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Monday, July 7, 2008

More about Aunt Effy the Butcher's Daughter

Aunt Effy wrote the following essay about her childhood, family, and parents Lawrence and Lula...


Our house lay in the bottom land at a place where the road forked and crossed over Tyler Mountain. Down the road a ways stood a little white church, a one-room school house and the blacksmith shop. Just out of sight in the hollow, in the back of us was our old barn that Papa had turned into a slaughter house.

I was the fifth child in a family of seven and I spent a happy childhood running barefoot over the hills in this little country hamlet in West Virginia.

When I recall those wonderful years and my large, loving family, I think of Papa. It was his foresight and courage that vare our life excitement and hope.

One day when times were particularly hard, Papa loaded the wagon with fresh killed pork, chickens, country ham and sausage and went peddling towards town. Ringing a bell and making friends wherever he went, he was unknowingly sowing the seeds of a meat business that would in time change our life and the countryside around us.

Already Mama had more than her share of work, so it couldn't have been her idea to build a store down front across the road from the church and school. Spendin' money was scarce in the hills and the store added more work than profit or income. Yet, people liked not having to go to town for "boughtin" things; they walked and came by horse and wagon to buy fresh meat, coffee, sugar, flour, chewing tobacco and snuff.

In no time the store became a gathering place for young and old with more visitin' than buyin'. The women folks remained ketchin' up on news with Mama and helping with some unfinished chore - the latest quilt or a new batch of jelly cooking on the coal stove in the back. Along with the usual woman talk, heads were often bowed in prayer for a sick child back in the hollow or for a heartborken woman whose man was away in the pen.

Boys and girls stopped in after school for a penny piece of candy or to "look." Young couples who were courtin' found a place to meet and talk.

Saturday night was mostly for the men folks. Carrying a lantern or wearing a carbide cap, they came from all over and sat around the potbelly stove chewin' tobacco, whittlin' and swappin' stories of fox hunts and "hants."

Everyone went to church on Sunday and to prayer meeting during the week. Papa and the hired help were the few exceptions and were usually working at the slaughter house. I recollect Sabbath services when the "Amen Brother" was drowned out by the squeal of a runaway pig in the creek out back, or by Papa's strong voice headin' off a stray cow in the road out front of the church.

I'm not sure how well Papa was in keepin' the Fourth Commandment. Like many other things that were to come along later in life, Papa did get to church and was saved and baptized.

My two fun lovin' uncles who lived across the mountain ran the square dancin' in the summertime. They built a large dance platform beneath a big beech tree with an elevation up around the trunk for the musicans.

The dance I remember best was when I was ten years old and danced most of the day with Uncle Adam. My brother, Hurchel did the callin' and Uncle Fred kept four dance sets going from noon until sundown. Above the excitement of the "do-si-doos" we heard the lively and unforgetable music of a young and unknown fiddle player - Clark Kessinger.

Papa and my older sisters worked in the stand selling sandwiches, watermelon, lemonade and tobacco.

Mama along with other women whose religion frowned upon dancing and fiddlin' music, sat in the background mindin' the younguns and admiring secretly, I suspect, the happy dancers.

Towards evening everyone started home. We were the last to leave for there was work to be done and the wagon to load. Earlier in the day I hid my new shoes under the dance platform and when I went to get them they were nowhere to be found.

It was dark as we followed the wagon back home across the mountain. My heart was too light and happy to mind the blisters on my feet from dancing or the scolding I got for losing my shoes.

When I was eleven, changes were made in the isolated but wonderful life we led. The meat business had grown by leaps and bounds with the entire family sharing in the work. Our store which had been the center of many good times was closed.

The paved road came through, over the mountain, followed by electricity, the radio and music from Nashville. For some time I showed signs of a good singing voice and was sent to town for trainin'.

More about Clark Kessinger:

And here is a photo of the one room school house. Aunt Effy is on the far right of the top row.


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