STAPLETON REPORT – March 1932 “Came Old Jim Couch — a veritable scarecrow …”

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel
Dr. Ida Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton
Line Fork Settlement 1927 – 1947

“Came Old Jim Couch — a veritable scarecrow …”

TAGS: STAPLETON REPORT – March 1932 “Came Old Jim Couch — a veritable scarecrow …” ; Line Fork Settlement ; Dr. Ida Stapleton ;  Jim Couch ; Arizony Couch ; Cambellite preachers ; Bennet and Lory Hall ; Alec Boggs ; Bish Boggs ; revival meetings ; baptisms ; Dick Smith ; Mrs. John Holcomb ; whiskey stills ; doctor visits ; diphtheria

GALLERY: STAPLETON REPORT – March 1932 “Came Old Jim Couch — a veritable scarecrow …”

“Came Old Jim Couch — a veritable scarecrow …”


Gilley P O Kentucky March ‘32

February Facts & Fancies

Dear Friends:-

Came old Jim Couch – a veritable scarecrow as his coat looked as tho it had served.  There were traces of crude mending but hopeless for any more repairs.  He said he had aimed to come since last Summer.  He had a misery in his neck, meaning his throat, something went up and down nearly choking him.  Could I do anything about it?  He was gaunt and undernourished so the best all round treatment was a generous bottle of cod liver oil.  We chatted of various things.  He reckoned he was seventy years old but did not know when his birthday was nor had he kept track of his daughter Arizony’s birthday.  I had visited them at their cabin in the forest of Lynn Fork once and had been scandalized to know that this Arizony named by a midwife of that name had married her father’s brother.  Her mother had said she never would have another chance so she had better take the uncle.  They were married but had no child.  A granddaughter Maggie was also along.  They needed soap terribly so I was glad to add that to the C L O.  As D D [Robert] had ordered himself a new suit that was arriving the next day I ventured to exchange the scarecrow coat for one warmer and more presentable and put the trousers in with the soap adding to the bundle thread, needles, thimble and patches.  Arizony had never learned to sew with a thimble but she could learn.  A piece of gingham suggested that Maggie too might make herself a dress.  They heard the radio for the first time.  They didn’t ask for anything but Jim said his old woman was puny and had no shoes on her feet.  They had made a little crop of corn last year which he reckoned was enough to last them.  When they take “a turn” of the hand shelled corn to the mill a portion is left for the miller.  There are some water mills but others are run by gasoline engines.

Young Bett had her fifth baby last Christmas.  She has had a little crib since the second one and she has learned to leave the baby in the crib between nursings.  As I sat there the baby just cried a little and then went off to sleep.  She even remarked she like to see the baby clean and if “hit” was handled hit would soon be dirty.  The two-year-old had fallen asleep on the floor and was put to bed with all the dirt that had accumulated since breakfast, for fears it would waken him if she attempted to wash it off.

The same at Nancy Jane’s.  Little Robert was in bed with his jacket and sturdy little boots.  Nancy has a mortal fear of a child getting burned up so she tried to have stuff or woollen dresses for the young-uns in the Winter.  She had made over some old coats for Bobbie and Ruth.  It was impossible to tell what it had been it was so tattered.  She hadn’t been able to buy any cloth this winter.  There was a question about the illness of the little nephew who died last month.  Fearing it was diphtheria she asked me to give the four little children the toxin anti-toxin treatment.  This required a visit to the house on Bear Branch once a week for three weeks.  Once a day was given to helping her with the mending.  Frank is grubbing out an acre of Company land to enlarge their garden lot.  A chicken was offered me for the service.  She knew that it would cost $1.50 at the doctor’s in Cumberland for each injection.

The Cambellite preachers have been having meetings from house to house and three of our neighbors Bennet and Lory Hall with Alec Boggs were immersed in a pool at the head of Big Laurel at the home of Bish Boggs.  Marthy, Lory’s  sister-in-law came to the Cabin the day before the event to get a white gown for Lory as she, Marthy, couldn’t think of Lory being baptized in anything but white.  Could she have a square of muslin to tie over her hair and some bands to keep her skirts down.  Later Lory came herself to ask for a Bible as Bennet wanted me to buy some of their canned huckleberries to pay for one.  I was more than glad to give him a Bible tho’ he cannot read.  Lory can read a little.  Marthy too wanted a Bible and there was one for her also.  One of her sons can read a little too.  But she needed shoes and was there “ery a one” that she could have?

Lory said, “Hit’s a sight how Melville” – their one and only child –“can read and Bennet makes him read everything aloud more than he wants to”.

Another sect the Holiness a bit jealous of the new additions to the Campbellites came to hold revival meetings at Bear Branch and in the adjoining homes.  The preaching was sincere according to their understanding of the Bible and in the course of the meetings six young people were able to make a confession of repentance and even made public request to be forgiven.  These six were baptized in the Fork near Manon’s house.  Four of the six, three boys and one girl, are joining the Bible study that Mr. S has been carrying on.  During the revival the preachers were invited to Dick Smith’s.  Dick had attended the meetings at the school house so Marthy and Manon with several others went over the ridge to Jake’s Creek.  An accident to one of the children called for a visit from me which happened to be on the day of this home meeting.  For a wonder all the grandchildren present were well scrubbed and in fairly clean clothes.  At my arrival they were wandering about the yard but gathered around me as I sat me down on a turned over bee-gum.  The six little ones came to look at some picture books carried by me for such a purpose.  While reading the rhymes I came to the lines “Please little Miss, Will you give me a kiss?”

Tho little Verie would talk and said, “There are bees in this gum, won’t they sting you?” yet she and Helen refused to kiss me.  But at last upon asking who would give a kiss for this book, six-year-old Bethel promptly said, “I will”.  He planted a soft little smack on my cheek.  Then Verie followed his lead for another book.  Little Mavie now sidled up to me and said shyly “I will”.  Eleven-year-old Carlos came over to look at the book and pictures and when asked what a certain object was replied “That’s the Sun-Ball just up”.  Verie noticed that a drop stood at the end of my nose and called attention to it.  Upon my saying “I need a handkerchief I guess”.  The one found in my pocket had a border of pink tatting and the color made it “a pretty” in Verie’s eye who asked me for it.  Carlos who had gallantly offered me his clean folded handkerchief realized that Veery was not quite polite so tucked his handkerchief in her hand and said that would do for her as she had a book also.

Stepping in the house for a minute to greet the guest people who asked me to stop, I saw that the upper house had been scrubbed and some planks propped on blocks awaited the meeting.  The mother-women were getting dinner for as many as might choose to eat.  Not having planned to stay I excused myself and went back down stony Jake’s Creek then up Line Fork to the Cabin.  Just a few days before Dick’s still had been raided but as word had been passed along to his sons Sam and Charley they had spirited away the still and all the officers found were a few boxes of fruit jars.

A week or so later one of the mother women, Florence, brought little Bethel to the Cabin for his first visit to have “a treatment” on an injured wrist.  He quite forgot the pain looking round at the pretties in the Cabin and climbing the stairs to see the upper rooms.

It happened on the same morning that Bascoil (as he spells “Basil”) McDaniel’s brother-in-law to Florence made his first visit to the Cabin on behalf of his family which I had visited several times on distant Beech Fork.  I had found them all sick, mother Olly, baby and oldest daughter in one bed and the four-in-betweens huddled around the rusty old stove.  I washed their sooty hands and faces then later sent them medicine along with some sheets and clothing.  Now at this time they were in desperate need again.  Basil said, “When you visited us before we were all sinners but now we are trusting in the Lord and mean to do what is right.  We thank you for your help and want you to visit us again”.  It made us glad to be able to pass on a medley of garments and soap that would make it possible for them all to strip and get cleaned again after weeks of illness.   Since the lumbering in that section closed a year ago the people haven’t been able to earn any money and that means no clothing.

Mrs. John Holcomb came with her daughter Lena from Beehive.  Some months before she had asked for baby clothes and she was told to bring her early in March so that I could advise her a bit about how to take care of herself and the baby.  Upon seeing her it seemed a pity she had been asked to come so far.  She had walked down the hills while her mother rode.  Her mother had walked up the hills and almost all the rest of the way, some sixteen miles.  They had started at sun up and would not get back until the “sun-ball” had disappeared behind the hills.  While urging her to be sure and boil all her old rags, she, like Liza of Clover Fork said “ain’t you-all got ery a sheet to wrap me round”.  Yes I had ery a sheet and some bedgowns to add to the baby outfit.  Her canvas shoes were held on her feet with multicolored rags.  I had a pair much too large.  Would she like to exchange?  With apologies for her ragged stockings she put them on and offered to dispose of the old ones.   But I assured her I never liked to see old shoes strewn along the roads so would she please drop them in the fireplace and remember also to burn every old rag and poke and shoe under her wash kettle.

Neely was just in to see if there was any milk she could have also to return a half gallon jar she had received here full of fruit a grateful neighbor had brought as thanks for some kindness.  Speaking of fruit jars she said her stepson had been sneaking them off to fill with whiskey he had been making with a cousin who runs a still, somewhere up the Fork.  He never brought her anything for the jars and she couldn’t see that he’d got ery a thing for himself but a suit of jeans and a pair of slippers meaning oxfords.  So since she wouldn’t presently have any jars she didn’t mean to have them used to carry licker in and she took them all out on to a rock and smashed them.  In the course of the conversation she told me the following story that used to amuse her in her childhood.

“Two young fellers war courting at the same house.   One was a big eater and the other was a small eater.  They agreed together that when the small eater had enough he would step on the toes of the big eater and they would leave the table together that being a nicer thing to do.  When they were called to the table one sot on this side and one sot on that.  The big eater had only taken three bites when he felt something on his toes and he reckoned the little eater was done and it was the sign to leave the table.  So he got up.  But the little eater continued for some time while his pal looked on hungry and making up his mind to get even with him for playing a trick on him.  The small eater denied that he had stepped on his toes.  On the table had been a pitcher of pickled beet and the big eater aimed to get one.  He was already in bed and he asked his pal to bring him some as he was about starved to death.  The small eater grabbed a fist full but couldn’t get it out of the pitcher.  Not having the wit to open his hand he didn’t know what to do and his pal could think of nothing but sending him out to break the pitcher on a rock which he went out to do.  In the dusky dark he thought he saw a stump and whacked the pitcher on that.  Instead of the stump it appeared to be the old granny of the house and she cried out, “I’m murdered. I’m murdered” as she was rescued from broken pitcher, beets and vinegar.  The laugh was on the sillies.”

Some three weeks after our visit to the house of mourning an urgent request came from Fannie to go and see the twins Romie and Remie as they were smothering.  I made out to go and found them with grippy colds but they were really growing some and were not so bad off as I expected to find them.  She had managed to get a clock and was nursing them according to Hoyle some of the time.  She had obtained rubber nipples and was supplementing the nurse.  But since this new sickness came upon them they would not take it.  They were instinctively trying to get better.  The bottles lay on a chair unwashed since morning.  A cup of herb tea was also at hand.  The floors had not yet been scrubbed so I went over the whole lesson again and added to “hit”.

Uncle Ira with his mule hitched to a wooden box sled was hauling a few bushels of coal from a bank a mile or so below his house – so he stopped at Rob’s for dinner.  He and a neighbor were grubbing a new piece of land and had been served so Fannie made some fresh biscuits and bade Ruby search the hens nests for a couple of eggs to fry.  Just then the door opened and in walked a proud old hen who came every day to lay her egg in the chimney closet.  After dinner in the kitchen we sat for a time by the fire and I read a portion of Scripture for Uncle Ira – his eyes are too dim to read any more – but he lays great store by his Bible that Fannie had borrowed and was finding much comfort from reading about the heavenly home where little Junior has gone.

Sincerely Yours


**Transcription by Gretchen Rasch.