Thursday, April 25, 2019

Fishing with a Preacher, By Mickey Brackett April 2019

          The largest body of water running through Golden Valley North Carolina is the First Broad River. This mountain stream meanders through the valley requiring several bridges that allow automobile traffic to flow uninterrupted across the river today.

          This river has provided opportunities for many activities such as swimming, church baptisms, car washing, farm animal watering holes, irrigation, gold panning, sand dredging, and fishing. As a young boy my brothers and neighbor friends would spend hours bank fishing for catfish into the night using only candle light. As children a hot summer Sunday afternoon swim was always a treat. Our hard-working daddy always treasured his Sunday afternoon naps. A swim in the river required daddy to take us and protect us from drowning. The trick was to wake him up early enough from his nap before chore time but not too early which would guarantee anger and no swimming in the river. Through the years the state or others have dredged river sand and piled it up along the river bank to be used by the highway department or others to spread on washed out roadbeds. Our family hauled many pickup loads of sand from these piles through the years to fill ruts and dips in the steep dirt driveway up to our house. The Golden Valley name comes from gold being found in the rivers and streams decades ago. People still pan or dredge for gold in the First Broad River today seeking gold nuggets or gold dust.
Up the Golden Valley Church Road past the Roy Fortune homeplace and before you reach the Cleveland (Cle) Rollins homeplace is a narrow turnoff into the river which our family always referred to this as the ford. In past generations before public highway bridges were built those traveling through Golden Valley would ford the river at this location. On the opposite side of the river is the farm known as the Creed Fortune homeplace. This farm was settled in the early 1700’s by my ancestors many of which are buried in the family cemetery on the farm. The old log cabin on the farm is still standing and is where my brother David and I were born in the early 1950’s during the time daddy was farming with help from the GI bill after WWII. I’m sure daddy and our ancestors crossed the river at the ford many times at the place where I fished with the preacher.
          Preacher Seay served First Broad Baptist church for several years when I was a young boy living in Golden Valley. His family lived in the church parsonage across from the church which was approximately a mile from the First Broad River ford place. The river always had cold water which was ideal for trout. The state wildlife department would stock the river yearly trying to establish a good population of river trout. Often the trout fishing season would start one day after the river was stocked with new trout. On season opening day fisherman would almost line the banks or be wading in the cold water easily catching these newly released fish. During one of these early fishing season days I had walked from home with my fishing gear and bait to fish at the ford. Being under age 16 a fishing license was not required. I found the fish and caught several trout which I hooked onto a stringer which was tied to a small tree on one end and the fish were lowered into the cold water on the other end. Later the fish would be taken home and eaten. Suddenly Preacher Seay walked up and wanted to do some fishing. The action had slowed in the spot I had caught the fish but I allowed him to stay there at the stringer and throw where I had just been fishing. I walked downstream and tried another hole. While baiting his hook between casts a North Carolina game warden walked up to the preacher and started talking. Realizing that he had no fishing license he had two choices. One, he could lay down the fishing rod and say those are not my fish on the end of that stringer and go home. Or two, cast the bait into the river and take the consequences.  Being a man of faith, he took choice number 2, the honest route, and cast the line into the water which immediately required the game warden’s request to see his fishing license. With no license in his pocket the game warden issued a violation ticket. The saddest part was he had caught no fish to lessen his troubles. I admired the preacher’s honesty and never forgot the lesson he taught on the river bank that day.

Oh Ruby, Don’t Take the Volkswagen to Town, By Mickey Brackett - April 2019

I was 16 and had my North Carolina driver’s license. Sharon Queen, my neighbor wanted to go to a Kenny Rogers’ concert at Garden Webb College 25 miles away. Her parents would not let her go unless going with a group. Sharon being a year younger than me did not have her driver’s license yet. Her parents would allow some one with a driver’s license drive the group in their Volkswagen beetle to the concert. They suggesting asking me to be the driver. I had never driven the VW and had driven manual transmission vehicles very little. My parents had a car with an automatic transmission so I had no way to practice. I agreed to go plus two others joined the troop and with dreams of hearing great music four of us got into the VW and off we went.
            The VW beetle was an unusual car with an air-cooled engine, a downward sloping front hood and smaller in size than most of the wide track, eight-cylinder cars driven by the majority of Americans in the 1960’s. The VW was imported from Germany and had been made since the 1940’s. All the VW’s had a 4-cylinder engine and four speed manual transmission. Four people was the most the car would seat comfortably.
            Most would agree that the hardest part of driving a manual transmission car is taking off on an incline without rolling backward and without stalling the engine. Our first intersection was where the Sunshine/Golden Valley road intersects with highway 226 at Butler’s Store (name back in the 1960’s). We had to go towards Shelby North Carolina which required starting uphill from the stop sign. I had to let the clutch out slowly while pressing the accelerator slightly and hopefully start up hill smoothly without killing the engine.  The VW clutch was not my friend this day. I tried 4-5 times to do this procedure and each time the engine stalled which required turning the ignition to restart the engine. The other three passengers were female making my inability more embarrassing. Luckily there were no other vehicles behind our vehicle impatiently waiting for this unskilled driver to get out of their way. If I could just start off on level ground or downhill all would be easier. After a few more unsuccessful attempts at clutch and gas pedal synchronization I decided to let the car roll backwards into the Butler’s Store parking lot. I turned the vehicle downhill which would have taken us down Highway 226 toward Marion. But just as the vehicle starts rolling downhill, I turn uphill sharply toward Shelby, shift through the four gears, and we were finally making progress getting to the concert. I was still dreading any intersections along our route where I might have to go through this embarrassing procedure again. Somehow, we made it to Gardener Webb College, parked the vehicle, and heard Kinney Rogers and the First Edition sing many songs including “Oh Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town”.