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A few days later, Brandon and I loaded up the bus and headed to Harts where we arrived about midnight and parked at the Fas Chek. The next morning, we drove to Trace Fork to scope out the hollow. Initially, we stopped to see Von Tomblin, Ewell Mullins’ daughter, who lived next door to “Ed Haley’s place.” Von said she thought the back part of her father’s house was original; we were welcome to walk over and check it out.

“Just be sure and watch for snakes,” she said.

We trudged over through the field to the maroon house where we cluelessly looked at it.

Eventually, Brandon pointed down the bottom to the site of Uncle Peter’s place at the mouth of Jonas Branch. A few minutes later, as we sat in a swing under a tree at Uncle Peter’s place, taking in the sights and smells, Clifton Mullins came walking up with a big grin on his face, decked out in a Hank Williams, Jr. T-shirt. We told him we were trying to figure out just how old Ewell’s house was and he suggested that we walk up the hollow and ask Bum about it.

In no time whatsoever, we were on the porch with Bum, Shermie, and two sisters named Alice and Dicy. We had a very confusing — but potentially crucial — conversation about Ewell’s place:

Brandon: Now Ewell had an older home before that one, didn’t he?

Bum: They built onto it, what they done.

Brandon: Which is the old part?

Bum: The back part again’ the hill.

Brandon: Now, Ewell bought that place off of Ed.

Bum: Well now, Ewell built the front part. But the log house that was here, Ed or some of them built it. Some of his people. Older house there. If I ain’t badly mistaken, it was a log house. Got different grooves on it now than what it was.

Brandon: Was you ever in the old place?

Bum: Yeah. Had four or five rooms.

Brandon: When did Ewell tear it down?

Bum’s sister: I think all they tore down was the kitchen part to it.

Brandon: So part of Ewell’s house is the old place?

Bum: They took out the back here again’ the hill.

Brandon: Is part of the old log home still there?

Bum: It’s covered up now.

Brandon: But they’s log under that?

Bum: Yeah, I think it is.

We eventually headed down the hollow to Clifton’s, where his sister Connie showed us more family photographs. Clifton showed us his storage building, which featured Aunt Liza’s beautiful spinning wheel on piles of bags and boxes. Brandon and I agreed right then and there that we would give just about anything to have it. For all we knew, Liza had used it to make or mend Ed’s clothes when he was a boy.

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