Tennessee Mountain Stories

Two Fellers Under One Sled

This article will bring us to the end of Callie Melton’s book “Pon my Honor”.  I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I have. 

Farm Sled.jpg

Old man Johnson had a boy named Henery that was a might funny.  He was a big raw-boned and slow-footed boy.  And to make matters worse, when he got to the age for his voice to change it started and then stopped smack dab in the middle of the process.  So Henery always talked two ways.  He’d start out in a fine little boy’s voice, then he’d wind up in a big coarse man’s voice.

Folks would always have a heap of fun about the way Henery talked.  But it was all good-natured fun and not making light, for everbody knowed that it was a sin to make light of anybody’s afflictions.

One day his Pappy started Henery out in the sled to gather some nubbins for cow feed.  On the way to the field, Henery had to go down this little steep place, and the old mule got scared when the sled bumped his hind legs, so he just up and run away.  He run so fast that he run over a big rock and turned the sled over on Henery.  Then he broke loose from the sled and just kept right on going.

It knocked all the wind out of Henery when the sled turned over on him, but as soon as he could get his breath back, he started hollering for help.  He just wore hisself out, so he had to stop to rest.  While he was resting he heard somebody coming down the road, so commenced hollering again.  “Help! Help!” he yelled in his fine little boy’s voice, and then “Get me out! Get me out!” in his big coarse man’s voice.

Now the man who was passing by the sled was a stranger in these here parts, so he didn’t know about Henery and his two voices.  The man listened a couple of time, looked at the heavy sled, and then said, “Well, iffen two o’ ye’ can’t lift that sled, what do you’ens ‘pect me to do?”

And with that the man went on down the road, leaving Henery hollering his head off.

The Gully-Washer and Dam-Buster

Excerpt from Callie Melton’s ‘Pon My Honor

Youg’uns may learn a lot more things at school now than they used to, but I’ll guarantee they don’ have half as much fun.  Why, we all laugh fit to kill ever time we think about one day when we played meetin’ at Windle.

Now the Methodists always held their protracted meetin’ at Shiloh just about the time that school started at Windle, so we’d always play meetin’ ever recess time all fall.  There’d always be somebody good at preaching, another at leading the singing, and somebody else’d do the praying.

Miss Minerva was teaching there the year that just about ended our meetin’s.  It was one day at dinner recess, when we’d all grabbed a piece of cold bread and meat in one hand and a baked sweet  tater in the othern, and took off across the big gully to the patch of woods where we played.  There was a big flat stump on the hillside that the preacher stood on, while the rest of us’d set on the ground in front of him.  We’d been to Shiloh that morning to preaching, so everbody was all tuned up for a good’un.

Earl was doing the preaching that day, and his text was on whatever it was that he’d heard that morning.  He preached real good, and if you hadn’t known that it was just a bunch of young’uns playing, you’d have swore that it was a meetin’ going on over there in the woods.

The good old stirring hymns like OLD TIME RELIGION, FATHER’S GOT A HOME and ON JORDAN’S STORMY BANKS were sung with feeling, and when the altar call was made the Mourner’s Bench was full.  A good old sister or two would give a shout now and then, and the “A-men’s” were heard on ever side.  Then Earl called on O.B. to pray.  Now O.B. really threw himself into it.  Long and loud he prayed, and over and over he begged, “Lord, send us a gully-washer and a dam-buster.”

No telling how long all this would have gone on, but the bell for books broke it up and everbody took off for the schoolhouse.

Not long after dinner a quick cloud come up, the wind begin to [b]low, and great deep peals of thunder shook the house.  The young’uns all got scared, and some of the littlest’uns begin to cry.  Just as the downpour of rain come, Miss Minerva started the whole passel of us across the footlog to the nearest neighbor’s house.

It looked like the sky had just opened up and was letting it all come down at once, but Miss Minerva stood there at the footlog and watched all the young’uns safely across.  Then, as she started over she remembered her Divine Book that was so precious to her, so back to the schoolhouse she run to get it.  When she finally got back to the footlog, the water was rolling down the gully like a tide, and it had just about covered the log.  But she dashed out on it anyway.  Then about middle-ways across she lost her footing and fell in.  Some of the big boys were watching and saw her, so they run out and managed to catch her down-stream and pull her out.  But her Divine Book was washed away, and she was might night drownded.

Now O.B. and Earl were half-grown before they quit crawling under the bed ever time it thundered.  And never again would they play meetin’.  They thought for sure that the Good Lord had answered O.B.’s prayers for a “gully-washer and a dam-buster.”

The Country Store

Peter's Store was the primary Country Store in Clarkrange

Peter's Store was the primary Country Store in Clarkrange

It goes without saying that some subjects can be covered with a quick article while others require volumes.  The Country Store is certainly a voluminous topic. 

I ran upon an article in a 1980’s era copy of The Monterey Dispatch written by Mary Robbins that got me thinking I ought to spend some time – someday – detailing events at the area’s country stores.  I want to share parts of her article verbatim with a promise to further explore this topic at a later date.

At one time, every small community in the rural South had its own small grocery store.  The store was the center of community activity for six days of the week, relinquishing that honor to the church only on Sunday and during revival meeting time.

Although the store was usually very modest in appearance, it was the product, not the package, that mattered for folks who lived anywhere from five to twenty miles from the nearest town of any size. 

Most folks who bought gas, as well as groceries, had it put on their “ticket”.  Having money to spend during the week was a luxury belonging to those who were able to go into town, anyway.  Every small store, dependent upon its “ticket” customers for survival, kept a record of purchases made during the week and took payment on Saturday.  For those customers who received their wages only once a month, the tickets were usually carried till “the first”.

Since the owner of the store and the customer were almost always neighbors or friends, each realizing the extent to which one was dependent upon the other, the arrangement worked well.  Payment was made on time, with few exceptions.  If there was sickness, or accident, or a spell of bad weather when the customer couldn’t work, he was given extension of payment until things got better.  There were exceptions, of course, on both sides.  If a customer did run up a bill and, for no apparent reason, wouldn’t pay, his credit was “cut off” and he would stop going by the store.   This meant he would have to wait till Saturday or the first of the month to go into town for groceries.

In addition to providing an excellent public forum, the country store offered other enticements to grown ups and children alike.  One of these was the cold drink cooler.  Usually somewhat battered, its once white enamel yellowed with age and use, it occupied a place of prominence beside the counter.  Not only did it hold within its cool, dime depths those wonderfully icy, deliciously “stingy” Coca-Colas and Pepsis that were always referred to generically as “pop”, but ice cream, also… brown cows, popsicles in a rainbow array of colors and flavors… grape, orange, banana, lime.  After a hard day’s work in the field or the log woods, stopping by the country store for a pop or an ice cream (or both!) was a treat that few could decline.

The country store offered a variety of items other than food, however.  Along its walls were shelves (sometimes rough planks laid on concrete blocks) filled with the staples so necessary to rural families… Mason jars and lids, flashlights, batteries, turpentine, liniment, matches, shoe polish and occasionally, delightful surprises such as comic books (Red Ryder, The Lone Ranger, Bat Man), a picture puzzle, and near Christmas, perhaps even a toy or two.  At Christmas, too, the store would receive fresh fruit, such as oranges, tangerines, big red and yellow apples, bananas.  And the kind of candy that was a rarity during the rest of the year… chocolate covered cherries, pastel coconut bon-bons.  The smell of the place, always interesting, was made almost unbearably fascinating and tantalizing when the fragrances of the fruit and candy mingled with that of the weathered walls and the ever-present barrel of kerosene.

The country store is almost a thing of the past.  Replaced by giant supermarkets with gourmet food sections and computerized check-out counters, the small grocery down the road a ways is fast disappearing… along with the two-room school and Fifth Sunday singings. 

Just once, I would like to walk down that dusty country road again, to satisfy my thirst with a Coke from that old cooler and listen to the ebb and flow of conversation above my head...”If we don’t get some rain, soon, why the gardens are goin’ to all dry up.”  “Folks over at the county seat are sayin’ Jim don’t have a chance against that lawyer fella in the County Judge’s race…”  “Times sure ain’t what they used to be…”

 

I’d love to hear your memories of the country store!  Please click on comments below and share.