Wednesday, 18 July 2012 12:34
My Dad couldn’t afford to take us on a “real” vacation because he wasn’t making lots of money and had 9 to 15 mouths to feed most of the time. He was working for Dobson’s Supermarket here in Manchester and had been with them for 10 years. Orie Dobson, the owner, had given my Dad a weekend off and a new crisp $100 bill for his loyal service. Dad hadn’t ever gotten a weekend off before that year. We were tickled to death when he gave us the news.
I didn’t even know the government made a $100 bill, let alone seen one in real life or hold one in my hand. I thought Dad was the richest person in the whole world and worried about where we would get the bill cashed.
I told Dad, “Nobody is going to have enough money to cash a $100 bill!” Dad just laughed. I also thought, what would I do if I had that much money? I would probably spend part on my family and myself and save the rest for a rainy day.
After a long family meeting and taking a vote on where we would go, the Smokies were where we would take our first family vacation. I had never been out of Kentucky and only out of Clay County to the neighboring county of Laurel just a few times. This trip was a really big step for a bunch of kids from Paw Paw.
The night before we were to leave Mom carefully packed bologna sandwiches, peanut butter and crackers, a big bag of potato chips, a gallon of pickled bologna, and a couple gallons of Kool-Aid. Our vacation was only going to be for one day but remember we had seven, always hungry, kids to feed.
The car we owned at the time was a 1957 Chevrolet station wagon. That was the only car you could get with enough room for nine people and even then, it was still pretty crowded. Dad went to the bank and cashed his $100 bill after giving all of us just one last look at something none of us would look upon again for quite a few years. On the way back home he stopped and filled up the Chevy for the trip to Tennessee the next morning.
Before bed that night, I carefully sneaked into the bedroom, looking around the room carefully for anyone. Then I tip toed to my secret hiding place, where I kept my personal things that no one but me knew. I slowly pulled out an old pair of my shoes and stuck my hand deep inside to pull out a rolled up sock with all my life’s savings.
I sat quietly in the floor of the bedroom and counted $4.27. I then got my shorts for the trip and put the money down in my pocket. I was going on vacation and I was taking all my cash. I envisioned all sorts of things I might get with my savings, maybe a t-shirt, a cap gun, or a coon-skin cap, the possibilities were endless with that much loot.
That night it was really hard for me to go to sleep. I guess the excitement of the vacation was just too much. I had only been asleep for a few hours when I heard Mom’s whistle that breakfast was ready.
We all were up faster than normal, putting on the clothes Mom had picked out the night before. We hurriedly sat around the table eating as fast as we could. “Don’t worry,” Mom said smiling, “the mountains will still be there after you eat.”
When we had finished eating, we loaded the car with a couple blankets, food for the day, and seven of the happiest kids in the world.
The trip to Tennessee seemed to us like a trip across the USA. We fought over whom got to sit next to the window, so Dad made us all rotate every 30 minutes. We hadn’t reached the state line and already we were in the snacks Mom had packed so carefully.
After hitting the food and Kool-Aid, most were ready for a stop at the closest bathroom. Then we were back in the car and back to the snacks and Kool-Aid again. It seems when you are traveling you are more hungry and your bladder is more active. So after four hours and about five stops (because not every one gets ready to “go“ at the same time), Dad said, “Look kids, straight ahead, those are the Smoky Mountains!”
My mouth dropped open and my eyes got as big as they did on Christmas morning. The mountains were above the clouds. It was a site I can still remember today. All of us started yelling and clapping. We had finally made it.
Back then, there wasn’t much at Pigeon Forge or Sevierville, but Gatlinburg was like a dream town. So much to do and so much to take in, it was unbelievable. We even saw real Indians. But, we didn’t get to stop. Dad made the statement, “We didn’t come to shop, we came to look at the mountains and maybe see a bear!” and then he let out his best bear growl, “Grrrrrrrrral!”
At the entrance to the park, we stopped for information and got to go inside the Welcome Center and see all the things a bear was capable of doing. There was a picture of where a bear had swiped at a car door with his paw and ripped it apart like it was made of aluminum foil. There were warnings of “Do Not Feed The Bears!” everywhere. We were also warned to never approach a mother bear with cubs.
The long winding trip up the mountain was slow. We strained our eyes everywhere, but no bears. We went all the way to the top where it was really cold that day, but still no bears. After about 30 minutes at the top of the Smokies we were all cold, disappointed and ready to get back down the mountain.
About halfway down, we pulled into a parking area with picnic tables. Dad told us it would be a real good place to catch a bear eating out of a trashcan or trying to steal someone’s lunch. We got out what was left of our food Mom had packed for the trip, staying really close to the car for a quick exit in case a big bear did show up, but again, no bear. After eating, we were all real mad that we had come all the way from Kentucky and we hadn’t seen a bear.
Later our madness was met with overwhelming joy after Dad pulled over in Gatlinburg and we all got to get out. It was like going to the circus. People were everywhere and there was so much to see.
The money I had saved was burning a hole in my pocket. I couldn’t afford too much, most things cost more than I had. My brothers and sisters were mad that I had money and they didn’t, but I always saved the money I earned for a rainy day and today, it looked like a downpour.
After about an hour of looking, I decided to buy a toy bear that would walk and turn its head when wound up. I was so proud of my little souvenir. In all the pictures taken that day after I had bought ‘Little Smokey’, he was right there with me.
After returning home late that night, we were all worn out. The day had been one of the best days of my young life. I slept with my bear that night all hugged up close to me. The next day I had Dad put ‘Little Smokey’ in a safe place where I could get him out from time to time and play with him. Smokey was so special.
Smokey lived in Dad’s cedar chest at the foot of his bed for many years. He always kept it locked with a key only he and Mom had for over 35 years. Occasionally I would have Dad get him out to play with. I would wind him up to keep him working. Then after Dad died in 1997, Smokey just disappeared, never to be seen again.
I asked my Mom and all my brothers and sisters but no one knows what happened to my little bear that I loved so much.
I’m still waiting for you ‘Little Smokey’. I know you’re out there somewhere and maybe someday you will find your way back to me. Until then, I will keep looking.
Wednesday, 11 July 2012 00:38
Bearded Beggarticks…a boy’s memories
By: Rodney Miller
I didn’t know what to make of the funny little Volkswagen Beetle the day it pulled into the parking lot at Jamup’s Market. It was one of the first ones I had ever seen up close and things got a little more strange as the doors flew open and out stepped three long-haired hippies.
I figured these guys have to be lost. Why else would they be here at Sibert.
When they walked in our store all eyes were upon them. We stared at them like they were from another planet. And to us they very well could have been. They sure didn’t dress like us. These guys were barefoot wearing bell-bottom pants with no shirts and they had necklaces on, for crying out loud.
The trio walked over to the pop cooler, slid open the top and pulled out three cold drinks from the icy water. I could tell they weren’t there visiting relatives or friends. These boys were up to something and I was about to find out what it was.
They paid for their drinks and walked out to the parking lot and huddled up beside their Beetle’s opened side door. One of them sat on the door sill of the bug and the other two just seemed to be looking around Sibert taking in the view of our little small town. Then, one of them rolled a cigarette and lit it up and passed it around.
Business was slow that day so my brothers and me walked out and began small talk with the three strangers. “Where are you boys from,” Gary asked.
“Ohio,” one of them answered and the conversation and the cigarette flipped back and forth for a few minutes until one of them said, “We’re down here looking for weed.” The other two laughed at the boldness of the statement their friend had just thrown out to total strangers.
I thought, boy these guys were awful friendly and then I asked, “What kind of weed,” not knowing right off that they were talking about marijuana.
“Pot, Mary Jane, marijuana or what ever you call it down here. We heard that it grows wild here in Kentucky and we’ve come down to get a load.”
You’ve got to remember that this was in the late ‘60’s and I had never seen or heard of a pot plant. Oh, I had watched news stories on TV about how every young kid in California was smoking it but to hear that it grew wild here in Clay County well, that was a shocker.
We assured them that we didn’t know anything about what weed or pot looked liked and again they just laughed.
We talked for a few more minutes and found out that they boys were from up around Dayton. We told them we had relatives that lived close to there and told them their names as if wondering if they might know them. Of course they didn’t.
After the “joint” was gone the three of them told us they were going to a spot up Horse Creek and cut a field that they had seen earlier to take back to Ohio. We asked them if they would stop and show us just what exactly did the marijuana looked like after they got it and they said they would.
I didn’t know until later after they were gone that the Ohio boys were probably high from smoking a “joint” of pot. Gary told us, “….they were a little too happy to be just smoking tobacco.”
“I thought that thang smelled a little funny,” Ronnie said.
“Real funny,” I said agreeing with Ronnie and all three of us began laughing hard. Maybe it was because of the “second-hand” smoke from the Ohio boy’s “joint” but at the time, it seemed really funny to us.
We didn’t see them for about two hours but finally they pulled the little VW back into the parking lot loaded full to the top with their booty. They bought them another round each of pop and led us to their cache of “weed”.
“So that’s pot!” I asked them wondering if they really knew what they had or if I just didn’t know what I was looking at.
“Yes,” one of them said proudly “We found a field full. You guys are lucky to live where this stuff just grows wild.”
Neither of my brothers or me said much else. We wished them good luck and a safe trip home and they disappeared down the highway.
After a little while we busted out laughing. The boy’s from Ohio weren’t as smart as we thought. The weeds they had in the Beetle were actually just that, weeds. We call them “bearded beggarticks”.
It’s the little burrs that stick to anything that gets close to them in the fall after the flower dries out. But now I have to admit, the leaves do “somewhat” resemble marijuana plant leaves but I don’t think you could ever get high on smoking them.
Maybe that’s the reason we never saw the guys again. All of us still laugh at the little incident every time it’s brought up in conversation and we still wonder just what happened when those three boy’s got back to Ohio and began to share their weed. I’ll bet they were laughed out of Ohio.
I’m including a photo of the beggarticks here just so my readers know exactly what plant I’m talking about.
Wednesday, 04 July 2012 00:36
We did have molasses made from sugar cane and that was almost as good but it too was sometimes hard to come by. And honey, well it was even harder to come by.
The way the old timers got honey was the old fashion way. A honey tree was located and the sweet nectar was robbed from it. But finding a honey tree wasn’t an easy task.
Momma and Daddy told us that we could sprinkle flour on a honeybee’s tail and pay close attention to the direction that he flew. Dad taught us that a bee, after filling his belly with nectar from flowers would fly straight to the bee hive to unload his booty. The flour made the bee more visible in the sky to track his flight.
I’m sure all of you have heard the old sayin’ “He made a bee line out of here”. What that meant was, he took the shortest and fastest way home. That’s the way a bee flew home, in a straight line, the fastest way.
Getting the right amount on a bee’s tail was a little tricky. You have to get enough to see the white flour as he flew to the hive but too much and the bee couldn’t fly at all. You also have to be lucky enough that you choose a bee that is full enough from the nectar that he’s ready to fly home.
Well, we were constantly trying to find the right bee and trying to get the right amount of flour on the bee where we could track his flight. Sometimes the bee would try to fly and all he could do was stir up the flour to where it looked like he was on fire. Other times we picked a bee that didn’t or couldn’t fly straight. But one time it worked.
We dusted the bee’s tail with flour and off he flew into the sky. We all got our eyes fixed on him and somehow we could see his flight for a long, long way. When he disappeared from sight we had a pretty good idea as to where in the woods the beehive was to be found. That turned out to be even harder than the tracking of his flight.
Dad told us to just hit the woods and spread out. He said listen for the “humming” of the swarming bees as they flew in and out of their hive bringing in the nectar to be stored in the honeycomb. He also told us to keep our eyes fixed on the canopy of the trees. A beehive would be found in a hole in the tree trunk.
Like I said before, that day we got lucky. Not long after walking to the woods where we last saw the “floured” bee fly the day before we started noticing more bees in the air flying in the same direction. We gathered and started following the bee’s flight. When we lost sight of one bee another one would fly in soon and lead us a little closer to the hive.
It didn’t take long before we started hearing a humming noise of more and more bees entering and exiting the hive. It was in a big oak tree about twenty feet off the forest floor.
“Now what do we do,” I asked.
None of us had ever robbed a beehive so we marked the spot with some broken bushes and headed home to tell of our find.
Daddy was a little surprised, I think, that we had actually found a bee tree. He told us it had been a long time since he had robbed a hive and he didn’t know for sure if he could still do it. My uncle Lloyd was there and told us him some of our cousin could get that honey.
I followed them into the woods the next day to watch the robbing of the tree. It was a hot summer day I remember. The hole in the tree was about fifteen to twenty feet up. Bees started flying franticly as the young men surveyed the situation. I saw them pass around a bottle of something and I asked what it was. “This is a bottle of courage,” one of them said. The liquid was certainly alcohol of some sort, I thought.
The bees began to get a little agitated and one of them got stung. “Ouch”, he screamed. More “courage” was ingested. I back off about 20 yards. Then, another got stung and more “courage” was drank. I back off 10 more yards. I had heard lots of tales about how the whole hive would fight to keep the honey and I wasn’t about to challenge them.
I was watching closely as the guys fought the bees and tried to scale the tree with a lit smoking rag to keep them off. I was feeling a little nervous when I felt something on me ear. With quick reflexes I smacked and almost tore my ear off. It was Ronnie with a weed. We both laughed but I made sure I was behind him from then on.
It took a little while them to reach the hole waving the smoking rag at the bees as they began to appear in more numbers now. Those boys were a lot braver than me or maybe it was the bottle of “courage” that now was empty after passing another round in the crowd.
Finally after a about 15 minutes one of them reached the hole but the bees weren’t budging a bit. After a few more screams of pain down the tree he came with everyone laughing aloud. The courage wasn’t working to good, I thought. After hitting the ground he took off in a hard run and the others of us followed with the bees in hot pursuit.
No honey was found that day but they came back another day with more bee protection and I’m sure more liquid courage and robbed the tree. Me, well I never got any. But I did get a good laugh or two and I learned a lot about robbing a bee tree.
Always bring along a face net and a hat, wear lots of clothes, take plenty of smoking rags and leave the “courage” at home. That stuff will make you see doubles.
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 12:35
Back when I was a boy about the only fireworks Daddy could afford was usually a carton of 72 packs of 16-count Dixie Boy firecrackers. He could buy a carton for around $4.00. That’s when firecrackers were firecrackers. Them babies would crack like a shotgun going off.
Today’s firecrackers are about as loud as a cap gun. That was long before everything began to be made cheaper and cheaper each year to increase profits for the manufacturers.
When we got a little older Daddy bought a carton of cherry bombs. Now let me tell you they were like a small sticks of dynamite! The cherry bombs looked exactly like what they were named after, a cherry with the stem on it. Even though my parents warned us time and time again to never light a cherry bomb while it was in our hands we didn’t listen too much. We did lots of crazy things with them.
The roundness of the cherry bomb made it easy to throw straight and true. They also fit well in the launch of a slingshot. It took two people to shoot cherry bombs safely in a slingshot, one to hold the slingshot and the cherry bomb and the other person to light the fuse. A person didn’t want to hold a cherry bomb too long after it was lit. That would have been a bad mistake. I know of quite a few people who actually lost fingers to the little monsters.
Late in the 60’s we began to get a few silver solutes or, as we knew them, M-80’s. These were even more powerful than the cherry bombs if you can believe it. The M-80’s looked like a 20-guage-shotgun shell with a fuse was in the center of it.
The only drawback (if an M-80 had one) was that they were a little harder to throw accurately. Plus, when they were shot from a slingshot you could hear them coming a long way off as it turned end over end humming in flight. That killed the element of surprise.
But M-80’s could do something else that cherry bombs had trouble with. They could be shot underwater. It was an easy way to stun a few minnows in the branch to take fishing to the creek. And if the fish weren’t biting, the M-80’s were pretty good to fish with too if the fish got too close to our M-80’s.
In the winter we would light them and stick ‘em through a hole in the ice on our pond and blow huge chunks of ice in the air. It looked like a land mine went off with the flying pieces of ice.
The cherry bombs and M80’s were lots of fun but the most fun of all was on the 4th of July. We got to go watch the big fireworks show for free at the Family Drive-In. It was billed in the newspaper and on the radio as the “Greatest Show on Earth.” And every year, the Miller family was there to take it in.
People would fill the parking spaces fast to get to see the show. Those who didn’t want to pay to get in could park along side Highway 80 and anywhere else to take in the fireworks show.
Some would bring blankets to spread on the ground to see the spectacular aerial show. People would be sitting on hoods of cars, on the tops of cars and in the beds of pickup trucks. You can’t do that today with the new cars we now have. If you did, it would crush the cheap metal. Back then cars were built cars to last.
The night always started with a movie (or sometimes two) before the big fireworks show began. The place where they shot them from was at the base of the big movie screen. After the last show everyone would start getting out of their cars or trucks to wait for the telltale “ka-boom” from the first launch of the fireworks as they made their upward flight into the dark sky.
Then a clap of noise like thunder sounded off as the payload exploded high in the sky showering down colorful flashes of fire. The crowd would “oohh” and “aahh” all in unison as they voiced their appreciation for the beautiful display of fireworks. Sometimes you would hear an occasional baby cry or a scream of fear from a young child because of the loud noise of the explosions. Daddy said it sounded very much his up-close experience of a battle in a war zone.
The loudest ones I remember were the “duds”, the ones that didn’t blowup properly. They shook the ground like an earthquake. When that happened, everyone screamed!
The air around the drive-in filled with gunpowder smell and smoke. Small paper embers rained down upon the ground and on the cars from the many explosions.
The fireworks show was one that was looked forward to each year to everyone in the county. The drive-in was always filled to capacity.
It was a show that most people could never have seen if it hadn’t been for the folks at the Family Drive-In.
It was surely something that I will never forget. The fireworks show surely lived up to it’s billing. To us, it was the greatest show on earth.
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 12:47
“I’ve never heard such a story in my life. Ain’t no chicken can lay more than once a day. And who would pay a dollar for a dozen of eggs?” Pap Paw Burkhart answered.
“Well I figure a dollar for a dozen of eggs would be cheap if the hens laid twice a day. It wouldn’t take long to get your money back and then some. We could sell our eggs for a dollar a dozen to other people just like he is doing.” Lloyd came back with.
“I think maybe your right, Lloyd. I’ve got a couple of dollars I could spare. It wouldn’t hurt to take a chance on a couple of dozen, I guess.” Pap Paw said nodding his head. “I’ll get the money and you go get them eggs. Be sure not to shake ‘em up to much on the way back. They might not hatch out if you handle ‘em too rough.”
As Pap Paw walked towards the house, Lloyd laughed to himself knowing his plan had worked like a charm. Lloyd needed a little spending money and made up a story of the chicken that could lay twice a day. He would go to the neighbor’s house on Paw Paw and by two dozen of eggs for .25 cents a dozen and have a whopping $1.50 left over to spend on pop and cigarettes later.
He told the farmer he wanted the freshest eggs he had because Pap Paw wanted to hatch off some laying hens. The farmer got the eggs he had just brought from the hen house and told Lloyd, “It don’t get any fresher than these.”
Lloyd took a little longer than usual to make the trip back home to make Pap Paw believe he had really gone to Crawfish. “Here they are Daddy, just gathered today. I was really careful with ‘em. They ought to be in real good shape.” Lloyd said as he handed his Dad the basket of eggs.
Pap Paw then took the eggs to the barn where he had a hen setting and carefully placed the eggs underneath her. Twenty-one days later, all but one hatched off and Pap Paw was smiling. He couldn’t wait until the chicks were old enough to start laying.
After about six months, the small chicks had grown into hens and a few eggs began to show in their nest. Every day he would check the nest and all he could find was one egg in each nest. Something was wrong, he thought.
“Lloyd, just who did you get those eggs from? Them hens aren’t laying but one egg a day. I want to ask him what we’re doing wrong.” Pap Paw asked puzzled.
Lloyd had to think fast. “Daddy, he told me we had to fed them that special feed called Layena made by Purina. He bought it down at the feed store.” Lloyd told his dad.
“Well, why didn’t you tell me that before now?” Pap Paw answered back.
Next day Pap Paw went to the feed store and bought a bag of Layena. When he got home he quickly opened the paper bag of feed and threw out a few handfuls to the waiting chickens. They really liked it as they fought with each other over their new meal.
Lloyd late that night slipped to the refrigerator and removed a basket of eggs and ran to the barn placing one in each of the hen’s nest. He then quietly slipped back into his bed.
Next morning Pap Paw was up early and grabbed the egg basket and made his way to the barn to check the nests. He came back with a basket full of eggs and a big smile. “Looks like that Layena really works, Lloyd! I got two eggs from every nest.” Pap Paw exclaimed proudly, and patted Lloyd on the back for a wise purchase of the magic chickens. He then asked Lloyd if he knew why the eggs felt cold? Lloyd told him it must have something to do with the Layena or the fact that the hens were working twice as hard laying two eggs a day.
As the weeks went on, every day Lloyd would rob the refrigerator of the eggs and place them in the hen’s nest at night. And every morning Pap Paw would gather the eggs and place them in the refrigerator.
But after about a week or so, Pap Paw began to get a little suspicious. He was noticing the eggs weren’t building up in the refrigerator as they should and the story of over-working the hens didn’t make sense about the cool eggs. “Were the chickens really magic or was it a magic trick being played by Lloyd?” he asked himself.
Pap Paw retired early to bed early the next night so he could get up earlier than usual to set a trap. Next morning he was up before Lloyd and slipped quietly to the barn and hid in the loft. Right about daylight a small beam of light appeared at the back door of the house and slowly made its way to the barn. Lloyd opened the door to the hen house and carefully began placing one egg into each nest as Pap Paw watched from above. After Lloyd’s job was done he made his way to the door once again and then Lloyd heard a low voice from above, “Don’t forget my egg!” Pap Paw growled.
Lloyd ran as fast as he could to the house with Pap Paw on his heels promising to teach Lloyd a lesson. But at the house both were laughing so hard at each other for the well-planned joke that no punishment was given.
Pap Paw learned a lesson by believing “… something that sounds too good to be true, most of the time wasn’t true.”
And Lloyd learned a different lesson “… never use cold eggs from the refrigerator when pulling the ‘ole two eggs a day in a nest trick.”
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