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Tommy Jarrell's Family Stories 1830-1925: Part One

by Nancy Dols Neithammer

The following article was orginally published by The Old Time Herald(Vol. 3 #1 Aug-Oct 1991) and is reprinted with permission.

[There are many stories like the ones below---each with its own characters and regional flavors. We feel certain that anyone who has spent time with old master musicians, in any part of the country, has heard similar stories----stories to be remembered, cherished, and passed on---ed.]

The Round Peak area of Surry County, North Carolina, is famous for its rich tradition of old-time music, and a number of members of the Jarrell family have contributed to that tradition. The best known of these are Ben Jarrel (1880-1946), who recorded with Da Costa Woltz and His Southern Broadcasters, and Tommy Jarrell (1901-1985), whose influence on many younger old-time musicians playing today is legendary. Tommy made a number of commercial recordings, performed at festivals all over the U.S., and shared his music with countless visitors who found their way to his door and enjoyed his generous hospitality. Tommy enjoyed life and he enjoyed people, and his music showed it.

Tommy also enjoyed telling stories---not folktales, but the kind of stories we all tell,about memorable events in our own and others' lives: things we experienced, or heard about, that we know will capture the listener's interest when retold. Tommy had a rich store of fascinating stories, many of them about family members. This article contains a selection of Tommy's stories about his ancestors and his early life, covering the period 1830 (approximately) to1925, when Tommy started working for the Highway Department and "settled down". The stories in this article are edited from tapes of Tommy made between 1980 and 1983.

Jarrell Family Roots In Rockingham County

Tommy's great-grandfather, Fountain(Fount) Jarrell, moved his family from Rockingham County, North Carolina, to Lambsburg, Virginia, probably in the 1830s(date based on Rockingham County census records of the period). Lamsburg is in Carroll County, Virginia, near the North Carolina state line.

Now, my great-great-grandaddy[Fount Jarrell's father], he had a big plantation down there in Rockingham County, and he had a big family. The old man died and they was settlin' up the estate and my great-grandaddy got mad over it-old man Fount did, and he left. I reckon he thought he didn't get his part or somethin', I don't know. But anyhow, he moved up to Lambsburg, Virginia, and there wasn't no post office up there then, and they called it Rocksburg, Virginia. He lived up there several years and one of his daughters died while he lived up there and she was buried up there in Virginia. Well, then he moved over in North Carolina, in the face of the peaks over there. He cleared him up some land up there in the face of that mountain, took up land-you could take up land then you know, you didn't have to buy it-and there's where he raised his family, over there, part of 'em.

The second move described above, from Lambsburg down the mountain into Surry County, North Carolina, was only about three miles as the crow flies.

How Fisher's Peak Got Its Name

The land that Fount Jarrell "took up" was near the foot of Fisher's Peak (a few miles north of Round Peak). Tommy tells the following story of how Fisher's Peak got its name.

[Colonel Daniel Fisher] was a surveyor. He was a-runnin' a line between North Carolina an' Virginia, him an' some more fellers. An' that's where he run his straight line to, y'know, it goes right across the top of that peak, the state line does. An' he got hot, climbin' that mountain there, an' drank too much water, is what everybody thought, back in them days. They thought it was like a hog, y'know, you can get a hog hot an' let him drink some water, an' they say it melts his fat. An' that Fisher, they said he was a big fat feller. Well, they thought that's what happened to him, is melted his fat. But he just probably had a heart attack, y'know. They buried him right on the line up yonder, close to where I was raised. They named that peak after him, Fisher's Peak.

Fount Jarrell's Toe

Fount Jarrell was a hard-drinking horse trader, and was "about two-thirds drunk" when the following story took place, according to Tommy. Perhaps that explains his amazingly detached approach to his problem.

Now he was my great-grandaddy, you know, old man Fount was. He was a horse trader, and he was bad to drink, too, you know. He'd start out with a horse and he'd sometimes be gone two weeks. And he'd swap horses with everybody he met, if they'd swap with him.

He had a corn on his big toe had been a-botherin' him for years. He come in home, been gone about two weeks. He told his wife, "Fanny", he said, "go get me that wood chisel and that mallet." He pulled off his shoe and his sock and he went out there and just set that foot up on that there chop block there an' put that chisel on that big toe there an' hit it with a mallet an' it flew off. He picked it up an' throwed it out to his dog, sayin'"Here, Watch, Here."

Well, all they done, his wife run in there an' run her hand up the chimbley an' got a handful of soot and put on that, just right on the end of that, an' wrapped a rag around it, by god, an' it got all right, never did get infected nor nothin'. My granddaddy [Rufe Jarrell] told me about that.

Both Fount's detachment and the use of soot to stop bleeding are echoed in the following passage from Our Southern Highlanders(1922), Horace Kephart's first-hand account of life in the Great Smoky Mountains in the early 1900s:

A woman gashed her foot badly with an axe: I asked her what she did for it; disdainfully she answered, "Tied it up in suit and a rag, and went to hoein' corn. [p.300]

Rufe Jarrell And The Hypocritical Prohibitioners

The following story is about Tommy's grandfather, Rufus "rufe" Jarrell (1839-1921). The Prohibition in the story is not national Prohibition, which was in effect from 1920 to 1933, but the North Carolina statewide Prohibition, which was passed by the state legislature in January 1908, subject to a statewide referendum vote. It passed, and went into effect July 1,1909.

Grandaddy made brandy for 25 years according to the law, you know. He had a license to make it, before the state went dry. Hillery Woods and Lef worked for ol' man John Greenwood down there, an' ol' man John, he was against liquor because he had a boy was awful bad to get drunk-Luther, you know. And so, they voted for the prohibition. Well, they come up there after it was over with and Grandaddy knowed how they voted, you know. They come up there wantin' some brandy. "Hell," let you have a damn drop of brandy---," he says, " by god, I wouldn't let you have a damn drop of brandy if you had a rattlesnake a'hangin to your hanger-down!" 'Course that wasn't exactly the way he said it. By god, he didn't let 'em have no brandy, neither.

Ben Jarrell's Fight With Bonus Mccraw

Tommy's father, Benjamin Franklin (Ben) Jarrell, was a well-known fiddler. In 1927 he recorded a number of 78s for the Gennett company in Richmond, Indiana, as part of the group Da Costa Woltz and His Southern Broadcasters. ( A selection of these recordings was reissued on County 524.) The following story concerns his fight with Bonus McCraw, who had a reputation as the town bully.

That happened up yonder at Pine Ridge, right where you turn off to go up to Earnest East's. Bonus was a Republican and Daddy was a Democrat, and he turned over. He weighed about 400 pounds, great big tall fellow-but he was short-armed. Be in the habit of knockin' a fellow down ,kickin' his rear end as he crawled off, you know, as his run off. Nobody hadn't never offered to fight him because they didn't think there was no use, he was such a big man.

He got to runnin' over some old man there, talkin' hateful to some old fellow there one day, an' Daddy told him, says, "Mr. McCraw," says, "you oughtn't to talk like that to that old man." [Bonus] turned around to my daddy, said, "By god," he said, "What is it to you?" "Well," Daddy says, "I just don't love to hear it." Well, they pulled off their coats, they was a-goin' to fight then and, my god, they wouldn't let 'em.

They'd fight back in them days, y'know, when they got ready to fight, they'd fight fair, y'know. They'd pull their coats off, an' just go into it you know, just like you see a prize fight now. But they don't nobody fight thataway now n' more, y'know, they'll kill you or somethin' another. But they'd fight with-they called it "fist an" skull."

Uncle Charlie tried to get Daddy to let him fight[Bonus]."Ben,"he said, "he'll whup you. By god, you better let me fight him." [But] Daddy said, "No, I'm gonna do the fightin'."

Well, the next time they went to fight, Uncle Charlie was there. He told 'em, he says, "Now, by god," he says, "I'll kill the first man touches either one of "em til one or t' other of "em hollers." Well, they went into it, an' Uncle Charlie standin' there, an' everybody was afraid to touch 'em.

In the first start of it, Daddy caught Bonus right there in the the shirt collar an' Bonus had on a old homemade shirt made out of domestic cloth, an' you can't tear that at all, you know. Daddy caught Bonus right in there an' just held him off out there-his arm's long enough he could hold him off out there. Every time he had a chance, he'd jerk him to him an' meet him with his fist. An' he just beat ol'Bonus-it was pitful. I heard fellows tell it that saw it, "Every time Ben hit him in the face, the blood would fly."

My daddy was an awful strong man too, but he wasn't near as big as Bonus. He only weighed about 180 pounds at that time I think. Well, Daddy said he'd get Bonus down, an' Bonus would get up with him "just like I was a baby on him." Said, "He struck some blows at me," he said, "if he'd a'landed, it would've paralyzed me. But," he said, "he's so far off, he couldn't get to me. I had him holdin' him off out there. Well, "he said," "the last time I got him down," says, "I seen he was a'gonna get up anyhow an', "says, "I just stepped to one side an' let him get up "bout on his all-fours, just ready to raise up. Then I took him right in the side of the face right there an' he rolled over on his back, just stretched out there-knocked him plumb out."

Well, he was just a'beatin' him in the face, you know, an' everybody was afraid to touch him. Ol' man Ben Alec Freeman, Dix's daddy, was a friend to both of 'em, you know. He seen what was goin' to happen. He just walked up behind my daddy an' just tapped him on the shoulder, says, "Ben, I don't believe I'd hit him n' more," says, "I believe he's already dead." My daddy looked up an' seen who it was, just crawled up off of him. Uncle Charlie didn't say a word, you know. But everybody was afraid but ol' Ben Alec Freeman. Well, he was a friend to Uncle Charlie, too, you know. And I guess Daddy'd beat hem to death, hadn't been for ol' man Ben Alec Freeman, Dix's daddy. Bonus didn't come to til next day at 10 o'clock. They hauled him away from there in a buggy. He never did have nary another fight.

That old man Wyatt McCaw, it tickled him mighty nigh to death, by god, when Daddy whupped Bonus. He said Bonus got just what he ought to had, said he'd been in the habit of just runnin' over people, you know. They made a crop with him there one time an' he beat' em out of it, so Wyatt said. He was mean.overbearing, you know.

[Ed Ward was at Rufe Jarrell's brandyhouse when he heard about Ben] beatin' up Bonus, an' it tickled him so good, he cut a big shine an' said, "By god,"said, "ifBen was here," said, "I'd just pick him up, run all the way around this brandy house with him." [Laughs] Well, it made ol' man Cris, I reckon, so mad, I believe he left an' never did get him no brandy at all. He was a Republican, y'know, an'Bonus was too, y'know. [Laughs] I don't think he ever got him any brandy. But I can recollect Ed Ward a-sayin' that just as good as if it'd been yesterday.

Ol' man Kenny Lowe told Bonus, said, "Bonus, you better not fight Ben Jarrell." Ben Jarrell's got long arms," says, "his arm's are a heap longer than your'n," said, "he'll whup the hell out of you." Bonus said by god, god almighty hadn't never put muscles on man could whup him. Said he could whup Ben Jarrell just as easy as hoeing tobacco But it wasn't quite that easy, when he hot at it.

Tommy's Early Life

Thomas Jefferson (Tommy) Jarrell was born March 1,1901, at his parents' home at the foot of Fisher Peak. He had one older "sister" (Maggie), a cousin who was raised as part of the family, and 10 younger brothers and sisters. The family raised much of their own food, including cattle, corn, buckwheat, rye, beans, cabbage, sugar cane, potatoes (Irish and sweet), apples, and tobacco.

Lord god, I done some awful hard work in my life. But it didn't hurt me when I was young, y'know. I was the oldest one there at home, an' my daddy was always gone, a-workin' in the store or doin' somethin', makin' whiskey or hone from home. Me an' Maggie, an' Grandaddy [Rufe], an' my mother, we made a crop. An' then Julie an' George an' Fred, they come along, an' we had a pretty good force there, y'know, long after they got up big enough to work.

I started plowin' on good land where there wasn't no stumps nor rocks nor nothin', when I was about eight, nine years old. We would work from sunup til sundown. Come home, come to the house an' eat dinner, y'know, an' maybe rest a little while. We'd go back an' work til sundown. Grandaddy never did know when to quit. He loved to work, by god. He wasn't lazy like I was. He'd try his best to pick out somethin' for you to do on a rainy day.

Tommy's First Banjo Tune

A home-cooked meal is ready -- calling out the back of his home in the Toast community near
Mt. Airy, N.C.
©Alice Gerrard

Before Tommy was old enough to plow, the family hired Bauga (pronounced "Bawgie") Cockerham to help with the farm work. Bauga taught Tommy his first tune on the banjo.

Bauga Cockerham, now, learned me that, y'know. That's when I was about seven, eight years old. Now, he was paid by the month, hired for a year, to make a crop. An' we was a'mindin' the old steers, out of the corn, down in the meadow down there, lettin' 'em graze. We had to let the old steers rest---Bauga plowed, worked 'em, y'know-had to let 'em eat some, twelve o'clock. An' he tuned the banjo down for ol' Reuben, the ol' timey way, y'know, of tuning. He handed it over t'me, said, "Here, Tommy," says, "you can play ol' Reuben." "Huh!" I says, " I ain't never could start a tune on nothin'." "Well," he says, "looky here," says, " ain't but one string to note right there." Says, "You can do that." An' he showed me, Y'know. Well, I got to foolin" with it, an' it wasn't but a little bit til I started ol' Reuben.

Tommy's First Banjo

Then, 'bout a year after that, might've not been a year, it might've been still while Bauga was a-stayin' there with us. Anyhow, Daddy bought me a banjo. Little old banjo, had a head on it. It was just about like that there little ol' homemade 'un I got in yonder that there feller made me. An' the arm was about [two feet] long an' the neck had been painted with pokeberry stain. The head was small an' the neck on the banjo was short, too, y'know. Well, hell, I was short, too, y'know. Me an' Grandaddy an' all of us settin' 'roun' the house there-I think we must've had a fire. Daddy come in at the door an' he had that banjo in his hand, says, "Here, Tommy, I bought you a banjer." Grandaddy looked up at him like that, he said, "He-e-ell," he said, "y' ought to bought 'im a damn mattock." But, you know, after I got learned to play that there thing pretty good, that ol' man, he got a big kick out of it.

Tommy's Fiddle

When Tommy was 13, he began learning to fiddle, using a fiddle of his dad's that had previously belonged to Tony Lowe.

There come a epidemic of that typhoid fever up there in our country [in 1911]. I had a little touch of it, an' there was several folks died with it, an' Tony[Lowe] was one of them that died. An' him an' Daddy fiddled a lot together, y'know. We lived in one holler an' they lived just over in the other. An', after a while, after Tony died, his widow come over there an' says, "Ben," says, " I know Tony'd rather you'd have his fiddle than anybody," says, " I need a little money an', "she says, " I want to sell it to you, with the understandin', if my boy ever growa up an' wants the fiddle back, that you let him have it back the same price that you give me for it." Daddy said, "Mae", her name was Mae, says, "Mae, what do you want for the fiddle? She says, " I want five dollars." Well, Daddy bought the fiddle.

I'd just started learnin' on it, y'know, an' Huston Moore, my mother's first cousin, come up there one time, him an' his wife, stayed all night with us, an' he brought this [other] fiddle, y'know. Well, Daddy had the Tony Lowe fiddle, an' he'd play first one fiddle an' then he'd play the other 'un an' they sounded so much alike, y'know. I couldn't tell the difference in the sound of 'em.

Well, [the Tony Lowe fiddle] come unglued back there at the neck, an' Daddy sent it down here to Mt. Airy to have it repaired, never did see the fiddle no more. I was beginnin' to learn a little on it, y'know, an' so I wanted that Huston Moore fiddle, "cause it' sounded so mush like the one I'd learned on. So I went and borrowed ten dollars from Ed Ward, went down an' I found out what Huston wanted for the fiddle, an' I went down there an' bought it, give him ten dollars for it. That's how come me with the fiddle. I bought it when I was fourteen years old, 1915. An' I've had it ever since.

I like to never got that fiddle paid for, I'd pay but a dollar or two at a time. Finally my daddy asked me one time, he said, " How much you still owe on your fiddle, Tommy?" I said, "Oh, two dollars an' a half." An' he just run his hand in his pocket an' handed me two dollars an' a half, said, "Go pay it off." But y'know, money was hard t'get a-holt of, by gosh, when I was fourteen years old.

[Nancy Dols Neithammer: How'd you earn the money, Tommy?] I win some if it playin' Crack or Lose. Penny at a time, pitchin' at the cracks [joints] on the [hardwood] floor, y'know? I was pretty good at it. You pitch pennies out there an' the one gets the closest to the crack or over the crack wins, y'know. Well, I win some of it like that.

We might have finally got to pitchin' for a nickel a crack, I don't know. Anyhow, you throw that money out there, y'know, an' hit'd dance around an' it'd lay down, y'know, like this here right here. See them cracks here? Joints, where the floor runs together? Well now, you get one right center over that crack, you couldn't lose. Somebody could tie it, but you couldn't lose, y'know. An' then say you got that close to a crack, nobody else didn't get no closer, you win all the money, y'know. You pick up all the pennies, or nickels, or whatever you was playin' for. You just stand an' pitch 'em up like that an' let 'em fall, y'know.

I have had 'em lay down just as center over that crack as could be. I had one crack was a little bit lower than the other one, an' it'd walk around, it'd get close to that crack, I never will forget that-that was sort of cheatin' a little bit I reckon, but they had the same privilege I did. The crack was there for everybody.

I was pretty lucky. I had a way of pitchin' mine, y'know. I'd stand straight with that crack an' I'd pitch it up straight an' it'd hit pretty close to that crack.

I loaned a feller two dollars an' an half one time, by gosh, just playin' Crack or Lose. By god, he never did pay me back. But that's all right. I'd have had my fiddle paid for when Daddy asked me that if I hadn't loaned that to that fellow.

Well, Tony's boy never did call for the [Tony Lowe] fiddle. "Course it got gone an', you know, he never did try to make no music. She had four girls, I believe it was, an' one boy. The baby one was a boy. An' he was just a kid, like kindly, when his daddy died.

Playing For His First Dance

Tommy played for hid first dance as a stand-in for his father, who had a previous commitment.

I recollect 'long about the first dance I ever played for. Clay Golking an' Bill [Golding] had been out in Indiana somewhere out there, been gone about a year. They came in, an' they wanted to have' em a dance down at Wash Gentry's. An' they come over there [to Tommy's father's store] an' wanted my daddy to go play the fiddle for 'em. Said they'd got Charlie Lowe t'go, Charlie said he'd go, an' they wanted my daddy t'go, an', will, Daddy'd done promised to' go down t'Sid Jarrell's an' play for that night for dance at Sid's. Well he told 'em, said, "Boys, I done promised Sid that I'd come down,"-see, Sid an' Daddy was first cousins,--"that I done promised Sid t' come down at his house an' play for a dance tonight. But," he said," I tell you what,"he said,"you might get Tommy t'go."

Well, here come Clay up there, an' Bill both, ridin' mules, come on up t'the house. He come up there an' asked me if I'd go, an' of course it tickled me. I said, "Well, I'll have t'see Daddy 'bout it." He said, " We done saw 'im, an' he said it'd be all right."

Well, I went on with 'em, t'the dance down there, an' Charlie Lowe was there, sure enough. An' me an' him, we was a' playin' for a dance, 'long about ten, eleven o'clock, in come Daddy an' Walter Lowe. By jingos, I quit then-Daddy, he went t'playin'. An', how come Daddy t'leave up there-Sid broke up the dance there at the house. Sid had married this here young woman. An' they'd run one or two reels, an' she was a'dancin' with Gil Stewart, one of her first cousins. An' Sid talked long[with a drawl], he walked up to her, says, "Evie, A-aah thought A-aah maaarried you." Jealous, you know. Well, that tore up the dance, there. Made Daddy mad, too, y'know, an' him an' Walter, they just, they knowed they was a-havin' a dance down at Wash Gentry's, so they lit out down there, walkin', y'know. It was about three or four miles.

I guess they danced there til twelve or one o'clock, maybe longer'n that, I don't know. Now, I know Daddy didn't get in til next day sometime. They carried me home that night, ride them damn mules, an' I was as sore, next day, I swear I never have been that sore. I wasn't used to ridin' much, y'know. God almighty, how sore I was.

Shortage Of Fiddlers

As Tommy got a little older, he had plenty of dances to play for.

See, there wasn't no fiddlers up there. Uncle Charlie an' Daddy an' Tony Lowe an' me, by gosh, was all the fiddlers there was around there. Mal Smith an' his brother Kenny, they was banjo pickers. An' them Creed boys, some of them could play. Bill Golding---an' there's three of them Norman boys, Jake an' Dixie an' Alec, they could all make music. There's a lot of banjo players around there, but there wasn't no fiddlers. [NDN: And guitar or mandolin players?] Weren't no guitar players back then-no mandolin. Just the banjo and fiddle is what they danced after, y'know, and by gosh, [if] there wasn't no banjo player, they'd dance by the fiddle. [NDN: What about the other way around? If there was no fiddle?] They'd dance with the banjo.

How Tommy Chipped The Corner Off His Fiddle

That's when I knocked that corner off the fiddle, when I got up to dance that reel, an' Charlie [Lowe] was pickin' the banjo right by hisself, y'know. See, we'd been a-playin' there, an' I did dance several reels, y'know, several dances an'we called 'em reels back then. An' somebody said, "Tommy, why don't you dance one." Well, I hadn't all night, so I just got up an' I tossed my fiddle there. I was aimin' to hit the bed with it an' it went a little too far an'hit the wall, knocked a corner off of it. Well, he played for that dance, y'know, right by hisself.


On Saturday nights, we'd have it up there at Wiley's or Banner's, one, y'know. We used to have 'em at Fate Scott's, Frazier Golding's, Crawford Sutphin's, [laughs] oh, we'd have dances everywhere. But mostly, now, it was up there at Banner Barker's an' Wiley Cockerham's. See, Banner had two girls, an' they love t'dance. [Stan?] Hawks had about a half a dozen girls, lived right there in the neighborhood, y'know, right in between Banner an' Wiley, an' there was them Barker girls over there, Walter Barker's two sisters, why hell fire, we could get up eight or ten girls there just in a little bit, y'know. An' there'd be about that many boys.

Then we'd get over there on, we called it goin' across the knob over there, we'd go down around Frazier Golding's, Frazier had four or five girls. Will, there's ol' man Tom Golding, he had four or five girls. Crawford Sutphin had a half a dozen or more [laughs]. We'd get down in that neighborhood, we'd go down there an' have dances, y'know, that was about three or four miles from home, y'know. [NDN: Had somethin' hoin' all the time.] Yeah.

Workings & Dances

At Tommy's home. l-r: Benjamin Franklin Jarrell, Tommy, Mike Seeger, 1970's

Dances were not always purely social occasions: they were often held in conjunction with work parties.

Well, what happened, all through the week " long at this time of year [march] an' in the wintertime, folks wanted to cut their flue wood to cure tobacco next year, or wanted to clear some land, they'd have what they called "wood-choppin" y'know. Invite in all the neighbor boys an' everything. You go cut, maybe clear up a acre or two of land, an' chop up the wood, an' everything, y'know. Well, we'd have that all through the winter. First one feller'd have a workin', then the next feller'd have one, an' everybody had to have a dance that had a workin'. 'Cause the boys wouldn't go chop no wood, if they couldn't let' em dance. So we had dances all over the whole territory over there like that.

Then, in spring of the year a lot of times we'd have a barn-raisin', raise a tobaccer barn, y'know. They'd cut the logs an' they'd get a bunch to come in an' build that tobaccer barn. They'd have a dance then, y'know.

Will, when the apples begin to come in, they'd have apple peelin's an' peel all the apples. Folks dried a lot of apples then, y'know. They'd put 'em out in the sun, an' dry 'em. Well, we'd have a dance at the apple-peeling's.

Then when the beans come in we'd have bean-stringin's. They'd dry them beans too, what they didn't want to can of 'em. I've seen beans piled up I guess this high right out in the middle of the floor an' all of us settin' round there by gosh a-stringin' beans. We'd get them beans all strung an' broke up an' everythin', they got everything out of the way, we had a dance then.

Well then, some feller he'd take a notion he wanted to make him a nickel or two, y'know, he'd have a ice cream supper. Freeze ice cream with an old time freezer, an' sell it for a nickel a cone. Have that, an' then have a dance, y'know.

An' then in the fall of the year, we'd have corn shukin's, by gosh, an' have dances, it'd everybody have a dance, y'know. They'd haul up their corn an' pile it in a row, maybe reach far as from here out yonder to the road, an' maybe this deep [chest height]. Piled up, hadn't never been shucked. We got the corn all shucked, an' the corn put up in the crib, shucks put up in the pen, then we went to the house an' went to dancin', after we eat supper, y'know. [laughs] Oh, we had somethin' goin' all the time like that up there.

That was 'fore World War I or anything, an' nobody didn't know nothin' about no wars, an' hadn't heared nothin' about it. All that troubled anybody up there in them days was when their people'd get bad off sick or somethin' like that, that's all the worry they had. "Cause they raised mostly what they eat, an' if they didn't have enough, didn't raise enough, they'd work it out some way or another, make' em a little whiskey an' sell that, y'know, an' get 'em some bread an' stuff like that. They didn't have nor worries at all. 'Less some of their folks got bad off sick or died or somethin' like that, that's all they had to worry about. They didn't study about no wars kike's a-goin' on now [1982]. Whether they's a gonna be laid off tomorrow or next day or what, y'know. Well you might say we had a perfect heaven up there, we didn't have a durn thing only we had enough clothes to hide our nakedness an' we had plenty to, like beans an' taters an' stuff like that, y'know.

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About the Author

Nancy Dols Neithammer

While studying ethnomusicology at UCLA , I became interested in Tommy Jarrell's fiddling.

In 1980 I visited Tommy. A couple hour visit ended up with living in North Carolina for two years, visiting Tommy frequently. I currently play with my husband Rusty in Pennsylvania with the Bow Rockers, an old-time band that plays for dances in the area.

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