Tennessee Mountain Stories

Clyde Remembers the Family

Important events when I was a child and young boy was a visit with Grandma and Grandpa Key. 

Grandma Ida Key

Grandma Ida Key

One of my earliest memories is Dad renting a horse and wagon to take us to Grandma Key’s.  I must have slept most of the way.  All I remember is starting and ending.  They lived at the “old place’ then, but soon moved to near Martha Washington School. 

A later trip Dad hired Uncle Erby Teeple to take us.  There was a creek maybe a half-mile from Grandma’s that had no bride.  Most of the time cars could cross the shallow place, but it had rained and the creek was up so he let us out at the creek.  There was a foot log to walk.  I remember being afraid I would fall in the creek.

Our family on both sides didn’t go for much hugging and kissing.  They followed the old English tradition of treating kids after about eleven years old, particularly males, as adults - a brisk handshake and wide smile.  Grandpa didn’t say much but grandma had a soft loving voice that made you feel like you were being hugged.

The inside of their house had newspaper pasted on the walls inside to seal the cracks.  When I had nothing to do I read the papers.  I guess I was in the fourth grade and reading everything I could get.  Grandma saw me reading the words in a paper back hymnal which is what small churches used in those days.  Grandma told me I could have the hymnal.  I still have it after about 80 years.  No one was more kind and considerate than Grandma Key.

Donald and I would gather a few cows and herd them around.  I guess we were playing cowboy.  One day a cow at full gallop came around the corner of Martha Washington School where I was standing.  Donald was holding onto the cow’s tail and his feet were off the ground.

In the morning when we went to the “old place” to work corn Grandma wend along with [the children] Golda, Violet, Donald and me.  Grandpa went ahead with the mule.  Grandpa plowed the middles while the rest of us chopped weeds and loosened [dirt] around the corn stalks.  An hour or so before lunch time Grandma left to prepare food and at that time the midday meal was called dinner, no lunch, and the late meal was supper.  We always had a good meal and we all had a good appetite.

My mom told me things she remembered from her time at home.  When she told her parents she was to marry Frank Whittaker, Grandpa said, “He is a Democrat you know.”

Donald Key

Donald Key

My Uncle Donald was a few months older than me and we had lots of fun.  There was a small hole in Slate Creek where we went to play and swim after we learned how.  One time Gerald, my brother, was with us.  I guess he saw Donald and I having a good time.  He jumped in even though he couldn’t swim.  Donald and I didn’t notice but Uncle Coy was there so he jumped in and got him out.

Grandpa worked in the mines, I think it was during World War I when demand was high.  He carried his lunch win a bucket with a snap lid.  One time he grabbed his bucket and went to work.  When he opened his bucket he had only sorghum for lunch – it was the same kind of bucket they put sorghum in.  Grandpa worked in Oak Ridge during the war (World War II).  I don’t know how long.

If I was there when the corn was laid by, Grandpa would hew cross ties.  Donlad and I would go with him and saw several long lengths for him then go home.

One day Grandma said Billie was taking Donald and me fishing on the East Fork.  Donald and I started digging for worms.  It was hot and dry and we didn’t have much luck.  He didn’t say anything but broke off a leafy bush about two feet long.  He vigorously waved the bush around and reached into a bush and grabbed a wasp nest without a sting.  [It was] about four inches across.  We had plenty of wasp larva for bait.  We caught a few very small fish.  Grandpa said when a hole got several good sized fish someone threw dynamite in it.

On our last day of our visit Grandma fixed a wonderful breakfast.  She called Ted, the dog, and pointed to a chicken she wanted.  Ted would catch the chicken and hold it down without hurting it until Grandma came to get it.  We had fried chicken, fried apples, home churned butter, sorghum, gravy and biscuits.  Grandma and my mom made biscuits alike and the best I have tasted.

In the 30’s someone stole some corn from Grandpa.  They hauled it home on a sled with some snow on the ground.  Grandpa followed the sled tracks but never said anything to the person.  That reminds of my dad.  We kept six or either hens during the winter.  Someone stole on of our hens.  I was mad about it but Dad didn’t seem to be.  I asked him why.  “They may have needed [them] more than us,” [he said.}

I think it was during the 30’s Grandpa came upon a whisky still in the woods.  He used his ax to chop it to scrap.  In his sixties Grandpa like to amuse young grandchildren at his house.  HE would stand on his head, walk on his hands and hang from a limb.

  Onetime when it had rained heavily there was a good sized pond about a foot deep in the dirt road in front of the house.  There were several geese in the pond.  I had never seen fowl swimming.  Coy was near me so I asked “won’t they drown?”  Coy said no then ran into the water, caught one of the geese and pushed it under the water and said, “see they won’t drown.”  He was probably about 13 at the time.

When I was about five we visited Grandpa Todd’s mother, Tobitha Ingle Todd, who lived on the main road through Clarkrange.  She lived in a two story house with a upstairs porch over the front porch.  I thought that was nice so I went up there.  Some planks were missing from the railing so they immediately got me down.  Upstairs she had two spinning wheels, a tall flimsy looking one for wool and I suppose cotton and a smaller heavier built wheel called a flax wheel.  I never found out why flax required a different wheel.  A five generation picture was made that day, Tobitha, Daniel, Grandma Key, Mom and me.  I never saw the picture.

5 Generation Photo similar to Clyde's memory.  This includes his sister, neice, mother, grandmother and great-grandfather. L-R: June Howard, Tommie Jean Howard, Stacie Whittaker, Ida Key, Daniel Todd  

5 Generation Photo similar to Clyde's memory.  This includes his sister, neice, mother, grandmother and great-grandfather.
L-R: June Howard, Tommie Jean Howard, Stacie Whittaker, Ida Key, Daniel Todd