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What My Heart Wants To Tell

Verna Mae Slone
Copyright Date: 1979
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    What My Heart Wants To Tell
    Book Description:

    "God knew that it would take brave and sturdy people to survive in these beautiful but rugged hills. So He sent us His very strongest men and women." So begins the heartwarming story of Verna Mae and her father, Isom B. ""Kitteneye"" Slone, an extradordinay personal family history set in the hills around Caney Creek in Knott County, Kentucky.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4396-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. 1-6)

    It was so cold that February morning in 1863, the wind almost bounced off the sides of the hills as it roared its way up Caney Creek and up the mouth of Trace, whirling the icy snow around the log cabin. It was an angry wind that bent its fury against the sturdy logs, trying to find a crack or hole between the wood so as to get to the woman and little seven-year-old boy inside. But the cabin had withstood many such winds. It was built in 1809 by Shady Slone, and was now owned by his grandson Jim...

    (pp. 7-14)

    So kitteneye grew. Although he was always small in size, he was hard and sturdy as the hills that stood protecting and imprisoning his cabin home at the mouth of Trace on Caney Creek. But he was as gentle as the cool summer winds that found their winding path up the narrow hollow.

    He was walking by himself by the time he was seven months old. By his first birthday, he had learned to climb over the four-rail fence and get outside the yard.

    I do not know too much about his childhood years, but he was a “smart young’un.”...

    (pp. 15-21)

    It was late May in the year 1872. It had been raining almost all morning, but now, about ten o’clock, the sun was trying to shine.

    It had rained a lot this spring, and many of the folks up and down Trace were far behind with their corn planting.

    Jim was down with the “rumatis” again, and Frankie and the boys were thinking about having a “working,” if it ever cleared up enough. They did not like to ask other folks to help them, when everyone’s corn was just as weedy, but maybe they would have to.

    Kitteneye sat in...

    (pp. 22-24)

    My grandma frankie made “tied lace,” a handcraft that is now a lost art. At least, no one in our family knows how to make it, though I have seen a few pieces. My stepmother had some sheets that were edged with “hand-tied lace.” I remember it was a heavy, thick lace and must have been made from twine. She used no needle and simply made it by tying the threads together by hand. It was very beautiful. She used many different patterns: She made small edging for sheets, pillowcases, and underclothing for the women; and she also made a...

    (pp. 25-29)

    My father was not the only man on Caney to have a nickname, and he had more than one. He was also called Tow Wad. Tow was the thread left over from making cloth from hemp or cotton. A small wad of this tow was used to load their old “hawg rifflers.” My father, being so small, was called Tow Wad. He was also called Lick Skillet, for the same reason. He said all the other boys ate the grub and he had to lick the skillet where it had been cooked.

    Our mountain people love to “name after each...

    (pp. 30-32)

    I know that my father carried the mail when he was only seventeen. He was chosen by his parents to be the mailboy because his other brothers were larger and more able to do the heavy work. Also, because he was small, he was a less load for the mule to carry, not that there was ever much mail. Sometimes there were only a few letters in the “mail pockets.”

    He made only one trip each week, going somewhere near Harlan. He started out early Monday morning, getting to the end of his route on Wednesday evening. Then on Thursday,...

    (pp. 33-36)

    Kitteneye could tell it was going to be a very beautiful day. He had been awaken by a crunching sound from the kitchen and a flopping beat, beat, which came from the direction of the fireplace. Both told him that breakfast was on the way. Maw was grinding coffee, and one of the girls was churning. He thought how good that fresh butter would taste with the molasses. He sure was hungry. He remembered he had not eaten a “plum mess” since breakfast the morning before. That nickel’s worth of brown sugar and round crackers he had bought at the...

    (pp. 37-38)

    I don’t know very much about their courtship days, but I don’t think my story would be complete unless I told you of one happening that almost brought an end to their friendship before it had barely begun. They were planning on going to church that day, around on Hollybush. Sarah was to wait before the house, near the “chop block,” while Kitteneye went to catch his mule. So while Sarah stood there in all her best clothes and a with a blanket folded to use as a cushion, Kitteneye took the bridle and started for the pasture.

    He soon...

    (pp. 39-48)

    I don’t know if they had a “workin’ ” when there was a log cabin to be built for my parent’s first home. If so, all their brothers decided on a given day. Everyone on Caney was invited or asked to come. Bringing their own tools, they built a one-room cabin, to which more could be added later. The trees had been cut and hauled to the site before by Kitteneye, with a pair of oxen.

    Each man did what he was best at; some hewed, and some notched the ends of the logs. Then everyone helped to place them...

    (pp. 49-54)

    My mother was one of the very few on Caney who could not read and who had no learning at all. The eight grades were all that were taught. You could then go to Hindman, where George Clark had a teacher training class. If you completed this and could pass the exam given by the state, you were qualified to teach.

    I know the eighth grade is far from a college education, but it can not be classed as illiterate. In reading, spelling, arithmetic, history and geography, the grades were more advanced than that which is taught in school now,...

    (pp. 55-59)

    My father and mother had a very large family. On October 9, 1914, she gave birth to her last child. Five weeks later she died.

    She was never “out of bed” after I was born except once. My father had gone over “in the head of Hollybush” to bring sheep home. During the summer they were turned loose, as all stock were, to forage for themselves. There were no stock laws then. Everyone kept a fence around their crops and gardens. The animals ran loose. In the fall, they were rounded up and put in the barn lot or stall,...

    (pp. 60-72)

    Of all the things my father taught me, I am thankful that I learned from him the enjoyment one could obtain from work. I did not know until I was grown that there were people who did not like to work, and not until my children were grown did I realize that some folks thought it was shameful to do manual labor. (I must admit, though, I do not like to do housework. I like for a house to be a home, a comfortable place to live, not a “show room.”)

    I wish I could pass on to my grandchildren...

    (pp. 73-76)

    In my father’s time, dinner bells were a necessity. Kitteneye and his neighbors used them for everything from celebrating election returns to telling the family that dinner was ready. We soon learned the different tones of each bell and could tell just who was ringing it by the sound it made. The children were not allowed to ring it just for fun except on Christmas; then everyone rang their bell. There was one old man who every Christmas morning, “let off a blast.” The night before he went up on the hill above his house, bored a hole in a...

    (pp. 77-80)

    Uncle john (summer) Slone ran a small grocery store near the mouth of Short Fork. He was a very small man and as long back as I can remember him, he was drawn over in his back, so crippled with rheumatism that he could scarcely walk. But he kept his wife and kids and “lived good” from what he made in his small store.

    My Uncle Milton Owens had the next store, near the mouth of Hollybush. Every two weeks a salesman or a “drummer,” as we then called them, would come from Paintsville, Kentucky. Verne Stumbo, a very good...

  19. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 81-84)

    Very few of our mountain folks ever stole anything. If you went by a man’s apple tree, turnip or watermelon patch, and you took some, it was not counted as stealing, it was the custom. Anyone was more than welcome to what he could eat that belonged to his neighbor. Of course, like everything else there were a few exceptions.

    My father owned a little black mule named “Little Beck.” He had raised him from a colt. He was almost like one of the family and as gentle as a kitten. He would come from anywhere in the pasture when...

    (pp. 85-87)

    There must still have been a few Indians living in this part of Kentucky when our first settlers came—and a few intermarriages. The Thomases and the Mosleys both are proud to lay claim to being part Indian, and the look of this Indian blood still shows up in some of their appearances. My own granddaughter has the long black hair, high cheek-bones, dark eyes, and stately way of walking that would remind anyone of an Indian princess. I know I see her through the love of a grandmother’s eyes, but she is still a pretty girl to anyone.


    (pp. 88-91)

    From the records of old deeds I have found with their names, I know my mother and father lived in different places on Caney. Only once in my mother’s lifetime did my father move his family “off of Caney.”

    In the years around 1895 they lived on Bunyun, where I now live, in fact in the same house where my husband and I first lived. Three of her children were born under the same roof where my two oldest were born. I love to think when I am working in my garden, “This is the very same soil my mother...

    (pp. 92-94)

    Sometime between 1901, when my father moved his family to the old home place at the mouth of Trace, and the year 1909, when my sister Alverta was born, a large lumber company named Cole and Crain came to Caney Creek to buy up all the trees that were eighteen inches in diameter “or up.”

    Their foreman’s name was Hayes Johnson. He built a shanty at the mouth of Hollybush for those men who lived too far away to go home at night. He also had a store and sold dry goods and notions (I don’t think he sold groceries)...

    (pp. 95-103)

    My father did not, nor would he let us believe in ghosts. We called them “haunts” or “buggers,” but many of our neighbors would “sware right down to ye” that they had “seed things.” There were certain places where more than one person had encountered something that did not comply with the laws of nature, and heard voices or sounds when there was no reason (or so they said). We even still have a Bugger Branch on Caney and a Bugger Hollow just across the hill on Watts Fork. I wonder if any of our old folks really believed these...

    (pp. 104-107)

    Sarah alverta was my sister’s name but I always called her Sissy. She was born with a normal mental capacity, but when she was eighteen months old, she had a fever that lasted six weeks. The doctor called it a brain fever. When she recovered she could not talk and her mind never grew anymore, but remained as the mind of a two year old. She might have been taught some if she had had the right teacher. We ourselves could have done more for her, if we had been rash with her; but we loved her so much we...

    (pp. 108-112)

    I remember the first time I ever heard of Mrs. and Mr. Lloyd, who founded the center and school that are now Alice Lloyd College. My father and Frances had gone to the corn crib and shucked two “coffee sacks” full of corn for the next mill day. Alic Jacobs had a mill house. He had built a dam across the creek to catch the water. The power of this water, when the gate was opened, would turn the large millstones and grind the corn into meal. In payment for this service he took part of the corn for himself....

    (pp. 113-118)

    I think one of the best times I can remember is “eating around the fire.” Sometimes it would rain and we’d be caught without dry wood for the stove. Sometimes it would just be cold and the girls would “dread” to cook in the kitchen. Then they would get us something to eat by using the fire in the grate.

    They might make mush, which is cooked in a large kettle hanging from an iron bar fastened to the cracks in the chimney-rock, high above the fire. Water, to which a little salt has been added, is brought to a...

    (pp. 119-126)

    By the time I was about six years old, my father got a job making chairs for Mrs. Lloyd. About this time he “divided his land” and gave it to his children. My brother, Vince, got the “old home place.”

    My father bought a small “lot” or plot of ground from my Uncle Sam, near Alice Lloyd College. He built a “boxed” house made from sawed lumber, four rooms with lots of windows. It was very much in style with the changing times, but I loved our old log home much better.

    Most of the chairs my father made were...

    (pp. 127-129)

    I love to think that the name hillbilly was derived from our way of talking, that “billy” meant William, because we still retain the words and expressions used by William Shakespeare.

    The outsiders did not seem to realize that they sounded just as different to us as we did to them. We could understand them better than they could understand us, because we have so many quaint expressions that are meaningless to anyone but ourselves.

    I remember a Mr. Moorehouse who taught history in high school. We were discussing the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke. I said, “No one knows what...

    (pp. 130-135)

    For many years my father drove a wagon and brought the mail from Wayland to Pippa Passes. Mrs. Geddis, the mother of Mrs. Lloyd, was the postmistress for many years. She did not keep the office open from eight until four, as is done today. She stayed in her own room—a building quite some distance on the hill above the post office. She came to the office only when she was needed, which wasn’t very often.

    My father and Mrs. Geddis became very good friends. I think she had more understanding of us folks than anyone else from the...

    (pp. 136-140)

    A good friend of mine, an outsider from Oregon, once asked me, “Why do you like to live in a place where 25 percent of the children born die when they are infants?”

    I began to wonder about that. It did not seem to me to be true. I counted all the births and infant deaths in my entire family—brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and my husband’s family—and I only got an 8 percent average. I thought, well maybe we Slones are just healthy or extra lucky. Then I made a list of all the folks on Caney; even...

  32. INDEX
    (pp. 141-143)