Heroes were not scarce on Blair Branch when I was but a lad there in the mid and late 1950’s. I actually thought that at least two of my older cousins might have hung the moon. I will deal with one of them now and the other will have to wait. Points East
L.C. Adams was a teenager ( my Uncle Willie’s youngest child) and he lived just down the road from us. L.C. came out of the womb a skilled and innovative carpenter. I’m reasonably sure that he never had any formal training, but he hung around old timers and learned to saw and hammer pieces of wood to perfect angles without the benefit of a miter box and he simply created fieldstones into wonderful fireplaces. Rotted logs into marvelous mantles. Poplar saplings into a house. L. C didn’t need a level or a square or most tools of the trade. He simply saw what he wanted to do and carved it from the vision of his naked eye. His home, right now, there in the head of Blair Branch is architecture to perfection and I am reasonably sure that the most complicated tools used to build it involved nothing more than a hammer and an electric saw. It’s the prettiest place I’ve ever seen.
I was in second grade at Blair Branch when L.C. bought his first car. I was probably seven years old. The car was a 1949 Chevrolet Deluxe and painted robin-egg blue. It was long and sleek and like a limousine and it reeked of luxury. L.C. promptly build a shed covered with a tin roof beside Uncle Willie’s house under which he parked the car. And my dad would come up with any number of excuses to get L.C. to take him to town. Dad had a truck, but he was afraid the lights would go out after dark. Dad loved that car almost as much as L.C. must have and it was, in fact, a sight to behold.
It is, in my opinion, the most beautiful thing that had ever been on Blair Branch. (I didn’t much appreciate feminine beauty back then except for Glenna Stewart’s legs and even seven year-old boys knew that was the prettiest thing we’d ever see in our lives.)
I remember, oh so well, one evening when I was a bit feverish and had a cold and Dad started fussing over me and insisting to my mom that it was urgent that I get to the doctor straightaway. Mom insisted that I didn’t have anything that catnip tea wouldn’t cure, but Dad loaded me up on his shoulders and hauled me down to Uncle Willie’s and yelled to L.C. that they had to get me to the doctor. FAST.
The car crept out of Blair Branch on the dirt road that was rutted deep with coal truck tires for the couple of miles before we hit Highway 7 and L.C. hit the gas pedal. I thought the Chevy would take wings and my dad never told L.C. to slow down. We crossed Sandlick Mountain, up one side and down the other, tires squealing on the asphalt, through all its blind and treacherous curves and coasted into Whitesburg some 15 miles later where we woke up Doc Collier and he gave me a penicillin shot and went back to bed after charging my dad $5. Doc Collier figured that if penicillin wouldn’t cure whatever you had, you might as well die. He saved me from death that way many a time.
I am absolutely sure that I did not need a shot and that I was under the most excellent of care with Mom’s homemade medication because I remember the trip like it was yesterday. But when the doctor visit was over, Dad asked L.C. if he could “drive her home”. And L.C. told him to be careful. And off we went.
I recall the ride home again like it was yesterday. Dad driving slowly up the mountain and pointing out to L.C. the places he had roamed and wandered in his youth, the old coal mines then on fire with the orange, sulfur smoke reeking out to make you gag as we drove by the head of Camp Branch and how he’d worked in them and L.C., a bit worried that Dad might steer the car off the mountainside as we cruised along, and he shifted gears with the handle there beside the steering wheel as we climbed the backside of Sandlick Mountain and coasted down the other side toward home.
In the meantime, I was in the huge back seat of that old Chevy and it was like the best couch I’d ever sat upon. Wide and perfect for a small boy to sleep on, but I was wide awake and no longer sick. Penicillin had woken me up and I was totally cured of whatever ailment took me to the doctor.
I bounced around and looked out one window and then another and marveled while I scratched my ass where the needle had gone in. I was still sneezing and snorting when we finally got back to the head of Blair Branch, but I figured that penicillin would eventually cure me or wear off. I knew for sure that Mom’s catnip tea tasted and felt far better and did a lot more good, but you don’t worry much about that when you are seven.
Dad hoisted me on his shoulders when we got back to Uncle Willie’s and L.C. had parked the car there under its new shed. And then he glanced back, when we were up the road a few steps, at L.C.’s Chevy and he muttered to me, “Lord, I’d like to have me one of them things.”