Angeline Lucas, banjo, Brandon Kirk, Daisy Ross, dulcimer, Faye Smith, fiddlers, fiddling, Fire on the Mountain, Green McCoy, history, John Hartford, Kenova, Kentucky, Lincoln County, Mariah Adkins, Milt Haley, music, Spicie McCoy, West Fork, West Virginia, writing
We next inquired about Green McCoy. We were particularly curious about why he left Kentucky and settled in Harts.
“I don’t know why he went up there,” Daisy said. “He was just playing music and started running around, I guess.”
Green and Spicie had a love for music in common.
Daisy said her mother “always liked music” and sung “from the time she was a little girl.” She “could sing any part of music — all four parts” — and “could play a banjo and she was left-handed. Played pretty good. She said she could play a dulcimer.”
Green was Spicie’s “first boyfriend” and she was crazy for him, even though she knew very little about his past.
“Grandma Spicie, she called him Will,” Faye said. “His name was William Greenville.”
“She didn’t even know Green McCoy was married till after she was engaged to him,” Daisy said of her mother. “He come up there with his brother and pretended to be single. Aunt Angeline, I think, was the one who found it out. And after Grandmaw found it out, she tried to keep Mom from marrying him, but Mom loved him so good she couldn’t believe it. They tried to keep Grandmaw from marrying him, but that just made her love him that much more.”
She “loved him so good she went ahead and married him anyhow.”
Green and Spicie settled in one of the small shacks on the Adkins farm. Faye said she’d heard that Green “would go off for a couple of weeks for a time,” then return home to his young wife, who always ran out to hug him. He’d tease her by running through the yard or “maybe around the house a couple of times — make her chase him. She was thrilled to death to see him come back.”
We wondered if perhaps Green was traveling between wives or playing music abroad, since Daisy said he never had any occupation aside from music.
I asked if he was a drinking man and Faye said, “If he had a been, Grandma wouldn’t a told it ’cause that woulda looked bad on him. Grandma Spicie told Green that she would swim the briny ocean for him.”
Okay…so what about Milt Haley?
Daisy said he was a good friend to Green and her mother. I asked if she thought we would ever find that picture of them together and she said, “No, I don’t. Mom kept it in her trunk. My niece has got it but she’s sick and got a house full of junk like I have and will never find it. She got Mom’s pictures. It was a little tintype snapshot of him and Green McCoy standing together. I think he had a hat on — seemed like both of them had a hat on in that picture. That was when they was playing music, but they didn’t have no instruments with them.”
I got a sheet of paper and tried to do a sketch, asking questions like, “Do you remember if he had bushy eyebrows?” or “Thin face, you reckon?”
I was pretty desperate.
Daisy kept insisting, “I can’t remember. I can’t tell you how somebody looks.”
Brandon asked if Milt and Green knew each other in Kentucky, before their move to Harts.
“No,” Daisy said. “Not until he come up there. I don’t know, now, where Milt Haley come from. They played music together.”
I wondered if Milt was the best fiddler between the two and Daisy said, “I don’t know which one was the best.”
“But Grandma thought Green was the best, didn’t she?” Faye said to her mother.
“Oh yeah,” Daisy said. “That was her husband. I never heard her say nothing against Haley.”
I asked if Spicie ever mentioned the names of any tunes that Green played and she said, “She might’ve said some of them. One of them I think was ‘Fire on the Mountain’.”
I got real excited hearing that and asked if she would remember more tunes if I played for her.
“No, I wouldn’t recognize…,” she said. “I never heard fiddles very much. My brothers had them there some, but they never played fiddles too much. They had guitars and banjos and pianos and organs and other stuff.”
I gave it a try but all I got when I played Ed’s version of “Fire on the Mountain” was, “That’s all right, but I don’t feel like dancing.”
We all cracked up and Faye warned us about her mother, who sat stone-faced in her chair.
“Sometimes she’s a smarty,” she said.