The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Night They Burned Buck Hubbard's Barn

By Earl G. Irwin © 1989

Issue: February, 1989

(This story took place sometime between 1915 and 1917 in Floyd County, Virginia. Clark was my father-in-law and during the few short years I knew him, he would tell many tales, but never any about himself. Clark died in 1982 at the age of 86. So, after giving this story some thought, I decided to write it out. Clark was also Ivalien [Hylton] Belcher's uncle. I hope this will bring a few memories and laughs to those who knew Clark Bolt.)

Buck Hubbard had a small farm on Slate Mountain, a small comfortable house, a barn which was a short walk from the house, pig pen, chicken house and a spring - everything one needed to run a small farm back then. Near the top of Slate Mountain, Buck had a small barn that was used to store hay and straw. It was this barn burning that became the talk of the county and even had a song written about it.

Down the road from the Hubbard's lived the Bolt family, Mr. and Mrs. Bolt, her five daughters and four sons. They were good neighbors and like all farmers, helped each other harvest their crops.

Clark Bolt was a tall lanky youth that was well known and well liked. He had a charisma about him that when people met him they liked him. He also had the ability to get into a little trouble now and then like young boys will naturally do growing up.

One Saturday night Clark and his friend Ben Whorley were sitting under a large maple tree sharing a half gallon of local brew, distilled somewhere on the Buffalo Mountain. (This brew was better known as moonshine.)

As they sat sipping on the moonshine, it came to them that they were hungry, and they talked of some of the great chicken dinners their mothers had cooked. Then, all of a sudden it came upon them that they needed at that very time to have a chicken dinner. Putting two heads together they then came to the conclusion that if they rescued a chicken from the confinement of Buck Hubbard's chicken house, they could have a chicken dinner.

Each taking a good healthy sip of shine, they were off on their mission to rescue one chicken. Needless to say, the chicken rescue mission was a success, toasting each other with a good drink of shine. Now they needed to kill, clean and cook the chicken. The two great minds again came together and with the help of the Buffalo Mountain brew, they decided to go to the school house just across the road, take the school water bucket, fill it with water from the school pump, then go to Buck Hubbard's barn on top of Slate Mountain, build a fire and cook the chicken.

As they were pumping the water into the bucket, two local girls came walking down the road. They inquired of the two boys what they were up to. Clark and Ben filled their ears with the story of the outstanding chicken dinner of the century. The boys invited them to come along. The girls laughed and giggled, but after sharing a sip or two or three of Clark's and Ben's Buffalo Mountain brew, they laughed and giggled all the more, but decided to go along with the boys and share the chicken dinner.

Arriving at Buck Hubbard's barn, for some unknown reason, known only to the two future chicken chefs of the world, they built a fire in the middle of the floor of the barn. In no time at all they had a roaring fire going, the water boiling in the bucket, and in less time than it takes to read this story, a naked, headless chicken roasting on a stick over an open fire. Taking turns holding the chicken and sipping Buffalo Mountain brew, everyone was laughing and giggling.

In a few short hours, the chicken dinner of the century was consumed along with the Buffalo Mountain brew, and everyone went home with a full belly and a light head, laughing and giggling.

Sometime during the night, the fire the boys built to cook the chicken caught the hay on fire and by sunrise, Buck Hubbard's barn was no more, like the roasted chicken - it was gone forever.

When Clark and Ben heard of the fire, they again put their heads together and decided that it was time to become world travelers; they went as far as Illinois, working as hired hands on a farm. After some time had passed, they thought that maybe things had settled down back home and that it was now safe for them to return, they sat and talked about that night they roasted the chicken, laughing and giggling.

Shortly after arriving home, they were arrested and fined $15.00 each, a small sum for the chicken dinner of the century, a few drinks of Buffalo Mountain brew, and the company of two lovely ladies.

A few years ago when Clark Bolt was 84, I asked him to tell me about the night they burned Buck Hubbard's barn. He only looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and laughed and giggled.