Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Behind Here Person

On this date, April 19, 2009, it was opening day for little league baseball. It was a warm Saturday. Lots of people were there and the smell of hotdogs cooking on the grill permeated the air. Chrissy, my neice, had a t-ball game that day. Her team took the field first and Chrissy's position was hind catcher. When the other teams' coach walked up to the plate with his first batter, Chrissy introduced herself as, "I'm The Behind Here Person!"

Monday, April 11, 2016

Friends, Neighbors and Enemies

In Champ Ferguson's world, many of his once long time friends and neighbors had become his enemies. He despised what the Union army's Camp Dick Robinson stood for. Regardless of who or what they were, he was compelled to target and eliminate those who had been there. That was how he justified murdering William Frogge and Elijah Koger. William was the brother of my great-great-great-grandmother, Nancy Koger. Elijah was her husband.

William had gone to Camp Dick Robinson as a member of the 12th Regiment, Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, Co. D, but contracted the measles during training and was sent home. On November 1, 1861, Ferguson showed up at the Frogge home, eight miles north of Albany. Not suspecting anything, William's wife, Ester, welcomed their friend inside. Because of his illness, William was confined to his bed. ‘I reckon you caught the measles at Camp Dick Robinson,’ Ferguson said just before he shot him dead. He would later claim that he had heard rumors that Frogg was planning to kill him. ‘I told the boys that I would settle the matter by going direct to Frogg’s house and killing him.'

William's brother-in-law, Elijah Koger, had not only also been at Camp Dick Robinson, he had also taken part in a peace conference at Monroe, Tennessee, where both sides from Clinton, Fentress and Overton counties had met to try and end the senseless murder, theft and arson by guerilla gangs that had become commonplace while the regular soldiers were away at war. The peacemakers agreed not to raid in adjoining counties, but the conference was deemed a failure after Ferguson and his men killed four Overton County men on their way back to Albany.

On Sunday morning, June 1, 1862, at Oak Grove, Elijah arose from his bed and headed out to the spring with his wife beside him. Shots rang out as a band of men appeared suddenly out of nowhere. Nancy screamed fo Elijah to run. As he started to flee, Champ Ferguson overtook him and shot him. Elijah continued to run as more shots rang out. By the time he reached a fence fifty yards away, Elijah had been shot more than thirty times. When Nancy reached the fence, the couple's 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, was holding her daddy in her arms. She was covered in blood. He gasped once, but never spoke.

President Abraham Lincoln summarized Ferguson's way of thinking when he wrote, “Each man feels an impulse to kill his neighbor lest he be first killed by him.”

On October 20, 1865, Champ Ferguson was hanged for the murders of William Frogge, Elijah Koger and 51 others. Esther Frogge and Nancy Koger testified at his trial.

Frightened to Death

Mrs. Henry Hargis, wife of a well known farmer living near Somerset, was literally frightened to death by a snake. Mrs. Hargis had taken a jug of water to her husband, who was working in the fields, and was returning to the house when she felt something pulling at her dress from behind, but thinking it only a briar she gave her skirt a flounce to free herself. Instead of a briar there was an enormous copperhead snake attached to it. This snake was killed by Mr. Hargis and on examination it was found that Mrs. Hargis had not been bitten by it. She was so terribly frightened however, that she fell in a faint, followed by delirium, and never regained consciousness, dying in great agony thinking the reptile was still clinging to her and begging piteously to those about her to take it off.

(Wayne County Outlook, June, 16 1904)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Sparing

The date was March 19, 1963. Two tornadoes struck minutes apart in Clinton County on this date. It was an unseasonably warm afternoon and it looked like it might rain. A dark cloud loomed on the horizon. Sure enough, along about two o'clock, a strong wind arose, accompanied by much hail and a torrential rainfall. Three-fourths of an inch of rain fell within five minutes.

One tornado struck in the Static, Beaty Creek and Duvall Valley communities. The Maupin United Methodist Church building was knocked six feet off its foundation. The home of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Beard was damaged. She was knocked unconscious but was not badly injured. At almost the same time, a second tornado struck West Albany, ripping the front off Ted Mills' Service Station on the Burkesville Road. Across the street, it brought down the screen at Albany Drive-In Theater. Luther Harlan's Filling Station, Phillips Auto Sales and Wisdom Filling Station were also damaged, as was Ferguson Feed Mill near Albany Cemetery.

Several homes were reported damage, the worst occurring two blocks south of Ted Mills' Service Station at an upstairs apartment at the end of Hopkins Street. In that apartment, a grandmother had sought safety underneath the kitchen table. In one arm was her three-month-old grandson. In the other arm were his two brothers, ages 3 and 4, and a two-year-old sister. I was the three-year-old. There had been almost no advance notice. My grandmother would later say she looked out the window just in time to see a huge black cloud coming straight at us. The apartment we were in was above a garage behind her house. There wasn't enough time to run downstairs to the basement in her home. My grandmother realized that with her arms busy holding her grandchildren, she had no way of holding onto the kitchen table we were all under. She instructed my older brother and I to run to our parents' bedroom and get under the bed, but it was too much for a couple of scared 3 and 4-year-old boys to handle and we went running back to my grandmother.  I can't imagine the thoughts of terror that ran through her mind when she saw us come running back. She only had time to put her arm around us when the tornado hit. Later, she would recall the haunting sound as hundreds of nails were ripped from the wood as the roof came off. I can recall the eerie calm after the storm, where everything seemed to be running in slow motion. Where the ceiling used to be, there was only the sky.

As we began to crawl out from under the table, the front door to the apartment burst open and in walked a strange girl. Her name, I would later discover, was Peggy Pickens. She and a friend had decided to skip school that day and were walking along Hopkins Street when the tornado struck and afterward, came running to the apartment. 22-year-old Weldon Gibson, whose family lived behind us, also ran to our home just seconds after the storm had passed. The stairway leading up to the apartment had been pulled loose from the side of the building, but that didn't stop Peggy and Weldon from climbing up the stairway to help us get out of that apartment. What brave heroes they were that day.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

No Possum in the White House

We have met the enemy and he is us!

The Value of Doing Nothing

"Don't underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering."
A.A. Milne