’Tis better to give than to receive and that is because when somebody gives you something you don’t know what to do with it. Try figuring that out a thousand times and you will know where I stand.
For almost a half century the good people of the mountains have brought me stuff that meant a lot to them — old family artifacts, tools, musical instruments, mining lamps and hats, bottles and the like — each bestowed on me with generous heart. Say what you will about mountain folk, they love to give stuff to people. If you go into a living room up here and see something on the wall and say you like it, the next day it will be brought to you with glad heart.
With white hair, the symbol of purity, and white hair not shown on the photo above, taken two or three presidents ago, with white hair and age comes the time to downsize, going smaller, shedding (called here “getting shet of”) the unnecessary.
America downsized in 2017. We got shet of many of our staunchest allies, such that our president must wedding-crash in England. We got shet of a climate deal we didn’t need because all it did anyway was to fight the rising of the oceans. We cut back drastically on what healthy people of income must do to assure that the unhealthy poor get to the doctor. We cut back on free speech, because it was all fake.
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Knowing what to throw away and what to keep is important. The late Clyde Mullins used to say of men of whom he thought unfavorably that when they circumcised him they threw away the wrong piece.
Who will stop the Great Downsizer from throwing away the wrong parts of our little country?
For me, what do I do with that mandolin the Gypsy King gave me, declaring that it was an ancient Gypsy instrument, in fact made in Japan 10 years earlier, but real old looking. What do I do with the old pharmacy bottle with ‘cocaine’ in relief on the glass?
How does one part with a 1993 Hillbilly Nation Celebration poster? Or a carved mule? The print of the Matewan massacre defendants with Sid Hatfield in the middle, standing in front of the Mingo County Courthouse? C. C. Testerman’s fiddle, Testerman being the mayor of Matewan whom Sid Hatfield later shot to death, and then married his widow? The bells from Gladys Smith’s motel in Corbin which you rang to get her up to rent you a room? The side saddle Larce Ferrell gave me for getting him acquitted in the fifth biggest bank robbery there ever was?
Do you just throw away a twist of tobacco or the nine Prince Albert cans, each of which came with that same joke where you call the store and ask them if they have Prince Albert in a can?
Except one Prince Albert can. They found Mrs. Casebolt dead in her home nearing 100 years old. On her kitchen table was a potato sack wrapped around a rusty Prince Albert can.
People who are old enough still pin notes to stuff. Pinned to that sack was a note that she had scrawled, “For Larry Webster.”
I think I just might keep that one.
Larry Webster is a Pikeville attorney. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org