fulfill the rest of her term.

When that term expired, I decided not to run for the elected position, so I rejoined the ranks of the unemployed. (Also, I began collecting Social Security at age 62). I continued to rent the office on 1710 Hayes Street until 1999. I used that office while "putting together" two books and getting them published by PublishAmerica, Inc. During that time, I also worked two seasons at Opryland Theme Park and later moved to Guest Services at the hotel.

After I left there, I worked one season on the General Jackson and then back to the hotel at Delta Riverboats. From there I went to the Front Desk, where I was working on 9/11. They kept me on for a few months before terminating my position. I had learned, by this time, to use my time between jobs; a tour with my oldest grandson of my beloved WV was a terrific experience. I had not seen much of the state because we did not have a car during my pre-college years.

THE TORNADO OF 1998

One memorable occasion occurred in 1998 while we lived in E. Nashville was a major tornado that hit within a mile of our apartment. It was a rainy morning, and I was on my way to my downtown office. I stopped at the bank to get some money, and left my headlights on. My battery was already causing problems; and, this time, the battery was dead, and I couldn’t start my ‘78 Thunderbird. I decided to walk back home and use Barbara’s car to go get a new battery. When I got home, there was a weather alert. A tornado had touched down in West Nashville – on Charlotte Ave.-- about two blocks from my office (on Hayes St.).

The storm progressed through downtown Nashville and up Main St. and, when I heard them mention Gallatin Road, I looked West over the tree tops and I could see debris flying everywhere – like a flock of crows.

I yelled at Barbara “Get out of here!” Then I ran downstairs to the ground level. Just then the lights went out. I yelled, “Get outta there, you idiot.” The man in the upstairs appt. came out, and then Barbara slowly followed. The people downstairs let us into their apartment. We intended to take shelter in their basement; but the tornado missed us. Gallatin Rd. curves north just beyond the Main St. connection. The storm stayed on a straight line and missed us by about ½ of a mile.

I went to AutoZone and got a new battery. While I was there, another tornado struck down just north of downtown. I observed the black clouds and heard lots of sirens.

Barbara and I drove down Gallatin Rd, taking several detours, to the bank (Nation’s Bank then). My car had been struck by flying bricks from the bank where a protruding sign had been torn off the outside wall taking several bricks with it. A rear driver side window had been broken and the back rear driver side was bashed in; but the car was still derivable. I installed the new battery and brought the car home. I later covered over the rear side window and drove the car for another two Years. I painted over the patches so that the damages weren’t very prominent.

In October, 2004, we bought our house on Greenland Ave. (in Inglewood). We had rented that one bedroom utility apartment (1004 West Douglas Ave, in East Nashville) from 1986 till 2004.

I started with Towne Park in April, 2003 and worked there until October 2012.

Free Thinking


When my mind is free,

It just amazes me

To roam alone Into the unknown

How could there be—

So much to see

In the wonders of the mind

Of all mankind.

Is man alone in the universe –

Or even worse?

Could he be under some kind of a curse?

That we may be blind

To the potential of mankind,

When aided by a higher power

That never goes sour.

by Dallas E. Boggs


Sept 11, 2011: It is difficult to realize that it has been ten years since the bombing of the World Trade Center, an event thoroughly embedded in the minds of everyone who witnessed that day. There have several other historical events of my lifetime worthy of mentioning. Visit my blog page about some of them, especially my version of 20th century history.             

MY EPITHET
After I croak,
Don't moan for this bloke.
I had a good life,
Enjoyed it with a beautiful wife,
And five sweet girls,
More precious than pearls.
They didn't make much noise,
Or fuss about boys.
They Attended their classes,
Like good little lasses.
Though none was very tall,
Life with them was a ball.
In no time at all,
I became a Grandpa.
I often sit and reflect,
About what to expect,
From a world that at every turn,
Gives us something new to learn.
But this I know --
Every day I grow, in spirit --
Whether or not in merit.
~Dallas E. Boggs




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Gary Avenue
with a caravan behind me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When President Roosevelt died in 1945, Mrs. Thompson wanted us to hear President Truman’s inaugural speech. We gathered around her car to listen to it on the radio. President Truman asked us to pray for him. He said he felt like a bale of hay had fallen on him.

I was born on April 20, 1932 in our country home at Porter (now Bomont), West Virginia—the second child of Ira and Nellie (McCune) Boggs. My older brother, Norris, was born on July 11, 1930. Porter—best described as a village or a hamlet—was a whistle stop on the B & O Railroad. We had a post office (in a little country store), a one room school, a railway depot, a natural gas compressor station, and a saw-mill. (Population: about 45 or 50 within a two square mile area). The nearest town is Clendenin (about 12 miles), and our county seat is Clay (about 20 miles). Clendenin is on Elk River about 25 miles North of Charleston (The State Capitol), and Clay (the county seat of Clay County) is about 25 miles (via State Rt. 4) from Clendenin.

The Boggses derived from our Scotch Irish Ancestors, who arrived in Delaware in 1710 and migrated to what is now Central West Virginia in the 1750’s (prior to the American Revolution). They mixed—to some extent—with Native Americans, mostly Cherokees. On my mother’s side, we are Scotch Irish and Black Irish. “Black Irish” is also a moniker for Appalachian peoples of mixed race (European, Native American, Middle Eastern, and [possibly] African American), often referred to as “Melungeons”. Mother’s maternal grandmother was a Deel, and her maternal great grandmother was a Gibson. (Both of these names are familiar in Melungeon family trees.) Her paternal grandmother was a Reed, whose father was said to have been “full-blooded German”.

My mother said that her maternal grandfather, William Conley, came to see me when I was an infant; that he was 110 years old; that he was a veteran of the Civil War; and that he could jump and click his heels twice before landing. (Evidently, she mistook her grandfather for her great grandfather, who served in the Virginia Cavalry and died from war wounds in 1866.) My mother did not know that side of the family well. Grandma McCune disowned them because they “cussed, drank and gambled”. She did not want her children exposed to that.

My father was 13 years older than my mother. His late marriage is explained by his being “Shell Shocked” in World War I. He spent several years in and out of rehab after the war. (While in his 70’s, he wrote his memories about the war and his life experiences.) He was employed full-time by the Hope Natural Gas Company at Corton, W.Va.; and he worked on our one-horse farm most of his free time. My mother was a full-time house-keeper and parent. She was 24 yrs. old (b. April 18, 1908) when I was born, and my father turned 37 that year (b. May 1, 1895).

I was born in 1932, during the depths of the Great Depression, but I didn’t know that our country (or the World) was in such a Financial Crunch. Our father had a steady job throughout most of the depression; and we were much better off than most of our neighbors. How could I have ever thought our family was amongst the Poor?

OUR HOME

We lived in a two bedroom white clapboard bungalow with a full basement (816 sq.ft.). The front faced a single lane dirt road at the foot of a steep hillside and rock cliff. The back door faced a rippling creek (Porters Creek). It was surrounded by steep Appalachian hills and a little tributary that we called “Ad Hollow”. There were two bridges between our house and the school, which was about one mile below (as the creek flows) our house. The school, the post office, the United Fuel Gas Company compressor station, and the depot were all within a quarter mile of Elk River. Porter is a meandering creek that runs into a meandering river, which runs into the Kanawha, which empties into the Ohio, which empties into the Mississippi. Upstream from Bell, WV, the Kanawha is known as the “New River”. Contrary to its name, the New River is the second (to the Nile) oldest river in the world.

                           Porters Creek


Now, I might be meek; but I ain’t weak.
Cause I was born’n raised on Porters Creek.
Butted heads with many a sister and many a brother;
But we still love one another.
I often slept at the foot of the bed –
Two at the foot and three at the head -- on Porters Creek.

I ain’t no fool, 'cause I went to school -- on Porters Creek.
The teacher used a switch; but she seldom left a welt.
SHAME was mostly what I felt.
Mother said, “You’re still better’n that witch.”

Played “Cowboys ‘n Indians.”
The cowboys would nearly always win.
But, “What the heck!”
It was still politically correct, then.
Carved my initial on many a tree,
Stubbed my toe seven times in a row,
An’ got stung by many a bee -- on Porters Creek.

Hoed corn for two dollars a day.
Big brother thought I was very slow.
But I thought I had a hard row to hoe;
and we all got the same amount of pay.
Included free dinner, with all we could eat –
Plenty of beans an’ taters;
An’ lots of fried green t’maters –
Good home cookin’ that couldn’t be beat -- on Porters Creek.

There wasn’t any street crime.
(THERE WERE NO STREETS!)
An’ no-body did time.
(THERE WERE NO JAILS!)
But I had to dodge many a rock,
An’ still took many a knock -- on Porters Creek.

If I’d known then what I know now,
I might have stayed behind the plow.
'Cause the air is pure, the water runs clear,
the birds sing loud,
and the Rhododendron blooms proud--on Porters Creek.

Went to town every Saturday nite.
Watched th’ cowboys an’ Indians fight;
An’ then I walked back
By way of th’ railroad track.
Sometimes the wild cats rattled th’ leaves at night;
And I didn’t always have a light.
But Daddy said, “You don’t need to fear.
Bobcats don’t go hungry here -- on Porters Creek.”

Sunday was the LORD’S day;
And we weren’t allowed to work for pay.
The preacher prayed both loud an’ fast;
And we never knew how long th’ sermon wou’d last -- on Porters Creek.
Now Mother an’ Daddy, don’t despair!
When th’ roll is called, I’ll be there! -- on Porters Creek
                by Dallas E. Boggs

We had a hedge around the base of the house to hide the bare concrete of the basement walls (about 2½ to 3 feet off the ground). The foliage included white and pink hydrangeas, azaleas, and snowballs. Wisteria vines rested on trellises at the north corner of the front porch. Every spring, little house wrens built their nest in the vines under the eaves of the porch. The nest was just outside my bedroom window, and I loved to hear their sweet songs early in the morning. I would climb up and peek into their nest after they laid their eggs, observing them until the eggs hatched and the babies were born. (We were careful not to handle the baby birds because we were warned that ants would infest them if we left fingerprints on their bare skin.)

In the lower yard, we had a witch hazel tree with a flower bed around its base. Hollyhocks and Coxcombs were some of our favorite flowers. We also planted snapdragons, Sweet Williams, and petunias in that section of the lawn. Along the fence in the front yard, we had chrysanthemum, crocuses, gladiolus, dahlias, Easter lilies (daffodils), tulips and bleeding hearts (columbines). There were a few forsythia bushes along the fence in the lower yard. We had some more flower beds in the middle of the front yard. Marigolds, petunias, and zinnias were among our favorite annuals for those beds. Between the fence and the road, we had Bearded Irises (“wild flags”) and gladiolas.

Rhododendron grew naturally on the hillside across the road—facing the front entrance to our house. Some large tiger lilies came up every year along the rock wall at the back of our house, and there were some large lilac bushes, some hibiscus and some Rose of Sharon (“Dog Day Bushes”) along the fence in the back yard. Ground ivy grew wild on the borders of the back wall. It made a nice ground cover, and Mother often used it for medicinal purposes. It was supposed to be good for a “spring tonic” or for treatment of colds and flu. To find the way to the outhouse, you took the path most traveled. It was located next to the creek at the lower end of the garden above the house and near the walking bridge that went to the garden on the other side of the creek.

There were some elephant ear magnolia trees—we called them “cucumber trees”—in the lower yard. They had a large white flower in the early spring; and, when the pedals dropped off, the stamen became a large seedpod shaped like a cucumber. The leaves were very large, maybe a foot long and six inches wide, and they made very good shade tents for newly transplanted tomato plants. They were quite different from the magnolia trees we see in Tennessee. I understand that there are as many as three hundred different varieties of magnolia trees. (Ours were deciduous, and the most common ones in Tennessee are evergreen.) We had a clump of hemlock trees in the corner of the lower yard closest to the creek with a rope swing between two of these trees. When I was about four years old, I was swinging very high and fell out of the swing, knocking out two front teeth, leaving a gap for a few years—until my permanent tooth grew in. Mother waited for a good rain to soften the ground before pulling weeds from the flower beds—so that the flowers were not uprooted. The soil around our home was mostly sand (DeKalb), which was very good for rooting new cuttings; and Mother was an expert in starting new plants. Whenever she was visiting one of her relatives, friends, or neighbors, and saw a new rose bush, she often asked for a slip off that plant. She had several growing in different spots in our yard.

Facing the road, the front porch was fenced with white rail banisters. Concrete peers supported the floor of the porch, and concrete steps with concrete wings led from the porch down to a cement walkway extending to the road. A swinging seat hung on chains suspended from the ceiling. I don’t know how many times one of us got a knee stuck between the banisters. We were like the monkey that couldn’t get his hand out of the cookie jar because he couldn’t let loose of the cookies. All we had to do was to extend our leg so that the knee joint straitened to a smaller diameter so we could get our leg out in the reverse direction from which it went in; but sometimes our leg may have swollen so that they had to lubricate it with soap to slip back through the perpendicular rails. We never had to call the fire department to get us out (We didn’t have a fire department!), and we never had to cut the rails (banisters) to free a kid’s knee.

CHILDHOOD

Three months after I was born, a flood caused our concrete basement floor to crack, and it also washed out the backyard. (Flash floods were common in those days because people farmed the hillsides, causing quick runoff). Dad built a six-foot rock wall that is about one hundred yards long—all the way from the corncrib and the upper end of our main garden to the lower corner of our yard. Uncle Pat McCune (Mother's brother) and some of our other relatives used levers and pulleys to pull huge rocks from the creek bed. They finished filling in the yarn and leveled it off with horse drawn scrapers and rollers. We experienced flash-floods almost annually---didn't have dams on the river (Elk)---and people cleared the hill-sides for their one-horse farming---and, when there was a "cloud-burst," the waters rushed off those hillsides like water off a horse's back.

When I was about eighteen months old (My father had a car, a coupe with a rumble seat at that time. I think it was a “Star Roadster”), we made a trip to Falls Church Virginia to visit Uncle Ray and Aunt Meriba. I think that I remember being delayed by flagmen at the rock quarry just above Uncle Guy’s house, where a steam shovel was being used to move huge stones that were being hewed into building blocks for walls holding up bridges, etc.

I don’t recall when we no longer had a car, but I do remember the Red Diamond T Truck that Dad used in the timber a few years before World War II. I remember the deep ruts in the roads where they were hauling logs out of the woods—and the slabs and boards they used to fill in some of the gulches in the log roads to keep the truck from getting stuck. We ordered most of the food, which was delivered once per month on a pickup truck. The monthly order consisted mostly of a sack each of pinto beans, sugar and flour, a gallon of Crisco, some salt and pepper, shredded coconut, a sack of chicken feed, meshed grains for the pigs, etc.

When I was two years old, Mother gave birth to identical twin girls—Dorothy May and Dorcas Fay. When Mother was expecting the twins (and she was very large!), Norris once provoked the need for Mother to give him a spanking, but he ran from her. When she started chasing him, he looked back over his shoulder and challenged her with, “Mummy, didn’t that docky tell you not to yun?”

The twins were born on September 6, 1934, and Wilda was born on June 23, 1936. Mother had a hired girl to help her most of the time when we were little. At one time, one of the Hall girls helped her, and Pauline Smith (our first cousin) stayed with us for a little while. Maude Burton lived with us for a few years.

When Norris grew out of his clothes, I got to wear them. One time I threw a temper tantrum because Norris got some new pants and I didn’t get any. I would have to accept his hand-me-downs. His old denims had a small tare in them, and I ripped them the rest of the way up the leg. I got a spanking, and I was so upset that I decided to leave home. I got as far as the corncrib above the bend in the road. I wanted to go to Grandma McCune’s house (our second home), but I didn’t know the way (and it would have been a twenty-two mile walk). I stayed in the corncrib (the pouting shed) for an hour or so, calmed down and went back to the house. Nobody missed me. I guess that Mother was just too busy to notice my absence—Dorothy and Dorcas (the twins) and Wilda were all wearing diapers.

One time Mother had told us to save some of the fried chicken for Daddy’s pail, but Norris and I ate all of it. So we decided to get more for Daddy. We went to the barn and got a big fat hen. Norris wielded an axe, and I put the chicken’s head on a block of wood. Just as the ax fell, the chicken moved its head. The ax missed and cut off the chicken’s beak, left it hanging. The chicken flopped and got away from me. It went into the bushes, but our dog Smitty flushed it out, and held it until we could get hold of it again to finish the job. (Oh! What a pity. Somebody poisoned my dog Smitty). Mother said that was her best layin’ hen. But it didn’t go to waste, and we didn’t have to get Aunt Julie to fix his pail. Besides, those biscuits that Aunt Julie fixed were just big enough for one bite.

The first snowfall was an exciting event. From our cozy bunker, we watched the snowflakes tumble to the ground, spinning like feathers, as we sang: “The old gray mare, she’s losing her feathers. The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be—many long years ago. The old gray mare, she broke down the singletree—many long years ago.” We usually went barefooted, when the weather permitted; and when Uncle Pat brought his city-slicker sweetheart to meet us, we stood behind the couch or a chair to hide our dirty feet. (Our feet grew so much during the summer that we had to get new shoes for start of school in the fall.)

Decorating the Christmas tree, cut from the top of a small hemlock tree in the adjoining woods, was one of our most pleasurable seasonal activities. We made chains with colored paper that was cut into strip about ¼” wide and 3” long. We glued the ends together with a simple flower in water suspension, and we used a flour paste to imitate snow on the tree. Dad bought a few decorative glass bulbs for the tree and a small box of tensile. We also hung strings of popcorn on the tree. This was a family event, and every-one of us made a contribution to the project. I knew weeks in advance what my siblings and I would get for Christmas. Dad hid them in the closet, and my prying eyes didn’t miss them. The cowboy gloves and the cap busters I received one Christmas is one of my outstanding memories. Of course, I didn’t tell anybody that I had snooped, so my sisters were surprised when they got their dolls on Christmas day. One year we got a red wagon large enough to tow each other around. Unfortunately, Dad decided that it was strong enough to hold a large bolder when he lined the Peck-spring. It broke down the wagon and it was never repaired. The stocking that we laid out for each of us was filled with a banana or orange and some English walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts (filberts) and hard candy.

One winter, we were playing out in the snow; and Dorothy got so cold that, when she went into the house to warm up, she got too close to the gas space heater in our living room. She caught her dress on fire. She was jumping up and down and screaming when Mother caught her and put the fire out. She received some pretty bad burns on her back. Dr. Harper treated the burns with Ungintine ointment.

MARBLES

When we weren’t hoeing corn, fishing or swimming, bob sledding, riding trees or grapevines, playing marbles was one of our favorite pastimes (1938-1946). Dad didn’t want us to play keeps. (He said, “I’d rather see you boys drink than to gamble.” His Grandfather Boggs had to sell the family farm to pay off a debt from cosigning a note for his neighbor’s gambling debts.)

There were basically two kinds of marbles-- glassies and aggies. Glassies were, of course, made out of glass, and they had a variety of swirled patterns and colors in each one. Some were a solid color, but most of them had some sort of swirl pattern. Aggies, made from a special rock, were used for our shooting marbles. There were also steelies, which were made out of steel ball bearings and were usually outlawed because, when they hit a crockie or a glassy with one of those, it broke the marble. (You had to have a destructive vent to want to use steelies.)

The most popular game with marbles was called “Ringer”. Usually the game was played by drawing a big circle out in the dirt; and this, usually, was sandy dirt. You would take a stick or a pocketknife and draw a big circle on the ground of agreed‑upon size (at least three feet and no more than ten in diameter). Each player puts an agreed‑upon number of target marbles ("miggles") in the center. There would usually be four or five marble shooters, and each person would ante up a couple or three marbles to put into the circle. Target marbles must be at least two inches from each other, but no more than three inches. Each player takes a turn lagging to the edge of the circle from a point ten feet away. The closest to the line has the choice of going first or second (and the others play in order of their closeness).

Players shoot their marbles from outside the ring (as close as can be without hunching over the edge of the ring) to strike the target marbles and knock them out of the ring. Players must shoot knuckles down, with at least one knuckle touching the ground, unless agreed otherwise at the start of the game. (Fudging is not allowed. That’s when you take your hand off the ground and get a forward motion going while you flip the marble with your thumb.) Then the first shooter, keeping his knuckles out of the circle, would shoot. He would shoot his aggie into the circle into the other marbles, trying to knock the best‑looking marble out of the circle, but at the same time he wanted his marble also to come out of the circle. That's because if his marble stayed inside the circle, then people were privileged to shoot at it, and if they knocked it out of the circle, then they got to keep it.

You kept shooting as long as you knocked a marble out with each shot. When you missed, or your taw aggie stayed in the ring, it was the next person's turn. (It’s kind of like billiards where you keep shooting as long as you can put a ball into the pocket.) If a player's shooter remains in the ring after his turn, it becomes a legitimate target and must be ransomed if captured by another player. So they always wanted to make sure that their aggie came out of the circle after hitting the other marble. So you try to make them spin, travel quickly after they hit the other marble, and get out of the circle. If you hit one too solidly--and you had to hit them pretty solid to knock the other marble out of the circle--your aggie would stay inside the circle and you would lose an expensive marble. The taw (usually an aggie) was the thumping marble, or the one you shot with. The winner is the person who has captured the most marbles when all target marbles have been knocked out of the ring. Ringer can be played "for fairs," in which case the marbles are returned to their owners after the game, or "for keeps," in which case the players retain all captured marbles. That meant that if you won a marble you stuck it in your pocket and the other guy lost it. The game was over when the other guy lost all his marbles. That's where the expression came from, "He lost his marbles."

What marked the aggies and made them so pretty was that when they hit another marble, sometimes it would put a little moon in it. You know, like a little new moon? And so when you saw a well‑used aggie, it would have little new moons under the surface of it all the time. Aggies came in all sorts of colors. The rust‑colored ones were my favorites. They ranged from some white to some almost pure black. But black ones were pretty scarce.

The other type of marble game was called Chasies. Players agree on the course to be followed. The first player shoots or rolls his marble down the course. The second player attempts to shoot or roll so that his marble hits the first marble. If it does so, or if it comes sufficiently close so that the second player can touch both marbles with any part of one hand, then the first player pays a penalty of one marble. If it does not, then the second player must shoot or roll and the first player must chase. Play continues until all reach the end of the course. This was a popular game for two players. When the “twins” were young, our rug on the living room floor had checkered patterns that made natural boundaries for our marbles games. We used the patterns on the carpet to mark out our boundaries. When the weather prohibited us from playing outside, we would shoot our marbles across the living room rug, all day long (when our little twin sisters, Dorothy and Dorcas didn't get in our way).

Most boys had a little canvas sack with a drawstring around the top. They carried it around their neck, and you could tell by looking at someone's sack or at the bulges in their pockets about how lucky they had been. Grandpa Boggs smoked Bull Durham tobacco in his pipe. It came in a little cloth bag with a drawstring, and he save those bags for us to carry our marbles in.

____________________________________

Norma was born on January 5, 1938, and Granvel arrived on July 17, 1939. Mother gave birth to all of us at home. When the contractions started, Dad would say, “Go get Aunt Julia.” Somebody walked a mile to Aunt Julia’s, and then she had to throw on her head scarf and rush to our house. I don’t think she ever got there late or missed one of the blessed events. Somebody called Dr. Harper (one of the two brothers), and he had to drive the twelve miles or so from town. (They charged $25 to deliver a baby, and $5 for an ordinary house-call.) I understand that Norris arrived before the Dr. got there. We kids were sent off to a neighbor’s house where we stayed until given the ready message to return home. I do remember somebody putting on the water to boil and gathering up clean sheets and towels. Once I sneaked and watched Dad bury the placenta. I went back to the spot and uncovered it, punched it with a stick, and covered it again. (That was the beginning of my scientific curiosity.) I had heard jokes about ignorant hillbillies and the after birth—like the one who, when he was told that he would be expected to eat the after birth (like the animals do), he asked, “Can I have salt on it?”

We had a battery operated radio that connected to our wire close line for an antenna. We listened to Country and Gospel Music: "Walking the Floor Over You" (Ernest Tubb), "The Great Speckled Bird" (Roy Acuff), "Rye Whisky" (Tex Ritter) and to barbershop Quartets (Cap, Andy and Flip). Dad loved to keep up with professional boxing—On June 22,1938, Joe Lewis knocked out Max Schmeling in the first round. Our battery was low, so we went to the neighbors’ house to listen to that fight. The contest was so short that it seemed hardly worthwhile to walk that far and sit in a crowded room to hear it. But, on the other hand, we didn’t have to sit too long in that sulfur laden atmosphere with those snickering boys who lived on ‘taters and the musical fruit.

During the "great depression", Uncle Weldon and Aunt Ruby stayed with us for a few months. They (Maxine, Deloris, Dexter, Uncle Weldon, and Aunt Ruby) all slept in our living room. The couch (We called it a “Davenport”.) made into a bed; and, I believe, they brought in a bed of their own. Uncle Weldon worked for the WPA. (People ridiculed the way they worked – “one working, one coming and one going.” But I distinctly remember when Maxine once tried to sit on her daddy’s lap after work, and he said, “I’m sorry Honey, but Daddy’s just too tired to hold you.” He must have been one of those “working”.) Uncle Weldon had a dog that he tied to a doghouse in the garden above our house. The dog died from a rotten smelling wound that wouldn’t heal. They later moved into our chicken house (after Dad cleared out all of our chickens and after they cleaned it out). Later, Dad had a house built for them on our farm on top of the hill, near the apple orchard.

Douglas—born August 1, 1942—and I both had to have assistance (forceps extraction). We were both breech born. Doug had a broken arm and a bruise on his head, and my neck was injured. Mother said that when I arrived the Doctor laid me aside because he was more concerned about saving my Mother, but when he noticed a gasp from me he picked me up and gave me a whack. I wonder if some of my quirks have something to do with that short period of anoxia at birth (There went my genius!).

When Granvel was a baby, Mother had a nervous breakdown (most likely postpartum depression—or maybe “cabin fever”). That was the first of the three episodes that I remember. Dad said, “Go get Aunt Julia.” Aunt Julia came to our house and stayed with her for a while. She was very effective in getting Mother calmed down, perhaps because Mother respected her so much. (Mother was as flawed as anyone else at criticizing people and repeating gossip, but I never heard her say the least negative thing about Aunt Julia.) Dad called Dr. Harper, and he gave Mother a sedative that calmed her down; but she was still nervous for two or three months. She did not want any of us children out of her sight. Mother was later diagnosed with manic-depressive (bipolar) disorder, but I believe that her episodes were caused by “cabin fever” as much as anything else.  (Norma said Mother went into deep depression after Dad died).

Somebody of that era said, “Southern madhouses are full of women who were stifled.” One of the sayings attributed to Yogi Berra is “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.” In a comparable way, some scientists may argue that 90 percent of our personal qualities are the inherited (nature), with the “other half” environmental (nurture). Other scientists and educators prefer to reverse the figures, accenting nurture. (Shinn, R. L. The New Genetics, Moyer Bell, Wakefield, Rhode Island & London, 1996.) Either way, “our genes load the gun and our environment pulls the trigger”. (The relatively new field of epigenetics is rapidly unraveling some of these mysteries.)

When Gravel was two years old, he developed double pneumonia. His fever was so high that he went into convulsions. (That was shortly before penicillin became available.) Dr. Harper gave him sulfa-drug, and that saved his life. When he started school at Bomont, he had a lot of trouble with the teachers. They couldn’t teach him to read. They were very frustrated with him, and they punished him for not learning. We had a hard time getting him to go to school. One time I had to drag him down from on top of the outhouse to get him onto the school bus, while the bus driver (Kenneth Sizemore) impatiently waited for him. One time Mother helped him memorize his lesson; but when the teacher called on him, he started “reading” from the wrong page, and she got very angry.

Those teachers could scare the pants off you—just by frowning. They both had “buck teeth”. When they frowned, their teeth became very prominent (like rodent teeth). They must have sucked their thumbs till they were ten years old. I must say that they practiced good hygiene. Their teeth were as white as pearls. They both had their “Pets” who tattled on the other kids, and we were always taken by surprise after we confided in one of the "tattle tells". I was naive, and I got more paddlings than most of the kids. (Like my Dad, I always trusted the wrong people.)

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Our version of a summer vacation was two week stay with Grandma and Grandpa McCune, usually after July 4 (when we had the corn laid-by, or between the first and second cultivation). They lived in a log house with a lean-to kitchen with no gas or electricity. They cooked with wood, heated the rest of the house with coal, and lighted it with kerosene lamps. They had a cellar that was built into a dugout space on the hill behind their house and stayed cool all summer. I remember Grandpa McCune snoring in the room next to where I slept on a corn-shuck bed. At first, I didn’t recognize the sound; but it seemed to occur each time I breathed. I would hold my breath to make it stop, and sometimes it did go away! Grandpa died in 1943, but I remember his visits to our house. He loved to sit by the fire, chew tobacco, tell stories and quote the Bible. He also loved to tell yarns about “Uncle Saul” and the Civil War, and he always chuckled at his own stories.

Grandpa raised tobacco for his own use. He cured it in a barn at the edge of their yard, and I remember climbing in the rafters where he hung his tobacco. He made his own tobacco twists, and he had some kind of a humidor box to keep it fresh. He put a few slices of apple in the container to provide moisture and flavor for the tobacco.

We used to tease Uncle Bill about eatin’ ground hog meat. We’d say, “Here comes Bill, sniggerin’ a grin. Groun’hog grease all over his chin.” I liked squirrel meat better’n ground-hog. Sometimes Uncle Pat would bring home two or three squirrels. He would skin’em and gut’em and Grandma would boil’em until they were real tender. Then she made squirrel gravy and a big pan of huge biscuits. We sopped our biscuits in that squirrel gravy, and ate them with that squirrel meat and it tasted sweeter and sweeter the longer we chewed. Then Grandma would bring half gallon of piccalilli out of her cool cellar, ‘n we’d eat ‘n eat, until we couldn’t stay on our feet. Then I’d lie on grandma’s lap and take a little nap. Grandma would sing, “I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck—You bet your sweet life I do.” Grandma McCune was very loving. When she came to visit us, she slept in our bed with us. I remember snuggling up to her, and I kept very warm. “She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes. She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes. I will get to sleep with Grandma—when she comes…”

THE SCAVENGER:
One day after school,
Uncle Pat said: “Let’s go look for my mule.
I haven’t seen him since Thursday.
He must be very thirsty.
The weather has been very dry
since the first of July.
The spring on the hill has been low since June,
without enough water to fill a teaspoon.
That mule is no fool. Something must be wrong,
for him to be gone for so long.”
We climbed up a winding path to the an open field
about a hundred yards wide,
with no place for that mule to hide.
Uncle Pat said: “That mule is nowhere in sight.
Let’s go back down this trail to the right.”

About half way down the hill,
we saw where that mule had taken a spill.
He was laying right on his back,
about three yards from his track.
I said: “Uncle Pat, that mule has been dead for a spell.
He’s already startin’ to smell.”

Just then a fat ‘possum jumped outta that mule and
ran right past my feet.
He was dragging a piece of spoiled mule meat.
I said: “Uncle Pat, I don’t think I’ll ever eat ‘possum again.
I’ll be thinkin’ about where that ‘possum has been.”

Grandma and Grandpa Boggs both lived long lives. We got to see them often because we could walk to their house--on what is still a dirt road and is now called "Boggs Run"--only about two miles from our home on Porters Creek. They settled there in 1911. I have fond memories of them; but they were not as nurturing to us as were our Maternal Grandparents. (I suppose that it is not uncommon for children to be more bonded to their maternal grandparents.)

Boggs Reunion:

Grandma and grandma lived up Left-hand

In a wooden house of Jenny Lind design.

It had one room for cookin’, two for sleepin’

And another to dine.

Then there was one room with a big fireplace.

When we went there,

To our Mother’s despair,

Daddy sat in a rocking chair –

Reading about the war –

And what all our boys were fighting for.

Grandpa worked crossword puzzles,

And grandma churned the butter.

They didn’t say anything to one-another.

Then more of the family would come –

From far and near,

Along with others we all held dear.

They set up outdoor wooden tables

And covered them with cloths.

People brought big platters –

With every kind of chicken n’

Ham n’ vegetables and broths.

There were plenty of rostin’ears,

Sweet potatoes, greens n’ beans, fruits,

Cakes n’ pies and all kinds of good things

For eatin’ and drinkin’ --

With free for all thinkin’.

Then someone would PRAY

And we’d all eat and then PLAY.

We met relatives by th’ dozens –

Uncles, Aunts, Great Uncles, Great Aunts,

And twice removed cousins. 

Before the distant travelers got ready

For their return trip,

A few would slip out back with Grandpa

And have a little nip.

Then we’d all go home and hear Mother rave –

About who slighted whom,

Who ate too much, and who didn’t behave.

 

 

Dad and Mother believed in starting children at an early age to do chores. When I turned six, I had to help Norris wash the dishes, rinse them in hot water (heated on the stove), dry them and put them away. I was very happy when my sisters (Dorothy and Dorcas) turned six so that they had to stand on stools and do the dishes. Norris and I were then assigned more manly chores.