Thursday, July 23, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: My Memories Begin

Forever A Hillbilly: My Memories Begin: The very first memory I have involves me sitting in a chair, a dress on, (my three siblings, just older than me were girls, so a dress ...

My Memories Begin

The very first memory I have involves me sitting in a chair, a dress on, (my three siblings, just older than me were girls, so a dress was just what was available, it wasn't my choice!) and sister Barbara Lou was tickling me under the chin, saying “goochy-goo!” There are a few memories then at two. In one, brother Harry was graduating from high school. I was sitting on mom's lap, but I wanted to go to where Barbara lou and my other sister Janette were. I hollered “Baba-Net” again and again and again. Harry said later that was the only thing he remembered about his graduation.


     In another, the California cousins were visiting. Mike Ford, my cousin who was about my age but eons ahead in his development, was sitting beside me on the couch, asking, “Why can't you talk?”
 My thoughts ran something like, “Well, I should answer him, but I don't know the answer, and also, I can't talk!” They tell me I didn't talk until I was three.  I understand that I had no teeth at two years old. My siblings decided that, since Mom and Dad Mom was 40, Dad 52) had both lost their teeth before I was born, I must have inherited that condition! I also had a very bad case of whooping cough at two, and got very pale and skinny. Some tell me I almost died. I don't remember that.

I became very adept at playing paper dolls, using what we could cut out of the old Sears catalog. We went into the egg business big time when I was very young. One year, we put laying boxes in the hallway of the barn, and they ranged out in front of the barn and house during the day. That was quite a sight with six hundred chickens out in front of the house! There is a picture of that on my wall page.

     We built a long chicken house. One of my jobs was to help gather eggs. It was very scary to reach under an old “sittin' hen” and steal her eggs. It displeased her greatly! Also, I had to watch my back. A big cranky rooster could back jump me at any time. More often than I care to remember, I approached a nest only to find a huge black snake, full of eggs. Carrying the eggs to the house, old Jersey, one of our milk cows who was very cranky, chased me if she was around close. No wonder I was so paranoid and timid at a young age, an never really got over it.

     We had no automobile during the first three years of my life. What we had to buy usually was bought from the chicken peddler, who came around in his truck. He was called that because people traded chickens, eggs, butter, etc. to him for flour (that came in pretty sacks that were made into dresses, shirts, etc.) sugar, salt, coffee, etc. Everything else we ate we grew or hunted—or caught on a fishing line.

Jan, Barbara and I looked for grapevines over the creek that we could cut in two and swing across the creek on. Sometimes they broke, mid-creek. We got wet. We also loved catching lightning bugs to fill a fruit jar with. Made a great light! Tying a string on a June bug's leg and letting him fly around made a good substitute for a kite. We were great at making our own toys.

Early on, I became Mom's helper on clothes washing day. I would carry water from the creek to fill up the big black pot. Mom built a fire around it. When the water was hot, she put dirty clothes in it, and stirred them around with a stick. Then the clothes were rubbed on a rub board with lye soap. When they were rinsed with bluing in the water, (whatever that is)  we hung them up on the fence and clothesline to dry.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Diamond Fever

Forever A Hillbilly: Diamond Fever: CONTACT ME TO GET YOUR PERSONALIZED COPY OF FOREVER CRY.   $12 plus shipping, anywhere in the world. Or, in Arka...

Diamond Fever

CONTACT ME TO GET YOUR PERSONALIZED COPY OF FOREVER CRY.   $12 plus shipping, anywhere in the world. Or, in Arkadelphia, get your signed copy at Hardman Interiors. In Yell County, it can be found at the Yell County record office(And at Dardanelle) Also, in Plainview, at Gypsy Junction.

Diamond Jim Archer spent 30 years at the Crater of Diamonds State park, digging for diamonds. He worked very hard, very fast, very long, every day, for thirty years. Though I have no doubt that his record can never be equaled, I did meet one other man who compared to James in many of these categories, except that he always kept a full time job otherwise, and he’s still raising a family, so he does not get to go every day.
     Henry Emison and his wife Lori were digging away when I met them. They were beginners at that time, but they quickly changed all that. Henry was recognized quickly by all other diamond hunters on the field as a digging machine, a true man among men. He could work all day at his job landscaping, then drive to the mine and do as much work as we fully human diggers could do in a day. Of course, he quickly found a lot of diamonds. At one time, they moved to my rental house in Gurdon, Arkansas, partially because they loved that 120 year old, six bedroom brick house. But mostly because it was close to the diamonds. What is it about rare, driven men like Jim and Henry that makes supermen out of them when they step onto that diamond field? I wish I knew. I would buy up a few gallons of it and enhance my own diamond collection a bit. Henry moved to the other side of Arkansas, because that was where his job was, a few years ago. But I know he’s still not out of range of that diamond mine, so we still don’t know how his lifetime collection will look.
     After I moved to Arkadelphia, Arkansas, only 45 minutes from the mine, I worked 30 days one winter, my longest, hardest, and least productive stretch of diamond fever. I was digging deep holes and washing out the mud, which is very hard work. My body ached all day every day, and some days I had to break through very thick ice  in the washing tank to wash my mud. I was carrying the mud in two five gallon buckets at least 100 yards. My total find was one diamond and a few small nuggets of gold. I told my friends, “I am the best trained, hardest working, and best equipped of all the non-producers at the mine.”
     I was talking to a fellow worker who, at that time, was well known at the park for finding a very large diamond right on the surface. I had just gotten started digging at a new site, when he walked up. I don’t remember his name, which is not an unusual thing for me. He stood there and watched me dig for a few moments, then said, “I was working that spot some time back. I got into a vein of fine black sand. After digging into that vein for a while, I washed out several nuggets of gold.”
     I continued digging there for some time. Then, I too started washing out black sand, and in it I started noticing small, paper thin strips of gold. After collecting several, the vein disappeared, and I never hit it again. I placed the small thin strips in water in a small bottle. When I came back to look at the strips a few days later, the strips had rolled up into small nuggets.
(The park superintendent refused to believe I found the gold there, declaring, “There is NO gold in THIS park.” But God and I both know I did.)
     Once Henry Emison was working along the creek. A group of Texas hunters had been working on the other side for two days. On Sunday, they got into a vein of very rich fine sand, and they found it very deep, an old sand bar from eons past. They started finding one diamond after another, but they were about worn out, and they had to leave that day. Knowing Henry was a total digging machine, they crossed the creek and made a deal with Henry. If he would dig with them, they would share the diamonds found. At the end of the day, Henry had five very nice diamonds. Henry called me that night, told me all about it, but he could not go back the next day, he had to go to work. He described exactly where the glory hole was, and, quite naturally, I was there, ready to dig, the next day. But as luck would have it, an old full timer had already taken over that spot. He dug there for days, and would never reveal how many he found. After he had finished, I was over there on a very rainy day. I told a group of college boys who were there about the twenty some-odd diamonds taken from that hole in one day. That hole was chest deep in water now, however. Later I came back by that hole, and the college boys were diving down, pulling out two handfuls of sand at a time. There is no limit to which one bitten by the diamond bug will go to find a diamond.
     As I worked one day, a northern tourist, new to the mine, walked about, just looking at the ground. He came over to where I was digging, and started telling me how easy it was to find a diamond. He Said, “Yesterday, I just walked around, and found ten diamonds, right on top of the ground.”
    “ Did you get them positively identified at the office?" I asked.
    “No, but I identified them myself on the internet.”
    I wanted to tell him, “If you will bring any one of those diamonds to the park office, and get a positive ID, I will kiss your butt at high noon in the middle of that field, and give you an hour to draw a crowd. I wanted to tell him that, but he was a big man. So I didn’t. There’s a lot of quartz and other stones on that field that can look like a diamond.
     A young man from Iowa started digging along about the time I started my hardest winter. We both went many days without finding a diamond. But when he did, he quickly went back to Iowa, sold all his stuff. He moved back to the mine, living just outside the fence in a tent. I’m not sure how many diamonds he found. Word was, he found some really nice stones along the way. Every day I went over there that winter, he was hard at work, digging deep holes, washing the sand out, and filling the holes back up the same day, as is now required. I fully expect that young man will someday leave that mine as an old man, his body totally broken down. Or, like Diamond Jim, he will die there.
     During that long winter, an old man moved in next to my claim. He was a very old man, and his equipment was very extensive, yet very old. I soon learned that many years ago, he had started finding so many diamonds one summer that he became famous. His collection was very extensive, and pictures were still up in the visitor’s center of that man.   This old man dug very hard beside me for many days. Yet, according to him, he never found any diamonds. He did tell me many stories about his famous summer, many years ago. He said he became so famous that summer that three different women approached him, begging him to go into the woods with them. Famous or not, that just seemed entirely too easy.

     On the last day that winter, Grandson Jordan came with me. At the end of the day, he declared, “Papaw, anything we do for fun can never be this hard.” Wise words from a young man. I ached all over, and my overworked body was breaking down. I hung up my shovel and screens, and have never been back. I don’t plan for constant pain to be my full-time partner in my old age, if I can help it. But I’m not dead yet, so my life collection of diamonds just might not be totally complete. And, I have the specialized equipment constructed and ready, just waiting to put it into action, when the right time comes. I’ll have a great time then. Once stricken, one is never totally cured of diamond fever

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Diamond Jim


Diamond Jim


Back during my diamond mining days in the late 1970’s at the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, I was fortunate enough to buddy up with, and work alongside of, the most famous Arkansas diamond hunter of all time. A lot of what I learned by watching James Archer enabled me to find my first diamonds during that first three day trip, the first being my largest find ever, a beautiful 1.00 carat canary diamond. During those three days, I was determined to learn as much as possible from this legendary diamond hunter, and be just like James Archer. Alas, I failed miserably.

James Archer made his first trip to the Crater of diamonds by horse and wagon, sixty some odd years ago.  Later on in life, he and his wife came there again, determined to find a diamond. He failed, but his wife did find one. This galvanized his determination. He surface hunted for two years, off and on, and never found one, gently being  teased  about that by his wife the whole time. When he changed to digging deep holes, and washing the mud through screens, He quickly became successful, finding his first two, a 1.7 carat and a 1.71 carat brown diamond, all in the same day.

     In the early 1970’s, he worked at a sawmill, unloading railroad ties by hand. He then would go to the diamond mine to dig after work. At one point, he was not at the mine for two days. When he returned, his arm was in a sling. His hand had almost been severed at the  sawmill.   He should have been at home recuperating, but the hard working James was not the type to ever sit still. He could not stay away from the crater.

When he returned to the  sawmill, they told him they no longer had a job for him. This was a turning point in his life. He decided to become a diamond hunter, six days a week, every week. The number of diamonds found varies from one report to another, but the best estimate given by park officials was 5,000.

     The characteristics I noticed about James that were not present in anyone else seemed to be that he worked very hard, very fast, all day long, every day. For thirty years.

    James told me the story of finding a very nice diamond on his screen just as two rough looking and talking men walked up. Like most black men in the South in the sixties and seventies, he had recent memories of being treated badly at the hands of other men such as these two. Afraid they might try to take it away from him, he simply dropped it in the bucket of fine sand he would be taking home to look over closely that night. He was never able to find it again.

In 1994 James unearthed a very nice 5.25  carat diamond. This was, officially, his largest find. But, when a story came out about him in the National Enquirer, it was said he had found a 7.9 carat diamond. When asked about that later, he stated, “Well, they did get things sorta messed up in that story, all right. About my age and stuff. But I did find that 7.9 carat diamond.” When pressed about this, James related this story.

    “One morning several years back,   I was out here in the parking lot getting ready to go in one morning, soon as it opened. A man started talking to me, telling me he was here to find the largest diamond he could, and buy it for his girl for her engagement ring.  I told him I didn’t have any diamonds on me now, but maybe you’ll find one today.” James went on to say, “A lot of folks talk big like that. But when it comes down to it, they don’t have the money to back up their talk.”

     James continued his story. “So the park opened it’s doors, and we both went in and bought our ticket, and went into the mine. When we got to the search area, he turned left and I turned right. I only went a couple of hundred feet before I saw something shining at me.  I went over and picked it up. It was a big, canary diamond, sitting right on top of the ground. “I shouted, Hey, Mister! I got a big one for ya’.”

     The man came over, said he wanted to buy it as soon as he saw it. He asked, “How much ya’ want for it?”

     James told me, “I didn’t even knew how much it weighed, and I usually set my price on that. So I just said, $7000. Then that fella reached in his pocket, and pulled out a huge roll of money. He counted out 70 100 dollar bills into my hand. When he was finished, that man’s roll looked as big as it did when he started peeling bills off’a there.  I said to myself, I shoulda’ said $10,000. But I didn’t know he really had the money. The man took the diamond and never registered it at the park office. I heard from him later, and he’d had it cut and set in that ring. He said the jeweler weighed it before it was cut and it was 7.9 carats.”

 A lot of people have been wondering for a long time about just how well James has done. Tourists have been trying to pry that out of him six days a week for 30 years. Most people don’t like having people trying to get information about their business, and James was no different. We do know he never lived in a mansion, or bought a new truck.
     When tourists ask, “Is it true all your children graduated from college?”
      James just said, “That’s what they say.”
     When asked later how many children he had, he said, “seven.”
     When again asked, “Is it true they all graduated college?”
      “Yep. And my wife will graduate college this year.” Seems James did not invest his money in himself, but invested in his family’s future.

     On Wednesday, January 8, 2003, James Archer went into the Crater of Diamonds State Park as he had for thirty years.  And, at the age of 77, he died there doing what he loved, digging for diamonds.  The Crater will probably never see a more diligent, consistent, determined prospector than Diamond James Archer. Or, from my perspective, a nicer guy. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside James, and learn much about diamond hunting, and about life, if only for three days. It was no accident that I found more, and larger diamonds during those three days I worked alongside James Archer than during my forty-plus attempts since.

     Rest in peace, James. Your legendary feats at the Crater of Diamonds State Park will never be equaled.
Much information about James Archer in this article came from - A Thorough and Accurate History of Genuine Diamonds in Arkansas.  Written by Glen W. Worthington. Published by Mid America Prospecting,  Murfreesboro, Arkansas.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Book Reviews for Forever Cry

Forever A Hillbilly: Book Reviews for Forever Cry: Here is another book review of Forever Cry, by P.K. I hope some of you can make it out to   Hardman Interiors   on Wednesday, July 8 (10:00...

Book Reviews for Forever Cry

Here is another book review of Forever Cry, by P.K. I hope some of you can make it out to Hardman Interiors on Wednesday, July 8 (10:00-2:00) for my book signing event.

"Forever Cry" offers readers an insight into an Arkansas family's heartbreaks, triumphs and nail-biting adventures during the South's reconstruction period after the Civil War. The historical fiction leaves you with the sense of pride, determination, work ethics and love the family possessed that enabled them to endure during this difficult time. "Forever Cry" is a delightful story packed with history, adventure and family laced with a touch of humor. A must read!!

Book Review for Forever Cry -
For readers with imagination, Forever Cry jumps off the pages and becomes a visual play. The characters come alive with the story line.
     Once you start to read Forever Cry, the book is very hard to put down until the end of the last chapter is finished.
     A very well written book worth the time to read! Captivating, blending family history with historical events from the last years of the Civil war until the melancholy years of the 1930's. We both loved the book! J. and M. W.

Book Review for Forever Cry – by W. A.
     Forever Cry is full of real life stories of hard times, good times, wars, lonely times, and love. A good read. A family enjoying life. Times are sometimes hard, but mixed with real life humor.
     I love Pat’s work. Much entertaining real life. Times were hard in the late 1800’s, but full of much real life, love, war, and peace. A must read.

     Forever Cry is encouraging – There’s always time to start over in life.

Thanks to all of you who came to the book signing at Hardman interiors. Forever Cry can now be found at Hardman Interiors in Arkadelphia, The Yell County Record in Danville, (and Dardanelle) Gypsy Junktion in Plainview, or you may order direct from me for a personalized edition. Send $14 to Pat Gillum, 1030 Evergreen, Arkadelphia, Ar. 71923.   

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: BEYOND Forever Cry - - -

Forever A Hillbilly: BEYOND Forever Cry - - -: Martha Jane Tennessee Tucker Gillum, the star of Forever Cry, Died in Wing, Arkansas in 1941, shortly after her eighty-second birthday ...

BEYOND Forever Cry - - -

Martha Jane Tennessee Tucker Gillum, the star of Forever Cry, Died in Wing, Arkansas in 1941, shortly after her eighty-second birthday Party. I was born in that same house in 1944, three years later. As I look at the group photo from that birthday party, I see twenty four mostly familiar faces, from infants to adults. These were the people who surrounded me, and loved me, as I grew to adulthood. As I approach my seventy first birthday, only four of these people survive today. Enjoy those around you who love you. Life is short.
     Forever Cry is a historical fiction book, inspired by my grandmother’s colorful life. She was born as the Civil War was about to start, and most of the book took place during the Reconstruction.
     Sarah, Tenny’s mother, was a strong mountain woman who held her family together as the war wound down. Her children give her much joy, and much shame, during a time of violent upheaval in Arkansas.
     My best first-hand information about Grandma Tenny came from my older siblings. My brother Harold, as a small, rowdy boy, remembers her as a very old lady, his worst nightmare. Once, she told him to do something. He replied, “Just a minute.” She laced her fingers in his hair, and swung him around a couple of times.
     My sister Jonnie, as a frail and sickly little girl, remembers her as the one who held her in her arms and rocked her all day long. Every day. When she grew too large for Grandma to hold, she sat beside her in her rocking chair. And rocked. All day long.
     I remember my dad’s comments about Grandma Tenny as a very old lady, when a man came up missing. “The law wanted to come question her, but was afraid to.” I never understood that. Why would they fear a very fragile old lady, nearing death? In the end, I learned why.
     In researching for Forever Cry, I noticed a little side note on a family researcher’s paper. “Her family hung a man early one morning.” That’s all it said. What??
     Other bare comments. “Grandma and her sister were hidden in a cave once. For two years.”
     “A big wild hog ran in and got the Baby.”
     “Men were killed in her behalf.” Needless to say, all this stimulated more research.  What a life this woman lived!

     This comment, penciled in by my editor, stated, “This could never happen.” Actually, I could not change it, because it did happen. Truth, at times can be stranger than fiction.
     My two great grandfathers also make their appearance in Forever Cry.  LaFayette WAS held as a POW in the Civil War. He DID survive by eating white oak acorns. He WAS the first constable of Atkins, Arkansas.
     James, my other great grandpa, DID haul in his year’s cotton crop, got drunk, and threw all the money away in the road ditch. He DID marry his daughter’s husband’s baby sister, LaFayette’s youngest daughter, at age 78 and produce two children.
     All the actual events in Forever Cry, woven into the fabric of the story with lots of undocumented happenings I strongly suspect but can’t prove, along with pure fiction, at times, make for a story I think you will like.
     My real-life uncle by marriage, Harry Poynter, DID face the sheriff, Deputy sheriff, and county clerk in the streets of Dover, killing one man, and sent the other two racing for Russellville. He DID face down a thirty man posse in downtown Dover, sent to arrest him, with the words “I will give up my guns with my life, and I will make the man who takes it pay a heavy price.” They, also, chose to go home instead.
     Several early readers have already finished. Comments: “That girl just completely destroyed the whole family’s reputation.” I dread telling her: “That girl never existed.”
     “I just kept being drawn back to it until I finished.”
     “That first major event was just horrible. So bad, it could not have actually happened.” But it did.
     I did a lot of research about the wars and politics of that time, doing my best to keep that factual. I hope you enjoy it. Either way, my contact info is at the end of Forever Cry. I hope you contact me when you finish. We need to talk. I will laugh with you, or apologize to you, depending upon which seems appropriate.
     The Arkadelphia book signing will be Wednesday, July 8th, 10 – 2, at Hardman Interiors. Hope you can come!