SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Hur's Curmudgeon Blacksmith, How To Make A Softball

(04/10/2017)

By Bob Weaver

The late Albert Ball of Greenwood, Indiana, the son of the late Lennie and Lelah Ball, sent along a few Calhoun County memory pearls.

Lelah Ball was a long-time elementary school teacher in Sunny Cal. Lennie's dad was Albert and Sadie Scott Ball, once large landowners and farmers on Barnes Run. Albert grew up in the backwoods along Barnes Run, between Hur and Rocksdale.

"My children and grandchildren cherish the boyhood memories that I relate to them. I tell them that some of these unique memories of times past will never be duplicated."

"One such memory recently surfaced. Not long after I was old enough to ride a horse, I would occasionally be thrown onto the saddle of one of our mares and sent to the blacksmith shop for new shoes."

"It was a dingy place, but I loved this different sort of farm experience. The strange tools, the shrill ring of the huge anvil, the spooky corners of the shop (no interior lighting and dirty windows), the general appearance of the shop and the not-particularly-friendly blacksmith."

"All held a mysterious fascination for me. The roaring fire was a bit startling. I now wonder who paid the blacksmith for his work. I do not remember taking any money with me for payment. No credit cards or no checks with owner name, address and account number printed on them in those days."

"I believe this old building was located on a flat spot on the Barnes Run road (Buckhorn) and down the hill a short distance from Hur."

Al is likely recalling a visit to Hur's old-time curmudgeon merchant and blacksmith Uncle Charley Starcher, whose shop was originally on Dennis (Slider) Fork, but was later moved to the backside of the Village of Hur, now moved to Calhoun Park's Heritage Village.

Al went on to write "At the local library last evening we enjoyed listening to a small string band that played Early Appalachian Music. Wonderful! This caused my nostalgia juices to flow and for some reason I got to thinking about our form of one-room-school softball on Barnes Run."

"Fashioning a crude bat from a readily available sapling was easy. "Creating" a ball was more involved. If one was lucky enough to have a piece of an old auto inner tube, this was pressed into as round a configuration as was possible and then wound with twine."

"The winding was controlled so as to create a global shape. This was a slow and tedious process. The end product was about the diameter of a softball; perhaps a bit out of round but we were happy to have a softball no matter how lumpy. The string end was embedded into the mass in the hopes that the ball would not unravel."

"However, as the ball became worn, one would occasionally hit it with a bat and the unraveled string would follow the ball into the outfield; something like the tail of a comet."

"The bases were some sort of crude markings and the older kids usually made up the rules. Of course, the ball field - our playground - was far from being flat."

"Such was the ingenuity of those who did not have much in the way of store-bought playthings."

Al's one-room school near the mouth of Barnes Run was across the road from one of the county's oldest churches, Walnut Grove. It closed in the early 1950s, the last teacher being Lizzie Reynolds of Hur. Lizzie rode her horse from Hur to the school along the West Fork of the Little Kanawha.


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