“CHRISTMAS” in a CARDBOARD BOX

“Christmas gifts in short supply,” “Shop early to avoid empty shelves,” The black Christmas of 2021.” The headlines go on and on. If a body allowed themselves, all this bad news can really drag a person down, make ’em believe Christmas and all it stands for can be contained, held captive on some random cargo ship floating just off the coast somewhere.

But don’t you think on it, no sir, don’t you think on it one bit. I got some good news for us all. They may be tellin’ us the holidays are being held captive, but they’re wrong! Let me tell you why.

The Owens family are the stars of our little story, I’m sure you’re familiar with the Owen’s and big David from the book snippets. We join them on a very special day, up early, cleaned and pressed, David’s hair combed and oiled, his four sister’s hair carefully brushed and garnished with pretty bows of left over fabric. His Ma had the entire clan ready to go before sun up. The girls, bubbling over with excitement, picked, poked, and giggled at each other, all the while David looked to the Heavens and rolled his eyes. He couldn’t let ’em see his excitement, after all, while his Pa was at work he was the man of the house. This meant someone had to be the voice of reason.

You see friend: before cellular phones and tablets, before designer purses and Nike shoes, before those robot vacuum cleaners and that creepy Alexa lady who talks to you at home even in the most private of situations, before Atari, PlayStation and X-box. There was something more… a simple dog-eared cardboard box, but contained within that humble box, well… contained there was everything Christmas was about, everything Christmas promised and everything Christmas was, and as kids they looked forward to it’s yearly return with as much excitement as Santa Claus, maybe more.

Since it was Christmas basket season, that meant anything was possible, maybe even probable. Most folk have been fortunate enough to have never seen one, and that particular memory, like so many things from our past, seems to be slowly fading into obscurity. But to David and his sisters, all the magic and wonder of the holiday season was waiting for them inside that box.

Oh it’s all there…you just gotta know what to look for, the Christmas story in it’s entirety. From the simple to the sublime, the mundane to the magical, the humble to the most high. And like all good things (I mean really good things), very little, if any, money is required.

David and his sisters didn’t know “poor”, to them it was simply”life” and life needed no special words to quantify it, it simply was, and that was that. But… it was a different time and folks defined “poor” differently than we do now.

There they were, like a momma duck and her babies, all waddlin’ up the narrow road into town. If they were lucky, a neighbor would stop and offer a ride, if not there was plenty to talk about on the five mile hike. All the children could talk about were those boxes and what wonders waited inside. Each shared tales about what they hoped to find within, minds raced and imaginations soared as tales of last years treats and which ones were favorites flew though the cold air.

Before they knew it, the lodge came into to view and they could see the line of folks wrapping around the building like a black snake, all patiently waiting their turn. Now before we go any further we need to get one thing straight friend…this weren’t charity. Around here folk look out for each other, we share the gift as well as the burden. We didn’t need the government, we didn’t need a handout, and we didn’t need some politician deciding what our folk deserved. We had neighbors and friends who cared, and felt the pain of hardship like we all did.

The sights,sounds, and smells in that building were in a kids eyes, beyond words. Boxes packed full of holiday greatness were stacked floor to ceiling. The aroma of chocolate, citrus, cinnamon, and other treats unknown floated about the room before simmering into an aroma that brought goose-bumps to the skin. The roomful of voices and excited clamber mixed just as easily, composing a soothing hymn. This must truly be what Christmas was all about, those children were in Heaven and never wanted to leave.

A booming HO, HO, HO, snapped them to reality. The three girls pulled and tugged at David’s shirt, begging to go see Santa. David shot his ma a pleading glance.

Oh fine, she replied. Take your sister and go see Santa, I got some things to drop of at the tables anyway.

Without waiting on their brother, the girls ran to the short line of children, all waiting to tell the Jolly ol’ elf their most private of wishes. David knew it as soon as he laid eyes on the ol’ boy. The yards of red velvet and white fur trim couldn’t hide the tin toys and whistles dangling just below Santa’s coat. The ivory pipe he held clutched in his teeth could belong to no other, it was ol’ Shag Branch in the flesh. The wonderful ol’ man sat there, his lap full of children. From time to time his head fell back as a thunderous laugh filled the room. Shag was in his element, he loved those children and they loved him in return. Christmas seemed to fit Shag, his well worn stories of travel to far off and exotic lands were replaced with reindeer tales, and elf updates, the intricacies of toy manufacturing, and flight zones. The children (young and old) gathered round him as usual, mouths wide open and eyes star struck as they absorbed the tales like raindrops on dry clay.

Mrs. Owens used the opportunity to finish some business. She placed a large basket on the table under the watchful eyes of the chief and mayor. A loud gasp was heard from both as she laid six fresh baked “cornmeal” pies in a neat line. Quit that she scolded as she swatted away the mayor’s hand. Those are for the raffle, you want a taste then go buy ye’selves a ticket.

Grumbles were heard as the two men turned to go in search of the ticket table.

We’ll be back Mrs. Owens replied Mayor Weaver, yea said the chief, with winning tickets too.

I hope so boys, she answered, I hope so.

To be perfectly honest; each family was to get just one box, but the men behind the tables, well… they knew things, the kinda things only a small town knows. With a wink, a finger to their lips and a quick shush, a box appeared before each of the children. The girls could scarce wrap their arms around the treasure. Once the boxes were held tight against they’re chests, they were quietly scatted outside.

Ma led her little band of ducks to a large sweet-gum tree, there beneath the gnarled branches they examined they’re spoils.

One large frozen roasting hen

Cans of pumpkin, green beans, corn and untold other vegetables

A bag of flour, cornmeal, and sugar

A large bag of tree nuts

A bag of pretty ribbon candy, creme drops, horehound candy, gum drops, and a box of Cracker Jacks

A large poke of oranges and a few grapefruit

But the best lay hidden at the bottom. All four filled their mouths with gum drops and began to dig. I found it yelled the youngest, soon followed by the other three. Four pairs of hands lifted the prize into the air. A brand new pocket New Testament. Still cold from the frozen chicken, leather bound with gold letters on the outside and red letters on the inside. (The red letters are the important ones).

Mrs. Owens let her little ones enjoy their newfound prizes for a few minutes before giving word that it was time to make the way back home. David secured each girl with a their own box before picking up his own. The little band began the journey back home.

The journey home was dominated by tales of Santa and the things he might bring. A thankful grin lay across the face of both David, and his ma. The hope and dreams of the three girls lifted they’re hearts and made the steps lighter.

As the four marched, the wind brought the scent of cinnamon and Liquorice to the nose. The aroma mixed and mingled with the scent of citrus and apples, until finally joining with the smell of cardboard and the cold of the chicken. The end result was nothing short of magical.

We all have special “triggers” in our lives, simple little things such as a TV. show, a special taste, a smell, or familiar tune. Something so small and innocuous that it means nothing to others, but to us, those “little” things have the power to instantly transport us back to simpler times and our childhood, or treasured memory. The smell of a Christmas basket is one of mine, and I’m sure, for David and his three sisters as well.

Remember when I said those boxes contained Christmas? Well…let’s talk about that a-bit shall we?

You may be, (and I pray that you are), unfamiliar with the concept of a “Christmas Basket” and what it meant to so many mountain families, not to mention children. Every year when the leaves began to change, local churches, businesses, friends, neighbors, heck, most of the whole town came together in the spirit of Love and Sacrifice. A humble yet grand effort to gift another with the simple respite from worry.

Food drives would be held, bake sales and raffles. Collection plates circulate in churches ,meeting halls, and even local beer joints. Most everyone gratefully shared what little they had, no avenue was left unchecked in the effort to fill as many boxes as possible.

Do such labors work? Do these humble actions of neighbors have lasting effect. Well…here sits an old man, typing away at his keyboard. As I write this story I smell that box,I feel the cold from the frozen bird against my face as I walk home. I feel the weight as I carry it close to my chest. The smell of citrus, chocolate and cinnamon fill my head and I’m transported back, way back.

Strip away the tinsel, the twinkling lights and greenery. Remove the silver, gold and blown glass. Forget about spending money you don’t have, to buy people you don’t like, things they don’t need.

Whats left?

Just an old cardboard box, much like an old wooden manger, both filled with hope, joy, and promise. The return of which was looked forward to every year at this special time. Remember that pocket New Testament those little ones were so desperate to find too? Oh it was there in that manger as well. Oh not a little book mind you, but nothing less than the word manifest in flesh, the Christ child. A promise made, a promise fulfilled.

Oh I nearly forgot; Remember those pies Mrs. Owens baked? There’s a lesson there as well. In my simple mind I believe God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost is best described as a cornmeal pie cut into three slices. Each separate at the surface,but the middle, the ooey gooey sweet part, is still as one.

Mary had a little Lamb, so very long ago.

Though our sins be as crimson..

The Lamb can wash them white as snow.

My sin debt was paid by that Little Lamb, in that manger long ago.

And now where that Lamb has gone, I shall surely go.

MERRY CHRISTMAS from the Tin Cup Clan. It’s been a wonderful year, God has allowed me to continue sharing these tales with you even though the doctors tell me other wise. We thank each of you for your prayers and support and continue to pray that the Lord bless you and your Loved ones without measure.

So…next time you hear or read of all the evil afoot in this ol’ world. Stop a second and think of Big David and his sisters, a corn meal pie, and a humble little “cardboard box.” Then with a deep breath, smile a bit and smell the citrus. God’s got this, I promise.

Please like an share this story. I’m certain we all know others who need to read it. I don’t get out much anymore so leave a comment or two as well, we certainly enjoy reading them. THE TIN CUP CLAN

The Most Important Meal of the Day

How many remember fifth grade? More importantly; how many remember the lunch room? Most don’t understand the politics, social exchange and class warfare that transpired there. So…for just a bit, experience the “lunch-room” through the eyes of the Tin Cup Clan. This is just a small excerpt from Chapter Eight, I hope you can get a little “feel” for the boys and maybe even catch a faint hint of frying sausage and burnt toast.

Excerpt from Chapter 8 “Was She Flirtin’ and Best Laid Plans”

Whatever conversations or business transactions that were taking place were put on hold for the time being. A far more important matter was at hand. Breakfast. 

The opening of the lunch-room door was held with nearly as much high spirited anticipation as, well… Christmas morning. This morning the planets were obviously in perfect alignment and Madam Karma was apparently in an extraordinary mood. 

Because when we opened that door… the air hung heavy with the wonderful soothing aroma of sausage, eggs, and toast. It had to be a sign straight from the all-mighty himself. Maybe, just maybe, things were finally going my way. 

We stood just inside the doorway, frozen in our tracks. Each of us staring at the other three. I didn’t want to take any chances, blurting out “that’s it no trades” as quickly as possible. 

Big David’s eyes narrowed into thin slits. He turned his head looking down at Stick with a look that could kill. 

That’s fine by me friend. How about you Stick? 

Stick looked up, swallowing the lump growing in his throat. What are you lookin’ at me for? I ain’t done nothin.’ 

Big Dave never broke his stare, “Just am friend that’s all, just am.” 

Before us lay a veritable smorgasbord, the sight of steaming pans full of scrambled eggs, stacks of sausage, and hot biscuits made our mouths water. The four of us gazed at the food like kids in a candy store window as hair-netted lunch ladies filled our trays. 

Sure does look good, don’t it friend? 

Chucky looked up at David, you do realize, those are just powdered eggs don’t ya? They ain’t real, they just add water to ‘em and fry ‘em up, that’s all. 

Well, they’s’ allot of stuff that’s good when you add water to it, argued big Dave. You ain’t forgot ‘bout Tang, have ye? And don’t fergit ‘bout Ovaltine.  

Mark and his cronies were ahead of us in line. We watched in disgust as he and his buddies flirted with the lunch ladies. Grinning under their hairnets as they piled the boy’s trays high with double portions. Our blood boiled as we watched them buy extra milks and juice when they reached Mrs. Tuttle. I thought about it for a second. 

Ya-know… I’m gonna do that one of these days. 

Do what? Asked Stick. 

I’m gonna git it all, milks, orange juice, extra food, all of it. For the four of us, just like the jocks. 

Oh… that… sure said Stick, I cain’t wait. He looked over at Chucky while rolling his eyes. 

Hey! I snapped; I saw that. 

Chucky snickered. What-cha gonna do, start boot-leggin’ at school or somethin’? Some rich uncle about to get out of the poorhouse. 

I just might do that… yep, never can tell, I just might. 

Now it’s your turn, if you like the story, tell a friend, tell your Ma, Pa, tell an enemy, just tell somebody. Don’t forget to Like, Follow, and Comment. Until next week…Thank You for your time. The Tin Cup Clan. God Bless.

CHANGES WITH “THE TIN CUP CLAN”

Hi friends…Many things are changing here at “The tin cup Clan” and I desperately need your help. I’ve had a lot going on lately and feel I have far to many irons in the fire. The books are coming out very soon and I’ve decided to narrow social media to just a couple of platforms. I love and respect all our followers, I don’t want to lose any of you. We are going to focus most of our energy on the Face Book page for the time being. If you like the T.C.C. and want to continue reading these simple yet oft times corny stories PLEASE LIKE THE FB PAGE. We’ve found we can reach far more people here and Instagram than anywhere else. Not to mention we can be far more interactive. For the time being The Tin Cup Clan .com will be under renovation, I think you’re gonna love it when it’s rolled out soon. Remember…The Tin Cup Clan FB page!!! Go there and hit the like button. You’ll be glad you did. Instagram is coming in the next couple of days…my daughter is working on getting it up and running. SEE YOU THERE…LOVE ALWAYS!!! The Tin Cup Clan

Do You Have a “Loser’s Limp?”

I reckon I need to begin with an apology. Things have been a bit busy of late and my posts have suffered. I find myself answering E-mails inquiring if I am still among the living. Well believe it or not, I’m still kicking. But I fear there may be one or two out there that may view such news as depressing to say the least.

Of late we have been talking about the word “normal’ and how it applies to each of the boy’s families. Personally I don’t care for the word, boiled down to it’s simplest meaning it’s little more than a unit of measure, and a poor one at that. Relative in it’s definition and subject to the opinions of the person holding the measuring tape.

This week we visit Mikey and his family. Remember when I talked about how Chucky’s family circled the wagons when hard times hit? Well…Mikey wasn’t so fortunate.

Excerpt : Chapter (1)

It was cold in the house, not freezing cold, just cold enough to make a person miserable. The kind of cold that seeps into your bones like wet mold, making every joint painful and slow to move.

The kerosene furnace had once again died during the night. Seems like the only time the ol’ girl decides to give up the ghost is when she can cause the most discomfort. Mom had the oven door open in a desperate effort to get some manner of heat into the kitchen. It didn’t do a lot of good really, the trailer had so many air leaks we might as well be camping in the great outdoors.

But as usual, there we stood; holding our hands out in front of the open oven door, pretending the glowing coils were a campfire. The two of us rubbed our hands together and slapped our arms shaking off the chill. If it was really cold, she would pull a chair to the front of the oven, there she would sit, waving heat into the room with a piece of cardboard. Once her arms began to ache, we would take turns.

I’ll work on the ol’ girl when I get outta school I said.

Though young, she looked worn and battle weary. A hard life had carved deep furrows into her worried face, and the elegant brown hair of youth was now polluted with streaks of weathered grey.

“Do we have any kerosene left” she asked.

Yea. I think there’s another five gallons or so out back I replied.

I was used to working on the ol’ girl. Heck, I’ve had her apart about a million times. I knew every nut, every bolt, and every mood swing. Yep, we kinda got a love hate relationship that stove and me. I hate to work on her, but I swear she loves the attention.

 But enough of that, we had a schedule to keep. Missing the bus weren’t an option, not that we couldn’t walk to school naw sir. Missing that bus meant I’d end up missing out on school breakfast, and that was something I just couldn’t allow.

You see…Mikey’s normal is him and his mother, the wagons didn’t circle for them. When times got tough, his dad left. I don’t discuss the matter much in the books, he’s gone simple as that. This was a time before government checks, before safety nets and federal programs. School “free lunch” program meant taking your turn working in the lunch room washing dishes. Oft times, needed groceries were bought with a signature in the store ledger. and more than once, the electric bill was mysteriously paid by persons unknown. That’s Mikey’s “normal.”

I’m not Mikey, but he and I are a lot more alike than we are different. I remember those times, I remember mom coming home late at night so tired she couldn’t eat. I remember no heat in the winter, and my sisters sleeping in the living room floor while we waved heat from an open oven. And I remember Christmas baskets, and the smell of apples, oranges, candy and spices as I held the box tightly to my chest. This was our normal.

I once read about something called a “loser’s limp.” I don’t remember where, but I believe it fits today more than ever. Whenever a ballplayer loses the ball, flubs a play, or strikes out, watch him as he walks off the field. Most of the time you will notice a limp, slight yes but a limp just the same.(Go ahead, look for it next time). I’ve heard folks call it a physical manifestation of failure, others call it a plea for sympathy. I’m just gonna let you ponder it and make up your own mind.

You see…we have choices in life. We can walk around with a “loser’s limp,” blaming our childhood, our circumstances, our whatever. It’s not my fault, they made me this way. Or…we can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and walk off the field with our head held high, damn the limp. We can choose to show our scars, they tell a story. We can choose to remember the time the electric bill was paid by that unknown someone. Then, if we are blessed with the means, pay it forward. Then sit back and remember the smell of that Christmas basket.

So dear reader…I reckon Mikey’s “normal” is my “normal” after all. My mother was both parents and I think she did a fine job. She’s a proud Appalachian lady and she taught us to work with what the good Lord blessed us with. She taught us the value of hard work and humility (a trait in short supply today). From time to time I find myself limping, sometimes it just happens. Sometimes I have to remember sitting in front of that stove to snap out of it. I am proud of my “normal,” what’s yours…think about that for a while, after all, there is no right or wrong one.

I’m not sure what the next post will be about, I think I’m in the mood for a story, a funny one. I got one about pink socks, yea…maybe pink socks.

As usual dear reader, I’m gonna close with a heart felt Thank You from the Tin Cup Clan. I know you have more important things to do and we’re honored you chose to spend some of your time with us. Please remember to hit a few buttons and share or like…maybe even tell us your thoughts. There is also a Tin Cup Clan FB page stop by for a visit and be sure and like that as well. God Bless.

“Stumbling Blocks” or “Stepping Stones”

As I write these stories my fervent hope would be; they become as real to you as they are to me. I want you to know the boys,see they’re home town when you close your eyes, even feel what they feel. That statement may seem a bit “campy” but please dear reader, do me the honor of hearing me out. So far we have visited the home of “big” David, a warm quintessential mountain home. Complete with a loving Christian ma’ and pa’, brothers and sisters. The kind of family that may come to mind when you dream of the perfect family. David’s reflects his home, slow and deliberate in his actions and thoughts, and mindful of his reputation.

Then we looked at Stick’s family, hard working ma’ and pa’. His pa’ works a dangerous job seven days a week, making sure the ends meet. His ma’ running the home as efficiently as a major corporation, all the while keeping those ends tied. Each has a place and each has a responsibility. Little time is left for worship, work has replaced the church as the center pin and character is measured by the strength of one’s back. Stick is the product of this “normal,” strong in his opinion, always quick with a joke and lives by the motto “if you ain’t living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.”

But now we look at Chucky. Life (as it often does) has not been so kind to them. His father worked at the local Mill since he was a boy, just as his father and his father before him. But times in mid-century Appalachia are hard and it’s left it’s mark on them, perhaps harder than any other family in the area. Without warning the Mill cut back, Chucky’s pa’ prayed that seniority would spare him from the chopping block but that wasn’t the case. Before he knew it, he was out of work and the family home was lost. I think many of us can relate to this.

Soon they found themselves dependent on friends, and blessed beyond measure with a small town. You see…folks around here help each other, lift each other up so to speak. When help is offered, declining it was seen as “insult,” and when you recovered, not returning the favor and helping another family was beyond consideration.

During such a crisis families have two choices. Circle the wagons and fight, (or as often is the case), split and go separate ways, leaving yet another family shattered and lost in time.

Fortunately, (I prefer to think by God’s grace), they circled the wagons and trusted that help was on the way. I’m not saying it was easy mind you, far from it. Some times the best you can do is dig your heels in and weather the storm…and the storm came for them dear reader, it came in the worst way.

Excerpt : Chapter : (1) The Unlikeliest of Hero’s

Chucky’s dad works the belt and washer, just as dirty, if not more, but maybe just a little safer.

The pay’s not near what the hole pays, but he’s lucky to get it. He used to work at the mill, but when they cut back, he was one of the first to get the axe. Big David’s dad pulled some strings and got him on at the Blue Diamond mine. He ain’t been there to long so he’s still playing catch up as far as money goes.

Excerpt : Chapter (6) “It ain’t Much but It’s Home”

“Chucky’s place is about a mile down the road. He don’t like us coming by his place much. We all figure it’s because he’s kinda embarrassed by it. It’s been tough for him, his place ain’t much really. His Pa lost their house to the bank when he lost his job at the plant. No warning or nothing, just went in one day and found a piece of paper with his time-card. Right now they’re rebuilding, they all live in a Shasta camper with a room built onto the side.

The room’s not very fancy, just boards and tar-paper topped off with a rusted metal roof. Just stuff his dad could scavenge up I spose. He ain’t never let any of us inside yet, we don’t say nothing about it. Out of proper respect I reckon.”

So…this is Chucky’s “normal.” His family was (blessed) in a strange way. Often you got to lose everything, before you discover you’ve had everything all along. Family, friends, community, and all the gooey stuff that comes along with it. Now…dear reader you know Chucky. Is this “your” normal? If so, look around you, you may find things aren’t so bad after all.

Next time, we visit Mikey’s family. I’m afraid the wagons didn’t circle this time. How does a single parent raise a young boy in times such as these? Well…we’ll talk about that on our next post.

Once again The Tin Cup Clan would like to thank you for stopping by, and we are honored that your choose to spend just a bit of your time with us. As always God Bless and please hit a few buttons or share with someone that may need to stop for a while and read.

Sincerely : The Tin Cup Clan

The Troublesome Red Head and his Family

David Byrge; Better known as “Stick” by most. We’re gonna look at his family next, what forces came together too forge such a personality. As parents, I believe we often forget that our kids are (for lack of a better comparison), tape recorders of a sort. They spend their young lives constantly recording anything and everything around them. Parents and family are the main characters though friends and daily acquaintances play a major role. But the family, that’s where you find the biggest influence. At some point (no one truly knows when), life switches them from “record” to “play.” When the switch happens, that’s it, very little can be done.

“It’s impossible to straighten the bend in the Oak, the crook that grew in the sapling”

The person of “Stick” and his family are in most respects, the complete polar opposite of David and his family. His proclivity for dirty jokes, loud outgoing personality, and comic behavior seem to simply be, well…(the recorder switched to play). But there’s a good heart there, a loyal heart, and a friends heart. He’s for good or bad, the product of his environment, the life of the party, “normal” just like the rest of us.

“Stick’s” Pa drives a coal truck, it’s a dangerous job, as kids we saw those guys as fighter pilots. The loud sound of “Jake brakes” echoing through the hills and hollers, sending animals running for shelter and leaves falling from the trees. Everyone in town knew, a truck was coming off the mountain.

Excerpt : Chapter 1 The unlikeliest of hero’s

Stick’s ol’ man drives a coal truck.
Takes a special kind of stupid to climb on top of sixty thousand pounds,
then try to control the beast as it barrels down steep mountain roads and sharp as a razor switchbacks. It takes years to learn how to operate and control one of those things, sorta like hillbilly bull ridin’ but twice as dangerous. They’s been quite a few lose their lives on those mountain roads. Once the truck leaves the top of that mountain she takes on a life of her own.

If she gets loose on the way down you got two choices, step out on the tanks and look for some soft dirt before jumping off. Or try to save your rig by holdin’ on and ridin’ it out, prayin’ you’ll find a soft shallow ditch before she gets too fast. Either way they’s a good chance of dyin’, simple as that.

The secret is pickin’ the right gear at the top and leaving it there. Once you try to knock her outta gear and shift down, the brakes are gonna get hot and she’s gone for sure. If she goes over the edge, the ground’s to steep to get her back up out of the holler. A man’s entire life’s work, doomed to lay where she fell, dead to the world. The mountain side is littered with dead trucks, overgrown with weeds and rusting away. The woods are quick to claim the wrecks, Kudzu vine covers them with a green quilt, right where they landed.

We go up there a lot, scrappin’ for parts, playin’ on em, and gatherin’ spilled coal. We’d all get a beatin’ if we got caught, we’ve been told a bunch of times how dangerous it was, but nobody’s been hurt yet.

Death is always hanging about in coal country. A constant companion for most. For the most part we’ve come to accept it, learned to live with it. Most folk deal with it by pretending it ain’t there. “The Lord calls and it’s my time,” they’ll say. Resigned to a “preordained time clock” a life with the finish line known only by the Lord himself.

Others allow it to follow them around through their entire life. “Ol scratch”hangs over em like a spirit that lives in the hills and hollers. They’re easy to spot, those folk. They carry a heavy appearance, like they’re never really happy. Just kinda going through life, waiting for him, looking for him, almost dead already.

“Stick” inherited his family’s “Devil may care” attitude, and it keeps him in quiet a bit of trouble. The next excerpt is a prime example.

Excerpt: Chapter 3 “Stick’s big mouth and Mark’s big plan.”

This morning I reckon ol’ Stick was in an unusually good mood. When his
name was called, a sharp “Yo” rattles through the room. A look back reveals
Stick standing at attention, eyes focused straight ahead. A sharp military
salute causes a quite snicker to pass through the room, and a smile to come
across every-body’s face…including Burton’s. Stick, not being one to turn
down attention, reclines back in his seat with an obvious look of satisfaction.
The three of us had a hunch ol’ Stick was gonna pay for that one.

Before we start, I need all you cats to pass last night’s homework to the front of the room. A loud groan followed by the sound of shuffling paper fills the class. Suddenly a loud “Daing-it” pierces the shuffle.

Stick didn’t do his homework again.

Burton looked up. Again? He barked.
We go through this at least once a week. What do I need to do Byrge; call your ol’ man or what?
“Good luck with that shit” came the reply.
The room is suddenly filled with a collective gasp.
The three of us sat there, mouths open in dis-belief. Holy crap! He didn’t?
Stick gave a look about the room, pleased with himself for the comment.
Dave leaned over towards me and whispered.
“He’s gonna git it now fer sure. Burton cain’t let a challenge like that go
without answer.”

You see? This is Stick’s “normal.”

Bold and brassy, living by the mantra,”If you ain’t living on the edge, you’re taking up to much room.” It’s a far cry from David’s family, and that’s OK.

Do you see yourself in the skinny red-head and his family? Well…congratulations, that your “normal.” If not…stick around till next time when we visit Chucky and his family. Times are a little tougher for them as his Pa tries to rebuild after the plant cut back.

When something like that happens to a family, only two things can happen. They’re either gonna close ranks and support each other, or they’re gonna split and go separate ways. The next post will be an important one. I think all of us will find a bit of ourselves in Chucky’s home life.

Well…that’s about it for now. Thank you friends, for spending a little time with the Tin Cup Clan. Like I always say, I’m sure you got better things to do, and we’re humbled that you’re here. Go ahead…leave a comment or hit a button or two, we could sure use the support.

Till next time…God Bless

Is there really a “Normal” family?

As promised, here is the first in our visits with the boy’s families. I thought big David would be a good place to start since his family serves as “home base” for our boys. As a child I knew a big David, and his family was very similar to the David in the books, and yes, I envied him quiet a bit. They didn’t have money, didn’t live in a fine home, didn’t drive new cars, or go on vacations, but they had each other and that was enough.

Those things don’t make a family, and most certainly don’t make a happy family. My granny would say, “blessed be nothing, no trouble at all” and “better a peaceful penny than a stricken dollar.” I think you’re gonna find this true with all the boys, but by the end of the book, one of them will have to learn this the hard way.

Do you see your family in big David’s? Great, then that’s your normal, soak it up, enjoy it as you would sunshine on a summer day. If not… well hang around for Stick’s family, maybe you just might see yourself in them. They’re a bit different than David’s, after all…there is no universal “normal,” each one is custom made. What matters is what we do with it.

Excerpt; Chapter 6 “It ain’t much but it’s home”

The next stop the bus makes is big David’s. He lives at the end of a long steep dirt road in a small timber house built by his Pa.

Locals know the hill as Owen’s ridge. His family has lived up there for generations. He shares that little house with a whole passel of brothers and sisters. I think there may be as many as ten of ’em but I cain’t swear to it. I reckon the whole bunch get along just fine.

No matter the weather, the yard is always full of bare footed kids of all ages. I don’t think a man could sling a dead cat without knocking over at least a couple of ’em. All of ’em laughing and yelling, running and fighting, screaming and crying. There’s an odd sense of joy in that house. Joy that’s seldom found in other households. Joy that with a bit of embarrassment I have to admit; I’m a great deal jealous of.

David’s ma sells some of the finest butter, buttermilk and bacon on the planet. That’s where ma gets most of our eggs. The ol’ boy’s dad’s pretty cool too. When he’s not in the hole chasing coal, he’s out there playing right along with his kids. Laughing and running, playing and screaming. It pains me a great deal to watch them, I cain’t help but wonder what my life would be like if my pa were still around. As I watch ’em I think about that a lot.

Excerpt: Chapter 28 “The worst lie I ever told.”

I was the first there. When David opened the door; puppies came rushing out; yappin’ and  jumping all over me.

They ain’t gonna bite friend; they’s just gittin’ to know ye is all. Come on in and make ye self at home. I walked through the door and into utter bedlam.

It was a big living room by any standard. A long well-worn couch sat in front of a large picture window. Clear plastic was stretched over the windows; sealing out the cold. Home-made curtains with pretty flowers hung gracefully; framing the glass like a picture frame.

Next to the couch sat a small simple table. The only thing on it was a large family bible. It was clear that it had been passed down through countless generations. The cover was tattered around the corners from use; while loose leaves of dog-eared paper covered with all manner of dates and notes poked from the sides. A faded and  frayed crimson ribbon was laced through the pages and served as a book-mark.

Standing with great prominence was the woodstove. A huge “Warm-Morning” sat on the brick hearth. A tall pile of split wood stacked neatly to each side. The entire house smelled of burnt hickory and oak; no wonder big David smelled the way he did. The smell of the wood combined with the intense heat of the stove soaked into my bones; making me sleepy and comfortable.

They was kids from floor to ceiling, all of em running and jumping, laughing and playing. It didn’t seem to faze his ma, not one bit. She came over, drying her hands on her floral apron before wrapping me in her arms with a big hug.

How ye doin’ young man? We’ve just finished supper, but I’ll heat ye up somethin’ if yer hungry.

No thanks ma’am, I eat before I left the house. Ma says it’s nobody else’s job to feed this bottomless pit but her. But if you don’t mind, I sure would like to call her and let her know I’m OK.

Phones right over there. Make ye self at home. David said his friends was comin’ by fer a visit. He’s sure been excited about it. Her comment made my conscience bother me a bit; causing the pangs in my belly to start up again.

I called ma to let her know I was there and found myself a seat on the couch (between two puppies). It was soft as a feather bed and I sank down into it as I sat. I just…sat there for a spell; enjoying the heat, the serenity, and the aroma of the wood while letting the worries just melt away.

I understood why David acted so. Even with all the noise and commotion I felt at ease; at home even. His ma had the same easy grin as he did, and the same easy nature. His brothers and sisters climbed on him like he was a set of monkey bars; and he seemed to love it as much as they did.

It seemed all too soon, but a knock came at the door; dragging me back to reality.

David stood up, looks like that’ll be the fellers. The dogs exploded though the door the second he opened it.

I heard a ruckus on the front porch. Good God we’re bein’ attacked by a pack of rabid lassies. Git down dogs I ain’t got no hot-dogs in my pockets.

Chuckie’s panicked voice was unmistakable. The two of em, Chucky and Stick tumbled into the living room in a pile; puppies nipping at their britches, and licking the boy’s faces.

Big David was grinning from ear to ear, even showing some teeth. Aw… They’s just gittin’ to know ye is all, ain’t no use in gittin’ ye drawers in a bunch.

I gotta have em in a bunch cried Stick, if I didn’t those hounds would pull em right off me.

Chucky was already standing in front of the stove, his backside turned to it while he rubbed his tail.

Ain’t nothin’ like a hot fire, my tail is soaked to the bone. Stick kept runnin’ me through mud holes the whole way here.

What? I didn’t do no such thing. Just cause you cain’t ride don’t mean you can blame everybody else.

I interrupted they’re little quarrel. That’s enough guys, yun’z gotta call yer folks so’s we can be on our way. We’re burnin’ daylight.

David looked worried. You sure you wanna do this friend? I mean, they ain’t no shame in not goin’. Heck, I’d wager ol’ Mark ain’t even gonna show up.

I’ve gone too far to back out now. Side’s, if he does show and we ain’t there, I’d get a poundin’ fer sure.

What ’che gonna tell my ma? He asked.

Oh… I ain’t thought of that. I got up and went to the kitchen.

David’s ma was sitting at the table; checking a pile of soup beans before she put em in water.

Excuse me Ma’am.

Stick forgot a couple things at his house; we’re gonna run down and git em if that’s OK with you. We’ll be back shortly.

OK she replied (with out looking up from those beans), but you boys be careful. Ya hear?

I could tell she weren’t used to being lied to. She never batted an eye at my excuse. As I turned and walked back to the guys; I felt all kinds of dirty and those pangs were back in my stomach.

Light was beginning to fade as we walked out on the front porch.

As always Thank You for choosing to spend just a little of your time with The Tin Cup Clan. I know there are a lot of other things you could be doing. A like or a share would be greatly appreciated, so go a head and make my day. Until next time…

Let Me Introduce You to “The Copper Lady”

Around here we got a habit of classifying any and all manner of machinery as “female.” I don’t know why, that’s just the way it’s always been. Truck, car, tractor, still, makes no difference, “The ol’ girl,” or “Fire her up,” are common phrases. If she refuses to start or breaks down, then things get a might personal, “That ol’ heifer up and quit on me” we might say. But we can be equally as forgiving, if you make it back home on a dark night you might give her a pat on the fender as you utter a loving, “atta girl.” My little girl named my truck “Big Blue,” Bi-weekly trips to Chemotherapy take about four hours driving each way. But when I finally get back home I never fail to proclaim to the wife that, ” the ol’ girl got there and back one more time.”

Mikey’s family is no different, he views his papaw’s still with a fearful reverence, she scares him. In the story, the still has a menacing personality, he compares the noises she makes to breathing, when shes’ cold, shes’ sleeping, waiting for the old man to wake her up.

Below is a few paragraphs from Chapter : 11 titled “Karma is a fickle mistress”

To most folk, it’s just an old shed full of hog feed and tools. An old weather-worn building that looks like it might collapse at any moment. But don’t let appearances fool ya. Its true purpose lies hidden just inside. On the left just behind a weather weary 6-panel door. The ol’ man keeps it pretty well hidden with sacks of feed and rolls of barbed wire to block the entrance.

I had to make sure and study how every sack and spool was stacked or placed. If even a single one was out of place, the ol’ buzzard would know some-one had messed with them for sure.

I poked my head out one last time, making sure I wasn’t seen, then quickly went to work. I was on a strict timeline cause the old man was sure to notice if I took too long. Once I had enough sacks moved to the side, I opened the door.

 There she was, the dim light gave the still a menacing appearance. The bottom was covered in black soot, scars from years of coal fires. Her copper skin had turned an ugly shade of olive brown from age, it’s no telling how old she was. A large coil of copper tubing spiraled down-ward from the top of her large belly and into the top of the smaller “thump keg.” (so named because of the thumping sound it makes when steam enters from the coil.) Another coil of smaller diameter called the “worm,” came from the top of that tank and curled its way into a barrel. It’s empty now but gets filled with cool spring water when the ol’ man is a cooking.

The spaces between the boards allowed streaks of dusty sunlight to play strange tricks on the eyes. In this setting, it was easy to believe she was alive. Sleeping for now but waiting for the ol’ man to come and wake her up again. On the back wall sat jar after jar of clear liquid. Realizing I had lost some time staring at the still, I picked up my pace a bit. My heart was beating out of my chest and I could feel each beat in my head. I stuck a shaky hand into my pocket and pulled out the first bottle.

As always we Thank You for your time. I know there are plenty of other things you could be doing. Likes, shares’ , and comments are looked upon like Christmas morning around here, so go ahead and make our day. Until next time…The Tin Cup Clan

Time to meet the Witch

Well… here it is, the central theme in the first “Tin Cup Clan” book. I admit I’ve put the ol’ girl off for awhile, after all, there were other subjects we needed to address. I need to begin by reminding all, there are always at least two sides to every story. The Witch is certainly no exception.

We all grew up hearing old ghost stories, as the teller changed, the story evolved with each telling. But, as I’ve said before… I firmly believe there’s a grain of truth in each one. It’s inevitable that such truths, after time and telling, become lost or difficult to recognise.

Our boys are out to find that truth, one way or another. Was she really a witch as the legend says? Or… was she simply an innocent victim of superstition in a bygone era. I’m gonna leave that question right there, and allow you to decide for yourself when you read the book.

So dear reader, I present to you, the “Leech Cemetery Witch.”

Excerpt : Chapter four(4)

The Tin Cup Clan-(Mystery of the Leech Cemetery Witch).

Even though we had all four grew up hearing the story. Stick was only too happy to tell us all again.

The way I heard it goes like this. You see, back nearly a hundred years or so, there was this old woman what lived up around Sinkin’ creek. I don’t think nobody knew her name fer sure, most folk called her Wilmide. She lived in the opening of an old spent mine shaft along with an old one-eyed dog.

Folks said she was spose to wear clothes she wove from the hair of what-ever animals she ate. She even wore a hat made from chicken feathers and stuff like that. And a necklace that had chicken feet tied to it to boot. Papaw said, that if you wanted a love potion, or maybe somebody had wronged you, or even a hex, or somethin’ like that, she was the one to go see. But she weren’t gonna do it for free.

David couldn’t stand this silliness any longer, before finally blurting out. “If she didn’t have no use fer foldin’ money, what did a body pay her with then?”

Stick raised his hand, putting him in his place before continuing. “I’m gittin’ there, I’m gittin’ there.”

Papaw said, you could bring her anything from dead chickens to dead goats, the deader the better. What kind depended on what you were askin’ her to do. The bigger the hex, the bigger the price.

Well; this went on for a number of years, nobody paid a crazy ol’ woman in the woods much mind. That was till one cold snowy winter. I mean it was a bad one too, cold like folks round here never seen before. Snow so deep, they say a horse’s belly would rub raw against it. It was durin’ such a winter, a young lady came to pay the ol’ witch a visit. There, by the light of that ol’ fireplace, she told a sad, sad story.

She said, her ol’ man worked the hooty owl over at the Blue Diamond. At least that’s what he told her he was doin’. But he was lyin’ ya see. He had himself a woman on the side. Nobody knows for sure who she was, some folk say the mayor’s wife or maybe the sheriffs.  To make matters even worse, he went and had himself a baby with her.

Well, if that weren’t bad enough, his wife had a baby of her own to tend to, a wee little baby at that. Well, he was stayin’ gone all the time, sayin’ he was at that mine, workin’ and such. But, even “workin’” as much as he said he was, he weren’t takin’ proper care and providin’ for his family. Blamed it on the hours at the mine I reckon.

One night; it got cold, I mean really cold, in that ol’ cabin there weren’t no coal for heat, so that poor little baby up and froze to death. Of course, this drove the wife nuttier than a squirrel turd. Somehow, she had heard through the grapevine about Wilmide, and in her terrible grief, took a mind to go see her.

She wanted revenge on her ol’ man in the worst kinda way, no matter the cost. And she wanted double for the woman he was seein’ as well. She felt she deserved that woman’s baby to make up for the one what died cause of the cold. But old Wilmide asked a hefty price, she wanted that baby fer herself.

Why an old woman would want a baby, nobody knows. But the woman was so mad, and so depressed, she agreed to the ol’ woman’s terms. So, hands were shook, the deal was done.

Weren’t long after that, there was a massive cave in at the Blue Diamond. Twenty-three men lost their lives in that horrible accident, including the woman’s husband. Mine explosion they said. Some died right away, them was the lucky ones. The others lingered for quite some time, days even, till finally the air gave out. A few even managed to scribble death letters to their families.

The man’s girlfriend went crazy with grief. I reckon she couldn’t live with his diein’ and all. So, one cold dark night, she went and jumped to her death over at the bluffs. That same night, the man’s wife found that little baby sittin’ there on her front porch, near froze to death, no note nor nothin’.

Big David interrupted. I thought you said the ol’ woman was gonna git that baby.

Hold yer horses, I’m gettin’ there, I’m gettin’ there, replied Stick.

Well… word got out amongst the town folk, and like it usually does, gossip turned to panic. They just knew it was ol Wilmide’s hex what killed all those brave men. A hangin’ mob was put together by the town leaders, and they took off up the mountain, after the ol’ witch.

There they found her, sittin’ in that ol’ mine, that one-eyed dog by her side. I reckon she knew they was comin’, cause all’s she said was, “come on in boys and warm ye-self over by the fire a spell.” When they made their way over to the warm fire, someone heard a baby cry, and there on the stones they found an old basket. In that basket lay that ladies’ baby, all wrapped up in rabbit skins.

The excitement was getting to Chucky. What’d they do, what’d they do? he asked.

I’m gittin’ there, I’m gittin’ there, hold your horses. First, they grabbed the ol’ witch, bound her hand and foot with iron cuffs, cause everybody knows, a witch cain’t escape from iron bindins’. Then, they went over to the hearth to gather up that baby. Low and behold. They’s no baby there, but over to the side they seen a baby’s basket held tight in the jaws of that one eyed dog just as it went runnin’ up the holler. Search parties looked high and low, but the baby, and the ol’ dog were nowhere to be found.

They tied that ol’ woman behind a couple of horses and dragged her all the way into town. That’s where the men beat her to the point of death, even tortured her with hot brandin’ irons and everything. Still, she wouldn’t tell em where the dog or the baby was, or even if her hex was to blame for the cave-in.

It didn’t matter how much they beat her, she just laid there, laughin’ at em. Through all that torture she never uttered a single solitary word.

They built a hangin’ post right then and there, and that’s where they hung her. Right smack in the middle of town. Some folk say, she never stopped laughin’, even as she hung there swingin’ in the wind. But at the stroke of midnight she went silent and limp.

Now, everybody knows, you cain’t bury a witch on Holy ground. So they picked a spot way out back of Leech Cemetery. Just outside the fence so’s not to be sinful. Then they sealed her body in an iron box so’s she couldn’t escape and buried her there with nary a single marker.

Folks say some seen a big dog standin’ on the next ridge, watchin’ the whole burial. And when the first shovel of dirt fell, that dog began to howl, eerie and ghostly. That howl was said to have been heard for miles up and down the hollers.

That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard scoffed David, “you said there weren’t no headstone.”

That’s the scary part said Stick. You see, a number of years later, a gravestone mysteriously appeared, almost outta nowhere. No writtin’, no drawin’, no nothin’, just a blank head-stone.

Many a folk have tried to knock it down, but the next day, it’s always back up. The best anyone could do was punch a hole in the back of it, that’s right, its holler, holler as yer head. And that hole is said to go down, way down. To what? Nobody knows.

A lot of folk think it was the child and dog what put that stone up. If so, they’d have to be as old and gnarled as the ol’ witch was by now.  It’s said, they keep it up to this day, nobody knows fer sure.

Rumor is; if you go there, just at the stroke of midnight, the witchin’ hour and drop a dead animal into the hole, she’ll answer a question for you. But you might not like the answer. If you ask a question, and not give her payment, they say the one-eyed dog will come fer you and yer soul.

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