The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, March 6, 2018

“A Story with Every One”

By Kevin F. Wishon

Occasionally, someone will ask me if I have any tattoos, and invariably, I respond by saying, “No, I don’t have any. I just have scars.” This reply usually results in brief laughter; then the conversation moves on to other subjects. In recent years, with the renewed popularity of tattoos, I have come to appreciate the uniqueness of my own scars; additionally, like most tattoos, each one comes with its own story. Some scars impart humorous stories while other scars tell cautionary tales.

When I was six years old, I discovered a hand-held price stamper used by grocery and retail stores to price goods. Mechanical stampers were used to price merchandise before adhesive price labels became ubiquitous. The discarded stamper I found did not function due to being jammed. Foolishly, I was determined to dislodge the stamper and eventually succeeded. I placed the bottom of the stamper against my chest and pressed the handle with as much force as my six-year-old arms could muster; suddenly, the stamper actuated. The resulting scar I received taught me how dangerous it is to have skin near any moving mechanism.

When I was eight years old, I joined a group of friends traveling to see Boone’s Cave in Davidson County. Seat belt usage was uncommon at that time, and we felt no need to wear one. As we traveled the last few miles to our destination, a car passed us in a curve with another car oncoming. In an attempt to avoid a terrible wreck, the driver of the truck I was in applied the brakes hard, allowing the passing car to escape disaster. Unprepared for the sudden stop, my face collided with the metal ashtray in the dash. Thankfully, people still carried handkerchiefs at that time because I certainly needed one that day to stop the bleeding.

When I was sixteen, I took the automotive class at Davie High School in the hope of improving my mechanical skills; I certainly needed the experience. The school had been donated a damaged Chevy Blazer to use as a practice vehicle. One day while attempting to familiarize myself with the fuel system, I required a tool which was out of my reach. Annoyed, I quickly slid the creeper I was lying on out from underneath the vehicle. The dull, rounded corner of the metal license plate on the Blazer caught my arm and sliced the skin on my elbow like a knife. I’m still amazed at how sharp, dull objects can be if enough force is applied.

While most of the stories my scars have generated are cringe-worthy, there are a few which make me laugh every time I think about them. One such story was the time I decided to see how far I could ride my bike on a dirt road without holding the handlebars. I made it several yards before a large piece of gravel jerked the front wheel sideways sending me over the handlebars; I landed on my chest. It was a hot summer day when I attempted this stunt, but I probably should have been wearing a shirt.

“Advance Roots”

By Gaye Hoots

      I was home alone when a stranger rang the doorbell.  “I want to introduce myself,” he said. At that time, Roy and I were married and living with his mother for the first year or so.

     The Potts family had very strong genetics, and I recognized the facial features. However,  many of the Marklands, who were first cousins to this line of the Potts family had similar features. Confidently I replied, “You are either a Potts or a Markland.”

     “I am Markland Potts he replied.” His father, Alex, was a brother of Roy’s father Anderson, and his mother was the sister of Ernest Markland, who had married Lizzie Potts. Lizzie was the only sister of Alex and Anderson Potts. The offspring were thus double first cousins.

     Today, the cemetery of the Advance Methodist Church joins my side yard. There are seven generations of my children’s family buried there. My granddaughter’s ashes are there, and my infant daughter who was born in 1965 is buried there. My daughters have aunts, uncles, cousins, and their father is there. His parents, Anderson and Aurelia Foster Potts, Anderson’s father, George Washington Potts, and his wife, Lisandra Hilton Potts, are there as well.

     George Washington’s parents, Francis “Frank” Ashbury Potts, and his wife, Letitia Caton Potts, have tombstones marked with their names. Frank’s parents, Jeremiah A. Potts, and his wife, Mary Ann “Polly” Foster Potts, are the oldest generation of this line of the Potts family interred there. Mary Ann was a sister of Tilman Foster. The Foster family is well- documented in Davie County’s history. Many members of the Foster family remain in Davie County.

     Jeremiah A. Potts was the son of Peter Potts and Mary “Polly” Pack Potts. The family names were handed down from one generation to the next. Peter Potts named his son, Jeremiah A., after his grandfather who was the first of the Potts family to settle near Advance. The original Jeremiah had moved to Rowan via Anson County, Amelia County VA, and Dinwiddie County VA. He settled in Anson County but sold that land and moved due to Indian uprisings there. Jeremiah purchased land and had a land grant in Rowan County NC which later became Davie County. He added an “s” to the name Pott when he was young. The Pott(s) were of English or Dutch descent and believed to have originally settled in Pennsylvania before migrating to VA and NC.

     Many members of this family line presently live in Advance. Most of them are direct descendants of George Washington Potts or his brother Archibald Potts. These brothers married the Hilton sisters, and their children were double first cousins.  Siblings marrying siblings of another family line was common in past times when travel was difficult.

     Dozens of these descendants live within a one- mile radius of the Advance Methodist Cemetery. The Potts, Vogler, Cornatzer, Baily, and Shutt families are part of the fabric of Advance.  Francis A. Potts donated land that adjoined Advance Methodist Church for the first school established in Advance. Many of his descendants chose to teach as their profession. Buying and selling land was also a family practice starting with the original Jeremiah Potts.

     I lived for a while in the home that had belonged to George Washington Potts and his son, Anderson, and family. The house had several additions built to accommodate the growing family. George’s daughter, Lizzie Markland, lived across the road, and George’s brother, Archibald, lived beside Lizzie. Several of their children built homes near the parents. My children were not aware that they were related to many of their local cousins until I explained the connection. I believe it helps to understand our genes and our family connections.

     My daughters played softball with others in Advance when they were teens. One of the boys, Sim Mock, had blue eyes with the same distinctive color and shape as my daughter, Cami.  I was puzzled by this until I remembered that her great-grandmother was a Hilton. Sim’s mother was Patsy Hilton Mock. Genetics are fascinating. The family pictures reflect physical similarities generation after generation.

“February Was a Crazy Month, 1924”

From the diary of a 12-year-old girl

By Marie Craig

     Calvin Coolidge has been our President in Washington City for the past three years.  The President before him was Woodrow Wilson.  He died on February 3 this year.   

     I got so busy with lots of things in February that I didn’t write very much in my diary.  We were given lots of homework early in the month, and I had to spend many hours catching up.  Then came Valentine’s Day, and I wanted to make all my own valentines to give everybody in my class.  We had a party, and I helped my mother make heart-shaped cookies to take to school and to neighbors.  That was fun to do but took time and energy.  Everybody seemed to appreciate them, though.

     I was going to get back to my writing, and then I couldn’t because I had the measles.  I was so sick and miserable with all those sore places on me.  So many children had them that they closed school for several weeks.  Even some of the teachers got sick.  I had to stay in bed with the curtains closed so that my eyes could rest.  The bright light hurt my eyes.  It was good to get well and quit scratching and feeling bad, but I had to be careful not to overdo.

     Just about the time I thought I could go back to school, the whole county had a terrible ice and sleet storm.  One of our beautiful, big trees got so heavy with ice that it fell.  Luckily, it didn’t hit the house.  But it was too cold and dangerous to go out and cut it up.  It was a cold time of staying inside and trying to keep warm.

     The other crazy thing was to have a February 29th.  That only happens every four years.  My teacher tried to explain that to us, but I’m not sure I understand why there’s a leap day.  I surely didn’t feel like leaping.

     I am so excited about March which will probably be a little warmer.  How wonderful it will be to have flowers and trees blooming!  It’ll be nice to be able to go outside and play.  I’ve worked all my puzzles and games and am really tired of them.  I’ve read all my books and wish I had some new ones.

     I will certainly appreciate this summer when it’s warm and I’m well.  I guess we have hard times so that we can be thankful for good health and warm weather.

[This is an excerpt from the book, Mary Ellen’s Diary, 1924, available in the library.]

“Creeper Train”

By Beth Carter

     I have a plethora of childhood memories growing up along Big Horse Creek in the late 1950’s. My most fond ones are centered around what we locals called the “Creeper Train.” In the early 1920’s, the Norfolk and Western Railroad purchased the Virginia Carolina Railroad.  The train left Abingdon Virginia every Monday through Saturday precisely at 9:50 am arriving in West Jefferson at 2:09 and then on to Todd at 3:20. The train left on the trip home from Todd at 6:20 pm. to “creep” its way back up the mountain to Virginia. The train crossed over 108 bridges and trestles along its 76.5-mile journey. The train not only delivered passengers but also hardware, shoes, clothing, dry goods, farm supplies, and other commodities. It was considered unusual because few trains at that time were used both for hauling freight and transporting passengers.

      My family lived on Big Horse Creek Road just a stone’s throw from the Husk General Store and Post Office, which was the first stop once the train crossed the NC state line.  The Creeper’s whistle was known for its chilling eerie quality. I heard it twice a day until it sounded for the last time in 1977.  As a child, the whistle sound brought kids running out of the holler and down the hard top every Saturday in anticipation of Ralph White, the conductor of the Abingdon Branch trains.  Ralph was lovingly known to us at the Candy Man because he tossed lollipops to us as we stood and waved alongside the line.

     Jimbo, the hound dog known as the “Hound of Husk,” lived at the store.  He spent his days laying at the front door of the store in anticipation of head rubs from each patron.  We loved to hear him “sing-along” whenever he heard the whistle that signaled the train was coming.  During the summer, mama would have us walk to the store to check the post.  She always gave us a few coins to buy a grape Nehi soda and some penny candy.

     We spent hours cooling off on the wide porch swing and rocking chairs while visiting with friends and neighbors.  Often, on a summer Thursday night, an impromptu jam session formed with the local musicians playing their mountain music.  Many of the old timers would hear the music sounding throughout the hills and magically appear with their personal flat-footin’ boards to dance on along with the rhythms until the night train made its stop.

     During the frigid winters, we spent most nights around the old stone fireplace listening to our grand-daddy tell stories of these parts. One of my favorites was about Wilburn Waters a legendary hunter and trapper who was known to have killed over 100 bears in Ashe County alone. There is a memorial to him located in the middle of Big Horse Creek about a mile up the road. Granddaddy shared the story of “Devils Stairs” which got its name when construction workers died while blasting a section of rock when laying the RR. After dynamiting there appeared to be a giant set of stairs ascending the side of the mountain.  As children, we believed that if we traveled the route at midnight, our car would stall at the staircase. The back door would open, and Satan would enter the car and exit through the opposite door. Then the engine would start again.

     The year I graduated from high school, an early spring heat wave along with a record rainfall, melted the mountain snows and flooded out most of the rails that ran parallel to Big Horse Creek.  The RR determined the train was no longer relevant and decided not to repair the tracks and to remove the iron from the area.

     At times after a hard rain, I can still dig out train iron and spikes buried deep in the muddy banks of the creek. Sometimes late in the evening, I can still hear her sad cry pealing throughout the mountains, and I close my eyes recovering that peaceful place hidden deep in my heart and mind.