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Jan 13, 2010

Goin' Up Hargis

Goin' up Hargis.  That's what they called it, after they moved to Route 23, just outside of town.  I remember that house on Rt. 23. It was a small four rooms with a heater in the cellar that blew hot air up into the house through a grate in the floor. I remember how hot that grate would get and all the warnings not to run because you could fall on it and get burned. The kitchen was almost as large as the front room probably because that is where all of the indoor work was done. There was a small porch off of the kitchen with a narrow table where Granny would start seedlings in the spring or dry fruit and store old pots and pans underneath in the fall. From that porch you could step down into the yard which was made up of grass and clover, bordered by her zinias, touch me nots, and other flowers, on the sides, and a small creek which ran behind the house on the edge of the property.
...We drove anywhere from 6 to 8 hours to get there. That was before Interstate 64 and the Mountain Parkway were completed. Two lane state highways were curvy and narrow in many places and speed was limited by the incline of the terrain. So many hours in a car was hard on a kid. Mom would try to break the monotony by singing songs and teaching us games as we went along. I know we must have counted a million cows along the highway and a few thousand white horses. They were worth a whopping 100 points so there were a few skermishes over who saw them first between my brother and me that my mother would have to settle for us, usually with a threat of the belt. Dad was driving and if he got involved in it, we knew we were in really big trouble.
...Many times, we would arrive late at night because we could not leave Louisville until Dad got off work around 5:00 pm. I was usually asleep by the time we got there, so I remember very little of that. But the next day was filled with a whirl of activity. Granny would be cooking and Mark, my Grandpap, (who would not let us call him anything but Mark), would be talking and working on one thing or another with my Dad and brother. Mom and I were relocated to the kitchen with Granny, of course, as women did.
...The main communication tool then was the party line telephone. If you ever had a party line, you know you could pick up the phone and listen to others talking, so as news of our visit would spread through the area, throughout the day various relatives would drop by and visit for a while to catch up on the news and say hello and tell us how aunt so and so was troubled with swollen ankles and uncle Joe had diabetes and lost a toe or a foot. They didn't stay long because they were usually on their way to or from town on their way home. If they should happen in at meal time though, they were always invited to stay and eat.
...At some point during the day, someone would say, "Let's go up Hargis." Hargis is the holler where they lived before moving to Rt. 23, where my dad and uncle Clarence grew up on the farm between the hills. We would all pile into Mark's truck and go. The road to Hargis, now Hwy. 1409, was not paved until years later. It winded through the bottoms along Oil Springs and Pigeon Creek, and further into the hills. It may have been 3 or 4 miles from the main highway, but on a gravel and dirt road, it seemed like 100. When we finally arrived, we walked up the dry creek bed, about 1/4 mile uphill, to the house. It sat on a clearing between two hills with a tall rock chimney and a light bulb hanging from a wire on the front porch. Mark had installed the electric lights years before and none of them had shades or sconces. Even inside the house, they were bare bulbs hanging from wire. I visited the house many times as a baby but I have no other memory of it than this because they moved to town when I was very young.
...Out in the yard was a tall metal pipe with a flame coming from the top. It was part of the gas system that they used inside the house. How safe it was, I don't know, but it always had the smell of natural gas and we didn't like to get too close to it. There was a barn behind the house where they kept cows and a mule when it was a working farm. I do remember wanting so badly to ride that old mule. Dad had told tales of riding a mule to school and all through the hills. I may have been 4 years old, but when dad picked me up and put me on top of the mule, I was scared to tears and that was the end of my mule riding career.
...On some trips we would also visit other family who still lived up the holler. On one visit to an aunt and uncle, the adults were talking together in the house and I was left to play alone on the outside of their tiny home. My brother had taken off with some older cousins and left me behind to entertain myself. It had rained recently and I found a big old puddle in the road. It was full of pollywogs and I tried my best to catch some, but they got away. I wondered how they could live in water with a colorful halo like that. The halo was oil. Where it came from, I do not know, but it was in all the puddles.
...After our trip up Hargis, we spent the evening watching Porter Wagner and HeeHaw on Granny's old TV. Cable was not available then. Mark ran a wire up to the top of the hill where he had placed an antenna so as to be able to receive a signal. I don't remember how many channels it got, but I do know it did not get as many as we got in the city, all of three channels. As the sun set and the country music shows ended, everyone drifted off to bed. Mom and I slept together in the living room on a pull out couch bed, Dad and Greg slept in Clarence's room and Granny and Mark went to their own room. Other than the kitchen and the tiny bathroom, the house was packed with sleeping people.
...On Sunday morning Granny would fry ham and eggs and bake biscuits. Sometimes she would fry chicken. I always thought that was odd, but it wasn't odd to them. When leaving time came, we would hug and kiss and Granny would cry and Dad would assure them that we would be back and we sure would like for them to come visit us, which they never did until after Mark passed away and Granny came and spent the winters with us. Then we set off for the long ride home.
...Not every trip up Hargis was as pleasant, but those stories can be told another time.

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