The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Sawmill Sutphin

By Bob Heafner © 1986

Issue: December, 1986

Young "Sawmill" Sutphin.Young "Sawmill" Sutphin.We've all probably heard stories of the ingenuity that is as much a part of mountain folks character as their frugal nature or as trout streams are to mountain hollows. Now some folks will try to tell you that mountain ingenuity is dead, but don't make up your mind about it until after you've read this story.

G.W. "Junior" Sutphin has spent most of his 50 years roaming over the hills and hollows around Laurel Fork, Virginia. As a sawmill owner, horse trade, cattle farmer, truck trader and car swapper, he's about as well know in these parts as the jokes he tells. He's one of those rare people that always bring smiles with them when they come through the door. It has been my pleasure to occasionally share laughs with "Junior" over cups of coffee in local eating establishments for many years now and he never fails to let a little bit of his constant good humor rub off on me before we go our separate ways. He is no doubt the epitome of the term "good ole boy."

Over the years "Junior" has earned a reputation as being an honest, but shrewd trader. Anyone that knows him will attest that he is generous to a fault, but he's not one to throw money away. His frugal nature was emphasized when "Junior" was called by the telephone company regarding how he wanted his telephone listed in the directory this year.

The lady explained to "Junior" that if he wished to list his sawmill business in the telephone directory; there would be an additional charge that "Junior" felt was rather high. After a rather short discussion regarding business listings, the lady asked if he wanted any changes made to his regular listing. Since "Junior's" telephone has always been listed under his initials only (G.W. Sutphin, Jr.) in the directory, the lady suggested he might want to include his nickname in the listing. She assured him there would be no extra charge for this standard service.

Without being there, I can't tell you for sure exactly what happened next, but knowing "Junior", I've got a pretty good idea. There was a pause in the conversation (at least on "Junior's" end of the line). The wheels of "Junior's" mind were silently put into gear and started on a headlong race of wits with "Ma Bell" (or at least her local counterpart). Without sounding too anxious, he then probably said something like this:

"Say it won't cost any extra to put my nickname on there?" Then after being assured that there would be no additional charge, he probably said, "Well, go ahead and put my nickname on it then." Next, after allowing the lady time to ask him what his nickname was, he definitely said, "Sawmill."

The next time you get a chance to thumb through the Carroll County telephone directory, look under Sutphin and there you will find "Sutphin, G.W. "Sawmill" Jr." I'm glad it worked for you "Sawmill" and I'm more'n a little jealous. But, to my way of thinking, you ought to be thankful that you're not in the "out house" building business!