By Edgar S. Fraley

   Frankly, I don't know when to begin this incoherent, rambling tale. I could begin with Frederick who, according to the earliest records, spelled his name Froelich, and who left some tracks around Rowan County, North Carolina as early as 1720. And there appears to have been a Frederick II who settled in Castlewood and received a grant from Patrick Henry for three tracts of land on Clinch River.

     Or I could start with one Frenchman by the name of De Tebuef who owned an empire stretching from St. Paul to Wise, and empire mortgaged to the State of Virginia for 600 pounds. As is well known the Frenchman got murdered, the State foreclosed, and my father acquired 65 acres of the De Tebuef real estate about three miles east of Wise. And that's where I was born in 1889.

     Or we could start with the year 1875 when my great grand pa Andrew bought 399 acres on Bear Creek between Ramsey and Wise for $50.00, which comes to about 12 « cents an acre. Of course Grandpa Andrew didn't have $50.00, but, as is the fashion nowadays, he gave the Commissioner, George Kilgore, three notes for $16.66 2/3 each. Andrew must have been a very frugal and industrious man for it took him only four years to raise this $50.00. On May 26, 1879, he paid the entire amount in full. That meant a lot of "sang" and tallow and beeswax.

     But let's go back to that 65 acres and the year 1889. For the next three years we lived there, my memory is vague and hazy. A world seen through an early morning fog. I am not certain whether I remember dimly the events and scenes or whether I remember what I have been told about them. In any case, there was my Pa hewing cross-ties with a broadaxe for the new railroad coming into Norton. And there was a yoke of oxen and their names were Buck and Baldy. They
hauled the cross-ties for Pa, and they pulled the sled loaded with wood for the fireplace. There were people who had less than we; we had Buck and Baldy, an axe, a baker and lid, a pot and pot hooks. It is even probable that Pa owned a rifle, but I have no proof of it. We must have had a cross cut saw, a knot maul, some wedges and gluts (how else would we have made the rails for the fences); and then we had a pegging awl, a sewing awl, a shoe last, a froe, a drawing knife; and
it is pretty certain we had groundhog hide for those shoe strings. 

     It would take too long to detail the events that took us from Wise County to the lower end of Lee near the Tennessee line, and how we (that is, my grandpa, his sons and daughters, including my Pa) stepped down several rungs on the ladder, from small, subsistence land owners to tenants or sharecroppers on North Fork; that is to say, the North Fork of Clinch River.

     When I started to make these notes there wasn't much I could remember about North Fork. And then the hazy past began to clear; there were the Knocking Spirits at the home of one of our neighbors. Tables would rock back and forth and move about the room. The laws of gravitation were suspended and objects in the room would drift about through the air. There was much speculation, amazement, not to say consternation, prevailing in the neighborhood. The man whose home was all but knocked to pieces was Dr. Rufus Kyle for whom Kylesford was probably
named. He had a daughter by the name of Minnie who appeared to be an innocent bystander; but, if the spirits needed any assistance, it was believed that Minnie rendered it by means not too obvious and which only Minnie and the Spirit understood. I have reached the conclusion, based on a considerable amount of investigation, that the spirits, whether the knocking or some other variety, have no evil intent. It seems they occasionally tire of living in a twilight zone of obscurity
and, having a streak of egotism or exhibitionism, just want to cut up a little and attract some attention. And when they can find a like-minded individual who is willing to cooperate and act as a medium or assistant they put on a free show for a few weeks to confound the natives and have a little clean fun...

     And then there were the log rafts that were floated down the river to Chattanooga, I believe,when the spring tides came.

     On week-ends the stillness of the night would be broken by singing and laughter and pistol shots; some of the neighbors, Pa said, going home from Bill Green's grocery down on the Tennessee line where they had gone for a charge of liquid happiness. Grocery was a euphemisms for a business conducted more or less serreptiously by Green.

     I suppose people who are not handicapped by very much impediments move rather frequently, and so did we. After two or three years on North fork we moved to Blackwater looking for greener pastures and a new landlord by the name of Burdine Carter. Burdine was a rich man. It was easy to tell he was rich; his house had been painted and his wife had a cook stove.

     When I was about seven years old, my Pa shelled a turn of corn, threw it up on Old Kate's back, lifted me up on top, and told me to take it up to Joiner's mill house. When I got about a mile up the road the turn fell off. I tugged at it with all of my seven year old strength, but I couldn't get it back on Old Kate. I hitched her to the rail fence and ran back as hard as I could tear. I told Pa what had happened and he said, "Why didn't you ride the mare back?" I said, "because I could run
faster than the mare."

     There was an interesting hole under a stump in the new-ground above the house. The entrance was worn hard from constant use. Fred and I set a trap. We were about ten and six. The next morning we hurried up the hill to investigate. There was a polecat. The odor is gone but the memory remains. We skinned him, stretched his hide over a board which we hung up on the side of the smokehouse to cure. After a few weeks we sold it to Roscoe Robinette for enough cotton
cloth to make us both a pair of britches, the first we didn't inherit from Pa via Elbert.

     After Buck and Baldy, the next in line of succession was a mule named Beck. Beck was rebellious, temperamental, independent and obstinate. It couldn't be said that the relationship that obtained between Pa and Beck was exactly harmonious. If Pa started to ride Beck to the mill house, a sort of tacit coexistence prevailed until they got as far as a hitching post in front of the house of a neighbor where old Beck had been hitched on some previous occasion and she could see no ethical reason why she should not be hitched at the same post again. And if Pa wouldn't hitch her and fraternize with a neighbor for awhile - well, she could be just as obstinate as he was. If Pa got her by that post it was only after an effort that left them both in a state of sweaty exhaustion and a seriously strained relationship. She simply refused to work; and she could not be persuaded either by the club or carrot stratagem. Many a time I have seen her kick herself free of the singletree and make-shift harness and look at Pa, eyeball to eyeball, with a disdainful, triumphant expression on her face.

     After Beck, there was a horse named Andy, Andy was ancient, decrepit and mangy. He was weak in the knees and would fall occasionally and toss you off his back over his head. His eyes watered, his hip bones stuck up and his lower lip hung down. He had been retired and was drawing his social security int he form of fodder and a few nubbins. One day I said, "Pa, let's sell old Andy," and Pa said, "O. K., go ahead and sell him." I said, "How much do you want for him?"
Pa said, "$50.00." I groomed him up as best I could, saddled him and rode to Duffield...thence to Ward's mill, through Lovelady Gap, down Wallen's Creek, to Stickleyville, over Powell's Mountain to Pattensville and back home without being able to find a buyer. After six months had passed, I again said, "Pa, let's sell old Andy," and Pa said, "O. K., go ahead and sell him." "How much do you want for him?" Paid said, "25.00." I retraced my steps, covering the same 25 miles and again came home about dark. We were both weary and discouraged. After another six months or so, I said, "Pa, let's sell old Andy," Pa said, "O. K., go ahead and sell him." "How much do you want for him?" And Pa said, "Just don't bring him back." A mile or so east of Stickleyville I met a pack peddler. It was a hot day and he was staggering under a heavy load. I didn't bear around the bush. "How about selling you this horse to carry that load on?" I said. "I don't have any money to buy a horse," he said. I countered with, "Well, what have you got in that pack?" He opens it up and spreads out his merchandise under a walnut tree. The negotiations were tedious and long drawn out, but when they were concluded, I have a collar button, a silk handkerchief, a pair of gloves, and a pair of galluses, and he has old Andy.

     This discourse wouldn't be complete if I failed to mention the grindstone to which, for some reason, I developed a pronounced antipathy. My antipathy for the grindstone and my Pa's predilection for a sharp axe seemed to balance exactly. His penchant for a sharp axe or scythe amounted almost to an obsession. When he said, "Ed, come turn the grindstone." I knew my day was ruined, for he never knew when to quit when he started to sharpen a tool. "Pa, don't you think that's sharp enough?" He would feel the edge with his thumb, "Not quite," he would say,
and I knew I was in for another hour. If I were asked to name the great benefactors of the human race, I would, unhesitatingly, include the man who invented the electric grind rock. I am quite sure he grew up on the farm and had a Pa like mine with a strong aversion to a dull axe. If, at seventy-four, I have a stronger grip in my hands than one fifty years younger, it is because I was so continuously attached to the grindstone crank, the hoe, the mattock, the axe and the plow handle.

     It certainly wasn't my granny that Walt Mason had in mind when he wrote: "And my dying Granny made me take a vow that I'd never, never toil with the nerve destroying soil; that I'd never risk my life behind a plow. For her uncle's brother Jules, walked behind a pair of mules plowing up a fertile meadow by the sea; and those mules reached out behind with their heels and knocked him
blind, and my granny feared a kindred fate for me."

     My Pa was not an educated man. He had little time either to acquire an education or to avail himself of its benefits. He could read, given sufficient time, and he could sign his name but he did it laboriously and meticulously. He was an amiable man, always in a good humor with a twinkle in his eye except on three occasions: when he was mending shoes which, in the winter time, was nearly every night; at molasses making time; and when he was killing hogs, which was the first
cold spell in November. At such times, we soon learned there was no use to ask him for any extra-curricular privileges. If I wanted to go to Burley Carters and spend the night that was "just wearing out shoe leather for nothing;" this, while pegging on a new sole with wooden pegs he had made himself, or while sewing a ripped seam with a waxed end he had made out of shoe thread and beeswax.

     He required the services of only one other artisan more skillful than himself and that was the blacksmith, but that was not often. Occasionally he needed a bull-tongue plow point, afalse-coulter,  a clevis for the sled, a fire shovel, poker or a set of horse shoes, and he paid for these services with something other than money. In fact, we paid for everything we bought with something other than money. There did not appear to be any of that commodity in circulation
when I was a boy. Since there was no money, every man had to develop the kills to make what was needed. Money was hard to come by; but, as good luck would have it, a wagoner would occasionally come by and ask to spend the night, and for a night's lodging for a man and team you could often collect fifty cents. In the course of a year we may have had $5.00 to $10.00 case income, but I believe the latter figure would be excessive. One year our taxes were $3.65, if I remember correctly. We didn't have any money and the Sheriff levied on our cow. We did not
require anything from the store except salt, pepper, soda, coffee, lamp oil and an occasional postage stamp. The merchant was also postmaster, and we would get any of these items including postage stamps for chickens, eggs, possum hides, and Indian arrowheads. The name of the merchant-postmaster was Charley Robinette, and he kept the post office at Democrat, Virginia. Charlie had a boy named Willie who was about my age. Willie's Pa paid him 5 cents a day to haul off a hillside in his little homemade wagon, and I was sorry my pa was not a rich merchant who
could afford to pay me 5 cents a day for some easy work like hauling rock in a wagon. Our land was steep and rocky, but we got along very well. For clearing up the new-ground and tending the crop, Burdine would give us half of it. This enabled us to keep meal in the barrel nearly all the time.

     We usually had a cow. Of course, there were times when she was dry, and occasionally int he spring of the year she would get on the lift on account of getting weak in the hind parts. Sometimes, with the help of a neighbor, we could get her up and to the barn. If we had some nubbins to mix with her fodder she would sometimes get well. That cow, I remember, was very vindictive; if we didn't get her much fodder she would retaliate and not give us much milk. There
were times when the milk tasted like water, but Mother said that was because the cow had waded the creek and got water in her bag. But that had its advantages; on the days when the cow waded the creek there was enough milk to go 'round. We did very well on the Burdine Carter place. During harvest time Pa generally got a job cradling wheat for Wes Glass where he could make 25 cents a day, and Mr. Glass paid him in streaked meat. About this time Mother got a step stove and she didn't have to cook on the fireplace anymore; so, you see, we were getting up in the world. We were particularly fortunate at threshing time. Some of the neighbors usually had a straw tick and they would allow us to fill up our bed ticks with clean, fresh straw.

     I am of the opinion that the grandfather of 1890 slept more soundly on his straw tick or shuck mattress than his grandson of 1960 does on his Beautyrest. He didn't have to worry about whether he could meet the monthly mortgage on his home, his car, his refrigerator, his washing machine and the TV set. Strange as it may seem, the grandfather was poorer but he had more security than the grandson who could be automated out of his job.
     My first school was at Osborn's Chapel and Parolee Livesay was my first and best teacher. She said a prayer and we sang:

In the day of all days
When the world shall be judged
And the chaff from the wheat
Shall be thoroughly fanned.

And the righteous shall shine
As the stars in the skies,
And we shall be at the
Saviour's right hand.

And then we got down to business. The letters were easy to learn. H was chair; K had a broken back; and all the other letters had distinguishing and interesting characteristics. When Miss Parolee came to our house she always kissed me and I was very embarrassed and delighted. In the winter we skated on the ice behind the school house and in the summer we played round-town, or long cat or short cat, or dropping hat or hot pepper. The Democrats played against the Republicans. At the end of the school year we had an exhibition with plays and speeches. Some
local Pecos Bill would get pifflicated, shoot off his pistol and a posse of outraged citizens would chase him on horseback up the road towards Flagpond. Miss Parolee always cried and fainted. The women made a closed circle around her and loosened her corset and she came to again.

     It was three miles across Stone Ridge to Osborne's Chapel. One time when I had a stone bruise, Ike Carter carried me on his shoulders, my legs around his neck and my hands holding onto his thick hair. In the fall of the year, Fred, Elbert and I went 'possum hunting at night with Burdine Carter's boys, Allen, Hiram and Burley. At times we would take old Lynn the Carter's dog. At other times Fred, Elbert and I went alone and we took old Boss, our dog. We would often get lost and have difficulty finding our way home. On one occasion we got badly frightened when we were stalked through the woods by a booger which kept just outside our lantern circle of light. If it followed us home it wasn't able to keep up. My legs were badly lacerated by briars and brambles. On one occasion we caught a possum and put him under the wash tub for the night. When I went to get him the next morning he appeared to be dead; but when I tried to pick him up
he suddenly came alive and bit me all the way through the finger. Since then I have never had much confidence in a dead possum.

     These are some disjointed, unrelated experiences that have helped fill up the years and perhaps add a little flavor. I was about thirteen when Grandpa gave Jack Fritz permission to build a shack across the creek on the back side of the farm. Up to that time the lock manufacturers had done very little business in our community. We never locked the crib or smokehouse, nor did our neighbors. But after Jack Fritz moved into the shack across the creek, farmers began to report the
loss of corn, side meat, chickens and other comestibles. The finger of suspicion pointed at Jack because he had no visible means of support. Within a few weeks Will Gobble who ran the store at Duffield had sole more locks than he had sold in many years previously. And soon thereafter Jack Fritz loaded his worldly effects onto a one horse wagon and left for parts unknown. There were those who believed there was some connection between those last two named events.

     It was after dark and we were eating supper. Someone out at the gate said, "Hey, Ed." I went out to investigate. It was my cousin Frank. "Jack Fritz has moved out of that old shack across the creek," he said. "Let's you and me go over there and burn it up before Grandpa lets somebody else moves in." "Let's do," I said. We tore some paper off the wall and started a fire in a corner of the combination living room, bedroom, dining room and kitchen. We wanted to make certain it did
not go out so we kept piling on the wood and when we went into the yard the fire was coming out the roof and the sky was lighted up for miles around. We could have been easily identified if there had been any close neighbors. We hid in the bushes on the Harris place until the light died down. We understood it to be a criminal offense to burn a house even though it did belong to your grandpa, so we laid low and said nothing. It soon became apparent, however, that the burning of the house met with universal approval. There was much speculation as to who did it; and whoever it was, was something of a hero and public benefactor.

     Now there lived in the neighborhood a young man, about eighteen, whose name was Johnny Blair. Johnny was an illegitimate waif and unwanted who stayed for brief periods with whoever would tolerate him, or for as long as they could find him useful. Johnny strongly felt the need of status, approbation and approval. After listening for about two weeks to universal praise for whoever burned the shack, Johnny modestly admitted that he did it.

     My uncle Henry was a horse trader. He was completely devoted to his profession. It provided his principal income and was the chief source of his amusement. If there was a long interval of time between horse trades he would become restless and long to get out on the road. At one such time he told Aunt Susy that he would be gone for a few days. Aunt Susy protested that she didn't
like to stay there by herself since the place was somewhat isolated and there were no near neighbors. "There's the old shotgun if anybody comes monkeying around let them have it," Uncle Henry said. A few nights later there was a terrific noise on the porch as if someone were tearing off the side of the house. As directed, Aunt Susy grabbed the shotgun and when the doorknob rattled she aimed it and pulled the trigger. She blew a hole in the door about six feet high and as big as your fist. She went out to look and there was Uncle Henry lying on the porch, his face
covered with blood. His hat was sticking up in the rafters. Some of the young'uns came after me to go for Doc Young who lived across Powell Mountain on Wallens Creek. I went as fast as I could but the road was rough and the fourteen miles, round trip, took several hours. Uncle Henry was still moanin' and groanin' when the doctor came. When the blood was washed away it was discovered that the shot had plowed furrows through the scalp, between the scalp and the skull.
After a week he was up an about again. Uncle Henry always had a lively sense of humor and just wanted to scare Aunt Susy a little for the fun of it; but, for some reason, I always wanted to change the subject with the shooting was mentioned.

     Doc Young was a pretty good doctor. The only complaint I ever heard was that he charged $3.00 a trip, and he wanted it in cash eventually instead of turnips or dried pumpkin. Fortunately, some of the neighbors possessed certain magical powers and we didn't always need a doctor. If you had the thrash my grandpa could cure it by blowing in your mother; or, you had a hemorrhage and sent for Jimmac Tomlinson, the bleeding would stop as soon as he crossed the first stream of water. My uncle Jack could take off warts by looping a cotton string around them, and my uncle Jeff was the community barber. He did his barbering free
gratis out in the yard and insisted that you sweep up your hair and bury it where the water dripped off the roof onto the ground. If you failed to do so and the birds used it for nest-making material, you would have a headache for the next year. It was certainly good to have this kind of information. Where Uncle Jeff learned it I don't know because he had never been to college.

     We were mining some felspar and mica in North Carolina. My partner was an ex-doctor and a mineralogist who had made and lost a million dollars in Cuba. He wore a beard and a big mustache. A boyhood friend of William Howard Taft, btu that has nothing to do with the story. We were driving up narrow country roads in Avery County and came to a log house with a large grapevine around it and the vine full of grapes. I announced that I was going to see if I could buy some of those grapes for our lunch. I knocked on the door. The woman, who was canning tomatoes, asked me to wait on the porch, saying she would get them for me as soon as she got through canning. I waited for a very long time and would have left without the grapes if it had not appeared rude. My partner whose name was Mr. Heighway came and said I would have to move the car; that a man with a wagon and team wanted to get by. I told Mr. Heighway to sit on the porch and wait for the grapes and I would wait in the car. I waited and waited, to my impatience, seemed to be hours. Finally I saw Mr. Highway coming with a grin on his face. "What's so funny?" I asked. "Well," he said, "That woman who was canning tomatoes finally came around the house, looked at me in astonishment and said, "Are you the man who wanted the grapes?" "Yes," I replied. "But you have a beard," she said. "I do now," I said, "but I've been waiting here a long time."

     It was a dark, rainy night. I didn't see the cow that was crossing the road until my fender hit the side of her head. She spun around like a top. Her owner heard the commotion and came running out of the house with a peremptory demand. "By God, get out of that car and pay for this cow." then he came closer. "Hello, Mr. Johnson," I said. "Why, hello there, Fraley." "Is the cow hurt?" I asked. "Why, hell no; she had no business being in the road."

     I'm not going to have time to tell you about the time my Uncle Jack had been bedfast with rheumatism for many months. Then one day he looked out the window and saw the mules running away with the mowing machine. He forgot his rheumatism, jumped out of bed, ran them down, got them cornered and pacified; and that was the last of his rheumatism. My Pa had rheumatism too and was in bed for a long time. Uncle Jack couldn't give him his prescription because my Pa didn't have a pair of mules or a mowing machine. 

     I wish I had time to tell you about the fellow and his wife who came down off Sandy Ridge to the store at Cleveland to buy a cook stove. He was driving a pair of little mules hitched to a wagon. He and his wife and I went back into the wareroom. After I had sold him the stove and we had loaded it onto his wagon, he said, "Would you like to have a drink?" I said I would. His wife joined in with alacrity. I took him to be a moonshiner and, since he had bought some of my merchandise, I thought it only reasonable that I buy some of his. So I inquired if he would let me have a ideas. She said, "Bill, you'd better not do that; we won't have enough to get back home on."

     During the depression, Fred wasn't feeling well and the doctor told him he needed rest and seclusion; so I left him to mind the store and went to Europe. I ran on to an Englishman in Moscow and we traveled together for about a month, becoming very good friends. In the next twenty-five years he visited me some three or four times. A few yeas ago I decided I would go to England and return his visit. He met me at the station and we drove out to his house in the country. We were met in the courtyard by a neatly dressed, attractive lady and my friend, Mr. Clement, said, "Ed, this is Dorothy." I put my arm around her, kissed her and said I had been looking forward to meeting her for a quarter of a century. Mr. Clement put an end to these felicitations when he stepped up behind me and whispered, "Dorothy is the maid."
      Pages 14 to 22.

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