Sunday at Clear Creek
Somehow, and I am told it happened in church, my dad met my mother all the way over in Norton Va. Seems my mother was singing in church as she still does some fifty plus years later. A child of 14 she, she had this wonderful singing voice, as she still does. My mother grew up around Norton, but she mostly talked about growing up in the Hawthorne Coal Camp, it seems the camp holds a special place in the hearts of all of those who lived there.
My grandmother, who had been widowed with a house full of children, had met my grandfather and their only child was my mom. She being the youngest of the house was probably spoiled rotten. My grandfather or paw as we called him was a man of many talents. I have limited memories of him, but I do recall, he was a man large in size, and of quick wit. My grandfather held many jobs as a security guard for a coal company during those bad times when union organizing was taking place. Seems my paw, was provided these two 45.Cal pistols, by the coal company. He was given the job of protecting a company tipple and walked through a large crowd of striking miners the 45s on each hip.
Many of these men he had known and worked with for years. Seems later on that night, someone opened the gate and paw was I guess surprised, and must have gave up without a fight. He got roughed up a little, and somehow the tipple got blew up. Given my paws physical size and reputation as a good fighter, a lot of people could not believe he had been taken without some of the strikers being hurt or killed by him. Some even accused him of being part of the union all the while and kinda working undercover for the union. This was never proven, but needless to say, his job as a Company Man was short lived.
Paw worked as a Game Warden a while, he lived along Clear Creek, at the base of the mountain area known as the Nettle Patch. About the only story I have heard about this time of his life was how he kept my grandmother (my dads mother) in trout, which she dearly loved to eat year round.
My mom said Paw was a pretty good bootlegger. He kept his stuff hidden from my grandmom, but she knew what he was doing. Well his business must have gotten pretty good, because when he was gone he would have my mom sell the licker for him. Mom said she made a nickel a jar for what she sold, which back then was a lot of money. It seems my grandmom found out paw was having mom sell licker for him and she put a stop to mom's easy money.
Paw and grandmoms house was in the Ramsey section of Norton, up Clear Creek from where the Ramsey Flea Market now takes place. They lived in a small wood frame house, which sat across the creek from the parking lot of what is now the Clear Creek Recreation Area. A small foot bridge that washed away once a year was how we would get across the creek to their house. A couple big rocks and I mean pickup truck size rocks sat beside the house. My great granny, (Paws mother) lived in a house just out the back door a few yards.
She had outlived a dozen or so children and still kept a good size garden. A couple Sundays a month we would go to their house for Sunday dinner. A great cook, my grandmom usually had a house full on Sunday afternoons. The taste of her Banana Pudding is still the measuring stick for comparison of what was then and still is my favorite desert.
One of the real treats of a visit to Ramsey was being able to go swimming. Just below their house men had piled rocks up and made this small dam at an already deep area of Clear Creek. They used this Hole of Water for a couple things, one was a place for people to come and swim, and another was Sunday Afternoon Baptizing. It was not uncommon on a summer Sunday afternoon for a twenty or thirty three or four feet deep, but it sure felt good on a hot July day. But for my grandmom the big day was when they had a Baptizing.
My sister and I would be sad when we got there and found out there was a Baptizing taking place and we could not swim. My grandmom loved it, she would feed anyone who stopped by their modest home and talked to everyone. Back then, (early to mid sixties) it was not uncommon to have a Baptizing once or twice a month as I remember. Another treat was going up Clear Creek to another swimming hole that my mom had gone swimming in as a child. This swimming hole had a big cliff to dive from. Being a fat kid, I never was a diver, and at that time not much of a swimmer, but the cold water really made the summer trip fun.
My mom and dad told stories of hunting trips, camping trips, fishing trips, copperheads, panther cats, moonshiners, bootleggers, counterfeiters, scouters, and murder, all of which taking place in the mountains, or up the creek from my grandparents house. Dad told of how on one deer hunting trip, he was with several men who had went way up in the mountains to an old cabin. The weather turned bad, temperatures near or below zero, a big snow came and they were snowed in at the cabin. Seems they ran low on food, but worse, ran low on fire wood, they tore the underpinning from underneath the cabin, as well as tearing down the front and back porch and chopping up all the rough wooden furniture in the cabin and burned it all in the pot-bellied stove just to keep from freezing.
After Paw died, the place got too much to keep up, and grandmom moved into a trailer down in Ramsey. She rented the house for years before it finally got too old and worn out to keep repairing. The old place was torn down and the land sold a few years ago. Every so often I drive up that way, stop at the city park near there and just look. The dam that had been built to make the swimming and Baptizing hole can still be partially seen, although much of it has washed away with time. The footbridge no longer exists, but the big rocks that were out the back door still are there.
Last summer some of my buddies and myself hiked from the top of the mountain on the High Knob, all the way down the mountain and came out down the creek, right by the old home place. As we came out I told some of the guys I was with a story of how my sister, while wearing a dress and white go-go boots fell, or maybe was pushed a little into the creek at the end of the footbridge. Can you believe they accused me of pushing her in?