Appalachia, Big Bear Fork, Black Bill, Bone Ratliff, Brown Hicks, Calhoun County, genealogy, Glenville, Harold Postalwait, Harvey Hicks, history, Jake Catlip, John Hartford, Laury Hicks, Little Bear Fork, Minnie Hicks, music, Sadie Hicks, Shock, Stumptown, Ugee Postalwait, West Virginia, writing
I asked Ugee if there were any black musicians in Calhoun County and she said she remembered some living around Big Bear Fork and Little Bear Fork.
“That’s in between Stumptown and Shock. They was two families lived out there: Jake Catlip and Bone Ratliff. They were black people. Lived out there in the country. First ones I ever seen. They called and wanted Dad to come to Bear Fork. Well, this boy had a guitar there. Maybe he was eight years old. They called him ‘Black Bill’ later. Dad said, ‘I can’t play it but I’ll show you something.’ Dad tuned it up and showed him three chords. Said, ‘Now learn that and come up and we’ll play music some day.'”
Ugee said she met Black Bill a little later.
“Well, when I was carrying Harold before Harold was born, I walked up the road and was going up to Dad’s and Mom’s and down there at what they call Hog Run there was a pile of rock there by the side the road and a paw paw tree,” she said. “And up jumped that black boy with a guitar on his back — liked to scared me to death. He said, ‘Lady, could you tell me where Dr. L.A. Hicks lives?’ I just pointed up to the house and said, ‘That house right there.’ I couldn’t speak I got scared so bad. Well, he just started out running. I was so weak I had to sit down. Got up there and here was that boy that Dad had showed how to chord. Now, you ought to heard him play. They kept him around there for a month. Well, the boys liked to hear him play the guitar. That’s where I got that ‘Down the road, down the road. Everybody going off down the road. Down the road, far as I can see. All the pretty girls look alike to me.’ Dad said to him, ‘Bill, you made a good guitar player but you can’t play with a fiddle. Now, let my daughter show you how to play the guitar with a fiddle.'”
Ugee’s meeting with Black Bill made a real impression on her.
“I’m not the type to get scared bad but that scared me: just come around a corner and there sat a black man — jump right out like that,” she said. “Now, I was only seven months along with Harold and when he was born he was so blue I thought I had ‘marked’ him with Black Bill. You know, you hear people ‘marking’ their kids? I raised up and they had him up to show me and I said, ‘Oh my god, I marked him to Black Bill.’ Mom said, ‘He’s not marked. He’s just blue.’ Me and Black Bill had many a laugh over it.”
I asked Ugee what happened to Black Bill and she said, “Brown Hicks was down sick and he went there and helped them out and everything. He stayed there one whole winter with them. Someone told me that he took up with Brown Hicks’ wife, Sadie. They lived together, I guess, over there toward Glenville and she had one kid by him. My brother Harvey seen the kid. Harvey said Sadie’s boy was ‘just a Black Bill made over.’ I don’t know what ever become of him after that. I never heard no more about him.”
Alex Tomblin, Baltimore, Bill Davis, Buck Fork, Camp Lee, Crit Mullins, Dalton School, Dave Bryant, education, Eli Workman, genealogy, Harts Creek, history, Holden, Isaac Collins, James Mullins, John Dalton, Kern Carter, life, Logan County, Logan Democrat, Maryland, Mollie Conley, Moses Tomblin, Olive Stollard, Omar, Peter Dalton, Peter Hensley, Peter Tomblin, Stonewall Conley, Tom Mullins, Twelve Pole Creek, W.J. Bachtel, West Virginia, Whirlwind, Will Tomblin, Williamson
“Blue Eyed Beauty,” a local correspondent at Whirlwind in Upper Hart, Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Democrat printed on Thursday, March 13, 1919:
Peter Hensley purchased a mule of Dave Bryant this week.
Moses Tomblin has purchased the grist mill of James Mullins.
John Dalton had a house raising on Thursday.
Peter Dalton, who spent a week home on furlough from Camp Lee, returned to that place Friday.
Will Tomblin has moved from his farm on Twelvepole to Omar. His mother-in-law will occupy the farm.
Peter Tomblin has purchased the Eli Workman farm and will remove to it in the near future. We understand that Bill Davis will occupy the property vacated by Mr. Tomblin.
W.J. Bachtel began teaching the Dalton school on Monday, but was able to continue but two days on account of sickness.
Tom Mullins and brother, Crit, have moved from Twelvepole to Buckfork.
It is reported that Isaac Collins will set up in the mercantile business.
Miss Kern Carter is visiting with her brother at Williamson.
Alex Tomblin is visiting on Hart’s Creek.
We hear that Mrs. Olive Stollard, an English woman, of Baltimore, Md., who was a former resident of Holden, was at Stonewall Conley’s the first of the week for the purpose of taking Miss Mollie Conley home with her. A grandson of Mrs. Stollard’s married a sister of Miss Mollie.
Appalachia, Calhoun County, Cincinnati, Ed Haley, fiddlers, fiddling, Grand Ole Opry, Great Depression, Harold Postalwait, history, John Hartford, Laury Hicks, Minnie Hicks, music, Nashville, Ohio, Ugee Postalwait, West Virginia, Wilson Douglas, writing
I said, “Now when they played, would they play at the same time?”
“Oh yeah,” Ugee said. “Sometimes they played at the same time. Then one time maybe one would be a playing and the other would be a listening. Say, ‘Oh, you pulled that bow the wrong way.’ ‘Now that didn’t sound right to me. Go back over that again.’ They’d sit maybe not for ten minutes but for hours at a time when I was a growing up. Trying to out-beat the other. Which could make the best runs and which could do this. They never was mad at each other or anything like that, but they’d argue about it. ‘I know I beat you on it.’ ‘Well, you put that run in it at the wrong place.’ But Ed Haley is the only man I ever heard in my life second the fiddle. Dad’d play the fiddle and he’d second his with the fiddle. Like if you’re playing the ‘fine,’ why he might be playing the bass. That’s the prettiest stuff ever you heard. I heard Dad try to do it but Dad never got that good on it.”
I asked her if Ed ever played “Flannery’s Dream” and she said, “Oh, yeah. I’ve heard that.”
When I played “Wild Hog in the Red Brush”, she said Ed definitely played it, although she didn’t remember it having that title.
Just before I played another tune, Ugee said, “This is my birthday gift. My birthday’s the 19th. I’ll be 88 years old. Oh, I do pretty good, I reckon, for the shape I’m in. I remember pretty good but I’ve got trouble on this here voice box.”
“You remember pretty good, like your mother,” Harold said. “She was a hundred years old and she remembered when every kid was borned in that part of the country.”
Ugee said, “Mom delivered over five hundred children. She knowed every one of them and their name.”
Harold said, “And where they come from and up what hollow she had to walk and everything else. She never forgot nothing, that woman.”
Ugee said, “I don’t want to be that old. It’s all right if you can walk and get around. But if you’re down sick in the nursing home, let the good Lord take me away. I don’t wanna be there. My dad had leukemia and cancer of the stomach when he died. And it’s hard to see someone suffer like that.”
I told Ugee what Wilson Douglas had said about people gathering at her father’s home and listening to music on the porch and she said, “Sure, you ought to have seen my home. We had one porch run plumb across the front of the house. Ed and Dad just sat right along behind the railing.”
She pointed to the picture of John Hicks’ house and said, “Our house was even bigger than that. It was plank. But I remember when they all come over there and they’d gang around on that porch. Everybody. When Ed Haley was in the country, they come from miles around to our house. Word would get out that Ed was there or Ed was gonna be there a certain day.”
Inspired by Ugee’s memories, I got some paper from Harold and tried to sketch the Laury Hicks place. Ugee said things like, “It didn’t have no fireplace — we had gas then. And over on this end the steps went plumb down the hill to the road. That’s after they put the paved road down there, you see. Our house sat almost in a curve. Garage is down there at the road.”
I said, “So people gathered in front of the porch to hear all the music?” and Harold said, “They didn’t have much room. The yard only went out there maybe thirty or forty feet and then it dropped off down to the road. A pretty steep bluff — fifteen-, eighteen-, twenty-foot drop. On this side of the house was the garden spot and out the other end the yard didn’t go very far.”
Were there shade trees around the house?
“Yeah, three or four big oak trees over to one side and then we had apple trees on the other side,” Ugee said.
I asked if the crowds came at day or night or only on weekends and Ugee said, “They’d come through the day and Dad and Ed would play music all day and half the night. Weekends, why, it was always a big crowd. I’ve studied about them so much, about how good a friends Ed and Dad was. And always was that way. And they’d have the most fun together.”
Ugee said Ed never put a cup out for money.
“I never seen him put a cup out in my life. Maybe they’d be somebody to come around and put a cigar box to the side and everybody would go through and put money in it. Course when he was playing in the city — Cincinnati or some place like that — why he’d make quite a bit of money there. Whenever he played them religious songs, the hair’d stand on your neck. You’d look at two blind people sitting and singing.”
I interrupted, “Did he play Cincinnati a lot?”
Ugee said, “He played Cincinnati a lot. He went to Cincinnati to make records one time, too. That’d a been in the thirties. He fell out with them. They wanted to pick the tunes. Ain’t nobody picked tunes for Ed — Ed picked his own tunes. When he found out what they was trying to hook him on, he quit right then. Ed went down to Nashville once. I don’t know that he went to the Grand Ole Opry but he went to Nashville. When he found out what they done, he didn’t have no use for that.”
A Time to Love
Though I did not think it possible,
I feel myself growing fond of someone.
It is a scary feeling —
One of uncertainty and curiosity.
I can feel myself ebbing toward you.
Is it time to love?
Though our eyes seldom behold each other,
Though we never have brushed lips or hands,
I can feel me loving you.
You are the girl I have dreamed of.
I have wanted you for years.
Nothing can change that.
I can not make these feelings go away.
I could conceal them longer
But I do not wish to do that.
I have wanted you for so long.
I know that it is time to love.
Do not be frightened or uncomfortable.
It is not the occasion for such negativity.
Frolic in the meadows God has created for us.
Laugh with the joy that you will finally know contentment.
I will make you happy.
I will make you love.
Have you ever truly?
O’ it is time to love.
The Spririt is everywhere around me.
It is our time to love.
Bless me with an opportunity to prove myself.
“Shew forth thy loving kindness in the morning.”
It is morning.
It’s our morning.
Let us grip hands
And love each other throughout the days.
Our sun will shine a little brighter, I think.
May 7, 1991
Brown's Run, Buck Fork, Charles Curry, Crockett Farley, Dicie Bryant, genealogy, George Hensley, Hall School, Harts Creek, history, Island Creek, John T. Workman, Logan County, Logan Democrat, Luke Curry, Mont Bryant, Queens Ridge, Sam Adkins, Samuel Tomblin, Twelve Pole Creek, West Virginia, Whirlwind, William Carter
“Blue Eyed Beauty,” a local correspondent at Whirlwind in Upper Hart, Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Democrat printed on Thursday, March 6, 1919:
The Rev. Sam Adkins preached at the Hall school house on Twelvepole Sunday.
Mon Bryant of Queensridge visited with relatives in this community the first of the week.
Wm. Carter quit work on Island Creek Friday on account of ill health.
The Revs. Chas. Curry and George Hensley held religious services Sunday at Brown’s Run.
Samuel Tomblin drove a fine hog to Island Creek and sold it Wednesday.
Crockett Farley hauled a load of merchandise for James Mullins Wednesday.
Mrs. Dicie Bryant and _____ were both on the sick list for a few days this week.
John T. Workman, mention of whose illness was made in our last week’s issue, was removed from his home on Buckfork to the home of his father-in-law, Luke Curry.
Ab Moss, Alabama, Calhoun County, Calhoun County Blues, Carey Smith, Catlettsburg, Ed Haley, Ella Haley, Euler, fiddlers, fiddling, guitar, Harold Postalwait, Hell Among the Yearlings, history, Homer Moss, John Hartford, Laury Hicks, music, Rogersville, Ugee Postalwait, West Virginia, writing
I took my fiddle out of the case and played for Ugee. A few tunes later, she said she liked my bow hold.
“Him and Dad both held the bow down there on the end,” she said. “Dad and Ed neither one never had no use for anyone that took hold of the bow way up toward the middle. They didn’t like that at all. And Ed and Dad neither one didn’t like for someone to put their fiddle down against their chest.”
Ugee paused, then said, “You’re with the fiddle like I was with the guitar after I got it. I set and fooled with it all the time — any time I had time away from dishes or anything, I’d set on the porch and play that guitar. I wanted to learn it and nobody to learn me and I learned it myself. I done the same thing with the banjo. Of course, Dad could thump the banjo some and play it a little bit. But when I got that guitar and changed over to it, then I wanted to learn that guitar.”
When I played “Yellow Barber” for Ugee she got choked up and said, “That sounds so good, John. You don’t know how good that sounds. I’ve been thinking about my dad and them all morning. I’d just have given anything if we’d had tapes of Dad.”
I told her that I’d been researching some tunes I suspected of being in Ed’s repertoire (many from the Lambert Collection) and she said, “Ed knew a lot of them. I’ve heard so many of his pieces, now I’m getting to where I’m forgetting a lot of pieces.”
When I played “Girl With the Blue Dress On”, she said, “I can’t get that one in my head. Some part of it sounds natural. Yeah, I’ve heard that song. There’s words to that: ‘She come down from Arkansas with a blue dress on. Prettiest girl I ever saw, she came down from Arkansas.’ Who was that old man that used to come and play that on the banjo? I believe it was Carey Smith from around Euler.”
I next played “Flying Cloud” for Ugee, who said, “Ed didn’t call it that. I can’t remember what he called it but he never called it ‘Flying Cloud’. Course Ed was pretty good to change names on you, too.”
I told her that Lawrence and I had always figured Ed’s “Catlettsburg” had another name, and she agreed.
“Well in fact he almost said he put the name on that piece ’cause they lived down there, you know,” Ugee said. “You see, most of them old fellas, if they’d hear a tune and they learnt to play it, then they’d change the name. Just like ‘Carroll County Blues’, we called it ‘Calhoun County’. Just whatever county you was a living in.”
I started playing “Calhoun County Blues”, fully aware that it was one of Ugee’s favorite tunes. She watched me quietly with an excited expression on her face.
“That’s my piece,” she said to Harold. “I could crack my heels to that.”
The next thing I knew, she rose out of her chair and started dancing.
I stopped and said, “Now, wait a minute. Don’t hurt yourself.”
She told me to go on, though.
“I didn’t think you could get your feet up that high,” Harold joked her.
Ugee said, “I was a dancer at one time. Never got tired.”
I continued playing the tune for a few minutes, then asked if Ed ever danced.
“I never seen Ed dance, but I’ll tell you what,” she said. “He could keep time with his feet. I can remember so well that foot coming down and then when he got older he’d pat his feet. He’d keep both of them going. He didn’t make a big noise with them or anything. Just give him a drink of whiskey or two and then he’d come down on that there fiddle and you ought to hear Ella then.”
I asked Ugee if Ed was pretty good at making up parts to tunes.
“Oh, yeah,” she said, not quite understanding my question. “He made up a lot of his tunes and then give them a name. And Dad would do the same. They was sitting around and they’d try different things. ‘Listen to this’ and ‘Put that note in there.’ I always did think they made up that ‘Hell Among the Yearlings’. Ab Moss lived down below us — very religious man — and he was there with his wife and Homer, the oldest boy, and Abner looked over to Ed and said, ‘That’s a pretty piece. What do you call that?’ and they said ‘Hell Among the Yearlings’. I always did think they made that up to aggravate him. Then they just cackled and laughed after they left. ‘Hell Among the Yearlings’, said, ‘That’s a pretty good name for it.’ I can see them yet a sitting on the porch laughing about it.”
“Daddy’s Girl,” a local correspondent at Halcyon on the West Fork of Big Harts Creek, Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Democrat printed on Thursday, February 27, 1919:
We are pleased that spring will soon be here with its flowers and sunny weather.
Our singing school is progressing fine but will soon be out. The singing master says he will begin a school at Striker, on Crawley, when our school closes.
The girls and boys of Halcyon are preparing to have a good time at school Friday. They all have arranged to wear fancy dress costumes.
Will Harris is preparing to move into the house on the A. Dingess farm, where he will work this season.
A. Dingess is still very poorly.
Missing You This Day
Never have I felt so lonely,
As I have today.
Never have I cried for another
As I have today.
Never have I longed for one’s company
As I have today.
Today is the day
I miss you.
I am alone
And for the first time in my life,
I do not want to be.
I want my love to be here
Or I to be there.
So long as we are together.
I want to hear you laugh,
See you smile.
I want to smell your beautiful aroma
And feel your touch.
I want to love you in deed,
As well as in thought.
I want you to understand how
Lonely, helpless, frustrated, longing.
This should convince you of my love.
See me as I weep like a child
At his dead mother’s grave.
See me as I stand alone,
Reaching for you.
In the muddy mound for what can not be had.
In this cold, desolate autumn wasteland
See me drowning in my lake of self-pity
Screaming at an unanswered echo,
Being bashed against a rocky shore,
Bleeding in the churning waters,
Mingling with its fury —
The fury of my turmoil.
Only memories and future optimism
Keep me alive.
How I yearn for you,
Oh how I wish we could be together,
So these separations would not be.
Oh how I want to sweep you from your
Home and run the winds
With your love, leaving rules behind.
I dream of the day we can finally be
You and I,
Until then, I will
As I do on this day.
October 10, 1990
Alabama, Arthur Smith, Calhoun County, Clayton McMichen, Douglas, Ed Haley, fiddlers, fiddling, Harold Postalwait, history, Ivydale, John Hartford, John Hicks, Johnny Hager, Josh Joplin, Laury Hicks, Lawrence Haley, Minnie Hicks, music, Rogersville, Ugee Postalwait, West Virginia, writing
Early one fall morning, I loaded up the Cadillac and drove south to the home of Harold Postalwait in Rogersville, Alabama. Harold, I knew, had a very special visitor — his mother, 88-year-old Ugee Postalwait of Akron, Ohio. Ugee remembered Ed Haley as far back as the Bull Moose era when he used to visit her father in Calhoun County, West Virginia. I hadn’t seen her since a visit to her home four years earlier and was anxious to pick her brain for new stories or tunes and show her what I had learned about Ed’s fiddling. Not long after my arrival, after we’d all said our “hellos,” Harold pulled out the picture of Laury Hicks and his family at John Hicks’ in Douglas, West Virginia.
“That’s my dad,” Ugee said, pointing to her father’s image. “I can remember when he wore the mustache.”
I wondered if the picture was taken before Ed was acquainted with Laury.
“Dad met Ed before I can remember,” Ugee said. “I don’t know whether that was before Mom and him was married. It was after Grandpap died, they said. Dad musta been about eighteen or something like that. Josh Joplin brought Ed into that country and told him they was a boy down there he wanted him to hear play the fiddle. Said, ‘He thinks he can play but he can’t play,’ and went in and had Dad to tune up his fiddle and played them two pieces. He played ‘Sally Goodin’ and I think it was the ‘Cacklin’ Hen’. Ed said, ‘Boy he’s showin’ me off.’ That was all they was to it. And that old man you know had told him a lie.”
I asked Ugee, “So Ed was coming to Ivydale before you were born?” and she said, “I have an idea he was because I wasn’t quite old enough to go to school when I first remember him. The first time I ever remember seeing him was when him and John Hager was there. I bet he wasn’t over 27 years old, when I think about it. I would say that was — I was born in 1907 — that was about 1913 or something like that. He was tall, slender. I can remember back when I was four years old real good and I remember him just as plain as if it was yesterday. We had a dirt road to the house and when he went to leave in the spring — they stayed all winter — he was walking behind John Hager and me and my brother Harvey run right to the bank and waved by at him. We’d been crying after him. I can see him walking along… But he carried that there fiddle in a flour bag. I never seen Ed with a fiddle in a case till after him and Ella was married. He always carried it in a flour poke.”
I told Ugee that I had worked a lot with Lawrence Haley in his last days trying to find out about Ed’s technique. Before I could show her what I had come up with, she started telling me what she remembered along those lines. She said Ed played with the fiddle under his chin — he hated when musicians “put the fiddle down low” — and turned it occasionally. He held the bow way out on its end, she said, and played a lot smoother than her father, a tremendous concession for a daughter to make. I asked if Ed played smoothly when she first saw him.
“Oh naturally he got better as years went by, but he was good then,” she said.
She gave me the impression that Ed’s fiddling had a lot of Irish-style “ornaments” in his early days (in the older, more European tradition), which gradually disappeared over the years — probably due to artistic peer pressure from radio fiddlers like Arthur Smith and Clayton McMichen. Smith and McMichen were extremely popular during the last few decades of Haley’s life.
‘Twas a summer day
In the meadow
When I spied her.
She was a beauty,
And I loved her.
She trod toward me,
And I could feel my leaves
Grow in pride.
She was to pick me
As her flower,
As she neared me,
And I loved her.
She gently reached for me
And my eagerness to be hers
As she caressed my proud stem,
She quickly pulled away
And I wept.
A drop of blood ran down my petals,
And the angel ran from the meadow.
“Take no heed to my black petals.
Only my sharp, brazen thorn.
Is it always the harmless rose
Which is chosen to adorn?”
July 11, 1990
Bryant School, Buck Fork, Burlie Riddle, Dave Bryant, Doke Tomblin, genealogy, George Hensley, George Hutchinson Lumber Company, Hall School, Harts Creek, history, Holden, influenza, Isaac Workman, Jesse Blair, John Bryant, John Dalton, John Taylor Bryant, K.K. Thomas, Logan County, Logan Democrat, timbering, W.J. Bachtel, Wade Bryant, West Virginia, Whirlwind, White Oak, Will Farley
“Blue Eyed Beauty,” a local correspondent at Whirlwind in Upper Hart, Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Democrat printed on Thursday, February 27, 1919:
We have been having some rainy weather the past week.
Several of our farmers are fencing and clearing ground for this year’s crops.
The Bryant school, taught by W.J. Bachtel, closed on Friday, and the Hall school, taught by R.H. Thomas, closed on Saturday.
Dave and Wade Bryant have gone into the mercantile business at the head of Whiteoak, and Will Farley recently put up a store two miles below Whirlwind post office.
John Dalton is preparing to build himself a new house.
“Doke” Tomblin purchased a cow of Miss Burlie Riddle Thursday.
We hear that Isaac Workman accidentally cut his foot with an axe while working for Geo. Hutchinson Lumber Company.
Rev. George Hensley and John Bryant conducted religious services on Buckfork Sunday.
Jesse Blair was a business visitor at Holden Saturday.
John Taylor Bryant is on the sick list this week. He has not been in good health since having an attack of influenza in the fall.