Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ellison Mounts & Pike County

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Jay Shepherd of the Pike County Tourism, Convention and Visitors Bureau regarding making a post about Pike County, Kentucky. I am always amenable to promoting the positive aspects of Appalachia, so after a few emails back and forth, I was excited to help promote Pike County. Jay then solicited the assistance of local historian, Jessica Forsyth, to write about an aspect of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud that took place in Pike County, Kentucky. Jessica also serves as the Director of Activities and Events for the Big Sandy Heritage Center, a local historical museum located on Hambley Blvd. in Pikeville, Kentucky.

"Ellison Mounts was Pike County’s biggest scapegoat, but also one of the lesser known roles of the Hatfield-McCoy feud. Supposedly the illegitimate son of Ellison Hatfield, Mounts was with the Hatfield boys Johnse and Calvin when they went to the McCoy home on January 1, 1888 and set the house ablaze with McCoy family members still inside. Sarah McCoy and her children ran outside to escape their burning home and chaos erupted. Johnse fired a shot before the signal was given to fire on the McCoys and a gunfight ensued between him, Calvin, Ellison, and the McCoy boys."

"In the panic that ensued, Calvin fired a shot, killing Alifair McCoy. The blame was not directed at him however. Instead, all eyes turned to Ellison Mounts. Mounts, being somewhat dimwitted, probably did not realize the severity of the charges or what would happen to him next."

Ellison Mounts (photo courtesy of Pike County Tourism, Convention and Visitors Bureau).

"At trial, Ellison was convicted and sentenced to be hanged. He and his lawyer tried to appeal the case, but were unable to do so with a jury that had already made up their minds, as most of the county had. On February 18, 1890, Ellison Mounts was hanged on the site of the present day University of Pikeville classroom building. Thousands of onlookers turned out to witness the hanging, but laws stated that executions could no longer be public. Workers constructed a fence around the scaffold to hide the sight from prying eyes. His last words would attempt to point the blame again to the Hatfields. No one had been sent to the gallows in Pike County for forty years, and after Ellison, no one ever would be again. All the other Hatfield prisoners received life sentences in prison."

"The University of Pikeville, then named Pikeville College, erected residence halls and classroom buildings on the site where the makeshift gallows had stood. Today, visitors can read a marker placed by the historical society on the site. It tells of the life and trial of Ellison Mounts, and how the nation’s most famous feud claimed yet another young life well before its time."

The Hanging of Ellison Mounts (photo courtesy of Pike County Tourism, Convention and Visitors Bureau).

I hope everyone enjoyed reading about some of the interesting history that took place in Pike County, Kentucky. I encourage everyone to plan a visit to Pike County in the very near future. Pike County truly offers something for everyone. If you have any questions regarding your visit to Pike County, I'm sure Jay over at the Pike County Tourism, Convention and Visitors Bureau would be more than happy to assist you.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Folks Are Talking

A former feature writer and columnist on the Bluefield, W. Va., Daily Telegraph has released a double CD of oral histories titled “Folks Are Talking” from men and women he interviewed for the newspaper in the 1970s.

Garret Mathews, who moved to Evansville, Ind., in 1987 to write the metro column for The Courier, retired in 2011 after penning more than 10,000 articles on a variety of subjects from a 91-year-old female bootlegger in Princeton, Ky., to the members of a snake-handling church in Jolo, W. Va.

Mathews selected 28 of his early Daily Telegraph stories for “Folks Are Talking.” They include an early United Mine Workers organizer, a horse trader, survivors of coal mine explosions, coal camp baseball players, a child born during the deadly flood of 1977 and a female furrier who carves muskrats while eating peanut-butter sandwiches.

“These men and women are from a bygone era and most are long dead,” Mathews says. “I wanted to record our time together as a way of keeping their stories alive.”
Music evocative of the region that includes southern West Virginia and southwest Virginia is included on the double CD.

Copies of “Folks Are Talking” will be furnished to public and school libraries in the two-state area as well as to historians and colleges and universities that offer Appalachian studies.

“It’s as I point out in the introduction: You just don’t find these folks any more,” Mathews says. “What they shared with me, I want to share with future generations.”

“Folks Are Talking” was featured on a recent interview segment with Joe Dashiell on WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Va. Selections from the double CD are also being played on the public television station in Roanoke.

The double CD costs $17 plus $3 shipping and handling. Checks should be sent to “Folks Are Talking,” c/o Garret Mathews, 7954 Elna Kay Drive, Evansville, Indiana 47715. For more information or to listen to four of the tracks or to order online, go to

Monday, August 29, 2011

Second Edition of "Goin Up Gandy" Now Available

It has recently been brought to my attention that one of my favorite books, "Goin' Up Gandy" by Don Teter has been reissued into a second edition. Loyal readers of Appalachian Lifestyles may recall the mention of "Goin' Up Gandy" in an old post about The Wreck of the Dry Fork #4. After reading that post, "Goin' Up Gandy" author, Don Teter, contacted me and let me know that the long out-of-print book was soon to be reissued in a second edition. That time has now come. I highly recommend the book and urge all readers of this blog to consider picking up a copy of this remarkable book while it is still available. It is perhaps the single best source of local history for the Dry Fork region and the surrounding areas of West Virginia.

Here is the Press Release:

"Don Teter of Monterville, West Virginia, and McClain Printing Company of Parsons, announce the release of a second edition of his book Goin’ Up Gandy, A History of the Dry Fork Region of Randolph and Tucker Counties, West Virginia.

The 135 page history was first published in 1977, but has been out of print for nearly 30 years. The new edition includes a 20 page index. The book details the history of the settlement of the area, the Civil War period, and the boom times of the logging and railroad industries in the Dry Fork, with extensive footnotes and numerous photos. A map of the area “In the age of steam” is included.

A 1969 graduate of Elkins High School, and a 1973 graduate of Davis and Elkins College, Mr. Teter holds a B.A. in History and Political Science. He has been a West Virginia licensed professional surveyor since 1982, serving as president of the West Virginia Society of Professional Surveyors in 2001, and editing the quarterly publication The West Virginia Surveyor for ten years. Don has done extensive land surveying and consulting work for the Rich Mountain Battlefield Association, the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance, and Historic Beverly Preservation. He is currently on the History Alive! roster of the West Virginia Humanities Council, portraying writer, artist, and Civil War topographer Porte Crayon.

Copies are available from local bookstores, McClain Printing Company in Parsons, or directly from the author at:

Don Teter
HC 86 Box 32
Monterville, WV 26282

or by e-mail at:

When buying directly from the author the retail price is $26.42, plus $1.58 sales tax (total $28.00). When the book is mailed an additional $3.00 is charged for shipping and handling for a total of $30.00."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


When I was growing up, I was considered by my family to be the pet pig. This was because I was the baby of the bunch, and for 12 years I remained that. During this time, I was doted on and given free reign of the place, and I got by with a lot more than I probably should have.

Me at age 2. Those pants prove I was at the height of fashion.

I’m pretty sure that I was my granddaddy’s favorite grandchild, and I could get anything out of him or do anything and it’d be just fine. He was so proud of me, he’d tell people, “That boy can drive hen shit to gunpowder.” That’s how good I was.

Now this isn’t to say that the other kids, including my brother who is only 18 months older than I am, were slighted in any way, I’m just saying that I got by with more than my fair share because of my pet pig status.

I remember one time when we lived on the farm, I got a BB gun for my birthday. I was out playing in the side yard and my brother was in the upstairs window, making faces at me. He apparently thought he would be safe from my vengeance, but I proved him wrong when I shot at him through the window. He dodged to the side, but I waited until he poked his head back in front of the window to see if I was still outside. When he did, I fired again, and just like that, another windowpane bit the dust. This continued until I had shot every windowlight out of that upstairs bedroom. As soon as I’d shot out the last one, Jason hollered out, “Mom…Matthew’s outside shooting out the upstairs windows with his BB gun.”

Mom then came outside and investigated the situation and took my BB gun away, and told me I was going to have to pay for those windows, and she was taking by $2 allowance to do so. It wasn’t but maybe a half hour later, and after a long talk with my granddad, that I got back my BB gun. He also gave me $2 and told me not to shoot out anymore windows...and not to tell mother about the money!

Me, my Granddad and my Uncle Tom in 1986. Notice my beaver-teeth pose!

I remember how I used to stay overnight with my granddad and we’d go riding around in his huge red International station wagon named “Belvedere”. Belvedere had a front seat, a back seat and an enormous back end that usually was filled with kids and chainsaws. I know those two don’t mix, but I remember always hating to have to find a seat bakc there so you wasn’t riding up against a chainsaw chain.

One time, when I was about 5 years old, just me and my granddad was coming back from Riverton in Belvedere (by now you’ve probably realized I never missed a trip to the store). At that time, I only knew my numbers up to 100, but the speedometer in Belvedere registered up to 120 miles per hour, so of course I wanted my granddad to sink the needle in the straight stretch going out through Germany Valley so I could see it. However, since I didn't know how to say, “a hundred and twenty”, I instead said to my granddad what I knew, “Go Twelve-O, granddaddy, go twelve-O!”

Well, Belvedere might have registered 120 mph, but it certainly couldn’t go that fast, looking back I doubt that it could have went 120 mph if it was falling straight down a well. Granddad used to have a saying about how much power Belvedere had, he would say “This ol' car couldn’t pull a sick woman off of a shitpot”. I believe that says all you ever need to know about Belvedere!!

Let’s suffice it to say that Belvedere never did go “Twelve-O”.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Erl-King

This is one of my very favorite poems. I can just imagine my German ancestors living in fear of the Erl-king. What better way to celebrate All Hallows Eve than with the German folktale/song/poem, The Erl-King?

Der Elrkonig (The Erl-king)
by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Who's riding so late through th' endless wild?
The father 't is with his infant child;
He thinks the boy 's well off in his arm,
He grasps him tightly, he keeps him warm.

My son, say why are you hiding your face ?
Oh father, the Erlking 's coming apace,
The Erlking 's here with his train and crown!
My son, the fog moves up and down.

Be good, my child, come, go with me!
I know nice games, will play them with thee,
And flowers thou 'It find near by where I live,
pretty dress my mother will give.

Dear father, oh father, and do you not hear
What th' Erlking whispers so close to my ear?
Be quiet, do be quiet, my son,
Through leaves the wind is rustling anon.

Do come, my darling, oh come with me!
Good care my daughters will take of thee,
My daughters will dance about thee in a ring,
Will rock thee to sleep and will prettily sing.

Dear father, oh father, and do you not see
The Erlking's daughters so near to me?
My son, my son, no one 's in our way,
The willows are looking unusually gray.

I love thee, thy beauty I covet and choose,
Be willing, my darling, or force I shall use!
Dear father, oh father, he seizes my arm!
The Erlking, father, has done me harm.

The father shudders, he darts through the wild;
With agony fill him the groans of his child.
He reached his farm with fear and dread;
The infant son in his arms was dead.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


It all began on that night so long ago. It was hot when it happened, it was sometime way down in the summertime. I remember it was about the time the crickets start to hollerin’ but before the nights start to get chilly. I remember that I was wide awake that first night because it was too hot to sleep. Me and brother slept upstairs in the little bedroom, and it was there that I first seen it. I was lookin’ out the window upon the moonlit night and watched as it casted shadows over the trees whenever a cloud happened to pass by. It was then that it happened, I see them start to crawling. It was snakes, lot of ‘em, and they kept crawling and writhing all around the sill and even tried to get traction up on the glass. Then a giant yellow snake appeared in amongst all the rest of them and it was clear to me that he was the snake king. I took to hollerin’ for Maw and Paw and soon enough they come runnin’ to find out what was the matter. By that time, brother had run over to the top of the steps as if that in some way would speed up Maw and Paw. When they finally got to me, I told them what I seen, Maw just grabbed me up in her arms and started bawlin’ and mumblin’ out loud about how I was marked. Her baby was marked. That night and every night after that I kept seeing them snakes and they kept comin’ back to the window night after night.

Maw did what she could to keep them snakes away from the window, she put little pots of mint out on the window sill, and she would hang dried snake root inside of the window from the curtain rod. I think she knew that what she was doing was going to be of no use since they were spirit snakes, but she done it anyway. Every morning when we’d get up, those little pots of mint would be knocked out onto the ground below the windowsill, and the pots busted. The snake root would be all dried up and shriveled, and would be as black as coal. After a few nights of this, Maw talked to Granny about it because that was the only person she trusted with this information. If people were to find out that I was marked, I would have a hard row to hoe.

Granny said it sounded to her like I was witched, and that we should see Bromie, the old woman that lived way up on the mountain. It was rumored that she was marked as a child and that she was forced to live up on the mountain, out and away from everybody else, because people was afraid of her and thought her to be evil. Granny told us to go right away because she’d always heard that spirit snakes would keep coming night after night until eventually they got inside and then I would be in real danger. Granny took out a handkerchief and put all manner of stuff in it and tied it up, and said to give it to Bromie when we went to see her.

We left that day about noon and it took about an hour to climb up the ridge to Bromie’s little house. As was expected of callers, Maw started calling out Bromie’s name long before we got to her house so as to let her know we was coming. By the time we got to the clearing that led to Bromie’s front door, she was sitting there waiting on us.

Maw made the appropriate niceties to Bromie and gave her the tied up handkerchief that Granny had prepared for her. Maw explained to Bromie how she thought I was marked and how the snakes was coming to me every night. Bromie, with her eyes slightly squinted, looked at me and then back at maw and said, “Nothin’ much to worry about, as long as they ain’t a yeller one in amongst them.” I blurted out, “there is a yellow one, he’s their king.” Upon hearing this, Bromie looked a bit shocked and muttered, “They must be at it again…”

Trying to be polite about it, as quickly as she could, Maw asked if there was anything that she could do to help me. Bromie explained, “Snakes come to youngin’s a lot, especially in the heat of the summer. They sense a pure heart and if there’s one thing snakes don’t like, it’s that. But that yeller one is what bothers me. That is the boy’s soul snake. They say that everybody has a soul snake out there, but it’s seldom that the soul snake finds its match. When it does it means one of two things, either the soul snake will keep on trying to get to its match until the match dies or the match will be marked as a snake witch.”

I remember being scared to death at what Bromie told us. Maw was too, but she was also smart. She asked Bromie was there anything that could be done to stop it. “Sure is,” Bromie said, “but it ain’t an easy thing to do. You need a snake witch to stop that yeller snake.”

“Ain’t you a snake witch, Bromie?” I piped up.

Blood drained from Maw’s face when I said that, she was just sure that I had offended Bromie by calling her a snake witch.

“I was marked years ago. Young man, I’ll help you because you are pure of heart and I know you mean well. I wouldn’t wish this life on my worst enemy. Besides, I reckon I owe your Granny a great debt for all that she has helped me with over the years. I reckon I would have starved to death long ago if it hadn’t been for her leaving me jars of food and sacks of dried apples and such out in the woods where I could find them.”

“I didn’t know Granny knew you,” I said.

“Nobody knows it. Your Granny does things for me that nobody knows, for if they did, your Granny would be an outcast, too.”

“She’s a good woman, that’s for sure,” Mama said, “I know what people say about you and I knew you lived up here but I never did think about it. I always reckoned you lived up her because you wanted to.”

“I live up her because this is the only place I can live. I can’t live anywhere that would make my life an easy one, for that is when the snakes would return,” Bromie explained.

“What causes this sort of thing. Why are the snakes bothering us my boy?” Mama asked.

“Because they can. You see, somebody long ago witched this whole mountain, and everybody who lived on it and everyone who would ever live on it. At any given time there has to be a marked snake witch that lives on it. There can only be one snake witch at a time, but there is always going to be one that lives here on this mountain,” Bromied added.

Mama asked, “But you said that you were a snake witch, and since you already live here, then why are they bothering my boy?”

“I reckon we both know the answer to that,” Bromie said softly. With her eyes cast down and the gray strands of hair poking out of her old worn-out sun bonnet, “The good book says we don’t know the hour nor the day, but I reckon I’ll come closer to that than most. To be honest, I welcome the death angel even though I wouldn’t wish this life on anyone else.”

Bromie added, “Here’s what we’ll do, you’re going to have to leave the boy with me tonight, you can stay here to if you’d like, but you can’t interrupt anything or say anything once the sun goes down. Now I mean that, you don’t know the things I know so I’m only going to tell you once that if you stay, you can’t do or say anything once that sun goes down until the sun comes up tomorrow morning.”

“I understand,” Mama affirmed, “but I would like to stay with the boy. I’m going to have to go down and tell everybody where I’ll be staying tonight so they won’t worry, but I’ll be back long before dark.”

“Just leave the boy with me,” Bromie stated, “we have work to do anyway.”

I was scared to be left there with Bromie, but I trusted her. She knew my Granny and that meant a lot in my book. We watched as Maw made her way down the path on the ridge, and when she was out of earshot, Bromie turned to me and said, “Young Gentleman, what you say we get to work.”

From an old pasteboard box up on a shelf, Bromie took out a little black book. “This here is the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses. It has everything we need to stop these snakes. Now, I’m going to have to make you sleep in a burlap sack but we need to keep it covered with a quilt at all times. I know it is going to get powerful hot under there, but that is what we need to do. I promise I won’t hurt you and I’ll do my best to see that those snakes don’t either.”

It seemed like a short time when Maw came walking back up the ridge. I reckon it seemed so short to me because me and Bromie had been making plans for that night. She read the books over me, and did some chants, and she tied some roots onto a piece of twine and told me to hang it around my neck. She told me to take off my shoes so I’d be more comfortable, and she took them from me as I pulled them off my feet. It wasn’t long after Maw got back that we ate a bite of supper and waited on darkness to arrive.

That night it was dark. Real dark. There was no moon at all, and there was no breeze to speak of neither. It was stifling. Bromie said, “Yep, they ain’t going to make it easy on us.”

Bromie told Maw to settle in somewhere in the room and to stay put, and remember what she had told her earlier.

Bromie put me in the sack, only my shoulders and head were out of it, and she covered that with a big, heavy quilt. “What keeps out cold will keep out heat,” she said as she prepared me for bed. “Try and get some sleep if you can. It’d be better if you didn’t know what was going to happen anyway.”

I was tired from walking so far that day, and the heat just took it out of me. As uncomfortable as I was, it wasn’t long before I was fast asleep. Maw stayed awake and heard Bromie praying over me, and watched as she opened all of the windows and the door and welcomed in all spirits that was seeking me. Maw said she seen it with her own eyes, it wasn’t long after Bromie started calling up the spirits that a giant yellow snake poked it head in the door from out in the darkness. It looked around and slithered in and toward the bed where I lay.

Making slow, deliberate movements, Bromie made her way toward the open door and she quietly shut it, and one by one, she closed the windows. Then she picked up a large clay pot and loudly started chanting in a tongue Maw had never heard. When she started that chanting, Maw said that ol’ snake just froze in its path and turned and looked at Bromie. She kept right on singing and slowing lowering the pot down to the snake. Just then, the snake reared up on its tail and swayed back and forth. Bromie paid it no mind and kept on with her chanting. The snake began to coil and strike out at the darkness, but Bromie continued her chanting. Then, the snake turned toward the bed where I lay and started coming closer and closer. Bromie kept right on singing, though now a little louder and with more feeling. Maw said she could tell things was getting very tense. Maw said that snake laid its head right down on the foot of that bed but then turned back toward Bromie and that clay jar. Then in one fluid movement, it made a great lunge at Bromie. Just as quickly, Bromie threw up the open jar in front of her and the snake went right into it. Bromie quickly put a lid on it, and with seemingly otherworldly skill, she grabbed up a bundle of herbs of some sort and lit them and threw them into the pot, and then she sat down on top of it.

After a few minutes, and much thrashing about inside of the clay jar, Bromie turned to Maw and said, “I believe that will do it. You can speak now.”

Without saying a word, Maw just lay there, and remained silent. Bromie repeated herself but Maw again ignored her.

Morning came in a few hours and the light of day brought with it some remarkable sights. Bromie was sitting on the front stoop when Maw walked outside. “I reckon you seen things last night that you never hoped you would.”

“Yes,” Maw said matter of factly. “I don’t reckon there is much any of us can say about that.”

“I’m glad you remembered what I had told you. You see, when that soul snake went in that pot and I threw the burning brand in on him, part of that spirit went into me. That is why I am marked,” Bromie continued, “all snakes great and small, spirit or living, can share my body. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is what it is. If you had of answered me or made any movements, that spirit probably would have attacked you, and there wouldn’t have been anything I could have done.”

“Can you tell me why that snake went for you instead of the boy on the bed, since it was the boy it was seeking?” Maw asked.

“Well you see, while you were gone, I had the boy take his shoes off and give them to me. I put the shoes down in the clay pot. I knew that soul snake would get the scent of the boy from those shoes. Of course,” Bromie added, “the boy still had his scent on himself, that is why I gave him a charm to hang around his neck that kills scent, and I had him sleep in a burlap sack that I had gathered chamomile in last month so the burlap also hid some of his scent. The quilt on top is the one I use to lay out my drying herbs in the sun. I never use it so it wouldn’t have people scent on it. That helped cover up his scent even more, and it would have protected him had the soul snake tried to attack him.”

She continued, “I reckon you heard that singing that I done. It is part of being a snake witch. What I done was use those words to put that soul snake into a trance. One it was in the clay jar, I threw in the cleaning herbs which ridded this world of that spirit. You’re boy will not be bothered by snakes again. I just want you to know that what I done wasn’t evil, what I done is straight out of the good book, from the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses. Most people just don’t know where to look for those books. I don’t want you thinking that I was witching the boy.”

“Bromie,” Maw said, “I want you to know that I will forever be indebted to you for what you have done. I don’t think you are evil and I want you to know that you are welcome to visit our home any time that you want. You will always find a plate set at our table for you.”

“Oh no, you mustn’t do that, people will shun you as they have me,” Bromie pleaded.
“I reckon I can invite to my home whoever I want to” Maw replied. “Besides, Granny must set a great store by you to have helped you out all the years as you said she has done, so you must be a good person. I reckon between me and Granny, we can set the old gossipmongers to packing should they ever utter a bad word about you in our presence.”

“I’ll not hear anyone speak ill of you in my presence.” Maw added, “You’ll find that I am loyal to those that are loyal to me and mine, and what I seen you do last night was far above and beyond what I have ever seen anyone do for us. So if you ever find yourself down on our property and see something you want, why you just take a share of it and all will be well. That way, you can still live the way you must and we will be able to begin to repay you for all that you have done for us.”

Bromie just said, “I’d appreciate it. I reckon now that I have done what I done, the snakes will rethink their plans about replacing me with somebody younger. I suspect they’ll come around and aggravate me for some time to come but nothing I ain’t used to. I’ve been marked now, oh, going on 70 years. That’s why I reckon I done what I done. I couldn’t bear the thought of that youngin’ in there having to live like I’ve had to live all these years. Like I said before, I wouldn’t wish this life on my worst enemy.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jack Learns a Lesson

With apologies to the "real" Jack Tales of Appalachia...

Jack Learns a Lesson in Honesty
by Matthew Burns

Did you ever hear the one about Jack getting a lesson in honesty? No. Well then, it’s about time you hear it then don’t you think? You see, one time, I always heard it was up around Helvetia or thereabouts, there was a boy named Jack. Well, Jack wasn’t quite a boy but he still wasn’t no man either, he was at that age when he was caught somewhere in between the two. Jack was the oldest boy of the family, some would say the man of the house since his Daddy got kilt in a log jam back a few years before. As you might imagine, the family was pretty poor, as the old saying went, “they didn’t have a pot to go in, nor a window to through it out of.” The family still had a few acres of rocky ground, poor land though it was, almost too poor to even raise a fuss.

Well one day, Jack’s mama looked into the gaunt faces of her children and knew she had but one option. She was going to have to sell the family cow. She loved that cow, having raised it up from a calf, but them was better times in better days, and even though the family would be at a loss for milk, there just wasn’t no way around it. They needed flour and meal and salt and sugar and maybe even a little coffee if they were to get through the coming winter. So it was with a heavy heart and a troubled mind that she gave Jack instructions to take the cow down into a nearby town and try to get as much out of it as he could, and she give him a list of foodstuffs to buy while he was in town. She told Jack not to take less than fifteen dollars for the cow, for if he couldn’t fetch that price he might as well bring it back home and they would keep it and make due the best they could.

Well, ol’ Jack was about a sharp as a box sled, though he fancied himself an intelligent person. He reckoned he could fetch a big price for the cow if he could figure out a way to talk the cow up to prospective buyers. He studied on this as he began the long journey down to town.

On the way, he stopped in the creek at the foot of the mountain, and while holding the halter on the ol’ cow, he clenched handfuls of white sand off the bottom of the clear stream and scrubbed that cow down from head to hoof. He then fashioned a comb out of a hickory limb and combed the cow, freeing her hair of briers, sticks and mud. Jack stepped back to admire his handiwork and reckoned that it would at least double the value of the cow. Jack was stepping mighty high as he led the cow on down the path toward town.

They weren’t long on the path until they came upon a pine grove. Jack was happy to see it for the path under the pine grove was shaded and cool, and it had been a long trek off of the mountain. Jack noticed that several of the pine trees had great balls of sap welled up on their bark. He touched one of them as he passed, and found it to be very sticky. He rubbed his fingers together to free his hands of the sap, but the more he rubbed his hands, the more he spread the sap around. Soon though, the path came upon another creek and Jack was able to scrub the sticky sap from his hands.

After the few minutes it took for the cow to drink its fill, they were again on their way, and quickly passed out from under the shade of the pine patch. As he walked out into the bright sun, Jack gasped as he saw his hands and forearms where the sap had been, they were literally shining in the sunlight. So using his vast intellect, Jack quickly came upon another idea, he would mix some of the runny sap with water and he would rub the cow down with the mixture to make her extra shiny and appealing. She’d be the best looking cow in town after he shined her up. After much deliberate trouble, Jack soon had the cow shined and spiffied up, never had he saw a cow look so good as the old family milk cow.

It was nearing mid-afternoon when Jack led the clean, curried and shining cow into town. He was walking with his head heisted high like he was leading a fine stallion. He began announcing as he passed townspeople, “Cow for sale. Make me an offer. Ain’t she a beauty. Fattened on mountain pastures. She’s a fine milker. There ain’t another cow like this in all of town. Make me an offer.”

Jack saw a few men loading their wagon by one of the stores in town. He slowly passed them, making sure to give them his sales pitch. One of the men there asked him, “How old is that cow?” To which Jack answered, “Not a day over three years, sir. As you can see, she still has her youthful shine about her.” The man, as it turned out, was the store keeper in town and though not fooled by Jacks spit-and-polish antics, told Jack he could see that the cow had been well cared for, and since he was in the market for a good cow, offered Jack twenty dollars in cash or thirty dollars in credit at his store.

Jack looked quite indignant at the offer, “Sir, surely you can’t expect me to part with this fine animal for that paltry sum. Surely this cow is worth much more than you offer.” The storekeeper merely replied, “That’s what I can do on her,” to which Jack responded, “Then I shall bid you good day, sir.”

As Jack made another round through town, he remembered his mother had told him to take no less than Fifteen dollars for the cow, but he reckoned with all the improvements he had made to the cow, she was worth at least Fifty Dollars. And by the way the townspeople were looking at his fine cow, he was sure that his mother would agree.

It wasn’t too much longer that Jack came upon a man and wife, coming out of an attorney’s office. Jack started announcing his sales pitch again as he passed, “Cow for sale. Make me an offer. Ain’t she a beauty. Fattened on mountain pastures. She’s a fine milker. There ain’t another cow like this in all of town. Make me an offer.” Finally, the well-dressed man said to him, “Hold up there son, that’s a mighty fine looking animal that you are leading. I heard you say that she is for sale. How much, might I ask, would it take for me to take her off your hands?”

“Why sir, I can see that you have a good eye when it comes to livestock,” Jack said, “there’s not another cow such as this in all of the county. What would you offer for such a one of a kind animal?”

“Well young man, my wife and I are new in town. We hail from Old Virginia, and I haven’t seen a cow shine so since I left my home in Chesterfield County. I don’t know the going rate for cows in these parts, but I will make you an offer of Fifty Dollars and a fine meal in exchange for that cow.”

Pausing while he pondered this offer, Jack reckoned he’d better not take the first offer the man gave him, he reckoned he had heard a hundred times from countless people to never take the first offer someone makes you for anything. With this in mind, Jack politely said, “Sir, it is true that your offer is above what cows generally cost in this county, but surely you would agree that this isn’t just an ordinary cow. You said yourself that she shines like a low country cow. I’m afraid I just can’t let her go for a mere Fifty Dollars.”

“I understand your hesitation, young man,” said the man, but as I said, my wife and I are new in town. I have just opened up a law firm here, and I don’t feel comfortable investing more than that into a milk cow at this time. I’m sorry we couldn’t do business.”

“Well, thank you for your time, sir,” Jack responded, “have a good day, but I must bid you goodbye since I must find a buyer for this fine beast before nightfall.”

Jack made a few more rounds in town, but by that time it was beginning to get late in the afternoon and the town was starting to clear out. Though disappointed, Jack wasn’t too very concerned, after all he had already gotten two offers for the cow, and it was only the first day. He reckoned if worse came to worse, he could always come back tomorrow to make a deal. He reckoned after the storekeeper and the attorney slept on it, and had the idea of owning this fine animal fermenting in their minds, they’d gladly meet his price. It was clear after a few more minutes, it’d be best f he made his way back out to the creek that he had crossed over on the path into town earlier in the day so the cow could graze and drink her fill at the creek. After arriving at the creek, Jack began looking for a good place to make camp, and he settled on a quiet spot just off the main path, under a big pine tree with grass and a small stream nearby. He quickly make a crude camp, pulling dry grass for him a bed and building a small campfire to keep away any roving night critters and biting insects. As the evening gave way to night, Jack waited until the cow bedded down for the night before feasting on cornbread and sweet milk, which he had freshly milked a few minutes earlier. After he ate, he began to thinking again of his cow. He reckoned tomorrow he wouldn’t take a penny less than One Hundred Dollars for her, fine animal that she was.

The next morning, Jack was awakened by the gentle sounds of the cow grazing nearby. He looked over at her, and was shocked by what he saw. The dampness of the night had caused all of that pine resin he had rubbed her down with the previous day to form little balls and it was all matted and caked in her hair. He then noticed that her whole one side was coated with pine needles where she had bedded down under the pine tree. All of a sudden, anger washed over him and he started screaming at the cow, calling it stupid, and telling it how it was a worthless animal that didn’t have sense God gave a goose. He swarped for a good ten minutes at the beast who calmly continued to graze on the green grass.

After he calmed down, Jack knew the only thing he could do was try to clean the cow in the stream. He soon found the task to be nigh on to impossible. You see, the dried and matted pine resin just repelled the water, and the cow wouldn’t allow him to try and brush the hardened beads of it out of her hair. He did manage, however, to get most of the pine needles out of the mess.

The thoughts of all that lost money weighed heavy on his mind as he made his way back into town. This time, rather than parading through the streets trying to make a sale, Jack decided to approach the attorney to see if the Fifty Dollar offer that had made the day before was still good. As he walked into the office, the attorney quickly recognized him and bade him a good morning. He half-jokingly asked Jack, “So young man, are you here to settle up on a land deal that you have made with all the money you surely derived from the sale of that fine cow.”

“No sir,” replied Jack, “I came to see if your offer of Fifty dollars still stands.”

The attorney looked upon Jack, quite puzzled, “But young man, what has changed between yesterday and today? Surely the cow didn’t lose value overnight. Perhaps we should take a look at the beast to see if there is a problem.” Jack assured him that it was the same cow that he looked at yesterday, but told him they had spent the night camped out by yonder creek, so she might not look as fresh as she did yesterday, but indeed it was still the same animal. The attorney said he’d like to take another look if he was to pay fifty dollars for a milk cow. Jack reluctantly took him to the cow, which had been tied out back of the office.

“What is this!” exclaimed the attorney.

“Why it is my fine cow that you looked at yesterday,” Jack calmly replied.

“But what is this…” the attorney inquired, touching the gummy substance that was matted in the cow’s hair.

“Nothing more than some pine resin,” said Jack. “She bedded down under a pine tree last night and it must have dripped down on her as she slept.”

“But her shine, it is gone. What happened to your beautiful cow’s sheen?”

Jack didn’t have an answer, but the attorney quickly figured it out. “Young man,” he said, “it appears that you have tried to take me for a fool. This cow has no shine to her coat, it appears you were trying to make her appear more vigorous than she really is. Furthermore, it appears you are trying to take advantage of a stranger to this land. I’m sorry young man, but I will not be doing business with you, and I can only offer you some advice, never come to me asking me a favor for I will not be so kind at our next meeting. Good day to you.”

Jack was dumfounded. He still felt he had done nothing wrong, he was merely trying to make the cow look her best so she could fetch a better price. He thought the attorney was just overreacting so he decided to call upon the storekeeper to set about making a deal.

Jack made his way to the back of the store, and tied the cow in an out of the way area. He entered the store, whereupon he was immediately greeted by the storekeeper, “Good morning young man, did you ever pawn that played out milk cow off onto anybody?”

Incredulously, Jack responded, “What do you mean, sir, my cow is a vision of vim and vigor.”

“Young man, I’ve seen every trick in the book come through here, although I must admit, yesterday was the first time I have ever seen someone fool enough to rub pine resin into the coat of a milk cow. My guess is you never sold the cow yesterday and this morning you found all that resin balled up in little pellets? Am I close?”

“Well sir…,” Jack stammered, until deciding to come clean, “Yes sir, but I didn’t mean no harm by it, I was just trying to fetch a good price for our cow because mama told me to try and get as much out of it as I could.”

“So you’re mama put you up to doing it?”

“No sir. Mama don’t know nothing about what I did. That is all on me. She just meant for me to not get taken advantage of.”

“But it was alright for you to take advantage of others,” questioned the storekeeper.

“I didn’t mean nothing by it, I swear I didn’t.”

“Young man, I knew that you were trying to put one over on some unsuspecting victim yesterday when you turned down my offer of twenty dollars cash or thirty dollars in goods. Around here that is a fortune to get for a cow. I offered you that amount because I admired your initiative. I just never knew how greedy you were until you declined my offer,” the storekeeper chided him.

“I’m awful sorry about that, sir. I do apologize.” Having taken enough of this tongue-lashing, Jack decided it was best if he just left, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I guess I’d better be heading back home.”

“Hold up, young man,” interrupted the storekeeper, “Did you come in here to try and sell me the cow, again.”

“I did, sir, and again, I apologize, but I can tell you are no longer interested in buying the cow.”

“Then let that be a lesson to you. Twice you tried to take advantage of me, and twice I forgave you.” The storekeeper continued, “Now young man, if you are through trying to take advantage of me, then I really am interested in buying that cow.”

“Really, sir,” Jack questioned, “For the thirty dollars in goods?”

“No boy, that was yesterday’s price. Let’s go have a look at the cow and we’ll try and settle upon a fair price.” As they were walking out to see the cow, the storekeeper asked Jack how many siblings he had.

“Four,” answered Jack, “but I’m the oldest.”

“Let’s see then. Five youngins and selling the family milk cow. Things must be pretty hard for your family,” the storekeeper commented.

“Yes sir, they have been since my paw died. Mama didn’t want to sell our cow but we need other things worse, I reckon,” Jack confessed.

“That’s mighty noble of her. I’ll tell you what, I’m not going to buy your cow, but I would like to accompany you back home to meet your mother.”

Jack didn’t know what to say except, “it’s a far piece, it’ll take the better part of the day.”

“Well then young man, just let me tell my assistant and we will be on our way.”

That evening when Jack arrived back home with the cow in hand, his mama looked very forlorn and defeated about his returning without any foodstuffs. He was only beginning to tell her about his trip when she saw the strange man coming through the yard gate.

“Jack, who is that?” his mama asked.

“Mama, this is the storekeeper for in town. He said he wanted to talk to you about something. He wouldn’t tell me even though I told him I was the man of the house.”

“Ma’am,” The storekeeper formally greeted her. “Might I have a word with you,” she nodded to the affirmative and invited him in to share the meager meal she had prepared for Jack.

Jack was just sure the storekeeper was going to tell mama about what he had done, and he knew she would be so ashamed of him and she’d probably wear him out with a cornstalk. It seemed like hours before the storekeeper came out of the house, when they did all Jack heard was the storekeeper telling his mother to send Jack down to the store tomorrow.

Jack also heard his mother tell the storekeeper that he was welcome to stay the night, but the storekeeper declined, saying he’d best on his way before more daylight was lost.

After the storekeeper left, Jack asked his mother what they had been talking about, and what was meant by the storekeeper telling her t send him to the store tomorrow.

“Well Jack. Never underestimate the kindness of strangers. That kind man just offered to buy all the butter, cheese and eggs we can supply him with, and he is offering us good prices for them, too. He said he knows how hard it must be for us, because his mama brought him up without a Daddy and he remembers how they went without food many a day. He’s offered to give us an advance that will cover our corn and salt and whatever else we need, and he said as long as we treat him fairly, he will treat us fairly.”

She didn’t mention anything about his deceitful plans in trying to sell the cow. Jack reckoned it was his punishment that he had to carry the guilt around inside of him. When he thought of it, he had to excuse himself for a few moments by saying he’d better go check on the cow. He didn’t know what to think about the opportunity that had just presented itself to his family, all Jack knew was he had certainly learned a valuable lesson over the past two days.