Birth and My First Home
I was born one mile down river (South Branch of the Hughes) from Berea, West Virginia. Our home was on the opposite side of the river from the road and the Asa Randolph home (later the Amos Brissey home). There was a ford across the river (maybe one-eighth mile above the Brissey house to our home). I was born and lived there about 3 years.
The first memories of this home I really don’t remember but have heard from my parents and Aunt Sarah, who lived on top of the hill back of our home. Aunt Sarah and my parents visited back and forth often, helping each other. There was maybe one-half mile between homes. I do not remember my Uncle Elsworth, who was my father’s youngest brother and his special buddy. Uncle Elsworth was killed in a logging accident before I could remember.
They tell me of my birth, which was at a tragic time. My brother, Harold, 2 years older than 1, died of membranous croup the same day I was born. Old Dr. Bee was at our place trying to save Harold when he brought me into the world. For some reason, probably because of Harold’s death and other business, he never recorded my birth at the courthouse. I know that because of the trouble I had getting my Social Security at the time of my retirement. Aunt Sarah was a big help at that time, they say.
Another time Aunt Sarah was such a special help was when I had diphtheria, probably in my first year. They said they almost lost me then, but Dr. Bee and Aunt Sarah brought me through. Of course, Mom and Dad did their part, too.
Aunt Sarah and Uncle Elsworth’s only son, Blondy, was a little older than I; and we were playmates and buddies from the time we were babies. After my diphtheria spell, Mother and Dad got concerned as to whether I could hear, so they decided to test me by having Blondy in the next room but out of sight. When he said my name, they knew I could hear.
There were two happenings at our first home that I heard a lot about. One was the time I was in the woodlot at the same time our cow was there, and she butted me over the woodpile. They said I didn’t even cry, and they watched me closer to keep me from playing with “Moo Cow.” The other was the time Mom heard me hollering, “Mom, Mom. Come come.” When Mom got to the river at a sand and gravel bar just above the ford, I had hold of a pole with a fish on the end of its line. The fish would pull me a while toward the water, then I would pull it. That may be why I love so much to see my grandchildren and great grandchildren pull and holler, “Help me, Paw.”
Uncle Gene’s in New York
About the summer when I was four, we moved to Uncle Gene and Aunt Cleo Elizabeth Jordan’s in New York at Friendship near Cuba. I can remember some things quite vividly. First, on our train trip we had to wait some at Wheeling. The trains sounded so near that I was expecting them to come into the waiting room. Also, I have memories of the drays and drivers, probably because Mother cut out connected strings of brownies. (Mother was a real crafter and artist.)
While we were in New York State, I went to school a little while. They took me out because I fell deeply in love with an older girl, Agnes Childs. We were together, it seems, all the time at recesses and noons. Often all of us children would go to an orchard maybe 300 yards away (maybe it was farther but seemed so short a distance because Agnes and I always walked hand in hand or arm in arm).
Another thing I remember well was Uncle Gene’s black dog (it must have been a Water Spaniel) and his big and mean gobbler. Romulus, the dog, stayed with me a lot, and he was seldom out of hearing of me. I can remember one time the gobbler spread his tail and wings mighty scarily; I had a hard time to get Romulus to save me, but he finally did.
My sister, Avis, and I had groundhog pets that my older brother, Brady, had caught for us. Brady knew where their dens were in and around a big meadow. He would hide near a den and watch until they would get far enough from their home until he could get between their den and them before they could reach safety. My pet wasn’t really a pet. He would bite and finally got away.
Avis and I played together a lot because she was two years younger than I. Sometimes I had trouble getting her to play my way or keep up when we were going to Uncle Gene’s, about one-half mile from our home. Then I would say, “”Appy won’t keep the snakes off you.” That got cooperation.
Life on Otterslide
It must have been the fall of 1907 that we went to Otterslide near Berea. I am sure that we were sorry to leave Aunt Cleo and Uncle Gene because they were mighty good to us. Our new home was small and just boarded up, but it was close to many of our relatives and friends. Probably we lived on Uncle Lashie Maxon’s place. Then there were Uncle Delvie and Uncle Elsa Maxson who lived near. They all had children who went to school to Dad and played with us what few times we could get together.
A few things are very vivid in my memory. I remember Dad chopping wood by our woodshed. Once he glanced his ax off the shed and cut his foot badly. Then I remember my mother carrying water up a ladder and into the attic to put out a fire that caught from the chimney. Another time at the supper table our oil lamp fell over, and the kerosene caught inside it. Mom grabbed an overcoat hanging near and wrapped the lamp up and put it outside.
The worst thing that happened while we lived on Otterslide was while Dad and Brady were working up the hollow (like they were when Mom put out the attic fire). My younger brother, Randall, choked. After Mom pounded his back and shook him while holding him by the heels, we ran to Uncle Lashie’s. Mother carried Randall, who must have been about 2 years old; and Avis and I tried to keep up. They could not unchoke Randall. It was such a sad time. I remember Dad and me after dark out by the woodshed crying our eyes out.
I have some hazy memories about going to school in the one room school at Otterslide. Of course, I was in the first grade, and my teacher was my father. But really, the next vivid memory was riding in a wagon and entering Berea. Just after we got through the covered bridge, what to my wondering eyes should appear but George Washington’s son sitting on steps in front of a house. His hair was cut just like the pictures of George Washington, and it was white. Later I found out he was my first cousin, Arden Bee. Probably his mother, Aunt Rachel, told him we were coming, and he was watching for us. Arden and I have always been close friends and still are.
Living in Berea
My memories of Berea are so many that I could never tell you about them all and get done in time to go fishing when the weather gets fit. Suffice it to tell about my schooling, my work, my dog, and my friends and enemies. I may make a mistake telling about the happenings with my enemies. My grandchildren and great grandchildren must realize that I was just a boy eight to almost twelve years old–so you do as your dad and mom say, not the way I did.
Maybe you will be interested in knowing what Berea looked like while we lived there. It was located in an almost round bottom of about fifty acres on the south side of the South Branch of the Hughes River. The business consisted of two stores, a post office, livery barn, and a grist mill. There was a two-room school when we arrived, with another added while we were there; and this was in Berea proper. The school was later moved to where Camp Joy is now. (The house was not moved, but a new schoolhouse was built.) The road made a loop around the bottom, with houses on both sides. There were about twenty houses along the loop and three on the road that extended down the river from where the loop joined at the covered bridge. At that junction was the post office, one store, the livery barn, and the blacksmith shop. The other store and the gristmill were about one hundred yards up the river along the loop, by the dam.
My Schooling at Berea
As for school, I remember I was a very slow reader; and I liked exciting stories like Gulliver’s Travels, Indian stories, Greek stories, poems, and wars in the histories. I once printed a big imaginary story about a character similar to Gulliver. I also often felt very sad, fearing I would never have a chance to be a hero because I feared there would never be any more wars. of course, I was wrong. There have been wars, and I am glad I didn’t have to fight in them.
These stories of Jason, Hercules, the Roman heroes and the Christian martyrs, I suppose, influenced me to try to be a martyr. My worst punishment at school came from that desire. In fact, there were two of those experiences–one in the fifth grade at Berea and the other in the ninth grade at Salem High School. After I was teaching, I realized that I needed the rubber hosing I got at Berea and being expelled from the study hall at Salem because I took the blame for other pupils’ mischief.
Play at the Berea School was real fun. We chose up and played base, both draw base and prisoner base. We also had fun playing ball with a twine-wound ball and no cover. (We had never seen a baseball or softball.) I loved to be the catcher. One noon I was catching for a strong eighth-grade pitcher. The ball was wet, which made it like a rock. A batter just snibbed the under part of the ball, causing it to hit my eye squarely. That ended my catching career. There were many other games, like “London Bridge,” “soccer ball,” and in the fall “Hull Gull, Odd or Even,” and in the spring “Lap Jack.”
Maybe you would like to know how we played “Hull Gull” and “Lap Jack.” As I said, Hull Gull was played in the fall. Chestnuts were plentiful, and we would fill our pockets with them before we went to school. Then we would hold out a hand (with some chestnuts enclosed) and say, “Hull Gull, odd or even.” If the other youngsters said “Even” or “Odd” and when we opened our hand there was what they said, they got the chestnuts. But if they were not right, we got one from them to make it odd or even.
We played lap jack in the spring because the willows along the creeks were extra limber. We took a willow switch with us to school, and we would challenge another child to lap jack with us. Whoever hollered first lost the match. Usually this only lasted one day because it caused trouble that mothers and teacher didn’t like.
There were many programs at school in those days. We had a literary meeting each month during the school term. The older people had parts in it, too. I remember being in a debate: “Resolved that water is more destructive than fire.” I don’t remember whether I won or lost. I also remember a Christmas Program with a big tree for the community and a jolly Santa Claus. On that tree was a pair of skates for me. When I got the skates, I left the program and went to the river above the dam, where there were solid ice and lots of skaters (including my older brother, Brady). I didn’t have a period of falling down because I had practiced stroking just like the big folks even without skates on for a year or so.
This is enough about schools at Berea except to say that I was noticing girls again like I did in New York State (but not quite as much). Pearl Buzzard, who later became Mrs. Curtis Simmons, was my special. Pearl’s husband left her when she became a crippled invalid. We were close friends until her death, when she willed me her wheelchair. She also left one son, who took good care of her to the end. Another girl I liked a lot was Beulah Collins, who later married my cousin, Hollie Sutton. Beulah was beautiful and had an especially beautiful voice. She didn’t notice me because she liked the older boys.
One year while we lived at Berea I went to school at the Fair View School. I walked with Dad about three miles each way. That was the last year I had Dad for my school teacher. That was a great experience. Dad was a wonderful teacher, especially in arithmetic and history and on the playground. Among many other games, we often played “Fox and Hound” at noon, which used about all the noon period and a lot of rough country.
Special Friends (and Enemies)–(Wrestling and fighting)
It was not long after we moved to Berea, the summer I was seven years old, that the boy who was to become my best friend and buddy came to see me. The thing I remember most about his visit was that he wanted to wrestle. So Dad cleared a room of furniture, and we went at it. I couldn’t seem to understand what was happening until after he had thrown me three or more times. Then I said it was my turn to yank. To the best of my knowledge, he never did throw me again.
In fact, I can’t remember our ever wrestling again except once, when we got paid to fight in front of a crowd of men at the livery barn. In the first place, the men told Lester (Lester Jackson was my friend’s name) they would give him a nickel if he would get me to fight him. We fought so fiercely that they got ashamed, I suppose, and paid us a nickel apiece to quit. We took the money and hand-in-hand went to the nearest store and bought candy to eat together. The nearest store was the Douglas one.
Lester and I were at the livery stable another time when the front big sliding door fell on Lester. It hardly hurt him any, but we were scared. Lester was a tough boy. Once he had his head smashed when his father’s combination truck and surrey automobile (the first one of any kind owned near Berea) hit a telephone pole with his head between the truck and the pole. It did put him in bed for a while, but he recovered and served in the Marines for many years.
I saw Lester only once after we left Berea at the age of eleven and almost twelve. He came to our place for a visit at Salem, and we went to Clarksburg to visit my cousin, Arden Bee (the one I thought was George Washington’s son). The three of us went above the dam at Hartland, a suburb of Clarksburg, and had a great time swimming. I went back to try to see him at a Jackson and Prunty Reunion at the old Prunty Place, three miles below Berea. They told me Lester had died in Hawaii ten years before.
I must tell you about the time Lester Jackson saved Avis’ life. We had been on the ice of the river down by Creed Collins’. We didn’t have skates, so we must have just walked on the ice across the river. Lester and I had gotten across and were waiting for Avis. She hollered, “Help!” We saw her sink to her arm pits through the ice. Lester ran to her. They broke the ice in front of her, and Lester led her to the bank. I was ashamed that I didn’t go to her, but no doubt it was meant for Lester because I was so heavy. I might have drowned both of us, or all three. Those of you who read this, beware of thawing ice. It is treacherous because it can have hidden rotten spots.
I remember one other wrestling match, and it was with Odbert Bell, a mighty husky boy my age. Our wrestling was done with one arm over the shoulder and one under for each. When one was down and couldn’t get up, the other had won. We squeezed each other’s back and thrashed around, trying to bend the other’s back in until he would fall. Finally Odbert got me. I think that was why I never cared much for wrestling.
My memories of Berea have many fights in them. Suffice it to tell you of a few. One boy I fought with was Harry Wade. His father bought our home place, and he lived in the same house where I was born. He and I were very good friends, but some of the big boys got him to start a fight after a program at school. We fought with our fists, only quite evenly and so entertainingly that the watchers cheered loudly enough to attract an older person, who stopped the fight and sent us on home (for which I was thankful because I wasn’t sure of the win).
Our next-door neighbor was the village blacksmith, Mike Jett. He had two sons and two daughters. The son Dewit was my age; and the daughters, Pearl and Judy, were older. Leo was the youngest son. There was practically a feud between our family and Mike Jett, along with the men who came to his drinking parties.
Once I was coming home on our horse at night;, and they rocked us, which almost made Nellie run off with me. Another time, I met Dewit, Pearl, and Judy in front of the school house. I got on the school house porch against the house so they couldn’t get behind me. I guess I was pretty desperate because I hit Dewit so hard that I heard a loud crack. Dewit went down. I saw some folks coming who heard it from the post office porch, so I ran home.
Good Times With Cousins and Hunting Dogs
My time at Berea was also very pleasant–especially the visits to stay all night with my cousins, Blondy Randolph at Aunt Sarah’s and Oma Sutton at Uncle Herman’s. Blondy and I played climbing and swinging in the big spreading chestnut tree that had grapevines in it. Aunt Sarah’s big barn had lots of hay and straw in it, where we did tumbling stunts. Most fun of all was training and using a pair of calves to pull a cart our Uncle John Meatheral had made for us.
The times I remember going home with Oma were in the fall during the hunting season. Uncle Herman had hounds. Most of them were foxhounds, but one was a dandy night-fur-animal hunter. He would tree opossums and hole skunks, and we would have fun shaking the possums out and digging out the skunks. We sometimes built a fire to warm ourselves and roast apples wrapped in clay mud, and once a young chicken.
Speaking of hunting dogs, I had a red short-legged dog, Rover, that was a real pal. He used to go with me all the time. Many were the times I grabbed his hind legs and helped him pull groundhogs and rabbits out of their dens. He had such short legs that he would go back in their holes and pull them out.
I remember one time down at our old home place that Rover ran a groundhog into a hole. I heard it whistle before it went in; then, as it came out a back door of its den, Rover grabbed it. They fought over and over on a smooth path; then they got off the path, so Rover just rolled over and over with it until they got to a small flat place at the edge of the river. Rover wanted to do his fighting on level ground. They fought there; but before I could help Rover without hurting him, they got into the river. I was really scared for Rover then, so I went in, too. We finally got it out and quieted, but I had an awful time finishing it off with a club.
There is a story about this hole–in fact, there are two–where Rover and I finished off the groundhog. This hole in the river was just below our ford and between our place and Grandpa Randolph’s. The story goes that another dog, Bruno (a big, ugly bulldog) got revenge on a deer for butting his friend and playmate, Ring (the tall greyhound), with a quilting party of ladies watching.
Bruno’s barking brought the women out to see the trouble just in time to see a big buck send Ring rolling with its horns. Bruno, even though he was fat and lazy, seemed to get determined to pay that buck back for hurting his playmate. He chased it to the river. While it was crossing on the ice, he caught it by the nose. He turned it a somersault and broke its neck. After quite a while, a man on a horse came along and claimed the deer, claiming his dogs had been running it. Grandpa gave it to him.
The other story also happened before I was born and while Dad was a young man. He and his brothers built a fence across the lower end of this water hole, just about where we fought the groundhog. They built it of rocks and put a room below it at the swiftest side. When the river would rise because of grinding grain and using water from the dam at Berea, they would open the door into that room. When the water went down, they would close the door and go in and catch fish with hands and clubs. Sometimes they got mighty nice ones.
Once for a few days we couldn’t find Rover. After worrying and inquiring, we heard that a teamster about 15 miles down river had him. Dad, Brady, and Clee Wagoner went down to get Rover. They walked and took turtle-prodding sticks similar to gaff hooks because it was spring before the turtles got out of the mud. They spied Rover at a house a little way from the road. Brady and Clee waited at the road, and Dad went to the house. Dad told the man he had his dog and he was going to take it home. The man said he would wade through blood before he would let that dog go. Dad said, “Start wading”; and he went back to the road, where Brady had called Rover and had him. We were a happy family when they came home with Rover and two sacks of nice snapping turtles. I think Avis and I were the happiest. Mom let me sleep with Rover in my bed for some time. That was very unusual. I never knew of her allowing a dog in our house at any other time.
My Work at Berea
Besides this fun, I did do some work while living at Berea. One year, we raised a cane patch (probably two acres) on top of the hill near Aunt Sarah’s. I remember that so well because I had to thin it. Dad was afraid the seed was poor, so he put plenty seeds in each hill. I think they all came up. I got a terrible headache.
We also had a garden au the old home place besides the big one we had at Berea. One day Brady, Dad, and I were working in this garden when we heard loud splashing in the riffles at the ford. We ran down and got a fish in a little open place among the seaweeds. Brady hit it with a club, and we had a twenty-four-inch bass. I remember we couldn’t eat it all in one day with Grandpa and Grandma Sutton visiting us.
There were a number of farmers around whose children had grown up and left home, so I got to ride their horses for cultivating, harvesting, etc. One of these farmers was John Meredith. He had a queer way of paying; he would feel in his pocket after I had worked a half day or so and find a nickel, dime, or once or twice a quarter and give it to me.
One day Mr. Meredith got me to help him drive two cows down to Wolf Pen, about 10 miles down river, in order to sell one of them. He thought they would drive easier. I rode behind him on a horse, (a rather sharp-backboned one). When we were coming to a branch road, I got off, ran ahead, and made the cows go the right way. We ate dinner there; then we drove the one cow back. It took about all day. I remember so well because I was so disappointed; he only found a nickel to pay me.
When I was ten and eleven years old, I had a regular job of driving the milk cows for our village to a pasture in the morning and to their home lot in the evening. They paid me by the month, twenty-five cents. I thought I was rich. There were deep hollows and patches of brush. Sometimes it took me until after dark to find the cows and get them home. Dad let me buy a little hand ax, similar to our Scout axes now. With that ax I never was afraid, even if a stump or bush would look like a bear.
That night hunting makes me think of the stormy night when Nell got out, and I went up the river to hunt for Nell while Dad went down river. Dad forgot to tell me how far to go. I kept going and looking in every possible place. She meant about as much to me as Rover did. It was extremely dark except when the lightning flashed, which I learned to appreciate. I must have hunted two miles where there was not a home in sight of the road before I gave up and went home discouraged. Dad had found Nellie, so I was happy; and Mom and Dad were glad to see me.
Another kind of work was hacking. That was cutting brush from one- to eight- or ten-inches in diameter and piling it. At first I wasn’t big enough to use an ax, so I piled. Once in a while when they would find a nice branchy bush, they would let me climb it before they cut it. I would get on the side up hill. When it fell, it would bounce up and down a while, giving me a thrilling ride.
When I was ten years old, Dad let me use a pole ax. I saw my first copperhead that I remember. When stepping up to a bush, I spied a copperhead all coiled up. I yelled, “Dad!” He came and made a quick end to its life.
They also let me use a scythe that same summer to cut weeds and small brush and briers. I went down to the place Dad bought from Grandpa Sutton, which was just across the river from the lower end of Berea. I was feeling big and important. No doubt that made me careless whetting my scythe. I cut my hand, which stopped my using the scythe for a while.
My Colt, Tony
Our horse Nellie finally had a colt that Dad let me call my own . Nellie and the colt pastured in the round bottom where Camp Joy is now. I loved the colt and began petting it whenever Nellie would let me. Finally I got a halter on it and would lead it around near its mother. Then I would get it into the box stall in the church barn, where I would feed it apples, etc., from my hand and put my hand on its back.
One day I led Tony down to Berea. He must have been about one year old then. I took him to drink at the watering hole in the river where the liverybarn horses drank. Tony started jumping up on his hind feet and pawing, so I started him back toward pasture. He gave me a hard time. Once he managed to scrape my back some with his front hoof. Dad (or maybe it was Mom) wouldn’t let me bother Tony for a while. As soon as I could, I got him back in the box stall, fed him, petted him, put my hand on his back, put a blanket on him, and finally would hang onto the top of the stall and sit on him.
About that time, Dad moved him to a pasture at the top of the hill toward Pullman. The Berea cows were being kept in that pasture, so sometimes I would find Tony and ride him bareback to round up the cows. One time just as I got on him he jumped a ravine. It caused me to fall, but Tony stopped and waited for me to get back on his back.
The first time Tony had a saddle on, Avis rode him (with Dad on Nellie) for a visit up Otterslide. They said he was as good as could be. The second time was when I took him back to pasture. I was at the foot of the hill when I met two young men. They had white straw hats. They threw the hats in front of Tony. He wheeled, and my saddle turned. I fell and broke my arm. I took Tony on to pasture without letting the boys know I was hurt. Then I went home and let Dad and Mr. Wagoner set my arm.
Surely you are getting tired of happenings at Berea. Suffice it just to say that Avis got her arm broken while riding an old buggy coasting down the road in Berea. I got one arm broken jumping over a cliff when they were turning off maple sugar at Uncle John Meatherell’s.
At still another time, a young fellow cut my shoulder; and Minter Fox, the veterinarian, sowed it up, which hurt like blue blazes. (I still have a scar on my back that looks like a lizard.)
At another time I was riding to Pullman, and Nellie jumped over the bank and a fence because she saw her first car. When cars first came around, they must have seemed like dragons to the horses. Most car drivers would stop when they met a horse, turn off the engine, and lead the horse or horses past the car.
Fishing at Berea
When the ground was too wet to work and we didn’t have other work we could do, Mom and Dad were real good about letting us have fun–like fishing.
Once we (Brady and I) went fishing in the same hole where Mom helped me catch my first fish, only this was on the road side of the river and two or three hundred yards farther up stream. We went down a steep bank from the road to a small flat where we could throw our baits into the water near an old brush pile. We began catching fish. Brady was catching them faster, probably because his pole was longer. I started stringing his fish, and he caught them as fast as I could get them strung. We had the stringer about full and decided that was all we could carry home. They were nice black and yellow sunfish and catfish. Just as we got up on the road, along came Uncle John Meatherell in his surrey pulled by two spirited horses. He took us home, and we were thankful.
Elmo’s Birth and The Last Year in Berea
August 31, 1913, was a day of many anxieties at our home. Aunt Sarah was there. So was Julia Meatherell, our cousin. Our family doctor was there. Everything was hustle and bustle, so Avis and I stayed out of the way, mostly outside of the house. I have heard the story over and over since–how Dr. Bee could not take care of Elmo when he was born because he was busy saving my mother. Aunt Sarah said she thought Julia and she could save him, and they did. They had to use a medicine dropper to feed him because he was so tiny. It was touch and go for both Mother and Elmo for quite a while. Elmo’s birth, Mom’s being sickly, and Brady’s going to Salem College caused Dad and Mom to decide to move to Salem.
Another reason for the move was our troubles with unfriendly neighbors–like the time Brady came home from school at Salem one evening. Since Dad was staying at school for a program, Brady and I decided to go to the program and come home with him.
As we went by Mike and Dinah Jett’s home, we noticed they were having company. When we got through the covered bridge, we heard loud hollering (“We’ll murder them!”) and a lot of swearing. We knew they meant us. We quickly gathered a good club and a handsized rock. As we went up the steep path (which was a short cut for walking toward Pullman), we planned to wait for these young men and have the downhill advantage. We tried that a number of times before we got to the top of the hill; but even though they were drunk, they wouldn’t fall for our trick. Our plan was for Brady to get them down and me to crack them over the head with the club.
When we started down the hill that would take us to Dad’s school, we traveled on the road. These men (there were five of them about Brady’s age, seventeen years old to twenty) came up to us, trying to shove each other against us, then backing off and rocking US. They didn’t get the fight started that way because we weren’t going to fight unless we had to.
Finally one of the largest ones of them took hold of Brady’s lantern and said he had lost his cap. (He had his cap on his head.) While they argued, two of them went past us and two stayed above. I tell you, I was scared and had my club tightly in my hand. Brady told Luther to let loose of the lantern or he would take him over the rock cliff (which was just off the road); he let loose. The two in front of us stepped aside, and they all left us. Probably Luther’s scare brought them to their senses. Anyway, we were mighty glad to get to Dad’s school.
Life at Salem: Boxing at Salem
Among my first memories at Salem are of boxing at the Pennsylvania Dormitory of Salem College. I guess we lived there while we waited to get in our home on top of the hill back of the college. Some of the boys who lived in the dormitory, including Ruben Brissey, got Otho Randolph and me into a boxing match. It was the first time I ever saw boxing gloves. Otho, my cousin and the chief of police’s son, gave me all I could handle; but I must have done fairly well.
About once a year Otho and I would have a lively boxing match until the summer we were sixteen. I remember that one extra well. We boxed in Uncle Joel’s yard at the mouth of Pennsylvania Avenue. Otho was giving me a mighty hard time, mostly because he kept stepping on my toes with the spikes on his running shoes. I got afraid he was going to get me, but Aunt Gertie came out and stopped us. We never boxed again, but I will tell you of our farming together at Uncle Al Glover’s later.
Of course, that was not all the boxing I did at Salem. Some of us boys stopped at Jennings Randolph’s home on the way back from church (probably a Junior Christian Endeavor meeting), and Jennings brought out his gloves. First Gene Lowther put them on with me. I happened to get him some pretty solid blows, so he quit, never to box with me again. (I never did see him box with anyone again.) Then Jennings boxed with me. We enjoyed many bouts for two years. We never tried to knock each other out, but he was a mighty worthy opponent.
When I started to Salem College Academy, I boxed often in the Rec Room. These were just for fun. But one with Offet Collins was for real. Offet told me he was going to stay with his father at a saw mill in Kentucky the next summer, so he wanted to practice fighting. I agreed to fight with him, even though I was fifteen and he was eighteen. He also had much longer arms than mine. Of course, we put gloves on. We sparred a little; then Offet rushed. He kept on rushing. I hit him, but he kept on. Finally he caught me an extra good one. I went sort of numb. I felt some other blows, first on one side and then the other. The next thing I knew I was wakening up on the floor. I got up and held him off for a while; then he did the same thing again. When I got up the next time, I stayed with him until he wanted to quit. Either the sting had left his blows, or I had learned how to keep them from landing.
This match with Offet probably helped me when I boxed Fay Bunnel, the carnival boxer, before a crowd at Salem. I was eighteen at that time. I only agreed to fight three rounds as a wrestling and boxing card. For some reason the wrestling didn’t happen, so they asked me to go six rounds with Fay. I agreed. About the second round Fay caught me a glancing blow in one eye. The gloves were six ounces and badly scarred. The blow almost blinded me the rest of that round. I had a hard time covering up. His blows came fast. They seemed to come from everywhere. He had a style I had never seen before; his gloves were down at his sides. I seemed to do better after that second round but was glad when the sixth was over. Fay had a good professional career.
My Twelfth Birthday
By the time I had my twelfth birthday, we had -moved into our own house on the top of the hill behind Salem College. Mom had a party for me with some ten or twelve of my friends. Gene Lowther, Jennings Randolph, Russell Jett, and Otho were among them. Among other things we tried to see who could chin himself the most. I could chin myself only once, while a lot of them could go up four times and some more. After that I developed the ability to chin-up more than eight times.
Scouting (Boy Scouts)
It wasn’t long after my twelfth birthday that Oris Stutler started a Boy Scout troop. My, but we enjoyed learning in the Scouts. Oris was a great Scout Master. Jennings saw that he got a Congressional Medal for it.
I remember two camping trips. In the summer of 1914, we camped on Ford’s Place four miles below West Union on the Middle Island Creek. It was a wonderful experience; but my buddy, Russell Jett, almost drowned while taking a swimming test. He was swimming beside me, and I saw him sink without saying a word. When I realized he wasn’t fooling, we pulled him out; and Oris brought him around.
The next summer we camped one mile below West Milford on the West Fork River. One of the things I remember most about the camping was the great food. I even learned to like rice that was cooked with water and sugar (I never liked it before). I also remember catching big frogs.
I meet Ruth Bond
.Another thing I remember about my scouting was meeting the prettiest girl I had ever seen–on the walk by the side of the College Administration Building. She had blond curls, lots of them, hanging over her shoulders. I was wearing my scout suit. I tipped my hat as nice as I knew how. It must have made some impression because I now have her as my own queen and mother of my seven children.
In the scouting I took a special interest in fire-building, cooking, and bird watching. I made many trips back up the ridge from our home, where I would watch and listen for new birds. When eating time came (I could only tell by my hunger because I had no watch), I would prepare a spot carefully and build a fire. Sometimes I had some kind of meat. More often it was a vegetable or just a sandwich to toast on a forked stick. I would wrap corn or potatoes in clay mud (we did not have aluminum foil). My birdwatching was more listening and stalking than watching. I kept listening for new songs or voices. Then I would stalk the bird that made the sound or sang the song until I could get a good look. Sometimes I found it was an old friend but just a different song. That led to my recognizing many birds by their voices.
During the first summer I was at Salem, I had some interesting experiences. One of them was after a ball game on top of the hill back of Jennings Randolph’s home. A gang of boys led by Tad Graham were playing, and my friends (Russell Jett and Dana Williams) and I joined them. After the game Tad and his friends grabbed me. They threw me down. I looked for help and saw Russell and Dana heading for safety and home. Tad said, “Let’s make him eat this cow manure.” (It was real dry.) I broke loose and grabbed a club that happened to be handy. I said, “The first SOB that gets near me is going to get this.” (I used the real words, which I had never done before.) They believed me and finally gave up and went home. I had a few other hard times because I was a country greenhorn.
Many times while on the Main Street I would pass a dray wagon hauling things to or from the railroad station. Mr. Davis and some of his three boys would be on it. The boys got to hollering, “Baby, Baby,” each time when they passed. It got annoying. One day I met one of them with an Ash boy. I just started swinging my fists. I backed up against the side of the Ford and Swiger store so they couldn’t get behind me. We were trading blows hard and fast, especially the Ash boy, when a man came along and parted us. That didn’t satisfy me or the Davis boys either.
Another day I met the three of them walking in front of the college. We started swinging. I remember college students gathered to watch on the lawn. I knew them, and many of them knew me because I went to the 7th grade there where they practice taught. I soon got the Davis boys separated. I would knock one into the street. Another would come; I would roll him. They soon had enough. Later they were good friends.
Tad Graham hadn’t had enough to suit him. One day Jennings brought his boxing gloves up to that same ball field for Tad and me to have it out. I beat him thoroughly because his arms were shorter than mine and he wouldn’t quit trying to clobber me. Tad was a friend from then on.
Working at Salem
I always had a job during the summer. The first summer after my 7th grade, I took office telephone calls for the Salem Block Company (they made cement blocks). Sometimes when they had train cars of sand or cement that had to be unloaded quickly, I would help with that. They had one man laborer besides the owners. I could handle more sand and as much cement bags as he did.
I did not wait until school was out to peddle bunches of onions. They were green onions from sets that Mom had brought from Denver, Colorado, when she and Uncle Waitie went there to see their brother, Uncle Elzie. These were called winter onions because they would be good eating-size by March. We put 5 or 6 onions in a bunch, and I sold them at 5 cents per bunch.
We had a hard time making a living. Dad taught mostly one-room schools and sold life insurance in the summer. His pay was not enough to keep us four children and Mother. Mother took in some washings to help. My father and I took filth jobs the summer after my 8th grade. Some of them were hacking jobs, and some were scythe jobs (like briers). I did not have to worry about copperheads. Dad could distinguish a copperhead smell as well as I could a bird song. Once when we were hacking brush on Dr. Davis’s farm on Tarkill, he said, “There’s a copperhead around.” We looked for a likely place and spied a big rotten stump. When we got it turned over, we killed two big rusty ones.
The next year was my first year away from Salem College for schooling. I went to Salem High School as a freshman. Among many exciting things, about the last of February, I took the measles. With other subjects that I did all right in, I had Latin, which kept me hustling to understand. These measles kept me out of school two weeks. Mother taught me to make flowers out of crepe paper and to tat so I could pass the time. Maybe I should have been studying Latin. When I got back, they had learned about verbs; and I was having an almost impossible job to catch up.
Along came the offer for high school boys to leave school to work on a farm to produce food for England and France during their war with Germany. I jumped at the chance. I went to Uncle Al and Aunt Martha Glover’s dairy farm on Route 23 one mile north of Salem. I had never milked a cow, and all milking was by hand then. The first morning at four o’clock Aunt Martha (she was not a real Aunt but acted like a sweet one) called, so Uncle Al and I went to the barn. While Uncle Al milked seven cows, I milked six. I was mighty proud, but my fingers were almost too tired to hold my knife and fork while I ate breakfast when we got to the house.
There was lots of good healthy work to do on the farm. We prepared the ground and planted the corn, harvested the meadows, and cut filth. If it rained, there were always things to do in the barn, like cleaning up and caring for the machinery.
One very hot evening I heard a buzzing while getting the cows out of the woods. After listening and watching a while, I located a bee tree. The entrance was about thirty feet up in the main trunk of a red oak. When I told Dad about it the next Sabbath on one of my weekly visits, he planned to come over and help me cut it. Uncle Al agreed to our cutting it. We sawed it down with a cross-cut saw (there were no power saws then). When it fell, the tree split lengthwise, leaving the honey entirely open as pretty as could be. The bees did not think we should take their honey. After burning some rags, we managed to get four water buckets of honey and a few stings.
I learned a lot about farming from Uncle Al, and Aunt Martha fed me so very well. One unusual thing I learned to eat was clabber milk from her cold spring house. The milk would be soured into a solid called clabber. When it was in my glass, I would take my knife or fork and chop it up some–then drink and smack my lips. Try this some day. You may find a drink much better than Coke.
Another drink I liked especially well was buttermilk. Often I enjoyed a supper of buttermilk and corn or light bread. Now, 1981, Grandma doesn’t churn; but she makes buttermilk by putting about four tablespoons of vinegar in a quart of milk or powdered milk (or until it starts to curd as you stir it–it might take more than the four tablespoons). I am having some buttermilk and cornbread flapjacks on this my 79th birthday for dinner or supper–or maybe both.
After school was out, my cousin Otho Randolph came to work with me. One of our biggest jobs was the harvesting. I had never done anything but help build shocks and ride the horse to haul them in. This summer I helped build the shocks and pitched it up to Uncle Al while Otho hauled it to us. It might interest you to know that my pay started at $10 for the first month and then raised to $20 per month.