transcribed by Teresa Martin Klaiber
This is part 4 of a transcription of a cassette tape recorded in 1978 on Big Garner, Boyd County, Kentucky.
John Henry Klaiber: Went up Sandy one time a huntin. Tryin to buy some cattle … talked to him. He said “well you’ll have to eat supper with me.” He said "you wanna drink before we eat?" I said "It don’t make any difference if I do or I don’t." “By God,” he said “I’ve got it.” Well I said "Let’s have it." I had to go with them. Back up in there then you didn’t contrary them. You’d insult them if you didn’t eat with em. We took two or three swigs of that moonshine and went in to eat. There was a beef head laying on the table and they hadn’t took the eyes out. I sliced me off a piece and ate it just like they did.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Yeah, but John tell about the place you went up the road here and saw …spittin clear across the table and you decided to come home. Where was that?
John Henry Klaiber: Up the holler above Cline Stewart’s. They was makin molasses up there. I was supposed to eat dinner up there. I don’t know who it was now. He was a Reverend. I went out and washed and the table was sittin here by the window. I washed outside and started walking around to go in and she spit across the table and out the window. [laughter] Boy, that bothered me then but it wouldn’t any more. I just come on around went back in the field and went back to work.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Mrs. Toppin, we would buy butter from her. She lived down here. Jimmy was pretty good sized…but anyway she had the best butter. And you know somebody was down there one day and they said “well my goodness,” that she chewed tobacco all the time. She wouldn’t let that husband come and open the fridgerator and get him a drink of water. Afraid he would get a little dirt on the fridgerator … I told John about it and he said “oh boy, she’s got good butter, though.” …[tape damage]…and it was years before we discovered that she would let her daughters, when they went to the high school, stop and get her some chew. We wondered why the daughter was kinda embarrassed about going to the store. She knew she had to bring that chewin tobacco back to her mother. She was the sweetist thing.
John Henry Klaiber: Bought some cattle over there at Elkhorn City…and I had to drive them down the road. I started drivin them down and puttin them in the truck and three guys come up the road. Couldn’t tell, they hadn’t shaved, their beards were long. This feller walked up and said “Why the hell didn’t you try and buy my cattle?” I said “Mister I didn’t know.” The guy said “They is as good as them.” I said “No doubt about it Mister.” You had to get along with people. I said “I’ll tell you what I will do I’ll go look at your cattle as quick as I load these. I won’t say I’ll buy em.” He said “You boys go up and get them cattle so we can look at them.” He went back down. Well I guess I walked two miles back there to look at them. I was by myself. That was when we lived in Ashland. I looked at the cattle and he priced them to me. Of course I didn’t have money to pay for em. Oh I gave him so much down on them. Before he would take any money, I had told him “I am goin buy your cattle but it might be a week or longer for I can get back after em.” He said “Boys, run them cattle in the pasture so the man will know what they look like when he comes back.” I stood there while he moved them cattle around past me … put so much down on them. Well I got to go back quicker than I thought I would. It was about one o’clock in the morning when I got up there. I just stopped where I was. It was a long way to the house and I thought I would sleep in the truck til … someone grabbed me by the arm. So I didn’t know what was going on. … It was that old man. He said “Did you think my bed wasn’t good enough to sleep in?” I said “Hell no, Mister, your bed sounds awfully good, but I didn’t want to disturb you.” We walked about two miles up that holler and I went to bed in his bed. We had breakfast the next morning. Baked ham and biscuits and stripped gravy.
[Editoral note in background every time John Henry said an off color word Elsie whispered that I needed to erase that. I did not. Tk]
Teresa Martin Klaiber: What is stripped gravy.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: He had to teach me to make stripped gravy [pronounced strip ped gravy].
John Henry Klaiber: Don’t you know what red eyed gravy is? Ham….grease. Take your ham out and take a little water and milk and flour. Put that in there and stir it up.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Lots of grease…
John Henry Klaiber: Called Red eye or stripped eye either one. …[bad tape]…water just makes red.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: His Aunt Martha [Martha Sexton Reece] could make dumplings and they was so good.John Henry Klaiber: I would work midnight turns and had a couple of days off. Well I would drive some place and hunt me up a load of cattle. If you come in around meal time they thought you ought to eat. Just about had too to get along with em.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: … to Reeces…right after we were married and he was surprised they had cars sitting out and no chairs to sit in. What was it they had?
John Henry Klaiber: They had a big stone. Uh Aunt Martha Reece, her husband’s sister lived up there; was still livin then. I went up there one Sunday. We pulled up and there was two brand new Oldsmobiles sittin in the drive way. And when we went to eat dinner why there was a bench behind the table against the wall and a few kegs to sit on….those big ole automobiles but they didn’t have chairs.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: And he was amazed they didn’t cut the bread.
John Henry Klaiber: They broke it. … dumped it out on a plate and didn’t even cut it…
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: I guess that was like Biblical times, you break the bread together.
John Henry Klaiber: Said you wasn’t supposed to cut bread you was supposed to break it. How come you didn’t go along?
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Clearing throat. We hadn’t announced – we were keeping it a secret. … I was already in the family. I had been in the family for two months before anybody knew it. [John Henry and Elsie Ellis Rucker Klaiber were married 4 August 1939 at London, Laurel County, Kentucky.]
John Henry Klaiber: Didn’t tell in case I wanted to get rid of ya. [Chuckles]
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: John said he never had a pair of shoes on til he got married [talking over each other].
John Henry Klaiber: …[garbled]...they just stayed with us see. Have some place to stay. Some of those boys come in from Indiana [Some of the Sexton family migrated to Indiana to work in coal mines.] Nobody wore shoes. And this old woman went barefooted all the time. When they pulled up down there at the house there was the old woman out in the yard bare foot …
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: What was that song you used to sing about Aunt Rhody? You used to sing it to Jimmy and all the little boys.
John Henry Klaiber: You sing it then! [Reciting] Go tell Aunt Rhody the old grey goose is dead. The one’s she been savin to make me a feather bed. [Tape was stopped and conversation picked up later] You see I used to work at Armco and Bill [Prichard] worked at Armco. And they had the old poor house down there and Armco had a club house out of it. It was gone before you went there…
We used Kerosene lamps here about twice, winter before last [power outage]. It went off along in the night and they quit taking calls they got so many. It was around zero. We fooled around here awhile and cranked up that gas stove in the wash room. Enough to keep the pipes from freezing. Next morning I got up and called in there. Had a report on it and they asked where abouts and I said up here on Garner and he said “Which Garner is it?” I said “Big Garner.” Oh he said there would be electric by noon that they were coming thru Louisey [Louisa, KY] with a transformer now. He said don’t open the deep freeze. I said “Freezer, Hell, I want heat!.”
That would have been in 1975 and as I write this we continue to have electric outages on a regular basis in 2011. Big Garner was the last in the county to have telephone party lines as well. After we married in 1968 and called home I spoke to everyone up and down the road. Once I assured them we were ok they would hang up and let us continue our family conversation.
I do hope you are enjoying these episodes as much as I am transcribing them. It is a window for my children and grandchildren about the farm and area they have come to know and love as much as we do. To be continued!