Whitesburg KY

My farming and baseball days

I was born on Main Street, Jenkins. My grandpa and grandma owned a boarding house for coal miners.

My mother was one of the cooks. My dad was staying there and he and my mom fell in love and got married and had me in 1928.

Dad and Mom wanted a place of their own and moved to Camden. Later, Dad got hurt in the mines and the coal company laid him off. We had to move out of the company house, and we moved to the head of Cane Branch to a 100- acre farm.

Mom and Dad grew up on farms, but I had never been on one. I started grade school in Burdine, where I walked four miles to school, roundtrip, every day.

I was always a fast learner, and took to farm life very well. I did not know we were poor because everyone around us was in the same boat.

When I got home from school we went into the fields and worked until it was so dark you could hardly see. We had no electricity, indoor plumbing and our well was a few yards from our house. It was just something you had to get used to.

When it got dark in those hills, it got real dark. Sometimes Sundays were the only days we were off. Dad would give us three boys money to go to the movies in Jenkins.

We always had a couple hundred chickens, two hogs to kill in the wintertime, cows, a plow mule, and sometimes a horse. I would help my mom milk the cows before I went to school.

We always had plenty to eat, and Dad sold produce, chickens, eggs and fruit to people in Jenkins and Burdine.

I played all sports in Burdine and Jenkins schools. We had a large field at home that we made into a baseball and football field, and young boys came from everywhere to play there.

Not too many boys in Letcher County could outrun me in a foot race. As a young teenager, I was picked along with another boy, Pete Hamilton, a very good ball player from Jenkins, to practice with the pro team of Jenkins Coal Team. Their coach told us that had never happened before.

Bud Blizzard, who ran the pool hall at Jenkins, started a traveling baseball team. We would be playing all over Letcher County and Wise County, Va., during our school break.

Bud asked me to play left field on the team, as I was fast, could throw and catch very well, and could hit the long ball.

A good friend of mine from Burdine, Darrell Miller, one of the best young pitchers around, would be our main man.

Once, while playing the McRoberts team, my halfbrother, Erman Short, was home from the war and was watching the game. Bud and Erman were lifelong friends It was the top of the ninth and we were behind. My team had two men on base.

I was coming up to bat, and Erman called me over where he was sitting and told me that if I hit a homerun he would buy me a bike. I had never had a bike before, and the road in Cane Branch was not made for bikes.

I went to the plate and hit the first pitch over the left field fence. When I got to home plate and all my teammates were patting me on the back, my halfbrother told me he was only kidding me.

What a letdown.

I played two summers for Bud and then went into the military for the next 27 years. After all the hard work on the farm, the military was like a vacation.

Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.

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