Who is this Witch that you speak of?

This week’s post is Chapter three as we go through our book. We begin to notice each boy’s personality and watch as their relationship develops. Mark, the class bully, also begins to take his place in our tale. You may also notice a subtle Christian overtone has begun to develop; as a former pastor, I tend to weave Faith in all my work, including the short stories.

In this chapter, “Stick” tells the boys of the Legend of the Witch, and we see each of them react differently.

As you read, try to put yourself in their place; think back to your childhood and the politics of the lunchroom. Note the drone of voices and noise of a busy kitchen. If you try hard enough, you may even catch a faint whiff of food.

I had very much hoped for your feedback, so please let me know what you think. Where can it be improved, what works and what doesn’t? It’s a short read, and I would truly appreciate it.

Chapter 3

                               “Who is this witch that you speak of?”

As soon as we opened the lunchroom door, we met a deafening racket. The large room was, as usual, crammed wall to wall with people. Countless voices stacked one on top of the other, clamoring for food and attention, masses coming and going—all this noise accompanied by the clinking and clanking of pots and pans and utensils banging against trays.

The line was huge, wrapping along the wall and ending at the door. From the back, we heard, “Make a hole, make a hole,” as Mark and his crew came shovin’ their way through the line. Those who didn’t move outta the way were unceremoniously shoved to the side. As he walks past me, he makes sure to plant a sharp slap to the back of my head, hard enough to make my ears ring. Gotta be quick, Miller.

I didn’t even get the courtesy of a sideways glance.

“Cool!” Yelled Stick. “Chicken over cornbread! That’s it, no trades.” He was quick to point the “no trades” clause out.

“That’s fine with me,” I muttered as I rubbed the new knot growin’ on the back of my head.

“I like it good enough,” said David, “But the white beans are the best in my book.”

“Oh dude,” whined Chucky, “Peaches again? I hate those things, they’re all slimy and crap—cain’t even cut ‘em without ‘em jumpin’ off the tray.”

“I’d be glad to take ‘em off yer hands friend,” David spoke up, laying claim to the peaches before Chucky finished his sentence, ensuring he didn’t have a chance to rethink his comment.

At the head of the line sat Mrs. Tuttle, her neck bent and glarin’ at her ledger like Scrooge over numbers. She looked up but just briefly as each kid filed by, making certain to give each tray a thorough examination. All this and never speaking a word.  She didn’t have to.  She knew each kid by name, including address and phone number.

You can always spot the ones with money.  They usually strut through the lunchroom, extra milks proudly on display. Some have as many as three or four stacked on their trays. Once all that food gets gobbled down, and all that milk guzzled, they prance about the room once again, ice cream proudly stuffed into their gapin’ maws.

Ice cream is expensive, a luxury reserved exclusively for the absolute elite. They’re out of reach of normal kids at fifty cents apiece. Most are content with simply watchin’ this spectacle, all the while hoping that daing ice cream hits the floor.

Once we have our trays, we each scan the room for seats. You gotta be careful here as well. Certain groups sit in certain areas; that’s just the way it is.

Without a word, Dave bows his big ol’ head and begins Grace. I’ve never seen him put a bite of food in his mouth without blessin’ it first. The rest of us follow suit, just in case the ol’ boy knows something that we don’t. Quick as amens were said, he raised his head and leaned over to grab Chuckie’s peaches.

Chucky raised his hand, stopping those big sausage fingers. “Slow down, Tonto, you’re gonna get ‘em.  You’re gonna get ‘em.”

Dave looks at him, confused, and mumbles, “Well, I don’t want you gittin’ any of yer slobbers on ‘em.  Might ruin the flavor.”

“Let me tell you somethin’,” replied Chucky, “I can promise you that these peaches were rernt long before they was set on this plate.”

Stick stopped eating for a second and looked up from his tray. “I’ve tried to get mom to fix this at home. She said it sounds nasty; the only thing that should go on cornbread is butter.”

“Not at my house,” I pointed out. “Papaw eats his with milk and molasses says it’s the only way to go.”

Chucky looked up with wonder in his eye. He flipped his spoon around, using it as a pointer. “Have you ever wondered what they do with the rest of that mole?”

David looked up, confused. “Mole? What mole?”

“You know, the rest of the mole, the mole. When they make a jar of mole-asses, what do they do with the rest of the mole?”

Big David stopped mid-chew, almost like he blew a fuse.

“Oh…I git it. That’s a good one friend!”

There it is. This time, I was sure I saw teeth in that smile. Stick and I both shook our heads. Some stuff was simply too stupid to waste a good comment on.

Stick’s not one to give up the floor once he gits yer attention.

“Did yun’z hear about what happened to Scott Porter’s big brother?”

“He tried to take his ol’ lady up to the Leech Cemetery.”

We all stopped; a collective “What?” filled the group.

“Yep, I reckon he was gonna try and impress her or somethin’.”

Ok.  He had me. “What happened?” I asked.

“What do you think happened? Both of ‘em came runnin’ out, screamin’ to beat all hell! That’s what happened.”

“Yeah, right,” I scoffed. “Mr. and Mrs. Cool scared of a graveyard? Yer dreamin’.”

“That’s just what I heard,” he replied.

“Ain’t nobody that dumb,” replied Chucky. “Everybody knows to stay outta there at night. Besides, what’s the point in takin’ a dumb ol’ girl up to a graveyard in the middle of the night anyways? All that fuss, just so you can stick your head into an old headstone and ask some stupid question? I don’t think so.”

“To get an answer, I s‘pose,” answered Stick.

“Answer to what man? And why? Just sounds stupid to me, that’s all.”

David looked up from his peaches. “What are yun’z talkin’ about anyways, all this graveyard and headstone nonsense?”

Even though we had all four grew up hearing the story. Stick was only too happy to tell us all again, with a good bit of himself added in for good measure.

“The way I heard, it goes like this. You see, back nearly a hundred years or so, there was this old woman who lived up around Sinkin’ Creek. I don’t think nobody knew her name for sure. Most folk just called her Wilmide. She lived in the opening of an old spent mine shaft, along with an old one-eyed dog.

“Folks said she s’posed to wear clothes she wove from the hair of whatever animals she ate. She even wore a hat made from chicken feathers and stuff like that. And a necklace that had chicken feet tied to it to boot. Papaw said that if you wanted a love potion, or maybe somebody had wronged you, or even a hex, or somethin’ like that, she was the one to go see. But she wasn’t gonna do it fer free.”

David couldn’t stand this silliness any longer, finally blurting out, “If she didn’t have no use fer foldin’ money, what did a body pay her with then?”

Stick raised his hand, putting him in his place before continuing, “I’m gittin’ there; I’m gittin’ there. Hold ye horses.”

“Papaw said you could bring her anythin’ from dead chickens to dead goats. The deader, the better. What kind depended on what you were askin’ her to do. The bigger the hex, the bigger the price.

“Then came a nasty cold winter, cold like folk around here never seen before. Snow so deep, they say a horse’s belly would rub raw against it. It was durin’ such a winter as this a young lady came to pay the ol’ witch a visit, there she told her story, a truly sad story.

“She said, her ol’ man worked the hooty owl over at the Blue Diamond. At least that’s what he told her he was doin.’ But he was lyin’, ya see. He went and had himself a woman on the side. Nobody knows for sure who she was. Some folk say the mayor’s wife or maybe the sheriff’s; it was anybody’s guess. To make matters even worse, he went and had himself a baby with that woman, whoever she was.

“If that weren’t bad enough, his wife had a baby of her own to tend to, a little baby at that. Well, he was stayin’ gone all the time, sayin’ he was at that mine, workin’ and such. But, even ‘workin’’ as much as he said he was, he wasn’t takin’ proper care and providin’ for his family. Blamed it on the hours at the mine, I reckon.

“One night, it got cold, I mean icy cold, in that ol’ cabin. There weren’t no coal for heat, so that poor little baby up and froze to death. Of course, this drove the wife nuttier than a squirrel turd. Somehow, she had heard through the grapevine about Ol’ Wilmide, and in her terrible grief, took a mind to go see her.

“She wanted revenge on her husband in the worst kinda way, no matter the cost. And she wanted double for the woman he was seein’ as well. She felt she deserved that woman’s baby to make up for the one who died ‘cause of the cold. But old Wilmide asked for a hefty price; she wanted that baby fer herself.

“Why an old woman would want a baby, nobody knows. But the woman was so mad and so wild with grief, she agreed to the old woman’s terms. So, hands were shook, and the deal was done.

“Wasn’t long after that there was a massive cave-in at the Blue Diamond. Twenty-three men lost their lives in that horrible disaster, includin’ the woman’s husband. Mine explosion, they said. Some died right away; them was the lucky ones. The others lingered for some time, days even, until finally, the air ran out. A few even managed to scribble death letters to their families.

“The man’s girlfriend went crazy with grief. I reckon she couldn’t live with his dyin’ and all. So, one cold dark night, she went and jumped to her death over at the bluffs. That same night, the man’s wife found that little baby sittin’ there on her front porch, near froze to death, no note nor nothin’.”

Big David interrupted, “I thought you said the ol’ woman was gonna git that baby.”

“I’m gittin’ there, I’m gittin’ there,” Replied Stick.

“Well, word got out amongst the townfolk, and like it usually does, gossip turned to panic. They just knew it was Ol’ Wilmide’s hex that killed all those brave men. The town leaders put a hangin’ mob together, and they took off up the mountain to git the old witch.

“There they found her, sittin’ in that ol’ mine, the one-eyed dog by her side. I reckon she knew they was comin’ cause all’s she said was, ‘Come on in boys and warm ye’self over by the fire a spell.’ When they made their way over to the warm fire, one of ‘em heard the faint cry of a baby. There by the fire, they found an old basket. In that basket lay that ladies’ baby, wrapped in animal skins.”

The excitement was getting to Chucky, “What did they do, what did they do?”

“I’m gittin’ there, I’m gittin’ there, hold your horses.”

“First, they grabbed the ol’ witch, bound her, hand and foot, with iron cuffs, ‘cause everybody knows a witch cain’t escape from iron bindins. Then they went over to the hearth to gather up that baby. Lo and behold, they was no baby there, but over to the side, they seen that ol’ basket held tight in the jaws of that one-eyed dog. They tried to catch it, but it went runnin’ up the holler. Search parties looked high and low, but the baby and the ol’ dog was nowhere to be found.

“They tied that ol’ woman behind a couple of horses and dragged her all the way into town. That’s where the men beat her to the point of death, even tortured her with hot brandin’ irons and everything. Still, she wouldn’t tell ‘em where the dog or the baby was, not even if her hex was to blame for the cave-in.

“It didn’t matter how much they beat her; she just laid there, laughin’ at ‘em. Through all that torture, she never uttered a single solitary word.

“They built a hangin’ post right then and there, and that’s where they hung her, right smack in the middle of town. Some folk say she never stopped laughin’, even as she hung there, swingin’ in the wind. But at the stroke of midnight, she went silent and limp as a carp.

“Now, everybody knows, you cain’t bury a witch on holy ground, so, they picked a spot way out back of Leech Cemetery. Just outside the fence so’s not to be sinful. Then they sealed her body in an iron box so’s she couldn’t escape and buried her there with nary a single marker.

“Some folk say they seen a big dog standin’ on the next ridge, watchin’ the whole burial. And when the first shovel of dirt fell, that dog began to howl, eerie and ghostly. That howl was said to have been heard for miles up and down the hollers.”

“That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard,” scoffed David, “You said there weren’t no headstone.”

“That’s the scary part,” said Stick. “You see, a number of years later, a gravestone mysteriously appeared, almost outta nowhere. No writtin,’ no drawin,’ no nothin,’ just a blank headstone.

“Many folks have tried to knock it down, but it’s always back up the next day. The best anyone could do was knock a hole in the back of it. That’s right. It’s holler. And that hole is said to go down, way down. To what? Nobody knows.

“A lot of folk think it was the child and the dog that put that stone up. If so, they’d have to be as old and gnarled as the ol’ witch herself by now. It’s said they keep it up to this day. Nobody knows for sure.

“Rumor is, if you go there, just at the stroke of midnight, the Witchin’ hour, and drop a dead animal into the hole, she’ll answer a question for you. But be careful; you might not like the answer. If you ask a question and not give her payment, they say that one-eyed dog will come for ya…and yer soul.”

‘Bout that time, a large hand landed hard on my right shoulder, scared the livin’ daylights right outta me. I turned with a jerk, panic in my eyes, to see Burton standing behind me.

“Miller looks like it’s your turn in the washroom next week, don’t forget, OK?”

“Yes sir,” The words came out as a pitiful squeak.

“Oh…and don’t believe all those stories you hear, Okay?” He gave me a wink and went on his way.

It took a second for my heart to regain its rhythm. Chucky was holdin’ his belly he was laughin’ so hard.

“Man, he flat out scared the water outta you! I thought you was gonna fall over there for a second.”

“Ha-ha, Chuck! Why don’t you try shuttin’ up for a while?”

“I don’t believe none of that mess,” barked David. “Just ain’t Christian. All this devil and witch nonsense. Just goes to show a body’s raisin’ is what it does.  Shoulda spent more time in the Lord’s house and less time gossipin’.’’

He got up in a huff and walked to the washroom without so much as a backward glance.

The rest of the day was a strange kind of a blur. Visions of Mark pounding me while my Papaw whipped the tar outta me were all I could think about. Stick’s story made things all the worse. Add a witch into the mess, and you got yourself, well, an even bigger mess.

Snitchin’ was out of the question; a crime of that magnitude was sure to be deadly; every kid knows that. I had only two options. I was gonna get a beatin’ either way, if not by Mark, then from Papaw. I wasn’t sure which one was worse. Right about now, I just wanted to die, or at least disappear entirely.

We here at The Tin Cup Clan know times are tough and valuable. We thank each of you from the bottom of our hearts for spending a bit of it with us. As always, hit a few buttons at the bottom, and give us a thumbs up.

God Bless

Chapter 1

“The unlikeliest of hero’s”

Well, friends here it is, Chapter one of “The Leech Cemetery Witch.” Plenty of folks have waited far too long to get a peek at it. I’ve decided to post a chapter or two each week, (yes, the entire book.) But there’s a catch, I need your help. We have a lot of seasoned writers in the group whom I respect in every way. as you read the coming chapters, let me know what you think. How can it be improved? What parts are too slow? Where do I need to further expound? Punctuation: I’m sure I’ve dropped the ball there quite a few times. Please let me know. Comments are not only welcomed but encouraged. Drop a note, an e-mail, a comment, a carrier Pigeon, Morse code, whatever it takes. Thank You so very much.

Finally: it’s time to formally introduce you too…THE TIN CUP CLAN.

Time to get up!

Her voice wakes me quicker than any alarm clock ever could.

But ma, I protested. My throat hurts; I can barely talk.

Come on, young’un, get up and go gargle with some warm salt water; you’ll be fine in a bit.

They’s’ no point in arguing with her; we’d been through this too many times before. That old excuse had begun to wear as thin as her patience, and I needed different ammo, a better disease.

Yea, that’s it, maybe somethin’ contagious and oozy. Who don’t like oozy?

I shuffled my bones from the warm bed. The cold floor stung my bare feet, grabbed me by the ankles, and shook the sleepy from the rest of me. After a good stretch, I turned and tugged at the blankets until the wrinkles were somewhat gone. Then punched the pillow a few times, fluffin’ it up good and proper. I stepped back, admirin’ my handy work that there is what’s known as a “properly” made bed. I grabbed my pocket radio (you know; the one you ain’t supposed to have, but everyone does) and hid it under the mattress just as ma poked her head through the door.

Come on, young man, MOVE, she yelled as she slapped the wall with her open hand.

You’re gonna be late… again.

Shaking her head from side to side, she turned in a huff, leaving me to get dressed.

It was cold in the house, not freezing cold mind you, just cold enough to make a body miserable. The kind of cold that seeps into your bones like wet mold, making every joint painful, stiff, and slow to move.

The oil furnace had once again died during the night. Seems like the only time the ol’ girl decides to give up the ghost is when she can cause the most discomfort. Ma had the oven door open in a desperate effort to get some heat into the kitchen. It didn’t do a lot of good; the trailer had so many air leaks we might as well be camping in the great outdoors.

But there we stood, holding our hands in front of the open oven door, pretendin’ the glowin’ coils were a campfire. The two of us rubbin’ our hands together and slappin’ our arms shakin’ off the misery. If it were really cold, she would pull a chair to the front of the oven; there she would sit, waving heat into the room with a piece of cardboard. Once her arms began to ache, we would take turns.

I’ll work on the “ol” girl when I get outta school.

Her face looked worn and battle weary.

We got any kerosene left?

Yea. I think there’s another five gallons or so outback.

I was used to workin’ on the ol’ girl. Heck, I’ve had her apart about a million times. I knew every nut, every bolt, and every mood swing. Yep, we kinda got a love-hate relationship that stove and me. I hate workin’ on her, but I swear she loves the attention.

But enough of that, we had a schedule to keep. Missing the bus wasn’t an option, not that I couldn’t walk to school, No sir. Missing that bus meant I’d end up missing out on school breakfast, and that was somethin’ I just couldn’t allow.

As I stepped onto the porch, Jack Frost was ready to greet me. I stopped for a second, dead in my tracks, just to soak a bit of it in. With a deep breath, I blew into the morning air and watched as the mist floats above my head before fadin’ away into the cold.

Around me, pillars of smoke seep from chimneys; it hovers there, just over the rooftops like rain clouds. When I inhale, each breath brings with it the scent of burnin’ Hickory, Oak, and coal, especially in the mornin’ when the heavy cold air holds it low to the ground.

Yep…this is Fall in the southern mountains, and I love it.

Time to catch that bus.

Funny thing about a school bus; unknown to most, a certain “social segregation” reigns supreme. One might go as far as to say a miniature cold war of class separation.

Now… you might think a body could sit just about anywhere there was an empty seat. But every kid that’s ever sat on a bus knows that just ain’t the case, here or anywhere else.

One simple mistake, such as sittin’ in the wrong territory or next to the wrong person, could haunt a kid for the rest of the school year, maybe even the rest of your life. No kid, no matter how hard they might try, can ever leave one group for another or switch class of friends; such a thing just ain’t done.

I believe the seatin’ arrangements are about the same no matter where you might go to school. Where you sit is a lot more than fate, I’m not sure how, but I think life sifts us a lot like coal through the washer, different sizes fall through different holes, and you don’t really have much choice in the matter. It’s some twisted sort of “natural” order—birds of a feather and all that nonsense.

Oddly enough, it starts at the back of the bus.

First, we have the jocks and their giddy band of cheerleaders; they sit in the very rear. With heads full of cotton, they brag about upcomin’ games, how much each can bench press, and what kind of car they hope to drive someday. Even which poor soul at the front of the bus gets drafted into doing their homework.

All this accompanied by the constant singin’, gigglin’, cheerin’, chitterin’, and whatever annoyin’ nonsense those daing cheerleaders might think up. For the most part, they’re a vain group, with poofy hair and heavy make-up, and not very bright either, but dangerous all the same.

Just a few seats up, you’ll find the “cool” kids.

I’m talkin’ rock music, leather jackets, pretty girls, and long hair. You have to be careful around this group. They can smell fear just by lookin’ at you. When I say aggressive, this is the group that comes to mind. They seem to leer at everyone, forever on the lookout, searchin’ for the slightest sign of weakness within the herd. Herd being everybody else.

They were unbelievably less intelligent than those jocks. If they caught you lookin’ at one of their girls or made any manner of eye contact, you’re probably gonna get a poundin’ or, at the very least, a severe cussin’.

Closer to the front sit the smart kids.

They’re a good bunch at heart, and all are harmless. They don’t say a whole lot, least not to anyone outside their group. Most have an anxious look about their face, and their laps are generally covered with piles of dog-eared papers. Some frantically scratch at the papers in a last-minute dash to finish homework, or more likely, extra credit projects.

When it comes to this group, eye contact must be avoided for an entirely different reason. Most are like deer in an open field, constantly wary of predators; an unwelcome stare or hostile movement may send many into catatonic fits. Desperately digging through pockets and trapper-keepers, frantically searching for the ever-present inhaler. Yea, I reckon they spook pretty easily.

Separating the smart from the cool was the “poor kid” section. I reckon you might call it a homemade demilitarized zone. A buffer protecting the smart ones from the various projectiles flips to the noggins or other insults launched from the rear seats.

This section is the biggest by a long shot, mainly kids whose parents work for the mines in one way or the other; everything’s hooked to the mines around here. The clothes they wear might be a bit tattered, repurposed hand-me-downs from older brothers and sisters. Many have never laid eyes on an iron, even if they had, late nights and busy mornings don’t leave much time for such trivial and vain labors.

Black soot has replaced the fingernail polish common in the bus’s rear, leftovers from gathering coal, feeding animals, or tending morning fires. Guys wear haircuts done at the kitchen table with a pair of scissors and a towel. But the girls proudly show off long, neatly brushed hair that shimmers in the morning sun. Pretty homemade bows keep the hair pulled to back, framing their faces.

It’s only October, so blue jeans still cling to their dark blue color; most have only just now begun to fade. Most ain’t even torn yet; patches of different shades will soon cover knees and the occasional butt-cheek. We usually get a couple of new pairs when school starts; it takes a good while to break ‘em in. Until that time, the denim is generally so stiff I swear they could stand on their own if given the opportunity.

Along with the new britches comes a new pair of shoes. Not the shoes worn by jocks or cool kids; ours are a whole lot more “down to earth.” But that don’t stop most of us from dreaming of high-top All-Stars for the guys or a bright white pair of “Keds” for the girls.

This is where I usually sit, if not in the same spot, then really close to it. A seat saved for me by one of my three closest friends in the world. I don’t remember what brought us together; heck, I don’t know when we all first met; it just seems like we’ve always just, well, been.

First, and in my opinion, the best, is David Owens. “Big” David, by nature, is a quiet sort; he seems to be in a continuous state of mild-mannered happy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without a slight smile on his face. I’ve come to believe his face is just sorta, made that way.

Whatever the reason, and without his knowledge, he just seems to bring a sense of calm to our group. Ma calls it a “sweet spirit,” from what I hear, friends like that are pretty hard to come by.

But the oddest thing about David is the ever-present smell of wood smoke. He wears it like perfume, and it always seems to arrive a bit before he does, no matter where he’s going.

He’s a big ol’ boy with giant fingers and big hands. His head sits on top of a thick neck and broad shoulders. Nobody wants to get on ol’ David’s bad side; if he even has a bad side, nobody’s really seen it. Usually, his slow deep voice and calm nature are just enough to defuse about any situation one of our little group might get ourselves into.

Next, there’s Chucky Mathews. He’s kind of an odd duck. A dark-headed short kid with an abnormally large mouth. Not big like he talks a lot, even though he does. I mean big bright red clown lips that cover the entire bottom of his face. They remind me of the wax ones you can buy at the dime store. Those big lips also hide a set of the tiniest teeth you ever saw. It makes you wonder if he ever lost his baby teeth.

They make him look kinda silly, and he’s all kinds of sensitive about it. He has a laugh that’s just as weird, like a chip-monk or squirrel, a kind of chittering sound. He uses that weird laugh all the time, laughing at everything even when he’s in trouble, especially when he’s in trouble, which now that I think of it is a lot.

Last but not least was “Stick.” David Byrge is his real name, but nobody calls him that; it’s just plain ol’ Stick. He’s as skinny as a hoe handle, and his bright red hair usually looks like it’s cut around a bowl. When I say red, I mean “RED,” not light, dark, almost, but bright red.

You cain’t put a finger on him no-where without covering a freckle, I mean he’s covered with ‘em. So much so that you’d think they were on the whites of his eyes. He’s been known to drop a fib or two as well, but other than big David, so have the rest of us. Talk about dirty jokes, swear he knows about every single dirty joke on the planet, and he ain’t afraid to tell any of ‘em to just about anybody at any time.

Well, there they are, my best friends in the world. My partners in crime if you want to get picky about it. For the most part, we got each other’s back, well, big David does anyhow. And, if one of us happens to shoot our mouth off to the wrong person or get caught looking at the wrong girl, well, we know where to turn.

All of our families work in or about the mines somehow or somewhere. Big David’s dad works in the hole.

Men who work down there are called moles, for good reason. It’s a dirty job and a lot more dangerous than folks realize. Long hours of stifling heat, coal dust, and fumes, not to mention the ever-present threat of cave-ins.’ But the pay is good for the area, and good-paying jobs are hard to come by. There’s always a line of men wanting to get into the hole to make a better living for their families.

Chuckle’s dad works the belt and washer, just as dirty, if not more, but maybe just a little safer.

The pay’s not near what the hole pays, but he’s lucky to get it. He used to work at the mill, but he was one of the first to get the ax when they cut back. Big David’s dad pulled some strings and got him on at the Blue Diamond mine. He ain’t been there too long, so he’s still playing catch up as far as money goes.

Stick’s ol man drives a coal truck.

Takes a special kind of stupid to climb on top of 60.000 pounds, then try to control it down steep mountain roads and switchbacks. It takes years to learn how to operate and control one of those things. They’s been quite a few who lost their lives on the mountainside. Once a truck takes off down that hill, she takes on a life of her own.

If she gets loose, you got two choices, step out on the tanks, look for a soft spot, then jump off and hope for the best. Or hold on and try to ride it out; either way, you’re probably gonna die, simple as that. The secret is picking a gear at the top and leaving her there. Once you try to shift down and break those gears lose, she’s gone for sure.

Once she goes over, the ground’s too steep to get her back up out of the holler. The mountainside is littered with dead trucks, overgrown with weeds, and rusting away just where they landed.

We go up there a lot, scrapping for parts, playing on ‘em, and picking up spilled coal. We’d all get a whippin’ if we got caught, we’ve been told a bunch of times how dangerous it was, but nobody’s been hurt yet.

Death is always hanging about in coal mining country—a constant companion for most. For the most part, we accept it learned to live with it. Most folk deal with it by pretending it ain’t there. “The Lord calls, and it’s my time, and that’s that,” they say.

Others allow it to follow them around throughout their entire life. “Ol scratch” hangs over ‘em like a spirit that lives in the hills and hollers. They’re easy to spot, those folk. They carry a heavy appearance, burdened, like they’re never really happy. Just kinda going through life, waiting for him, looking for him, almost dead already.

I reckon death is part of life for most of us, normal as breathing. We don’t think about it or talk about it much. As a matter of fact, the four of us know the mines are where we’re gonna work when we hit sixteen. It’s what’s expected if you want to make any manner of living. Come to think of it, I reckon that’s what the spots on the bus are there for—teaching us our place in life, at an early age, our pecking order.

Every year there’s an accident of some sort, in those mines, sometimes it’s a collapse, other times somebody gets hit or run over by equipment. Even if that black hole don’t get ya when you’re working, the black lung’s probably gonna get you after you’ve been down there a while.

It’s not unusual to see men in their forties, pasty-faced and hollow-eyed, panting and gasping for breath, sitting with the old men on the benches in front of stores, swapping lies and stories of coal. Not many of ‘em talk about the “good ol’ days,” probably because there just ain’t that many to tell.

But, for the time being, the four of us are pleased to spend our spare time walking the train tracks, digging for fossils in the slag pits, and well, just being us.

Sometimes we walk the tracks picking up coal that’s fell from the hopper cars. We each carry a five-gallon bucket made from an old lard can with a wire coat hanger as a handle. Ya gotta make sure and wrap the wire with something because the thin wire bites into your skin hard, causing your fingers to bleed at the joints. Putting a dab of kerosene on the cuts stops the bleeding; it kinda takes the hurt away as well.

Coal sells for about twenty dollars a ton, and each full bucket weighs about forty or fifty pounds. That’s some good money for four such enterprising streetwise entrepreneurs as ourselves. But most of the time, we just take ‘em home and use ‘em there.

When we don’t find much coal, there’s always the pennies. We place a few on top of the rails. Then, after the train rolls through, we run out to gather ‘em up. Smashed pennies are like trading cards and a popular form of currency among boys our age. We trade ‘em for just about everything. Gadgets and whatnots, pencils, and erasers. One time a kid brought some pieces of honest-to-goodness sugar cane. Cost each of us two rail pennies apiece. But we slobbered on those sticks for two days. That’s why everybody has one or two in his pocket at all times, just in case.

The Tin Cup Clan books are dedicated to my children: Jeremy, Lydia,Emily, and Savanna. To my grandsons: Kaden, Saylor, Landry, Taylen, Lennox, Maddox, Amaris. My Loves.

Thanks in advance for the feedback; THE TIN CUP CLAN

THE TIN CUP CLAN’s final Preface

After the UMP-TEENTH revision, I think we have settled on the preface for The Leech Cemetery Witch. What do you think? Does it make you want to read the book? Does it sound mysterious enough? Does it make my butt look big? I need some feedback; I’m dying here.

PREFACE

Our adventure began many winters ago when the “grey” moved into our tiny town. None of us knew where it came from or when it arrived; it was just “there,” violating everything with its “nothing.”

We lived in a typical coal-mining town nestled deep in the Tennessee mountains, and as with most towns in coal country, time was slowly but surely passing us by. We didn’t know why; perhaps the “grey” made us invisible, no one knew for sure.

The stores and buildings seemed well aware of their fate. Death was slowly reclaiming them, clawing at the bricks and mortar as he dragged them back into the ground. On quiet days you could almost hear a mournful sigh float through the hollows and hills.

In one way or another, we all felt it, a “fading” of sorts. Fading seems to be a good word, and the grey little town was well and truly “fading” into history and memory.

That’s where we began our epic journey, just a small group of boys fighting that “grey.” Our little band of brothers included my three meddlesome friends and me. Meddlesome, yes, but tried and true every last one, and unbelievably, the school bully who, with time, came to realize we had a lot more in common than any of us ever thought possible. Together we would come to be known as “The Tin Cup Clan.”

Our tale begins with exchanging some homemade liquor, a foolish “double-dog-dare,” and an old forgotten cemetery. (complete with a not so forgotten witch) Stir in a hollow gravestone guarded by a ghost dog, add the legend of a long-lost baby, finish with a pinch of murder, and you got yourself one heck of a mystery.

Oh, let’s not forget a thin scruffy old janitor, mysterious to his marrow bones; he knows a great deal more than he’s telling. The mystery swirls around his person like smoke from a pipe. Ol’ Bill will have a profound influence on our story, and, as I look back through the eyes of an old man, I realize he changed the course of our entire lives.

So, pull that chair closer to the fire, sip your hot cocoa, and join us as we follow “The Tin Cup Clan” and the mystery of “The Leech Cemetery Witch.”

“CHRISTMAS” in a CARDBOARD BOX

“Christmas gifts in short supply,” “Shop early to avoid empty shelves,” The black Christmas of 2021.” The headlines go on and on. If a body allowed themselves, all this bad news can really drag a person down, make ’em believe Christmas and all it stands for can be contained, held captive on some random cargo ship floating just off the coast somewhere.

But don’t you think on it, no sir, don’t you think on it one bit. I got some good news for us all. They may be tellin’ us the holidays are being held captive, but they’re wrong! Let me tell you why.

The Owens family are the stars of our little story, I’m sure you’re familiar with the Owen’s and big David from the book snippets. We join them on a very special day, up early, cleaned and pressed, David’s hair combed and oiled, his four sister’s hair carefully brushed and garnished with pretty bows of left over fabric. His Ma had the entire clan ready to go before sun up. The girls, bubbling over with excitement, picked, poked, and giggled at each other, all the while David looked to the Heavens and rolled his eyes. He couldn’t let ’em see his excitement, after all, while his Pa was at work he was the man of the house. This meant someone had to be the voice of reason.

You see friend: before cellular phones and tablets, before designer purses and Nike shoes, before those robot vacuum cleaners and that creepy Alexa lady who talks to you at home even in the most private of situations, before Atari, PlayStation and X-box. There was something more… a simple dog-eared cardboard box, but contained within that humble box, well… contained there was everything Christmas was about, everything Christmas promised and everything Christmas was, and as kids they looked forward to it’s yearly return with as much excitement as Santa Claus, maybe more.

Since it was Christmas basket season, that meant anything was possible, maybe even probable. Most folk have been fortunate enough to have never seen one, and that particular memory, like so many things from our past, seems to be slowly fading into obscurity. But to David and his sisters, all the magic and wonder of the holiday season was waiting for them inside that box.

Oh it’s all there…you just gotta know what to look for, the Christmas story in it’s entirety. From the simple to the sublime, the mundane to the magical, the humble to the most high. And like all good things (I mean really good things), very little, if any, money is required.

David and his sisters didn’t know “poor”, to them it was simply”life” and life needed no special words to quantify it, it simply was, and that was that. But… it was a different time and folks defined “poor” differently than we do now.

There they were, like a momma duck and her babies, all waddlin’ up the narrow road into town. If they were lucky, a neighbor would stop and offer a ride, if not there was plenty to talk about on the five mile hike. All the children could talk about were those boxes and what wonders waited inside. Each shared tales about what they hoped to find within, minds raced and imaginations soared as tales of last years treats and which ones were favorites flew though the cold air.

Before they knew it, the lodge came into to view and they could see the line of folks wrapping around the building like a black snake, all patiently waiting their turn. Now before we go any further we need to get one thing straight friend…this weren’t charity. Around here folk look out for each other, we share the gift as well as the burden. We didn’t need the government, we didn’t need a handout, and we didn’t need some politician deciding what our folk deserved. We had neighbors and friends who cared, and felt the pain of hardship like we all did.

The sights,sounds, and smells in that building were in a kids eyes, beyond words. Boxes packed full of holiday greatness were stacked floor to ceiling. The aroma of chocolate, citrus, cinnamon, and other treats unknown floated about the room before simmering into an aroma that brought goose-bumps to the skin. The roomful of voices and excited clamber mixed just as easily, composing a soothing hymn. This must truly be what Christmas was all about, those children were in Heaven and never wanted to leave.

A booming HO, HO, HO, snapped them to reality. The three girls pulled and tugged at David’s shirt, begging to go see Santa. David shot his ma a pleading glance.

Oh fine, she replied. Take your sister and go see Santa, I got some things to drop of at the tables anyway.

Without waiting on their brother, the girls ran to the short line of children, all waiting to tell the Jolly ol’ elf their most private of wishes. David knew it as soon as he laid eyes on the ol’ boy. The yards of red velvet and white fur trim couldn’t hide the tin toys and whistles dangling just below Santa’s coat. The ivory pipe he held clutched in his teeth could belong to no other, it was ol’ Shag Branch in the flesh. The wonderful ol’ man sat there, his lap full of children. From time to time his head fell back as a thunderous laugh filled the room. Shag was in his element, he loved those children and they loved him in return. Christmas seemed to fit Shag, his well worn stories of travel to far off and exotic lands were replaced with reindeer tales, and elf updates, the intricacies of toy manufacturing, and flight zones. The children (young and old) gathered round him as usual, mouths wide open and eyes star struck as they absorbed the tales like raindrops on dry clay.

Mrs. Owens used the opportunity to finish some business. She placed a large basket on the table under the watchful eyes of the chief and mayor. A loud gasp was heard from both as she laid six fresh baked “cornmeal” pies in a neat line. Quit that she scolded as she swatted away the mayor’s hand. Those are for the raffle, you want a taste then go buy ye’selves a ticket.

Grumbles were heard as the two men turned to go in search of the ticket table.

We’ll be back Mrs. Owens replied Mayor Weaver, yea said the chief, with winning tickets too.

I hope so boys, she answered, I hope so.

To be perfectly honest; each family was to get just one box, but the men behind the tables, well… they knew things, the kinda things only a small town knows. With a wink, a finger to their lips and a quick shush, a box appeared before each of the children. The girls could scarce wrap their arms around the treasure. Once the boxes were held tight against they’re chests, they were quietly scatted outside.

Ma led her little band of ducks to a large sweet-gum tree, there beneath the gnarled branches they examined they’re spoils.

One large frozen roasting hen

Cans of pumpkin, green beans, corn and untold other vegetables

A bag of flour, cornmeal, and sugar

A large bag of tree nuts

A bag of pretty ribbon candy, creme drops, horehound candy, gum drops, and a box of Cracker Jacks

A large poke of oranges and a few grapefruit

But the best lay hidden at the bottom. All four filled their mouths with gum drops and began to dig. I found it yelled the youngest, soon followed by the other three. Four pairs of hands lifted the prize into the air. A brand new pocket New Testament. Still cold from the frozen chicken, leather bound with gold letters on the outside and red letters on the inside. (The red letters are the important ones).

Mrs. Owens let her little ones enjoy their newfound prizes for a few minutes before giving word that it was time to make the way back home. David secured each girl with a their own box before picking up his own. The little band began the journey back home.

The journey home was dominated by tales of Santa and the things he might bring. A thankful grin lay across the face of both David, and his ma. The hope and dreams of the three girls lifted they’re hearts and made the steps lighter.

As the four marched, the wind brought the scent of cinnamon and Liquorice to the nose. The aroma mixed and mingled with the scent of citrus and apples, until finally joining with the smell of cardboard and the cold of the chicken. The end result was nothing short of magical.

We all have special “triggers” in our lives, simple little things such as a TV. show, a special taste, a smell, or familiar tune. Something so small and innocuous that it means nothing to others, but to us, those “little” things have the power to instantly transport us back to simpler times and our childhood, or treasured memory. The smell of a Christmas basket is one of mine, and I’m sure, for David and his three sisters as well.

Remember when I said those boxes contained Christmas? Well…let’s talk about that a-bit shall we?

You may be, (and I pray that you are), unfamiliar with the concept of a “Christmas Basket” and what it meant to so many mountain families, not to mention children. Every year when the leaves began to change, local churches, businesses, friends, neighbors, heck, most of the whole town came together in the spirit of Love and Sacrifice. A humble yet grand effort to gift another with the simple respite from worry.

Food drives would be held, bake sales and raffles. Collection plates circulate in churches ,meeting halls, and even local beer joints. Most everyone gratefully shared what little they had, no avenue was left unchecked in the effort to fill as many boxes as possible.

Do such labors work? Do these humble actions of neighbors have lasting effect. Well…here sits an old man, typing away at his keyboard. As I write this story I smell that box,I feel the cold from the frozen bird against my face as I walk home. I feel the weight as I carry it close to my chest. The smell of citrus, chocolate and cinnamon fill my head and I’m transported back, way back.

Strip away the tinsel, the twinkling lights and greenery. Remove the silver, gold and blown glass. Forget about spending money you don’t have, to buy people you don’t like, things they don’t need.

Whats left?

Just an old cardboard box, much like an old wooden manger, both filled with hope, joy, and promise. The return of which was looked forward to every year at this special time. Remember that pocket New Testament those little ones were so desperate to find too? Oh it was there in that manger as well. Oh not a little book mind you, but nothing less than the word manifest in flesh, the Christ child. A promise made, a promise fulfilled.

Oh I nearly forgot; Remember those pies Mrs. Owens baked? There’s a lesson there as well. In my simple mind I believe God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost is best described as a cornmeal pie cut into three slices. Each separate at the surface,but the middle, the ooey gooey sweet part, is still as one.

Mary had a little Lamb, so very long ago.

Though our sins be as crimson..

The Lamb can wash them white as snow.

My sin debt was paid by that Little Lamb, in that manger long ago.

And now where that Lamb has gone, I shall surely go.

MERRY CHRISTMAS from the Tin Cup Clan. It’s been a wonderful year, God has allowed me to continue sharing these tales with you even though the doctors tell me other wise. We thank each of you for your prayers and support and continue to pray that the Lord bless you and your Loved ones without measure.

So…next time you hear or read of all the evil afoot in this ol’ world. Stop a second and think of Big David and his sisters, a corn meal pie, and a humble little “cardboard box.” Then with a deep breath, smile a bit and smell the citrus. God’s got this, I promise.

Please like an share this story. I’m certain we all know others who need to read it. I don’t get out much anymore so leave a comment or two as well, we certainly enjoy reading them. THE TIN CUP CLAN

The Most Important Meal of the Day

How many remember fifth grade? More importantly; how many remember the lunch room? Most don’t understand the politics, social exchange and class warfare that transpired there. So…for just a bit, experience the “lunch-room” through the eyes of the Tin Cup Clan. This is just a small excerpt from Chapter Eight, I hope you can get a little “feel” for the boys and maybe even catch a faint hint of frying sausage and burnt toast.

Excerpt from Chapter 8 “Was She Flirtin’ and Best Laid Plans”

Whatever conversations or business transactions that were taking place were put on hold for the time being. A far more important matter was at hand. Breakfast. 

The opening of the lunch-room door was held with nearly as much high spirited anticipation as, well… Christmas morning. This morning the planets were obviously in perfect alignment and Madam Karma was apparently in an extraordinary mood. 

Because when we opened that door… the air hung heavy with the wonderful soothing aroma of sausage, eggs, and toast. It had to be a sign straight from the all-mighty himself. Maybe, just maybe, things were finally going my way. 

We stood just inside the doorway, frozen in our tracks. Each of us staring at the other three. I didn’t want to take any chances, blurting out “that’s it no trades” as quickly as possible. 

Big David’s eyes narrowed into thin slits. He turned his head looking down at Stick with a look that could kill. 

That’s fine by me friend. How about you Stick? 

Stick looked up, swallowing the lump growing in his throat. What are you lookin’ at me for? I ain’t done nothin.’ 

Big Dave never broke his stare, “Just am friend that’s all, just am.” 

Before us lay a veritable smorgasbord, the sight of steaming pans full of scrambled eggs, stacks of sausage, and hot biscuits made our mouths water. The four of us gazed at the food like kids in a candy store window as hair-netted lunch ladies filled our trays. 

Sure does look good, don’t it friend? 

Chucky looked up at David, you do realize, those are just powdered eggs don’t ya? They ain’t real, they just add water to ‘em and fry ‘em up, that’s all. 

Well, they’s’ allot of stuff that’s good when you add water to it, argued big Dave. You ain’t forgot ‘bout Tang, have ye? And don’t fergit ‘bout Ovaltine.  

Mark and his cronies were ahead of us in line. We watched in disgust as he and his buddies flirted with the lunch ladies. Grinning under their hairnets as they piled the boy’s trays high with double portions. Our blood boiled as we watched them buy extra milks and juice when they reached Mrs. Tuttle. I thought about it for a second. 

Ya-know… I’m gonna do that one of these days. 

Do what? Asked Stick. 

I’m gonna git it all, milks, orange juice, extra food, all of it. For the four of us, just like the jocks. 

Oh… that… sure said Stick, I cain’t wait. He looked over at Chucky while rolling his eyes. 

Hey! I snapped; I saw that. 

Chucky snickered. What-cha gonna do, start boot-leggin’ at school or somethin’? Some rich uncle about to get out of the poorhouse. 

I just might do that… yep, never can tell, I just might. 

Now it’s your turn, if you like the story, tell a friend, tell your Ma, Pa, tell an enemy, just tell somebody. Don’t forget to Like, Follow, and Comment. Until next week…Thank You for your time. The Tin Cup Clan. God Bless.

CHANGES WITH “THE TIN CUP CLAN”

Hi friends…Many things are changing here at “The tin cup Clan” and I desperately need your help. I’ve had a lot going on lately and feel I have far to many irons in the fire. The books are coming out very soon and I’ve decided to narrow social media to just a couple of platforms. I love and respect all our followers, I don’t want to lose any of you. We are going to focus most of our energy on the Face Book page for the time being. If you like the T.C.C. and want to continue reading these simple yet oft times corny stories PLEASE LIKE THE FB PAGE. We’ve found we can reach far more people here and Instagram than anywhere else. Not to mention we can be far more interactive. For the time being The Tin Cup Clan .com will be under renovation, I think you’re gonna love it when it’s rolled out soon. Remember…The Tin Cup Clan FB page!!! Go there and hit the like button. You’ll be glad you did. Instagram is coming in the next couple of days…my daughter is working on getting it up and running. SEE YOU THERE…LOVE ALWAYS!!! The Tin Cup Clan

Do You Have a “Loser’s Limp?”

I reckon I need to begin with an apology. Things have been a bit busy of late and my posts have suffered. I find myself answering E-mails inquiring if I am still among the living. Well believe it or not, I’m still kicking. But I fear there may be one or two out there that may view such news as depressing to say the least.

Of late we have been talking about the word “normal’ and how it applies to each of the boy’s families. Personally I don’t care for the word, boiled down to it’s simplest meaning it’s little more than a unit of measure, and a poor one at that. Relative in it’s definition and subject to the opinions of the person holding the measuring tape.

This week we visit Mikey and his family. Remember when I talked about how Chucky’s family circled the wagons when hard times hit? Well…Mikey wasn’t so fortunate.

Excerpt : Chapter (1)

It was cold in the house, not freezing cold, just cold enough to make a person miserable. The kind of cold that seeps into your bones like wet mold, making every joint painful and slow to move.

The kerosene furnace had once again died during the night. Seems like the only time the ol’ girl decides to give up the ghost is when she can cause the most discomfort. Mom had the oven door open in a desperate effort to get some manner of heat into the kitchen. It didn’t do a lot of good really, the trailer had so many air leaks we might as well be camping in the great outdoors.

But as usual, there we stood; holding our hands out in front of the open oven door, pretending the glowing coils were a campfire. The two of us rubbed our hands together and slapped our arms shaking off the chill. If it was really cold, she would pull a chair to the front of the oven, there she would sit, waving heat into the room with a piece of cardboard. Once her arms began to ache, we would take turns.

I’ll work on the ol’ girl when I get outta school I said.

Though young, she looked worn and battle weary. A hard life had carved deep furrows into her worried face, and the elegant brown hair of youth was now polluted with streaks of weathered grey.

“Do we have any kerosene left” she asked.

Yea. I think there’s another five gallons or so out back I replied.

I was used to working on the ol’ girl. Heck, I’ve had her apart about a million times. I knew every nut, every bolt, and every mood swing. Yep, we kinda got a love hate relationship that stove and me. I hate to work on her, but I swear she loves the attention.

 But enough of that, we had a schedule to keep. Missing the bus weren’t an option, not that we couldn’t walk to school naw sir. Missing that bus meant I’d end up missing out on school breakfast, and that was something I just couldn’t allow.

You see…Mikey’s normal is him and his mother, the wagons didn’t circle for them. When times got tough, his dad left. I don’t discuss the matter much in the books, he’s gone simple as that. This was a time before government checks, before safety nets and federal programs. School “free lunch” program meant taking your turn working in the lunch room washing dishes. Oft times, needed groceries were bought with a signature in the store ledger. and more than once, the electric bill was mysteriously paid by persons unknown. That’s Mikey’s “normal.”

I’m not Mikey, but he and I are a lot more alike than we are different. I remember those times, I remember mom coming home late at night so tired she couldn’t eat. I remember no heat in the winter, and my sisters sleeping in the living room floor while we waved heat from an open oven. And I remember Christmas baskets, and the smell of apples, oranges, candy and spices as I held the box tightly to my chest. This was our normal.

I once read about something called a “loser’s limp.” I don’t remember where, but I believe it fits today more than ever. Whenever a ballplayer loses the ball, flubs a play, or strikes out, watch him as he walks off the field. Most of the time you will notice a limp, slight yes but a limp just the same.(Go ahead, look for it next time). I’ve heard folks call it a physical manifestation of failure, others call it a plea for sympathy. I’m just gonna let you ponder it and make up your own mind.

You see…we have choices in life. We can walk around with a “loser’s limp,” blaming our childhood, our circumstances, our whatever. It’s not my fault, they made me this way. Or…we can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and walk off the field with our head held high, damn the limp. We can choose to show our scars, they tell a story. We can choose to remember the time the electric bill was paid by that unknown someone. Then, if we are blessed with the means, pay it forward. Then sit back and remember the smell of that Christmas basket.

So dear reader…I reckon Mikey’s “normal” is my “normal” after all. My mother was both parents and I think she did a fine job. She’s a proud Appalachian lady and she taught us to work with what the good Lord blessed us with. She taught us the value of hard work and humility (a trait in short supply today). From time to time I find myself limping, sometimes it just happens. Sometimes I have to remember sitting in front of that stove to snap out of it. I am proud of my “normal,” what’s yours…think about that for a while, after all, there is no right or wrong one.

I’m not sure what the next post will be about, I think I’m in the mood for a story, a funny one. I got one about pink socks, yea…maybe pink socks.

As usual dear reader, I’m gonna close with a heart felt Thank You from the Tin Cup Clan. I know you have more important things to do and we’re honored you chose to spend some of your time with us. Please remember to hit a few buttons and share or like…maybe even tell us your thoughts. There is also a Tin Cup Clan FB page stop by for a visit and be sure and like that as well. God Bless.

“Stumbling Blocks” or “Stepping Stones”

As I write these stories my fervent hope would be; they become as real to you as they are to me. I want you to know the boys,see they’re home town when you close your eyes, even feel what they feel. That statement may seem a bit “campy” but please dear reader, do me the honor of hearing me out. So far we have visited the home of “big” David, a warm quintessential mountain home. Complete with a loving Christian ma’ and pa’, brothers and sisters. The kind of family that may come to mind when you dream of the perfect family. David’s reflects his home, slow and deliberate in his actions and thoughts, and mindful of his reputation.

Then we looked at Stick’s family, hard working ma’ and pa’. His pa’ works a dangerous job seven days a week, making sure the ends meet. His ma’ running the home as efficiently as a major corporation, all the while keeping those ends tied. Each has a place and each has a responsibility. Little time is left for worship, work has replaced the church as the center pin and character is measured by the strength of one’s back. Stick is the product of this “normal,” strong in his opinion, always quick with a joke and lives by the motto “if you ain’t living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.”

But now we look at Chucky. Life (as it often does) has not been so kind to them. His father worked at the local Mill since he was a boy, just as his father and his father before him. But times in mid-century Appalachia are hard and it’s left it’s mark on them, perhaps harder than any other family in the area. Without warning the Mill cut back, Chucky’s pa’ prayed that seniority would spare him from the chopping block but that wasn’t the case. Before he knew it, he was out of work and the family home was lost. I think many of us can relate to this.

Soon they found themselves dependent on friends, and blessed beyond measure with a small town. You see…folks around here help each other, lift each other up so to speak. When help is offered, declining it was seen as “insult,” and when you recovered, not returning the favor and helping another family was beyond consideration.

During such a crisis families have two choices. Circle the wagons and fight, (or as often is the case), split and go separate ways, leaving yet another family shattered and lost in time.

Fortunately, (I prefer to think by God’s grace), they circled the wagons and trusted that help was on the way. I’m not saying it was easy mind you, far from it. Some times the best you can do is dig your heels in and weather the storm…and the storm came for them dear reader, it came in the worst way.

Excerpt : Chapter : (1) The Unlikeliest of Hero’s

Chucky’s dad works the belt and washer, just as dirty, if not more, but maybe just a little safer.

The pay’s not near what the hole pays, but he’s lucky to get it. He used to work at the mill, but when they cut back, he was one of the first to get the axe. Big David’s dad pulled some strings and got him on at the Blue Diamond mine. He ain’t been there to long so he’s still playing catch up as far as money goes.

Excerpt : Chapter (6) “It ain’t Much but It’s Home”

“Chucky’s place is about a mile down the road. He don’t like us coming by his place much. We all figure it’s because he’s kinda embarrassed by it. It’s been tough for him, his place ain’t much really. His Pa lost their house to the bank when he lost his job at the plant. No warning or nothing, just went in one day and found a piece of paper with his time-card. Right now they’re rebuilding, they all live in a Shasta camper with a room built onto the side.

The room’s not very fancy, just boards and tar-paper topped off with a rusted metal roof. Just stuff his dad could scavenge up I spose. He ain’t never let any of us inside yet, we don’t say nothing about it. Out of proper respect I reckon.”

So…this is Chucky’s “normal.” His family was (blessed) in a strange way. Often you got to lose everything, before you discover you’ve had everything all along. Family, friends, community, and all the gooey stuff that comes along with it. Now…dear reader you know Chucky. Is this “your” normal? If so, look around you, you may find things aren’t so bad after all.

Next time, we visit Mikey’s family. I’m afraid the wagons didn’t circle this time. How does a single parent raise a young boy in times such as these? Well…we’ll talk about that on our next post.

Once again The Tin Cup Clan would like to thank you for stopping by, and we are honored that your choose to spend just a bit of your time with us. As always God Bless and please hit a few buttons or share with someone that may need to stop for a while and read.

Sincerely : The Tin Cup Clan

The Troublesome Red Head and his Family

David Byrge; Better known as “Stick” by most. We’re gonna look at his family next, what forces came together too forge such a personality. As parents, I believe we often forget that our kids are (for lack of a better comparison), tape recorders of a sort. They spend their young lives constantly recording anything and everything around them. Parents and family are the main characters though friends and daily acquaintances play a major role. But the family, that’s where you find the biggest influence. At some point (no one truly knows when), life switches them from “record” to “play.” When the switch happens, that’s it, very little can be done.

“It’s impossible to straighten the bend in the Oak, the crook that grew in the sapling”

The person of “Stick” and his family are in most respects, the complete polar opposite of David and his family. His proclivity for dirty jokes, loud outgoing personality, and comic behavior seem to simply be, well…(the recorder switched to play). But there’s a good heart there, a loyal heart, and a friends heart. He’s for good or bad, the product of his environment, the life of the party, “normal” just like the rest of us.

“Stick’s” Pa drives a coal truck, it’s a dangerous job, as kids we saw those guys as fighter pilots. The loud sound of “Jake brakes” echoing through the hills and hollers, sending animals running for shelter and leaves falling from the trees. Everyone in town knew, a truck was coming off the mountain.

Excerpt : Chapter 1 The unlikeliest of hero’s

Stick’s ol’ man drives a coal truck.
Takes a special kind of stupid to climb on top of sixty thousand pounds,
then try to control the beast as it barrels down steep mountain roads and sharp as a razor switchbacks. It takes years to learn how to operate and control one of those things, sorta like hillbilly bull ridin’ but twice as dangerous. They’s been quite a few lose their lives on those mountain roads. Once the truck leaves the top of that mountain she takes on a life of her own.

If she gets loose on the way down you got two choices, step out on the tanks and look for some soft dirt before jumping off. Or try to save your rig by holdin’ on and ridin’ it out, prayin’ you’ll find a soft shallow ditch before she gets too fast. Either way they’s a good chance of dyin’, simple as that.

The secret is pickin’ the right gear at the top and leaving it there. Once you try to knock her outta gear and shift down, the brakes are gonna get hot and she’s gone for sure. If she goes over the edge, the ground’s to steep to get her back up out of the holler. A man’s entire life’s work, doomed to lay where she fell, dead to the world. The mountain side is littered with dead trucks, overgrown with weeds and rusting away. The woods are quick to claim the wrecks, Kudzu vine covers them with a green quilt, right where they landed.

We go up there a lot, scrappin’ for parts, playin’ on em, and gatherin’ spilled coal. We’d all get a beatin’ if we got caught, we’ve been told a bunch of times how dangerous it was, but nobody’s been hurt yet.

Death is always hanging about in coal country. A constant companion for most. For the most part we’ve come to accept it, learned to live with it. Most folk deal with it by pretending it ain’t there. “The Lord calls and it’s my time,” they’ll say. Resigned to a “preordained time clock” a life with the finish line known only by the Lord himself.

Others allow it to follow them around through their entire life. “Ol scratch”hangs over em like a spirit that lives in the hills and hollers. They’re easy to spot, those folk. They carry a heavy appearance, like they’re never really happy. Just kinda going through life, waiting for him, looking for him, almost dead already.

“Stick” inherited his family’s “Devil may care” attitude, and it keeps him in quiet a bit of trouble. The next excerpt is a prime example.

Excerpt: Chapter 3 “Stick’s big mouth and Mark’s big plan.”

This morning I reckon ol’ Stick was in an unusually good mood. When his
name was called, a sharp “Yo” rattles through the room. A look back reveals
Stick standing at attention, eyes focused straight ahead. A sharp military
salute causes a quite snicker to pass through the room, and a smile to come
across every-body’s face…including Burton’s. Stick, not being one to turn
down attention, reclines back in his seat with an obvious look of satisfaction.
The three of us had a hunch ol’ Stick was gonna pay for that one.

Before we start, I need all you cats to pass last night’s homework to the front of the room. A loud groan followed by the sound of shuffling paper fills the class. Suddenly a loud “Daing-it” pierces the shuffle.

Stick didn’t do his homework again.

Burton looked up. Again? He barked.
We go through this at least once a week. What do I need to do Byrge; call your ol’ man or what?
“Good luck with that shit” came the reply.
The room is suddenly filled with a collective gasp.
The three of us sat there, mouths open in dis-belief. Holy crap! He didn’t?
Stick gave a look about the room, pleased with himself for the comment.
Dave leaned over towards me and whispered.
“He’s gonna git it now fer sure. Burton cain’t let a challenge like that go
without answer.”

You see? This is Stick’s “normal.”

Bold and brassy, living by the mantra,”If you ain’t living on the edge, you’re taking up to much room.” It’s a far cry from David’s family, and that’s OK.

Do you see yourself in the skinny red-head and his family? Well…congratulations, that your “normal.” If not…stick around till next time when we visit Chucky and his family. Times are a little tougher for them as his Pa tries to rebuild after the plant cut back.

When something like that happens to a family, only two things can happen. They’re either gonna close ranks and support each other, or they’re gonna split and go separate ways. The next post will be an important one. I think all of us will find a bit of ourselves in Chucky’s home life.

Well…that’s about it for now. Thank you friends, for spending a little time with the Tin Cup Clan. Like I always say, I’m sure you got better things to do, and we’re humbled that you’re here. Go ahead…leave a comment or hit a button or two, we could sure use the support.

Till next time…God Bless

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