At our farm on Cane Branch, we did not have a lot of free time, winter or summer.
We sometimes went coon hunting at night with our dad. When it got dark in those mountains, it got very dark. We did not know what a streetlight looked like. We only had coal oil lamps to light up our house. I did my homework many nights on the hearth of our fireplace.
The only heat we had was a wood-burning stove and a fireplace. At night when the wood burned down, someone would have to get out of bed and put more wood and the fire and, being the oldest son, I was elected.
If you had to get up at night, you were in trouble. The outhouse was a very long walk.
One warm day, my two younger brothers wanted me to take them coon hunting with our hound dog. They also wanted to camp out overnight in the mountains above our house. I was not really up to sleeping on the hard ground, but I told them that I would take them.
After getting our parents’ okay, we started getting the things together that we would need. Mom gave us some food that she had canned. We got blankets, water, a frying pan. I told my youngest brother Roger to catch us a chick, and we would fry it.
We always had about 200 chickens inside a large, fenced coop, and some of them got out and were walking around in our yard. Roger caught the first chicken he could run down, and we were off to the hills.
We went to the top of the mountain and built us a fire to fry the chicken. While I was fixing our food it got very dark, and the only light we had was the campfire. After I fried the chicken, we ate. The hound treed a coon some ways off and was barking his head off.
We started hearing all kinds of noises; a lot of owls were hooting, and the hound was driving us crazy. We knew there had been a big black bear seen in that area.
I was the oldest at about 10 years old and my brothers wanted me to take them home where they could sleep in their own bed. I was very glad when they asked me to take them home.
A few days later when we were sitting down to dinner, my mom said to my dad, “Have you seen the hen that looked like she was sick?” I guess that was the only chicken Roger could catch, a slow-moving hen.
We three boys got up from the table and told Mom that we were not hungry. Now we were the ones who were sick.
Many years later I told my parents that their three sons had eaten the sick chicken. They almost died, laughing.
Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfi eld, Calif.