We later drove to see Tootsie Tomblin, a younger sister to Jake and a neighbor on Big Branch. Tootsie greeted us at the door, flanked by her tall husband Clabe, and a small nut-cracking housedog that barked at our every movement — even after we’d sat down at a large eating table in the dining room.
Tootsie referred to Ed Haley as “Uncle Ed” and said her whole family loved him. She said he was “a great person…so understanding.” Ed was particularly close to her mother, Nary Dalton.
“Ed thought the world of my mother. He thought my mother was the finest woman he had ever laid his eyes on. And he’d tell her, he’d say, ‘Come over here Nary and set down beside me. I want to talk to you a little bit.’ And he’d tell her everything about hisself, and about his wife, his children and everything. He loved her cooking.”
“Daddy had a whole litter of kids and we all had nicknames but Mommy insisted on calling us by our real names. And Ed, being blind, couldn’t figure out why there were so many kids in the home. He called for Mom. ‘Hey Nary, come in here and set down beside of me.’ Mom went to him and said, ‘What are you a wanting, Ed?’ He said, ‘I’ve listened for three or four days and I’m kind of buffaloed.’ She said, ‘What are you buffaloed on?’ Ed said, ‘You got too many kids. All of these names don’t add up. What are we a doing with all these names?’ Mom laughed and then explained it to him.”
Before we could ask Tootsie any more questions, she showed us several small boxes of old family photographs while feeding us donuts, pie and milk. I asked her if she remembered much about Ed coming to her father’s house.
“They was a funny family of people,” she said. “I mean, they had peculiar ways. They was different. Them people went clean as pins. You never seen them dirty. Ed could take care of them good as I could mine and me with eyes. When Ed spoke, he spoke with authority. They knew he meant what he was saying. He’d say, ‘Now, that’s enough,’ and that was it. He never had to whip his kids.”
Tootsie said Ed mostly visited Dood at his first home (“Jake’s place”) and never brought his wife with him. Later, after her father built his new house in 1951 (her current home), Ed only came a time or two. On his last trip, he had a Jacob Stainer or a Stradivarius violin with him.
“He was here in the fall and died the next summer or maybe that winter,” she said. “One of his boys brought him here.”
When Ed was in Harts, he traveled a lot with Jeff Mullins, a simple-minded man and brother to Aunt Liza who stayed with the Adams family. In Logan, he played with his wife or a colored man.
I asked Tootsie if she remembered a lot about how her father played the fiddle. She said she was sure that he played with the fiddle under his chin. Some of his tunes were “Cacklin’ Hen”, “Wednesday Night Waltz”, and “Bear Dog” — basically what Ed played. He could also play a little on the guitar and sing. Tootsie really bragged on Ed’s singing — like his “Coming Around the Mountain” — and kind of caught us off guard when she said, “Buddy, Ed Haley could dance. He was a chubby fellow but he could move. That old man could move.”