-Art's Art-
Recollections of a Small Town Boy


     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 too.

     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.

Art Darwin 
Feb. 17, 2005

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