One of my wife’s granddaddies, “Pap,” as his children used to call him, was raised atop the Great Smokey Mountains in Avery County. Pap came up the hard way, as did most of the mountain people of his time. Ol’ Pap had come from good stock as his father lived up to be 103 and had walked to town and back the day he died.
As with most mountain people, Pap got married young and set right in to raising a family. While the young’uns were still young, he took ‘em all up to the falls of Elk River and pushed them in. Said didn’t none of them drown least wise they all showed back up at the supper table.
Well times got hard in the 1930s all over the country, especially in the mountains. There weren’t no paying jobs to be had. Pap had always worked around sawmills and farmed but there wasn’t no money to be had in either job. So Pap had done what a lot of mountain people did and that was making moonshine. He did this to feed and clothe his family. The revenuers were always sneaking around but Ol’ Pap hid his still under the house, stacked wood around it and ran the smoke out his chimney. The revenuers came up one day when Pap wasn’t at home and told his youngest daughter they would give her a stick of candy if she’d tell them where Pap’s still was. Why, she wouldn’t open her mouth, ‘cause she knew Pap would tan her if she told.
Pap stayed in the moonshine business for awhile, but figured he was gonna get caught. He found out he could get a job in West Virginia working in the coal mines so he made his way up north without his family. He got himself a job learning how to set off dynamite way down in them mines.
Things went good for awhile, but one day Pap got caught in an explosion. Timbers fell all around him but Pap got lucky. It didn’t kill him but one of the timbers crushed his arm. The doctors wanted to take it off because the bone was crushed but Pap would have none of that. Told them to take out the bone but leave his arm alone. They told him he would never have any use of his bad arm but Ol’ Pap proved them wrong. Why he could wrap that bad arm around you and you couldn’t get loose. Somehow he’d get 50 pounds of flour on one shoulder and 50 pounds of sugar on the other and carry them up the mountain to his home.
Yep, Ol’ Pap sure did come from good stock.