When there ain’t nobody to ask

Published 7:52 pm Friday, April 19, 2024

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Back when Mr. Knox Ryals was asked about a potato chip factory that was once in operation in Brundidge, he knew no more than the inquirer.

“When you get as old as I am and want to know about something that happened a long time ago, there ain’t nobody to ask,” he replied. 

Thumbing through a stack of bound volumes of local newspapers, I thought about what Mr. Knox had said but I found that, on those aging pages, there is somebody to “ask.”

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There are stories of people, places and events here in Pike County that were told in the words of those who had lived them. 

I sat turning pages, many tattered and torn, pausing to remember what Aubrey Crowe said it was like to deliver milk door-to-door before dawn and what Ovie Hughes said about the Granny Doctor that rode horseback through the dark Pea River swamps with only the flickering flame of a “fat lighter” splinter to light her way. 

I had forgotten how it was that Grace Black’s brother-in-law “took off” on a two-seater airplane with the pilot on still on the ground.  And, how J.C. Dawkins kept households supplied with his rolling store and how Howard Hughes hid out in Pike County unbeknown to even those who lived nearby. 

I remembered Grover Poole and how, in early fall, he would hitch up his mule to the cane mill and grind gallons of the sweet juice and how the much-loved janitor at Banks School, Mr. Henry Sheppard, entertained the kids by playing the harmonica.  The Quilting Ladies’ weekly newspaper column kept the community informed as to who had been to the doctor, who was still ailin’ and who was feelin’ better. 

Pugh Windham explained the inspiration for his Smithsonian woodcarvings and, Sister Schubert, the joy of the adoption of a little boy from the Ukraine.  One page, revealed barber Red Stinson demonstrating his trademark “singe.” On another, Arthur Jensen held his Babe Ruth autographed baseball.

Dick and John Dick Barr were in the barn milking 40 cows before sun up. Katherine and Billy Mullins talked of surviving the Elba floods of 1929 and 1990. Joe Ellis talked the agony of working a hard-scrabbled farm.  Others talked of the cyclone that killed a little Brundidge boy. Captain Machado’ shared his memories of coming to America….  So, Mr. Knox, as long as there are yellowed and tattered newspapers, there will be someone to ask … if we only have the wisdom to “listen.”