Recollections of a Small Town
AIN’T GONNA BURY PAW TODAY
Near the mid-point of the twentieth century
pockets of wooded rough country survived in Western York County. Surely
a few remain along with sturdy, genial and fiercely independent folks who
chose habitats there. I hope so.
Using genial as a descriptive has limitations.
Outsiders were not readily invited for tea and biscuits. Those who passed
a few tests such as having no official government credentials were subjected
to another of sorts. A “revenooer” in disguise could not belt down half
a jelly jar of raw corn likker without disgracing himself–or even making
orphans of his children. Good ole boys could drain a jar of this juice
without choking or even burping. Good for lighting fires with wet wood
In the early 1950's the patriarch of such
a clan was called to join his creator. Preachers and undertakers assisted
the family in arranging suitable church services and interment. In all
of this, two of the older sons were not consulted because they could not
be found. Speculation had it that these lads were hosting a wake, properly
at a still known to few. This still was ready for a first run of heavy
proof stuff which had to be jugged for waiting customers. Paw had a good
business head and so did his boys.
After collecting the cash the fellows stumbled
out of the woods to find Paw had been hauled to a church and lots of people
were there and prepared to weep on cue. The boys objected on grounds they
did not bother to explain.
They simply walked in and announced that
Paw would not be buried today. The word spread to a sheriff’s deputy detailed
to lead the hearse to the cemetery. He was met at the church by a pair
of 12-gauge shotguns and decided to call for instructions. Backups were
dispatched to settle everyone down. They wisely called for reinforcement.
The boys had only one message, “Ain’t gonna
bury Paw today.”
Paw was interred that day, several hours
late, and after a dozen deputies convinced the boys of their superior fire
power and hauled them to the county jail. Mourners had been escaping as
the supper hour drew near, so most were safe home eating fatback and collard
greens. Kids need their nourishment.
Newspaper stories gave a fair account. Street
stories filled in many exciting details. I don’t recall charges being filed
or any great stills smashed up. Let snoozing hounds snooze, maybe. Sharon
was the dateline of the local rag’s story, but the locale was not identified.
My guess is an area well known to my father, whose home place was not far
west of it. He often referred to “the coaling ground” in a tone which seemed
to mean rough, lawless and dangerous.
“Coalin” was the way Dad pronounced it.
Whether there were outcrops of coal there or if it is a colloquialism for
“killing ground” I don’t know. But it fits.
Feb. 17, 2005
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