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A little later, Brandon visited Lillian Ray, a seventy-something-year-old daughter of Cecil Brumfield who lived in a beautiful two-story house on the Smokehouse Fork of Harts Creek. Lilly, he discovered, had a lot of the old Dingess family photographs. To Brandon’s surprise, there were several thick-paged Victorian velvet-covered albums full of tintypes and a few boxes of sepia images on decorative cardboard squares. Only a few were labeled, but he recognized some of the faces: Al Brumfield, Henderson and Sallie Dingess, Hugh Dingess, Mrs. Charley Brumfield, Mrs. John Brumfield, and Dave Dingess. No doubt, there were pictures in the album of Ben Adams and Hollena Brumfield in their youth.

Before leaving, Brandon asked Lilly about Ed Haley. She said she remembered him coming to her father’s house when he lived in the old Henderson Dingess homeplace. He would just show up, leading himself with a cane, and stay for two or three days. Lilly hated to see him come because he was so hateful to the Brumfield children — “always running his mouth.” She described him as a “little short man” who “drank a lot” and told how he and Bernie Adams once borrowed a fiddle from her father and then pawned it off in Logan. The fiddle originally belonged to Tom Martin.

Not long after visiting Lilly, Brandon sent me a letter updating me on his research along with pictures of people we’d only imagined. As they turned up, I wondered if I were to go into a room with Al, Paris, Milt, Green, French, Cain, Runyon — without knowing who any of them were — which ones would I take to strictly on a personality basis? Which ones would I have a gut reaction to think, “Well, he’s a pretty fair good old boy,” or, “Boy, I don’t know about that feller there. Something’s just not right.” I mean, you walk in the room and, “That’s Al Brumfield?” No way. “That’s Cain Adkins?” Nope, I can’t believe that.

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