SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - You Could't Make This Up,Rigor Mortis Done Set In, Drunk, Dead And Delivered



By Bob Weaver 2012

The first time I met one-armed Virgil Boggs he was sitting on a bar stool at Earl O'Brien's pool hall in Spencer, smoking a cigarette and sipping beer, blood dripping from his body to the floor.

Virgil was fascinatingly from the Village of Looneyville, where people use to come from all over to postmark their Christmas cards to capture the unusual Roane County name.

Earl operated the famous Spencer pool hall for a number of years, originally called the Shamrock. He phoned for an ambulance after noticing Virgil's condition.

The funeral home and ambulance service with which I was associated in the 1960s was a short distance up Market Street, so the dispatch was quick.

Declining to disclose how he had been shot in the shoulder, he acknowledged it caused considerable pain, leading to his decision to drive to town and take on a few beer to relieve the discomfort.

With the help of customers, we loaded Virgil on a cot and took him to Gordon Memorial Hospital down the street, a situation from which he quickly recovered.

Maybe a year later, when he was in his forties, parked his truck in front of the Sinnett Funeral Home and came to the porch with an attractive, slightly-built young girl who was about 15, announcing that he and the girl were getting married.

I said something about her being mighty young, after which he produced a paper giving parental consent for the union, attached to the marriage license.

"I need a good preacher to marry us," he said, "Do you know of any?" I thought of a local preacher Rev. Orland Reynold, who had a marryin' and buryin' history, and called him on the phone. He said send'em right over.

A few years past and Virgil and his wife began to have a number of children in rapid succession, with Virgil sticking to his reputation as a farmer, beer drinker, and traveler to the mail box to get his monthly check. His drinking had obviously crossed the invisible line into alcoholism.

Virgil had numerous incidents, car wrecks and weak-spells over the next few years, one of which involved his falling from his barn loft into a large manure pile, a situation that required an ambulance and transport to the newly opened Roane General Hospital.

Being dutiful ambulance attendants, before the days of medical technology, my partner Allen Nicholas and I dug into the manure pile and extracted Virgil, who was covered from head to toe with poop.

We were covered head to toe.

The new Filipino physician Dr. Pedro Lo was not impressed as we attempted to bring Virgil into the emergency room, and ordered his removal to the parking lot to be soaped and hosed. He did not require admission. Allen and I hosed down too.P> As years went by, Virgil didn't come to town much, but I heard that his drinking problem had worsened.

On a Sunday morning, getting breakfast at the Dairy Queen, the funeral home called and said they needed me to return right away. Driving down Market Street, I saw a Volkswagen Bug parked in the funeral home driveway, standing outside was Virgil's wife with a baby and his good drinking buddy.

Seated on the passenger side was a deceased Virg1l, his buddy advising, "Rigor-mortis has done set in," with Virgil's eyes-wide-open, staring straight ahead.

It seems Virgil, his wife, a child and his drinking buddy, had decided to drive 200-miles to Romney to deer hunt during a cold November week.

It is doubtful how much hunting they did, but there was surely a lot of imbibing, the three adults likely lapsing into stupor Saturday night to be awakened by dawns light to discover the passing of Virgil in the front passenger seat.

Most folks, even back then, would have called for an ambulance, driven the deceased to the nearest hospital or called authorities. Instead, they turned around and headed back to Spencer, delivering the remains straight to the funeral home in the Volkswagen Bug.

Virgil's drinking buddy said they had to stop and get gas in the Volkswagen, and I've always wondered if there was a gas attendant somewhere who got slightly spooked by his eyes-wide-open stare while he had the hood open.

Removing the rigid man from the bug was no easy task, being watched by a West Virginia State Policeman, who was not happy that the man had been driven back to Roane through several counties, no one being notified.

Then came the funeral.

It would be fair to say Virgil was the black sheep of his large, well-respected family, who filled the funeral chapel to hear the funeral sermon by his marryin' preacher, now his buryin' preacher.

John Berkhouse, a part-time funeral helper, while the preacher was putting Virgil through the pearly gates, came out of the chapel assisting Virgil's wife who appeared to be in serious distress, walking her into the women's rest room.

Entering the rest room, John placed the nauseous woman on the commode, and it was soon apparent she was suffering a miscarriage. I offered to get an ambulance cot and take her to the hospital, a suggestion she denied.

Having aborted the tiny fetus in the commode, she said, "I want to go on to the cemetery to see him laid to rest."

She flushed the fetus, prepared herself and returned to participate in the rest of Virgil's send-off.

Again, I will remind the reader - this is a true story.