The Manchester Enterprise: A Boy's Memories Bits of Clay

Teachings of My Parents

Teachings of my parents

My parents, like most of yours, had a bunch of old sayings and most of them have been passed down from generation to generation here in the mountains. This is an alphabet of my favorites that my Momma and Daddy said so many times.

A- A penny saved is a penny earned. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush. A man's got to do what a man's got to do. A man who desires revenge should dig two graves.

B- Beauty is only skin deep. Beggars can’t be choosers. Be careful what you ask for; you just may get it. Brains are better than brawn. Better to be safe than sorry.

C- Cold hands, warm heart. Count your blessings. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Common sense is a genius dressed in its working clothes.

D- Do unto others, as you would have others do unto you. Don’t be too quick to judge. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Don't count your chickens before they are hatched.

E- Experience is the best teacher. Every dog has his day. Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

F- Feed a cold and starve a fever. Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is. Focus on what's right in the world instead of what's wrong.

G- Give credit where credit is due. Good to forgive, better to forget. God helps those who help themselves. Give him an inch and he will take a mile.

H- Honesty is the best policy. However long the night, the dawn will break. He who flees at the right time will live to fight again.

I- If you sleep with dogs, you’ll catch fleas. If you want something, you’ve got to work for it. If you can’t stand the heat, get away from the fire. In a pinch, improvise.

J- Judge not, lest ye be judged. Jealousy is a disease for the weak. Jealousy makes enemies.

K- Keep your nose to the grindstone. Keep your friends close, your enemies even closer. Know which side your bread is buttered on.

L- Laughter is the best medicine. Look before you leap. Life is what you make it. Live your own life, for you will die your own death.

M- Make do with what you have. Money buys everything but good sense. Money is the root of all evil. Monkey see, monkey do. Man cannot live by bread alone.

N- No pain, no gain. Nothing is certain but death and taxes. Neither a borrower nor a lender be. No rest for the weary. Nobody's perfect. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

O- Out of sight, out of mind.  One today is worth two tomorrows. One man's junk is another man's treasure. Only a fool tests the water with both feet.

P- Patience is a virtue. Play your hand with what you're dealt. Practice what you preach.

Q- Quit while you’re ahead. Quality, not quantity. Quitters never win.

R- Rome wasn't built in a day. Roll with the punches. Red sky at night, sailors delight. Right is right and wrong is wrong.

S- Save for a rainy day. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me. Six feet of earth makes us all equal. Smiles open many doors.

T- Take the bull by the horns. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. The best things in life are free.

U- United we stand; divided we fall. Until you walk in a man’s shoes, don’t judge him.

V- Violence breeds violence. Variety is the spice of life. Vanity blossoms but bares no fruit.

W- Waste not, want not. What goes around, comes around. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. When one door shuts, another one opens. While the cat's away, the mice will play.

X- X-cuse me, but I couldn’t remember nothing to go here.

Y- You only live once.  You can’t take it with you. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. You can't beat a dead horse. You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

I’ve heard everyone of these (and many more) at one time or another during my lifetime growing in my families home. I now appreciate all of the good morals my parents taught me as they molded me into the person I am today. Because of them, I am thankful for my raising.

I’ve picked out my favorite old saying for my last one and I dedicate it to the memory of my parents. You don't know what you've got until it's gone.

Z - Zee you later, alligator (I had to make this one up! I didn’t know a proverb or an old

saying that began with the letter Z.)


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Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 12:30


Mom vs. The Old Grey Rooster

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!”

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 October 2011 12:40


Gone Too Soone

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.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 September 2011 12:47



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.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 September 2011 12:19


Under the Covers

You know, it’s really funny when I think about when I was a small boy that no matter what I was afraid of there was a place I could hide and feel like nothing in this world could get to me. It was in my bed, under the covers.

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.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 September 2011 14:03


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e-Edition A-Section 10-23-14


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e-Edition B-Section 10-23-14


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