Brandon asked Mae what else she’d heard from the family about Al’s trouble with Milt and Green.
“All I’ve ever heard them talk about is going and getting them fellers that shot him and her, over in Kentucky,” she said. “They was just a posse went — I don’t know who they were — they rode horses and went to Kentucky and hunted these men. They caught them and they brought them back I guess and put them on their horses. I think that’s the way Granny told it to me. The river was up, and they tied them to horses and had somebody on the other side to catch them when they come across. Run them horses across that river with them to the other side. That’s how they got them and brought them up here to Fry.”
Now how did they get possession of them?
“Wasn’t some of the law men with them?” Mae asked. “I think now they was some law had them, and they claimed they took them away from the law. They never did discuss it too much to me. I’ve just heard outsiders talk about it.”
Mae said the Brumfields and Dingesses made life hard on Ben Adams after hearing that he’d been the one who hired Haley and McCoy. One night, they set his house on fire and tried to flush him out into the yard so they could shoot him. His wife, hoping they wouldn’t hurt her, ran outside repeatedly and extinguished the blaze. She begged the Brumfields and Dingesses to leave them alone for her sake and that of her children, and promised to take the family away the next morning if they were spared. The attackers were apparently satisfied because they left Ben Adams alone afterwards.
I asked Mae if she knew French Bryant and she said, “Yeah, I knew French Bryant. He was one of the gang, they said, I don’t know. I wasn’t acquainted with him — seen him pass here.”
Brandon asked Mae what it was like at Hollena’s house in her time there.
“Well, the family just practically came in and out all the time,” she said. “Tom’s mother lived here in a little old three-room house, and she stayed down there. Ward was a manager — that was her husband — Tom’s daddy. He managed her till he got killed. They all just practically lived at home. Hendricks lived up in the bottom over in Harts. At daylight, him and his family come down here — every day, they never missed a day. The family helped cook. Just always a big crowd there.”
Brandon asked if Hollena ever did any cooking.
“Oh, no,” Mae said. “She couldn’t work. She was crippled up too bad. She hired people to stay with her, and then Tom’s mother stayed there and done the work a lot. I never seen her cook none but one Sunday. Everyone had gone somewhere and me and Tom had come over there. And me and her and Wesley — her husband — and Tom was the only ones there. And she said, ‘Me and Mae’s gonna cook dinner. Tom go out there and kill me one of them big fat hens. Gonna make me some homemade dumplings.’ I’d never made no dumplings. That’s just right after we’d got married. I said, ‘Granny, I don’t know how to make dumplings.’ ‘I’ll teach you. I know how.’ Buddy, she did. She made the finest pot of dumplings you ever ate. She’d tell you how to cook. She knew all about it.”
I wondered if Hollena liked to have music in her home.
“I never did see no music,” Mae said. “I don’t know whether she liked it or not. She didn’t even have records probably. Had an old organ. I guess some of her girls mighta played it, you know. They was married and gone when I come into the family.”
Two local fiddlers, Bob and John Martin, sometimes came around and played for Hollena’s boarders. At these gatherings, there was moonshine for everyone (including Hollena, who liked to nip).
Mae heard that Milt Haley’s son — a blind fiddler — once had dinner there.
“His son, Ed Haley, come down there at Granny’s,” she said, catching me totally by surprise. “He played music, and he’d been around here playing music. He was down there around the mouth of the creek somewhere around her home, and she made them bring him in and feed him dinner. She didn’t hold no grudge. I’ve heard them tell it. I think maybe he stayed around in the community here. They used to have — I’ve heard them talk about it — them old dances around on Saturday nights. See all I know I’m telling you is just hearsay, something that somebody told me.”
Brandon asked Mae about Hollena Brumfield’s death. Mae wasn’t sure exactly what killed her.
“Supposed to been old age,” she said. “I don’t know whether she had any other problems or not. She was sick. Not long — one or two weeks.”
Brandon asked, “Did Hollena make any confessions or give any advice on her deathbed?”
Mae said, “I wasn’t a Christian at that time and I never asked her no questions like that. I don’t know whether she ever belonged to any church or not.”
Brandon said, “Somebody told me that right before she died she wanted a preacher named Charlie Curry to see her.”
“Probably did,” Mae said. “I don’t know. She may have.”
Charlie Curry, I remembered, was the preacher who once refused to baptize Ed Haley because he was drunk and wouldn’t give up playing the fiddle.