What My Heart Wants to Tell
by Verna Mae Slone
Chapter Index | Chapters X - XI and XII | Chapters XVII - XVIII and XIX

Chapters XIII - XIV and XV

Chapter XIII

In my father's time, dinner bells were a necessity. Kitteneye and his neighbors used them for everything from celebrating election returns to telling the family that dinner was ready. We soon learned the different tones of each bell and could tell just who was ringing it by the sound it made. The children were not allowed to ring it just for fun except on Christmas; then everyone rang their bell. There was one old man who every Christmas morning, "let off a blast." The night before he went up on the hill above his house, bored a hole in a tree, and filled the hole with gunpowder and a fuse. Then early Christmas morning, he climbed the hill and lit the fuse. We were all awakened by this loud noise, rang our bells, and shot firecrackers. I guess there is nowhere in the world where folks celebrate Christmas with fireworks, but it has not stopped us. Every Christmas our hills ring with the sound.

The birth of a new baby was another glad time for using (end of page 73) the bell. What a time to have a party! That was one occasion when the women took over. No men were allowed; even the father must leave home after bringing the "granny" and letting the kinfolks know. This happy time was known as a "Granny Frolic," and the expecting mother prepared for it in advance by making piles of gingerbread and fattening some frying chickens. In some homes there would be a few pints of moonshine. Every married woman friend and relative was welcome; no young girls were permitted. Anyway they were needed at home to look after the small children and menfolks. After the baby was born, bathed, and powdered with powder made from dry clay taken from between the rocks in the chimney, someone would remove the ax from under the bed. (It had been put there to cut the pains.) After ringing the dinner bell to let everyone know the baby was born and both mother and child were alright, the party began. They always cut up the father's hat, if he had not hidden it. I don't know why -- maybe it was supposed to bring good luck.

Mountain children knew nothing about a stork; they were taught that babies "were brung by the Hoot Owl." In the evening when the owl began to call "who, who," They would all run out in the yards and answer, "We do, we do." Maybe that's why our families are so large. Nowhere will you find people who love their children more than we do. No matter how large the family or small the house and income, a new arrival is welcome and loved.

Mountain men show a lot of respect for a pregnant woman. It's a law that if a woman asks for help when her baby is due, a man cannot refuse. Once a friend of mine used this to her advantage. She and her husband were "makin' moonshine." They had a large washtub full of the finished product sitting in their kitchen floor and were adding the (end of page 74) spring water to "temper" it. Then they poured it into half-gallon mason fruit jars, ready for sale. The woman went to the door to see if everything was alright, and "fer down the holler" she saw the sheriff coming. She was very frightened, and very pregnant. She told her husband to be very quiet. She knew what to do. When the sheriff came to the door, she went outside and met him -- looking just as large as she could -- and said, "Oh, am I glad you came. I am here by myself, and my baby is being born. Will you please go git Granny for me?"

"Shore. Where does she live?" he answered, never suspecting a lie.

"About half a mile down the creek. Any'un can tell you where, and please hurry."

"Want me to tell any of your kinfolks?"

"No, she's my mother-in-law."

When the sheriff left, the husband begin to carry the whiskey outside and hide it in the "tater hole." He worked as fast as he could but there were still ten jars left on the kitchen floor when they saw the sheriff returning. He had made a fast trip.

"What will we do?" the poor husband wanted to know. His wife got into the bed and said, "Put those jars here with me." He placed them up and down by her side and then covered them with the quilt and made a fast retreat out the back door just in time.

The sheriff had a search warrant; he looked everywhere for whiskey except in the tater hole and in the bed. A few weeks later he ran into the husband at the courthouse and asked him, "Oh say, which was it, a boy or a girl?" He did not know why everyone laughed when the other man answered, "Oh, a gal, in fact, there were five gals."

Everyone in the hills, if they made whiskey or not, "hated the law," especially revenuers. They all joined together to (end of page 75) outdo them when one was seen coming. The person who saw him quit whatever he or she was doing and quickly began ringing the dinner bell. "Dong-dong-dong," then a small pause, and then three times again, never stopping until they heard an answering bell from the next neighbor. That neighbor did the same until he heard the next bell. In a very short time the news had raveled up and down every hollow, giving the moonshiners time to get away and hide.

There were small bells worn on a leather strap by the cows and sheep, and one with a short handle that the cows and sheep, and one with a short handle that the teacher rang to "take up books." With all these bells you would think that we would have had a church bell, but us mountain folks have a different feeling about our way of worship -- very hard to explain to outsiders. Maybe what my father said will help a little: "We don't need a bell to tell us to come to church, for that call is heard with the heart, not the ears." (end of page 76)

Chapter XIV

Uncle John (Summer) Slone ran a small grocery store near the mouth of Short Fork. He was a very small man and as long back as I can remember him, he was drawn over in his back, so crippled with rheumatism that he could scarcely walk. But he kept his wife and kids and "lived good" from what he made in his small store.

My Uncle Milton Owens had the next store, near the mouth of Hollybush. Every two weeks a salesman or a "drummer," as we then called them, would come from Paintsville, Kentucky. Verne Stumbo, a very good friend of mine who is now dead, was a drummer. All his life he came riding a mule and carrying large saddle bags filled with his salesbooks and samples. It took him all week to visit the stores up the many hollows in his territory. I guess he spent the night in the only hotel in Hindman. But he always ate dinner with some of his customers. I also ran a store for many years and he was still a drummer, but by that time we had a rough sort of road and he drove a car. (end of page 77)

After the drummer took his orders back to Paintsville, the groceries or goods were shipped by freight to the depot at Wayland. From there they had to be brought in on a wagon.

My father's job was to take his wagon and team of mules and meet the train, every two weeks, to bring this load of groceries for Uncle John. He had to start long before it was daylight and never returned until after dark, for it was a long journey and mules have to rest every now and then when they have a very heavy load. Some weeks he would have to make two trips. If the groceries were left too long in the depot, he would have to pay a "storage charge." So he tried to meet the train.

During the summer my father would also take a load of vegetables and fruits with him to sell to the folks who lived in and around the coal mining camps in Wayland, Lackey, Punkin Center, Garrett, and Glow. Some of the things that he peddled were from the surplus his own family had grown. But much of it was bought from his neighbors. Sometimes a wooden coop was nailed to the back end of the wagon and filled with young frying chickens.

The stuff was loaded on the wagon the night before and he would get up early and start on his trip. There were lots of other folks who were doing the same thing, and of course the folks were going to buy what they needed from the first "peddling" wagon who came to the door.

On one particular day he was real early, and he thought to himself, "I have got here before anybody else; I will have good luck in sellin' all my load soon." But he was very surprised when no one would buy anything. Up and down, between the rows of houses he went, knocking on door after door. He sold no food that day except to the doctor's wife and the people who lived in the best and richest homes that the bosses of the mines owned. (end of page 78)

He could not understand why no one would buy anything. The day before had been payday at the mines. He knew everyone had plenty of money. His vegetables were fresh and good, and he knew no one had been there before him to have sold to them.

At last he came to a little old shack where an old black woman lived all by herself. He had often given her some of his vegetables for free. This day he stopped before her door and called, "Aunt Mary, come out here. I got something fer ye." And going on to the back of the wagon, he caught one fo the young chickens, and when she came to the door he gave it to her.

"Lo, Kitteney," she said. "It has been many a year since I have had a fryin' chicken -- not since my old man got mashed up in the mines. I see ye han't sold much of ye stuff today, and I am a'goin' to tell ye why. Ye know ye fellers allus go down to the side of the river and dump what ye don't sell."

This was true, because they had so many vegetables and fruits at home, it wasn't worth the trouble to haul them back, and anyway, he had to have an empty wagon so as to return with Uncle John's "goods" from the depot.

"Well," Aunt Mary went on, "these trifling folks allus goes down there and gits the stuff and takes it home and eats it. They all made up that they would not buy anything today, and then ye would have to dump ye whole load. Don't let on I told ye, or they would be awful mad to me. But ye are allus good to me Kitteneye and I wanted ye to know."

"Well," he said, "I'll have to dump my whole load, but they won't git any fun atter eatin' it."

He went to the shore and bought two gallons of kerosene or lamp oil. After unloading his wagon, he poured the oil over the fruits and vegetables -- except what he gave to old Aunt Mary. (end of page 79)

Next week when he brought another peddling wagon, everyone was eager to buy from him. (end of page 80 review)

Chapter XV

Very few of our mountain folks ever stole anything. If you went by a man's apple tree, turnip or watermelon patch, and you took some, it was not counted as stealing, it was the custom. Anyone was more than welcome to what he could eat that belonged to his neighbor. Of course, like everything else there were a few exceptions.

My father owned a little black mule names "Little Beck." He had raised him from a colt. He was almost like one of the family and as gentle as a kitten. He would come from anywhere in the pasture when he heard my father whistle for him.

One evening one of my cousins and her boyfriend, Dick Patton, came to stay all night with us. The girls were very pleased, for we had few visitors and they thought a lot of their cousin.

Papa did not think it strange when Dick offered to go help him feed the stock and milk the cow. This was a common rule. If you were visiting anyone, you helped with (end of page 81) the chores. But he knew why the next morning when he got up, for Dick and his girlfriend were gone. So was Little Beck.

My father began asking the close neighbors if they had heard anything during the night. He soon learned enough to know they had gone toward Wayland.

When he stopped at Joanar Slone's and learned someone had stolen a saddle from him during the night, he knew he was on the right track. When he reached Wayland, he heard that a man and a woman bearing the description of the two he was after had gotten aboard the train going toward Allen. He knew they had sold Little Beck to someone near Wayland. He began going from farmhouse to farmhouse giving the whistle that he had taught his mule to answer. It was almost evening. Tired and worried, he had almost given up, until at last from a stall, away down in a hollow, he heard an answer to his call. He ran to the barn and looked through the cracks between the logs, and sure enough there was his mule.

The man who had bought the mule refused to give him up. My father came back with the sheriff and a warrant. Kitteneye gave a complete description of his mule even to the few white hairs on his left hip. All the rest of his body was black. The sheriff looked on the mule's hip and could not find the white hairs. My father took his hand and ruffled the hairs up, and sure enough, there were the stubs of white hairs, showing where they had been cut off. The law gave Little Beck back to his rightful owner and put out a twenty-five dollar reward for the arrest of the thieves.

A few weeks later my father and another man, both sworn in as deputies, learned where the two were staying and surprised them one morning while they were still in bed. When my cousin saw who it was she said, "You know you han't going' to arrest me, are you Uncle Kitteneye?" (end of page 82)

"Don't you uncle me now," he said. "You fergit I was your kinfolk when you helped steal my mule. You rode Little Beck then, you can ride behind me now to the jailhouse." But he must have forgiven her because Dick was the only one who went to jail and I think he escaped and was never heard of around here anymore.

At his trial, the judge asked Dick if he stole Kitteneye's mule and he answered, "No, I stole his bridle and the mule happened to have its head in it."

It seems as if every family clan had at least one "bad man," but I think many had more fame than their just due. The only one that had any connection with my life was Bad Amos Fugate, or Little Amos, as he was called by his friends - and he had many more friends than enemies. The story goes that his sister had a fight with some neighbor woman, and the other woman was killed. Amos confessed to the crime to save his sister and was sentenced to prison. Before his sentence was up, he dressed in women's clothes and walked out with some visitors. A price was placed on his head, to be brought in "dead or alive." Whenever he saw one of these posters he would mark out the work "alive" saying that he would have to be killed before captured.

He was a cousin to my brother-in-law, Sam Fugate, and a very good friend. My sister and their children really loved Amos. They helped him by giving him food while he was hiding from the law.

One day my father was going to visit his daughter, Flora Fugate. As he was going across the hill to Ball, where she then lived, he came upon a group of men sitting by the narrow bridle path. The men were drinking and playing cards. My father said he was upon them before he knew who they were. He said he was really scared when he recognized one of them as Amos Fugate. At first he considered the idea of turning back, but then thought better of that. The men (end of page 83) moved back out of the path and let him ride on by. Just as he thought he was getting out of sight and all was well, Amos called and said, "Hey, are you Kitteneye?"

My father turned back and said, "Yes." Amos said, "Come back here a minute." Father really got scared then, but he turned his mule around and went back.

"Did you want a drink of good corn liquor?"

"Shore would." And Amos handed him his bottle.

"Do you know who I am?" Amos asked.

"Yeah, I think I do," Father replied.

"Well, you are Flora's paw, so go on, and don't tell a livin' soul you saw us here." And Father promised.

That night after supper at Flora's house, and after Father had gone to bed, Amos came to the door. Sam let him in and gave him his supper. Amos asked Flora if my father told them about seeing him, and he laughed when she said no. "Well, I didn't mean for him to not tell you, but I guess when I said to tell no one, he sure meant to keep his promise."

A few days later, Amos was coming back to visit Sam again, and some men "lay waid" him and riddled his body with bullets from a machine gun. His own folks kept the killers from getting his body, then they guarded his grave for one year, keeping a lighted lantern sitting on his tombstone at night, with a "'round the clock" guard. Those bounty hunters received no reward. (end of page 84)

(page 85 is not part of this book review).

(page 86) Everyone was there, riding their mules or horses. When Mr. Thomas came walking, one of the men asked him where his horse was. He quietly answered, "I am going to walk." All the men gave a loud laugh and told him he should know better, that no man could walk that many miles, and if he did, he would be too late for the trial that was only three days away. Mr. Thomas said, "I bet I can walk as fast as any horse you got. I will keep up with any of you." One of the men who was very proud of his horse called the bet and started out. The man walked beside the horse. My father and the rest of his friends followed, but they did not catch up with the two men until nightfall, when they reached a town where they all had agreed on staying together for the night. They found Mr. Thomas calmly eating his supper as if he was not one bit tired. But the horse the man had ridden was not as strong as the "part-Indian" walker, because the next morning the horse was found dead in its stall. Mr. Thomas finished the rest of the trip walking fast enough to keep up with the crowd and was always, after that, referred to as the "man who walked a horse to death."

Something else happened on their way back that my father loved to tell. As folks made these long journeys, they would stop along the way to get water to drink. Sometimes it would be at some cabin, where they were always welcome because visitors were so few and people were always glad to hear any news. In many places the roads would only be "bridle paths" through the woods. Then there would be springs of water where the men would bend over and drink without any cup, drawing the water into their mouth, somewhat like animals do.

When my father and his friends were coming back from Catlettsburg, the day was very hot and they were all very thirsty. Just as they were coming around the bend in the road, there stood an old woman beside a spring of water. She (end of page 86) had just dipped her bucket full of water and started back to her cabin. The men stopped and asked her for some of her water and she answered, "Shore."

My father said he looked at her, and she was so dirty her clothes and face were covered with soot and grime, and tobacco juice was dribbling from the corners of her mouth. He wanted the water so badly, but the thought of placing his lips on the side of the drinking gourd where he knew her mouth had been several times, made him feel almost sick. So when it came his time to take a drink, he turned the gourd upside down and drank from the hole in the handle. As he handed the gourd back to her she said, "Well, I declare, you are the first man I ever did see that drunk water out of a gourd like I do." (end of page 87)

End of Chapters XIII - XIV and XIV
Verna Mae Slone

Chapter Index | Chapters X - XI and XI1 | Chapters XVII - XVIII and XIX


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