Chapter 2 – My Early Childhood

I was born on the Right Bank of the South Fork of the Hughes River on September 7, 1872. The old homestead was about one mile below Berea, which at that time was frequently called “Seven Day Town.” I have no specific memory of the event, but I presume I was about as unpromising a brat as could be found in seven counties, for my first memories which I can recall make me think I must have been “small potatoes.”

Falling in a Lime Vat at the Tan Yard: At an early age (probably two or three, for I had on my first pair of pants) I wandered up to the tan yard, which was about 150 yards away. Among other attractions was a lime vat-this was a wooden box 6 by 4 feet, set 4 feet in the ground and was nearly full of water in which had been poured enough lime to take the hair off the hide (or a little boy)-and I proceeded to walk right into it. Luckily there were some hides in it, so I did not go over my head.

Ellsworth, who was ten years older than I, ran up, grabbed me by the hair and pulled me out. Father came running out of the shop with a leather apron on, which he always wore when he worked in the shop, and yelled, “Take him to the run; take him to the run!” There was a hole of water in the run about ten steps away; Ellsworth ran down there, threw me in and rolled me over and over. Providence seems to care for children, as well as fools, so the lime water did not get into my eyes.

There were no other bad effects except I got my new pants wet. (It was the first time I had worn them.) I had no others, so they put a dress on me. Doctor Hall, who had been our family physician for many years, came to see mother that night and made fun of me, calling me a “girl.” All is well that ends well, and I never fell into a vat again.

A Flood: In 1875 or 1876 we had a great flood. The water ran knee deep back of the house. I remember two things about this flood. It was in the night, and we felt the house shake and heard a great noise, which scared us. Upon investigation it was found that the rain had loosened a large stone on top of the chimney, and it had rolled down the roof and fallen onto the ground. The river went down very rapidly. In the morning one of the boys went out in the garden and found three or four nice big fish in a puddle of water. As I remember, they were some 12 or 15 inches long. I presume I helped eat them, but I have no memory of that.

A Deer and Dogs: In the early winter of 1876 I saw my first and only deer until after I was grown; in fact, it was the only wild deer I ever saw in Ritchie County. One morning a neighbor came rushing into the house to get the rifle. He said there was a deer out there. A hound had run it into the field, but the deer was tired of being chased so it turned and chased the hound out of the field and home.

We had two big dogs, one of which was a large greyhound that had caught a deer before. The dog caught the deer as it passed, but his teeth were so poor he could not hold it, so the deer just knocked him over and went on. This made Pete (the other dog) mad, for they were chums. He did not intend to have his friend picked on by any low down sinner while he was around. Now Pete was round and fat and never had been able to run much. It so happened that mother was having a quilting that day, and all the women ran out and yelled with all their might (which was plenty). Pete went wild.

That was some race! I stood behind the house and watched it. The deer was making great leaps (it seems to me every leap carried it ten feet) while Pete was running with his feet more stretched out, his belly close to the ground like Satan was after him. I can see it all as plain as if it were yesterday. The deer had 75 yards start when Pete started after it, and it had one150 yards to the road. Just as the deer’s tail went over the fence Pete’s nose went up.

Father was crippled so he could not go fast, so he told some of the men to hurry up there; for he knew they would meet on the ice (which was just strong enough to hold them up). One of then would surely die, as Pete feared nothing and a deer is very dangerous with its horns. Before the men could reach the scene, we heard the deer bawl (I can still seem to hear it). Emza was the first to arrive there and saw the two meet. She said Pete’s nose was at the deer’s shoulder when it turned to hook him. He grabbed it by the nose, ran between its front legs, and threw it on its back. When Uncle Elisha got there, he was chewing at its throat. Father sold the deer to a Prunty, but kept the heart and liver, so I got to taste it. Since then I have eaten venison several times, but none that I killed.

About noon the owner of the hound came and demanded pay for the deer. Father paid him although he had no right whatever to it. Father would rather give him the money than to racket with him. His name was McDonald, and the worst trouble I ever had in school teaching was two McDonalds (one in Ritchie and one in Taylor County). I would still be afraid to have dealings with a McDonald.

My First Farming Enterprise-Chickens: I will now record my first memory of farming. When about three years old, I went into the chicken business. I have heard Father and Mother tell about it many times, and I also remember it myself; so I know it’s no fake. This is the way they told it-I would run around with my pants down and a hen under each arm. I would take a hen to a box, fix a nest, put the hen on it, and make her stay there till she laid. By the time I was four or five years old, we could take a hen, put her on a nest anywhere we wanted to (if she was a setting hen), and she would sit there without being covered up. This sounds big, but it is true. I can still see myself, about as big as a bull frog, running around with a hen under each arm, with a dirty face and hands and a smile on my face, for I thought I was of some use in the world.

When I was about ten years old, our chickens got the cholera. When it stopped, we had one hen left out of about one hundred. She was a pure white hen and a pet which a neighbor woman (Ora Bee’s mother) had given me. We never had such a tame flock of chickens again as I had to work some after this.

A Fall into the River: The first day I went to school was a very rainy one. I was wearing a cloak. We had to cross the river on a foot log. Virgil was afraid Cleo or I might fall off the log, which was floating on the water. Just as he got Cleo over, he heard a splash and turned around to see me floating serenely down the river with my head up out of the water. The cloak had spread out on the water and held me out of it from my shoulders up. Virgil had told me to wait till he came back for me. Nevertheless he rushed back to the center of the river, jumped in, overtook me and landed me about 150 yards down the river.

Thus I had been twice saved from the water-once from drowning in the river and at least from the loss of my eyes in the lime vat. (If Ellsworth had not been so prompt in snatching me out of the vat, I would have been down, the water would have gotten into my eyes, and I would have never seen again.) So I owe much to my older brothers.

Anecdotes about Delvia: Probably it would be well to tell a couple or three anecdotes about my baby brother Delvia. We burned coal in an open grate. He loved to come in from outdoors and back up to the grate to warm his back. One day he came in, backed up to the grate, and stood there until someone called to him, “Delvia, you’re burning.” He moved very quickly, but not quickly enough to save losing the seat of his pants. Luckily the fire did not go much deeper.

Still Delvia would back up to things (which is never safe, for you cannot see what is behind you). One day he came into the kitchen, backed up to a chair, sat down, and wished he hadn’t. In that chair was a pan with 10 or 12 dozen eggs, which were on his seat in the form of scrambled eggs.

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