The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Expensive Joke

By Jeffrey Rowan Lockhart © 1987

Issue: February, 1987

To Editor Susan Thigpen,

The story is enclosed from my great aunt Myrtle (grandfather Papa John's sister). I've kept it as original as possible, the edits minimal. Aunt Myrtle was born Myrtle Tee Jane Lockhart on May 18, 1890 in Buncombe County, North Carolina (Asheville), the first child of Kenion Rufus Lockhart (born September 15, 1862 in Greenville, South Carolina) and Effie Emma Peace (born July 31 1873 in Buncombe County, North Carolina). Father Kenion Rufus worked on the construction of the gigantic Biltmore House in Asheville. He proved to be a top notch mechanic, supervising the steam generating plant that hoisted materials to the upper levels of the mansion.

Soon after he was offered a job as superintendent of a water pumping station on the Yadkin River; pumping water to cool the steam locomotives on the Southern Railway Lines. A good paying job at $40.00 a month, it included railroad housing and use of a velocipede (Myrtle pronounced it "Floss A Pea") transporting himself and work tools up and down the surrounding tracks of Salisbury Spencer, North Carolina.

Myrtle of course moved with the family and while in the area met Hayden Kenerly. They were wed in 1910 and Myrtle for years saved a small strip of material from the wedding dress and a pair of tiny photos of herself taken just before the wedding. While digging through a shoe box one day, she pulled out these items saying I could have them for safekeeping. They are at my side today.

Hayden was employed by the Southern Railroad as yardmaster in Salisbury and for a short distance rode on the Franklin D. Roosevelt funeral train coming through from Georgia.

Myrtle outlived Hayden and remained in Spencer until the late 1960's when she could no longer live alone. I remember her saying she slept with a loaded pistol under her pillow if intruders unexpectedly called.

She moved for the last time to the seacoast region of northeastern North Carolina living with her sister Frances Almoth Scholz and Frances' companion Jane Reynolds. Myrtle loved to fish and was fascinated by snakes. One sunny morning we were walking together and she quickly pointed with her walking cane at a fat black snake slithering in a hedge bush. She excitedly exclaimed, "Look at that SN-EH-K!" using authentic Scottish brogue. It was the lone link of her spoken dialectal ancestry.

Myrtle treated people with love and kindness, passing good thoughts on to all, a true Christian. She was very active in church and community and every Christmas mailed our family a box of homemade sugar cookies. We really looked forward to receiving those crunchy cookies wrapped in wax paper. As a child in the early 1930's, my father, John Lockhart visited Myrtle and Hayden during the summer and remembers her superb cooking. Rolled and cut biscuits, flaky peach turnovers and moist fried chicken were big specialties.

Before leaving Spencer, Myrtle dug up a little Mississippi Giant pecan sprout and placed it in a gallon tin can. Frances Almoth carried the tree by car to Currituck County, North Carolina where it was set out by Papa John Lockhart and me. This tree bears excellent nuts when the season is right and grows today tall and strong.

The following was handwritten by Myrtle Kenerly and edited and preserved by Jeffery Lockhart:

Expensive Joke
Prank Cost Farmer Hundred Pounds Of Flour

An uncle of mine living in the country taught himself a good lesson about trying to scare people many years ago.

He left the house one autumn night to hunt 'possums but found it too windy for the dogs to trail so returned to the house much earlier than he was expected. It gave him the idea of giving his wife and sister a burglar scare. Walking up to the front door he demanded admittance in a gruff voice. His wife and sister moved a dresser in front of the door and ordered him away. He then went to the side door but on finding it locked finally made an entrance through the window.

Still determined to carry out his joke he seized the only thing of value in sight, 100 pounds of flour he had bought from the mill that morning. As he climbed out of the window he lost his balance and both he and the sack of flour fell into the rain barrel. After he had begged his wife to let him in the house so he could get dry clothes he promised her never to try to scare her again.