Kentucky History and Genealogy Network, Inc.
Papa’s Coal Fired Pig
When we were growing up, me, my uncle and my younger brother had an age gap of about three years apart between the youngest to the oldest. My uncle was the oldest and my brother was the youngest. Papa called us the three outlaws, I am sure we earned it if you knew about some of the things we got into at his house. He would shake his head at some of the antics we schemed up. As I think back, I realize that we did get into a lot but if you looked around at the times (and what the grown ups in the neighborhood were doing) it really wasn’t that bad compared to everything else. Not only that, everyone said we were just so cute. During those growing up years, the grownups were doing things like gambling, drinking and racing cars.
It was by a stroke of luck that papa’s house sat right at the end of the of what was called the “Straight” , or if speaking of the area in its proper name, “Rossland Straight”. Rossland was the community we lived in. Named for the owner of a long forgotten mine and landowner called Mr Ross. The area, during the mining days, was referred to as “Ross’s Land”. When we grew up, Rossland was the self-proclaimed weekend neighborhood drag race track. And all of this was free. (It was actually the main road but everyone knew to watch for races coming at them on the weekend). At the beginning of the straight was an area of flat bottom land with trees covering it and that was called “Poker Valley”.
Now “Poker Valley” created a ton of races. Poker Valley was a wooded six acre section of bottom land that the grown men of the area stayed at to play poker all weekend. It was covered with brush and the police couldn’t see anyone. If they did there were so many ways out of there it was impossible to catch anyone. All of this is gone now (Forest Products now sits on what was Poker Valley) but certainly not the memories of the days and the excitement. We would always end up at papa’s on the weekends for the free races and weekend events. We would set in papa’s front yard and watch one race after another all day beginning on Friday night and ending sometime on Sunday, according to how many contestants entered the races.
What would start the races was the card games. You see the gamblers would get to drinking and playing cards and brag about how fast their cars would run and then it would be on. Of course the spirits they consumed would make them believe they were larger than life and made for an even better race. So according to how many players were at the games would determine how long the race would last because everyone had to race every car there.
These races were awesome! They were the muscle cars of the late sixties and early seventies and they were for sure all muscle. Sitting in my papa’s front lawn with all the aunts, uncles, cousins and even some stragglers, all of us kids would pick our favorite racer and root them on, hoping to be the winner. At the end of the weekend, when everything was over with, we were all excited and we had all week to talk about the race and what happened and who was the fastest and who had the best car. Now while the grownups were having their fun with all the excitement, we would also get into things in between the breaks in the races.
One event that sticks hard in my mind happened at the hog lot. You see, it was the fall of the year and papa had been getting his coal pile built up for the winter. It was cool at night and papa probably had about a half ton stocked up. He had some block coal in the mix but it was mainly slack coal for the most part. The slack coal was used to bank the fires at night.
Papa had been busy that day and in between races we went to the hog lot to mess with the hog. My baby brother threw a block of coal into the hog lot trying to torment the hog and everyone were surprised when the hog began to eat the block of coal. “Wow! This is amazing” is all any of us could say. “My turn, My Turn” we all called out. So we began to take turns, each one throwing a block of coal into the hog lot and listened to the crunching sounds as the hog consumed the coal blocks as if it were pieces of peppermint candy or some other rare treat. We would run down and catch another race and then back again when they were open to feed the hog. Back again for another race. This went on for about two and a half days of feeding the hog and watching races. Finally on Sunday it was time to go home.
Mama and Papa were out in the yard and they were seeing us off when Papa said all of a sudden “That’s why your mama was washing your hands all weekend” “Where did my coal pile go to”. We all began to explain how the hog was starving and how we found something he liked to eat and how we all helped him out and so on and so on. Papa just stopped us in our conversation and just walked away, shaking his head explaining to us how we had fed the hog half of his coal pile over the weekend. The last thing I remember he said was, “If you tried to cook sausage from that hog, it would turn out as charcoal” as he walked off laughing.
Author; Marty Wyatt
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