Back in Harts, Brandon and Billy visited Tom Farley on the Marsh Fork of West Fork of Harts Creek. Tom was the grandson of Burl Farley, one of the ringleaders in the Brumfield-Dingess mob of 1889. He was a great storyteller and knew a lot of interesting tales about the old vigilantes around Harts.
“Milt Haley and Green McCoy, my grandpa Burl Farley was in that,” Tom said. “Dealer Dave Dingess was in that. Dealer Dave Dingess played the fiddle for them when they chopped them boys’ heads off. He wasn’t a mean fellow. Burl Farley and them just got him drunk. French Bryant and Burl Farley was supposed to been the men who went over and chopped their heads off. My uncle Lewis Farley was in it.”
French Bryant, Tom said, married his aunt Polly Dingess.
“I’ve heard that Polly was one of the hatefulest women that ever took a breath,” he said. “A lot of people said she was the Devil’s grandma. French Bryant, he took her by the hair of the head and he tied her up to that apple tree. She took pneumonia fever and died.”
Tom told a great story about Bryant.
“French Bryant, I know a story they told me. It might be a lie. He was hooked up with the Ku Klux Klan. Was a captain of them. This is an old story. It’s supposed to happened right up here in this hollow. Dealer Dave and a bunch of them had their moonshine still set up in here. There was some young men came back in this country looking for Burl trying to get them timber jobs. They thought they was spying on them. This might every bit be lies but I was told this by all them old-timers. Burl Farley, Dealer Dave Dingess, French Bryant, Lewis Farley, and a bunch of them was supposed to’ve beheaded them right under that beech tree, my daddy always told. This story goes that they come in here looking for work. The Ku Klux Klan brought them here, made old Polly Dingess cook them a midnight supper. Dealer Dave played the fiddle for them and they danced all night. The next day at twelve o’clock Polly fixed a big dinner. Their last meal. One of them told the other two, said, ‘We just might as well eat. This is the end of the line for us.’ One of them just kept eating. He told the other two, said, ‘You better eat because this is the last meal we’ll ever eat.’ Said French Bryant cussed them and said, ‘Eat because you’ll never eat another meal.’ Dealer Dave asked them, ‘What do you want me to do as your last request?’ Said two of them cried and wouldn’t say a word. Said that one boy that eat so much told Dealer Dave, said, ‘Play ‘Satan’s Nightmare’.’ Took them out there at one o’clock under that beech tree and laid their heads across the axe and chopped two of their heads off. Said two of them cried and wouldn’t say a word. Said that one boy that eat so much told Dealer Dave, said, ‘Play ‘Satan’s Nightmare’.’ They chopped their heads off. Said French took their heads and set them on the mantle.”
So Dealer Dave Dingess was a fiddler?
“Dealer Dave played the fiddle,” Tom said. “I remember seeing old man Dave. He was tall and skinny. He played ‘Blackberry Mountain’ and a bunch of stuff. ‘Wild Horse’. Dealer Dave was the biggest coward that ever put on a pair of shoes. When it would start to get dark, my daddy and my uncle Bill Dingess — just tiny kids — they’d have to walk up this hollow with him. One would walk in front of him and the other one behind him. Said Lee Dingess cussed him all to pieces, told him, said, ‘Dealer Dave, nobody’s gonna hurt you. There ain’t a man alive that’s gonna bother you.’ Dave said, ‘Hush, Lee. I’m not afraid of the living. I’m afraid of the dead.’ Afraid to pass that cemetery. They called him Dealer Dave because he horse-traded so much and every time he got cheated he cried and he had to trade back with you. Make a trade today and tomorrow he’d cry till you give him his horse back. They said he was good on the fiddle. They said he played for square dances.”