Before I go ahead with my married life I will relate a few other items which may be of some interest and throw a little light on some things which happened in my later life. In early life I became very much interested in history. We had a large class which would often know nothing about the lesson. Then when it came to me, I would recite it almost word for word, giving names and dates. Of course the class laughed at me, but it came in handy when I took County Exams. I was extra good in arithmetic; in fact, all my studies were fairly easy except “grammar,” in which I was rather slow.
At the last State Exam I took, I made 93 percent, which is not bad for a country bum. I took my first County Exam in 1891 and got a number two [teaching certificate], which was all I tried for. At that time you had to take a special exam if you wanted a number one. In 1892 I got a number one, with an average of 93 1/3 percent, which was one of the best in Ritchie County. I have held a First Grade [teaching certificate] ever since, which is now 59 years. I will hold it as long as I live (I don’t know how long that will be), as it is a Life Certificate.
My Early Teaching Experiences
Lower Otter Slide: I began teaching when I was 19 years old. I taught four months at Lower Otter Slide, for which I received $100 all told. I have often wondered that someone did not knock me in the head, for I was a very green boy. But I still believe that I taught school above the average.
This was a school of about 35 or 40, mostly children under 16. I had trouble with some of the children about stealing. One large girl was accused of stealing a stamped envelope. This was reported after school was out one evening. The girl’s sister said she hunted for the envelope after they got home and could not find anything of it. I told them she might have put it in her pocket. The girl’s reply was, “I don’t have any such thing, never did have; if you don’t believe it, you can examine and see.” Of course, this made the boys very much amused. The mother threatened to whip me if I touched the girl, but luckily nobody was hurt.
It was here I first became interested in the girls-or rather a girl. The next summer I began dating a girl, called Jennie, which resulted three years later in our being married. This marriage has lasted over 55 years.
As I said before, I fell for a girl in my school and began going with her in June, 1892, just before I was 20. Another fellow tried to cut me out by trickery, but I waited till he started to take her home from church one morning, and I walked up and told her to decide who was going with her. She said, “You are the only one who has asked me.” So I took her home and continued to go with her for nearly three years. Now, you can see why I stayed in West Virginia. I have never regretted it, although I do wish I had more education. But I have had a good life. My children have a better education than I have, and my grandchildren are getting a chance for an education.
After Father left, I made my home at Ellsworth’s. I paid straight board, unless I was away for a week or two at a time. I had the right to take company there any time I wanted to.
The first summer I went to school for ten weeks and worked mornings and evenings and Sundays. I went to exams that fall and got my first grade certificate with a 93 1/3 percent average. This lasted for four years. I taught at the Hall School that winter and boarded at John Lowther’s on Bone Creek. I had a very nice time and made one fine friend (Lloyd Hoff). This friendship continued until he left Bone Creek.
Working in New York in 1893
In the spring of 1893 I went to New York to work for Virgil. I only got $100 for seven months, but it was a very enjoyable summer. Cleo kept house for Virgil, and we renewed our old times together. It was as it had been in the past years when we had been at home. How we used to enjoy the evenings after supper when the others went into the other house while Delvia and I stayed in the kitchen until Cleo washed the dishes and did up the work!
A Peddler and Hot Tea: One night a peddler stayed at our house, and he complained of a pain in his stomach and wanted Cleo to make him some black pepper tea. In a little while he came back in and wanted to see that she made it good and strong. Cleo told him to go into the other house and tend to his own business and she would make the tea. Now Cleo was no hand to half do things, so she put in three times the required amount and let it boil in a tin cup. When we went into the other house, she took it off the stove, boiling, put a spoon in it, and took it to him. He just ran the spoon around it once, tipped it up and drank it down. We found the next morning that it had been so strong that it had taken the tin off the inside of the cup.
Another night we were in the kitchen when we noticed something moving the paper in a basket hanging to the wall. I took it down, thinking a mouse was in it. When I got it down, out jumped a big rat, ran up the inside of my pants leg, on up my shirt, and out at the collar. Did I holler? Did I scream? You bet I did!
Virgil would often go away at the end of the week and stay a day or two. We would be alone. Of course, I had the feeding to do and the cows to milk (there were ten of them) on Sabbath, but this left me some time to rest.
An Irish Woman and “Tae”: One Sabbath morning in April (it was cold and rainy) an old Irish woman, all wet and miserable, came in and wanted to make some “tae.” We let her sit by the fire and warm and drink her tea. When she started to leave, she began to pour out blessings. ”May the Holy Virgin and all the Saints bless you and keep you. May you have long life and happiness go with yea all yer lives, and may trouble and sorrow never come near yea.” She kept this up till she was out of the house and had shut the door. Such a life! She was tramping the roads in cold, rainy weather with no place to stay, wet and lonely, yet she still kept her Irish Blarney. She sure had kissed the Blarney Stone.
Chasing the Cows: Another time Virgil had stayed two days. When I got up that morning the cows were gone. I had to hunt them until nearly eight o’clock, milk the ten cows, and rush the milk to the factory (it had to be there by nine o’clock). While I was gone, Virgil came and wanted to know what I was doing. Cleo told him and said, “You’d better be very nice, for Pressie has been on the run since daylight, hasn’t had any breakfast, and you bet he’s mad.” Could any boy have a better sister?
Virgil was just as nice as could be and never said a cross word. The fact is, Virgil is a great guy, as honest as they come and as good a neighbor as anyone ever had. He hated to borrow so badly he would rather buy than to borrow. But he would loan anything he had, and in sickness or trouble he would be right there to help.
A Crazy Drunk Man: I will tell one incident to show what the saloon did for people who visited them (I had never seen a saloon till I went to New York). One day we were going to the hay field after dinner. Virgil was walking through the field while I went up the road with the wagon. I saw a man coming down the road in a buggy. It made me mad as soon as I saw him. He would hit the horse as hard as he could with a buggy whip; the horse would start to run; then he would jerk it down on its haunches, yell his best, and whip it again. He was just crazy drunk. As soon as he saw Virgil, he began to curse him and used such vile language before he came to where I was that I jumped up on the wagon and told him to shut his mouth or I would take him out of the buggy and beat the life out of him. He never said a word till he got past me. Then he began again and dared Virgil out in the road. Virgil told him he wouldn’t dirty his clean white hands with the likes of him. Then the fellow swore he would go into the field and get him. When he turned in, Virgil slapped his fork into the ground and told him if he came in there just what would happen. So he drove on. It still makes me mad to see a drunk man. Father sure did a good job teaching us to hate drinking.
Binding Oats: I helped bind over 30 acres of oats that fall. Virgil got a neighbor to cut part of our oats with a drop reaper, and we helped bind his. You had to use a double band in binding oats. As I had never made them, Virgil tried to teach me. Because I was slow to learn, he said I would never learn (Virgil was naturally a little impatient) and so would not be any use in oat harvest. He was just a little mistaken, for I could soon make a double band as quick as any one there and bind faster than the rest.
A Ruckus in the Night: During oats harvest we had a young lady visitor (she had been a small girl when Virgil boarded with them years before), and they sat up until late. Now, I would be very tired, so I would go to bed. One night I went to bed but could not go to sleep because of the noise down there. I got up, dressed and went down. I stayed till about twelve o’clock, when I went back to bed and right to sleep.
I was dreaming of a terrible racket when Cleo burst the door open and yelled for me to get down stairs quick. I jumped up and started down, but Cleo said it might be better under the circumstances if I put my pants on. So I proceeded to do so. When I got out there, I found our dog (a dandy collie) barking at someone in a hay barn and Virgil, with a pile of rocks ready, telling him to come out of there or he would knock the barn down on him (and he would have, too). The man began to whine. He said he was just a poor old man who had come in there to sleep. Virgil asked him where he had been while all the racket was going on. He said he hadn’t heard any noise. There had been noise enough to almost waken the dead!
Virgil told me to take Romulus (the dog) and keep him from eating the man up. He was just a pup and harmless, but he sure was acting vicious. I took the pup away and waited for Virgil’s return. He soon came, and we heard the story.
When the girls went to bed, he went out on the porch, and there stood a man on the steps. The dog was barking out by the barn. When Virgil took after the man and called the dog, four men jumped out of the shadow of a tree and ran. The dog took after them, but Virgil called him back for fear the men would shoot him. As he came back he circled the old hay barn where the last man was found. So there were six men around the house at one o’clock at night.
What was it all about? Two days before Virgil was in the bank. There a young, clean-shaven man was sitting at a desk writing on the back of blank checks. Whenever anyone drew out any money, he would put the sum down; if the man’s name was called, he put it down and put it in his pocket. If not, he would tear it up and throw it in the waste basket. Virgil drew out quite a sum of money, and he saw the man put Virgil’s name down when he heard the banker call him by name. When the old man in the hay barn jumped to the ground from the hay barn, he turned his face toward Virgil for a moment, and he saw he was the young man he had seen in the bank. So I am sure it was lucky that they sat up very late that night, for all of us. This was in the panic year of 1893.
I helped Virgil pick about 400 bushels of apples. Before we got them all picked, I got word to come home and begin teaching. We got them all picked before I left, but we didn’t get them packed because they failed to deliver the barrels.