The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge


By Ernest F. Reynolds © 1989

Issue: September, 1989

In the summer of 1933, the traffic on the bridge-ramp to the Matoka Skating Rink was becoming dangerous. Narrowly escaping pedestrians, loud yelling drivers and screeching tires often left rink patrons in shock, a heartbeat from Armageddon. A simple solution - take out alternative planks, then cantilever. All free loading kinsmen were under doctor's order: "Don't lift anything heavier than a soup spoon."

Deciding to operate, Ernie pulled out every fifth plank, replacing them with longer planks. His malingering cousins took off like a covey of quail. Something had to be done, and quick. Ernie posted his supernumerary - his Papa, Deputy Reynolds.

As they raced against opening time, a woman awaited. Her husband, Clarence, a self employed rooster retriever, could stuff more chickens in a sack than Santa could toys. He'd run them through a stovepipe, and market them back to the original owner. Ernie's Papa, Deputy Reynolds, had gotten this chicken snatcher in and out of jail several times. The sweating lawman remarked, "That woman must want me to get her husband out again. I've done it my last time. I'll leave that chicken rustler in jail 'til his toenails grow through the bars."

Deputy Reynolds was of Virginia Gentleman breed. If handcuffing a woman, he first doffed his hat. With hat off, he approached the waiting wife, "Are you waiting to see me?" he inquired.

She said meekly, "Bill, I gotta ask you to go get Clarence again."

The polite Deputy delivered a tirade that would have blushed a mule driver, reflecting on Clarence's morals, and uselessness, he said, "He's jist out of jail enough to keep you with child. What in the name of Caesar have they got him for, and where are they holding him?"

"They've got him for Appendicitis this time, and they're holding him at Memorial Hospital," she blubbered and cried.

Ernie had to steady his Papa to keep him from falling through the open bridge. Facial color changing like a traffic flasher, he at last composed himself. Handing keys to the sobbing woman, he said, "Get right in my car. As soon as I wash up and change shirts, we'll go get Clarence. He has always been one of my favorites. There's nothing I wouldn't do for that boy. Anytime is the right time for me." Ernie shook his papa violently, fearing he might pay for dear Clarence's operation.

Ernie needled the Deputy continually about jailing folks for their ailments. He would ask, "How much time you think Judge McGrath would give a fella for lumbago," or "Is being ruptured a felony or misdemeanor?" Ernie told the story to the Deputy's cronies, instructing them to pass it on.

Try as hard as he might, that was one Deputy that couldn't bring himself to laughter about Clarence's latest ride home.