May's folks, at
that time, were living in Mock Hollow, with shacks on both
sides of the one lane, dirt road that ran up between two
good sized mountains. The shacks were kind of close
together, with outhouses behind them, straddling a small
creek (the most modern sewage system in them thar hills).
For drinking water, there was either a spring up the road or
a nearby well.
When a car or pickup truck came up the hollow, the residents
would look out their windows or stand on their porches and
gape at the intruders as they drove by. Of course, the road
only went as far as the last house, less than a quarter mile
up the holler. The only way that you could get out was to
either back out or drive a little ways past the last house
to a wide place in the road. You had to pull up and back up
until you got turned around.
You could pull up close to the creek beside May's mother's
house, than back up and get turned around. You had to be
real careful not to bump the outhouse, because if you did,
you would knock it off the cinder blocks that it sat on.
Thank God, I didn't have to take any of old Chief Eagle
Eye's Elixir that winter because with snowdrifts over three
feet high, I would never have made it to the outhouse in
time to keep me from nastying my britches.
Being busted and the weather on my side, I decided to let
Blaine, one of May's brothers, wanted to go with me, so we
made some sandwiches, fixed thermos bottles of coffee, took
some blankets (just in case), got in the Ford and took off
towards Coeburn and Norton, about sixty miles north.
The reason I decided to go in that direction was because I
had talked to a coal truck driver in town and he told me
that the state had just passed a new
law that required all commercial vehicles (including coal,
wood, log and fuel trucks) to have the owner's name,
address, gross and empty weight lettered on the doors and
sides of their trucks.
Back then, I could letter both doors, plus the weight on
both sides of the truck in less than half an hour. Like I
hoped, the trucks were lined up at the tipples, loading
coal, mostly without lettered doors.
After I knocked out the first one, the news spread that
there was a sign painter in the area. The truckers came from
all directions, wanting to have their trucks lettered. What
a bonanza that was!
We decided to check out Sunday morning and go back home,
work had slacked off a little. As we were having supper, a
guy walked over to our table and asked if I was the man that
painted the signs. I answered, "yes, sir."
He said, "I have
a wholesale grocery company just south of town. I have two
trucks and some windows that I would like to have signs
painted on. Do you paint on windows?"
I answered, "I sure do! But my nephew and I are going home
for the weekend and I don't know when we'll be back up here
He said. "I've got to get those trucks lettered. They've
already fined me a hundred dollars for not having signs on
them and the fines will be a lot higher if I don't get them
lettered by the end of the month."
The weather was clear and dry and the moon was full and
bright. I said, "In that case, if I can get some lights,
I'll letter the trucks tonight." He told me he would go on
down to the wholesale warehouse and rig up some lights for
me to work by. He said, "When you get through eating, come
on down, it's only about a half a mile from here."
Blaine and I had passed by it several times and I knew where
it was. After we finished eating, we drove down to the
warehouse. He and his night watchman had rigged up enough
lights to light up a football field.
I started lettering the trucks and an hour and a half later
I was through and he said, "Can you see good enough to do
the windows? I can get more lights if you need 'em."
The front windows were lighted real good, so I banged them
out in a couple more hours. When I was finished, he asked me
how much he owed me.
I said, "Fifty each for the trucks and fifty for each
window, that's two hundred but owing to the fact that you
have a wholesale grocery company, how about a hundred cash
and a hundred in groceries?"
He handed me the yard and took me and Blaine to the
warehouse and showed us around. He then told his hired man
to get a dolly to load the groceries on and asked me what I
Well, I think the guy miscounted or was so pleased to get
his work done, he gave me a few items more than we bargained
for. We wound up with a case of canned milk, two slabs of
bacon, a fifty pound bag of pinto beans, two twenty five
pound bags of self-rising flour, a five gallon can of lard,
a case of corn, a case of peas, a case of tomatoes, a case
of green beans, two five pound bags of sugar plus fifty
pounds of potatoes and a bag of onions. It was all we could
do to pack the stuff in the back seat and trunk of the car.
The man thanked me again and we drove back to the motel, had
a cup of coffee and a piece of pie and hit the sack at about
Early the next morning, after breakfast, I handed Blaine all
the singles that I had, about sixty dollars. His eyes opened
wide and he said, "Is this all mine?" I replied, "Yep, you
helped me, didn't you?
That's your pay for cleaning the brushes and washing the
truck doors." With a big smile, he stuck the sixty bucks in
his pocket and we took off for home.
To be Continued