The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Turn Right Before You Get To The Church

By W. Bruce Wright © 1987

Issue: July, 1987

It was a few years later when we again went to visit Uncle Sam and other relatives of my Mother's who lived in the hills along the Ohio River. The year was either 1925 or 1926, just after my Father had traded the old Model–T Ford for a Maxwell. My Mother's brother John went with us on this trip. From home, we headed south and crossed the Ohio River at Beaver, Pennsylvania. We then drove overland to Wierton, WV, located on the Ohio River. We then followed the river down to Clarington, Ohio, crossing over into Ohio at Wheeling. Until we crossed the river the trip was uneventful. We were just a few miles south of Wheeling (Bellaire) when it started to rain. This called for a stop to put on the isinglass curtains. The windshield wipers were hand operated and the reduced visibility caused our rate of speed to be considerably reduced (When I see the Laurel and Hardy TV Commercials about their piano moving, I recall this trip).

When we left the macadam road at Clarington (Almost all paved roads were either macadam, brick, or cobblestone, very few cement), it was almost dark. The rain had almost stopped, but it remained wet and misty all the way to Uncle Sam's. Due to the rain, the road was so soft and slippery that we stopped at the first relatively firm place and put on the chains. Soon after this we had a flat tire. Setting the jack in the mud was frustrating and time consuming. We found a fairly flat stone by the side of the road which we placed under the jack. In this manner we were able to raise the car and get the tire out of the mud to put on the spare (Because the tires and the roads were of such poor quality, one never left home without at least two spares). Tires were then held onto the wheel by a 'clincher rim.' These rims were called many names, most of which a gentleman would not use in mixed company. Getting the rims off and on again was a task which caused many a devout person to lose their religion. By this time it was dark, dark (darker than some darks) and very wet. Working with a small hand light, that clincher rim was a mess! Uncle John was a watchmaker, a jeweler by trade and I doubt if he had ever changed a tire but he surely had plenty of advice in telling us how to do it. Dad completely ignored Uncle John, Dad did not say Yes, No or Thank you! Finally the tire was replaced and we were on our way although not so merrily! It may take some effort but one can always find something good about every situation. In this case, the flat could have been on the rear wheel where the chains would have made the problem greater.

Now to compound our problem, we became lost! Uncle John had been most confident that he knew the way to Uncle Sam's. Due to the rain and the poor visibility through the isinglass curtains, Uncle John had missed the turn somewhere. By this time everyone was tired, hungry and short tempered. Mother tried to placate the situation but probably only made things worse. As Dad brought the Maxwell to a sliding stop at a crossroads, not knowing which way to go, he finally convinced Uncle John that we needed to stop and ask directions. Fortunately, in that country, everyone knew all the other residents for miles in each direction.

After what would today be called 'scratching off' in the mud, we quite shortly came to a two story farm house which was fairly close to the road. As the car again settled to a stop in the mud, Uncle John bounced out and with curtains flapping, slammed the car door. I don't know the hour but it was surely well past the time when all good farmers would have been in bed for at least an hour or more.

Uncle John pounded on the door but no answer. After repeated poundings, an upstairs window opened and a gruff, sleepy voice said, "Who's there and what do you want?" Instead of asking directions to Sam Kimple's farm, Uncle John said, "How do you get to Sam Kimple's?" The voice above said, "Come out where I can see you." Uncle John came off the porch into the yard but it was so dark that I doubt if the man could see him. As Uncle John again started to ask, "How do you..." he was interrupted by the voice above (As we later looked back upon the situation, Uncle John's unsociable tone irritated the farmer. This unsociable attitude was caused not only by our trials but by the fact that being so confident, almost egotistical about knowing how to get to Uncle Sam's really upset him). "I don't want to go to Sam Kimple's but if you go straight ahead and turn right before you get to the church and then..". When Uncle John blurted out, "Turn before we get to the church! How will we know before we get to the church?" etc. Neither I nor any member of my family will ever forget the way Uncle John argued about knowing when to turn before we got to the church! I don't know what would have happened if Dad had not interfered to let the man talk. It was then made clear and Dad was reassured that by the car lights he would see the church in plenty of time to turn before he got to the church. A short time later this proved to be correct as the white church became very visible just beyond the side road. By following some additional directions which I do not recall, we arrived at Uncle Sam's without any more problems.

To this day, some sixty plus years later, if a member of my family should ask another family member for directions, they would probably first hear, "Turn right before you get to the church."