THE MORAL OF THE BALLAD
There's a sad moral to this tale. Now pass the word around; Pull off your shoes now and walk light; Ashland is holy ground.
Bill Neal he came from Virginia, A grand and noble State, But his associates were bad And he has shared their fate.
Bill Neal he saw Miss Emma Thomas, So beautiful and fair That all his hellish greed of lust Seemed to be centered there.
Bill Neal he was a married man, Had children and a wife; And ofttimes bragged what he would do, If it should cost his life.
Bill Neal done what he said he would, And yet a greater sin; Then with a great big huge crowbar Broke Emma's skullbones in.
Yes, Bill Neal done just what he said, And yet that greater sin, For which the gates of Heaven closed And will not let him in.
Now while his victim is in Heaven, Where all things are done well, There with the angels glorified, Bill Neal will go to hell.
THE DEATH OF MARY PHAGAN
Leo M. Frank, manager of the pencil factory, was a Jew. Sentiment ran high against him at the time of the murder. This ballad was composed by young Bob Salyers of Cartersville, Georgia, who heard the story on all sides. He could neither read nor write.
Come listen all ye maidens, A story I'll relate Of pretty Mary Phagan And how she met her fate.
Her home was in Atlanta And so the people say, She worked in a pencil factory To earn her meager pay.
She went down to the office One April day, it's said; The next time that they saw her, Poor Mary, she was dead.
They found her outraged body— Oh, hear the people cry— "The fiend that murdered Mary Most surely he must die."
James Conley told the story, "'Twas Leo Frank," he said, "He strangled little Mary And left her cold and dead."
Now Frank was tried for murder, His guilt he did deny. But the jury found him guilty And sentenced him to die.
His life he paid as forfeit; And then there came a time Another man lay dying, And said he did the crime.
We do not know for certain, But in the Judgment Day, We know that God will find him And surely make him pay.
THE FATE OF EFFIE AND RICHARD DUKE
Oh, hearken to this sad warning, You husbands who love your wife, Don't never fly in a passion And take your companion's life.
Of Doctor Rich Duke I will tell you, Who lived up Beaver Creek way, He married fair Effie Allen And loved her well, so they say.
Both Effie and Rich had money, But he was much older than she, And she said, "All your lands and money Should be deeded over to me."
His wife he loved and trusted And he hastened to obey; But the fact he soon regretted That he deeded his riches away.
They quarreled and then they parted, The times were more than three, For both of them were stubborn And they never could agree.
Now Doctor John, his brother, Was a highly respected man, He brought Effie home one evening, Saying, "Make up your quarrel if you can."
And Rich seemed glad to see her, And followed her up the stair, But only God and the angels Know just what happened there.
Doctor John was down at the table When he heard the pistol roar; He ran up the stairs in a moment And looked in at the open door.
Poor Rich lay there by his pistol With a bullet through his brain, And Effie lay there dying Writhing in mortal pain.
They were past all human succor, No earthly power could save; And they took their secrets with them To the land beyond the grave.
Now all you wives and husbands, Take heed to this warning true. Never quarrel over lands and money Or some day the fact you will rue.
THE FATE OF FLOYD COLLINS
This ballad was composed in 1925 by Jilson Setters, when Floyd Collins was trapped in a salt mine near Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.
Come all you friends and neighbors And listen to what I say, I'll relate to you a story, Of a man who passed away. He struggled hard for freedom, His heart was true and brave, While his comrades they were toiling His precious life to save.
His name was Floyd Collins, Exploring he did crave. But he never dreamed that he'd be trapped In a lonely sandstone cave. His entrance it was easy, His heart was light and gay, But his mind was filled with trouble When he found he'd lost his way.
He wandered through the cavern, He knew not where to go, He knew he was imprisoned, His heart was full of woe. He started for the entrance That he had passed that day. A large and mighty boulder Had slipped down in his way.
The stone was slowly creeping But that he did not know, Underneath he found an opening He thought that he could go. He soon got tired and worried, He soon then had to rest, The boulder still was creeping, It was tightening on his chest.
He lost all hopes of freedom, No farther could he go; His agony was desperate, That you all well know. His weeping parents lingered near; A mother gray and old. Soon poor Floyd passed away And heaven claimed his soul.
A note was in his pocket, The neighbors chanced to find; These few lines were written While he had strength and mind: "Give this note to mother, Tell her not to cry; Tell her not to wait for me, I will meet her by and by."
This ballad was written by fifty-year-old Adam Crisp who lived in Fletcher, North Carolina, at the time of Collins' death. Crisp could neither read nor write but composed many ballads.
FLOYD COLLINS' FATE
Come all you young people And listen to what I tell: The fate of Floyd Collins, Alas, we all know well. His face was fair and handsome, His heart was true and brave, His body now lies sleeping In a lonely sandstone cave.
How sad, how sad the story, It fills our eyes with tears, His memory will linger For many, many a year. His broken-hearted father Who tried his boy to save Will now weep tears of sorrow At the door of Floyd's cave.
Oh, mother, don't you worry, Dear father, don't be sad; I'll tell you all my troubles In an awful dream I had; I dreamed that I was prisoner, My life could not be saved, I cried, "Oh! must I perish, Within the silent cave?"
The rescue party gathered, They labored night and day To move the mighty boulder That stood within the way. "To rescue Floyd Collins!" This was the battlecry. "We will never, no, we will never Let Floyd Collins die."
But on that fatal morning The sun rose in the sky, The workers still were busy, "We will save him by and by." But, oh, how sad the evening, His life they could not save, His body then was sleeping Within the lonely cave.
Young people all take warning With this, for you and I, We may not be like Collins, But you and I must die. It may not be in a sand cave In which we find our tomb, But at that mighty judgment We soon will find our doom.
IT'S GREAT TO BE AN AMERICAN
For long years the members of the Hamm family in Rowan County, Kentucky, both old and young, have gathered on a Sunday in the month of August for their mountain Eisteddfod. Upon this occasion there is friendly rivalry as to whose ballad or poem is best, who speaks his composition best. And the prize, you may be sure, is not silver but a book of poems. This composition of Nannie Hamm Carter was read at their mountain Eisteddfod in August, 1940.
It's great to be an American, And live on peaceful shores, Where we hear not the sound of marching feet, And the war-clouds come no more. Where the Statue of Liberty ever stands, A beacon of hope for all, Heralding forth to every land That by it we stand or fall.
It's great to be an American, For wherever we may go, It is an emblem of truth and right, A challenge to every foe. It's great to be free and unfettered, And know not wars or strife, Where man to man united, Can live a carefree life,
While men are falling hour by hour Upon some foreign shore Amidst the roar of battle there, Ne'er to return no more. They're offered as a sacrifice, Upon the altar there, With no one there to sympathize, Or shed for them a tear.
Where men are marching 'mid the strife, Where there, day after day, There's danger and there's loss of life Where conquerors hold sway. They bow to rulers' stern commands, They face the deadly foe, While far away in other lands, There's sorrow, pain and woe.
But not so in America, The birthplace of the free. For 'midst the conflict Over There, With loss of life and liberty, It's a privilege to know, That in a world, so fraught with pain, We feel secure from every foe Where naught but fellowship remains.
For in our free country, We hear not the battlecry, We hear not the bugle's solemn call, When men go forth to die. For over all this land of ours The Stars and Stripes still wave, Waving forth in triumph O'er this homeland of the brave.
Hats off! to our own America, With pride we now can say, We bow not down to rulers, For justice still holds sway. God keep us free from scenes like those That are in other lands, Where the shell-shocked and the wounded Are there on every hand.
So, it's great to be an American, We'll stand by our flag always, For right shall not perish from the earth As long as truth holds sway; As long as her sons are united In a cause that's just and true, The bells of freedom still will ring, Ring out for me and you.
—Nannie Hamm Carter
SAD LONDON TOWN
Jilson Setters composed and set to tune this ballad and sang it at the American Folk Song Festival in June, 1941, to the delight of a vast audience. To the surprise of some he pronounces the word bomb, bum, like his early English ancestors.
Eight years ago I took a trip, I decided to cross the sea; I spent some weeks in London, Everything was strange to me.
The city then was perfect peace, They had no thought of fear, Soon then the bombs began to fall, The airplanes hovered near.
The people cannot rest at night, Danger lingers nigh, Bombs have dropped on many homes, The innocent had to die.
The flying glass cut off their heads, Their hands and noses too; Folks then had to stand their ground, There was nothing else to do.
English folks are brave and true, But do not want to fight. The Germans slip into their town And bomb their homes at night.
They watch the palace of the King, They watch it night and day; They have a strong and daring guard To keep the foe at bay.
The aged fiddler also composed and set to tune the following ballad called—
BUNDLES FOR BRITAIN
Two little children toiled along A steep and lonely mountain road, They heeded not the bitter cold But proudly bore their precious load.
I asked them where they might be bound And what their heavy load might be. They said, "We're going to the town To send our load across the sea.
"For, far away on England's shore, Our own blood kin still live, you know; They fight to stay the tyrant's hand That threatens freedom to o'erthrow.
"And many little homeless ones Are cold and hungry there today, 'Tis them we seek to feed and clothe And every night for them we pray.
"Some of them reach our own dear land, While others perish in the sea; And we must help and comfort them Until their land from war is free."
Oh, may we like these children face The curse of hate and war's alarm With faith and courage in our hearts And Britain's Bundles 'neath our arms.
His own favorite ballad, however, is that which he composed and set to tune several years ago about Sergeant Alvin C. York, who is Jilson Setters' idea of "a mountain man without nary flaw."
'Way down in Fentress County in the hills of Tennessee Lived Alvin York, a simple country lad. He spent his happy childhood with his brothers on the farm, Or at the blacksmith shop with busy dad.
He could play a hand of poker, hold his liquor like a man, He did his share of prankin' in his youth; But his dying father left him with the family in his care, And he quickly sought the ways of God and truth.
Then came the mighty World War in the year of seventeen, And Uncle Sam sent out his call for men. Poor Alvin's heart was heavy for he knew that he must go, And his Church contended "fighting was a sin."
He never questioned orders and did the best he could, And soon a corporal he came to be; He was known throughout the country as the army's fighting ace, Beloved in every branch of infantry.
The eighth day of October the Argonne battle raged, Machine guns whined and rifle bullets flew; Then Alvin lost his temper, he said, "I've had enough, I'll show these Huns what Uncle Sam can do."
He took his army rifle and his automatic too, And hid himself behind a nearby tree; He shot them like he used to shoot the rabbits and the squirrels Away back home in sunny Tennessee.
He took the whole battalion—one-hundred-thirty-two— While thirty-five machine guns ceased to fire; And twenty German soldiers lay lifeless on the ground As he marched his prisoners through the bloody mire.
His name was not forgotten, a hero brave was he, Our country proudly hailed his fearless deeds; He was offered fame and fortune but for these he did not care, His daily toil supplied his simple needs.
"I want nothing for myself" he said, "but for the boys and girls, Who live here in the hills of Tennessee, I'd like to have a school for them to teach them how to farm And raise their families in security."
His wish was quickly granted. At Jamestown, Tennessee, There stands a school, the mountains' joy and pride; And with his wife and children in the hills he loves so well, He hopes in peace forever to abide.
A Tennessee mountaineer, who is proud of his "wight of learning" according to his own words, "put together" this ballad which he calls—
At Norris Dam, our Uncle Sam Has wrought a mighty deed. He built a dam, did Uncle Sam, So "all who run may read."
He saw the "writing on the wall"— Called the soothsayers in. Soothsayers all, both great and small Said, "It would be a sin—
"To let the things God wrought for man Stand idle all the years. But use God's knowledge (in a can), Soothsaying engineers."
And so, this miracle today You see with your own eyes, Was planned ten million miles away— In "mansions in the skies."
That pigeonhole is empty there; Now we employ that plan For use and pleasure, down here, where 'Twill be a boon to man.
So day by day in every way, At least we're getting wise; And now we play—as well we may— On playgrounds from the skies.
So let us give a rousing cheer For our dear Uncle Sam, Whose mighty arm reached way up there And brought down Norris Dam.
—George A. Barker
THE DOWNFALL OF PARIS
Oh, come all ye proud and haughty people, Behold a nation plunged in gloom, A country filled with pain and sorrow Since that great city met its doom.
They had no thought of this disaster; The Maginot Line could never fail. Then came the downfall of proud Paris; Oh, hear the people mourn and wail.
Oh, see the horror and destruction, When death came flying through the air. The people vainly sought a refuge; Oh, friends, take warning and beware.
They hear the sound of alien footsteps, The soldiers marching side by side Among the ruins of that great city, A mighty nation's boast and pride.
Oh, let us then be wise and careful, And strive to keep our country free; For war is cruel to the helpless, The weak must pay the penalty.
God help the rulers of the nations! What is in store, no tongue can tell; But keep in mind the simple story— The Line was broke and Paris fell.
9. RECLAIMING THE WILDERNESS
There are people all over the United States to whom the mere mention of the word mountaineer evokes a fantastic picture—a whiskey-soaked ruffian with bloodshot eyes and tobacco-stained beard, wide-brimmed felt cocked over a half-cynical eye, finger on the trigger of a long-barreled squirrel rifle. He is guarding his moonshine still. Or he may be lying in wait behind bush or tree to waylay his deadly enemy of the other side in a long-fought blood-feud.
Though there may be a semblance of truth in both, such pictures should be taken with a grain of salt. Illicit whiskey has been made in our southern mountains, as well as in towns and cities throughout the country. There were blood-feuds in bygone days but they have been so overplayed that scarcely a vestige of the real story remains recognizable. Few of the old leaders are left to tell the facts.
I have known well and claim as my loyal friends members of families who have been engaged in the making of illicit whiskey. I have known quite well many members of families on both sides in two of the most famous feuds in the southern mountains. These people were and are today my good friends and neighbors.
As recently as the fall of 1940, I returned to Morehead, the county seat of Rowan County, for a visit with the Martins and Tollivers. Strangely enough, upon the day of my arrival I found Lin Martin, son of John Martin, who killed Floyd Tolliver, up on a ladder painting the walls of the Cozy Theatre. This modern motion-picture theater occupies the site of the old Carey House where Martin shot Tolliver. Lin was standing in almost the exact spot where his father stood when he shot Floyd Tolliver. Most willingly he stepped out into the sunlight, paint brush and bucket in hand to meet and be photographed with Clint Tolliver, a son and nephew of the Tolliver leaders, whose father, Bud, was killed by the posse in the all-day battle on Railroad Street when the Tolliver band was wiped out. Clint was a nephew of Floyd Tolliver, slain by John Martin; he married Mrs. Lucy Trumbo Martin's niece, Texannie Trumbo.
While the men shook hands in friendly fashion, believe it or not, across the street in the courthouse yard under a great oak, past which John Martin was hurried to the safety of the jail, a blind fiddler was singing the famous ballad composed by a Rowan County minstrel, called the Rowan County Troubles. The sons of the feudists smiled blandly. Clint Tolliver is a Spanish American War veteran and Lin's brother, Ben, was a sharpshooter in the World War.
Both Lin Martin and Clint Tolliver say they have but one regret today and that is that they are too old to take up their guns to enlist in the United States Army. The men and their families are the best of friends and meet often at social gatherings.
So feuds die out, though feud tales persist. Old rancors live only in memory.
Today in Morehead, the county seat of the once Dark Rowan, there stands a modern State Teachers College on the sloping hillsides within sight of the courthouse and street where the Rowan County war was fought. One of the halls is called Allie W. Young, taking its name from the Senator whose influence brought about the establishment of the college. Young's father, Judge Zachariah Taylor Young, was once shot from ambush during the troubles.
This same county is the seat of a native art exhibit which has attracted nation-wide attention. It was started many years ago by a descendant of Mary Queen of Scots, Mrs. Lyda Messer Caudill, then a teacher of a one-room log school on Christy Creek. One morning a little boy living at the head of the hollow brought to school, not a rosy apple (there wasn't a fruit tree on his place), but clay models he had made in native clay of his dog, the cow, and his pet pig. Mrs. Caudill seized the opportunity to encourage the other children in her mixed-grade one-room school to try their hand at clay modeling. Later Mrs. Caudill became county superintendent of Rowan County Schools. Through her enthusiasm and efforts the plan has developed through the years and today mountain children of Rowan County have exhibited their handicraft in national exhibitions through the co-operation of the group of American Association of University Women of Kentucky with which Mrs. Caudill is affiliated.
SILVER MOON TAVERN
Over on Main Island Creek in Logan County, West Virginia, where Devil Anse Hatfield held forth in his day, another picture greets the eye today. Coal-mining camps are strung along from one end of the creek to the other. Omar, near where Devil Anse is buried, is quite a thriving town. It was here that Jonse, the eldest son who loved Rosanna McCoy, spent his last days as a night watchman for a power plant. Jonse's nerves were so shattered he jumped almost at the falling of a leaf and the company, fearing some tragedy might be the result from too sudden trigger-pulling, found other occupation for the Hatfield son.
Within a few yards of the spot where the home of Devil Anse burned to the ground stands today a rustic lodge garishly designed. Over the doorway painted in bright red letters are these words—
SILVER MOON TAVERN
Neighbors call it a beer j'int. Entering, you are greeted by the proprietor, a mild, pleasant fellow who asks in a slow mountain drawl, "What kin I do for you?" If you happen to be an old acquaintance as I am, Tennis Hatfield—for he it is who runs the place—will add, "Glad to see you. I've not laid eyes on you for a coon's age. Set." He waved me to a chromium stool beside the counter. "I've quit the law." Tennis had been sheriff of Logan County for a term or two. "This is easier." He flung wide his hands with a gesture that encompassed the interior of the Silver Moon Tavern. "Well, there's no harm in selling beer." He fixed me with a piercing look such as I had seen in the eye of Devil Anse. "What's more there's no harm in drinking it either, in reason. Young folks gather in here of a night and listen to the music and dance and it don't cost 'em much money. A nickel in the slot. We ain't troubled with slugs," he said casually. "The folks choose their own tune." He pointed to a gaudily striped electric music box that filled a corner of the tavern. With great care he showed me the workings of the moan box, he called it. "These are the tunes they like best." He called them off as his finger moved carefully along the titles: "Big Beaver, The Wise Owl, Double Crossing Mamma, In the Mood, and Mountain Dew. They just naturally wear that record out. Young folks here on Main Island Creek like Lulu Belle and Scotty. See, they made that record Mountain Dew." A slow smile lighted his face. "'Pon my soul all that young folks do these days is eat and dance. That's how come me to put the sign on the side of my beer j'int—Dine and Dance. We're right up to snuff here on Main Island Creek," he added with a smug smile. "But now Joe Hatfield over to Red Jacket in Mingo County, he follows preaching and he says a beer j'int is just sending people plum to hell. I don't know about that. There's never been no trouble here in my place. I won't sell a man that's had a dram too many. And if he starts to get noisy"—he lifted a toe—"out he goes! I aim to keep my place straight." He shoved his thumbs deep into the belt of his breeches. "Not much doin' at this time of day. The girls in school or helping with the housework; the boys in the mines. Don't step out till after supper. Then look out! The young bucks shake a heel and the girls put on their lipstick. Them that can't afford a permanent go around all day with their hair done up in curlycues till they look a match for Shirley Temple by the time they get here of a night. Times has surely changed."
A bus whizzed by and disappeared beyond the bend of the road.
"Times has changed," Tennis repeated slowly as his gaze sought the hillside where Devil Anse lay buried. "I wonder what Pa would a-thought of my place," he said with conscientious wistfulness. His eyes swept now the interior of the Silver Moon Tavern. "This couldn't a-been in Pa's young days. Nor womenfolks couldn't a-been so free. Such as this couldn't a-been, no more than their ways then could stand today." The son of Devil Anse leaned over the bar and said in a strangely hushed voice, "Woman, I've heard tell that you have a hankerin' for curiosities and old-timey things. I keep a few handy so's I don't get above my raisin'." He reached under the counter. "Here, woman, heft this!" He placed in my hands Devil Anse's long-barreled gun. "Scrutinize them notches on the barrel. That there first one is Harmon McCoy. Year of sixty-three," he said bluntly.
While I hefted the gun, Tennis brought out a crumpled shirt. "Them holes is where the McCoys stobbed Uncle Ellison and there's the stain of his gorm."
The gruesome sight of the blood-stained garment slashed by the McCoys completely unnerved me. I dropped the gun.
Instantly a door opened behind Tennis and a young lad rushed in. He took in the situation at a glance and swiftly appraised my five-foot height. "Pa," he turned to Tennis Hatfield, "you've scared this little critter out of a year's growth. And she ain't got none to spare."
Seeing that all was well he backed out of the door he had entered, and Tennis went on to say that his young son had quit college to join the army. "He'll be leaving soon for training camp. That is, if he can quit courting Nellie McCoy long enough over in Seldom Seen Hollow. 'Pon my soul, I never saw two such turtledoves in my life. She's pretty as a picture and I've told her that whether or not her and Tennis Junior every marry there's always a place for her here with us. A pretty girl in a pretty frock is mighty handy to wait table." Again the wideflung hands of the proprietor of the Silver Moon Tavern embraced in their gesture the shiny tables, booths, chromium-trimmed chairs, and the gaudy juke box in the corner.
In September, 1940, Tennis Hatfield's son, Tennis, Jr., joined the army. He was nineteen at the time.
The Hatfields and McCoys have married. Charles D. Hatfield, who joined the army at Detroit's United States Army recruiting office, is the son of Tolbert McCoy Hatfield of Pike County and is friend to his kin on both sides.
The two families held a picnic reunion in the month of August, 1941, on Blackberry Creek where the blood of both had been shed during the feud, and at the gathering a good time was had by all with plenty of fried chicken and no shooting.
Today on the eve of another war things are still quiet up in Breathitt County so far as the Hargises are concerned. Elbert Hargis, brother of Judge Jim Hargis who was slain by his son Beach, has passed on. They buried him, the last of Granny Hargis's boys, in the family burying ground behind the old homestead on Pan Bowl, so called because it is almost completely encircled by the North Fork of the Kentucky River.
To his last hour, almost, Elbert Hargis sat in the shadow of the courthouse looking sadly toward Judge Jim Hargis's store where Beach had killed his father, the store in front of which Dr. Cox had been assassinated. His eyes shifted occasionally toward the courthouse steps down which the lifeless body of J. B. Marcum plunged when Curt Jett shot him from the back. Again Elbert's gaze turned to the second-story windows of the courthouse from which Jim Cockrell had been shot to death one sunny summer day.
Ever alert and never once permitting anyone to stand behind him, with a gun in its holster thumping on his hip every step he took, Elbert Hargis must have lived again and again the days when his brother Jim directed the carryings-on of the Hargis clan. But if you'd ask him if he ever thought of the old times, there would be a quick and sharp No!, followed by abrupt silence.
Elbert Hargis is dead now. And a natural death was his from a sudden ailment of the lungs. He died in a hospital down in the Blue Grass where white-clad nurses and grave-faced doctors with a knowing of the miracles of modern surgery and medicine could not prolong the life of the aged feudist for one short second. The last of Granny Evaline Hargis's sons rests beside his mother, alongside the three brothers John, Jr., Ben, and Jim, and the half-brother Willie Sewell, whose death away back in 1886, when he was shot from ambush at a molasses-making, started all the trouble. In the same burying ground with Elbert is the vine-covered grave of Senator Hargis, father of the boys, who preceded his wife Evaline to the spirit world long years ago.
A visit today to a United States District Court in most any section of the Blue Ridge Country where makers of illicit whiskey are being tried shows that the name moonshine no longer applies to the beverage. It got its name from being made at night. Now operations in the making are conducted by day, while only the transportation of the liquor is carried on after nightfall. Trucks and even dilapidated Fords with the windows smeared with soap to conceal the load are pressed into service. The drivers consider it safer to travel with their illegal cargo under the shades of darkness.
During the questioning of witnesses and offenders in court you learn that tips provided by law-abiding citizens are the usual means of bringing offenders to trial. In rare instances, however, members of a moonshiner's own family have been known to turn him in.
The process of capturing the moonshiner has changed considerably from that of other days. Then the revenooer (mountain folk usually call him the law) slipped up from behind the bushes on the offender and caught him red-handed at the still. In those days the men who were making had their lookout men who gave warning by a call or a whistle, even by gun signals, of the approach of the law while the moonshiner took to his heels, hiding in deep underbrush or far back under cliffs. Today these mountain men have learned not to run. For the officers of the law are equipped with long-range guns and with equipment so powerful the bullets can penetrate the steel body of an automobile. The method of locating the still has changed too since the airplane has come into use. Looking down from the clouds the flyer spies a thin stream of smoke rising from a wooded ravine. He communicates by radio to his co-workers of the ground crew, who immediately set out at high speed by automobile to capture the still.
It is estimated that of the 170,000,000 gallons of liquor consumed in this country in 1939, at least 35,000,000 were illicit and that for every legal distillery there are at least one hundred illegal ones. The southern mountain region has always lent itself admirably to the making of moonshine and for this reason has been a thorn in the flesh of U. S. Alcohol Tax Unit. During the year 1939, according to Life, it is estimated that more than 4000 stills were captured in the states of Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Florida.
However, it is not the moonshiner who reaps the richest revenue from corn whiskey, which he sells for ninety cents a gallon, but the bootlegger and others down the line who add on, each in his turn, until the potent drink reaches a final sale price of ninety cents a quart and more. The tax on legitimate whiskey is $2.25 a proof gallon which makes it prohibitive in a community competing with the moonshiner's untaxed product.
Through the southern mountain region Negroes frequently are employed by white men operating stills on a large scale, where many boxes are used for the fermenting mash. The fines and sentences vary with the output and number of offenses.
The mountaineer, on the other hand, who operates a small still usually is a poor man. When brought into court he pleads that he cannot haul out a load of corn over rugged roads miles to a market and compete with a farmer from the lowlands who is not retarded by bad roads. Or again, if he is from an extremely isolated mountain section, he offers the old reasoning, "It is my land and my corn—why can't I do with my crop whatever I please?"
If the federal judge is a kindly, understanding man he will listen patiently to the story of the mountaineer who has made illicit whiskey, and if it be only the first or second offense, a sentence of six months in prison is imposed. "But, judge, your honor," pleads the perplexed mountaineer. "I've got to put in my crop and my old woman is ailin'—she can't holp none. I've got to lay in foirwood for winter, judge, your honor, my youngins is too little to holp." Often the understanding judge replies, "Now, John, you go back home and get your work done up, then come back and serve your sentence." Rarely has the judge's trust been betrayed.
What with good roads, the radio, and better schools and more of them the scene is rapidly changing in the Blue Ridge Country.
The little one-room log school is almost a thing of the past. Only in remote sections can it be found. No longer is the mountain child retarded by the bridgeless stream, for good roads have come to the mountains and with them the catwalk—an improvised bridge of barrel hoops strung together with cables—spanning the creek has passed. The mountain mother's warning is heard no longer. "Mind, Johnny, you don't swing the bridge." Concrete pillars support steel girders that span the creek high above even the highest flood point. Education soars high in the southern mountain region. Instead of a few weeks of school there are months now, and what is more Johnny doesn't walk to school any more. The county school bus, operated by a careful driver, picks him up almost at his very door and brings him back safely when school turns out in the evening. Instead of the poorly lighted one-room school, there is the consolidated school built of native stone, with many windows and comfortable desks. If the mountain boy or girl fails to get an education it is his own fault. There is a central heating system and the teacher, you may be sure, is a graduate of an accredited college. The Kentucky Progress Magazine of Winter, 1935, gives a remarkable example of what is taking place in an educational way in the mountain region: "Twenty-nine well-equipped, accredited four-year high schools and two junior colleges now dot the five counties, Lawrence, Johnson, Martin, Floyd, and Pike ... seven high schools and one junior college have the highest rating possible, membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.... The advent of surfaced roads has made successful consolidation possible in many instances."
Preceding the consolidated school an inestimable service has been rendered the children of the southern highlands by means of the settlement school. It would be impossible to discuss them all adequately, but of the outstanding ones of which I have personal knowledge are: that great institution at Berea, Kentucky, the Hindman Settlement School in Knott County, Kentucky; the Martha Berry School in the mountains of Georgia; the agricultural school of Sergeant Alvin C. York near Jamestown, Tennessee; and the John C. Campbell Folk School at Brasstown, N. C.
Under efficient guidance mountain boys and girls are taught to preserve the handicrafts of their forbears, knitting, spinning, weaving, making of dyes, and even a pastime once indulged in by boys and men—whittling. Idle whittling has been converted into not only an artistic craft, but a profitable one. Nowhere in the country is there to be found a finer collection of whittled figures, ranging from tiny chicks to squirrels, rabbits, birds, than those made by the mountain youths at the John C. Campbell Folk School.
Perhaps no greater service is being rendered mountain folk than that headed by Sergeant York in his agricultural school, because he is of the mountains and knows well the need of his people.
But even before the settlement school had been thoroughly rooted there was the Moonlight School of Rowan County, Kentucky, for adult illiterates. It was a great, a magnificent undertaking by a mountain woman—Mrs. Cora Wilson Stewart, born in Rowan County. She had been a teacher in the wretched, poorly lighted one-room log school. Becoming county superintendent, she set about to lead out of ignorance and darkness the adult illiterates of her county. Happily she had been preceded in such an undertaking by a pioneer teacher in rugged Hocking County, Ohio, in the days of the Civil War. There Miss Kate Smith, scarcely in her teens, who saw her brothers shoulder their muskets and march off to the Civil War, took upon herself the task of teaching, first, a bound boy, an orphan lad bound by the state to a farmer. The lad later became a stowaway in a covered wagon in which the young teacher and her parents rode west. This lad in his teens was only one of many adult illiterates taught by the Ohio woman and her plan proved that it could be done. That boy, William Wright, became a Judge of the Court of Appeals.
With book-learning have come many broadening factors in the life of the southern mountaineer. His sons attend agricultural college, his daughters are active workers in the 4-H clubs. They return to the hillside farm to show their mothers how best to can fruit. The boys have learned how to improve and conserve the soil, how to save forests. The consolidated school has taught mountain children to mix with others. They have Girl Scout groups and Boy Scout groups; they learn self-government under trained leaders.
Above all, book-learning is swiftly wiping out the old suspicions and superstitions about the medical profession. Time was when there was but one doctor in all of Leslie County, Kentucky. Mountain mothers relied on the old midwife; infant mortality was appalling. Then came the Frontier Nursing School headed by Mrs. Mary Breckinridge. Her work is known throughout the breadth of the nation. The Frontier Nursing Service has the support of the leading people of the nation. Debutantes gladly give up a life of frivolity and ease to become trained in obstetrics and give their services to helping mountain mothers and babies. Its purpose was to combat the infant death rate in remote Kentucky mountain sections. The nurses ride on horseback and visit and care for mountain mothers. Mrs. Breckinridge herself was a nurse during the World War in France and went back to the Scottish Highlands—from which her kinsman Alexander Breckinridge came to settle in the Shenandoah in 1728—where she became a midwife.
Mountain folk usually are slow to take on new ways. But the wonders wrought through the Frontier Nursing Service they have "seen with their own eyes."
Learning has brought about a great change for the better in the life of the mountain woman. Once we saw her lank, slatternly, meek, stoic—mother of a dozen or more, obeying with patient fortitude the will of her man. We saw too the pitiable child-bride marrying perhaps a man three times her age because he could take care of her. There being so many in the family Pappy and Mammy were glad to be rid of one of their flock. Though both pictures were often as overdrawn as that evoked by a daughter of the Blue Ridge—a whimsical picture of a pretty maid in full-skirted crinoline with a soft southern accent—moonlight and honeysuckle, a gallant, goateed colonel paying court to her charm and beauty while he sips a mint julep. This picture and that of the snaggle-toothed mountain woman in bedraggled black calico can no more be taken for fact than that Jesse James is still holding up stagecoaches or that cowboys in high boots and leather breeches are daily wedding the rich easterners' daughters who have come West.
There are well-organized centers: weaving centers that market the wares of mountain women all over the nation; music centers and recreational centers. Women and their daughters are better dressed and certainly they give more care to their appearance than the mountain woman did when she rode to the county seat on court day with a basket of eggs and butter and ginseng on one arm and a baby on the other.
She still knits and crochets and hooks rugs—not from leavings of the family's wearing clothes—but from leavings she buys from the mills. She does not have to take her wares to the county seat—today she stretches up a clothesline across the front stoop, pins her rugs and lace on the line, and the passing motorist buys all that her busy hands can make.
The question is often asked: How does the mountain woman regard her right to vote? Generally she is unconcerned with the vote. But as time goes on, by reason of the many factors that enter into her new way of living, she is evidencing more interest, both in the county and state elections. Strangely enough, though the mountain woman went hesitantly to the polls, a Kentucky mountain woman, Mrs. Mary Elliott Flanery, of Elliott County, was the first woman to be elected to the legislature south of the Mason and Dixon line. She was self-educated and for a number of years was rural correspondent for newspapers, which experience perhaps gave her a broad understanding of political matters and the incentive to enter the field. Hers was a distinctive service to the commonwealth and particularly to her sisters of the southern highlands, inasmuch as she was first of her sex to actually voice before a legislature the problems and needs of the mountain woman.
Today with rural electrification the mountain woman ceases to be a drudge. She is on a par with her sister of the level land.
She no longer stumbles wearily to the barn after dark with a battered lantern, its chimney blackened with smoke. She has only to switch on a light and turn to milking. Or if her household has progressed to dairy farming, as many of them have, finding the sale of milk to the city creameries more profitable than raising vegetables, she has only to attach the electric devices and the cows are milked mechanically. She sits no more at the churn, one hand gripping the dasher, the other holding a fretful babe to her breast. Now that unseen juice, or 'lectric, comes along the wire and into the new churn and there! Almost before you know it there is a plump roll of butter.
The whole family benefits from rural electrification. The youngest girl of the household is not reminded of the irksome task of cleaning and filling the lamps, trimming the wicks. What if the single bulb swinging from the middle of the ceiling is fly-specked! It still gives ample light for the room. The hazard of the overturned oil lamp and the fear of burning the house down are gone too. "I'd druther have 'lectric than a new cookstove or a saddle mare," any mountain woman will tell you.
She is through with the back-breaking battling trough and the washboard. Her proudest possession and the greatest labor-saving device on the place is the electric washer. Carefully covered with a clean piece of bleach, it holds a distinguished place in the corner of the dining room when not in use. It is the first thing to be exhibited to the visitor.
But whenever progress brings, it likewise takes away.
The fireside gathering where the glowing logs provided light and cheer for the family circle, conducive to story and riddle and song, has almost reached the vanishing point. Instead, the young folks pile into the second-hand Ford and whiz off to town. They don't wait for court week, when in other days the courthouse yard was the market place of the hillsman. Though the old courthouse still stands as it did in early days, the scene has changed. There is one ancient seat of justice in the Big Sandy country within sight of the spot where the first settlers built their fort for safety against Indian attack, and over the door these words catch the eye—
READER, WHERE WILT THOU SPEND ETERNITY?
Young folks don't seem to give it much thought. Just across the road (it is paved now) the raucous sound of the juke box is heard playing I Understand, Hut Sut, You Are My Sunshine and Booglie, Wooglie, Piggy. The jitterbugs are at it early and late. They know all the hits on the Hit Parade. They know Frankie Masters' and Jimmy Dorsey's latest records and the newest step and shake. If they ever tire, which is rarely, there are booths and stalls where they may sip a soda, drain a bottle of coke, crunch a sandwich, a yard-long hot dog, a hamburger. Or, if he is real sophisticated and she "has been farther under the house hunting eggs than some have been on the railroad cars," he will cautiously draw his hip flask, when the waiter or proprietor isn't looking, and pour a snort of year-old or Granddad in the glass of cracked ice. Sure, you buy your cracked ice, what do you think this is? "Let's go on to the Rainbow," she suggests presently, when only cracked ice is left in the glass. "Rainbow? You got your rainbow right here in the juke box," he answers. "I don't mean no rainbow like's on the groan box, and you know it." Maybe they go, maybe they don't. But things are surely changing along the once quiet mountain trail. Now if the lad is real devilish he will try a slug in the juke box instead of a coin. Then the proprietor drops his beaming smile and asserts his authority. A young stripling or two may drop in, stagging it. One gets an eye on a pretty girl dancing with her date. But just let him try to cut in. "Can't you read?" With the proprietor's husky voice the intruder feels at the same moment the proprietor's firm hand upon his shoulder. "What's eatin' you? Can't you read, I say!" The owner of the big voice and bigger fist points a warning finger to the sign on the wall—
NO STAG DANCING
The stag isn't slow in being on his way. He and his pals pile into their car and head toward the next tavern.
The present generation of mountain youth may have lost their superstition but they will take a long chance on beating the pinball machine. They will play it for hours—until the last nickel is dropped in the slot because, "Yes siree, just last night at the Blue Moon I saw a fellow get the jackpot. Double handful of coin!"
A mountain girl once ashamed because her granny smoked her little clay pipe puffs a cigarette nonchalantly held between highly manicured fingertips. She will spend her last dollar for a permanent and lipstick. She would not be interested in the simple fireside games, Clap In and Clap Out, Post Office and Drop the Handkerchief. Such things are far too slow for her highstrung nerves these days.
However, community centers are trying valiantly to bring back square dancing and community singing. The effort is successful in some localities, particularly through North and South Carolina. Old-time singing school with the itinerant singing master has given place to singing societies that meet sometimes in the summer months on the courthouse square or indoors.
Religious customs, too, are becoming modernized. The foot-washing of the Regular Primitive Baptists, while it is still carried on in some of the mountain churches, lacks much of the solemnity and imposing dignity of bygone days. The church house itself is changed, which may account for much of the modification of customs. The log church is replaced with a modern structure of native stone. The walls are painted. There is a gas chandelier suspended from the ceiling. While there is still no elaborate, elevated pulpit, the floor of the front portion of the church where the faithful wash each other's feet is today covered with linoleum. The long spotlessly white towel used for drying the feet of the meek has given place to a brightly colored green and red striped bath towel (basement special, or such as are found on the counters of the five and ten). The singing, instead of being the solemn chant of the sixth century to which mountain folk for generations adapted the words of their traditional hymns, is in swift tempo, almost jazz such as can be heard at any point on your radio dial any day in the week.
The jolt wagon, with its rows of straight hickory chairs, carrying the whole family to meeting with a well-filled basket with victuals for all, is a thing of the past. At a recent foot-washing down in the Georgia mountains there was but one wagon in front of the little church. A string of automobiles of all sizes and makes was strung along the road for a mile.
The solemn funeralizing with its simple beauty is almost a thing of the past in the southern mountains. Today it is accompanied by the barking of the hot-dog vendor, "Get your hot dogs here. A nice ice cold drink of Coca-Cola here! Here's your Doctor Pepper! Cold orange drink!"
The decorations on the grave—once paper flowers made by loving hands—are garish factory-made flowers in cellophane covers. Mother's picture in the glass-covered box beside her headstone is gone long ago. The favorite hymn is sometimes sung and a few of the old-time preachers survive to weep and pray and sing and offer words of praise for the long-departed friend. The present generation do not speak of the funeralizing. Today it is a memorial. Strangely enough, however, only a few miles from the heart of the Big Sandy country, a memorial service was held for O. O. McIntyre for the second time on August 11, 1940. A twilight memorial it was called and his good friends and close associates came to hear him eulogized.
The mountain preacher of yesterday is passing fast. Then, his was a manifold calling. When he traveled the lonely creek-bed road with his Bible in his saddlebags, he was the circuit rider bringing news of the outside world to the families along the widely scattered frontier. He, like the mountain doctor, was truly counselor and friend. The people looked to him to tell of things that would be happening in the near future. They hung upon his every word from the pulpit. His reasoning in spiritual matters was sound and his eloquence impelling. His sermons often combined quotations from the early writers of England, passages from Shakespeare, true echoes of Elizabethan English, as might be expected considering his ancestry. Words flowed freely from his lips. The mountain preacher to this day has a natural gift of oratory. It has been handed down through generations. He needs only the spur and the occasion to burst forth. The mountain preacher, as some may imagine, was not always untutored or illiterate—of the type we sometimes encounter today in remote mountain regions. In early days he was quite often both preacher and teacher, such as William E. Barton, father of Bruce Barton, who after preaching in the thinly settled parts of Knox County, Kentucky, became the pastor of a Chicago church in later years. Some of the early roving preachers even studied theology in the great centers of learning both in America and Europe.
At one time, even as late as the last quarter of a century, there were strait-laced Baptist preachers (my own blood kin among them) who would not permit an organ in the church. But today it is quite the vogue for young evangelistic couples to hold forth with piano-accordion and guitar. "It peps up the joiners," the evangelist says. On the other hand, in remote churches, where preachers still hold that note-singing and hymn books with notes are the works of the Devil, these same fellows will play up the hysteria of the audience with the "Holy Bark," the "And-ah," "Yep, Yep," and the "Holy Laugh," chiefly at foot-washing ceremonies.
The number of young people, however, who cling to the custom of foot-washing is comparatively small. One reason may be that they are too busy with other things, or that they consider such practices old-fashioned.
Old Virginia had its Patrick Henry, the Blue Grass its Clays and Breckinridges, but the Big Sandy produced from its most rugged quarter as fine and noble timber as could be found throughout the breadth and width of the Blue Ridge Country.
Early in his youth Hugh Harkins came from Pennsylvania to settle in Floyd County in the heart of the Big Sandy. That was far back in the 1830's. He knew the saddlery trade but the young man preferred the profession of law. So acquiring a couple volumes on practice and procedure he began to study for the bar. He built himself an office of stone which he helped to dig from the mountain side and with every spare dollar he bought more law books and timber land. He died in 1869, but by that time his grandson, Walter Scott Harkins, had a thirst to follow his footsteps. The boy, even before he was old enough to understand their meaning, listened avidly to the speeches of his grandfather in the courtrooms of the mountain counties. And when Walter Scott Harkins was only a strip of a lad he rode the unbeaten paths to courts of law with his law books in his saddlebags. If the day were fair he'd get off his horse, tether it to a tree and climb high on the ridge. There with statute or law reporter in hand he would read aloud for hours. Again he'd close the book and with head erect, hands behind him, young Harkins would repeat as much as he could remember of the text. Often he waxed enthusiastic. He longed to be an orator. Sometimes thoughtless companions would jeer at the young Demosthenes, even pelt him with acorns and pebbles from ambush. But Walter Scott Harkins wasn't daunted by any such boyish pranks. He kept on orating.
In the meantime, as he rode the lonely mountain paths, he took notice of the fine timber, just as his grandfather had before him. He was admitted to the bar in 1877 and hung out his shingle at the door of his grandfather's office. Like Hugh Harkins, the grandson also began investing his earnings, meager though they were, in timber land.
One summer evening near dusk the young lawyer was riding toward the mouth of Big Sandy when he was startled to see in the distance a giant tongue of flame shooting skyward. At first he thought there was fire on the mountain but he soon discovered that the flame did not spread but continued in a straight column upward. He sat motionless in the saddle for a moment. By this time darkness had descended. The young lawyer was fascinated by the brilliant flame and determined to test its strength. Taking a law book from his saddlebags he opened the volume and, to his surprise, was able to read the small type by the light of the distant flame with as great ease as though an oil lamp burned at his elbow. Then he recalled the story of how Dr. Walker, the English explorer, had once read his maps by the light of a burning spring. Unlike the early explorer young Harkins determined to do something about it. The legal mind of the lad spurred his zeal to find the cause of the illuminating flame.
Walter Scott Harkins not only found the cause but he probed the effect with fine results. With the aid of other interested persons he acquired mineral rights of lands in the Big Sandy country which included the burning spring, the like of which in the next decade was to illuminate towns and cities and operate industries as far removed as one hundred miles.
Moreover Walter Scott Harkins lived to see more than 75,000 acres of his own forest leveled, whereby he piled up a fortune that could scarcely be exhausted even unto the fifth generation of Harkinses.
On the window of his law office in Prestonsburg, Floyd County, Kentucky, appears in letters of gold, an unbroken line of five generations of Harkinses who have followed the practice of law. Likewise the Harkins' descendants hold unbroken title to the largest acreage of timber land in the country. The virgin forest brought its owner more than $160,000 and the second growth is ready to cut.
Lumber companies bought 70,000 acres of forest and constructed their own railroads to carry out the timber. They calculated it would take about twenty-five years to cull out all the big timber and by that time there would be a second growth. Wasteful methods of lumbering, together with frequent forest fires and man's utter disregard for the future, have already brought about the necessity for reforestation in many mountain sections. As far back as 1886 out of the Big Sandy alone was run $1,500,000 worth of timber.
Rafts of logs carpeted the Big Sandy River and at its mouth was the largest round timber market in the world. With its row of riverfront saloons Catlettsburg, between the Big Sandy and the Ohio Rivers, was then called the wettest spot on earth. Through its narrow streets strode loggers and raftsmen. Theirs was talk of cant hooks and spike poles, calipers and rafts. "You best come and have a drink down to Big Wayne's that'll put fire in your guts." The boss wanted his whole crew to be merry, so the whole crew headed for Big Wayne Damron's Black Diamond.
Today the old riverfront lives only in memory. That part of the county seat is a ghost town. Timbermen and loggers gather no more for revelry at the riverfront saloon. And should you ask the reason, the old river rat will answer with a slow-breaking smile, "See off yonder—locks and dams! Can't run the logs through that!"
Forests that were felled a quarter of a century ago are once again ready for the woodsman's ax.
The present generation of timbermen look upon a very different scene. Their dim-eyed grandparents complacently beheld the push boat, that crude ark which was urged along the stream by means of long poles. It gave way to shallow drift steamers. And in turn the steamers were shoved aside for the railroad which was quicker. The boats, Red Buck, Dew Drop, once the pride of the river, soon went to anchor and deterioration.
The county seat changed as well. Once women came to do their trading there with homemade basket, filled with eggs, butter, ginseng which they swapped for fixings, thread, and calico. They motor in now to shop.
Typical of the changing scene is the town of Prestonsburg in Floyd County. It became a county seat in 1799 and was once called Spurlock Station. Today it is a thriving city with a country club. Daughters of once rugged farmers and struggling country lawyers now have a social position to maintain.
Mountain women are becoming class conscious! More's the pity.
It is often said, "Old mother nature must have laughed heartily at the pioneer, who in his mad rush to go west hurried down through the wide troughs between the mountains, hurrying on through the valleys, passing unheeded the wealth in forests on either side, the wealth in minerals under his very feet." But there came a time when the mountain men discovered the treasure.
Over in Johnson County, adjoining Floyd, where Walter Scott Harkins had an eye for timber, his young friend was being twitted for a different reason. "John Caldwell Calhoun Mayo," they'd string out his long name, "when you're cooped up in the poorhouse or the lunatic asylum, you can't say we didn't warn you to quit digging around trying to find a fortune under the ground."
But young Mayo, like his friend Harkins the lawyer, would only say, thumbs hooked in suspenders, "He who laughs last, laughs best."
Some of his youthful companions continued to poke fun but John Caldwell Calhoun Mayo turned them a deaf ear. On foot he trudged endless miles when he was a poor lad, or rode a scrubby nag along the Warrior's Path, always seeking coal deposits, pleading with landowners for leases and options on acreage he knew to be rich in minerals. He surmounted seemingly impossible barriers, even having legislation enacted to set aside Virginia land grants. He tapped hidden treasures, developed the wealth of the Big Sandy country that had been locked in mountain fastnesses for centuries. Through his vision, thriving cities blossom where once was wilderness.
The United States Geological Survey shows one eighth of the total coal area of the nation to be in this region; it supplies nearly one quarter of all the country's bituminous coal.
Only in recent years has the mountaineer begun to forsake his cove, however unproductive the earth may be, for the valley and public works. Indeed mountain folk long looked down on their own who sought employment at public works, mines, lumber camps, steel mills. They decried any employment away from the hillside farm, because it meant to them being an underling. No mountaineer ever wanted to be company-owned. Leastwise none of the Wellfords of Laurel Creek. But Clate, youngest of Mark Wellford's family, lured by the promise of big cash money, decided to quit the farm and take his wife and little family down to the foothills. "There's a good mine there, pays good money, and there's a good mine boss on the job," so Clate was told. Some two years later Clate, a weary figure, emerged one evening from the company commissary. His face was smudged with coal dust. A miner's lamp still flickered on his grimy cap. He carried a dinner bucket and the baby on one arm. Over his shoulder hung a gunnysack that bulged with canned goods and a poke of meal. At his heels followed his bedraggled, snaggle-toothed wife, a babe in her arms and another tugging at her skirts. Her faded calico dress that dragged in the back was tied in at the waist with a ragged apron. There was a look of sad resignation in her eyes. Now and then she brushed a hand up the back of her head to catch the drab stray locks. She might have been fifty, judging from the stooped shoulders and weary step. Yet the rounded arms—her sleeves were rolled to the elbow—looked youthful.
Clate halted a few minutes to talk to another miner, a boy in his teens. "What'd you load today?" the younger asked after casual greetings. "'Tarnal buggy busted a dozen times, held me back," Clate complained, shifting the dinner pail and the baby. "Always something to hold a man back." "I'm figuring on going to Georgia," the young lad sounded hopeful. "Got a buddy down there in the steel mill. Beats the mines any day." He saw some young friends across the street and hurried to join them.
"Come on, Phoebe!" Clate called over his shoulder to his wife, "get a mosey on you. I'm hongry. And 'ginst you throw a snack of grub together it'll be bedtime. An' before you know it, it's time to get up and hit for the hill again." He plodded on up the winding path to a row of shacks. His little family followed.
The row of dilapidated shacks where the miners lived was clinging to the mountain side at the rear, while the fronts were propped up with rough posts. They were all alike with patched rubberoid roofs, broken tile chimneys, windows with broken panes. Rough plank houses unpainted, though here and there a board showed traces of once having been red or brown. Between the houses at rare intervals a fence post remained. But the pickets had long since been torn away to fire the cookstove or grate. There were no gardens. Coal companies did not encourage gardening. Miners and their families lived out of cans, and canned goods come high at the company's commissary.
A tipple near the drift mouth of the mine belched coal and coal dust day after day. When Phoebe—you'd never have known her for the pretty girl she used to be far back in the Blue Ridge—rubbed out a washing on the washboard, hung it to dry on the wire line stretched from the back door to a nail on the side of the out-building, she knew that every rag she rubbed and boiled and blued would be grimy with coal dust before it dried. What was she to do about it? Where else could the wash be hung? Once Phoebe thought she had found the right place. A grassy plot quite hidden beyond a clump of trees. She put the wet garments in a basket and carried them off to dry, spreading them upon the green earth. But no sooner had she spread out the last piece than a fellow came riding up. "What's the big idea?" he demanded, shaking a fist at the garments on the ground. And Phoebe, from Shoal's Fork of Greasy Creek, never having heard the expression, mumbled in confusion, "I'm pleased to meet you."
"Don't try to get fresh," the fellow scowled. "Don't you know this ground is company-owned? The big boss keeps this plot for his saddle horse to graze on. Pick up your rags and beat it!"
She understood from the gesture the meaning of beat it and obeyed in haste.
There was little room to stretch up a line indoors, though she did sometimes in the winter when the backyard was too sloppy to walk in. Clate Wellford's was one of the smaller shacks, a room with a lean-to kitchen. The others, with two rooms, cost more. Besides there were other things to be taken out of date's pay envelope before it reached him; there were electric light, coal, the store bill, and the company doctor.
"None of my folks have been sick. We've never even set eyes on the doctor," Clate complained to the script clerk on the first payday.
"What of it?" the script clerk replied. "You'd be running quick enough for the doctor if one of your kids or your old woman got sick or met with an accident, wouldn't you? The doctor's got to live same as the rest of us."
So the miner stumbled out with no more to say. Sometimes he'd vent his spleen upon his wife. "You wuz the one that wanted to come here! Wisht I'd never married. A man can't get nowheres with a wife and young ones on his hands." And the wife, remembering the way of mountain women, offered no word of argument.
When the owners of the coal operation came from the East to check up output and earnings they didn't take time to make a tour of inspection of the shacks. Certainly they had no time to listen to complaints of miners.
Lured by the promise of big money Clate Wellford, like many other mountain men, forsook the familiar life of his own creek for the strange work-a-day of the mining camp.
Back on Shoal's Fork of Greasy Creek there was always milk a-plenty to drink. Bless you, Clate knew the time when he'd carried buckets full of half-sour milk to the hogs. How they guzzled it! Here there was never a drop of cow's milk to drink. You got it in cans—thick, condensed, sickeningly sweet. Couldn't fool the children, not even when you thinned it with water. "It don't taste like Bossy's milk," the youngsters shoved it away.
What was more, back on Shoal's Fork there was always fried chicken in the spring. All you could eat. Turkey and goose and duck, if you chose, through the winter and plenty of ham meat. There was never a day date's folks couldn't go out into the garden and bring in beans, beets, corn, and cabbage. He'd never known a time when there were not potatoes and turnips the year round. The Wellfords had come to take such things for granted. But here in the coal camp you could walk the full length of the place from the last ramshackle house on down to the commissary and never see a bed of onions and lettuce. The shacks were so close together there was no room for a garden, even if the company had permitted it.
"That's company-owned!" the boss growled at Clate that time he was trying to break up the hard crusty earth with a hoe.
"I've got my own onion sets," Clate tried to explain. "My folks fetched 'em down."
"Who cares?" the company boss snarled. "What you reckon the company's running a commissary for? The store manager can sell you onions—ready to eat."
So the miner didn't set out an onion bed.
Again, Clate found some old warped planks outside the drift mouth of the mine; he brought them home and was building a pigpen. The mine boss came charging down upon him.
"What you doing with the company's planks?"
The frightened Clate tried to explain that he had supposed the wood thrown aside was useless and that he was making ready for the young shoat his folks meant to bring him.
"What you suppose the company would do if every miner packed off planks and posts that he happens to see laying around?" he eyed Clate suspiciously. "We'd soon shut down, that's what would happen. And as for meat. You can buy sow-belly and bologna at the commissary." There was something more. "If you want to keep out of trouble and don't want a couple bucks taken out of your pay, you better get them planks and posts back where you found them!"
The miner's shack was perched on such high stilts that the wind whistled underneath the floor until it felt like ice to the bare feet of the children. It took a lot of coal in the grate and the kitchen stove to keep the place halfway warm. The children were sick all through the winter. Now and then the company doctor stopped in on his rounds of the coal camp to leave calomel and quinine.
With the birth of her last baby, Clate's wife got down with a bealed breast after she had been up and about for a week. "I'm bound to hire someone," Clate told his wife. So he hired Liz Elswick to come and do the cooking, washing, and ironing and to look after the children.
Out on Shoal's Fork neighbor women came eagerly to help each other in case of sickness.
Though it was not much they had to pay Liz—she took it out in trade at the store, the makings of a calico dress, a pair of shoes—it was a hardship on the Wellfords. For Liz Elswick, like other women in a coal camp, never having handled real money, knew little of cost. Nor did she know how to supply the simple needs of the family. Phoebe was too ill to offer a word of advice, poor though it would have been. So, before long, Clate was behind with his store bill. Or to put it the other way around, for the company always took theirs first, Clate had nothing left in his pay envelope on payday.
Then, when he might have had a few dollars coming, something else would happen: shoes would be worn out, he'd have to buy new ones for the children couldn't go barefoot in the winter. He himself had to wear heavy boots in the mine in order to work at all, for Clate had to stand in water most of the time when he picked or loaded. Another time the house caught fire and burned up their beds, chairs, everything. Even though he had steady work that month he had to sell his time to the script clerk in order to get cash to replace his loss. A buddy in the mine was selling out his few possessions at a sacrifice because his wife had run off with a Hunkie. The Hungarian showed the faithless creature a billfold with greenbacks in it, promised her a silk dress and a permanent.
"Why don't you buy new furniture at the commissary?" the script clerk wanted to know of Clate. "There are beds and chairs, bureaus and tables. Get them on time."
"I can't afford it," Clate said honestly.
So, after much bickering, the company's script clerk offered to give the miner script for his time.
"My buddy has to have cash money," Clate argued. "He's quitting. Going back to his folks over in Ohio."
Clate found out that when he sold his time he got only about fifty cents for a dollar.
"What you think I'm accommodating you for?" the company's script clerk wanted to know. "I'm not out for my health. Course if you don't want to take it"—he shoved the money halfway across the counter to Clate—"you don't have to. There are plenty of fellows who are glad to sell their time."
There was nothing left for Clate to do. He and his family had to have the bare necessities, bed, table, chairs.
Soon he was in the category with the other miners, always behind, always overdrawn, always selling his time before payday. Soon he was getting an empty envelope with a lot of figures marked on the outside. Clate was company-owned! If he lived to be a hundred he'd never be paid out.
Though Clate Wellford and the other coal miners never heard the word redemptioner and indent, they were not unlike those pioneer victims of unscrupulous subordinates. Men in bondage like the sharecropper of the Deep South, the Okie of the West.
How different the children of the coal field looked to those along the creeks in the shady hollows of the Blue Ridge!
In the coal camps they were unkempt and bony, in dirty, ragged garments. They squabbled among themselves and shambled listlessly along the narrow path that led past the row of shacks toward the commissary. The path was black with coal dust and slate dumped along the way to fill the mud holes.
Why do they continue to live in such squalor and in bondage? Why don't they move away?
If a miner should decide to move out, he has no means of getting his few belongings to the railroad spur some distance from the camp, for he has neither team nor wagon. All these are company-owned. The company, which controls the railroad spur, also has control too over the boxcars that are on the track. Only the company can make requisition for an empty boxcar. If a miner wants to move he cannot even get space, though he is willing to pay for it, in a boxcar to have his goods hauled out.
He stays on defeated and discouraged.
If, however, he does quit one coal camp and get out he is unskilled in other labor and if he should try to evade his store and other obligations with one coal company, the office employees have a way of passing on the information to another operation. There are ways of putting a laborer on the blacklist.
But why should he try to move on? Word comes back to the miner from other buddies who have tried other camps. "They're all the same. Might as well stay where you are."
Behind every shack is a dump heap of cans, coal ashes, potato peel, coffee grounds, and old shoes.
Rarely was the voice of the miner's wife raised in song as she plodded through her daily drudgery. Now and then the young folks could be heard singing—but not an ancient ballad. Rather it was a rakish song picked up from drummers coming through the mining camps who sold their inferior wares to the commissary manager.
There was a church propped up on the hillside. But meeting usually broke up with the arrest of some of the young fellows who didn't try hard enough to suppress a laugh when the camp harlot went to the mourner's bench, or when some old creature too deaf to hear a word the preacher said went hobbling toward the front. Sometimes an older miner, who for the sheer joy of expressing a long-pent-up feeling, shouted "Praise the Lord!", was dragged out by a deputy sheriff, along with the young bloods, on a charge of disturbing religious worship.
The limb of the law usually knew who had a few dollars left from the week's pay. The law knew too that a miner preferred to pay a fine rather than lie in jail and lose time on the job next day.
There was no pleasant diversion around the coal camp for womenfolk and children, no happy gatherings such as the play party, a quilting, an old-time square dance. In their drab surroundings, little wonder men and women grew old before their time.
That was yesterday. Today there are model mining towns throughout the coal fields. Holden in West Virginia even has swimming pools and modern cottages for its miners. A miner can work on the side too—it is not uncommon to see signs over his cottage or barn door reading, "Painting and Paper Hanging," "Decorating." There are thrifty vegetable gardens, and miners' wives vie with each other in the product of their flower gardens. Holden is sometimes called the Model Mining Town of America. It has welcomed visitors from all over the land.
In Harlan, Kentucky, once the center of many stormy battles between miners and operators, the county crowned a Coal Queen on August 23, 1941, commemorating the first shipment of coal thirty years previously. The queen, a pretty eighteen-year-old high school girl, won the title from six other contestants, enthroned on a replica of the railroad car which hauled out the county's first coal. As part of the celebration a $1500 public drinking fountain was dedicated and speakers hailed the economic progress of Harlan County since 1911. Each day 1200 railroad cars loaded with coal leave the county.
It was an all-day program being sponsored by the Harlan Mining Institute safety organization in co-operation with the County Coal Operators Association.
Not only were mining officials present from many points but politicians as well were present, including Mrs. Herbert C. Cawood, Republican nominee for sheriff, a sister of the crowned coal queen.
BACK TO THE FARM
For those who do not have a hankering for work in the foothills and industrial centers there is today a greater incentive to go back to the farm or to stay there than ever before in the history of our country. For the young mountaineer there is the Future Farmer Association which not only trains him in soil conservation, guides him in what is best for his type of farm, or what stock he can best produce, but also holds out the spur of reward. It is a fine plan for promoting friendly rivalry and spurs the future farmer to excel his young neighbor. Each fall there is a great state fair in a leading city of each of the Blue Ridge states, where the young future farmers of America gather with their exhibits in livestock, poultry, exhibits of their own crops. There is even a revival of the prettiest baby contest so familiar to the old county fair of the long ago. However today the contest has expanded beyond mere beauty; there is a health baby contest. The grand champion rural child is given an award with much pomp, and to complete the spirit of friendly rivalry and to bring about better understanding and fellowship between country and town there is also a contest for the champion rural and city baby.
The mountain boy, because he is no longer isolated by rugged roads, meets his city cousin on common ground.
The scene has changed along the once rugged creek-bed road. In place of the saddle hung on a wall peg on the front stoop for passersby to view and perhaps envy, a new saddle once the joy and pride of the mountain lad, today there is a spare tire and there is an auto in the foreyard or in the garage, a garage which is often bigger than the little cabin itself.
The mountain farmer is being taught by skilled leaders to help himself.
Even if the mountaineer's farm is on a forty-five-degree slope there is hope for him today, thanks to the Farm Security Administration. A workable plan for soil rebuilding was the first step. To reclaim wet land the mountain man digs drainage ditches. Stone, heretofore hidden in the mountain side and unused, is now utilized for building barns and houses. On fourteen acres a man and his family, including a couple of grown sons and their families, can today raise a living and be comfortable. With a loan of $440 from the Farm Security Administration a once unproductive miserable farm can be made liveable and productive.
The farmer of the hill country is being trained to put to use the things at hand.
Second-growth timber is coming on and is conserving the productive qualities of the hillside soil which was drained away by ruthless cutting of timber a quarter century ago. Today the farmer is taught to treat his farm and pasture land with lime and phosphate, a thing unheard of in the early days. And the greatest of all his blessings today, the mountain farmer will tell you, is the good road.
Why then should he want to leave the mountains he knows and loves so well?
It was tried by the young folks, but finding themselves ill fitted for work at coal camps or steel and iron mills or factories or industrial centers, they returned eagerly to the hills, at least during the first five years of the thirties.
To this day, though some have remained in the mill towns, it is not uncommon to hear the womenfolk—whose men have provided them with modern conveniences, a frigidaire, a gas range, an electric washer and iron, a spigot of running water—say, "Wisht I had back my cellar house, my cedar churn, the battling block to make clean our garments. All these here fixy contrapshuns make slaves of my menfolks at public works to earn enough cash money to pay for them." And again, "I'm a-feared of that 'mobile. I'd druther ride behint old Nell in the jolt wagon."
Recently a Harvard sociologist, Dr. C. C. Zimmerman, has suggested that, because the Appalachian and Ozark farmers are producing children in excess of the number "required to maintain a population status quo," they pull up stakes and settle in "declining rural New England."
However, those in a position to know, through long years of close contact with the southern mountaineer and his needs, point out that no resettlement or colonizing plan can be worked out until a better program of regional analysis is first accomplished. They point out that many a mountain farmer would not earn in a whole lifetime of toil enough money to make a down payment on "even a rundown New England farm."
Besides there is still in the makeup of the mountaineer that spirit of independence. He does not want to rent. He wants to own outright, even if his property is no more than a house seat. There are few sharecroppers in the southern highlands. A mountaineer would rather suffer starvation than be subservient. Though he may be illiterate he still remembers, because the story has been handed on by word-of-mouth, the suffering and mistreatment of his forbears across the sea.
To add to his security today there is the Tenant Purchase program for rehabilitation through the United States Department of Agriculture, and mountain men themselves are selected as members of the committee. It is a part of the FSA. The Big Sandy News, July 25, 1941, carries this story to the mountaineer: "The Tenant Purchase program provides for the purchase of family type farms by qualified tenants under the Bankhead-Jones Tenant Purchase Act. Farm Security Administration rehabilitator loans are available to low income farm families, ineligible for credit elsewhere, for the purchase of livestock, workstock, seed, fertilizer and equipment, in accordance with carefully planned operation of the farm and home. About 150 farm families in Lawrence county have already been helped by this program.
"The services of debt adjustment committeemen are available to all farmers, as well as to FSA borrowers. The committeemen will assist creditors and farm debtors to reach an amicable adjustment of debts based on the ability to pay."
In this particular section of the Blue Ridge, while some are looking to the soil, others have an eye on the waters above the earth. There is being revived the plan of twenty years ago for the canalization of one of the best-known and most important rivers of the Blue Ridge Country—the Big Sandy. As a means to that end there is an organization called the Big Sandy Improvement Association and, with a mountain man, Congressman A. J. May, to espouse its cause, things look promising for the project.
The mountain men and their city co-workers get together and speak their minds and exchange views at dinner meetings down in the Big Sandy Valley. A survey is being conducted to show to what extent a navigable river would aid industry, especially the coal business. Mountain men are joining their practical knowledge with the scientific knowledge of men of the level land who are putting the plan of canalization of the Big Sandy River before Uncle Sam for consideration and backing.
The people of the Blue Ridge mountains are learning slowly and surely to mingle and to work with others. That again is due to good roads.
Once there was the simple manner of making sorghum, whereby the mountain man paid for the use of the mill in cash or cane; today there is the Sorghum Association which helps the mountaineer market his product. There is even a Blackberry Association whose trucks drive to the very door and load up every gallon a family can pick.
Conservation is evident on every side and mountain people are realizing the benefits in dollars.
Where once timbering was carried on in an appallingly wasteful manner, reforestation under the guidance of trained leaders is under way. Camps of the CCC dot the whole southern mountain region and fruits of their efforts can be seen in the growing forests on many a mountain side. In Mammoth Cave National Park alone 2,900,000 seedlings were planted to stay gulley erosion in an area of 3,000,000 square yards.
Mountain boys who have entered CCC camps are rated high in obedience, deportment, and adaptability to surroundings. Some of them have never been away from home before. Many have been no farther than the nearest county seat.
Frequently the mother back home can neither read nor write but she shows with pride a letter from her son. "My boy's in the Three C's. He's writ me this letter. Read with your own eyes." You see her glow with genuine pride of possession as you read aloud—perhaps the hundredth time she has heard it—the boy's letter. The mother shows it to everyone who crosses her threshold there in the Dug Down Mountains of Georgia. There is another letter too. "Johnny's captain writ this one." She knows them apart even though she does not know A from B. "Johnny's captain has writ moughty pretty about our boy." So well does the old mother know the content of the letters she is ready to prompt if the visitor omits so much as a single word in the reading. And when Johnny came home, after his first months of service were ended, he was hailed as a conquering hero by family and neighbors alike. The mother was proudest of all. "Look at this-here contrapshun." From the well-ordered case in the boy's trunk she brought out a toothbrush. "He's larnt to scrub his teeth with this-here bresh and"—she added with unconcealed satisfaction—"he don't dip no more. 'Pon my honor he's about wheedled me into the notion of givin' up snuff. But when a body's old and drinlin' like I'm getting to be dipping is a powerful comforting pastime."
The mountain boy's older brothers and father too have come to understand co-operation. They can work with others. They know the meaning of WPA folklore. When the boss calls out jovially, "Come and grab it, boys!" they, who have never heretofore worked by the clock, know dinner time is up and they must start back to work. When the head of the work crew calls out "Hold! Hold! Hold!" they know a fuse of dynamite is about to be lighted to blast the rock from the mountain side and they hurry to safety. "Dynamite is powerful destructuous!" one tells the other, and they remain at safe distance until again the boss of the crew calls out "All right!" and they are back with pick and shovel.
The mountaineer has become a good steel worker, a dairyman in the foothills, a good mill hand.
The old folk, however, still cling to the old order of things. Once there was an old schoolmaster in the southern mountains who refused to give up teaching from the McGuffey Readers despite the fact that legislation had ruled out the old familiar classics. So persistent was he in his decision it eventually brought on a heart attack which caused his death.
Men of the hills have been quite baffled by CIO and other union cards. Young men first joining the CIO were heard to boast, "We can have anything we want. The CIO is going to buy me and my woman and the kids a nice, fine, pretty home. Pay all our bills if we get sick."
Only a few short years ago in a coal camp in West Virginia a mountain man, who was then working at public works for the first time, found himself haled into court at the county seat on some misdemeanor charge. When asked "Who is the President of the United States?" he unhesitatingly gave the name of the sheriff who had arrested him. So long had his family lived apart that he knew nothing of the workings of his own government and nothing about the various offices, high and low. Yet in the family burying ground of that mountain man inscriptions on the tombstones of his ancestors show that three of them served with distinction in the War of the Revolution.
Lest the coming generation forget the ways of their forbears and the America for which men struggled and died—the America of yesterday—the scene is being faithfully reconstructed in various ways in national parks. The boys of the CCC camps are having a very important hand in reconstruction and conservation.
Some years ago a nephew of Fiddling Bob Taylor of Tennessee met with several friends on hallowed ground in that State, not for a patriotic celebration but merely for the joy of roaming in the great out-of-doors. The ex-governor's kinsman, like his forbears, had been born on the site where in 1772 the first step was made in American independence by the Watauga Association. This autumn day these sons of those early patriots fell to talking of the country, its scenic beauty, its resources—particularly in the mountain region. "Fitting shrines set in the beauty of the great out-of-doors are the finest monuments to our patriots, it seems to me," said one. Another said, "The world's history shows that from the time of creation the successful men were those who really loved the out-of-doors. Abraham was a nomad whose home was wherever he pitched his tent. Moses sought the silence and solitude of Midian before God could speak to him. David was a shepherd boy on the Judean hills. Elijah dwelt in a cave. In the New World we see Washington, the surveyor, a lover of the out-of-doors; Thomas Jefferson, finding happiness and contentment in roaming the hills of Virginia; the immortal Lincoln, coming from the backwoods of humble parents; Theodore Roosevelt, cowboy on the plains of our western country."
With a smile Fiddling Bob's nephew turned to his friends. "Fellows, I'll wager there's not one among them from Abraham down to Teddy but would enjoy a canter over a good highway to take a look at the Blue Ridge Country. The most beautiful forests and parks in the world. Ought to link 'em up with a highway."
"Not a bad idea," chorused the friends, and they took another round of mint juleps to celebrate the birth of a thought.
"Ideas grow and thoughts travel fast," Fiddling Bob's nephew remarked some years later when setting out on a cross-country journey. "The Park-to-Park Highway grows annually and this Skyline Drive, which is a part of the plan, is one of the most alluring of all modern roads." Starting at Front Royal, the northern entrance to the Shenandoah Valley Park, it continues to Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro on the south, a distance of 107 miles. It is a broad mountain highway following the crest of the Blue Ridge, invading a world that was remote and known only to mountain folk. Today over its smooth, paved surface cars climb quickly to airy heights from which may be viewed innumerable vistas of the Piedmont plateau and the Shenandoah Valley. At strategic points parking overlooks have been constructed, from which are seen tumbling waterfalls, deep and narrow canyons, cool shady forests, open meadows, and wild flowers of every shade and hue throughout the summer. Autumn presents a boundless riot of color and winter a snowy, sparkling blanket pierced by tall green pines.
The Skyline Drive links with the Blue Ridge Parkway at Rockfish Gap which will at last connect the Shenandoah National Park with the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee.
"In case you don't know," Fiddling Bob's nephew likes to remind a stranger, "Shenandoah Valley Park was presented by Virginians to the nation in 1935 and more than three million dollars have been spent on the Skyline Drive alone—a drive that hasn't a parallel in America. Through this wilderness the Father of his Country once trudged on foot as a surveyor and looked down upon the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley from the lofty peaks of the Blue Ridge. His was the task to survey lands for the oncoming settlers. He had no moment to explore under the earth. That was the task of later men. Today for good measure, after you have beheld the breathtaking beauty from the heights, just travel seven eighths of a mile from Front Royal to the Skyline Caverns where you'll see the most unusual cave flowers that man has ever looked upon. Why"—Fiddling Bob's nephew puffs vehemently on his corn-cob pipe—"do you know that Dr. Holden, he's professor of Geology at VPI, says these Hellicitites, that's what he calls 'em, 'these weird, fantastic, and pallid forms' warp scientific judgment. And, friends, it's nature's work, these inconceivable structures hidden from the world for millions of years down under the ground."
He turned with a beaming countenance when we had emerged from the cavern of matchless wonders. "Young Americans don't have to study geography books these days. All they have to do is get a second-hand car, fill it up, and strike out on the Park-to-Park Highway. They'll get an eyeful and an earful too from native sons, and learn more about America than they can dig out of the dry pages of a book in a year. Why, right down there at Charlottesville there's Ash Lawn where James Monroe lived and meditated. His friend, Thomas Jefferson, set about building the place in 1798 while Monroe was in France looking after Uncle Sam's business. Even great and busy men in those days were neighborly. Thomas Jefferson did a good part by his neighbor James Monroe when he built that house, and the ambassador thanked him generously when he came back to occupy the place. The two used to roam the grounds together and spent many happy hours there. They visited to and fro; you see Monroe lived across yonder within sight of his friend's home. The great of the past take on reality when you actually set foot upon the ground they have trod. Places come to life when we see them with our own eyes. That's the purpose of these great highways, the Park-to-Park highways that connect the scenes of American history."
As the terrain changes there is a great variety in the scenes along Skyline Drive. Sometimes the road leaves the crest to tunnel through a rocky flank of mountain and you come unexpectedly upon sparkling streams tumbling down the mountain side to the valley below. The eye follows the cascade to the very edge of the drive. It disappears beneath the wide surface and reappears beyond a rocky wall, cascading down and down to fertile valleys below.
Virginians, and people of the Blue Ridge generally, count one of their greatest prides the restoration of the capital at Williamsburg through the generosity of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Old and young who pass through the graceful wrought-iron gates to the Governor's Palace thrill at the sight of the restored colonial capital named for King William III, a scene which all in all reflects old England in miniature, "as the state of mind of its citizens reflected the grandeur that was to be America." Here are the stocks in which offenders were locked while they suffered jibes from passing tormentors. Elegant coach-and-four remind the visitor of days of grandeur of Old Virginia when the FFV's were entertained at the royal palace. Across the way is the wigmaker's shop, and the craft house, displaying the Wolcott Collection of ancient tools and instruments. Here too is seen the Wren building, oldest academic structure in English America, "first modeled by Sir Christopher Wren."
Even a youngster of the Blue Ridge knows about Yorktown where Lord Cornwallis surrendered in 1781. "Here's where we fit and plum whopped the life outten the redcoats," we overheard a mountain boy from a mission school boasting to his companions.
Within a few short hours I had left behind Old Virginia and its reminders of colonial days and crossed into the Mountain State.
"There's plenty of beauty and culture in Old Virginia, I'm not denying that—" Bruce Crawford looked over his spectacles at his inquisitive visitor—"but there's just as much on this side of the Blue Ridge. We've got as many wonders under the earth as above it. And"—he turned now in his swivel chair in his quarters in the Capital to look far up the Kanawha River—among the many duties of this Fayette County man is that of letting the world know about his state—"I'm not forgetting Boone roved these parts. Trapped and hunted right here on the Kanawha. But what I started to talk about was not the hills, the rivers, and the caves, but the people." He spoke slowly, deliberately, this sturdy, well-groomed hillsman. Like Sergeant York of the Tennessee Mountains Bruce Crawford can, if need be, drop easily back into the dialect of his people. And he is an accomplished writer. "I don't care enough about it to follow the profession of writing," he said, and fire glowed in his gray eyes. "But as old Uncle Dyke Garrett used to say, 'I takened all I could a while back from furriners' so I cut loose and wrote my notions about it and it was published in the West Virginia Review. Take it along with you on your travels through the Mountain State and see if I've come near hitting center."
It seems to me he came mighty near hitting center and with Bruce Crawford's permission, here are his sentiments:
"In recent weeks two ignorant jibes were flung at the State of West Virginia, one by a Southern editor and the other by a Northern cartoonist.
"The editor, a Virginian, moaned that rude mountaineers had routed Democrats of the 'old Southern type' from the Capital on the Kanawha and that the Lost Cause was lost all over again. He was still sad because Senator Matthew M. Neely had been elected Governor on a platform to restore democracy to the Democratic Party, and government to the governed, in West Virginia.
"The cartoonist represented us by a stock hill-billy character with bushy beard and rifle in hand, gunning for someone around the mountains.