Daddy's Autobiography

Part 4

(Written in 1967)






(From previous chapter:  We noticed a car stopped with one side of the car on the railroad track.  A man got out of the car and left the motor running and the door next to the hotel open.  I mentioned to my friend that if a train came along it would hit the car.  The man just came on into the hotel and spoke to us with a smile.  We knew him.)


He went on into the hotel where there were some dining tables, and the next thing we knew, we heard three pistol shots, and the man came back by us with the gun in his hand and still smoking.  The proprietor's wife, Mrs. Day, was behind the counter looking over toward the dining tables.  I looked over there and heard Mrs. Day scream.  There were two ladies standing at a table as they had just got up from the table, and lying on the floor was a man; he was dead.

One of the ladies was the wife of Collier, the man that did the shooting.  He was a railroad brakeman, and the man he shot was Edd Stratton, a railroad conductor.  Collier had left the car motor running so he could make a quick getaway.

It was almost dark, and I don't know if they ever got organized to go after Collier or not, but later in the night I could hear the deputy sheriff discussing with someone to go with him.


Views of Pine Mt near Whitesburg

I couldn't go to sleep until about midnight.  I had just dozed off when someone banged on my door and said, "A car with nine men in it had gone off the road and rolled 900 feed down the mountain.  They wanted me to take my truck and bring the injured or dead back to town.

Road today not to be compared with the one Daddy wrote about.

It was two miles to the mountain and four miles up the mountain.  They took 900 feet of rope to get the men back up the highway.  The highway had been blasted out of solid rock, and it was almost straight up and down where the car had gone over.

Four men went down with a cot with one end of the rope tied to the cot.  They laid a man on the cot and man got hold of each corner of it.  By this time there was plenty of help up in the highway to pull on the rope.  When they laid him in the truck with dried blood all over his face I thought he was dead.

I knew him as he was a very prominent man in town and had married a popular girl in town.  They were wrong about there being nine men in the car; he was the only they could find.  I drove him back to his father-in-law's house, and the doctor was there.  I still thought he was dead as he never had moved that I could tell; but as the doctor got most of the dried blood washed off, he mumbled and said, "Oh, Doc, you hurt."  He had been drinking.

I would use the truck to take young people on hay rides and a bunch of students about fifty miles to a private school.  It was a Presbyterian school and was in a remote part of the country near Hindman, Kentucky, a county seat.  You had to go past Hindman and on this particular trip, it was Christmas holiday; and they were coming home for the holiday.  As I was coming back through Hindman, I stopped at a restaurant in Hindman to get a sandwich.  When I came back to the truck,  there was a rowdy bunch of boys throwing snow balls at the students; some were throwing almost ice balls.  The students were in the truck and didn't have a chance.  The truck was just an open bed filled with hay to ride on.

The boys were twelve to fourteen years old and they were confused and scared; so I got the truck started as quickly as possible, for I didn't feel so safe myself.  I saw there was no limit to where those boys would stop, and I was really sorry for those students.

At one time when I was staying in the town of Whitesburg, my home town, I was pretty well known by the town folks.  My brother, who resembled me some, was two years younger than I.  He was walking down the street one day and met a friend of mine.  The fellow said, "Hello, Kelsey," and Fonda, my brother, wanted to correct the mistake as quickly as possible said, "No, no, this is 'me'." 

He never told the fellow who "me" was.

I worked at McRoberts, Kentucky for the Consolidated Coal Company.  It was a busy town as there was a big demand for coal; and, it being a new development, the mines were working twenty-four hours a day.  Everybody had a job.

I was working in the main company store, and we had a janitor at the store.  He was a large man, a really good worker but kind of nervous.  The clerks decided to have a little fun.

The store was three stories high, and we knew that Bill was easy to scare.  There was a casket room on the third floor, and you could go by elevator or the stairs.  Bill never would ride the elevator.

We decided that I could go up there and hide behind the caskets, and they told Bill that the manager wanted him to go up there and get a box of raisins that had worms in it and throw it in the garbage.  They planted this box of raisins there for this purpose.  There wasn't anyone up there at this time of day, and it was really quite; so I got behind the boxes of casket.  I heard Bill coming.

He never did like to go to the casket room.  I could see him as he eased in the door with his eyes wide open and looking like he was ready to take off any second.  He tiptoed over to the box of raisins looking every way; and just as he started pick up the box I made a mournful sound; the box never did get picked up.  I could hear him making a terrible noise as he went down the stairs calling for someone to help him.  He got to the bottom on the first floor, but he didn't stop.  He ran through the order room and into the main store that had a little swinging door that kept the customers from behind the counter.  He burst through it and on through the main store to the front door and out into the street before he could control himself.

This was a secret between the clerks, and when Bill would tell about the what he heard, we would just listen and try to appear interested.

Continue reading next installment

Installment 5

Other Installments

Installment 1

Installment 2

Installment 3



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