AMBLER RIDGE MAYHEM RECALLED - "Dust On My Saddle, Mud On My Boots"


Ambler Ridge entry on US 119 near Walton
Roane County once had lots of mayhem

By Bob Weaver

In times past, the Ambler Ridge region of Roane County and its associated communities Rock Creek, Green Creek, Cicerone, Kettle, Long Ridge, Paxton Ridge, and Straight Creek (anything but), were rough and tumble places.

It was here that I learned the law enforcement phrase - "Knife and Gun Club," with participants most active on Friday and Saturday nights, police receiving frequent calls to drunken fights and family feuds.

The violent incidents sometimes ended in death.

My recollections are based on being a Spencer funeral director and ambulance driver in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Ambler Ridge Road is a highway that extends
several miles on a narrow ridge top, with steep
drop-offs connecting to several remote communities

A newly assigned state policeman called the funeral home after midnight, asking for help to find a residence on Ambler Ridge where a shooting was reported.

Traveling to the location with the officer, known for frequent disturbances, the rookie officer was somewhat nervous about his encounter with a number of men, one of which had shot another, the body resting in the middle of a dusty road.

The scene was totally dark except for the cruiser lights, and the officer handed me a shotgun, saying if he yelled my name I was to shoot it into the sky.

Exiting the cruiser, we could hear a voice in the darkness accompanied by a guitar, singing a Seals and Croft's song, "Dust on my Saddle, (Blood) on my Boots."

ORIGINAL LYRICS: "Dust on my saddle, mud on my boots.
A couple empty saddle bags except for two old suits.
I'm tired and I'm hungry, worried as can be.
Last night I saw a poster and they're still after me."

The officer loudly announced, "State Police, come here, I need to talk with you!" as he walked toward a darkened house.

In short order, two of the men, one the singer and picker, came forward to be interviewed, both denying any involvement in the shooting. Later, an arrest was made.

Rock Creek road is barely improved since the 1960s

Another time, responding to rugged Rock Creek to a shooting, we discovered the body of an 18-year-old boy in a corn field, with several people huddling around. Near the body was a shotgun.

The informants said the youth had committed suicide.

Keeping in mind this was the 1960s, authorities told us to bring the body back to the funeral home. While placing the remains on the embalming table, with no forensic background, it seemed apparent the youth had been shot in the back, a somewhat difficult feat in committing suicide.

We called the county coroner who was instructed by the police to determine the cause of death. The elderly coroner came to the funeral home to examine the body, and after a few minutes said, "He's dead, looks to me like he killed himself."

The speculation after the event by local residents, the youth had been visiting a neighbor's wife.

Responding with a 4X4 ambulance to a truck wreck to Green Creek, we discovered a truck over the hill with a load of moonshine, the shiners had sufficiently been tasting their own product.

In another Rock Creek case, a man's body was discovered in a burned out house. It turned out that two brothers, who had long lived together, had been into a longtime feud. One brother beat the other brother to death, and then set the house on fire. In this case, forensics on the burned body proved a crime.

Today, the Ambler Ridge area has an improved paved highway dotted with comfortable family homes, tamed and quiet.