A Pine Crik Hollow Home
Former Pine Creek resident David Charles Kirby, the son of Roy and Eva Buck Kirby, recalls his life and times growing up in a remote Pine Creek hollow and in Calhoun County.
He attended a one-room school taught by his mother and graduated from Calhoun High School in 1954, with a BS degree in agricultural engineering from WVU (1959).
Professionally he is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator and Professional Engineer in WV, OH, and PA, having worked 22 years as Loss Prevention Engineer with Factory Mutual Engineering; 20 Years as Process Safety Engineer with Union Carbide in South Charleston; 12 years a Sr. Principal Engineer with Baker Engineering & Risk Consultants of San Antonio, TX.
He is married to the former Betty Estep of Mt. Zion, their children, sons, Dr. Kris N. Kirby, professor at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts; and Gregory D. Kirby, of Parkersburg, Safety Engineer at Cytec, Willow Island, WV.
Kirby's recollections reflect life from the Great Depression to the fabulous 1960s, earlier tales can be found under People, Humor and History.
Stories My Dad Told
Dad was a great story teller. He could relate some mundane happening and make it interesting, and usually add a funny part or two. When he told a joke he did not know the meaning of sarcasm, and he would always laugh all the way through the punch line. Even if it wasn't funny you would laugh your ass off at Dad's laughing. Of all the stories he told, the ones that captured my interest most were his dynamite stories.
Dynamiting Love Hole
Uncle Ray, one of Dad's older brothers, had the shooter's job on a road construction project. Dad worked a little on the job, and got some training as a shooter. Ray had access to dynamite, and on occasion would pilfer some for private use.
Uncle Ray and Edwin Starcher, a first cousin, decided to do some dynamite fishing in a big hole of water in the West Fork of the Little Kanawha River, known as the "Love Hole."
Dynamiting fish was, and still is, very much against the law.
A big corn field extended several hundred feet back from the river bank, except for about twenty feet of high grass right at river's edge.
It was a beautiful day. Uncle Ray and Edmund crept through the cornfield and into the high grass, making sure they were all alone. Uncle Ray took a quarter stick of dynamite, tied a rock to it to get it to sink, lit a short fuse, and tossed it out to the center of the hole. The rock came untied, the dynamite floated on the water, and a mighty geyser erupted.
Unbeknownst to them, some poor guy was fishing from the high grass just a few yards upstream from them. He was probably sitting there asleep. At any rate he was highly startled when the dynamite exploded. Uncle Ray said that they had no idea that he was there or who he was, and when he broke and ran, they took off running as well.
Uncle Ray said they knocked down several rows of corn and passed each other two or three times getting out of the field.
Now, I put myself in the shoes of the poor guy sitting in the high grass fishing from the bank. I am dozing off, when all of a sudden "Sweet Jesus!" the whole world blows up in front in my face.
I lunge up and run flat out, running from I know not what, and find myself in a footrace with two other people running from the same thing.
Dynamiting the Lake
Edmund got a job in Akron, Ohio later that year, and had access to a good fishing lake. Dad and Uncle Ray went to visit Edmund and do some lake fishing, and just happened to take a little dynamite with them.
Edmund rented a small wooden john boat with a motor and they motored several hundred yards out from shore. They weren't catching anything with conventional fishing and decided to use dynamite as bait. Of course, the secret is to weigh the dynamite down so that it only makes a "whump" when it goes off underwater.
They had brought some weights along to tie to the dynamite. They were using "shootin" wire and letting the dynamite trail off the back of the boat. All three would move towards the front of the boat, and they would touch the wires to the motor battery.
They managed to blow the back end of boat off. After the incident, they surmised that the "shootin" wire got caught on a splinter at the end of the boat, leaving the dynamite dangling above the water line.
At any rate, when the shot went off it blew the back end out of the boat. They lost the motor and had to swim back to the shore holding on to the mostly submerged boat. My Dad didn't drink much, but alcohol might have had something to do with it.
Uncle Ray was known to imbibe, and had spent a year in jail after being caught by the Feds operating a still; it actually belonged to someone else, but he had discovered it and started running it.
Dynamiting the Stump
During the summer of 1939 or 1940, Dad got a job as a shooter for a small pipeline construction job they ran fairly close to our farm. The job was laying a new six-inch line from Cabot Station up Bee Creek and around Joker Ridge to somewhere near Hur.
It was all manual labor except using horses with a slip scraper to move larger amounts of dirt, and dynamiting as necessary. I think Dad's only qualification was on-the-job training dynamiting fish with Uncle Ray.
The shooter was assigned an assistant who helped out on placing the load. When the load was complete, the shooter would step off a safe distance in one direction ("safe" was not well defined) and the assistant would step off an equivalent distance the opposite direction.
They would then alternate yelling "fire in the hole" three times at the top of their voice, making sure that no one was closer to ground zero than they were.
Dad got sensitized to the dynamite and I remember him coming home after a day's work with a splitting headache.
From day one, Dad did not like his assistant (I can't remember his name). The guy knew even less about it than Dad, but gave copious amounts of advice on how to load the shots, and repeatedly offered his opinion that anyone could be a shooter.
On this particular day, a large stump near the middle of the right-of-way had to be removed. Dad misjudged how much dynamite to load, and the shot only blew out a bunch of dirt and loosened the stump. This was a very bad result, since at that point one either had to reload the dynamite and pack dirt around each stick, or try to use enough dynamite to overwhelm the stump.
At any rate, Dad's head was already splitting from inhaling the vapors, he was going to have to work more around the smelly stump, and the whole job was only going to last a few more days.
He walked over to Clint Hannah, the foreman, and told him he was quitting. Clint tried to talk Dad out of it, but to no avail. The assistant shooter was immediately promoted to shooter, and Acey Freshaur was battlefield-promoted from ditch digger to assistant shooter.
Dad was getting his dinner pail when the new shooter sidled up to Dad and said "Roy, how would you shoot it." Dad, not in any mood to be nice, said "you either have to pack it or shoot it; I would load it with a case (about fifty lbs) and be done with it."
Dad, lunch pail under his arm, started walking down the ditch in the general direction of the farm saying goodbye to the ditch diggers. His headache was easing off a bit and he took several minutes talking, and then headed straight down the holler toward our house.
He had just made it under the break of the ridge when, in his words, "there was a God almighty boom, and I looked back just in time to see the stump arcing above the horizon."
In a week or so he ran into Clint Hannah in town, and Clint said "Roy, it is a good thing that you quit or I would have damn well fired your ass. You could have gotten somebody killed."
Dad said "How's that?" Clint said "Well, I don't know what you told that imbecile on how to load that shot, but when the shot went off: Acey was knocked flat, the horses ran away and we had to collect them at Lizzie Reynolds line fence. We lost most of an hour filling in the hole, and I couldn't hear anything out of my right ear for two days."
Axing the Snake
Dad picked up work any time he could, and one summer he got a job cutting filth (brush, briers, grass, etc) along the pipeline right-of-way from Cabot Station, just below Grantsville, to Cobb Station near Clendenin.
Dad always preferred using a mowing scythe and that is what he did most of the time. There was a huge amount of rattlesnakes and copperheads along the right-of-way.
I recall they killed over 150 copperheads and nearly 100 rattlesnakes that summer.
He would bring me home rattles from the rattlesnakes for me to play with. Dad wore eighteen-inch Chippewa high-top shoes to give some snake protection, but the old timers said a big rattler could strike above the shoes.
A snake would run away from a scythe, and the mowers had a ritual that when the man on the scythe saw a snake he would jam the heel of the scythe down on the snake, pinning it down, and call for the axe man to come and cut the head off of the snake.
In this case, Ben Radabaugh was cutting lead swath (swathe was the width of a swing of the scythe—about three feet) and Dad was cutting the swath just behind Ben, when Ben yelled "axe man."
Penny Burroughs was axe man and came running over, and raised the axe to chop the snake's head off, but hesitated. Ben said "what are you waiting on?" Penny stuttered pretty bad, and he said "ith, ith, wh, what do you want me t, t, to do with the one you are st, st standing on?"
Ben was standing with both feet on a big copperhead. I don't know the ending of that story, except no one got snake bit or chopped.
Rotten Egging Snuff Box Glory
Every winter each church had a revival. Sometimes a clandestine group of individuals would have a revival at their homes. There were always a few from each community that couldn't get along with the mainstream group that supported the local church.
Sometimes they would use the local church, when it was not otherwise being used, to hold their revivals. In this case one of the Coons (family name) started a revival in his house, but it outgrew the size of his house and he moved the revival to Snuff Box Glory.
The meeting was going on and on and some of the people at Barnes Run felt they were over doing it, so a bunch of the big boys decided to "rotten egg" one of the meetings, which were always at night.
Dad knew the guys and they wanted him to join them. He refused, but went along with them to the meeting to observe. They got a bunch of raw eggs, probably not actually rotten, and went to the meeting.
Dad did not want to be accused to being part of the "rotten egging bunch," so he stepped on the inside of the church and made sure someone saw him.
It was a warm night and all of the windows were open. The boys stepped up to the windows and started throwing eggs. All bedlam broke loose. One of the main worshipers flew to cussing.
The preacher, after being splattered somewhere in the upper torso and quoting from some passage in the Bible, said "Lord wither the hand that threw that egg."
About that time one of the Coons got splattered between the eyes and the broken egg started running down his face. He took both hands and cupped them over his face, wiping off the egg, and said "Lord, wither that man's whole body."
It must have been funnier if you were there. I heard my Dad tell that story numerous times, and he would laugh until he cried every time he told it.
Uncle Willie Lynch
Uncle Willy Lynch was a Civil War veteran, and lived to be almost one hundred years old. He lived on Jesse's Run, below where my Dad was born and raised.
Willie was a crack shot with a mountain rifle, and chicken hawks were taking his chickens on a regular basis. He would stand out by the chicken house and shoot hawks circling overhead.
He got to telling around that he had killed ninety-nine chicken hawks circling above his place. Someone said "Uncle Willie, why don't you round that off to a hundred hawks?"
Whereupon Uncle Willie said "You wouldn't expect me to lie about one gosh dang hawk would you?"
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