Them Thar' Hills


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, because
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 again."

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 wanted.

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 ten o'clock.

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



Posted here courtesy of Midway Publications - Copyright 1999 William T. Usher All rights reserved


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