GREEN McCoy did not tarry long in Warfield, a coal, salt and timber community on the Kentucky side of the Tug River. In order to reach Pike County before dark, it would be necessary to keep moving. The terrain along the river between Warfield and the Pike county line lent itself to relatively comfortable travel. Along the way, he and Milt passed Lovely, a small settlement at the mouth of Wolf Creek, and Long Branch. Thereafter, the ride toward Pike County offered no glimpse of towns or important tributaries. It was the kind of mundane riding, in Milt’s view, that caused a man to think too much. And yet for Green, with each moment, he entertained thoughts of Mother and Father, of Harrison, of the familiar sights and smells of home…
Back before anyone could remember, Green’s grandfather Richard McCoy had settled on Peter Creek, Kentucky. (Poor Grandpaw, he never was well to do; by the time he died, he was plain hard up.) Green had been born nearby, in the Camp Creek section of Knox Creek, in 1859, the youngest child in a family of eleven. His parents, William and Lucinda, were reasonably old at the time of his birth – his father, 43; his mother, 39. Because of this, Green did not really know his parents. To him, they were the people who brought him into this world, the people who provided for him – and that was about it. The same could be said for his older siblings, who had left home when he was small.
Green’s oldest brother, William H. McCoy, some twenty-four years older, seemed like more of an uncle than a sibling. William was a fine man – a steady, even-tempered farmer. He had been married for as long as Green could remember and always maintained a stable home. He was the father of nine children: the oldest (Melvin) 27 years old, the youngest (Minty) two. Green got along fine with William – looked up to him in ways. William had always tried to provide for Green – lend him attention, give him things – whatever was needed. The two had never shared an unkind word. Green thought of William as the best of his father’s sons, yet the two brothers – each occupying family space like book ends – had little in common. Most of it had to do with age. But there was more: their personalities, their characters, their lifestyles were simply different. Green found William to be, well, boring and uninteresting.
Green spent much of his childhood watching his parents grow older and his brothers and sisters marry off and start their own households. By the time he was ten years old, seven of his nine siblings had married. Selkirk McCoy (b.1839) married Nancy Blankenship. Amanda McCoy (b.1841) married Lorenzo Dow Stump. Louisa McCoy (b.1843) married Ollie Blankenship. Lucinda McCoy (b.1848) married Isom Prater. Lynza McCoy (b.1850) married Fatima Daugherty. All settled in the vicinity of Knox Creek, maintained a close proximity to the McCoy home place and played a part in Green’s childhood. (One of his most vivid memories involved the death of Selkirk in the 1870s.) Still, for much of Green’s early life, there were only two siblings at home: Harrison McCoy (b.1852) and Josephine McCoy (b.1856). He developed a special fondness for Harrison, the brother closest to him.
As Green matured, he came to an awful realization that the family’s happiest times had passed – that he, as the youngest child, was somehow there at the end, catching the leftover moments… Watching his parents grow older only made him more aware of this fact. Between 1868 and 1879, his father sold off the family property piece by piece, mostly to relatives, and moved near the home of his son, William H. McCoy. For Green, losing the home place – once promised to him – was a source of shame. Perhaps if he had shown more interest – talked less about leaving – his father might have tried to keep it for him. It was a time of great stress for the family. In 1873, Green’s older brother James McCoy (b.1846) began to suffer from dementia, was institutionalized in an asylum, and ultimately became divorced from his wife and children.
By 1880, Green had taken up residence with Godfrey D. Dotson, a farmer on Peter Creek. He had always wanted to leave, to go away. He had left his parents on good terms: the family chalked it up to his wanderlust. (The fact his brother James had returned home, suffering from divorce and mental illness, also played a part. James was touched or, as the census enumerator had denoted him in 1880, “insane.”) Green enjoyed his time on Peter Creek, relishing his role as a migrant farm hand on the Dotson farm. It wasn’t very far away from Knox Creek, but it was a start. While there, he daydreamed about places far away. For a time, he and another boarder at the farm, cousin Richard McCoy, talked of catching a steamboat at Prestonsburg and riding it all the way to the Mississippi. Instead, in June of 1881, Green married Ella Jane Griffey – a pretty fifteen-year-old girl he barely knew – at the home of William Slone on Peter Creek. The two quickly settled in to a somewhat domestic life, producing two children. More and more, Green found himself away from Ella, mostly cutting timber and traveling with his fiddle.
In the mid-1880s, Green gave up married life and began carousing with his brother, Lynza. Lynza, once a happy and faithful husband, had turned into a noted skirt-chaser, pursuing as many women as he could on both sides of the Tug. At the urging of his aunt Louisa Blair, Green soon re-located in Harts Creek, where there seemed to be opportunity. Lynza soon followed him. During the past year or so, the two had maintained close contact with brother Harrison McCoy, who remained with Mother and Father on Peter Creek, stoking the symbolic home fires for the family. Green kept Harrison informed about his life on Harts Creek, particularly about his trouble with Paris Brumfield. Harrison and Green were close. Harrison had named his second child after him in 1886. Numerous times, he urged his brother to leave West Virginia and move back to Kentucky…before it was too late.