SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Dark Night Walk To The Village Of Hur, Remembering Their Spirits

By Bob Weaver 2017

The road from my house to the Village of Hur was rocky, gnarly and muddy in the late 1940s and 50s, but a trudge was often taken as a boy to engage the local families and storekeepers Harley and Scottie McCoy, just to get out of the house.

By the 1950s, the Sturm and Reynolds stores had faded, among others.

As a child I wandered miles on the ridges and down in the hollers, day and night, with no supervision, aimless and free.

Today, my parents would be reported as being irresponsible to Children's Protective Services.

There was something ominous about walking the wooded roads and paths of Hur after dark, a little exciting.

Walking down the hill from my tiny four-room house, which had no electric, running water or bathroom (the outhouse out back), I would take a few minutes to visit my grandpa and grandma McCoy and Uncle Eddie, who never married.

The after dark "know no fear" walks with my dog Blackie, rarely having a light, my grandparents lawn would be lit by a single flame coming from the end of a gas pipe, their enclosed front porch illuminated by dim gas lights.

They would likely offer me a sugar cookie or some freshly made popcorn. If grandma wanted something from the store, she would give me some loose change, always reminding me to say hello to her sister-in-law Aunt Ida, who was an invalid confined to a chair.

Walking on down the road by the McCoy barn, I would spot the hazy houselights of Russell and Pearl Gough Slider up a steep hillside, sometimes hearing the sound of the Slider kids playing.

The Slider's had a passel of kids, among many local families they were poorer than they ought to be, but somehow managed to make it. I didn't acknowledge poverty in those days, most everyone was in the same boat.

All of the passed into the beyond.

Then to arrive at the "Low Gap," the four way intersection of Rowels Run, Pine Creek Road, Slider Fork and the road up to the village.

The "Low Gap" was the spot to catch Kelsey Dawson's home-built bus and was good for watching traffic, a car or truck every hour or so.

I would nearly always dawdle there, sometimes resting on a seat inside the large wooden bus house, to then trek up Hur Hill to the McCoy store which was then housed inside an old weather-beaten garage.

The hill was dotted with phone poles and single wires leading to the crank'em up Hur Phone Company.

Going up the hill you could see the illuminated gas pole lights lights in front of the store, and the McCoy house, Sturm and Reynolds dwellings.

The gas lights would "knock you eyes out."

The small McCoy store was packed with pickle and flour barrels and merchandise with ample chairs and benches inside and out, and on most nights there would be a few sitters and talkers, many of which walked to the emporium.

Outside the store was a single mechanical gasoline pump, requiring the hand pumping of gasoline from an underground tank to a clear glass bowl high on the pump, to then gravitate into the customer's vehicle.

The store was ahead of its time, having two light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, powered by a windmill-battery system.

It was here I met Grover Starcher, keeper of the Hur Cemetery, widower Alva Bell coming up from Rowels, hunkerin' Ed Cooper and the most superstitious man I've ever known, Hollis Kerby.

Preacher Wilkinson would sometimes be there, along with Ruby Smith, Ray Slider, and Holly Kerby.

I was a listener, but every now and then I'd get in a word about something, after which I would transact some business, purchasing a "pop" and a candy bar.

It was here I learned the early tales of life in the backwoods.

A new McCoy store building was built in 1950, still standing, the store having a run in the village for 100 years.

After visiting the store, I often stopped at the McCoy house to say hello to Aunt Ida, Scottia and Cleo. Cleo had long been confined to bed following an accident, faithfully keeping a daily diary for years, which I now have in my possession. He kept a record of the Calhoun soldier boys he wrote to during World War II. I have some of those kind and encouraging letters.

On some evenings I would walk on up the hill past the Mt. Olive Church and cemetery to visit with switchboard operator Leona Sturm and her three children, Jim, Bill and Carolyn.

Leona, a classy lady and longtime widow somehow managed to raise her family.

Leona's father-in-law Will Sturm had a country store since the early part of the 1900s.

Sometimes, after dark, Scottia would be wandering around in the Hur Cemetery, enough times that she would no longer frighten he "bejesus" out of me.

Lizzie Renolds was a hardworking woman, having a small store and post office, to be noticed along the way, her long-time Educator son Eugene Reynolds, who also had a work gene that wouldn't quit.

Besides having three stores, they had two grist mills.

These years later, I am fascinated with my recall of those childhood days, clear recollect of the people's faces and their mannerisms.

But even clearer is the remembrance of my trusty dog Blackie, who accompanied me to the bus stop every morning and returned in the evening to greet me for my 12 years of public schooling.

On quiet days, I feel all their souls and spirits, from a much slower and simpler time.