Jun 16 2009
06:55 am
By: WhitesCreek

by Ray Collett

Well our 2009 RHS Classmates Reunion has gone down in history as being our biggest yet. I think the Classmate who traveled the greatest distance was JoAn Howard Gaines, all the way from Hawaii, followed by Joy Max Branscum and Norma Jean McCulley Newman traveling from California. I guess we had close to four hundred people all total. The weather couldn't have been better, our new tables, chairs, and tents sure made a difference too. Great food...and Bob Meadows, along with a few others have earned their merit badges in tent building. The wind played havoc a couple of evenings. Thanks to everyone who made this gathering possible, Wayne, Barbara, Bobby, Dude, Duck, Runt, Micki, Mary, Patsy, Sue, Freda, and to Carol, Gail, and Gennell for fixing those great breakfast, and Junior's Restaurant for our Saturday meal.. Thanks to you Peabody for handling the ice and Jim Brown for his handling of the auction. I am sure I left out a bunch of people, but we really appreciate you. I guess we will start Wednesday planning RHS CLASSMATES REUNION 2010.
I heard so many tales from the reunion that I could never remember them all...Some I couldn't print anyway...My wife, Gennell told me one recently about her childhood that I want to share with you...
Now Gennell and I have been married 48 years, met her at the Cumberland County Fair in 1957. She is from Grandview, Tn. , which is on the mountain between Spring City and Crossville. She lived about eight miles off of the Highway out a small paved road that later turned into a dirt road for a few miles. Happy Top Road...To say the least, it was very rural, about like Clymersville where I was raised only the houses were farther apart. A lot of the men worked in the rock quarries, cut timber and all had big gardens. Loveable, country families who really stuck together and helped each other in times of need.
Gennell's dad, Wilburn (Jack) Garrison was a big sized man standing over six feet tall and weighing 250 or so and was quite a practical joker. One day he took a large, round oatmeal box and cut out one end of it. At the other end, he punched a small hole, tied a knot in the end of a small cord and threaded it through the hole from the inside. The knot kept it from coming all the way through.The cord was a couple of feet long. He threaded the string through the hole in a large button also. Next he coated the string with a coat of bee's wax like fiddle players use on their strings. Now a fiddle player can get beautiful sounds out of a fiddle, but Jack Garrison was no fiddle player, nor did he claim to be. This "instrument", when he pulled that button down that waxed up cord, sounded like the meanest ole tom cat you ever heard. The open end of the oatmeal box amplified the sound causing it to mimic a "wampus cat" or more like a mountain lion. The Happy Top area is filled with hills and "hollers" causing the sound to echo and be misleading as to where it was coming from.
Every evening about dusky dark, Jack would sit out behind his house and pull that button causing a loud ROAR...Dogs would start barking and carrying on some kind of fierce, women would grab their children out of the yard where they were playing hop-scotch and hustle them into the house behind locked doors. The men would grab their guns, even though they were tired from working all day and go out hunting this beast. Jack would grab his gun and go with them....Tales abounded, people said they actually seen that animal, one lady swore it ran her one night while walking the dirt road to Church...Jack's son-in-law, Pete, knew that he saw it sleeping underneath his big stake body truck...A couple of men were so scared they stayed in their house for days, nearly starved to death...Jack finally told what he was doing because the community was so scared. I guess if he had been a smaller man and not so well respected they would have been a little harsh with him.....
A few years ago in Virginia, after Gennell told me the story, I made me one of those contraptions but never could get it to work exactly like Jack did........If you ever hear any "Creature" a'squawling like that around Rockwood, it just might be Ole Ray trying to either play a fiddle or making one of those oatmeal box things....
Thanks to all of you who asked to be put on my mailing list, we are nearing 1200 readers, please feel free to send me your stories, that is what makes this column so much fun. And thanks also to the ones who bought my books at the reunion and ordered them by mail..."Rockwood Memories" Volume One and Volume Two are still available at "Shack's," O'Those Were The Days Antique Mall, Gail Score's Western Apparel, "Yonder Hollow"..all in Rockwood, and in Harriman at David Webb's "Rocky Top General Store."
I can also mail them, twelve bucks for either volume and enclose two dollars for postage, to you. Just call me at (865) 354-7680..................Until next week, Ray

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To date, the failure to expand Medicaid / TennCare has cost the State of Tennessee ? in lost federal funding.