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The Mountain, the Miner, and the Lord and Other Tales from a Country Law Office

The Mountain, the Miner, and the Lord and Other Tales from a Country Law Office

Harry M. Caudill
Copyright Date: 1980
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Mountain, the Miner, and the Lord and Other Tales from a Country Law Office
    Book Description:

    This book of stories celebrates people who have a magnetism, a tenacity, a personal vision, an independence, and a self-sufficiency that elude most of us today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4627-0
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. A Visit to the White House
    (pp. 1-25)

    THROUGHOUT his lifetime Lilley Cornett did almost exactly as he pleased, sometimes to the amusement and often to the outrage of his neighbors. His huge frame, immense work-roughened hands, and craggy features were of a kind the Dutch masters preserved for us on their marvelous canvases of peasants, merchants, and rakes. Like so many of Rembrandt's subjects, Lilley Cornett was utterly self-assured. He wasted little time on considerations of right and wrong but aimed only to get what he wanted, and to do so in the most direct and practical manner.

    Lilley was born and grew up on Line Fork...

  5. Little Thuggie
    (pp. 26-33)

    THERE was anger in the land in the 1930s. The depression wore on, and large families had to be fed on low wages. Even after the mines were unionized, the improvements that came were mostly of morale. People were more hopeful and conditions seemed better, but food remained scanty, clothing thin and ragged, and dollars few until Pearl Harbor and the war. The people in the mining camps and on eroded hillside farms felt betrayed and victimized.

    It was accepted with little cavil that the hard times had been engineered by big business for reasons none could articulate. On commissary...

  6. The Mountain the Miner and the Lord
    (pp. 34-49)

    SAM HAWKINS was enormous and coal black, with immense chest and shoulders and broad, work-thickened hands. When he told me this story he was about seventy-five, and time and arthritis had slowed him to an uncertain shuffle. But his eyes were still wonderfully alert, and in their dark depths there glowed immeasurable woe and much wisdom.

    It was late November in the bleak depression year of 1932 in the coal town of Fleming, Kentucky. The leaves had long since fallen from the few scrub beeches and oaks on the dark hills, and now gray, gloomy clouds hung near their rocky...

  7. Christmas Comes to Lord Calvert
    (pp. 50-65)

    CLEON K. CALVERT was a man of strong opinions forthrightly expressed. He was also a fine lawyer with a commanding courtroom presence and much eloquence. He practiced his profession in the Kentucky hills for fifty years and was well known in the courthouses of at least a dozen counties.

    He was sometimes referred to as “Lord Calvert,” a friendly nickname applied by other lawyers because of the costly brand of whiskey he was reputed to imbibe. Once when he was serving as special judge of the Harlan Circuit Court he partook too freely, a fact that became apparent to spectators...

  8. The War
    (pp. 66-82)

    IN THE HILLS many and marvelous are the tales that are told about “the war.” Five times the nation has gone to war since Appomattox but in the mountains those are remembered as lesser conflicts when they are remembered at all. The Civil War, the War between the States, the War for Southern Independence, the War of the Rebellion-the old-timers called it by many names but always. they remembered it with horror. In Appalachia generally, and in eastern Kentucky in particular, the struggle degenerated into a bloody and protracted contest between civilian factions. Long before Lee’s surrender Yankee sympathizers were...

  9. The Marriage of Samuel Tate
    (pp. 83-92)

    SAM TATE, as I shall call him, was my client for several years before a well-aimed bullet ended his career in 1963. Into his sixty-three years he jammed an astounding number of felonies, misdemeanors, and escapades. He shot three men to death (one of them his brother), and on three separate occasions heard himself sentenced to the state penitentiary for the rest of his natural life. Obviously these solemn judicial pronouncements were of scant effect, for he was repeatedly pardoned or paroled and, as our rehabilitation experts say, was returned to society. He explained to me just how the system...

  10. The Frontier
    (pp. 93-108)

    BETTY SEXTON FIELDS was a Melungeon who died at the age of ninety. The origins of the “dark people” are lost in the mists of our country’s history. They are found in many parts of the Appalachians and are called by many names. In some places they are known as “Guians,” in others as “Red Bones,” “Ramps,” “Wooly-boogers,” and “Portagees.” According to lingering traditions they were living deep in the hills long before the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794.

    In any event, Betty Sexton Fields was a Melungeon whose forebear fought in the Revolution. Betty came to my office...

  11. Francesca Monjiardo
    (pp. 109-121)

    FRANCESCA MONJIARDO was born in a village in southern Italy, in the Campania, and came to America in 1902. He passed through the immigration proceedings at Ellis Island and went to West Virginia where he and his younger brother, Dominic, built commissaries and railroad bridges. Then he heard that railroads were being built up the Cumberland, the Big Sandy, and the Kentucky rivers in eastern Kentucky to open an immense new coalfield. These streams had to be crossed scores of times with steel bridges set on stone piers and abutments. Francesca Monjiardo knew how to carve stones and cement them...

  12. The Straight Shooter
    (pp. 122-133)

    FESS WHITAKER was born in 1880, one of a brood of six boys and two girls. In 1918 he published his autobiography, theHistory of Corporal Fess Whitaker,which chronicled the events of his life to the grand old age of thirty-eight. The opening lines of his preface summarized his achievements: “Among the people of Letcher County no other man has so remarkable a history as Fess Whitaker; none other is so well worthy of being carefully studied by all who find pleasure in the past history and particularly by Letcher’s own people. In the winning of friends he stands...

  13. A Juvenile Offender Is Reformed
    (pp. 134-144)

    THE MAN who told me this story about himself is my friend and confidant and for many years was my client. I will not use his true name but will refer to him as Eb Holly.

    I met him first in 1946, a newly demobilized sergeant from Patton’s army. He had served with distinction under the “Old Man,” and with much pride displayed his medals and a citation signed by “Old Blood and Guts” himself.

    A year or two later he married. He and his wife were devoted to one another, and eventually there were three daughters. With a miner’s...

  14. Bad John Wright
    (pp. 145-163)

    JOHN WRIGHT died at the age of eighty-eight. In that long span he lived a varied life and accomplished most of the things he undertook. He was called “Bad John” because he was not one to be tampered with. Tradition puts the number of men he killed at twenty-two but he said the figure was exaggerated. He admitted that there were seven at least. He claimed he killed no one who did not richly deserve it, and if he had slain all of his contemporaries who merited that fate he would have been an exceedingly active man. It is doubtful...

  15. The Ghost of the Czar
    (pp. 164-177)

    MONROE LUCAS was born on Camp Branch in Letcher County in 1878. He had the slight build, distinguished features, and perpetual courtesy of the natural patrician. His whimsy and good humor were deeply ingrained, and I never saw him when he was not smiling.

    When he was fifteen he read an advertisement that changed his life. The Chicago School of Magie and Ventriloquy was offering a correspondence course. For a mere thirty dollars payable in eight weekly installments, a subscriber could receive in the mail eight easy-to-follow lessons. By reading the simple instructions and practicing a few hours each day...