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These Hills and Valleys

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FC: These Hills and Valleys | Harry Buckner

1: For my brother, who has all of our dad's best qualities.

3: Forward If you looked at the first few pages, I'll bet you thought I was an author, but I'm not. I haven't read many books. I've started to read hundreds, maybe more. I just couldn't finish them. This is my first and last, unless I sell a million copies. The way I spell, or misspell, and use written skills, you might think I didn't finish school, or go to school, but I did. I went to one school for one year, another for two years, another for three, and another one for three years. One school I went to for six months. I made B's and C's in spelling and English--just what I wanted to. I don't remember grammar. I think it was mixed in with English. I will try to write this book in chronological order, but I don't think it will come out that way. Some information is stored so deep, it may never come out. So if you don't like it, don't let nobody read it, and that's the truth. Sincerely, H.B., Sr.

4: This story starts about 1920, give or take a few months. That's when my parents made plans, ran away, and got married. Soon they started having a family. It wasn't planned; it just started happening about every eighteen months or so. The fifth and sixth children were twins. A little girl named Zenny was stillborn. A little boy was named Bennie and lived for about one month. A while later, on a cold, January morning, another boy came along. The year, 1934. That was me. The doctor got there long after I was born, and they named me after the doctor. (I guess he gave Dad a discount) His name was Harry Ditmore. I hit the ground running and did good the first year. Then I started having problems. I had polio bad. The doc came and stayed long hours. He didn't know what was wrong. He gave me up and said he would come back the next day. The good neighbors didn't give up, nor did I. They came and prayed all night. I started to come out of it the next morning.

6: Now, fast forward 2003. I was asked to put on paper things I remember. Things keep coming from the deep part of my memory bank of my early childhood. I will start with some of the older st1uff first. Getting up in the morning was a thing I will never forget. In the winter it was like sleeping outside. I was about three or four. We all would gather around a large fireplace before going to bed. It always had one big log about three feet long in back. It was called a back stick. It would last several days and nights with small logs in front. Sometimes we would pop popcorn using a wire popper to hold the corn. Sometimes we would roast good eating potatoes under the ashes. When it came time to go to bed, I would get as close to the fireplace as possible and get as warm on both sides as I could. Then with shoes off, I would run out the front room, down the hall into one of the bedrooms at the speed of sound and dive under about ten quilts. There it felt like the North Pole. I could feel my breath under the covers. I would be warm in about ten minutes and would go to sleep.

7: At about 5:00 o'clock I would hear a loud voice coming from the front room. "Boys! Jump, boys, jump!" On the third call, I would hear my two older brothers hit the floor. I don't know why Dad didn't just say, "It's time to get up and build a fire in the cook stove." I stayed under the covers until the big black stove got hot, and I heard Mama cooking breakfast. When I smelled the hot biscuits, sausage, eggs, and coffee, I knew what to do. It was still icy cold in the bedroomk but I would jump out still wearing my shirt and long-johns, grab my overalls, and streak for the warmest spot in the house--a big wood box next to the stove. When the cold left me, I would put on my overalls. (Back then everyone called them "overhalls")

8: In those days everyone had chores to do. Mom and my two sisters set the table with a big, thin, metal pan of hot biscuits, fried sausage, big bowl of gravy, and hot coffee or cocoa. I was always the last to the table because nobody would help me put my overalls on. I would have to crawl on the floor between everybody to get to my place, which was in the middle of the bench on the back side of the table. Mom and Dad sat in front on two straight back chairs. In the winter my sisters and brothers would get ready and go to school. I would do what all other little boys do. I would watch cartoons (just kidding!). T.V. was unheard of back then; anyway, we had no electricity, no radio, but we got a battery radio a few years later. We had running water. Mama would tell one of the older kids to "take them buckets and run down to the spring and get them full of water." We had hot water in a gallon iron kettle and a storage tank on the cook stove. By this time, about four years, I had been set back by many of the dreaded diseases: diphtheria, chicken pox, and pneumonia--everything but the mumps.

9: The first, and worst, thing I had couldn't be identified by the doctor for many months and lab tests. Deep in my memory I can still remember some of those things, but chicken pox I can see and feel right now. On a cool, still day I was playing with my little white dog on the front porch feeling the warm sunshine on my face, when my mom came and said, "Lord, get in this house. You're broke out from head to toe. You've got them old chicken pox." I was well in a few days.

10: One day each week, I know it wasn't Saturday or Sunday--I should remember because it was an important day--the peddler came. He had a large truck with a bed built on like a small room with shelves, storage bins, metal top, back door, tail gate, and steps if you wanted to go inside and look around. On the side he had kerosene oil in a large tank.

11: Everybody in our neighborhood used oil lamps but also used oil for other things like poultices for chest colds or if you got cut or bit by an animal or stepped on a rusty nail. You would put your foot in a container of oil or pour some on it to prevent blood poison. Mama would take the peddler butter and eggs and trade them for things we needed like sugar, salt, coffee, oil, matches, peanut butter, and other things. Mama would let me take one egg and trade for whatever I wanted. I usually got a big candy bar like a Butterfinger or Baby Ruth. One egg was worth 5 cents; all candy bars were 5 cents. That size now costs one dollar. I don't know why she never bought herself one. I forgot to tell you how we knew when to go meet him. We had to walk almost a mile up hill. It was so quiet back then, he would blow his horn at the stop before us, about two miles away, and we would start walking to meet him. Sometimes if Mama needed a lot of stuff, she would point out a big, fat hen, and tell my little white dog to catch that chicken, and he would. He would hold her down till I got there. I would take the hen, and mama would tie a strip of cloth around the hen's

12: legs so if I dropped her, she wouldn't get away. The peddler would untie the hen and put her in a coop tied on the outside of his truck. | Sunday was a special day. We always got our clothes ready on Saturday. We polished our shoes the last thing. We got up on Sunday just like it was a Monday. Somebody had to build a fire in the cook stove, somebody cooked breakfast,

13: while others fed the mules, pigs, and milked the cows. It tuck (that's the way we said it back then) us about thirty minutes to walk to church. Sometimes we would go home with some friends for dinner. Sometimes Mama stayed home and fixed a big dinner for the preacher. The main course was fried chicken and gravy, green beans, corn on the cob, and a big pan of biscuits and peach cobbler. After dinner the men would go out to the pigpen, line up, and lean over the top rails and talk. The small boys would look through the cracks, or put their toes in between the boards, climb up and look over the top rail. The women never came to look or lean over the pigpen. I wonder why it's a perfect place to relax?

14: While I am talking about Sunday, let me tell you about a fight--one of the worst I ever had. It was on an Easter Sunday. I was older, about six or seven. I had permission to go home with my two cousins for dinner. We were about the same age-give or take a year.We were coming from Long Branch Church, where our grandpa was superintendent. He always bought the kids candy Easter eggs on Easter. When we left the church, he would stand at the door and give each kid a small brown bag with a few small eggs and one large bright shiny egg. As soon as we were ahead of our parents and out of sight, we started looking and comparing what we had. My big egg was bright red. Theirs was some other color. We started eating them on the way. We started down a long, dusty road, over half way home in our clean Easter clothes. When we began comparing our eggs again, that's when the trouble began. The Tweed boys had ate their big eggs and most of the little ones. I still had my shiny red egg in my hand. As I held it up to show them, the cousin about my size

15: grabbed it and took off down the road with me right after him. We were going so fast, and I was grabbing at him, so he couldn't put it in his mouth to eat it. At the steepest part of the road, and what seemed like a half mile, I caught him with my hands on his shoulders and going wide open. I was trying to cover his mouth so he couldn't eat my red Easter egg. We rolled and tumbled through the rocks and dirt, and down a steep grassy bank. That's when I took my red egg out of his sweaty hand. Our Sunday clothes were dirty and torn. We were skinned and scratched all over and were too tired to fight. I don't remember if I enjoyed my shiny red egg. I don't remember eating it. I know I did.

16: Trading comes from my father's side. | My uncles on my dad's side of the family all like to barter on things they needed or wanted to make a profit on, especially on live stock, musical instruments, produce, real estate, or whatever.

17: Six out of the seven on dad's side had some musical talent. My dad could play the banjo, guitar, and fiddle. Uncle Ross could play the banjo, guitar, and fiddle. He also made the instruments in his later years. Uncle Bill also played the same instruments, but he had to play them left-handed. He loved to trade watches, pocket knives, guns, and real estate. I have never known him to have a steady job. Uncle Charlie played the banjo. He loved to trade horses, mules, dogs, and also chafteed chains, tables, and other things using willow branches. Uncle Charlie and his wife loved children, but could not have children. It is said that when he was a boy, he had the mumps, climbed upon the kitchen table, and jumped off. The mumps fell on him making him unable to father children. Also, he was born so small he could fit inside a quart fruit jar. More on Uncle Charlie later...

19: If you knew Dad, you knew he was a story-teller. I remember listening to him and Aunt Hazel recount a childhood that was filled with adventure, mischief, hardship, and very interesting characters. I asked Dad to start writing his childhood memories, and while he tried to get the stories down, his failing health prevented their completion. These are the stories written by him and given to me although I know there were many, many more that remain for the time being in the minds and hearts of those of us who loved him very much. Jackie

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  • By: Jacqueline N.
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  • Title: These Hills and Valleys
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