SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Tom T. Hall Had "Spiritual Experience" Snake Handlin' Service

Bob Weaver 2024

In the past month I have re-listened to the music of storyteller, composer and singer Tom T. Hall, many of his songs made famous by other country music singers.

I've had difficulty coming up with words to describe his creations to a world that often ignores the simple lives of people living in the Appalachian Mountains.

Below is the story link I wrote about Tom T. when he died.


I had already quit WSPZ Radio in Spencer because of low pay and Tom T. said he would like to go to a snake handling church, after which I told him about one on Scrabble Creek near Gauley Bridge.

Rising on Sunday morning we set out on the trip. Tom T. had a pack or two of Black Label beer, most beer drinkers ignoring that a single can is equal to a shot of whiskey.

Tom T. drank his supply before we got to the church, already on the road toward alcoholism. I was drinking a can or two, kindergarten level. Caught up later.

I can't recall if it was founder Rev. Elza Preast who came down the isle of the crowded church with a rattlesnake in each hand. Incidentally, his young daughter died of a snake bite.

We were on the isle at the back of the church, I being next to it and Tom T. one over, the tongues of the snakes wafting.

I was terrorized and wanted to flee, while Tom T. started laughing loudly. So loudly that the service and congregation fell into dead silence, his spirits likely imbued by Black Label beer.

Returning to Spencer, it would be fair to say we had a spiritual experience, likely the misguided variety.

About 50 years later I returned to Scrable Creek with photographer Chet Dowell to do a story.

READ "THEY SHALL TAKE UP SERPENTS" - WV Faith On Scrabble Creek (03/15/2024)