Good morning everyone! Time for another memory. This trip will be about my beloved Uncle Rudd.
Rudd Sheets was my grandmother Wyatt’s younger and only brother. Five girls and one boy in the family. They grew up in a traditional chestnut log house on the site of my mothers current home, which was built in 1962. It was a good size house of two large rooms on the ground floor, divided by a fireplace that a big man could walk through, as I’ve heard it described. It was used for heating as well as for cooking. The second floor was a large attic where the children slept. It had cedar shakes on the roof which snow would blow under in the winter, but it did manage to keep the rain out, mostly.
Growing up I heard many stories of family life told over and over again. Telling oral history like this within families is an old Appalachian tradition which is sadly dying out. My grandmother and her generation were great story tellers. At times during their stories it almost felt like I lived then, also.
With all the chores to be done to keep a good sized family clothed and fed their wasn’t much time for play, but children always seemed to manage. It befell Rudd even at a young age to make their toys.
He would make balls of tightly wound string and cloth that would last for a month or more of hard play. He could whittle whistles from willow sticks and all manner of other things. I have heard all his sisters tell me at one time or another just how creative he was. Once he collected a handful of old busted wind up clocks and took them apart. He played with the springs and gears and with a block of wood built a wind up vehicle that I was told would actually climb a log wall.
Rudd spent some time in Europe during WWll but he had trouble fighting the Germans because, in his words, they looked just like the folks back home.
When Rudd came back from the war he took a wife and had two children and they lived for a short time near my grandmother and the family home. The marriage didn’t last and his wife took the children and moved to Maryland. From then on Rudd was a bachelor.
I guess you could say he was a man ahead of his time. He moved near the Ore Knob mine and built the first of two shacks, as they were called then. I think the modern term is a tiny house. These small holes were very compact but had all he needed. One room with a stove, running water and a bed. I can remember several shelves with a wide one serving as a kitchen table. Later on he built one a little larger just down the creek and the coolest feature at least to a young boy was the trap door in the floor!
Now a man had to get around and I don’t believe Rudd ever had a drivers license but he still had that mechanical ingenuity. He would get parts and pieces of farm equipment and old cars and some kind of engine and build a vehicle. It had handle bars like a large garden tiller and this was where the motor was mounted as well as the wheels. The rear was like a cart or wagon with a high seat from which to sit and steer and it was hinged in the middle. He called it a tractor and thus did not need a license.
In the summer Rudd would travel the three or four miles to our house to visit. He was always full of laughter and quick to tease, but we loved him dearly. He almost always brought a candy bar or some other treat for each of us. Some times we would go to visit him and he would play his guitar. He held it in his lap and played it in that style and used a butter knife as a slide. He and my mom would sing and have a great time. Rudd was an amazing man and I like to think he left a good impression on me as I was growing up. We lost Rudd to cancer in 1974, but I still carry him with me as I travel down Memory Lane.