By Wayne Easter © 2015
Online: January, 2015
If you traveled the foothills of the Blue Ridge in the 1930s, you probably met him unless he wished otherwise. He was corn-fed, creek-baptized, and lean as a fishing pole, wore brogans, bib overalls, a black floppy hat, had a long black beard, carried a shotgun as big as a cannon, and was mean as a snake when "messed with." He lived close to the land, forecasted his own weather; knew when rain was coming and how much snow was coming in winter. He knew when fish would bite best, what kind and where, and knew for a fact: spring would come again, the summer rains would come at the right time, and all would be well with the world, whatever happened.
His handshake was his word and he brewed the best corn likker' on God's Green Earth. "Them Revenoors" were the enemy and he liked nothing better than matching wits with "them you know whats." If they happened to stumble on his still place, the still was long-gone and he was already cooking in another holler'. He was king of his castle, (such as it was) swung a mean hickory switch, and his kids walked the straight and narrow. He chopped wood with a double-bladed axe, hunted, fished, and grew corn in the same fields his ancestors dug out of the woods at the beginning of time.
His foxhounds were his pride and joy and many were the nights he listened to Old Blue run a fox three miles away in the mountain side: the best music known to mankind. Old Betsy was his shotgun and his best friend; he hunted with it, ate with it, and when Mama was on the warpath, he slept with it. For two weeks a year, he "broke up Christmas" with a jug of "the best stuff you ever seen," and danced the night away until sunup. At Christmas time, he made his own fireworks by shooting Old Betsy into the air at nothing. Any doubts about him being a tough old bird were dismissed on the last day of December, when he and his pals loaded themselves with some "Mountain Moon," and celebrated the coming of the New Year by going skinny-dipping in an ice-cold Stewart's Creek at the stroke of midnight.
You ask, "Who was this Legend? He was what flatlanders called a Mountaineer. He may have been our Pa, our Grandpa, or maybe our Great Grandpa: a rough, tough character from the hills who was afraid of nothing except his wife, and would give you the shirt off his back if you were in need, or maybe just for the heck of it. He spent his entire life within sight of the place he was born, and had no desire to see the world, because he already lived in Paradise, as far as he was concerned. One of his greatest joys was watching the seasons change, and best of all was watching wild geese fly north in early February, which told him Spring was on the way again.
Let's hope and pray that maybe, just maybe, some of those traits rubbed off on us, and let's never forget those who came before us: to whom we owe so much.