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Wade Russell's Recollections

BOYHOOD MEMOIRES OF RANDLOPH COUNTY, NC

BY: WADE RUSSELL

When we lived near Chapel Hill (community in Randolph County), My father, Romulus Russell and my Uncle Jimmy Cagle ran a country store and Post Office. Daddy would go through the county and buy chickens and eggs or whatever people had to sell. He would bring all of this back to the store and once every week or two; he would take all of this to Thomasville to sell.

One evening when he closed the store and was coming home; he said that he decided to take a short cut through a church cemetery. He heard something get behind him about the time he entered the cemetery. This thing was following him and it scared him. He started walking faster and faster. The faster he walked, the faster the thing moved. By the time he got to the lane leading to the house; he was just about running. He looked back to see if he could see what had been following him. The thing turned out to be an owl. The owl had followed him all the way from the church cemetery to the house.

While we were living in Chapel Hill, daddy and Uncle Jimmy started thrashing wheat and running a sawmill. They would operated the sawmill during the winter and thrash wheat in the summer. They would have dinner at one farmerís home, move on to the next farmer and have supper there. The next morning, they would have breakfast with the farmer whose wheat they were going to thrash that morning. Each farmer along the way would fix a meal. The meals were really something special. The meals were really special. In the fall of the year when it was corn-shucking time, that was a good time for the boys and girls to play in the corn shucks. When the pile got big enough, it was fun to run and jump in the pile of corn shucks. The farmers would invite their neighbors to come in and help shuck the corn. If a young man came across an ear of red corn, he got to kiss a young woman.

When I lived in Randolph County at Chapel Hill I had a dog named Fido. Fido would sometimes leave home and go through the woods and fields several miles to my grandparents in Montgomery County. Grandmother (Louella Coggin Russell) would get a Prince Albert tobacco sack or whatever was available and put a bunch of little trinkets in it, tie it around his neck and send him home. He would come home and it always seemed that he was just so glad to be home. He would come up to me and I would take the sack off his neck and see what she had sent me.

We had a big black cat. This cat would go off and stay a week or two at the time. We also had a big white cat. One day the black cat came home, Mother was milking; I shut all of the doors and caught the cats. One of the cats was in the house; I brought the other cat in and threw him on the other one. I really had a catfight going! They broke a lot of motherís fruit jars that were under the safe (pie safe) in the sitting room. Another time, the black cat went off and when he came back I caught him and put him in a big tow sack with Fido. I held the end of the sack as long as I could. Out came the cat with the dog right after him! If the cat hadnít climbed a tree, it would have been too bad for the cat!

In the wintertime, I didnít have anything to do. Fido would be in the house and I would get motherís scissors and cut the hair off of his tail or get kindling and singe his ears. He would walk around mother looking up at her like he was begging her to make me stop.

I really enjoyed the store when daddy ran the country store. I loved to eat the soda crackers that came in a big square box. The cheese was really good cheese, just old hoop cheese. I loved the brown sugar that came in a tub. I was always so moist. I like brown sugar and butter mashed up together. The old store was about a mile from home.

Another thing that I liked about living in Randolph County was that my grandfather (Mayberry Russell) and my daddy too were big hunters. They had bird dogs and it was really wonderful to go to my grandfathers. He would have birds on a string tied up on the back porch. In the wintertime, they would be frozen just as stiff as they could be. He and daddy did a lot of hunting together. Back then they killed several wild turkeys. They also did a lot of fishing down at Badin Lake. One time I went fishing with them, they stopped on the way to change the water in the minnow so that they (the minnows) wouldnít die. While they changed the water, they left me in the buggy. My dog, Fido, tried to follow daddy and us and my grandfather tried to run him back home. Fido slipped through the woods and went anyway. Maud the horse looked around and saw him. Maud got scared and ran away. I was in the buggy, daddy was hollering and trying to follow. I was getting ready to jump out of the back of the buggy. Maud was running just as hard as she could go. I heard daddy say, ďget the lines, get the lines.Ē I reached down in the floor and pulled them to the right. Maud ran into the woods and stopped. That really scared me. I could see her running into Badin Lake and drowning her and me too. Daddy whipped her real good with a rail when he got up to where she was. I donít know if she knew what she was being whipped for but he whipped her anyway.

At my grandfather Mayberry Russellís home near Chapel Methodist Church I used to really love to go to camp meeting. It always began the third Sunday in September each year. My grandparents and a lot of other people had little cabins built out there (at the church). During this time (camp meeting) the farmers and all those that had cabins, would move out and stay a week or ten days or however long the revival would last. I enjoyed going and staying around my grandfatherís cabin. Under the arbor, the floor was dirt that was covered with straw. I enjoyed playing in the straw and going to church out there. My grandparents did their cooking and everything out there for a week. My grandfather lived about a mile from the church. He would go back and forth twice a day to feed the stock and do the milking. Some people brought their cows with them and tied them out in the woods. They would leave them there and do their milking at Camp Meeting. There were enough people that moved out there, that at times they would have three services a day. The services were at 10:00 AM, 2:30 PM and 7:00 at night. It was a wonderful experience to go to camp meeting. One thing that I remember is the ministers, after the service would say ďLetís see that hands of all that want to go to Heaven.Ē I would always shoot my hand up. I wanted to go to heaven. While we were living at Chapel, I joined the Chapel Hill Methodist church and was sprinkled when I was about eight years old by Rev. Ridge. I was sprinkled in the old church. The cabins didn't have beds in them. They had boards nailed to the wall like a shelf. Grandma and Grandpa had straw ticks to sleep on.

I remember one time Mayberry cleared some land behind his blacksmith shop. He didn't use dynamite to get the stumps out, he dug them out.

On one occasion, daddy drove the buggy to camp meeting. Mother had about $300.00 in gold in her pocketbook. It got missing and they were really worried about it. They said something about it being missing and I said, ďWell, I know where itís at.Ē I had put it in the back of the buggy, in the top. I donít know why I did it, but thatís where I put her pocketbook. I didnít even know that money was in there.

In 1922, we had a really bad drought. All of the creek and branches and everything just about dried up. The little branch that was maybe 100 yards from our house, had until that time, been full of little minnow, sun perch and hornyheads (fish). I would go down there and try to catch them with a pin hook. Thatís where daddy and grandpa would catch minnows when they were going fishing down at Badin Lake. That spring or summer when everything dried up, there was never anymore minnows in the creek. The spring at our house went dry. My father was in High Point working on the High Point Police force. My mother and I had to take the horse and cows over to grandpaís to water them. He had a spring at the foot of the mountain that never went dry.

After we moved to town in November, I remember going back to visit my Aunt Tura Davis (daddyís sister) and other members of the family. 1925 or 1926 was the first bean beetles that I ever saw. While we were in the country, we stopped at Aunt Turaís, she said that something had just eat up her beans. We went to look at the beans and these bugs were all over the beans. At that time, nobody knew what they were bean beetles.

My grandfather Mayberry Russell was a faithful church member. When someone in the community died, there were men appointed to dig the grave. My grandfather was one of them that had been appointed to help dig the graves. One summer he was about a mile from the church, plowing corn, he heard the church bell ringing. He said so and so is dead and he had to go help dig the grave. He was out back of his blacksmith shop plowing corn at the time. He was a pretty good blacksmith. He let me and Hal (Russell) (cousin) plow the corn. Hal had one mule and I had the other. We plowed corn the rest of the day or the biggest part of the day until grandpa got back home. We probably made a mess of it, but Grandpa never said anything about it.

I remember grandpa working in the shop (blacksmith) outback. He had a furnace bellow and all of the things that a blacksmith needed. I have a mattock that he made in that blacksmith shop. Grandpa Mayberry also raised turkeys during the spring and summer and would sell them at Thanksgiving and Christmas to make a little extra money. The turkeys would go off and steal their nest; Iíve seen him watch them for a long time. You had to be careful in trying to find their nest. He would have to hide and slip around until he could find the nest. When the eggs hatched, he would bring the little turkeys home and put them in a pen. He had a rail pen made out of strips; he would keep them in this pen until they were big enough to take care of themselves. If the old hen turkey carried them out in the grass in the dew, when it was too wet, it would drag them to death and kill them.

In 1918 there was a flu epidemic. There were so many people in the country that were sick and someone dying about every day. Mother, daddy and I all had the flu at the same time. All of grandpaís people had the flue and everybody was real sick. My Aunt Lula Peacock came down from Denton and looked after both families and did the feeding and milking at both places. That summer, daddy had made some scuppernong wine, grandpa send over and wanted to borrow the scuppernong wine. We didnít have but a gallon, and when they brought it back, it was just about all gone. We had a neighbor Columbus Loftlin that lived about a ľ from us he never took the flu. He would walk over to our house and split and cut wood and put it on the porch. He never came in the house, but he kept enough wood cut so that we had wood to cook and heat with. I remember one evening, I got up before mother and daddy, it was about sundown, I remember saying that it sure was lonesome and I sure did hat to see the sun do down.

When I was about seven years old, mother thought that I had diphtheria. She sent after old Doctor Anderson from Denton. I donít know where daddy found him, back then you had to go out and look for him. They didnít have any telephones, so you had to go out and look for him. He came to see me; he got me up on the side of the bed. He went out in the yard and cut some twigs off of a persimmon tree. He used the twigs to make mop handles (to mop the throat). He came back in the house and was in the process of mopping my throat. I heard a car coming, which was a rarity; I jumped off of the bed and ran out on the porch to see the car go by. He said, ďCome here boys, I ainít through with you.Ē I didnít have diphtheria.

Mayberry used to go bird thrashing at night. He would light a lantern and walk along the ditches or through fields where there were brush piles. He had a broom made from dogwood branches. He would beat the brush piles, etc. and when the birds flew out, he would beat them with the broom and kill them. He would clean them and take them home and tie a string around one leg and hand them in front of the fireplace and start them turning slowly. He would let them hang there and turn until they were done and then he would eat them.

When it snowed, he would clear a place in front of his blacksmith shop and put out wheat or corn. He would prop a door open with a stick and tie a string to the stick. He would hide inside the shop and when the birds came to eat the wheat, etc. he would pull the string, the door would slam down on the birds and kill them.

There was a mountain on Mayberry's property. On top of the mountain was a huge rock. If you climbed to the top of the rock you could see all over the countryside. It was a real treat to get to climb to the top of the rock.

I used to love to sit in front of the fireplace at my grandparents (Mayberry & Pricilla Russell). There was a big window beside the fireplace and in the winter you could see men walking over the mountain hunting.

My grandparents had apple and peach orchards. They had open stone Peaches and one called an Indian Peach. The Indian peach was really good. It was a red peach about the size of an apple. Grandma would pick the peaches and apples and cut the fruit up and air dry it. She would use it to make peach or apple fried pies. They were really good! A neighbor had an apple called a Henry apple. That was a really good apple. Really sweet. Daddy (Rommy Russell) would always try to buy a bushel of those apples.

My grandfather also had beehives. Sometimes the Queen bee would come out of the hive and land on a fruit tree and he would push her off and into a hive. In order to get the honey, he would dig a hole in front of the hive and put sulfur in the hole. He would put rag mops in there an set them on fire. He would then take the beehive and place it over the hives and fill in around it with dirt. He would wait until the fire had gone out and then he would open the hive and the bees would be in the bottom dead. That's how he got the honey without getting stung. Hal (Russell) was eating some honey one time that was still warm and a bee stung him on the tongue. His tongue swelled up really big. There was nothing to do but wait for the swelling to go down.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, NC MEMORIES

My recollection is of living in Montgomery County near my grandparents (John Jahue and Louella Russell). My first recollection is of going to Sunday school and church at Center Methodist Church. I remember saying to mother (Hattie Russell) that I sure did hate that we moved because it was so far from Heaven.

We used to go to Homecoming or special meeting at Center. My favorite cake was chocolate. I ate enough one Sunday to make me sick. It was a long time before I ever wanted anymore chocolate cake.<.B>

We moved away from Montgomery County when I was about five years old. We moved to the Chapel Hill community of Randolph County. This was about 8 or 10 miles from where I lived in Montgomery County. When I was old enough to go to school, it was too far to walk to Bellís Grove school. My mother sent me back to Montgomery County to live with my grandparents there. I attended Mineral Springs school the first year. The second year, I moved back to Chapel Hill and walked three miles each way to Bellís Grove School.

While I was living in Montgomery County, Harrison Russell gave me a puppy that I named Fido. Fido turned out to be a real good squirrel dog. He was one of the best.

While we were still living in Montgomery County, one evening just before bedtime, there was a panther that came within one hundred yards of the house. The panther was really screaming and carrying on. Old Fido went out near it. He came back and went under the house and they couldnít get him to come out. The panther went across the mountain screaming just as long as we could hear it. When I would go back there, I would ask grandmother if they had heard the panther anymore. Occasionally, she would say that they had heard it over on the mountain.

When I was about twelve years old, I went back to Montgomery County to stay with my grandparents. Grandpa would really work you hard at anything he had you to do. I would help him saw up a tree or sharpen his knives or axes and he really would make it hard bearing down on the old grinding stone. Iíve heard mother talk about how he would work his own children real hard. In plowing corn he would get way out ahead of them and sit down at the end of the row and rest. He would rest until the children caught up with him and then he was ready to go again.

I would go back and stay with my grandparents for a week after we moved away. Grandmother didnít have much money but she would give me an old hen that was laying. When the hen laid three eggs, I would take the three eggs out to Linse Russellís store where I would trade the eggs fro a big stick of candy. I usually got the peanut butter candy that was about six or eight inches long.

Grandmother was good and kind and understanding with the children. I used to enjoy going down there and going fishing with her. We would walk over to the lake that was between ľ and Ĺ mile from her house and we would fish in Glady Fork, the backwaters of Badin Lake. She enjoyed fishing and I enjoyed going with her.

On one occasion, when we were down there we went to a funeral. We had to cross Badin Lake in a rowboat. I was just five or six years old and there must have been a half dozen people in the rowboat. We left Fido on the bank, when we got out about fifty or seventy-five feet, here he came swimming to us. We had to stop and take him in the boat. He got right in the middle of the boat and shook himself real good. In looking back on that experience, the boat was scrapping the tops of the trees as we went across the lake. In looking back, I can see now how foolish it was for those people to take the chance of going across the lake in a rowboat.

Daddy and Uncle Jimmy (Cagle) used to run a saw mill business. The wage was 10 cents an hour. In the summer they would take the steam engine and pull it behind a tractor and go from farm to farm thrashing wheat. They took a "toll" from each farm where they thrashed the wheat. I'm not sure how much it was, but they took so many bushels for every bushel they thrashed.

When daddy cut wheat by hand with a side cradle, mama would go along behind him and tie it in bundle. When she had tied enough bundles, they would shock them and put a cap on each shock.

After daddy had cut most of the field, you would see little rabbits run out of the wheat and head for the woods. I would try to catch them. I caught a little rabbit one time and took him back to the house and put him in a cracker box. I feed him clover until I got him tamed. I would take him out in the yard and play with him. One day I was playing with him and I saw a big cat headed our way. I grabbed the little rabbit, but I squeezed him too tight and killed him. I guess the cat would have gotten him if I hadn't grabbed him.

I used to tell mama "let's go somewhere." We would walk up to Harris and Dora Cranford's house. Before we got there, mama would say "don't you ask for anything." After a little while I would say to mama, "let's go home." Dora would get up and go in the house and come back with a big biscuit with jelly or a piece of ham in it. I was o.k. after that.

I used to go bee hunting with Harris Cranford. We would walk out in the woods to a little branch where the bees came for water. We would follow them back to the bee tree. I'm not sure but I think some people used to sprinkle a little flour or something on them to make it easier to follow them. Some people would cut an X in the tree or strip a little sapling and tie it around the bee tree. We would come back in the winter and cut the bee tree down and cut it open to get the honey.

Grandpa (daddy's father - Mayberry Russell) used to keep bees. He had 8 or 10 beehives.

One time when I was little, daddy got up in the night and went outside. He came back in and woke up mama and me and had us go outside and look at the sky. It was the Northern Lights. This was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The sky was just all-different colors. We walked over to grandpa's (daddy's father) and got them up to come look at it. We didn't know what it was until the next day when the mailman came around. The mailman brought all of the news in the country as well as the mail.

No part of this collection of recollections shall be reproduced in any manner without the sole permission of the parties listed below. Wade Russell is still alive, this is his story and his daughter, Linda has shared these memories with this site. Please contact Linda at the email below concerning this collection of memories.

To contact Linda, send email to lwillard@northstate.net & to contact Cathy, send email to pastseeker@nc.rr.com

© Copyright 2004.  Wade Russell, Linda Willard & Cathy Cranford. All Rights Reserved.

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