About an hour later, Brandon showed up at Pat’s, followed by various members of the Haley clan: Noah, Clyde, and a bunch of children and grandchildren. The house was soon full of people — talking and eating. It was a bittersweet moment due to Lawrence’s absence, although his spirit was everywhere. I watched the Haleys — Ed’s children and grandchildren — business executives, gamblers, bar owners — mix with one another. Conversation was friendly between them, although there seemed to be an estrangement — especially among the younger ones. Basically, they were raised up separate from each other (the “Kentucky Haleys” vs. the “Ohio Haleys”); to be honest, it was as if they really didn’t know each other that well.
I realized that the binding force in Ed’s family — the glue that held all of them together — was the music…or at least the memory of it. Children who had never met before were sitting in the floor together or running through the house and yard — some hearing about Ed for the first time. I kept thinking about how one of them might some day pick up a fiddle and naturally crank out some of those “Haley licks.”
Brandon and I sat in the living room with Noah, Clyde, and Mona. Clyde immediately started talking about Ed.
“I used to hate him — hate that man — the way he treated Mom,” he said.
“Evidently, Mom cared for him or she wouldn’t a let it go on,” Noah said.
“I learnt as I got older and got a little tolerance in my mind I learned to forgive my hate for my dad to something else,” Clyde said. “I give it to God or whatever you want to call it.”
“I think the reason you didn’t like him Clyde was because when we stole them ducks there at Keyser Creek, he took each one in a room by ourself and he took a strap and he held us by the arm and he beat the hell out of us,” Noah said, laughing.
“That was Mr. Runyon’s ducks,” Clyde said. “Yeah, he beat us with the buckle part of that belt.”
“Yeah, and I think that’s why you didn’t like him,” Noah said. “I remember that beating we got.”
Clyde said, “Oh, we got a good one, didn’t we?”
I asked where Ed lived when that happened and Clyde said, “That was a four-room house. Ralph, our oldest brother, he had made a trapdoor in that floor and he used to bootleg moonshine through that trapdoor.”
“Clyde, you remember the cow he stole and kept it under the porch?” Noah asked.
Clyde said, “Yeah, Ralph did that. That wasn’t a cow. That was a calf. Our house stood up on stilts and Ralph or somebody had fenced that all in to keep that calf in. Got that while he was in the CCCs.”
Noah said, “And he built a trapdoor so he could go down through the floor…”
“In the bedroom,” Mona added.
Clyde laughed and said, “Ralph got that calf in the house and he was trying to put that calf up in Mom’s lap and it done something all over Mom.”