Annadeene Fraley, Beverly Haley, Calhoun County, Ed Haley, Ella Haley, fiddlers, fiddling, French Carpenter, history, John Hartford, Johnny Hager, Laury Hicks, Lawrence Haley, life, music, Pat Haley, Sol Carpenter, Ugee Postalwait, West Virginia, writing
Ugee also remembered French and Sol Carpenter coming to her father’s house. They were regarded by many as two of the best fiddlers in central West Virginia, so I had to ask, “How did your Dad and Ed regard the Carpenters?”
“There wasn’t nobody as good as Ed and Dad,” she said quickly. “They’d say, ‘Oh, you’re good,’ to the Carpenters and brag on them. Then get away from them and Ed’d say, ‘They didn’t come up with you, Laury,’ and Dad’d say, ‘They didn’t come up with you, either.'”
Ugee said a lot of fiddlers wouldn’t play in front of Ed. When they did, he would usually “listen a while, chew that tobacco and spit and wouldn’t say a thing” — then “cuss a blue streak” after they left. If the fiddler was really bad, though, or “if somebody was a playing something and they butchered it up a little bit — one of his tunes — he’d jump on his feet and stand straight up and say, ‘Goddamn! Goddamn!,'” Ugee said. “You knowed right then that there fella wasn’t playing it to suit him.” Laury would just die laughing over it and say, “Boy, he’s good ain’t he, Ed?”
I wondered if any fiddlers ever asked Ed for tips on how to play and Ugee seemed shocked. “Why, he wouldn’t a showed one how to play,” she said. “He learned music like I did — just a fooling with it.”
I asked Ugee about Johnny Hager, the banjo player she remembered coming with Ed to her father’s house when she was a small girl. I wondered if he was a good banjoist and she said, “Well, he was good for then, about like Grandpa Jones. Dad had a first cousin, Jasper McCune. Me, Dad and Jasper used to go and play music at pie suppers.” Banjos provided most of the second back then, she said. Some of the better players were Willie Smith of Ivydale and Emory Bailey of Shock. Guitars were rare.
I pulled out some of the Haley family photographs, which caused Ugee to ask about Pat Haley, who was coping with Lawrence’s death, her own poor health, and her daughter Beverly’s kidney cancer.
“Well Beverly is in a coma now,” I said. “Pat said she’ll wake up a little bit in the evening and she’ll kind of recognize them a little bit. So in other words, they’ve lost her but she’s still alive. The doctor thinks she’s got about two more weeks. Pat says, ‘We’re taking it one day at a time.’ And Annadeene Fraley, the one who introduced me to Pat, she’s got cancer.”
Ugee said she didn’t know how Pat was making it through all of the grief.
“‘Aunt Ugee,’ she calls me. She’s a fine woman. She’s a strong woman. Well, she had to be strong. She come over to this country married to Lawrence and he didn’t tell her his parents was blind until she got to New York. He said, ‘Well, I’ve got something I’ve got to tell you. My dad and mother is blind and if you want to go back I’ll pay your way back.’ She said, ‘I’ll stay.’ He went to Ed and Ella’s and Lawrence said he was starving to death for a mess of pinto beans. She said she never tasted beans. She didn’t know what they was. They cooked the beans and she tasted them and she thought they was brown mud. Said it tasted just like mud to her. Said they was just eating them beans and bragging on them and she wouldn’t touch them. They made fun of her over it.”