The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

From Patrick County To Pearl Harbor and Back

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1985

Issue: December, 1985

Pearl Harbor Day - December 7, 1941

Glen Williams and Jess.Glen Williams and Jess.The other day we had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Glen Williams. He grew up in Patrick County, Virginia, but lives in Eden, North Carolina now. He came by and brought us a picture of himself taken in 1937. As he handed over the picture, he laughed and said it was a picture of his "wheels" in those days. As you can see in the photograph accompanying this story, the "wheels" were wagon wheels and the "engine" was a hay eater. The photograph was taken 48 years ago by some tourists who were passing through our area. They sent him a copy when they returned home.

Mr. Williams said he used to work that steer (named Jess) quite often. He cut and drug wood for Lucinda Rorrer and other people in the Jim Hopkins Store area near the old Central Academy. Ellis Lawson made the wagon in the photograph.

The yoke in this picture is a wagon yoke. A regular yoke was bent more. The shaft to the side was to hold back the wagon when going down hill. There was one rein and it was hooked around the steer's horns. The horns were wrapped to keep from cutting into the steer's head. "You could steer Jess easy. I could hang the reins over the plow handle and not steer at all. All I had to do was talk to him," said Mr. Williams.

When using Jess to pull out stumps, a small log was used as a lever, wrapped around chain, then it was twisted like a pipe wrench.

Mr. Williams also hired out to plow orchards back then. His father was "Mudge" Williams. He was a mule skinner who moved from West Virginia to Fries, Virginia and helped build the cotton mill there.

Glen Williams joined the army and December 7, 1941 found him stationed in beautiful, tropic Hawaii at Schofield. He and friends had been up all night playing pool at the Army Navy Y.M.C.A. in Honolulu. They heard planes go over and explosives started going off. There was mass confusion. No one knew what was happening. He and his friends caught a bus to the base and saw machine gun fire tearing up the road behind them. They could see smoke barreling up on the horizon. It was hard to believe they were actually under attack.

Back at the base, they were issued rifles and shot from the ground at approaching planes. Mr. Williams was scheduled to come home in 1942, but after Pearl Harbor, he didn't get home until October of 1945.

Glen Williams made a career of the Army and retired in 1962. From there he settled on a farm on the Upper Brush Creek section of Grayson County, land he later sold to become part of the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area.

Glen Williams has seen a lot of the world and been a part of our nation's history in the years that have passed since that picture was taken in 1937. We've all read about Pearl Harbor and seen movies about it, but it was very interesting indeed to sit and listen to someone talk about it who was there.