[Editor's note: the author is the son of Edson Carl and Sybil June (Miner) Beck and the grandson of Raymond and Rebecca (Rugg) Miner of Indian Head, Fayette County, PA. He is the author of a multi-volume detective novel series, The Tommy Two Shoes Mysteries, published by Laurel Highlands Publishing. The books feature a fictional Pittsburgh detective, named appropriately enough Tommy "Two Shoes" Minerd. Be sure to see part 2 of this series and visit his blog at http://thomasbeck.blogspot.com/.]
~ Accidental Dale ~
Besides lying and swearing, my Uncle Dale Miner had a penchant for gossip. If he didn’t know what was going on, he went out of his way to find out what was happening. He had a need to know what was going on everywhere in the mountains. He would relentlessly pursue a rumor until he was sure that he had the whole story.
My brother Ken and I used to run with a volunteer ambulance company and fire department. One night we responded to an accident call in Melcroft, Pennsylvania. It was at across road and was a two car accident. I was directing traffic at one arm of the cross road standing among the burning flares.
My brother was just lighting flares and directing traffic on one of the main arms on the highway. Dale drove up along my arm of the road. He stopped, then drove ahead only to pull off to the side of the roadway and park. He walked back to me. He didn’t day “Hi” or anything other than “Who was in the accident?” I was too far away from the accident to know and was isolated in my job of directing traffic. I watched him walk away from me toward the accident when he couldn’t get what he wanted from me. I could see him silhouetted in the lights at the accident site.
When he neared the collision, he recognized my brother. He turned away from the accident site (where he would have been told to leave) and walked toward my brother.
My brother saw Dale coming toward him. Ken had already lit two flares to control traffic, but as Dale drew near, my brother started walking farther and farther away from Dale, lighting flares as he went. Dale kept on coming. Dale finally caught up with Ken when my brother ran out of flares.
Dale asked the same question, “Who was involved in the accident?”
Ken gave Dale the same answer, “I don’t know, Dale.”
Disgusted, Dale walked back to the accident scene where the firemen were clearing the collision site. He hovered around the edge of firemen until he got the information he was after.
Later, my brother told me, “I ran out of flares or I would still be walking to avoid talking to that man.”
~ Another Family Reunion ~
Yesterday was another family reunion. It was started to honor the Curtis Rugg family. Curtis was my great-grandfather. His farm was located in Mill Run, Pennsylvania. I can remember the large white clapboard two-story house that always had a tingling, smoky aroma inside. It wasn’t harsh, but had the smell like a smoked ham. There were always chickens and turkeys in the back yard and the orchard filled with heavy bearing fruit trees.
This thin wiry man was my grandmother Rebecca Rugg Miner’s father. My last memory of him was of him sitting with my great-uncle Wesley on the swing of the small front porch of his home. Wesley was as rotund as Curtis was wiry. Now, the reunion always honors the eldest Rugg alive.
I like going to the meeting of the clan. I can re-establish family ties with cousins that I haven’t seen since the year before. It sometimes expands with new, babies and new faces as some marry or some have children. The great thing about the reunion is seeing some who live far away coming for a once in a many year visit. Many are older or their health limits the times that they can rejoin this celebration of family. I was able to see Myrtle and her husband, Danny, and Lois, my uncle George’s children. He was the brother of my grandmother.
Many, like me, are growing old and the ball games, races, and other activities are relegated to the younger children. We sit and watch them run, filled with the slowly waning energies that we once had. Water balloons seemed to be the enticement for mischief this year.
Great food is always the centerpiece of the gathering. Different recipes fill the tables and smorgasbord style we peruse and partake of the goodies, sampling whatever catches our eyes and wishing that we had sideboards on our plates. There is always one table spread with the desserts; pies, cookies, fudge, but missing this year was the watermelon.
Watermelon and lemonade are things that take me back to the old Rugg farm and the reunions that were held there in a pasture, under the fruit trees on sawhorse tables. At the one end of the table were always cold slices of watermelon. The huge crock of lemonade dominated the farthest end, filled with the sweet concoction. It held the pale yellow nectar and huge chunks of ice. It was so refreshing to taste these treats on a hot sunny day, beneath the shade of the trees.
~ Button, Button, Who Has the Button ~
Last night as I crawled into bed and was wondering what I should write about for my blog spot, my eyes fell on the old Ball canning jar filled with buttons, sitting on the top of my chest of drawers and it gave me an idea about some nostalgia that I could share. The jar itself is large, approximately one and a half quarts and the glass is aged, no longer completely clear. It is topped by a zinc lid. Stored inside is a myriad of buttons of different colors and shapes. Many are antiques, passed down in the family to the following generation. Some are new, either bought for a sewing project and never used, while others have been carefully removed from garments that were worn beyond use. Many of these tiny clothing fasteners were toys that kept many grandkids amused for hours, struggling to put them on a string in just the right order. Or when several children gathered, Grandmother Miner would start the game, “Button, button, button, who’s got the button?”
My grandmother kept her buttons in a metal tin, like many still do, but I put mine in a jar to display their beauty. Like a kaleidoscope, if I get tired of a pattern or wish to see different buttons, I can rotate and shake the jar. Instantly the view has changed. Many of the colors are subdued, white, gray, black, or brown, but even those hues vary. Pops of color, reds, blues, clear rhinestones, polished brass, and silver play hide and seek. Some buttons have two holes pressed through their body while an equal number sport four holes. Then there are buttons that have no holes in their body, but are flat buttons that have a single hole attached and protruding from their backsides. There are a few from my naval uniforms, dark blue with the anchor design pressed into them.
There is at least one furniture button covered in a coarse, brown nylon material from a couch my mom and dad had when I was a kid. Many of the buttons were old before I was born and many of the buttons bring back memories. Some are plain white or black, removed from shirts or pants. I’m sure that they have stories to tell, but common tales of work and play.
I have tried to share my thoughts of the beauty I find in the simple, common things that so often we overlook. Instead of saving these memories of metal, plastic, wood, and even ivory, some simply toss them away, used, forgotten, and of no consequence.
~ Dale’s Tales ~
I guess I write so many stories about my uncle Dale because he was such a real character. He was such a footloose and irresponsible person that things just seemed to settle on him. All of the tales that I share with you are things he has said or things that he has done. Often he was the star of his own imagination.
One day he dropped into my grandmother, Becky’s house around suppertime. After a quick greeting, he asked, “What’s for supper?”
Grandma didn’t bat an eye, but quickly replied, “Nothing, you didn’t get your name in the pot.”
Dale didn’t say a word, but shrugged his shoulders and walked away.
When Grandma got up from watching television, she went into the kitchen to check on the food that was cooking, she lifted the lid on the pot to stir the stew and there on top was a slip of paper. Dale had written the words “Dale Miner” and he had put his name in the pot.
Dale was late for work one day and when his boss asked, “Why are you late this morning, Dale?”
Never being short of words or stories, Dale told his boss, “Well, I started to drive here on Route 653, but when I got to the bottom of the hill, there was a huge turtle on the roadway blocking the bridge. I couldn’t get by him and had to drive all the way to Mill Run before I could take another route to drive another way to work and that is why I am late.”
Dale was at a local gas station talking to his cronies. He was telling them that he had just driven from the state of California back to Pennsylvania without a valid driver’s license. The area’s justice of the peace/magistrate just happened to be there and overheard his conversation. Dale didn’t think much about it until he was pulled over a few days later by a state trooper and cited for driving without a license.
Dale put the facts together and in his mind, he decided that the magistrate had turned him in. He was so upset that when he paid the fine to the magistrate, he had nearly every cent of it in unwrapped coins. “If it happens again, I’ll pay it in pennies and wait until the amount of the fine is counted out before I leave the office."
This is a story Dale told about himself. He was working for a lumber company. It was at a time when posts were being cut for use in the mines as supports. There were people who would cut the trees of the correct size and cut them to length. Other employees would carry them on their shoulder out to the road. The posts would be stacked until there was a pile large enough to load onto a truck and haul away. He said that the boss was on the men (and him) to work faster.
Dale saw and picked up two posts that were more slender. He placed them on his shoulder and carried them to the road, but Dale did something that made the boss ask, “Dale, what are you doing?”
Dale replied, “If you are going to work me like a horse, I’m gonna look like a horse.” Before picking up the posts, He had unzipped his trousers and had his manhood hanging out.
~ Dale Tells Lies ~
Dale, one of my uncles, had cultivated his crop of profanity until he could not spout a complete sentence before a curse word would sprout out somewhere. He also loved telling tall tales and outright lies. The bigger the lie and the more cuss words he would use, the better he thought that the story was.
He used to tell the story of a fruitful day of finding and picking morel mushrooms. He had filled a large basket and was carrying it back to the car. The basket was hanging on his arm, but the closer to the car, the lighter his basket felt. He turned to see a deer following him and eating those morels out of his basket. (Please excuse me for deleting the expletives to shorten the stories.)
Another story he would tell was about his dogs. The Central Intelligence Agency was interested in them because he had taught them to read. The CIA. wanted them to be spies, to send them behind enemy lines and gather information. Who would suspect a dog? They lost interest when he told them he hadn’t worked out the problem of the dogs telling him what they had read.
Deer were involved in another tale he would share with us. He was in the woods and heard this loud crashing and thrashing. He hid behind a tree to see what was making so much noise. The noise kept coming closer until he saw two does using their heads and necks to push aside the heavy underbrush. Behind them walked a huge buck with a tremendous set of antlers on his head. They were going before him so his rack would not get hung up in the bushes.
One story that he told was true. I saw it with my own eyes. He was a great fisherman. He caught what he caught, game warden or no. The way he got his fish home was in his old Willys truck. The passenger door couldn’t be opened from the outside and the bottom of the door had rusted completely out. When he had caught his limit, he would take them back to the truck and pop off the handle that wound the window up and down. (The window didn’t wind down anymore.) He would slip the catch of fish inside of the door and go back to fishing. When he was tired of fishing he went home.
At home he would open the door from the inside of his truck and the fish would fall out onto the ground. He would gather them, cut them and get them ready to fry. My mom took a picture of his one night’s catch. It covered the top of drop-leafed, enamel topped kitchen table with both sides up. Only about an eight by ten inch corner was covered with fish, lying side to side and head to tail.
Dale had built a bench and when he saw someone, he would ask them if they could figure what kind of wood it was made of. Everyone would guess wrongly and he would chuckle, but not tell them what it was. I made my guess, and I was wrong. I didn’t ask what it was kind of wood it was. It must have upset him because he blurted out, “It’s made of sycamore wood.” We talked some more and I left.
As I was leaving, my cousin came. We stood outside and talked a bit. I said to him, “I know Dale. He’s going to ask you about that stool. Make a few wild guesses, then say, ‘sycamore.’”
I met my cousin a few days later and he told me what had happened. Dale asked him about the bench, my cousin guessed, “Red oak?”
Dale shook his head. I said, “Butternut?” and Dale said, “No.”
I picked up the bench rubbed it, smelled it and then tasted it. I pretended to think for a few seconds and said, “It’s sycamore.”
Dale’s face fell and he looked disappointed that someone had guessed his secret.
~ Grandpa Miner’s House ~
My grandfather Miner’s home was a huge old farmhouse with four bedrooms upstairs, an attic, a full basement, a large kitchen, dining room, sitting room, and a television room. The attic held cast off clothing and the school work of her eight children. A concrete porch ran the whole front of the house and a wooden porch the entire length of the back. Kids like to play on the front porch, but the back porch often impaled bare feet on dark slivers of wood. I avoided it like the plague.
If I chose to walk on the back porch, I could shorten the walk to the outhouse, but I had to face the torture of dagger-like splinters. Only in the direst of digestive emergencies or to avoid being drowned in a deluge of rain would I voluntarily traverse the dangers of that shrapnel laden minefield.
Although the unpainted wood of the outhouse had weathered on the exterior of the privy, it was special, having two holes. When Granddad built it he made the seat wide, cutting one larger hole for adults and a smaller one for kids. He didn’t want to lose a child into the putrid pit below.
Grandma didn’t buy nor believe in the luxury of toilet paper for the outhouse. Oh, no, old outdated catalogues filled the purpose. The whole way to the toilet, I would pray that there were still some dull pages left. No one wanted the shiny ones. Those pages made sharp, hard edges when crinkled for use and if they weren’t crinkled, the smooth slick, surface was little more than useless. The dull surfaced pages would soften when they were balled up and smoothed out and became tolerable, if not comfortable.
In the winter, I would put off the trip to the john until my eyes and my bladder bulged or I was about to lose control on the puckering string. I could cross the back porch. My winter boots kept my feet safe from the splinters, but no I had to face the danger of descending a full dozen of snow and ice-covered, concrete stairs. Quite a few cousins chipped a tooth, cut a lip, or earned a goose egg on their scalp in a headlong rush down those stairs. There was only a raised block lip to the steps, but no railing to hang onto or steady anyone in their trip through no man’s land.
Bravery got me to the toilet. I had to remove the lid for the hole. Frigid winter winds blasted through the wind tunnel that I had just created. It took real courage for me to unfasten my pants, push them down into a crumpled heap around my ankles, then tentatively place my unwilling bare flesh as a partial stopper for the wailing gusts of the storm.
The board seat was frigid. I was glad that it was wood and not metal or I would have been frozen to the seat, stuck until the spring thaw. The wind always found a way to squeeze through the hole between the cold seat and my warm flesh. It discovered a way to slip its icy fingers beneath my coat and caress my chest and back. Goosebumps appeared on top of goose bumps and I would start to shiver. I knew I needed to finish before my teeth began to chatter and send out distress signals in Morse code.
I leafed through the diminished catalogue pages, searching for the cherished dull paper. I was at a point of panic, thinking of the torture of the shiny page. Frantically, desperately, I flipped the leaves of advertisement, passing over the tantalizing panty and brassiere. Pictures, that on a normal day would cause boys to linger, were cast aside in the search for just one dull sheet of paper.
Aha, I was saved; one lone, dull page. It was in the catalogue’s index directing the inquisitive mind to where men’s shoes, suits, and ties could be found. A hasty tearing, the quick crush, and the smoothing of the paper was the prelude to the actual swipe of the derriere.
The return of the pants to the point they could be cinched around my waist was welcome warmth. I was hoping that the return trip to the warmth of Grandma’s house would be uneventful as I jogged up the Everest of the back porch steps.
Grandma’s house was warmed by a behemoth in the basement. It was a coal-fed, smoke-belching, fire-breathing furnace. It was a large cast iron beast that claimed a major portion of the cellar. It had two mouths of iron, one to feed it and one to remove its ashes. A tin skin surrounded it, trapping the warmth and directing the heat up through octopus-like arms that rose to the different rooms above.
I descended the stairs to the basement. The bottom landing was a huge flat stone that was three feet wide by four feet long. I knew my uncle Ted would be somewhere down here. My uncle Ted was mentally challenged because of an accident in his youth. He mowed lawns in the summer, tinkered with tube radios, and in the winter I would often find him perched on an old stool in front of the furnace beast.
He straddled an upturned log section that had a large anvil attached to its top. On one side he kept a metal dish pan and on the other side was a five gallon bucket filled with either hickory nuts or black walnuts. Using a ballpoint hammer he cracked the nuts from the bucket and tossed them into the pan. When the pan was full, he carried it upstairs to the TV room to join Grandma. She had a quilting frame set up so she could watch the television and sew.
She made quilts. She cut, pieced, and stitched the squares before she connected the squares into the top of the quilt. She would attach the multiple layers to the frame, pencil the design for the stitching on the top, and pushing the needle and thread through the batting and coming out through the bottom layer before repeating many thousands of time. She hand sewed one for each of her 29 grandchildren. It was given to them as a wedding gift.
Ted sat in a chair at one side of the room where he would pick the nut meats from the shells, sorting the “goodies” from their hard cases. It was very tedious work. He had regular customers who bought his shelled nut meats for their Thanksgiving and Christmas baking.
When he reached the bottom of the bucket, he bagged the meats to store them until he could sell them and carried the empty shells downstairs to feed the fiery beast in the basement.
Grandma also had a coal cook stove in her kitchen. The kitchen was always warm and cozy in the winter and almost sweltering in the summer. The coal bucket with it small shovel, sat to one side. Four round lids fit into holes to form the flat cook top. Beneath that was the oven, its heavy door sealed the heat in for Grandma to bake bread, rolls, pies, and cookies. Beef, chickens, and turkeys roasted inside, coming out flavorful and juicy. Homemade noodles thick and delicious cooked on top of the stove.
Her kitchen always had a pan for scraps that would be fed to the chickens or hogs. Coffee grounds and egg shells were placed in another to enrich the garden soil. Washed plastic bags hung from a string as they dried before they were folded and stored for use later. Empty plastic, whipped topping bowls were saved to send leftovers home with family members.
In the winter, especially at family gatherings, Grandma’s front porch became an expansion of her refrigerator. Foodstuffs were cached there until they were needed for the meal and for storage of the leftovers. The edibles were placed in rows beside the milk delivery box.
Grandma had a small pink enamel ware kettle with a lid. It was the container that she usually made Jell-O in to gel. At one gathering, the pink kettle held orange Jell-O with sliced bananas dancing in the gelatinous ballroom.
One of my cousins mistakenly identified the kettle as a similar potty that she used at home in her toilet training. The little kettle was retrieved for the meal. When the lid was lifted, two tiny logs were floating on the surface. My grandmother said, “I am grateful that she went number two or we would never have known.”
The family gatherings occurred when Granddad killed the chickens, butchered hogs or a bull. Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations drew the family to crowd around tables, eating on counters, or sitting on the floor with plates balanced on laps.
The only room that was considered off limits for family functions was the sitting room or parlor. It was only used when special guests visited. The scratchy navy blue material on the sofa and chairs made sitting on them uncomfortable. The cushions were hard. At one gathering, some of us grandkids trespassed and had entered the sacred walls. We were giggling, laughing, and wrestling on the room sized carpet. One aunt heard the fracas and charged to the doorway, unsure whether to step into the sanctity of the room. Calling from the safety of the TV room, she said, “You kids know better. You’re not allowed in here. Now quit fighting.”
Slowly, we extricated ourselves from the pile, sorting our own arms and legs from the tangle. I’ll never forget my aunt’s expression when she saw my Granddad’s embarrassed and reddened face emerge from the bottom of the stack. My aunt was speechless. That was a miracle in itself, but the fact that we had been allowed in the parlor with the blessing of our granddad was nothing short of supernatural.
When the family gathered, it was hot, busy, and noisy. When I got tired of it all and wanted some peace and quiet, I stood at the door of the parlor and when I couldn’t see any prying eyes, I slipped inside. The couch angled back to create a cool, hiding place to escape the turmoil. My cave was found when I fell asleep and a search was made—my parents wanted to go home. I wasn’t reprimanded, but if I came up missing, I was found easily.
Another of my favorite spots at my grandma’s house was on the front porch. She had two green Adirondack chairs and a settee. That’s where Grandma would store the rolled up carpets she used to protect plants from the frost. When winter came the rugs were relegated to the settee. It was those rugs that drew me.
There were two tall hemlock trees in the yard. The siren song the wind sang as it slid though the needles, it played a heady melody. Curled deep in a roll of carpet, I was snug and warm. It was a spot where I could escape the noise inside of the house. It became an oasis of darkness and lullabies for me, out of the cold winter’s night air, tucked safe in the carpet cocoon.
Hanging on the wall of the sitting room was an oval framed photograph of my grandmother. The story behind it always intrigued me and it was the one thing that I claimed as my inheritance.
A travelling photographer stopped at my grandparent’s farmhouse. He was able to entice my grandmother in sitting for a portrait, saying, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to buy it. I’ll be making rounds again in a few weeks, you can decide then.”
Grandma went upstairs and put on a fresh blouse with a pearl pin at its throat, climbed into a dark velvet jacket, and brushed her hair into place. She sat to be photographed with a somber look on her face. The photographer left and Grandma changed clothes to go back to work, immediately forgetting the incident.
Several weeks later, the huckster returned with my grandmother’s photograph, oval framed, and under glass. He showed her the sepia and tinted picture. Grandma told him she didn’t want to buy it. Raising eight kids, she didn’t have money to spare. He feigned sadness that she couldn’t buy it, telling her, “If you don’t want it, I do have other customers who will want it.” He started to wrap it back up to take it with him, then continued, “I can sell it to bar keeps who would love to hang it behind the bar for men to look at.”
The thought appalled my grandmother, her photo for tipsy men to leer at. She didn’t let the photographer take her picture with him. She dug out money she had saved from selling eggs and home churned butter. It wasn’t the risqué type of picture that would hang behind the bar and because she’d been duped, the photo of her as a young woman was saved for her family to enjoy.
Grandmother’s dining room held a large oval, oak table with lion-paw feet, a matching sideboard, and a curved glass display cupboard. In one corner was a wind up Victrola, in another was a tall square displace case holding hundreds of salt and pepper shakers, and beneath a window was a long wicker holding several asparagus ferns.
The sideboard drawers held all sorts of flotsam and jetsam that had a wonderful lure for me to search, touch, and play with. Small hammers, hair wraps, bottles of tacks, ink, and pencil leads. The drawers held extra dice, pencil nubs, and hair nets. They became magnets that drew the unusual items that were too good to throw away, but not needed at present.
Just inside of the front door rose a long stairway that disappeared into the mysterious dimness of the second floor twelve feet above. At the end of the upstairs hallway sat a mission oak library table. A huge stainless steel container, that once had been the bowl of a cream separator, covered most of its top. An even larger Christmas cactus filled the bowl and the flat oval leaves cascaded down its sides. Once a year, it bloomed in a flurry of pink colors before the blooms wilted and fell to the floor like a swarm of dead insects.
Grandma’s house was the heart of the farm, even though there were two chicken coops, a smoke house, and a large barn. Grandma only had a fourth grade education, but she made the heart beat.
~ Grandpa’s House ~
When I was a young kid at my grandmother’s house, it was hard to find a quiet place to hide or take a nap, especially on the holidays. My grandma had eight kids and 32 grandchildren. Even though it was a large farmhouse with that many people confined inside, it felt crowded. Felt crowded nothing, it was crowded. When everyone gathered, there was little room to move. A kid was fortunate to find a place to sit, let alone a spot to lay down for a nap. A kid was lucky to sit in an unoccupied corner with a plate of food on his lap.
My grandmother had a formal sitting room and there was a “no kids” rule in that room. It was off limits to adults as well if they had food or drink. It was the one place I found to hide and it was in that room. If I watched carefully, I could slip inside undetected, quickly crawl, and curl up behind her dark blue, plush, overstuffed couch. It was just inside the door and it was easier to access than any other spot. The back of the couch leaned back a bit toward the wall and made a perfect cave. It was a dark and quiet spot where a tired kid could take a nap.
There was one another place that needs mentioned, but it was outside of the house. I found it by accident one day when we were playing hide’n seek. It was on her porch.
On my grandmother’s front porch she had two Adirondack chairs and an Adirondack settee all painted a dark forest green. They sat there the whole years round.
Her porch had a block parapet that ran the whole way around it, except for the entrance for the house. On top of the wall, she had wooden flower boxes painted the same color as the chairs. Late into the Fall, she would cover her flowers at night when the temperature dropped to protect them from the killing frost. During the winter, she would roll them up and store them on the settee. In the summer, she would spread the rugs on the concrete floor. (It was better for her arthritis.)
That settee made the best place to curl up for a nap. Wrapped in those rugs, I was snug and warm. Even though the night air was cold, I loved it. The only thing that felt chilled was the tip f my nose
There were five trees in front of her house, three tall pine trees and two hemlocks that were every bit as tall. I would lay there wrapped in those old rugs and listen as the night winds played in the tree tops. They would sing and sigh softly. It was a natural lullaby. They seemed to draw me off and have me wander in dream land. I cannot think of a time or a place when I felt more safe, more warm, and more secure than when I was rolled up in those old rugs. Many times when I just hear wind in the pines, cedars, or hemlocks, I am transported back to that time in my youth.
~ Miners ~
My grandfather, Raymond was a remarkable man. He was short of stature and quiet, like Enoch of the Bible he was close to God and walked with him daily. A man of faith, he gave of his strength, his wealth, and himself to his family and to his church. His life was one of constant activity. During the daylight hours he managed to work a farm and to get some sleep, because at night he worked a shift in the coal mines of western Pennsylvania. The farm always had chickens, two pigs, a bull for meat, and two cows that he milked for milk, cream, and butter. His milk cows were always Guernsey. He said they gave the milk richest in butterfat.
That he farmed and worked in the mines was remarkable in itself, but a fact that I learned after his death made the tasks he did so much more astounding. His strength was impressive, but what I learned about him made me think a little less of him as well and it hurt me.
I knew that he was a gentle and tender hearted person and that allowed him to be used by his older son. Because my granddad wasn’t strict, he ended up doing double duty and double the work in the coal mines. It was apparent he didn’t correct my uncle Dale when Dale was young and then in the mines, he took advantage of this weakness. Dale would sleep most of his shift. My grandfather didn’t hit him upside of the head with a shovel and Granddad loaded enough coal for the both of them.
It was a hard fact for me to hear. It hurt me that Granddad wasn’t able or willing to correct him and it hurt me that Dale did not have the respect and love for his father allowing him to do the work you were getting paid to do while you slept. Dale had passed away before I was told about this side of him. It explains about his lack of responsibility when it came to work ethic. He had a very uncaring spirit.
This attitude flowed into the rest of his life. His marriage ended shortly after he had sired three sons. His wife was as neglectful and uncaring as he was with their family, home, and appearance. The children were always dirty. It wasn’t unusual for her to open a can of food, heat it, and then sit the pot in the middle of their bed to eat. She would give each child a spoon and let them feed themselves.
Eventually they got a divorce, she was interned in a mental facility, and the three boys were adopted to another aunt and uncle. He died a lonely man in a small trailer my mom and dad set up for him near the back of their property, because he had no place to stay, couldn’t afford anything else, and no one else would help him.
These are my best recollections of the family tree. If any reader has anything to add or to correct the names and facts listed below, please reply and I will update and or correct them.
~ My Aunts ~
Aunt Rachel was the oldest of Ray and Becky Miner’s eight children. She had eight children of her own. Her husband, Francis Peck was a coal miner before he had problems with black lung. They lived in a large house on farmland raising a cow or two and chickens. I can faintly remember they had a goat. One of their kids had a milk allergy. Their children were; John (J.R.), Jean, Gerald, Nancy, Rosella, James, Arlene, and Brenda. John passed away recently from cancer.
The next was Cora who later married a man named Fred Hyatt. She was a feisty person even as a child. Mom told a story of when they lived in a duplex. There was a “foreign lady” who lived next door. She would chase the kids from her part of the yard. One day the “foreign lady” decided to cut across my Granddad’s part of the yard. Cora flew out of the house with a broom in her hands and chased the “foreign lady” out of his yard. They had Oliver (Butch), Sally, Peggy, and Richard (Ricky).
Butch was killed in an auto accident. His car was found at the bottom of a quarry lake.
Violet married Charles Bottomley. He worked at Anchor Hocking in Connellsville. They were childless until they adopted three children all at once. The three boys were the sons of my Uncle Dale. When he got divorced from his wife Jean, he didn’t want to raise the boys on his own. (I was told that Jean went into a mental facility.) Dale put them up for adoption and Violet and Charles adopted them; Alan, Dwayne, and William.
Dale married a woman named Jean. His slovenly and irresponsible ways and Jean’s caring more about the lives of soap opera stars to the neglect of their kids was the downfall of their marriage and allowed their sons to be adopted. Dale died and I mention that in my other blogs.
Theodore (Teddy) never married and had no children. As a child, he was assaulted by two adults and suffered a brain injury, functioning on the level of a third or fourth grader. He lived with my grandmother. Doing odd jobs of mowing, collecting, and selling nut meats and gin sang is how he made money. He did collect old radios and like to repair them.
Ina married Oliver Nicholson. They had four children and lived in Millersport, Ohio. He worked at for Alcoa and had a huge garden. The family rented a place on Buckeye Lake until Nicky (his Nickname) built a house for them. He finished the bathroom and the kitchen and then moved in. He had stapled cardboard to the two by four framing to separate the bedrooms until he could afford to finish the rooms one at a time. Their children were; Carol, Barbara, Oliver (Butch), and Elizabeth.
Butch was killed in an auto accident as well.
Sybil was my mom and she married Edison Carl beck. (He goes by Carl.) He worked at Walworth Company in Greensburg until they moved until they moved to Mexico and at Robert Shaw. Mom did accounting work and as a bank teller. They bought a small house on Rt. 711 and kept adding on to it as our family grew. They had three children Thomas, Kenneth, and Kathy.
Cosey was the baby. She married Clyde Brothers and lived in Connellsville. He worked at Anchor Hocking too. She was a stay at home mom. They had seven children; Clyde, David, Wayne, Linda, Debra, Ellen, and Darla.
That is a short genealogy of aunts, uncles, and first cousins of my mom’s family.
Copyright © Thomas Beck. Re-published with permission.