Archive for January, 2011

One of the problems of growing up on Queens Creek in the 1930s and early 1940s was a total lack of electricity.  In talking with my brother a couple of days ago, we decided that electric service was extended to our area shortly after WW II.  In that we had never had electricity, we had managed to get through life without refrigeration, good lighting, electrical appliances, and the other luxuries that it afforded.  If the power goes off at my house today, it is total panic time.  There is no heat, no lights, no food cooked, everything simply stops.  Have you ever been in a supermarket or a department store when the power goes off?  That is it, they are out of business.  If that had happened in Ball’s store, or one of the other stores in the community, they would just have sharpened their pencils a little more and kept on writing. 

I can recall some farms having windmills with a small generator attached that I suppose provided a small amount of energy for a storage battery that perhaps provided some minimum of lighting.  Although I never saw one, I believe that some houses were lighted with carbide.  I believe they would have a large tank in which carbide would be put and small amounts of water added to make acetylene gas.  This would be piped to lights throughout the house and provide the needed lighting.  Again, I never saw one of those systems but I have read of their existence. 

Reading, home work, and any other night-time activity was done by the light of and old kerosene lamp, at least that was the way it was on Queens Creek.  A lot of people back then called kerosene “coal oil”.  I have wondered why, and decided to look it up on the computer, powered by electricity by the way.  It seems that in the 1800s that lamp oil was obtained by processing cannel coal.  Upon the discovery oil and its accompanying market development, kerosene was developed as a by-product of petroleum distillation.  People assumed that it was the same product they had been using and calling “coal oil” and continued to call it as such.  I don’t think I have heard that term used for years, but it was quite common to hear it called by that name by my parents and others.  In addition to lighting, some people even used kerosene as a medical treatment, usually topically but on occasion orally, mixed with a little sugar or some other palatable item to make the ingestion of it tolerable.  I do not know the logic other than perhaps the offending organism might say something like “oh, oh, look out, here comes that terrible tasting stuff” and get the heck out of Dodge.  Bill Wellman wrote some time ago about the many things that were used in treatment of health disorders when he was a child.  Think about some of the things your parents used and how gross they tasted.

I was replacing a 40 watt lamp bulb a couple of days ago and thinking what a dim light it made.  That got me started thinking of the kerosene lamps we used as a child.  Much dimmer than the 40 watt lamp I will wager.  Usually there would be one in each room and if used had to be cleaned and refilled each day.  Cleaning consisted of trimming the wick, washing the globe or chimney, (I recall both terms being used and I don’t know which is correct) and refilling the lamp bowl with kerosene.  Refilling the lamp was a nasty job that was best done outside because you were bound to spill a little, and if you did, the smell never seemed to go away.  The same principles applied to the kerosene lantern that one carried around each night to do after dark chores.  We also had two or three carbide or miners lamps around but never used them where an open flame might be dangerous, such as a barn.  They would be used primarily when hunting or fishing at night.  The lamp filling drill consisted of pouring kerosene from a large five gallon container into a smaller one gallon container and then transferring from that smaller container to the lamp.  If you didn’t have a cap for either kerosene container then a corn cob would be jammed into the opening.  I remember the small container as being really old, probably made of tin, and wrapped on the outside with a thin layer of wood veneer.  I wish that container had survived.  I have often wondered why the thin layer of wood veneer.  Once the filling process was finished the lamp would be thoroughly wiped to prevent any odor of kerosene being carried into the house.  The refueling chore usually fell upon the shoulders of either my brother or myself. 

Other uses for kerosene around the farm would be such things a being used as a fire starter.   A  good dash of that stuff in the firebox of the cookstove and you would be baking biscuits before you knew it.  It was also used by wrapping burlap bags around a post in the hog pens and then soaking the burlap with oil.  The hogs seemed to like to rub against and I assume it was for killing mites or whatever got on a hog.  I suppose if one lived like a hog and never bathed and wallowed in mud, a little kerosene rub every now and then might feel pretty good.

We would carry a kerosene lantern on  trips to catch the school bus each morning before day light.  We would leave it under a bush or behind a rock to be retrieved upon returning home in the evening after school.  It also provided light for walking to prayer meetings or revival meetings that were being held in the area at night.  A lantern made about a ten foot diameter circle of light which gave some assurance that you would not, at least step on a snake lying in the road or on the foot path.  That same assurance could not be given to the person walking in front or behind and outside that circle of light.  It made for a pretty bunched up crowd of walkers.  However, that small circle of light provided no protection at all against an animal, ghost, or creature, that might launch itself from a tree, hillside , or the weeds into your circle of walkers.  There was a particularly scary section of Queens Creek road that lay between the Arthur Hatten and the Erie Lakin houses.  When you got to that section, you just naturally walked a little faster, and listened a little more intently

You know, times were hard back then, but I look back on those memories  with pleasure and satisfaction.  My children and grandchildren will never have a memory of filling an oil lamp, of walking in the safety of a ten foot circle of light from a kerosene lantern, or of being a little scared of walking a narrow country road through the woods,  but I do and I can share it with them.  I am sure that when they are my age, they will have changed many a lamp bulb, but they will never remember the occasion.

Life is good and memories are sweet.


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 WOW!  really  foggy this morning (Tuesday) and snow forecast for tonight and tomorrow AM.  Anyone wishing for the return of “old-fashioned” winters are certainly seeing their wishes fulfilled this winter.  We are already double the average and still have the rest of January and all of February to go. 

I received the below from John Plymale and it seemed like a good time to start a liars club and give everyone a chance to give their best expanded “true” experience.  John gets to be a charter member and he, in his mind, probably thinks the below is true.  So, everyone take a shot.  There has to be some “true” experiences out that there that would qualify them for membership in this select group.  Joe Damron has to have a golf story, Fred Reid a fishing story, and I am sure Bill Wellman will  have a tall story.  To bad John Raines doesn’t use email;  I am betting he would have a bunch.  So, everyone join in and send some tall tales.  Just put them in the comments section and I will see that they get posted to the top.  Who will be member #2, with the possibility of taking John’s #1 spot with a better and more true life experience? 


As I have indicated in the past I love to rabbit hunt and by some standards am pretty good at it.  I hunt with friends that have three beagles so we usually bag some game. 

However, our last adventure into the field was the most unusual I have been acquainted with. It was really cold.  I mean reallllly cold. As the dogs loped along through the field they looked like little steam engines with their breath being expelled in the cold air like little puffy clouds of steam. We had gone for some time but no rabbits were running.  I thought, perhaps,  to cold.  And then I saw one setting in a small clump of grass. I thought I would go over and give the creature a little scare so it would jump up and start running.  Now, keep in mind as I said,  it was realllly cold. I gave the rabbit a little nudge with the toe of my boot, but it didn’t move.  On closer examination I discovered the poor thing was frozen solid as a rock and stuck to the ground.  One of the dogs sensed that something was going on and came over to take a look.  Seeing the rabbit the dog walked up and gave a smell.  As soon as he touched his nose to the rabbit he became stuck, froze solid.  It was just like sticking your tongue to a cold wagon wheel.  There was no getting loose.  The next closest dog saw the commotion and came over to inspect the situation.  Dogs being dogs, he came up to do his inspection and smelled the settin down side of the first dog.  You guessed it.  His nose froze solid to the sensitive area of the first dog. Now we have frozen in place, rabbit, dog, dog.  But this is not the end of this story.  We had another dog whose name was spot.  Spot was without a doubt the smartest of the three dogs.  Spot approached the threesome with a bit of caution.  He walked around the group a couple of time and to show his disgust raised his leg and did what any normal dog would do.  As you would expect, it froze.  Now we have rabbit, dog, dog, dog, all frozen together.  For fear of breaking  a dog that was frozen so solid, we left them just as they were.  We plan to go back when it begins to thaw and expect to have the doggondest rabbit chase you ever saw.

As I said Richard, it is cold here too.

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Sorry that there has been nothing new posted on the Chronicles for a few days, but the computer was down for several days but was able to get it back on-line today.  It amazes me how  we can become so dependent on something such as a computer in a few short years.  It was a fairly simple problem but a bit difficult to diagnose.  I hope to have some new stuff on later today.

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I read in the Huntington news paper of the passing of a great lady that grew up on Queens Creek.  She died at the age of 91 and was a resident of Barbourville, WV.  She was interred at the Christian Hill cemetery off Big Hurricane Creek.  Her maiden name was Lou Lessie Rayburn,  her married name was Stevens.  I believe that she attended Fort Gay High School for a time in the 1930s.  I recall visiting with her at a Billups family reunion a few years ago and of her speaking of the pleasant memories of that time of being a young person on “the creek”.  Her statement was that “behind every rock and tree she saw a pleasant memory”.

Lessie, and a group of ladies from up and down the creek, would gather at our house at mail delivery time to receive the mail from Paul Beckley, our rural mail carrier.  Our house was the terminus of his mail route and there were ten or so mail boxes mounted on a rail where each household would receive whatever mail there was.  I never knew why mail delivery ended there, it just did.  Those gathered there would make it a time for visiting and my mother would join in.  If it were cold, they would come into our house for visiting and staying warm.  I can recall Lessie holding me on her lap, I would have 2 or 3 years of age, and telling me that she was going to marry me when I grew up.  It is so funny how little things such as that stick in one’s memory.  Bernice, who I wrote of in an earlier post as being the fiance of Luther Curnutte and the tragedy surrounding their love, was Lessie’s sister.

Lessie’s passing brings to mind another event involving her family. Sometime, near 1940, a natural gas exploration company decided to drill an exploration well on Lessie’s father, Bob Rayburn, farm.  This was one of the larger events that ever happened on Queens Creek.  It ranked right up there with the scaring of the young men on the creek with a “dumb bull” in magnitude.  The drilling rig would operate twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week,  by drilling crews that boarded with local residents.  After chores and evening supper,  people would gather at the drill site and watch the drillers operate their machinery.  It became a social event.  The base of the derrick would be enclosed and along one side would be a bench for sitting, called by the drill crews, the lazy bench.  Today, I am sure, OSHA would not allow this.  There might be ten or twelve people who would gather at a time.

The drilling rig used in drilling this well was not a rotary drill.  It consisted of a derrick, an engine housed a short distance from the derrick, a walking beam, and two very large wheels with a spool attached between them on which was wound the drilling cable.  I believe the large wheels were called bull wheels.  The drill itself, was a long, steel device that had a separate drill bit attached to the end.  The drill would be lifted up and dropped by the walking beam and it simply beat a hole in the ground.  It was necessary to periodically pull the whole string of tools out and sharpen the drill bit by heating it in a forge and beating on it with sledge hammers.  The string of drill tools was quite heavy, at least a few thousand pounds.

I recall well the first night that I, along with several others, visited the drilling site.  I believe that Luther Curnutte, my friend who lost his eyesight through a hunting accident, was one of those with me.  It was interesting to watch the activity, listen to the conversation, and smell the odors of the drilling operation.  The time came for them to draw the tools out of the drill hole for sharpening and the large bull wheels began turning, winding foot after foot of the steel cable on the reel as the tools came closer and closer to the surface.  Once the tool was on the surface, they would attach a long, steel bucket to the line and lower it back into the drill hole and bail out all of the mud and water that had collected.  The bucket was much like one of the old water buckets that people used in their drilled water wells at their homes.  Very narrow and long so that it would fit the well casing.  The residue from the well would be brought to the surface an dumped on the ground,  to run into the nearest small stream or wherever gravity chose to take it.  Today, EPA would have a fit.

Once the drill hole was bailed dry, it would be time to lower the drill tool back into the  hole and resume the drilling.  Having never seen a drill rig before, most of us were unprepared for what took place next.  They simply hoisted the drill tool,  which was attached to a steel line wound onto the bull wheel spool, and dropped that thing down the well casing.  I mean free fall.  I don’t know what the rate of descent was but I guess it could be figured out using Newtons Law.  The whole drill rig began to shake as if in the throes of a major earthquake.  I don’t know how deep the drill hole was but the drill tool had to be approaching the speed of sound, or so it seemed.  I did not know whether to run, crawl under something, or just close my eyes and accept the fact that the whole mess was coming down, or so it seemed.  I did not want to abandon Luke, him being blind, unless absolutely necessary.  About that time, one of the drillers grabbed a large wooden lever attached to a huge band around one of the bull wheels.  Major smoke began to pour from the brake and it now seemed that there was an option on how you were going to die.  One would be to be crushed by the falling derrick or the other would be to die in the fire being created by the very large brake with the smoke and steam pouring from it.   Fortunately, about that time, things began to slow down and come to a stop and it seemed as if life would go on after all.  I am sure this was a great source of entertainment for them each time they had new visitors to their work site.

Upon completion of the well, not a successful one I might add, the drill rig was moved to a site very near our farm.  My family took the drill crew in and provided room and board for them for the period of time that they were drilling this well, but that is another story, best save for another time.

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Another round of snow and cold has arrived in Kentucky.  We just finished three inches of snow with zero temps on Saturday and it seems as if more is forecast for today (Monday) and tomorrow.  To all of those wintering in Florida, good choice.  Anyone heard anything about global warming recently?  It seems that the in  name is now “changing weather patterns” 

On the farm when I was growing up, with a winter such as this has been, you would have been looking at a dwindling wood and coal supply.  In rural West Virginia, gas lines and electric power lines just didn’t reach into rural areas.  At night you simply “banked” the fires and put some extra quilts on the feather mattress beds.  It was a real challenge putting your feet out of a warm bed on to a cold floor and dressing for whatever activities might be scheduled for that day.  I can assure you it was always a before daylight event which meant you stumbled around a dark and cold barn doing the morning chores.  These chores not only consisted of feeding and milking the animals but probably cutting the ice from watering holes so that they could drink. 

After early chores, there would be a hot breakfast consisting of hot cereal, hot biscuits, ham, bacon, or sausage and fried eggs.  There would usually also be stewed prunes for anyone feeling the need.  The problem with the prunes was that eating them might mean more frequent trips to the outdoor sanitary facility, otherwise known as the toilet.  A trip that no one wanted to take when the temps were below freezing and the wind whistled through the cracks of the toilet building. 

Does anyone remember if there was packaged sliced bacon or ham in the 30s?  There probably was but it just didn’t exist in the small grocery stores that we shopped for staples.  I don’t remember ever seeing it at the Charley Thomas, Ed Bellomy, or Bob Buskirk stores on Big Hurricane Creek.  Everyone raised and butchered their own hogs and cured the meat, so I suppose there wouldn’t have been much marked for it, plus who had the money to afford the luxury of buying it.  For bacon or ham, someone always went to the smoke house and sliced the quantity needed the night before or just before preparing breakfast.  There being no refrigeration, the pork was always stored in the smoke house after curing for use throughout the winter.  Smoked and salt cured ham still ranks number one on my list of favorite foods.  There was always home churned butter, molasses, jelly, jam, apple butter, and maple syrup to put on the hot biscuits.  One of my favorite concoctions to eat with hot biscuits at that time was peanut butter and hot maple syrup mixed together.  I wonder why that the many foods that we loved as children are not eaten today.  Sometimes it is because the doctor doesn’t allow them, I suppose.

Speaking of syrup, do all remember Karo syrup?  My family bought the stuff in small buckets or pails.  I do not remember how much the buckets held, but they were pretty good sized.  It came in both white and regular syrup.  In those days, people did not buy baby formula for their babies.  I don’t even know if it existed.  On the farm, mothers would make their own formulae for their babies with good old cows milk mixed with a little Karo white syrup.  Today, the doctors would chastise them for doing that.  It sure worked back then.  I imagine there many of you who had a similar diet when you were at  your bottle feeding age and look how you all turned out.  I don’t remember what I ate or drunk as a baby, but I can assure it was not or did not contain chicken products.  Lets hear it from all of you Tyson fans out there.

Beef was rarely a meat that was on our table.  We did not have refrigeration or freezing facilities so there was no way of preserving beef other than canning or turning into jerky, and jerky was only something I had heard about the cowboys eating untill I was grown and saw my first.  I believe there was freezer facilities in Louisa, KY early on but that would have meant spending money for  rental and killing a whole beef.  I bit too expensive during the tail end of the depression.  My mother would occasionally buy beef and make country fried steak or an occasional roast, but not very often.  Nobody grilled back then, everything was fried, boiled, baked, or stewed.  I am not sure what, if any, the difference is between boiling and stewing. 

I remember having pop corn and what my dad called “parched corn” in the wintertime.  We grew the pop corn and would pop it in a larger square pan with a long handle and a lid on it.  We would pop it over an open fire in the fireplace.  The “parched” corn was simply field corn that was shelled and placed in a baking pan in the old wood fired kitchen stove.  It wasn’t bad but pretty hard chewing.

Well, even as I am writing, it has started snowing again.  It is dark but with the light reflecting off of Saturdays snow, it is quite light outside.  I am sure that on Queens Creek it would be beautiful.  The hill with all of the underbrush covered in a blanket of snow and the trees with their boughs bending under the weight of the fresh fall of snow would present a Christmas card look that no artist could duplicate.  The little creek, known as Queens Creek, would be burbling under the ice in the shallow areas to emerge into the deeper pools, where a few small fish might lurk.  An occasianol muskrat slide would emerge from a small corn field and down a steep bank into one of those pools.  You might smell the acrid aroma of burning hickory wood from an isolated farm house fireplace and hear a lonely dog barking at some unseen terror that he thinks he is protecting his masters family from.  A mother deer and her baby deer  bedded down in a sumac thicket to ward off the cold of a wintry night, ever alert for an alien noise or sight and every ready to bolt with her young offspring away from any real or imagined danger.  You know!  I really do think I like winter.

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I hope all survived the Christmas and News Years holidays with reasonable weight gain, maximum relaxation, and a reasonable and manageable number of New Year’s resolutions.  This is a time to resolve to do better in many areas.  Goals should be set for each area that one may wish to change and should never be set so high that they are unattainable.  Record progress and celebrate each victory with a little personal party.  For those that might be interested in making changes, go to the Book of James and read chapter 4, verses 13 through 17.  There is an excellent lesson residing in those few short sentences.

The FGHS Alumni Association board will be looking at the future of the organization, the scholarship, plans for the year, and how best to make and implement changes in the coming year.  One of our highest priorities  is the involvement of more and more alumni of Fort Gay High School.  The alumni from the years of the early 30’s through 1960  have been active in support of and attendance at functions held by the Association.  There are some members from latter classes that have and are involved, however, they are in limited numbers. The dilemma is, how do we get to these 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s groups and how do we get them involved?  Individuals and board members from the early years are and will become less involved due to age and or health issues over the next few short years.  It takes a lot of time, energy, and commitment to bring about the reunion, with activities such as the banquet, the golf tournament, Saturday lawn activities, and the many things that go on in support of the scholarship. We have a GREAT board, however, they can’t do it all.  Quite frankly, I suppose what I am saying is “WE NEED HELP”.  We would welcome representatives from Tolsia High School;  whether faculty, students, or alumni, to assist us in helping their students.  So, today, as part of your New Year plans, consider setting aside some time this year in helping us to help others?

A committee from the FGHS Alum Board will be meeting with some of the scholarship and foundation people from Marshall in March to consider beneficial changes to the scholarship.  The scholarship guidelines as originally set up ten or twelve years ago have, and continue to serve well with just minor “tweaking” over the years..They will be simple changes but as times change, so do students needs, so must we look at scholarship changes to better serve those needs.  It would be wonderful to be able to support all students with educational financial needs, however, that just isn’t possible.  A fine line must be walked between a student need and the quality of that student. 

Beginning in April, we will be looking at and planning this years, 2011, reunion and banquet.  Our numbers continue to fall in the area of attendance at the banquet.  We reached a peak of about 160 alumni in attendance a few years ago.  This past year, 2010, saw that attendance fall to 75.  We, again, are not drawing the alumni members from the later years of FGHS.  One of the problems is our lack of mailing addresses for those graduating during those years.  If anyone out there is from one of those 60s, 70s, or 80s classes and maintains a class mailing list, we would really appreciate your making it available to the Alumni Association so that we can keep all aware of the various Association activities and schedules.

The Fort Gay Heritage Committee is working hard to improve and strengthen their program.  The Alumni Association will work with them in providing whatever assistance we might give.  We are, to a great degree, dependent on their success and them to  ours.  They did a great job last year and are dedicated to improve even that stellar performance. 

Joe Damron, our golf chairman, is in great need of assistance in planning and putting on the golf tournament.  This remains our largest single source of income for the FGHS Memorial Scholarship.  Needs are (1) Selling golf hole sponsorships, (2)Finding golf teams and individuals to compete in the tournament, (3)Provide assistance in conducting the tournament on tournament day, (4)Providing assistance in any other matter that might arrive throughout the planning of the tournament.  Perhaps you have ideas about things that should be done.  If you are willing to work and help in planning and conducting activities this year, won’t you consider joining us?

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2011 is here and it is time to revive the “Chronicles” after a week of rest and reflection.  It was nice to take a couple of days and not even turn the computer on.  I hope that those who visit frequently were not to disappointed that there was nothing new upon their visits.

I was thinking about the definition of Chronicles the other day and decided to look it up.  Loosely translated, it means a recording of historic events, so our Viking Chronicles pretty much loosely fits that description.  While we do sometimes wander a bit, efforts are made to keep it in a manner to which all can relate to or identify with.

How did we do last year, 2011?  Well, from everything I can see we did right well, considering that the site was only in existence for a period of about eight months.  Below are listed stats for the Chronicles for the year 2010.  Let’s let you decide, what do you think?

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2010. That’s about 29 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 169 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 285 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 200mb. That’s about 5 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was September 22nd with 285 views. The most popular post that day was WHO IS THIS? I KNOW BUT DO YOU?.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were mail.yahoo.com, alphainventions.com, tips-tools-tutorials.com, studentloansinterest.org, and mariaozawa2u.blogspot.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for fghsaa.wordpress.com, fort gay high school alumni association wordpress .com, fort gay vikings chronicles, and the viking cronicals fort gay high school.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.




About March 2010


New FGHS Alumni Association Blog March 2010





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