Monday, March 27, 2023

The Foundation of God is my Refuge

Sunday at church, we sang "How Firm a Foundation," a fitting hymn for the day, seeing how Clear Fork was organized 221 years ago this week.

"In ev’ry condition, in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land, on the sea
As thy days may demand
Shall thy strength ever be"

That is the second verse of the original lyrics to the hymn that was first published in London, England in 1787 in John Rippon's "A Selection of Hymns." It first appeared in America in Joseph Fund’s 1832 Genuine Church Music.

The hymn became much loved and adored. Just over a decade later, Andrew Jackson requested it be sung at his deathbed. It was sung at Confederate General Robert E. Lee's funeral in 1870. No doubt, though, it comforted people on both sides during the Civil War. It was sung by American troops on Christmas morning in 1898 during the Spanish-American war, and It was sung during the funerals of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt in 1919 and Woodrow Wilson in 1924.

Yet, with all of its notoriety, the author of the hymn is somewhat of a mystery. In the original publication in 1787, it was attributed simply to “K.” That "K" was most likely Robert Keene, who was the song leader in Rippon's church.

Regardless of the author, It is good to know that in today's world, no matter the circumstance, we can rely on God to provide us with a firm foundation to keep us calm and encouraged. God's love for us is rich and pure, measureless, strong and enduring. While I am blessed to be a part of one of the longest continuing church congregations in this region, I am more blessed to know that the foundation of god is my refuge.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Goat Man was Everyone's Folk Hero

My most popular story, written in 2011, was about Charles "Ches" McCartney, aka the Goat Man, who traveled the countryside with a wagon pulled by goats. Over the years, I have had countless numbers of emails, well over a hundred, from people wanting to tell me about their experience in meeting him. Every single one has mentioned how bad he smelled.

One man in South Carolina wrote, "It was around 1970 when the Goat Man passed through my community. I remember daddy taking him to McCarty's Store, with me riding in the middle of our '66 Ford pickup. My God, I still remember the stink! It was like something out of a fairytale or a movie. As a 5- or 6-year-old boy, I was amazed by his herd of goats and the shaky wagon they towed. Daddy was a good man. It took a week of keeping both windows down to air out the pickup."

Before I tell you about his background, I must first offer up a disclaimer of sorts. The story of the Goat Man's beginnings seemed to change occasionally from one telling to the next. He claimed to have left his home in Sigourney, Iowa when he was 14. He claimed his first wife, Sadie, was a knife thrower in a sideshow in upstate New York and he was the target in her act. He claimed to have experienced a religious awakening in 1935, during the Great Depression, whereby he hitched up a team of goats to a wagon and took to the open road to preach the gospel. His wife and son, Albert Gene, accompanied him, but she quickly grew tired of the road, and him, and returned to Iowa, taking their son with her. He married at least twice more. The last one ended when, according to the New York Times, he sold his goat-weary wife for $1,000 to a farmer she'd grown sweet on, he claimed.

McCartney chose to live in Jeffersonville, Georgia, eventually in an old bus. When the son got older, he reunited with his dad, and for decades they traveled the backroads of the Southeast, sometimes with as many as 30 goats. His path was easily traceable from the wooden signs he tacked on trees by the roadside, signs bearing messages like “Prepare to Meet Thy God.” "People are goats, they just don't know it," he would often say. Maybe McCartney said that because he, himself, looked like a goat. He smelled like one, too, because he never took a bath or washed his clothes. You take a fellow who looks like a goat, travels around with goats, eats with goats, lies down among goats and smells like a goat and it won't be long before people will be calling him the Goat Man, and that is exactly how he got his name.

Someone would spot McCartney and his cavalcade of goats clamoring down the highway with the old iron-wheeled wagon piled high with garbage, lanterns, bedding, clothes, an old pot belly stove, and plenty of scrap metal that he gathered and sold. Word would get around and pretty soon the curious townsfolk would come out to meet him. He would preach the Gospel to them and sell picture postcards of himself.

In 1985, during one of his final journeys away from his home, McCartney set out on foot to California, hoping to meet actress Morgan Fairchild, whom he wanted to marry. Along the way, he was mugged and hospitalized with injuries. He had been beat up before, most notably in 1968 at Signal Mountain near Chattanooga, when he was severely beaten by men who also slit the throats of some of his goats, but this time he left the road for good. His final years were spent at a nursing home in Macon, where he died on Nov. 15, 1998 at the age of ninety-seven, a decade or so younger than he had claimed to be. Five months earlier, back in Jeffersonville, Albert Gene had been found murdered behind the old bus they had called home. Both are buried at Jeffersonville Cemetery.

It has been said that Charles McCartney was the essence of freedom, wandering around the rural highways of America at a goat's pace, unfettered to schedules, clocks or calendars, and surviving by selling scrap metal he would find on the road, postcards of himself and the goats, and of course, free goat milk. He was a simple man and a folk hero.

McCartney told people he was a preacher at the Free Thinking Christian Mission he had built near the old school bus in Jeffersonville. While the New York Times wrote that he had admitted his preaching was a gimmick, he insisted it was sincere.

The Goat Man passing through Albany, Kentucky in the 1950's.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Mose Hurt Littrell

The Kentucky Highway Patrol, the predecessor of the Kentucky State Police, was founded in 1936 as a part of the Kentucky State Highway Department. Six of the officers died in the line of duty before the agency became known as state police. The fourth victim was Patrolman Mose Hurt Littrell on March 14., 1938.

Littrell had obtained a three-day leave of absence from Harlan and was on his way home. Seven miles east of London, he picked up B . P. Snavely and Ed Kirby of Pineville, two hitchhikers who were trying to get to Somerset.

On East Highway 80, near Sandy Gap, Littrell saw three men standing in the road by a park­ed car; Leslie Farmer, 48, a former teacher in Pulaski County, Oliver Gosser, 42, of Pulaski County and Hollis Owens, 38, of Russell County. One of them was drinking from a bottle.

Littrell stopped 15 yards away, identified himself as a police officer, and told the men they would have to move the car off the highway and stop drinking. Seeing that one of them had a gun, he went back to his car and put his pistol in his pocket. He told the two hitchhikers, "Boys, the old man back there has been drinking and has a gun. Looks like we might have some, trouble. You all come along with me.’’

As they approached the three men, Farmer, who was standing a feet away with his arms behind him, brought his gun around and started firing without saying a word. The first shot struck Littrell in his chest and he wheeled partially around. A second shot struck him in the hip. Littrell drew his .38 Smith and Wesson Special and fired six shots, emptying his gun, and striking Farmer in the chest. Farmer's last two shots struck Littrell in the right leg and he fell to his knees in the road. Farmer fell face forward in the road, clutching his .380 automa­tic pistol in his right hand as he died. He had been shot three times in the chest and once in the right side under the arm. Four loaded shells were found in the clip of Farmer’s pistol. Five empty shells from the gun were found in the road.

Littrell called out the hitchhikers, "Boys come help me. I’m pretty badly shot.” They were crouched down beside the parked car when the shooting was going on. They and Gosser helped carry Littrell to his car. Kirby drove it to the Somerset hospital and then accompanied Littrell as he was transported by ambulance to a hospital in Lexington. He died the next morning.

A stray bullet had struck Gosser in his right leg. It's not clear how he got to the hospital, but while he was having his wound treated at the Somerset Hospital, he was placed under arrest and subsequently placed in jail for drunkenness. Gosser told a Somerset newspaper reporter while at the jail that Llttrell had drawn his gun first and started firing, saying that Farmer had jumped out of the way of the first shot and the bullet struck him.

When other officers arrived at the scene, Owens was not there. After searching the area, he was found asleep In the woods a half-mile from where the shooting had taken place. He was also arrested and jailed for drunkenness. Neither Gosser nor Owens were armed, and ac­cording to Littrell’s companions took no part in the affair. While the men were firing at one another, Gosser was standing back against the front of the Farmer car and Owens was leaning against the front fender. They had come to Somerset by bus the previous day and were going to a sawmill owned by Owens’ fath­er, where he was going to repair some machinery. They met Farmer at Dykes restau­rant and he agreed to take them to the mill in his car if they would furnish the gasoline.

Leslie Farmer began teaching school in Pulaski County in 1910. During WWI, he served with the U.S Medical Corps then went back to teaching. Mose Hurt Littrell was also a WWI veteran and past Commander of the Albany Dis­abled American Veterans Chapter. He had been recognized as a champion pistol shot of the state highway patrol.

Born on Nov. 24, 1892 to Thomas Mack and Nannie Bell Hurt Littrell, Mose was married to Mary McMillan and they had one daughter, Mary, wife of Gayron Cross, who died in 2006 in Ohio.

Llttrell became the storm center of a political dispute when he interrupted a speech being made by Circuit Judge King Swope of Lexington, a Republican who was running for Governor Republican candidate, during Clinton County's Centennial celebration, an event being put on by Littrell's DAV group. Littrell claimed that Swope went against an agreement he made that politics was not to be mentioned during his speech. Littrell stepped onto the platform and removed the microphone Swope was using. Clinton Circuit Court fined him $300. The Court of Appeals granted Littrell a second trial, but it was never held. He was granted a full pardon in 1937.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

No Depression (in Heaven)

The photo you see, entitled "And Now Where," by American artist Rockwell Kent, is of a print that features a man and woman atop a mountain looking dejectedly into the distance alongside their knapsacks, and was published in 1936 during America’s Great Depression. It is the property of the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture in Knoxville, Tennessee.

1936 was also the same year the Carter Family recorded their hit song “No Depression (In Heaven).” Although A. P. Carter has frequently been credited as the author of the song, there is evidence it was written in 1932 by James David Vaughan of Pulaski, Tennessee, one of the founders of the genre we know as "Southern gospel" music. He started the James D. Vaughan Music Publishing Company in 1900 and was the first to establish a professional quartet and put them on the road for the purpose of selling his songbooks. "No Depression (in Heaven)" is in his circa 1932 songbook, "Sweet Heaven." While A.P. Carter registered it as his own work (which he did for every recording they made), the family's version is almost a straight copy of Vaughan's original song.

Alvin Pleasant Carter of Maces Springs, Virginia took up playing the violin at an early age. suffered from a physical tremor, as well as a constitutional restlessness, which his mother ascribed to a near miss by a bolt of lightning while she was pregnant. His job traveling around the Clinch Mountain area selling trees and shrubs for a nursery helped him deal with the restlessness. One day he came upon a house where he heard a beautiful alto voice, which belonged to 16-year-old Sara Dougherty. Like A.P., Sara was a musician at heart. The same could be said for Sara's cousin, Maybelle, who was learning to play the guitar, which was just becoming popular.

The rest is history. A 2005 PBS documentary credited the Carter Family's music for lifting the nation's spirits during the darkest days of the Depression. It said their lyrics captured the joys and tragedies of everyday life: loves won and lost, dreams attained and shattered, separations and reunions. The Great Depression was the worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world, which led to half the country’s banks failing and 15 million unemployed Americans. The writer of "No Depression (in Heaven)" obviously saw it as evidence that the end was near. In his 2019 book, The Emotional Life of the Great Depression, author John Marsh said the Depression meant hunger and death. But for the Carter Family, and many of their listeners, the Great Depression also promised salvation.

For fear the hearts of men are failing
For these are the latter days we know
The Great Depression now is spreading
God's word declared it would be so

I'm going where there's no depression
To the lovely land that's free from care
I'll leave this world of toil and trouble
My home's in Heaven, I'm going there

In that bright land, there'll be no hunger
No orphan children cryin' for bread
No weeping widows, toil or struggle
No shrouds, no coffins, and no death

This dark hour of midnight nearing
And tribulation time will come
The storms will hurl in midnight fear
And sweep lost millions to their doom

The Carter Family

Monday, March 6, 2023

Sherman York had the Courage of a Bulldog

By all accounts, Sherman York was a great basketball player, a point guard known for his consistent play, both in high school and college. He was a three year starter for the Bulldogs and at Campbellsville College was the unanimous choice for the outstanding basketball player award. He was inducted into the Clinton County Wall of Fame in 2002, along with his brother-in-law, and former teammate, Jackie Sewell.

Coach Lindle Castle once said the years 1959 to 1965 were the 'golden years of basketball at Clinton County High School. He based it on the fact that his players had grown up at one room schools. Aside from book learning, whenever there wasn't much else to do, they learned the game from teachers, and then wore out the goals practicing and playing hour after hour year around. "Then they started closing the one room schools for better education and the kids came into grade school centers. When they graduated, the golden years were over," he said.

An example of how bright the golden years of CCHS basketball was during that era is a team that rose to the occasion two seasons after the 1959-60 team was crowned champions of the 5th region. It has been said many times over the years that the 1961-62 team is the best team ever at CCHS.

The late L.H. 'Prof' Robinson, who was superintendent, principal and coach at Albany, loved Sherman York's consistency as a player and referred to him as a 'Bulldog,' which is what he was, both literally and figuratively. You will read Robinson's quotes throughout this story.

Sherman York, a junior, was the starting point guard on that team, averaging 9.4 points per game. Others were Sewell, Kenneth Conner, David McFarland, Tom Neathery, Paul Denney, Darrell Weaver, U.S. Reneau, W.L. Sawyers, Wells Latham, Wayne Cook, Don McWhorter, Kay Flowers, A.V. Conner, Jim Thrasher, Gayle Stearns, John Hay and Bill McDonald.

"Sherman has the speed of a fright­ened ghost. His nerves are made of the finest, purest steel. Under pressure, he is calm, undisturbed, capable and dependable. This boy has a potential that has not been fully explored." L.H. 'Prof' Robinson, 11/30/61

In the 20th district tournament championship game, the Bulldogs, rated 9th in the state, went up against Metcalfe County. Our hopes of advancing to the regional as district champs were dashed as the Hornets stung the Bulldogs by a single point, 59-58.

The 5th region tournament opened with a rematch between the Bulldogs and the Hornets, but this time the game had a much different ending. We won by 30. Up next was the semi-finals and a meeting with the only unbeaten team in Kentucky, Allen County, at 28-0. The Bulldogs led 13-12 after the first period, 29-26 at halftime, and 43-36 heading into the final frame. With 6:20 left to play and Clinton County leading by eight, the Patriots' Wayne Hanes fouled out, causing the cheering section to become as quiet as a graveyard, but with 2:14 left to play something unwanted happened....Kenneth Conner fouled out. What followed was a rally for the ages, as Allen County sparked big, scoring the games final eleven points to win 58-47. The Patriots' rock solid defense had held the Bulldogs to only four points in the last quarter.

"Even though the Bulldogs lost the game, there is not a thing to be ashamed of," wrote Jimmy Huccaby in the Clinton County News, "because this has been one of the best seasons ever witnessed by a Clinton County team and fans," he added. Our season was over, but for Coach Castle it would be the best won-loss record of his career, 30 wins and 4 losses.

There were a lot of great players on that Bulldogs team. Coach Castle claimed Sherman York was one of the best defensive guards the district had ever produced.....racking up many steals and turning them into fast break baskets. The coach would have known that first hand. As a freshman at the University of Kentucky, he was a shining star, a starter on the 1949-50 Kittens team that won 15 games and lost just once. "Castle is a ball-hawking specialist that set up the Cat's fast break offense," wrote Bob Gorham in the Kentucky Kernel.

"Sherman has the courage of a Bulldog. His floor play was a comfort to his doting coach." L.H. 'Prof' Robinson, 12/21/61

If you've heard stories about how great of a player Sherman was in high school, he was even better at Campbellsville University, where he played two seasons with another Clinton County High School player, 6'6" Bobby Reneau. Sherman lettered in three sports: basketball, track and baseball. In basketball, he was the captain of the Tigers and was a great asset as both a leader and playmaker. During his senior year in 1967 he was named Outstanding Athlete of the Year. Earlier that same year, he had been selected outstanding basketball player. He had also been named to the All K.I.A.C. Team in that sport. He was a valuable member of the track team at Campbellsville, where he captured first place several times in the 100 and 220 yard dashes.

As coach of the Wayne County Cardinals for four years, 1967 to 1971, Sherman did real well, guiding the Cardinals to an overall record of 56 wins and 37 losses. He posted a won-loss record of 6-14 his first season, 16-9 his second season, 15-7 his third season and 19-7 his final season. While at Wayne County, he also served as cross-country coach for three years and baseball and golf coach for two years. He also served as assistant football coach for one season. Sherman was inducted into the Cardinal Club's hall of fame in 1995 and the Wayne County High School Hall of Fame in 2007.

In November of 1981, H & W Sport Shop opened up in the Town, and Country Plaza in Monticello as the first store in Monticello to be devoted strictly to sports men and women. It was third in a chain of H & W Sport Shop's owned by Ronnie Hord and Ron Wilson of Campbellsville. Sherman managed the Monticello store and was also co-owner.

"We can always use a boy like Sherman York. His kind gladden the hearts of parents, coach, student body and faculty members. His kind will make a contribution to his generation." L.H. 'Prof' Robinson, 11/30/61

1961-62 SEASON
Nov. 3, Shopville 90 - 29 W
Nov. 7, at McCreary County 86 - 53 W
Nov. 10, at Ferguson 68 - 46 W
Nov. 17, South Hopkins 82 - 49 W
Nov. 24, at Ralph Bunche 62 - 61 W
Nov. 28, Pickett County 92 - 44 W
Dec. 1, Tompkinsville 73 - 40 W
Dec. 4, at Cumberland County 64 - 44 W
Dec. 5, at Gamaliel 77 - 57 W
Dec. 8, Metcalfe County 81 - 47 W
Dec. 12, at Greensburg 77 - 65 W
Dec. 15, Celina 68 - 35 W
Dec. 19, at Pickett County 74 - 25 E
Dec. 28, at Russell County/Adair County 43 48 L
Dec. 29, at Russell County/Monticello 82 - 44 W
Jan. 5, at Tompkinsville 91 - 61 W
Jan. 9 Shelby County CANCELLED
Jan. 12, McCreary County 73 - 52 W
Jan. 13, at Campbellsville Durham 42 - 46 L
Jan. 16 at Metcalfe County 57 - 54 W
Jan. 19, Gamaliel 79 - 43 W
Jan. 23, at Bowling Green 77 - 47 W
Jan. 30, Russell County 73 - 53 W
Feb. 1, Cumberland County 65 - 53 W
Feb. 6, at Liberty 99 - 67 W
Feb 9, Christian County 72 - 63 W
Feb. 13, Ferguson 104 - 48 W
Feb. 16, Campbellsville Durham 87 - 65 W
Feb. 20, Ralph Bunche 49 - 34 W
Feb. 23, at Celina 90 - 60 W
20th District Tournament at Edmonton
Feb. 28 Cumberland County 58 - 31 W
Mar. 2 Gamaliel 69 - 35 W
Mar. 3 Metcalfe County 58 - 59 L
5th Region Tournament at Bowling Green High
Mar. 7 Metcalfe County 83 - 53 W
Mar. 8 Allen County 47 - 53 L
Record: 30-4 (Coach Castle's best record) 104 points vs Ferguson/Feb. 13, 1962 set a record.

Kenneth Conner's personal scoring record was made and broken during this season. He beat his previous record of 32 points against McCreary County during the 1960-61 season by scoring 41 points on Dec. 29, this season, against Monticello. And then on Feb. 6th, this season, he broke that record when he scored 42 points in the game against Liberty.

Friday, March 3, 2023

One Hand on the Plow, the Other on the Fiddle and Guitar

Check out this circa 1905 photo of a group of Fentress County, Tennessee musicians. My fourth cousin, Gilbert Boles, is sitting to the left of the man holding onto the plow. His brother, Herbert, is to the right of the man. Gilbert was a school teacher. In the postcard dated March 17, 1910, he tells Herbert that he needs someone to meet him at the river after the school at Jamestown, Tennessee ends.

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...