I come from the humblest of beginnings, simple people who lived off the land and quite simply, simple. My ancestors did not have much schoolin, but they did have common sense. They could build and repair anything they put their hands on. Well they did have some problems getting use to the fundamental laws of electricity, after a few hundred good shock therapy sessions, they finally got the hang of it. Well they never understood how it worked, they no longer got shocked. Poor Great Grandpappy Ira, lived to be 95 and my relation swear upon the bible, it wer that lectricity that dun it! They say, lying on his death bed he were hollering “damn lectricity”!
They came from the hills of Kentucky wanting to work. Afterwards if lucky buy some acreage in the backwoods that remind them of the hills and hollers where they grew up. They’d take that small piece of ground raise and grow everything they need in times of hardships. Grow and can vegetables, raise some livestock, most typically a few pigs with chickens for Sunday dinner and eggs for breakfast. They’d build a house, a barn, an outhouse. I best explain that outhouse purpose to the young-ins, it’s an outdoor bathroom. Ya know, ya gotta have someplace to poop-oop-de-doop, u-know. You must have fresh water, so they’d dig a well and place a hand pump on top. To these simple folk they had all the modern conveniences. They are rich in heart and necessities of life, what more would ya want, raise some young-ins, raise some pigs, it don’t get no better! Oh, and before electricity came through from the rural co-ops, what did you do? Kerosene lanterns for lighting and they would have an ice box. For those lucky enough to have a job in town, they’d stop and buy a block of ice for the ice box.
Company consist of family stopping by on Saturday evenings for enlightening, what I will call front porch talk. This consisted of the men folk drinking, talking the usual Political and World news, ah, ha! got you on that! They didn’t have radio, or T. V. or a telephone, so what did they talk about. Manly stuff, like fishing for gigantic catfish in the big rivers, the fish tales always seem to grow bigger the later in the evening with the more Black Label beer they consumed. They’d play music and there was always a guitar and banjo at any doings, that’s what they called family gatherings. There was always talk of Uncle Cecil, is he in or out of prison, no one could keep track. Whenever he would show up, then we knew he was out. Well not necessarily, he was known to escape and always made his way home to Aunt Edna’s and Uncle James, sure enough, he would stay too long and the Sheriff would take him away. Along with fishing there were other sports to keep the men folk busy. Frog gigging was popular, coon hunting, rabbit hunting, deer hunting. Stories of Bar fights was commonplace and I know that to be true because my Pa and Uncle Dickie came home many a-times all tore up from fighting. The community I grew up was home to an Army and Air force Base. Seems always them soldiers would make fun of them country boys on Saturday nights. Funny dang thing though, never did my relation ever say it were them that started the fights, it was always them mean old Army boys or Air Force boys, kind-a funny ain’t it! This was a much different time than what we can relate to today. Once there was 24 Bars, Taverns, Clubs and such within walking distance of the Courthouse and right beside the big old Courthouse was a big old jail. Uh ha! Rights handy I would say! Back then, there were teams of Police Officers walking the beat of this small community that grew vastly larger on Friday and Saturday nights. These were big old boys carrying them big old night sticks, that were not afraid to whop these silly ass country boys over the head that were-a always coming to town to get liquored up and whop some Army boys. In addition there was Military Police also patrolling these same joints. I never understood the purpose or popularity of getting the shit beat out of you, or ending up in jail and having to pay your whole week’s pay to get yourself out. It had to be a hillbilly right of passage thing, I reckon. Instead of beating up on your cousins, once you become a man, you must have to get your head continually beat in by Army boys or them big old night sticks of the local Police who didn’t mind practicing there swinging on stupid hicks! If you lived through your twenties you became a celebrity of the hillbilly sorts and would play the guitar on the front porch instead of going to town. Then on Sunday you would go to church and ask the Lord for forgiveness of your former heathen ways. Grandpa would always say “Uncle Klem is always a mite behind on that banjo from too many licks on the head from them big old Police Officers night stick, damn that boy had a hard head”.
There was never a lack of colorful stories that the men folk would talk about on the front porches in the hot summertime. Some of these stories would plum curl the hair of us young ones. We would be straining our ears to hear, what we weren’t, to hear. To this day the stories, or tall tales stay with me. Partially because I saw enough growing up as a child to see that a lot of these stories had some factual basis. I was inadvertently made to see a portion of these. Example, my Uncle Dickie called my Dad to come get him late on Saturday night and why I’m not sure my Mom, brother and me went with him. There was Uncle Dickie bleeding and all beat up lying in the gutter outside of the Wagon Wheel Bar. (Quite a catchy old fashion name isn’t it, even had a gig old wagon wheel on top of the flashing letters. How civilized huh!) There are many other stories both tragic and funny. I’m certainly not proud to be a part of my father’s side, however unfortunately I am!!!
Today in this same town in the Heartland the only reminder of that era of 50 + years ago is the old Courthouse still standing righteous and tall, retail stores, movie theaters, parking garages, post office, hotels, offices for a fortune 100 company. The bars and taverns have all been closed. The Interstate came through in 1961 and this once gangsterish, evil den of sin that catered to the dark business of morality has been made over to look like the favorite family town of all time. Which it is now! But once upon a time from the early 1900’s until the Interstate it was not the Athens on the Prairie! Goodnight, don’t let the bed bugs bite… Thank you for dropping by and my next piece iff-un I get it finished will talk about the little country church of Pentacost where my grandparents took us heathen young-ins. Please don’t forget, causin, I’mma planning some surprises fer ya’all.