The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Growing Up On Tuggles Creek - Stories

By YKW © 1983

Issue: November, 1983

The Deserter's Cabin

About a quarter of a mile below our house on Tuggle's Creek, old timers pointed out what remained of a "deserter's cabin". This was well hidden in huge ivies (Mountain Laurel) only a few feet from the creek. About all that was left were two huge flat rocks that probably served as the hearth stones, a pile of smaller rocks used to build the chimney and a pile of dirt resulting from leveling the floor. As a kid, I used to let my imagination run wild about it's one time occupants. The logs of which it was built had long since rotted away. The cabin perhaps was just one big room with a dirt floor and no windows.

While it was called a "deserter's cabin", the name was a misnomer for the men who occupied it had probably never been to war, but were simply evading going. Nor could they be called "draft dodgers" because, actually, there wasn't a draft as such. Soldiers were taken by conscription and these men had evaded that process. They probably said like the Viet Nam evaders, Hell No! I won't go!"

Why should they? They had heard the war was about something called slavery and the nearest slaves they'd ever heard of were miles away. Besides, most of them were practically slaves themselves to a very, very hostile environment.

Just how many men occupied the cabin will never be known. Doubtless, they eked out a living by hunting and fishing and by food brought in by their kinfolks. I suppose it is very likely that there are many people living today who are descendants of those Civil War deserters. But if so, they have nothing to fear about family disgrace, for they all vanished without leaving the slightest bit of trace as to who they were.

You Can Lead A Horse To Water

One morning that must have been a Sunday or a holiday, my dad mentioned that he was going to water the horses. I tagged along and we went up the steep hill to the old barn. Dad picked up a bridle by the headstall and reins but was so deeply engrossed in telling some tale that he completely forgot about the horse. He started down the path to the watering trough still talking and carrying the bridle. I walked along, struggling to suppress a giggle

On and on we went til we reached the watering trough and then I said, "Dad, where's your horse?" He looked down at the empty bridle rather sheepishly and said, "Why did you let me walk all the way down here without my horse?"

I couldn't have blamed him if he had thrashed me good and hard with that bridle, iron bit and all. Instead, he just handed me the bridle and said, "Well son, since you're so danged smart, suppose you go get the horse!" I did but I still have to chuckle over how he looked when he first missed the horse.

Uncle Henry's Coffee

My Dad used to tell a tale about the time he and several other men were having dinner with my great uncle Henry and his wife Eliza. All the meats and vegetables were cooked and put on the table, spread for a veritable feast. Aunt Eliza then poured the coffee which proved to be exceptionally weak. So Uncle Henry said, in his slow drawl with no intention what so ever of making a pun, "Lize, next time you make water, just don't make it in the coffee pot!"

Elmer's Lullaby

Up Tuggle's Creek fully a mile from our house lived another R.F.D. carrier named Elmer Cassell. He had several kids and he just loved to sing them to sleep on late summer evenings. Believe it or not, on a still evening, we could distinctly make out the words of the Primitive Baptist hymns he was singing at the time even though it was a mile away. How a kid would go to sleep with such a loud noise was beyond us. Well, Elmer's theory was that if a kid went to sleep to loud singing, no noise, no matter how loud would wake him up and I suppose he must have been right.


Some people used to tell a story about a little man who devised a scheme to avoid the work of growing corn. He lived, they say, way on down Tuggle's Creek on a very steep hillside. This little man was only about five and one-half feet tall and very slender but when he went to the store, he bought size 44 overalls.

Wearing these oversize bib overalls, he would walk through a neighbors corn field, yank off an ear or two here and there and slip it in the bib of his overalls, which were securely tied at his ankles with fodder twine.

Thus "Corny", as he was appropriately called, could enter a corn field weighing 135 pounds and emerge weighing 185 pounds with a full bushel of corn to feed his family!