Wednesday, 05 October 2011 12:38
It was a fight that should have been fought in Madison Square Garden. “Introducing in the White corner, standing 5 foot 9, weighing in at 120 lbs., from Paw Paw, Kentucky, wearing the red dress, Juanita Miller. And in the Black corner, her opponent, standing 16 inches, weighing in at 6 and ½ pounds, the terror of the barn yard, wearing grey feathers, the Old Grey Rooster!” the ring announcer would say.
It was a fight that had been coming for a long time. A mean, cocky grey rooster, someone said he had even spent time in the “pen”, and a woman who wouldn’t back down from anyone or anything. They were on a collision course both not knowing what the future might hold but something had to be done.
The grudge match was long in the making. Several times before, the rooster had attacked innocent children without warning. His long spurs were the talk of chicken pen. You could hear the hens squawking as he strutted by with his tail feathers all erect. Yes, this was one bad chicken.
Mom was no pushover either. She had been brought up on Horse Creek, the bad part of Clay County. She had her share of fights and always came out on top.
Both knew each other well. Mom came from a big family of two boys and five girls. She had also raised seven kids of her own, five boys and two girls. She grew up hard and she had to grow up fast.
The rooster came from a big family too, twelve chicks in his brood. Walking just after he was out of the shell, he also grew up fast. But, he began to run with the wrong flock and he was soon in trouble. He had killed his first chicken when he was only two years old. It was over a hen lady friend. They say, once you get the bloodstain on your feathers it’s hard to get rid of it.
Most times when he caught young children in his barnyard, they were attacked viciously. His long spurs leaving cuts, scratches, and even bruises on the victims.
Mom would chase him around and around the chicken pen. Old Grey, stopping long enough to throw a few spurs her way, and Old Grey, always met by a clinched fist or two being thrown his way. Every time he would make his getaway and live to see another day.
Mom swore if he didn’t clean up his act that he would be Sunday’s dinner. The rooster just crowed as if he was laughing at her, not taking the threat seriously. What he didn’t know was that his days were numbered.
On the morning of the final bout, Mom had taken enough. The rooster wouldn’t live to crow to the rising sun again.
It all began with one of Dad’s nieces, taking a short cut through the field back to her home. About halfway, the villain started his attack. With head outstretched, wings hanging low, and tail feathers in a full fan, the chase was on.
“Dink”, my cousin, was out ahead and was scooting under the barbed wire fence only a few yards from her home when he caught up with her. He hit her from behind and she jumped in pain and got her shirt hung in the fence. Ole’ Grey, had her just where he wanted.
Screams of pain caught Mom’s attention as she took out in a run towards the assault. The rooster had “Dink” down and was tearing her up with his long, sharp spurs and didn’t notice Mom as she arrived to surprise him with a haymaker.
Feathers flew and bones crunched as the rooster tumbled over on the ground. Next, Mom came with a football kick to the dazed chicken that would have made Rich Brooks proud, about a 10 yarder. She took out after him again and before he could get to his feet, she grabbed him by the neck and pulled the old “helicopter” on him. After about three trips around the world and it was all over.
Mom threw him down, flopping like a fish out of water. He wouldn’t hurt anyone else. Ole’ Grey was now in chicken heaven.
She then went over to unhook “Dink” from the fence and see if she was ok. She was cut and scratched pretty bad, but it could have been worse if Mom hadn’t gotten to her as quickly as she did.
The next day was Sunday and Mom lived up to her promise. He was a tough old bird but we were just glad to get rid of him, even if it meant having him for dinner. He shouldn’t have ever messed with my Mom.
The scorecard read: Mom---1, The Old Grey Rooster---DOA (Dead On Arrival.) Carrying the dead rooster home Mom yelled “For the Winner and still Champion, Juanita Miller!”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 October 2011 12:40
Wednesday, 28 September 2011 12:46
Gone too soon...a boy's memories
By: Rodney Miller
This was a tough, almost sleepless, weekend. One of those times when your phone rings and a shaky voice on the other line breaks the silence with news that doesn't seem real. One of those times when you have to have to ask the caller, "Are you sure?"
It was my brother Anthony on the other line and he, like me, was in suddenly in a state of shock. He told me the sad news that we had lost one of my cousins, who also happened to be one of my very best friends, to a sudden heart attack. His name was Kelvin Jackson.
So now I'm up at 5 am on this Monday morning, here at work, trying to write a short story about what I know about my friend. One thing I've found out about life if it can turn on a dime.
Kelvin and I grew up together on Paw Paw only about a mile apart. I was only a few months older than Kelvin and in our early years and through high school we were as close as brothers. The two of us, along with his uncle and also my cousin, Terry Sibert were like the Three Musketeers doing all the fun things young boys do along their way to manhood.
Terry, who was a year younger than Kelvin, lost his dad when he was a just a young boy. Terry's older brothers and sisters had all moved north to Ohio to work in the automobile factories like so many of the kids here in the mountains.
Aunt Florence, Terry's mom, didn't drive so just about from the time Terry could see over the steering wheel and reach the pedals, he was driving to Sibert for the little things the family needed. Kelvin and I weren't as lucky to have a car at such a young age but because we were older sometimes became the designated drivers.
I remember many times the three of us in Terry's '63 Dodge Polaris burning up the roads as we took turns at the wheel. The old Dodge had a 318 cubic inch V-8 engine with a push button automatic transmission. It was black and super fast. After we wore out the Dodge Terry got a new 1967 Chevrolet pickup truck with a 3-speed six cylinder and he still wasn't old to drive legally. But that didn't stop us. Terry and Kelvin drove the dirt roads and I got to drive the blacktop. We drove the wheels off that truck burning rubber every time we took off.
Kelvin, not long after that, started getting to drive his families '64 Oldsmobile that had a super fast 394 V-8, four barrel Sky Rocket engine. It was, like the engine said a rocket. I remember one day in particular when Kelvin let me under the wheel and we were barreling down Ephram Creek at about 70 mph (on a dirt road!) when up ahead a large poplar tree, blown down down by a storm, lay across the entire road. I locked up the brakes as fast as I could but still couldn't stop in time to avoid the tree.
We crashed and Kelvin was worried to death about the car and how he was going to explain what happened to his parents. But to our good fortune, the damage was minor and I don't think they ever found out.
On another one of our back-road trips Kelvin, Terry, Anthony, Jessie Lewis and I were all in my '55 Chevrolet driving through Crawfish and across Curry Branch. All during our trip up the road they were bragging on me telling me about what a good driver I was. The more the bragged about my great driving, the faster I was taking the curves on the gravel road. Then all of a sudden we went airborne and I lost control and ran over a hill. No one was hurt luckily, but my Chevy had a front end damage. It was a long walk home. Not long after that I sold it for $300.
Not long after graduation Kelvin moved to Sandusky to live where most of his kinfolk worked. He and Terry both got a job working for the railroad. It was only once or twice a year I got to see them and when I did it was for a short time. After all we were now adults raising families of our own.
Kelvin moved to Pennsylvania for a while and then transferred with his job to Tennessee. Kelvin retired about 10 years ago and then split his time between there and here back at home for a while before finally moving back to Clay County for good. Kelvin loved the outdoors. He loved to hunt, fish, four wheeling or just sitting with his buddies singing and playing guitars. In other words, Kelvin loved life and lived it to it's fullest.
Even though he didn't brag about it much, Kelvin once held the Kentucky State Record for a bull elk he killed. When he brought the antlers to Momma's house to show everyone they almost filled the entire truck bed. I couldn't believe the size of them.
He and I talked for years of taking a trip to Colorado or even Idaho but I could never get the time off it required to do it the way he wanted to. Kelvin wanted to rough it in tents high in the Rocky Mountains far away from phones, electricity and civilization. That was the way he was. If he did anything he did it whole hearted.
My brother Gary and Kelvin rode their four-wheelers the Sunday before Kelvin suddenly died. Gary said he had never seen Kelvin happier. He was riding his four-wheeler in the mountains laughing, joking and splashing mud like he had never done before. Gary said it was the best time they had ever had together. I wish I could have been with them.
I'm sure going to miss my friend and now I wish I would have taken the time to go west with him. I'll bet it would have been a blast.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 September 2011 12:47
Wednesday, 21 September 2011 12:14
When television came to the Miller house in the early 60’s not many of our neighbors had ever seen “the talking box”. Our house suddenly became the most popular place to visit for everyone who wanted to see the new invention that we now call TV.
I know it’s hard to imagine now but for us to see people inside a piece of furniture and to hear these people talking it was almost unbelievable. I remember my Pap Paw Burkhart giving the TV a good looking it over from front to back and all around trying to figure out how this could be possible. I remember him saying, “Well if that don’t beat all I’ve ever seen.”
Westerns dominated the TV in prime time. Some of my favorites back then were Wagon Train, The Virginian, Laramie, High Chaparral, Big Valley, The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Zorro, Bat Masterson, The Tall Man, Riverboat, and Laredo.
We only got NBC channel 6 out of Knoxville at home so we never got to watch Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, The Rifleman, or Wild, Wild West. They were on CBS and ABC. But we did get, in my opinion, the best TV western of all time, Bonanza.
Bonanza first aired from September 12, 1959 to January 16, 1973. The show chronicled the weekly adventures of the Cartwright family, headed by the thrice-widowed patriarch Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene). He had three sons, each by a different wife: the eldest was the urbane architect Adam Cartwright (Pernell Roberts) who built the ranch house; the second was the warm and lovable giant Eric, “Hoss” (Dan Blocker); and the youngest was the hotheaded and impetuous Joseph or “Little Joe” (Michael Landon). The family’s cook was the Chinese immigrant, Hop Sing (Victor Sen Yung).
The family lived on a thousand-square-mile ranch called Ponderosa on the shore of Lake Tahoe in Nevada. The nearest town to the Ponderosa was Virginia City, where the Cartwrights would go to converse with Sheriff Roy Coffee (played by veteran actor Ray Teal), or his deputy Clem Foster (Bing Russell). Greene, Roberts, Blocker, and Landon were billed equally.
Bonanza was considered an atypical western for its time, as the core of the storylines dealt less about the range but more with Ben and his three dissimilar sons, how they cared for one another, their neighbors, and just causes. After seven seasons Adam Cartwright left the show. The Cartwrights were then joined by “Candy” Canaday (David Canary.
When we played cowboys as kids I always like to be ‘Little Joe’ Cartwright. I thought he was the coolest of all the western cowboys. Plus, he always got the girl. Little Joe’s horse, Cochise, was a black and white pinto. When I rode my pony I always pretended like I was riding Cochise with my “Fanner 50” six-shooter pistol by my side out to bring in the bad men. Not many people know that Little Joe’s middle name was Francis.
I remember once we were all sitting in front of the TV and all eyes glued on a Bonanza show when one of the cowboys pointed a gun straight at the screen and fired his Colt pistol. My step-Grandmother, Cindy, screamed as the shot rang out loud and grabbed her small kids up and ran to another room. I think she thought that she could actually hit someone with one of his stray bullets. It was quite a while before we could talk her into coming back into the room because she was so scared.
Another one of our neighbors, Clayton Mills, would also come out as often as he could to watch TV. He also loved Bonanza. Clayton most times brought his dad Thomas with him to watch the show.
Clayton’s favorite Cartwright was also “Little Joe”. One week as Joe was riding into town he was shot at by another gun slinging cowboy. Thomas was worried when he saw Joe fall off his horse. “Did they kill “Little Joe”, he asked out loud.
Clayton shook his head as he told Thomas, “No, “Little Joe” is the ‘main player’ Daddy. Him never gets killed! He’ll get back up! Don’t worry!”
In May 1972, Dan Blocker, “Hoss”, died suddenly from a post-operative blood clot to the lungs, following surgery to remove a diseased gall bladder. Lorne Greene, “Ben”, died in 1987 at age 72. Michael Landon, “Little Joe”, died of pancreatic cancer in July 1991 at the age of 54. Pernell Roberts, “Adam”, died of pancreatic cancer on Jan 24, 2010 at age 81.
Bonanza become the first series ever to wind up in the Top Five for nine consecutive seasons (a record that stood for decades) and thus established itself as the single biggest hit television series of the 1960s. It remained high on the Nielsen ratings until 1971, when it finally fell out of the top ten.
Bonanza will always be my most favorite TV western show of all times.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 September 2011 12:19
Wednesday, 14 September 2011 14:01
If it was a noise in the night that awoke me from a deep sleep and I was scared, all I had to do was pull the cover up real tight and I would automatically feel safer.
Most times when scared, I would stay hidden from the world under the cover until I had to come up for fresh air. Then, the only part I would expose would be my lips breathing in the fresh air I so desperately needed. But, somehow I still felt safe.
Even after watching a scary movie on TV, I would feel somehow there was no way the person or monster could get to me as long as I made it to my bed.
I felt like bullets or knives couldn’t penetrate the thin blanket of cotton. It was like my cover was made of some super component that nothing could penetrate.
I remember one night in particular when I felt like the cover was surely the only place that would save me from something really bad.
I ended up at our house alone that night. I don’t really recall the circumstances of why I was the only one home, but that’s how it happened.
I was watching a scary movie on TV, alone in a big empty house. Those two things, scary movies and alone, just don’t go together good when you’re a small kid.
The movie I was watching was named, “Sorry, Wrong Number.” It told a story of Leona Stevenson, played by Barbara Stanwyck, who was sick and confined to her bed.
Leona is an alluring, wealthy, and irritating hypochondriac whose psychosomatic illness had her bedridden. Leona's only lifeline to the world was the telephone, which she used to excess. One evening, Leona impatiently tried to locate her henpecked husband Henry, played by Burt Lancaster, who was late in coming home. However, when phone lines cross, she overhears two thugs plotting a murder.
Desperate to thwart the crime, Leona begins a series of calls--to the operator, to the police, and others—trying to figure out the identity of the victim. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Leona, Henry was having problems of his own—he had become involved in a swindle and was being blackmailed. The film followed Leona, trapped in her lush apartment, as she tried to prevent an innocent woman from being murdered.
After a number of phone calls, the terrorized Leona begins to piece together the mystery. Her uneducated husband, who worked for her wealthy father, turns out to be not all he seems. Finally, to her horror, Leona realized the voice on the phone was that of her husband’s and she was the intended victim.
Her phone rang as the thug calls her house to see if she is home. She answers the phone and the killer asks, “Who is this?”
She nervously said, “Leona”.
Then the killer said, “Sorry, wrong number”, and hung up.
I was deep into the movie when our phone suddenly rang. I was nervous, to say the least, when I picked up the receiver to the phone and said hello. The voice on the line was that of a man and he asked, “Who is this?” just like the killer had done in the movie.
My voice trembled as I said, “Ro-Rodney”. Then, I shook in my pants after the voice on the line answered, “Sorry, wrong number!” and he hung up he phone.
I was scared to death. My heart began to beat a hundred miles an hour. I didn’t know what to do. Who knew I was alone in the house and what show I was watching, I thought to myself. I didn’t wait around any longer. I ran to the only place I felt would be safe; in my bed, under the cover.
In my haste I forgot to turn off the TV. As I lay in my bed with the cover over my head I kept hearing the phone ring. I wondered, Was it on TV or was it the mysterious man phoning back? I heard voices, footsteps, doors open and shut, and screams as my mind tried to separate what was on TV and what was real.
Luckily, it was long before my parents made it home. I was never happier to see my Momma and Daddy and they were just in time. I was starting to sweat and my air was getting a little thin under the covers. Plus, I needed to go to the bathroom. Moments like that will scare the pee out of you.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 September 2011 14:03
Wednesday, 07 September 2011 12:21
The older I get, the more often my mind seems to wander back to the days of my childhood. I am thankful for that and I hope I never loose my ability to remember those special times.
Just last week, when our morning temperatures dropped to the 50’s, the smell of autumn was once again in the air taking me back on another trip down memory lane. It’s hard to explain the smell but I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets the same sensation.
To me, it’s a combination of the coolness of the air and the fresh “harvest” smell that triggers my senses. The smells of our seasons all have a distinct smell to me. And that’s one of the great things about living in the country. City people just wouldn’t understand what I’m talking about.
The smell of autumn reminded me of digging potatoes, gathering corn from the field, butchering hogs for our winter meat, and hunting. These things were most important if a family wanted to make it through the upcoming cold, snowy winter.
In our family you could never have too many potatoes. We always grew several hundred pounds to “put-up” for winter. We never had a cellar or a basement in our house so we stored ours in a potato hole dug in one of our barn stalls. The potato hole was “bedded” and “lined” with straw then covered with a few inches of soil to protect them from freezing during the cold winter nights.
Potatoes were served some way or another at almost every meal. We had fried potatoes in pure lard for breakfast long before they were called hash browns. We never knew what a French fry was.
We wrapped our potatoes in aluminum foil and placed them under our fireplace for baking long before they were served in almost every restaurant as a side item. I loved the taste of the baked dark-brown skin on a hot potato basted in real homemade butter.
But my favorite way Momma prepared potatoes was mashed. She never had a mixer to whip them up. She mashed hers by hand. They weren’t exactly smooth like most today. Hers had chunks of potatoes scattered throughout. Then she would pour in buttermilk, salt, pepper, and at least a stick of real butter. Believe me, it didn’t get any better than that.
We waited until the first frost to gather corn from the field to feed our livestock through the winter. The cold frost killed most of the bugs that might be harboring in the ears.
We used a wooden sled with runners hued from small logs. Wooden slats from the sawmill were used to build up the sides of the sled.
Our mule pulled the sled stopping every few feet as we pulled the ears from the stalks. We filled the sled from each side as it was pulled through the cornfield tossing corn into it from every direction. It was like shooting basketball.
When the sled was full we took it to the barn and emptied it into our corncrib. During the winter we tossed corn into the livestock stalls through a small window in the crib. Sometimes we shot rats near the crib with our BB guns to keep them from eating the corn.
Cool weather also meant butchering two or more hogs for meat. Dad would use a .22 rifle with a carefully placed shot to kill the hog. Momma would have the cast iron kettle full of hot boiling water ready to scald the hair on the hog before scrapping. You needed a sharp butcher knife to remove it easily and Dad was good at sharpening up the knives.
The meat was cut up into hams, shoulders, pork loins, ribs, and middlings for bacon. They were then hung in our smokehouse and cured or salted down to preserve them. I always loved the smell of the smokehouse.
Momma would take the hogs skin and bake it in the kitchen stove to make pork skins or pork rinds. The skin was also used to waterproof our brogan shoes by rubbing them down with the fat.
The extra fat from the hog was also cooked up in the big kettle to make lye soap. The lean parts of the trimmings would make cracklings. Pap Paw Miller cooked the hog’s head and made the best souse meat I have ever tasted. Nothing was wasted.
The cool mornings of autumn also meant squirrel and rabbit hunting. We only had one shotgun when I was a kid and that was a .20 gauge Iver Johnson single barrel. We had to take turns hunting or at being the shooter. That old gun sure killed a lot of game.
Yep, things have changed a lot since I was a child. Hardly anyone raises a garden anymore. Raising livestock is another thing of the past. And even I don’t hunt squirrel or rabbit as much as I use to since we now have deer almost everywhere.
But one thing hasn’t changed. Autumn will always smell like autumn. No matter how old I get when the crispness of fall fills the air it always takes me back. Back to the time of my youth and the many fond memories of my family getting ready for another long, hard, cold winter.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 September 2011 12:22
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