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

Ode to the lowly Whistle Pig.

My fellow TCC members. Most of you have gotten used to the fact that some, if not most of our stories, are a bit on the odd side. When I say most, I mean all and let’s be real, all of you possess an uncommonly high degree of common sense elsewise you wouldn’t be here.

But for the time being, let’s all lay aside our Heavenly bestowed overabundance of smartitude and talk about one of the more mundane and somewhat boring of God’s creatures. The lowly Whistle Pig (Groundhog for the uninitiated).

Firstly, they fry up rather nicely and taste a lot like squirrel, which tastes a lot like rabbit, which in turn tastes a lot like chicken, which in turn tastes a lot like…(vicious circle best saved for another story).

Aside from their crispy goodness, I have never stopped to consider their uncommon knack for problem-solving, comradery, and common sense. That was until just a few short years ago when I purchased an old farmhouse, complete with its very own (well-established) Whistle Pig community.

They were cute enough to begin with; mornings were spent with a hot cup of coffee while I watched their comings and goings. My neighbor joined in on my little nature watch, sitting on his rear deck watching the wonder of life unfold before our eyes. I soon discovered each critter possessed a unique personality and character, and soon the leader became evident. All was good at the old farmhouse until that fateful day, a friend came to visit.

He listen patiently as I shared the details of my Whistle Pig neighbors until, at last, he was able to fit a word in edgewise.

You do realize those things will destroy your house, don’t you?

What? I couldn’t believe my ears.

He went on and on, filling me with terror as he shared tales of my foundation sinking, my neatly kept lawn full of holes. By the time he was finished, I was certain those cursed rodents had to go.

Que the “Caddy Shack” theme song.

Photo by Russell Combs on Pexels.com

I now had a mission, a Holy calling, so to speak. I was gonna rid my property (and save my house) of those evil varmints.

I began humanely, of course; I procured a few live traps from I don’t remember who, and placed them near the entrances to their burrows. Once set, I gave myself a well-deserved pat on the back, secure in the knowledge I was doing the proper thing in sparing their tiny lives.

That didn’t work; as a matter of fact, I’m sure they were sitting down there in their little hole in the ground, snickering and laughing at my expense. I was certain my neighbor was doing the same.

As I told the boys at the local hardware store of my plight, I was inundated with countless homespun, surefire methods to rid myself of my ne’er-do-well squatters.

Mothballs works every time; trust me, they said, that’ll get ’em. Mothballs it was handfuls of ’em, under the house, around the house, down the holes. I even went as far as to open a box and place it next to their front door (hole). I then warned that neighbor of mine, get ready, I said, they’re coming to live with you in just a couple of days.

Did it work? NO.

Photo by Adrien Stachowiak on Pexels.com

The little jerks even stole the box I had set down; to this day, I have no idea where that daing box went. Once again, they sat there in that little hole of theirs, laughing at me; I was certain of it. The daddy groundhog went as far as to parade back and forth in my backyard, rubbing my face in my failure.

The rage began to boil inside me: ” If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.” Sorry, borrowed a bit from Moby Dick there.

Leg traps, yea, that’s it, brutal, yes, but I was losing myself in my rage. Leg traps it was.

I retrieved some old fox traps from a friend’s barn; I chuckled to myself maniacally as I cleaned and oiled the medieval things. It was pouring rain, but that didn’t stop me; I cursed them each one as I set the gruesome traps. Some errands needed running, and I smiled as I drove into town confident my problem was near an end. Did it work?

As I pulled into the drive, the rain was heavy, but it didn’t phase me. I leaped from my truck, making a bee-line to the traps. In the pouring rain and darkness, I saw a lone figure lying in the grass; I had him. My heart raced as I closed in, only to crash in utter defeat; a rather pitiful old Tom-cat stared back at me. What had I done?

With tears in my eyes and a heavy heart, I removed the cat’s leg from the horrible trap and lovingly carried him to the porch. I gently dried his fur with a bath towel and doctored his bruised paw. The old cat gazed into my eyes, and I felt the love, we were having a moment that cat and I, then suddenly, THWACK.

With a soul-curdling howl, a left hook landed hard on my cheek, and the claws dug in, almost instantaneously followed by a right hook. His rear feet dug into my chest as he catapulted into the yard and disappeared into the dark, leaving me battered and bleeding on the porch.

I slunk into the house and collapsed into a chair like a wad of chewed gum, completely defeated, and certain my house was doomed to a groundhog burrow. (Exit stage left)

The rain was over and the sun was bright come morning; I watched through the kitchen window as my neighbor took his usual spot with his usual coffee. I had accepted my fate, the birds were singing, and all was right with the world, But there he was.

The daddy Whistle Pig simply stood there with his back turned to me, the rodent equivalent of giving me the finger. The rage exploded within my heart; I grabbed the closest thing, (a large knife) and bolted through the house, nearly knocking the front door from its hinges. Around the house I ran, coming to a stop at the corner.

His back was still turned as I crept towards the beast. Why had he not turned? Surely he knows I’m here. My neighbor stood in his housecoat, noticing the drama playing out before him. My skin tingled, my ears screamed. Why had he not turned around?

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

At ten paces, my shaking hand lifted the knife above my head, ” from Hell’s heart I stab at thee, for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee” ( Melville again, but it works). Then it happened, he turned, and with a scream lunged at his pitiful human attacker, (Melville ringing in his head as well).

I sidestepped his advance, and we both ran for the house; I knew where he was going and screamed as I chased him, knife held high above my head. We rounded the corner, his hole was in sight, but I was losing the race. I noticed another groundhog poke his head from the burrow, empowering his nestmate. I dove at the rodent in a final lunge just as he ducked into the hole; he was gone.

I lay prostrate in the wet grass, complete in my defeat. I lay there until I heard a faint sound, a clapping. I lifted my head to see my neighbor, my former friend, clapping his hands and smiling from ear to ear. He stopped and lifted his coffee cup, I was not certain if the toast was for me, or my opponent, either way, message received.

Sometime later, I sold that house, complete with its Whistle Pig community. I drive by every now and then; it’s still standing. I can’t help but wonder if they are still there. I’ve never had another groundhog issue, but my new house does have some noisy dogs next door; I don’t mess with ’em. Instead, I’ve read Melville a few times, ol’ Ahab and I got a lot in common.

Dear reader, most of this story is fact; some of it, well, maybe I added a little spice. I’m gonna leave it up to you to discern what parts have been sprinkled a bit. In the end, I don’t think it matters much; the lesson is the same (if there is a lesson). I sometimes think that, without our knowledge, we become our own Ahab, and in the heat of the moment, it can be very difficult to see who we have become.

But…that’s just my opinion; feel free to make it your own.

As always, we thank you for spending a bit of your precious time with us and are honored with the sacrifice. Please hit the like button and share with at least one person if you liked it. Comments, well, let us know we are doing just a bit of good. God Bless you

The tale of the “Tarr Baby”

I’ve been thinkin’ of late; what with all this bad news circling and swirling about. If a body isn’t careful, it may seep into your mind like poison, darkening your thoughts and dreams. Even your very outlook on this precious gift of life; the very life given each of us by a just and Holy God. I was thinkin’ how easy it is to focus on all this “bad,” all the while forgettin’ about the damage it does. Hopes and dreams broken on the ground, relationships tattered beyond all hope of mendin’. Then a story came to me; a story about two lifelong friends, tighter than ticks in a dog’s ear they were, had each other’s backs through thick and thin. Stood proud at each other’s wedding; Godfather to each other’s children, even a world war couldn’t separate those ol’ boys, yep, they were two peas in a pod. That is until the Tarr baby came.

Elmer Cox and Jew Hicks; remember those names. Cool-weather days were spent in the same one-room schoolhouse; hot summer evenings passed as they hunted craw-dads in the cool creek. When they became men, they stood at the others side as they each wed lovely women. And when Uncle Sam came calling, both honored the call.

When they returned, Elmer picked up his daddie’s work as a blacksmith and Ferrier. Jew did the same, taking over the family farm. Practical jokers, the both of ’em. Innocent enough at the beginning, and each had a good laugh, but time and age escalated their little battles. Each joke became more serious, and each response escalated the stakes; until that day.

One frosty spring morning, Jew fired his ol’ truck up and headed to town; it wasn’t long till he noticed a horrible odor. The smell became so bad his eyes watered, and his throat began to burn. Unbeknownst to him; Elmer had filled the truck’s radiator with horse urine, and the scent was well beyond human comprehension. Of course, this made Elmer so mad his neck scorched the rear of his collar. He swore through his tear-stained eyes and urine-burned sinuses there was gonna be payback.

A couple of frosty mornings later, Jew was loading his forge, getting ready for the day ahead. He filled his shovel with coal and threw it onto the fire when the most horrendous explosion filled the shop. Smoke and fire filled the small building, and Elmer was certain he was about to meet his maker. Unbeknownst to Elmer, Jew had poured a can of black powder into the coal bucket; there was gonna be payback.

Well, as you might expect, news of this little war of attrition spread like wildfire. The talk of the valley it was. Who would make the next move? What might it be this time? Each time the story was shared, the teller would add just a little spice until, at last, the tale took on a life of its own, completely unrecognizable from the simple tale of practical jokes. A Tarr Baby was born.

Elmer fumed and fumed; he puzzled and puzzled, befuddled, it came to him. Horse piss, he told the men sitting around the coal stove. More horse piss, ol’ Jew needs a bucket dumped on him when he rides that tractor of his past the shop.

Those “friends” of Elmers couldn’t wait to get down to the store and tell everybody with ears what ol’ Elmer was gonna do. The tale grew and grew; it was no longer a bucket of urine, but a bucket of whatever the teller had in mind, just to make it worth tellin’. The Tarr baby was growing fast.

When word got to Jew, he was at the end of his tether.

“What are ya gonna do?” they would ask.

“You cain’t let this go unanswered,” they would say.

I know what I’m gonna do, Jew said. You just wait and see.

The next morning Jew climbed on his tractor, slid a shotgun down next to the seat, and headed off to his fields. The “friends” gathered at the store saw him as he chugged past.

“This is it,” they cried as they all jumped into their trucks, anxious to follow Jew and see what happens when he passes Elmer’s shop.

As Jew rounded the corner; he lowered his hand to cock the trigger.

Elmer was waiting on the roof; he strained to hear the ol’ tractor as it chugged ever closer to his shop. Then, just as Jew turned the corner, Elmer jumped to his feet, ready to cover his friend with urine.

But Jew was ready; he lifted the shotgun and pulled the trigger; birdshot sent his former friend flying off the rooftop and crashing into the weeds on the other side.

Elmer survived being shot, though the birdshot took years to work its way out of the hundreds of little wounds. Of course, the sheriff was called, and the town began to take sides. Rumors flew through the air like June bugs, and gossip grew like cancer with each telling. Funny thing, the word “gossip,” you can almost hear the hiss of a serpent when you say the word; it’s truly a filthy word.

Before long, everybody in town became polarized, the was no middle ground. Who started it? What started it? Some even went so far as to insinuate adultery. You were either on this side or the wrong side, and few would change their mind.

Tarr Baby definition; a Tarr Baby is something that the more you play with it, the more you get on you. Let me say that again; the more you play with it, the more you get on you.

You see, when we get polarized on a subject, any subject, pick sides, refuse to listen, my way or the highway. We only tend to get more on ourselves; we become our own victim by default. Tar is very difficult to get off, and sooner or later, we succumb to its weight to our own peril.

We live in a time when our money is fake, our government is rotten to its core, our elected leaders have larceny in their hearts, our rights are being stripped away, and our worth as Americans is constantly under attack. Yet here we are, playing with a Tarr Baby while the important bits go unnoticed or unattended.

As a whole, I believe we can learn a lot from Elmer Cox and Jew Hicks. A lifetime of friendship, ruined over a bucket of horse urine, birdshot, and rumor. They became so lost in the gossip (did you hear that hiss) that they forgot who their real friend was, they lost sight of the strength of unity. Something so simple, so mundane killed what survived even a world war. Think on that for a while.

The Tin Cup Clan thanks you for your valuable time. I realize many will read this without so much as a like or most importantly a share, but this time, share it, please.

Oh, and by the way; turpentine removes tar, just in case you should need to know that.

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.”

HOW TO POLE VAULT OVER A MOUSE TURD, and other useless things.

I’ve been practicing this writing thing for a few years now, Maybe someday I shall be at the very least mediocre. Alas… I keep pounding away at these blasted keys while rubbing a bald spot into what little hair I have left. From time to time I’ll stop, stare at the words in disgust and scream to myself (metaphorically). You’re a fraud I say, an amateur, a red-neck with no use behind a keyboard.

In disgust, I stand in a huff to storm out of my little “office” never to return. I glance at the mirror, not recognizing the man looking back. Then it hits me. Without my knowledge, I have come to resemble the old stereotypical writer in appearance. He stands there, glaring at me, shoulders bent from hours hovering over a keyboard, grey goatee surrounded by a four-day stubble. Round eyeglasses sit just beneath a bald spot polished to a shine by endless rubbing. To my horror, I notice I’m wearing a button-down cardigan sweater, and a “worlds best writer” coffee mug gripped tight in my gnarled paw. SCARY HUH?

Have I bitten off more than I can chew? The book series and the constant back and forth between agents, endless rewrites, and “please condense your seventy thousand word manuscript into one(1) sentence” guidelines. Did you know(…) has a proper name? “ellipsis,” that term means as much to me as the name of that little thing on the end of your shoelace, (yea… there’s a name for that too), and don’t get me started on the proper use of colons vs semi-colons. ( There’s a reason for this banter, I promise, just let me preach on a bit).

The Tin Cup Clan stories, Some are memories, some are mere musings containing a thinly veiled lesson. Believe it or not, most of ’em come to me around three am. This leaves me in a pickle, if I don’t get up and outline them right away they will be gone come morning. I figured out how to solve this problem and get a good night’s sleep as well. I simply poke at the wife until she wakes then tell her all the gory details, secure in the knowledge she will remember them come morning. She is not happy with this solution.

The Heritage project, this one is important. For hundreds of years, these mountains have been mined for the riches they contain. Resources taken for the love of money are far greater than simple coal. Our stories, our history, our heritage are now for sale to the highest bidder. They are being “mined” just like coal, for likes, clicks, and follows. For that very reason, we will never have banners or ads. Our elders possessed a wisdom far greater than any that can be learned from this modern world. If you go through our posts you’ll meet a fellow named Shag, discover what’s contained in a simple blue jar, learn what DWB’s are, refuse to wear pink socks, and maybe think twice before you grab that first piece of chicken, and many others. Maybe, just maybe, a little of that wisdom can be passed down through the tellin’. That is, as long as my wife can remember them come mornin’.

Back to that ol’ man in the mirror.

Two men came to mind as I gazed in the mirror; one of ’em I had met just the other day, quite by accident. He was a rather stately fellow, well dressed, and neatly trimmed beard. He was friendly but wasted little time in bragging about his life, years spent in academia had forged a quick wit that he was justifiably proud of. I told him I wrote a bit since retirement, a comment he pounced on immediately. Do you know what I can’t stand? he asked. People that misspell words on purpose. Just because you are from here doesn’t give you license to spell-like you speak.

I kept my opinions to myself as he carried on.

And people that don’t know how to punctuate drives me crazy, just the other day I was reading an article in the local paper and found three, that’s right three mistakes. Well, I immediately wrote to the editor, pointing out these mistakes. And would you believe it, he never thanked me, he still to this day hasn’t responded back.

The gentleman had a lot more to say, but after that statement, I really wasn’t paying attention.

I left him to his opinions, but as I drove away I began to feel a bit unworthy. Many times I write as I speak, I believe it gives the words warmth, a “muchness.” But I left him feeling some-what less, than when I met him. I recalled grade school many years ago when a few teachers tried to break us of our dialect, they felt it made us sound unintelligent. “You will be more successful if you learn to speak “proper” English” they would say. Thankfully, those days are gone and so is the “proper” English attempt. But suddenly another fellow popped into mind, another fellow and “mouse turds.”

In the past, I’ve bragged a great deal about my step-dad, and justifiably so. When I was a young man, things as they may often do, became too much for me to handle. He would stop me in the middle of a rant.

He was a loud crusty ol’ Yankee from upstate New York, and second, only to my mother, he made me who I am today. Michael, ( he always began that way). Michael, you gotta quit pole-vaultin’ over mouse turds. He would slap his knee and throw his head back in thunderous laughter. You chuckled just then, I know you did, but think on that comment for a second. DON’T POLE-VAULT OVER MOUSE TURDS. Lawd, Lawd, some of those academics are spinnin’ right now.

Crude, yes, offensive, well nowadays everything is. But he kept me grounded, he was also the source of the “DWBs” (you gotta check that post out). I can’t be sure, and I don’t wanna go braggin’, but I swear I could see him in that mirror, staring back at me, I could even hear his laughter. This lesson wasn’t taught from a book or learned from the interweb. I reckon you might say it was a “passive” lesson, one I didn’t realize I was learning at the time. Funny how those are generally the ones that stick ain’t it.

We may never know the effect our lives have on those around us, oft times the simplest of things have the greatest impact. Even now, especially now, I find myself jumpin’ over the small stuff. Agents and editors pickin’ through the words. A stranger, proud of his ability to find the smallest fault or “misspelled” thought. Don’t get me wrong, I strive to share quality content with each of you, I stress over letting you down and I respect you far too much to offer trash.

Humbled, and a little ashamed, I turned back to my desk, stepped over some mouse turds as I laid my pole down, and began typing. No, these words ain’t perfect, yes you will find a mistake or two, or three. After all, what do you expect of something spilled from this ol’ brain of mine? And I owe a great deal of it to an ol’ Yankee named George. THANK YOU GEORGE

George Chamberlain (late) my step-dad

We hope you enjoyed this visit with The Tin Cup Clan, time is so valuable these days we are humbled that you choose to spend just a bit of it with us. Share this little tale with someone, Lord knows there is plenty that needs to hear it. Comments, let us know what you think, kinda gives us a boost to keep going. If you know of someone for the Heritage project drop a note, we would love to hear from you.

Until next time…God Bless

Award Winning Wednesday – Michael Miller at The Tin Cup Clan — The Haps With Herb

Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22636 – 939 Here’s the haps: Hello My Dear Fans, Friends, Fiends, Foes, Foundlings, Frogs, Frontiersmen, and Fidgeters, See, this is what happens to me, I skip a day in a streak. “Herb, nobody’s going to miss you for one day.” But one day turns into a week, turns into a month turns…

Award Winning Wednesday – Michael Miller at The Tin Cup Clan — The Haps With Herb

THE HERITAGE PROJECT

We take great pride in announcing the rollout of the Heritage Project. In the future, we plan to share memories, photos, and truths, straight from the teller’s mouth.

Our elders are passing quicker by the day, and we simply can not allow their “truths” to pass with them. Our ancestors live, in the tellin’, and it’s our responsibility to keep them alive.

From hours on end, spent digging in a poisonous mine, to back-breaking labor tilling the rocky ground. Gentle fingers patiently spinning yarn and sewing heavy quilts for cold winters. Nothing came easy. These conditions gave birth to humble, hard-working people with a special brand of wisdom.

Below are a few samples of some upcoming stories, I hope we do them proud in the tellin’.

Rev. Curtis R. Sutton, well-known mountain preacher, and father of Clyde Wayne Sutton of (Sevier County Tn). The now tattered bible can be seen held in his hand. The Bible was believed lost until found (complete with sermon notes) in the dirt in an old barn. We are working on the story, (it’s a good one)
The white Bible belonged to Mrs. Damaris Cardwell, who married Rev. Woodrow Wilson Bradley. (Sevier County Tn.) They were married by Rev. Sutton (above). The center picture was her mother. Of their five children three survive today, Albert, Ardell, and Mary Jean. We have such incredible tales of this family to share with you in the coming time.

The Clan is working on these “truths” and will post them as quickly as possible. In the meantime, please contact us with your family’s history so we can get them out for all to see.

The Tin Cup Clan thanks you for your time. And please…share, share, share. Tell us what you think. Let’s get the word out about what it REALLY means to be Hillbilly.

The Exploits of “Hefer” the Cinnamon Queen.

I’m not often at a loss for words, I believe there are a number of fine folk out there that can attest to that simple statement. However, I must admit I’m just a smidge at a loss pertaining to an ol’ girl soon to be known to many as “Hefer.” Oh, it’s a fine story to be sure, and one with plenty of lessons hidden in the words. So, bear with me for a few moments, grab a cup of coffee, and let’s get to know this fine southern lady just a bit better.

A wonderful devoted lady by any standards most would say, a loving mother to many. No…really when I say many, I mean MANY, last brood was twelve and counting. WHAT?? Oh, yea…I forgot to mention, Hefer is a chicken, Of the “Cinnamon Queen” persuasion to be exact. A chicken yes, but a chicken with dreams, dreams like we all should have. Dreams of a far-off world most shall never see, dreams of far-flung adventures most will never have. But Hefer possessed something foreign to many of us, “fire in the belly ambition.”

Hefer was my daughter’s prize hen, she was, however, the most headstrong in the flock. Any crack, any crevice, any means of escape,(no matter how small) could not escape her sharp eye. Most of the flock are free-range birds, sitting Hens however are contained for obvious reasons. But no matter the measures, Hefer would always find her way free, after all, she had dreams. Remember?

Recently we had some of our customary Tn. mountain weather. You know, seventy-five one day, thirty and snowing the next. Trees were down, power was out, cable and interweb missing. Lord knows we gotta have interweb.

Once the roads were clear, out came the cable trucks, my daughter waited not so patiently for the cable guy. Until today.

Here he came, sloshin’ up the drive, little faces were pressed against the glass, giddy by his arrival. He stepped from the truck ready to work, flung open doors containing all the pieces-parts and bits and bobs needed to restore the all-mighty cable, (and interweb).

Busy with his repairs, he failed to notice the flock of free-range poultry who had mistaken the truck for a coop. Honest mistake to be sure. In their new coop, they found a multitude of brightly colored food, they scratched and pecked at the bits and bobs, thankful for the buffet laid before them. Until the cable guy noticed.

Arms waving wildly, screaming,(“git, git, shew, shew,) birds went a-flyin’ left and right. Confident the birds were gone he finished his work and off he went, sloshin’ down the drive.

Liddy (my daughter), went to the pens to feed the hens, BUT NO HEFER!

It seems Hefer had used the confusion to stow away in the bucket of the truck. A fact that went unnoticed until the repairman stopped at the town’s ballfield, at that point she exploded from the bucket, scaring the pants off the poor feller, then took off runnin’. There’s that, “fire in the belly” part.

Picture in your mind; a grown man chasin’ a chicken around a muddy ballfield in the middle of town. The sight caused a number of folks to pull to the shoulder to watch the entire spectacle from the comfort of their vehicles. This went on for God knows how long, until at long last she caught a break in the brush, escaping capture. Hefer was livin’ large, all the hope, dreams, and patience had paid off. She was now her own woman, (in a chicken sort of way).

Well…Liddy was understandably heart-sick. Her favorite hen was gone. I gotta throw in the “flown the coop” metaphor. She took to social media in a drastic attempt to locate the ol’girl. She was soon inundated with “smiley face” emojis and comments. Please, if anybody sees her let me know and so on.

Now you may think that was the end of the Hefer debacle, (but wait, there’s more). This is a small town in the mountains, we do things differently here. Perfect strangers began looking for Hefer, all with the same goal, getting the ol’ hen home.

And you know what? They found her. That’s right, friends that Liddy didn’t know she had, contacted her. Hefer was safe. Now you might think it’s just a chicken, but that chicken could teach us all a powerful lesson. Never give up on a dream, and never underestimate your friends. Yep…we’re a little different here, but that’s just how we do things. In closing, a shout out to the wonderful folks of Corrington Tn. and Thank You on behalf of “Hefer” the Cinnamon Queen.

As always: Thank You for spending a bit of your valuable time with The Tin Cup Clan. May God richly bless you. Remember to hit a few buttons at the bottom and share this story, and comments, we love the comments. Yep, That’s a picture of the REAL Hefer. The Tin Cup Clan

Turkey Delivery

          By Michael Miller

Autumn in the hills of East TN is a very special time. The smell of fresh-cut hay hangs heavy in the cool crisp air. Hills and hollers are dressed in their Sunday best; sporting vivid hues of orange, red and gold. An elegant mist hovers at tree-top level, just as a bride wears her veil on her wedding day. Ridges and hill tops randomly pierce the fog; a high vantage point reveals an illusion of scattered islands in a distant sea.

I love walking through this wood in Autumn, it’s a delight to the senses, the fallen leaves give way under foot with a pleasing crunch. Squirrels are heard chattering in the tree-tops as they go about their day; collecting hickory nuts and other winter staples. A nip hangs in the air; just enough to tingle the nose and cool the lips.

          A few years ago, I was enjoying such a bucolic setting as this, as I recall, it was in the month of November and Thanksgiving was closing fast A cool Friday afternoon found me on my way home from work; via one of the many mountain back-roads. Life was about to change suddenly for three complete strangers, and, if I may be so bold as to speculate; I don’t believe any one of us would ever be the same.

This little story involves myself, a stranger driving an old pick-up truck, and one shall I say, soon to be mortally wounded wild Tom turkey.

          You see, Autumn in the hills of East Tennessee usually requires accommodating the seasonal influx of tourists, hundreds of thousands of millions of em, [leaf peakers,] as the locals know em.

Driving about in mass; wearing funny outfits while snapping countless pictures of our little slice of paradise. All the while managing to assault what-ever species of local wildlife, unfortunate enough to have been caught out in the open.

          The main roads are soon congested with vehicles sporting tags from all the lower forty-eight, and a few regions of Canada as well. Traffic jams ten miles in length are not uncommon; forcing tempers to run high and patience to run low. It’s an annual ritual local folk have come to expect and subsequently prepare for.

          The best defense is a firm familiarity with the countless backroads and trails known only to the fortunate folk who call this place home. Failure to provide one’s self with a proper means of ingress and egress will generally result in countless hours sitting grid-locked within a sea of vehicles.

          This particular year found me to be the fortunate owner of one nineteen and eighty-five Chevy Celebrity. A fine chariot to say the least, lime green in color both inside and out. The color was further highlighted with a rich earthy patina, providing this chariot with an aura of maturity and glamour unmatched by the likes of newer vehicles. The look was further accentuated by no less than four, that’s right, four doors.

          The interior was no less awe-inspiring, cool lime green velour seats complete with the highly sought after, spilled coffee stain option. The head-liner was covered with delaminating fabric. Sagging down and rubbing the top of my head, it clung tenaciously to the ceiling, held in place by countless strategically placed thumb-tacks in a rainbow of colors.

          Of course, at least two of the power windows were non-functional. This combined with the broken air-conditioner and coolant leak blessed the lucky driver (me) with a free sauna on the way home. “Hey, you know people pay real money for that stuff, right?

          The ol’ girl ran pretty well; even considering the fact she burnt nearly as much oil as gasoline. She even had a built-in mosquito repellent. A simple stop for traffic or red lights brought puffs of smoke from around the hood. Thereby causing the occasional panic among fellow motorists, while eliminating those pesky insects so bothersome during the summer months.

          This busy fall afternoon found me on my way home via one of the many back-roads. There I was, driving along, admiring the fall colors, and enjoying the cool fall air, with hints of oil smoke. Behind me a fellow motorist in an old truck followed at a distance.

           November meant Thanksgiving was just around the corner, so thoughts of the coming celebration filled my mind. Filled it to such an extent as to leave me oblivious to the sharp curve slowly approaching. I came to my senses just in time to set the car into a comfortable path around the bend, when there he was, out of nowhere. Smack in the middle of the road, smack in the middle of the curve.

          The biggest dog gone turkey I had ever laid eyes upon, and friend I’ve seen a few. There was no time to react, no time to swerve, the situation looked calamitous for sure. I’m certain this predicament looked even more depressing from that poor ol’ turkey’s point of view.

There he was, minding his own, having a joyful little turkey sort of day, hens were all happy, little turkey babies were all happy, by all account’s turkey life was good.

Just then out of the blue, a big ol’ green piece of what-ever it was comes careening around the curve, barreling down on this poor feller at a breakneck speed. At this point you gotta wonder, did his life pass before his eyes, were there things left undone, things left unsaid.

These are questions best left to poets, philosophers, and truth seekers alike, sadly we may never know. For a split second, I believe we made eye contact, a connection of sorts. Two hapless souls for whom on this particular day fate firmly placed them in the wrong place at the wrong time, and then it happened… A sickening thud.

I felt the poor fellers body bounce between the undercarriage and the road for what seemed an eternity, finally and gruesomely exiting the rear of the vehicle. I looked to my mirror to witness this poor lifeless bird flailing about as he tumbled down the road. Finally, coming to rest in the left-hand ditch row. There he lay, lifeless by the roadside.

Now here my dear friend is where that hardwired hillbilly instinct of mine kicks in. Like I said, it was almost Thanksgiving; and that was one hell of a bird lying there in yon ditch. Hunters dream about a bird such as this, most never come across one of this magnitude in a lifetime. The only ones that could possibly compare sit mounted on walls at the local sporting goods store. Yet there it lay, in a ditch, on a lonely country back road.

I threw the green hornet in park and ran to the ditch where the body lay. By this time, the ol’ boy in the truck had caught up and had stopped dead in the middle of the road to watch the goings on.

He shoved his head out the door window and yelled; “That’s one hell of a bird boy.”

I looked down at the lifeless body; then gave the head a sharp kick, all the while ready to sprint to the car with the first sign of life.

“Is he dead?” He yelled.

Yea, looks like it I said, knocked his left eye clean out of his head.

“If you don’t want im, I’ll take im off yer hands fer ye,”

Naw, I got im, I hollered back; trying my best to appear calm in light of the prize laying at my feet. Here lay some heavy bragging rights. I imagined the accolades, the atta boys, the pats on the back. Did you hear about the turkey ol’ Mike got?

Sure did, they would reply. I heard about it, big-un too I reckon.

Yep, I was gonna be a bonafide rock star.

I had been given, no blessed, with the means to supply my merry band of cracker-snatchers, with a bird the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Ebenezer Scrooge delivered the prize goose to the humble Cratchit family.

I grabbed the beast by both legs, his wings fell open as I hoisted him in the air. A five-foot wingspan if it was an inch, what a prize. With two thumbs up from my new-found friend in the truck, I made my way to the green hornet, prize in hand. Opened the rear door and chucked him into the back seat. After a quick wipe of my hands, I jumped in and resumed my way home.

As I drove down the road my heart was full of pride, my head full of, well, myself really. I practiced the story over and over in my head, honing each word until they were razor sharp. Surely, this story was destined to be repeated at all the Miller holidays for years to come. And then it happened!

Suddenly an explosion of noise and activity. I wasn’t sure where it started; it seemed to be coming from everywhere. All hell had broken loose in the back seat; and I didn’t know what to make of it.

Massive wings tore at the dangling headliner; thumbtacks flew about the interior like shrapnel. I was getting the hell beat out of me, those massive wings landed punches a prize fighter would have been proud of. The back of my neck was getting torn to pieces by the claws and what felt like twelve inch long daggers. It soon became apparent that there was only gonna be one winner in this fight, and my chances of victory looked mighty slim.

I fought to maintain control of the ol’ green car, swerving back and forth on the twisting mountain road. All the while I was being showered with turkey blood and feathers. I was afraid I was gonna run off the side of a ridge whilst I was trying to protect my face. It was complete and absolute bedlam in the purest sense.

In the midst of the confusion it dawned on me, the damn thing wasn’t dead. He had simply been knocked unconscious or playing possum. I didn’t really know or care which, but boy howdy was he ever upset. I just knew one of us had to have some relief, and it had to be quick.

He seemed to be everywhere at the same time, flapping, flailing, screaming (that’s right I said screaming.) I’m talking some God-awful screams. Well… looking back, the screams might have been mine, I’m not entirely sure.

In a split second of reasonable thought, I did the only possible thing. I slammed both feet on the brake petal and pushed with all I had.

The car came to a sliding halt; smack in the center of the road. It was all I could do to find the door handle. I fumbled about blindly, desperately, and with a final desperate lunge, jerked the handle with all my strength. As soon as I sensed an exit, I kicked open the door, and fell with a thud to the center of the road in a heap of blood, feathers, and turkey crap.

Needless to say, but I will anyway, it took a few seconds to regain any manner of composure. There I stood; alone in the middle of the road; staring at my car crammed tighter than corn on a cob with a whole bunch of raging turkey.

It was at this time my ringing ears detected a blaring car horn and the awfullest laughter I have ever heard. I turned around to see the ol’ boy in the pick-up; slapping his dash and laughing uncontrollably.

Boy he sure as hell showed you; that’s the funniest thing I ever saw.

Time after time he threw his head back laughing and gasping for air; sounding a lot like an old donkey.

He began to slowly pull around my car. Enjoy that bird boy; you might want to ask him for a ride home. I could hear the laughter as the old truck disappeared around the curve.

I stood there for a second, pondering the damage to my reputation once the driver got into town, what to do next.

Well, of course I needed to get him outta my car. I knew what to do, simply open both doors on one side and the bird would escape right? It’s common sense.

I ran over to the right side and grabbed the handle, locked, I grabbed the handle on the other door, locked, well that figures I said out loud. I ran back to the driver’s side; I knew those doors were unlocked.

When I opened that rear door that ol’ Tom shot outta that car like he had been fired from a cannon. He stopped about thirty feet away and stretched his wings, mocking me. He stood there, but just briefly, enjoying his victory, left eye dangling at the side of his head. Then turned and ran down through yon field.

I could only imagine the stories he was about to share with his turkey friends. He was about to be the bonafide hero not me. His story was about to be told to his turkey family not mine.

I grudgingly got in my ol’ car, the headliner now scattered about in pieces. Thumbtacks were scattered about like miniature landmines. Blood, feathers, and turkey crap was everywhere. I got stuck by at least three or four em. How the heck did crap get on the front windshield.

I wasn’t sure if the blood on my neck and face were mine or his. This was gonna be one heck of a story all right. And by the time the ol’ boy in the truck got home, I was gonna be famous that’s for sure. Lord, I could hear the tales now.

I put the car in drive and once again started home. Yes, we still tell stories about the turkey every Thanksgiving. My kids sit around with bated breath; tell us about the turkey daddy, tell us about the turkey. I do; and they laugh and laugh.

I’m grateful to that ol’ bird, and you should be too. If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t be able to laugh so hard every time we see a group of turkeys by the side of the road.

So… this holiday, after you and yours enjoy that fabulous meal. Tell em about the turkey, and how he…well, you finish that last line

As always the Tin Cup Clan sincerely thanks you for spending a bit of time with us. We realize you have far more important things to do and we are honored you choose to stop in for a spell. If you like this little tale we sure would appreciate you hitting a few buttons. Please like, share, tell a friend or maybe even leave a comment. We sure do enjoy the comments. Thank You and God bless. The Tin Cup Clan.

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