Alice Baisden, Appalachia, blind, Cas Baisden, Clifton Mullins, Clyde Haley, Dicy Baisden, Ed Haley, Ella Haley, Green Shoal, Harts Creek, Hazard, history, Imogene Haley, John Hartford, John Henry, Kentucky, Lawrence Haley, Lincoln County Feud, Liza McKenzie, Liza Mullins, Loretta Mullins, Mag Farley, Milt Haley, Perry County, Peter Mullins, Sol Bumgarner, Trace Fork, West Virginia
We found Bum on our way up the hollow and went to sit on his porch with his aunt, Liza McKenzie, two of his sisters, Alice and Dicy — and of course Shermie. As soon as Liza figured out who we were she looked at Lawrence and said he was just a small boy the last time she’d seen him.
“Yeah, I guess around 1940 or ’41 was the last time I come to this area,” Lawrence said.
Liza said, “Well, I lived in Kentucky about sixty years. Perry County, up in Hazard.”
I said to her, “Is that where Milt Haley was from?” and she said, “I don’t know but now Ed Haley was borned and raised right around here. When he was a boy, he got up on top of that house down there where Aunt Mag used to live — in that old two-story house — and rolled off in a box. Mother said, ‘Lord, Ed, are you hurt?’ He said, ‘No, God no. It’s give me eyesight.’ He said he jarred his eyesight back.”
I liked Liza right away.
I asked her if she had any pictures and she said, “Loretta’s mother had all the pictures of Ed Haley I ever did know. They used to have a picture down there at Loretta’s of Ed’s mother. She was a pretty woman.”
She looked at Clifton and said, “Clif, I believe your mother had a picture of Ed Haley that was made down there at the old home where he was born and raised. Down there where Aunt Mag used to live. I know they had them.”
Clifton remembered it.
“Yeah, they was sitting out in the yard,” he said. “They was together. She was in the chair and he was standing. He didn’t have no pants on.”
Clifton said, “Yeah, you’re right. They was a picture down there. But I looked; they was so many pictures in that box.”
Box of pictures? I thought.
Before I could ask about them, Clifton said, “There’s one down there faded out. It’s in a big frame. I got it in another building.”
He told me, “I can show them to ya.”
About that time, Cas Baisden came up to the porch. Bum said he was Liza’s 83-year-old twin brother. I asked Cas if he remembered Ed and he said, “I knowed him, yeah. He was raised up here. Old man Peter lived down at the mouth of the holler and his boy lived up the road here and old man Ed’d go up there and he’d come down that road a running and jumping just like he could see and cut the awfulest shine that ever was.”
Lawrence joked, “That’s probably how Clyde got to be the way he was.”
Cas said, “Yeah, I guess Clyde took after him. Clyde went out here and got down in a well once and they had the awfulest time that ever was getting him out. Way back in top of a mountain.”
I asked Cas about the first time he ever saw Ed and he said, “It’s been many a year ago. He stayed down here, him and his wife and them. They’d play music and drink and fight and scratch with one another and them boys was so mean… He’d get so drunk he couldn’t walk.”
Bum knew that Ed was real “easy to get mad about music,” but said he could get him to play nearly anything he wanted because Ed liked him. He’d ask Ed to play something like “John Henry” and he’d say, “Are you sure that’s what you want me to play? You know, I was just thinking about playing that.” If Ed didn’t like someone Bum said he’d “goof around” and not play for them.
Things kinda tapered off after that. Nobody knew anything about Ed having any brothers. Cas had heard about Ed’s father, who he thought was named Green.
“You know, he got killed when I was a little fella, I guess,” Cas said. “His name was Green. They took him over yonder on Green Shoal, they said, and killed him. Walked him down here and up Smoke House and over and down Piney and across the river.”
I asked if Lawrence looked like Ed and Liza said, “Yes, he does. Ed was a bigger man than he is. Ed was a big man.”
But Lawrence looks like Ed in the face?
“Yeah, he looks like him all over.”
Cas said, “Ed was a taller man. I guess he takes after his mother. She’s a little short woman.”
Lawrence agreed: “Yeah, she was about five feet tall — not much bigger than Aunt Liza.”
A site about one of the most beautiful, interesting, tallented, outrageous and colorful personalities of the 20th Century
For Readers, Writers, and Lovers of Historical Fiction
My journey to a new life
Forget where your feet are and simply enjoy the view.