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Mona’s memories were really pouring out, about a variety of things. I asked her what Ed was like and she said, “Noah is a lot like Pop in a way. He always liked the outdoors, Pop did. He’d get out and sleep on the porch at night. He could peel an apple without breaking the skin. There was an old man up on Harts Creek and I’m almost sure that his name was Devil Anse Hatfield and Pop trimmed his fingernails out on his porch with his pocketknife. Aw, he could trim my nails or yours or anybody’s.”

Ed was good at predicting the future.

“Pop said machines was gonna take over man’s work and we was gonna go to the moon one day,” Mona said. She figured he wrote the song “Come Take A Trip in My Airship” because it sounded like his kind of foresight.

Mona said she remembered some of Ed’s stories but warned me that I wouldn’t want to hear them.

Of course, I did.

I asked her if they were off-color and she said, “Well, not really, but he was kind of an off-color guy. I can’t really remember any of the tales about him. What was that one about him dreaming he was on Fox Cod Knob and dragging a big log chain and he fell over a big cliff and when he come to hisself he was standing on his head on a chicken coop with his legs locked around a clothes line?”


“He told some weird stories sometimes — ghost stories and things that I can’t remember,” she continued. “He told that story about Big Foot up in the hills of Harts Creek. A wild banshee. Pop talked about it. Clyde said he saw a Big Foot.”

Lawrence said, “It was up in the head of the Trace Fork of Harts Creek somewhere. Pop was on the back of this horse behind somebody. They was coming down through there and all at once something jumped up on back of the horse behind him and it was just rattling chains all the way down through there and the more that chain rattled the faster that horse would go. They absolutely run that horse almost to death getting away from it.”

I asked about Ed’s travels. Mona said her parents walked and hitchhiked a lot. Along the way, Ella sang to occupy the kids. Lawrence remembered buses and trains, where Ed sometimes played the fiddle for a little extra money from passengers. I asked if he ever talked about playing on any boats and Mona said, “No, but I know they did because I was with them on the ISLAND QUEEN that was going back and forth to Coney Island. Up by the calliope on the top deck.”

Mona said Ed always set up in towns near a movie theatre so the kids could watch movies.

“Every time he played he drawed a crowd,” she said. “He was loud and he was good. I never seen him play any that he didn’t have a crowd around him — anywhere.”

Ed was “all business” but would talk to people if they came up to him.

“One time we went in a beer joint up in Logan, West Virginia, that sat by the railroad tracks,” she said. “They played over at the courthouse and we walked over there. Pop wanted to get a beer while I ate supper. It was back when Roosevelt was president I reckon and he got in an argument with some guy about President Roosevelt. That was his favorite fella, you know. This guy started a fight with him and he backed off and walked away. Pop just let the man walk the length of his cane, hooked it around his neck, brought him back and beat him nearly to death. He was strong. He was dangerous if he ever got a hold of you, if he was mad at you. He always carried a pocketknife and it was sharp as a razor. He whittled on that knife — I mean, sharpened it every day.”

“Everybody liked Pop — everybody that I ever knew,” Mona said. “He had some pretty high people as friends.”

In Logan County, Ed visited Pink and Hester Mullins on Mud Fork and Rosie Day’s daughter Nora Martin in Aracoma. Mona said Ed was also friends with a famous boxer in town whose father played the fiddle, but she couldn’t remember his name. I later learned from Lawrence that it was Jack Dempsey, the heavyweight champion of the world from 1919-1926. Dempsey wrote in his biography that his father had fiddled “Turkey in the Straw” so much that all the children thought it was the National Anthem.

Ed mixed freely with some of the colored folks in Logan, and sometimes even left Mona at a “bootleg joint” operated by a black lady named Tootsie. She and Lawrence both felt Ed absorbed a lot of the Blues from the blacks in the coalfields. Mona sang one of her father’s songs — which I had never heard — to make the point:

Done got the [ma]chines in my mind, Lord, Lord.

Done got the ‘chines in my mind.

‘Chines in my mind and I can’t make a dime.

Done got the ‘chines in my mind.


My old gal got mad at me.

I never did her any harm.

‘Chines in my mind and I can’t make a dime.

Done got the ‘chines in my mind.