Appalachia, Big Ugly Creek, Doska Adkins, Eunice Ferrell, genealogy, history, James Ferrell, John Hartford, Lincoln County, Mayme Ferrell, photos, Rector, West Virginia
06 Saturday Jun 2020
Posted Big Ugly Creek, John Hartford, Rectorin
02 Tuesday Apr 2019
Posted John Hartford, Lincoln County Feud, Musicin
24 Tuesday Oct 2017
Posted John Hartford, Musicin
06 Thursday Oct 2016
Posted Chapmanville, Ferrellsburg, Loganin
317 Steak House, Alec Soth, Anthony Adams, Appalachia, Brandon Kirk, cemeteries, Chapmanville, culture, Ferrellsburg, Galen Fletcher, Harts Creek, history, In the Heart of Trump Country, John Hartford, Larissa MacFarquhar, Lincoln County, Logan, Logan County, politics, Squire Sol Adams, West Virginia
John Hartford introduced me to The New Yorker magazine in the mid-1990s. “I need to get you a subscription to The New Yorker,” he told me several times. John had become familiar with the magazine as a youth. His parents were regular subscribers to the magazine; they encouraged him to read it because, they said, it contained the absolute best writing available. John told this story several times and I could tell by the way he retold it that he believed it to be true. In fact, after reading multiple issues (mostly John’s issues at the house, but also complimentary issues I spotted in medical offices), I agreed that, yes, The New Yorker did in fact contain the best writing available. Once I discovered Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, unquestionably the greatest true crime book ever written, and learned The New Yorker had frequently printed Capote’s writing, my love for the magazine became unshakable. For these reasons, and others, I am delighted to have made a small contribution to Larissa MacFarquhar’s story, “In the Heart of Trump Country,” published by The New Yorker on October 10, 2016. The opportunity to contribute to a New Yorker story, much less to appear in The New Yorker, is an honor.
You can read Larissa’s exceptionally well-composed piece by following this link:
Prior to the story, Larissa approached me (and other locals) about her desire to write a piece at least partly involving recent political developments in Logan County, West Virginia. I agreed to assist Larissa in whatever way I could for several reasons: I wanted to welcome her to my section of Appalachia, I wanted to be helpful, I wanted her story to succeed, I wanted her readers to better understand my region, I’m always anxious to discuss my region’s rich history… Larissa and I corresponded via email about general political history in Logan County, then enjoyed a memorable two-and-a-half-hour conversation at 317 Steak House in Logan. I liked her right away. I like her more after reading her story.
Larissa is an accomplished professional writer. You can read more about her impressive credentials by following these links:
It was likewise pleasurable to meet photographer Alec Soth and his assistant, Galen Fletcher, who visited Logan, Chapmanville, Ferrellsburg, and Harts Creek, in order to capture images pertinent to Larissa’s story. Alec took a few photos of me in Ferrellsburg, one of which ultimately appeared in the story, then spent a hot evening taking a ton of photos at one of my favorite Harts Creek cemeteries (the Anthony Adams Family Cemetery) and a nearby historic log cabin (Squire Sol Adams residence).
You can find out more about Alec by following these links:
He even has a Wikipedia entry!
These were nice folks. If they ever visit your part of the world, welcome them.
06 Tuesday Oct 2015
Posted Ed Haley, John Hartford, Lincoln County Feudin
04 Sunday Oct 2015
Posted Ed Haley, John Hartford, Lincoln County Feudin
Appalachia, Ashland, Ashland Daily Independent, Blood in West Virginia, books, Brandon Kirk, Dave Lavender, Ed Haley, Ed Haley Memorial Fiddle Contest, Empire Books, fiddlers, fiddling, Goldenseal, Greenup, Hannibal H. Holbrook, Harts Creek, Herald-Dispatch, history, Huntington, John Hartford, Kentucky, music, Poage Landing Days, Steve Haley, The Kentucky Explorer, U.S. South, West Virginia, writing
The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, WV, and the Ashland (KY) Daily Independent have recently provided great coverage of the book and related research projects. Many thanks to these newspapers for supporting regional history. Here are the links to the stories:
I am honored that some of my writing will appear in forthcoming issues of Goldenseal and The Kentucky Explorer, two of my absolute favorite magazines. The Winter issue of Goldenseal will feature a story about Ed Haley’s background on Harts Creek and his later visits to the community. A smaller story details John Hartford’s search for Ed Haley in the Harts Creek area. The December issue of The Kentucky Explorer will feature a story about Ed Haley’s friendship with Dr. H.H. Holbrook of Ashland and Greenup.
12 Wednesday Aug 2015
Posted John Hartford, Musicin
26 Sunday Jul 2015
Posted Cemeteries, John Hartfordin
26 Friday Jun 2015
banjo, bluegrass music, Brandon Kirk, country music, fiddle, fiddler, history, John Hartford, life, Madison, Marie Hartford, music, Tennessee, writers, writing
Let me try to describe John’s hands. They were very small in every way. He had frail hands as a gentleman might have, with little hair on them. I don’t recall that his fingers were unusually long. His knuckles were slightly larger than his actual fingers, maybe because his fingers were so thin. He kept his fingernails clean and filed smooth with a file. I remember he often filed his nails while on the bus during road trips; sometimes he filed his nails when conversations barely held his interest, half-listening. He absolutely never bit his fingernails. He seldom used his hands for any type of physical work because he didn’t want to risk hurting them; they were, he said, what paid the bills. The skin on his hands was somewhat loose and pale. When you shook his hand, it was very soft, although I’m sure he had slight callouses on the ends of his left hand fingers from playing the fiddle nearly every waking minute of the day. When I first met John at Morrow Library, he shook my hand and insisted that I call him John, not Mr. Hartford. When I later visited his home in Nashville during the summer for weeks or a month, before I had moved to Nashville, he would always shake my hand before I left for West Virginia. I recall at the end of my first trip how he stood in his driveway between his house and the guest house and remarked that we shouldn’t say goodbye because we would see each other again. John did not particularly like goodbyes; he preferred until next times. At the end of his life, upon commencement of his chemotherapy, he would shake very few people’s hand. Due to the chemotherapy, he was particularly concerned about germs. At that time, we shared a laptop and I always took care to clean the keys with alcohol before passing the laptop to him for manuscript review. I did this because I did not want to pass germs and make him ill; he never asked me to do it. Actually, I recall times he told me that it wasn’t necessary, but I did it anyway. Almost always, if he met someone at an event, they would greet him with a handshake, which he had to decline. It was awkward and in a peculiar way I think he enjoyed it. I may be mistaken, but it seems as if he contemplated or did in fact wear gloves for a short time just for handshakes. On a few occasions, he complained about having shaken hands with stout men who nearly crushed his hand; he detested an unnecessarily firm handshake because he said it might affect his ability to play. Later, after I moved to Nashville and visited and stayed many days and nights in his home I observed and he said that one of his favorite things to do was to sit with Marie on the bedroom couch at night and hold her hand while the two of them watched television. These were, of course, private moments and I only intruded if I had a question about the manuscript or a related matter. John’s wrists were small. He never wore a watch on his wrist, preferring instead to keep a pocket watch – usually tucked in his overalls front pocket or in the pocket of his vest, which he nearly always wore. If I remember correctly, his watch was colored gold, not silver. When I think of his hands, I see them holding a fiddle and bow at the dining room table and on stage, I see them moving across a banjo, I see them holding a fork and knife at dinner, I see them placing tiles on a Scrabble board during our games together, I see them holding a glass of red wine late at night during our conversations, I see them holding a book or a magazine at the couch by the fireplace, I see them gripping the wheel of his Cadillac on our way to Piccadilly Cafeteria, I see them pushing PLAY and turning up the volume on his car stereo…
10 Wednesday Jun 2015
05 Thursday Mar 2015
book, books, Brandon Ray Kirk, Ed Haley, history, John Hartford, Madison, photos, Tennessee, writing
31 Sunday Aug 2014
Posted Ed Haley, John Hartford, Musicin
Arthur Smith, banjo, Ben Walker, Benny Martin, Bernie Adams, Billy Adkins, blind, Brandon Kirk, Buddy Emmons, Clayton McMichen, Doug Owsley, Durham, Ed Haley, fiddlers, fiddling, Green McCoy, Haley-McCoy grave, Harts, history, Imogene Haley, Indiana, Jeffersonville, John Hartford, Johnny Hager, Lawrence Haley, Mark O'Connor, Matt Combs, Melvin Kirk, Michael Cleveland, Milt Haley, Mona Haley, music, Nashville, North Carolina, Smithsonian, Snake Chapman, Tennessee, Texas Shorty, Ugee Postalwait, Webster Springs, West Virginia, Wilson Douglas, writing
When Ed first went out into the neighborhood with his dad’s fiddle and armed with his melodies (as interpreted by his mother) I think he probably caused not a small sensation amongst family and neighbors and his ear being as great as it was I think he picked up an incredible amount of other music really fast. I think he played with a lot of ornaments when he was a teenager and up into maybe even his thirties. Snake Chapman and Ugee Postalwait have alluded to this. Snake said the dining room recordings just didn’t sound as old-timey as he remembered Ed playing and Ugee said she remembered him and her dad talking about the little melodies between the notes. Of course Ed had to have been through a lot of subtle changes in style since that time. I think in later years he stripped a lot of the ornaments out of his fiddling in order to appeal to the Arthur Smith-Clayton McMitchen crowd who loved the radio style that was so much in vogue at that time. This might have helped make a little more money on the street. People have always liked to hear someone play and sound just like what they hear on the radio or a record. But I think if someone had asked Ed if he had done that consciously that he would have denied it and if he was in a bad mood they might have even had a fight on their hands.
I keep having this idea of Ed imitating other instruments on the fiddle because I’ve tried it myself and wouldn’t it be something that some of these great parts was really an imitation of John Hager’s banjo playing. I’d love to know where that passage is or whether it even exists.
It’s obvious that when Ed had good firm second that wouldn’t slow down for anything, he really leaned back on the beat and got in that little pocket where so many great musicians like to be. Ella and Mona really held up a good solid beat, but I’ll bet Ed was hard on them — a real taskmaster. It’s all in that rhythm section. Wilson Douglas told me one time that Ed always told him to play it real lazy. Texas Shorty, Benny Martin, and Buddy Emmons refer to it as holding on to the note as long as you can before you start the next one. This is an important part of Ed’s feel and sound and it really comes through on the dining room recordings. I get it by playing as slow as I can against a beat I hope is not gonna move, and then I swing the notes with a dotted note feel — a real lilt if I can get it — and just drag on the beat as hard as I can ’cause I know it’s not gonna slow down. I’d love to know just when Ed figured that out or if it was always there. I always think of Ed in his younger years playing on top of the beat or even ahead of it like I did when I was young and full of piss and vinegar. Actually when you’re playing alone you do hafta pretty well stay on top of the beat to hold the time or at least set it, cause you are the beat but you have to keep from rushing which we will tend do when we get to hard passages in order to get them over with. We’ll not do that no more. Mark O’Connor told me one time that while he is playing a tune he’ll play on top of and behind the beat on purpose. He described playing behind it as letting the beat drag you along…almost like water skiing. Oh, to have known what Ed and John Hager or Bernie Adams sounded like together.
I think Ed worked on his fiddling probably daily most of his life so it is fair to say that it was changing all the time. This would explain the varying descriptions of his playing that have come down. I’m sure they’re probably all accurate. Lawrence, Ugee, and Mona always said Ed played with great smooth long bow strokes and Snake Chapman always was adamant about him playing with short single strokes and Slim Clere said the same thing — that he bowed out everything — no bow slurs. Of course, in the dining room sessions you can hear both ways. It’s amazing how well Ed did without the feedback of working with a tape recorder. What an incredible ear he had. As far as I know, the only time he probably heard himself played back was the recordings we have. I hope there are others out there but I’ve come to doubt it.
Brandon and I have always had a gut feeling that if we’d dug down into the hillside a little further at Milt and Green’s grave we might have found something. We only went down five feet and then we were defeated by the rain. What if we had gone down the requisite six feet? What if, like the probe, Owsley had misjudged the bottom of the grave shaft due to the mud and water? What if it hadn’t rained and muddied up the work area? If Melvin Kirk and Ben Walker went so far as to bury the men in a deep grave, why not assume they would have gone for the standard six feet grave traditionally dug? In the following weeks, old timers around Harts kept telling Brandon and Billy, “If they didn’t dig at least six feet, it’s no wonder they didn’t find anything.” We didn’t want to question the professionalism of experts like the Smithsonian forensic team or seem like we wanted to find Milt and Green so badly that we couldn’t accept the concept that they were gone…but what if? The explanation that Doug Owsley gave us about the coal seam and underground stream made a lot of sense. Needless to say we were really disappointed. I had started to rationalize that not finding anything might indicate that they were buried in the nude and just thrown in the hole with no box or winding sheet or anything.
I was in Durham, North Carolina, the other day and I saw a fiddler on the street and I automatically found myself thinking of Ed. I didn’t have to fill in or rearrange much in my imagination to see him there playing on the street — even though this man was standing up, and played nothing like him. Of course when Ed was younger he probably stood up to play all the time like in the Webster Springs picture…dapper and wearing his derby. I always seem to picture Ed sitting down. Another great thrill for me is a young blind fiddler from Jeffersonville, Indiana, named Michael Cleveland who when he plays I can see Ed at nineteen. He stands up so straight he almost looks like he’s gonna fall over backward the way Lawrence said his dad did. When he plays I can’t take my eyes off of him thinking of Ed. Now my friend Matt Combs, who has done a lot of the transcriptions for this book, sits with me and plays Ed’s notes off of the paper, and I play off the top of my head, so in that sense it’s like playing with him.
I guess it’s time to just leave this alone and get back to my study of the fiddle. Maybe get geared up for “Volume Two.” I spend long hours here at the dining room table with my tape recorder and I can hear Lawrence and feel Ed as I try and play my way back into the past. I find that the study of Ed’s music leads me to the study of all music and the way it’s played.
29 Friday Aug 2014
Posted Big Harts Creek, Lincoln County Feudin
28 Thursday Aug 2014
Posted Ed Haley, John Hartford, Musicin
Brandon Kirk, Ed Haley, fiddle, fiddler, fiddling, history, Howdy Forrester, John Hartford, Lawrence Haley, music, Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. South, writing
For me a “tune” is a specific order of notes played by a certain person on a certain day at a certain time and given a certain name and if you want to really pin it down you could include the latitude and longitude of the event. If you were not there to personally witness this happening then the word of some one else is okay as long as you include that in the triangulation so that when you have put out this information you can lean back and say to your listener, “Now…you know as much about it as I do and you can draw your own conclusions.” This works for events and etc. Sometimes these sort of documented rumors are as close as we can get to the truth and it’s better than nothing.
I’ve been thinking about how much Ed probably wouldn’t like to think about a whole lot of what we have put in this book. For sure he didn’t like to talk about it, especially to his family. I guess I don’t blame him — he lived it. It’s easy for us to get into all of it from our totally secure positions here in 2000 knowing what we know. And from the vantage point of our research, there are probably some areas where we know things that Ed never did.
We decided to call this book “The Search for Ed Haley: Volume One” because we know that after it comes out people will be calling us saying, “Well, you didn’t call me,” and “You didn’t get that right,” and no telling what. But then that gives us fuel for Volume Two. Of course there is the chance (and it has crossed my mind) that when this book comes out that some of the old Harts Creek animosities might still be smoldering and some people might feel hurt. God, I hope not. Everybody has encouraged us and said it was time to bring out the truth.
In case you hadn’t figured it out, Brandon wrote most all of this book and I just went through and “Hartfordized” it. Even though I have my name up top, Brandon is the one who did all the work. A typical day for us would be Brandon back in the office transcribing taped interviews, making chapters out of them, and working and reworking the words. Me, I’ll be sitting at the dining room table out in the other room sawing on a fiddle. At first when Brandon would bring me a chapter I would go through it on the laptop and make corrections and reword some things. Then Brandon very quickly caught on to what it was I was after, and after awhile he would bring me chapters and I would just read them in amazement and not do anything to them, and we would just go on. It really is wonderful, ’cause even though we know every word in the book when we read it back we still learn things. “Oh, that’s why that happened that way. Well I’ll be damned.”
I’ve given this story a lot of thought and most of what I’m about to say is from instinct and gut reaction cause we didn’t necessarily have cold hard facts. I think Ed learned a lot from his mother in the period right after his dad’s death when he and her probably spent a lot of time in that cabin hid out together from the community at large and his only contact was through his mother’s family (his grandparents). Ed found a fiddle that his father had left behind (very possibly the one in the photograph which looks home made) and started sawing around on it. His mother in her grief over her late husband was probably all the time whistling and singing the old melodies, most of which he had played, and Ed picked them up much in the way that Howdy Forrester told me he picked up a lot of melodies from his mom’s whistling and singing around the house. They were the melodies Ed and his mother shared. His unusually natural technique developed because he had such a great ear and naturally not being able to see he was not in a position to pick up bad technical habits from other fiddlers. His mother probably coached him much in the same way that Lawrence coached me a hundred years later…saying things like, “That just don’t sound right.” “Pop never played that many notes.” “Pop’s groups of notes were smaller.” But then because we both could see, Lawrence also said things like, “Your bow hold don’t look like Pop’s” and “Pop held his fiddle down here and turned it.”
25 Monday Aug 2014
Posted Big Harts Creek, John Hartford, Lincoln County Feudin
25 Monday Aug 2014
archaeology, Bill Bryant, Bill Mccoy, Billy Adkins, Brandon Kirk, Brownlow's Dream, Cheryl Bryant, Chip Clark, Dale Brown, David Haley, Doug Owsley, Green McCoy, Haley-McCoy grave, Harts Fas Chek, Jimmy McCoy, Joanna Wilson, John Hartford, John Imlay, Lara Lamarre, Lawrence Kirk, Malcolm Richardson, Milt Haley, New York City, Rebecca Redmond, Smithsonian, State Historic Preservation Office, Steve Haley, Ted Park, Ted Timreck
Sometime during the next few months, we decided that the grave exhumation would take place on May 6, 1998. I rolled into the Harts Fas Chek parking lot on the 4th and hung out with Brandon and Billy until after midnight. Steve and David Haley showed up the next day, as did Jimmy and Bill McCoy and their families. It wasn’t long until Doug Owsley arrived with his crew. His team consisted of four people: Malcolm Richardson, (his former boss and) the field supervisor; John Imlay and Dale Brown, chief excavators; and Rebecca Redmond, recorder. Along to chronicle the event was Chip Clark, a professional photographer; Ted Timreck, a video documentary specialist from New York City; and Ted Park, a writer for Smithsonian magazine.
I knew right away that these guys meant business.
We all went up to the grave that evening, but “the dig” didn’t start until early the next morning.
The weather was perfect and the hillside became alive with people. In addition to myself, the Haleys, the McCoys, Brandon, and Owsley’s crew, there was Billy Adkins, Lawrence Kirk, Bill and Cheryl Bryant (the property owners), and Lara Lamarre and Joanna Wilson of the State Historic Preservation Office.
Most of the day was filled with probing, scraping, talking and then — well — more probing, scraping and talking. Within an hour, the diggers verified that it was a single-shaft grave. As the day progressed, it became obvious that the grave was deeper than the estimated two feet.
Actually, it seemed to just keep “going,” causing us realize that the probes had been a bit deceiving.
At some point, Owsley’s diggers bumped into a coal seam, which had a small underground stream beneath it. Rich said the stream was a bad find because it had probably deteriorated Milt and Green’s bodies in its seasonal cycle of drying up and trickling over the last hundred or so years. He still felt, however, that teeth and certain larger bones might be preserved.
Just before nightfall, Rich said it would be best to stop working and cover the hole because it was supposed to rain sometime in the next few hours. Owsley mentioned that we were only inches away from the shaft floor…only inches — and he was sure of it this time. We were all too excited to go to bed, so we gathered around a big fire up by the grave. The Smithsonian folks requested that I play some fiddle tunes. I played “Brownlow’s Dream” and joked to Brandon that it might help “raise” Milt out of the ground. All jokes aside: it was a little spooky up there, in spite of the twenty or so people clustered around the fire. I remember shining my flashlight up the hill toward the grave every now and then just to make sure…
After about a half an hour, rain began to sprinkle on our gathering. We filed off of the hill and settled in to bed in Harts. Brandon and three of his buddies pitched a tent near the grave and spent the night as “guards.” All were descendants of major participants in the 1889 feud: either mobsters or members of the burial party. The rain soon dissipated, creating a starry night, and left them gathered around a fire and talking about the feud that claimed the lives of Milt and Green. It was an incredible night of stories. So many things had come full circle. For Brandon, it was overwhelming to just think about how he had earlier stood at Milt’s and Green’s grave surrounded by many descendants of the feudists. Expectations and anticipation was at a high water mark. Such was the excitement that Brandon and his friends didn’t go to sleep until around 5 a.m. when a heavy rain forced them into their tent.
Unfortunately, the rain came down in buckets during the early hours of the morning and created horrible working conditions for the forensic team. Their crude covering over the grave was no match for the rain, which whipped in from all angles. Most horribly, the rain caused the underground stream to gush forth and fill the bottom of the grave shaft completely.
After only a few frustrating hours of digging through clay, mud, and several inches of water, Owsley concluded that the crew had reached the bottom of the grave. They had not located a single bone, tooth, belt buckle or bullet fragment.
Even when Brandon fetched a cheap metal detector, the diggers couldn’t come up with anything.
Milt and Green were gone.
23 Saturday Aug 2014
Posted Big Harts Creek, Culture of Honor, Ed Haley, Harts, Lincoln County Feudin
Appalachia, archaeology, Brandon Kirk, Haley-McCoy grave, history, John Hartford, Lincoln County, Malcolm Richardson, Smithsonian Institution, West Fork, West Virginia
Just before Christmas, Brandon and I received a letter from Rich, at the Smithsonian, which provided us with some preliminary information on the gravesite:
The burial surface is a large shallow depression in the soil located on a steep slope. The depression is approximately one foot deep. The western side of the burial depression, presumably the head, is marked by two small rock cairns that feature natural upright stone slabs projecting from the tops. The opposite end (foot) is marked by two small rock cairns.
The burial appears to be shallow when probing in the deepest part of the depression, with the burial shaft floor located at a depth of approximately 2 feet.
The shaft is of sufficient size to have accommodated two persons lying side-by-side. It is very shallow, but this may have been due to haste during excavation of the burial pit, or it could have resulted from termination of the efforts of the grave diggers when they encountered the underlying siltstone strata.
Two items that could effect bone preservation were noted: oak trees are in the vicinity of the burial, and the tannin from these leaves can elevate the acid content of the soil; and the presence of some white clay also indicates soil acidity. However, the burial is on a steep slope and located high up near the brow of the ridge. The slope and wind action at that elevation could retard a significant accumulation of leaves. The slope also prevents any significant amount of water from collecting in the burial depression.
The remoteness of the burial site will make it necessary to complete the disinterment in a single day or else provide overnight guards.
20 Wednesday Aug 2014
Posted Big Harts Creek, Culture of Honor, Harts, Lincoln County Feud, Timberin
20 Wednesday Aug 2014
Posted Big Harts Creek, Culture of Honor, Ed Haley, Harts, Lincoln County Feudin
Brandon Kirk, Ed Haley, feud, Green McCoy, Haley-McCoy grave, John Hartford, John Imlay, Lawrence Kirk, Lincoln County Feud, Low Gap, Malcolm Richardson, Melvin Kirk, Milt Haley, Smithsonian, Steve Haley, Walker Family Cemetery, writing
The following morning, Brandon and I met Steve Haley at the bus. Not long afterwards, two men drove up in a white SUV and eased out toward us. The Smithsonian forensic crew had arrived. They were dressed ordinary and casually, except for very “official-looking” black caps adorned with golden seals. The driver, a large man with a rough voice and commanding presence, introduced himself as Malcolm Richardson – or “Rich,” as he preferred to be called. The other fellow, younger than Rich, tall and seemingly jolly, was John Imlay. We almost immediately piled into their vehicle and headed for the grave.
Upon reaching the logging road at Low Gap, Rich decided not to use it to drive up to the grave. Instead, we parked just off the hill near the Walker Family Cemetery and headed up the hill on foot. We were barely there when Lawrence Kirk, who’d shown me the gravesite back in 1993, popped out of the bushes. He’d preferred to “rough it” up the hill, somehow making it up the slope and through the brush in a pair of dress shoes, offering his assistance with any questions Richardson and Imlay might have about the site. It was neat having Lawrence there since his grandfather Melvin Kirk had helped bury Milt and Green in 1889. Steve Haley’s presence also was noteworthy in that it marked the first time, so far as we knew, that any of Ed’s family had ever been to the site. (We don’t know if Ed went there.)
As we watched Rich and Imlay probe their metal rods into the grave, we clung to their every word — every theory, question and comment. I guess it would be fair to say that we were hoping for some kind of “breakthrough revelation” from their probing…but the whole thing was over in about thirty minutes. Still, we were all electrified with excitement. For the rest of the day, we talked about every minute detail of our “probing experience:” the rods, how they worked, what they revealed and so forth. Then came all of the wild theories about what was actually down in the grave. We could hardly wait until spring.
19 Tuesday Aug 2014
Posted Ed Haley, Harts, Holden, Musicin
Arkansas, Arkansas Traveler, Ashland, banjo, Brandon Kirk, Ed Haley, Ella Haley, fiddle, fiddler, fiddling, Grayson, Harts, history, Holden, Jim Tackett, John Hartford, John Tackett, Kentucky, Lincoln County, Logan County, Logan Court House, music, Ohio, Portsmouth, Red River, Reece Tackett, Trace Fork, West Fork, writing
The next day, Brandon and I visited Reece Tackett, a banjo-picker who lived in a nice yellow house just up West Fork. Reece was born in 1909 and raised around Grayson in eastern Kentucky. His grandfather, Jim Tackett, was a fiddler from the Red River area of Arkansas who played for square dances in large farmhouses. He taught Reece’s father, John Tackett, how to play the fiddle. Reece said his father played “the old way — not flashy.” He used a homemade fiddle and “had to go to pine trees to get rosin.” He moved to a farm about nine miles from Grayson, where he made fiddles and played close to home, never as far away as Portsmouth, Ohio.
Reece said he moved to Holden in Logan County when he was sixteen to work with his uncle and brother in the coalmines. He used to watch Ed Haley and his wife play “beautiful” tunes like “Arkansas Traveler” on weekends at the Logan Courthouse. He said Ed wasn’t a big man and had fingers “about like a lead pencil.” His wife played the mandolin.
“She was pretty good on her singing,” Reece said. “She was dressed like the real old ladies. She had the long dress on and the apron.”
Ella kept a cup fastened to herself somehow.
“I’ve tossed many a nickel and dime in their cup,” Reece said.
Sometimes, people would pretend to put money in their cup and then steal from it.
Ed was usually paid about ten or fifteen cents per tune. There were no dollars and most of the coal miners were paid in company script.
Reece said he moved to Harts in 1946 and had no idea that Ed was from Trace Fork or even lived in Ashland.
Writings from my travels and experiences. High and fine literature is wine, and mine is only water; but everybody likes water. Mark Twain
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Genealogy and History in North Carolina and Beyond
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