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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Uncle Vergil Haddix

Vergil Haddix
9/20/1914 - 7/22/1993
on FindaGrave

Arthur Haddix and sons.
L-R: Joe, Ross, Arthur, Vergil, Bert

My mother's oldest brother Vergil was a butcher; he had his own shop in Richmond, Ky., for many years. His ready hugs, twinkling smiles, and pockets full of treats made him a constant favorite with the children in the family. He was also an excellent carpenter and made beautiful wooden furniture. 

Santa's Eyes
I recall a country store
on small-town streets,
Cases filled with true delights -
called Haddix Meats.

I remember tip-toed stares
(and sneaking sweets!)
Country ham beyond compare
among the other treats.

I recall white apron strings
in Uncle Vergil's store;
He stands at sturdy counters there
beyond an open door.

The people praise his products rare
and always come for more -
To find him ever on his feet,
hard-working to the core. 

I recall a friendly grin
as wide as all the skies -
A gentle voice, rolled from the hills;
too many sad good-byes.

His bear-hugs reaching round us all
renewing family ties...
But I remember, most of all,
his twinkling Santa's eyes.

Wide-eyed little girls are gone
and little boys are grown,
But now we all come back again
to where our love was sown.

We celebrate this special day
because he is our own,
By sharing precious memories
forever coming home. 

- Mona Landrum Proctor
With love for Uncle Vergil
on his 75th birthday - 1989

Vergil's Crowd-Pleasing
Barbecued Beef
Cook one large beef brisket in oven at 200 degrees, ten (10) hours or overnight (or cook in crock pot all day).
Dry rub brisket with mixture of: 
1/4 cup catsup
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp red pepper
After baking, slice meat and mix thoroughly with sauce:
5 cups catsup
2 cups Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups lemon juice
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup water
1 cup vinegar
4 tsp hot pepper sauce
4 tsp bacon drippings
1 cup rendered beef fat
Cook one hour, until desired thickness. Brown the following ingredients in bacon drippings or oil, and add to above sauce mixture:
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced green pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
Add: 1 pint apple butter and 1 tsp ginger. 

Memories of Vergil

From his sister, Edith (Haddix) DePew:

When Vergil was 11 or 12 years of age, he designed and made some doll house furniture for his sisters Edith and Selena, who were younger than he was. The doll house furniture was about six inches high; he made items for the living room, bedroom, dining room, and kitchen. He used a doll's mirror for the vanity table. His sisters were very impressed and delighted with their furniture!

When Vergil was a teenager, he designed and made bookshelves, tables, plant stands, boxes and other small pieces of furniture for our new house. He also made porch furniture and wooden boxes. He built the bannister for the upstairs porch for our new house. He planed the wood for the bannister using a hand plane. 
In the spring of 1930, Vergil and our mother [Maude Noble Haddix] were grafting fruit trees for our orchard at our new house. With some help from our mother, Vergil was very successful with the job. Mr. Drushal brought his General Science class from Riverside to observe Vergil in this procedure. The class was very impressed with Vergil's work. 

In the early 1930's, we had quite a good small business in raising frying chickens. We bought young chickens or hatched them and incubated them. Vergil and our mother designed and built our incubators. We had one 'store-bought' incubator, and Vergil built the others. He used a kerosene lamp for heat. Vergil also designed and built 'scientific' small chicken houses. He built several to accommodate each batch of chickens as they came out of the incubators. These chicken houses were very well ventilated, and each had a removable roof to make it easier to clean. 
Going peddling to Perry County was an opportunity to sell vegetables, fruit, eggs and chickens to the coal miners there. Many people from our neighborhood of Lost Creek took advantage of this opportunity, and Vergil was one of them. At first he went with Uncle Emory Haddix, and later he went alone. Vergil started about 2-3-4 o'clock in the morning. 

Our entire family would help get almost everything ready the night before. We picked corn and beans and put them in large cloth bags. These bags were put on the mule's back. We wrapped each egg in paper and carefully placed them in large containers, usually "powder kegs." Powder kegs were constructed of sturdy metal and made excellent containers to carry the eggs so they would not be broken. 
Live frying chickens were a good-selling item. The chickens' legs were tied together, then the chickens were tied in bunches and also placed across the mule's back. At last, Vergil climbed into the saddle and took off. The peddlers with their fresh vegetables, chickens and eggs were a welcome sight to the peple who lived in the coal mining areas. Fresh vegetables delivered right to your front door! 

In the late 1920's and early 1930's, Vergil would take the mule and the plow and go to the mouth of Lost Creek and do plowing for the people who lived there. He got twenty-five cents a day for himself, and fifty cents a day for the mule! 

In the late 1930's when we lived in Richmond, our father and Vergil bought a one-and-one-half ton truck and sold coal in Richmond. They would go to eastern Kentucky and get coal, and bring it to Richmond to sell. Ross went around in Richmond part of the time with Vergil. Ross said there were times when it was so cold and the wind was blowing... they would take turns about rolling down the window and yelling, "Coal, coal, come and get your coal." People would come out and buy small quantities of coal; a small bag full, a bucket full, or a bushel. Vergil had a one-half ton pickup truck at a later time. 

(Letter from Selena Haddix Carnahan to her sister Blanche, written in the 1970's):

Do you remember being at Grandmother's home when Aunt Lula's family and our family would be there for the night... sleeping on the featherbed on the floor? I wonder if our children realize that we had sleeping bags while we were children!! I bet they will be surprised... 

I heard a country music program the other night, with a song about Grandmother's feather bed that was put on the floor, and the children put on it crosswise! Just the way we slept. Do you remember some of the times we were there? I believe you will. It was always so much fun with Geneva, Reid, Roy, Mary Drusilla, James and Ina Lou. 

Isn't it good to just stop whatever you are worrying about, and remember some of the times in the past? Can you remember sleeping on a corn husk bed? Can you remember going up there in the summertime to get apples? They were from the trees Mama had bought when she was teaching. We'd take them home and can them, or "smoke" them, dry them, and make jelly. Sometimes Mama would make apple butter. 

Do you remember a lot of things about Mama? I am sure you do, for you were a pretty big girl when she died, weren't you? Do  you remember when we "holed up" the apples in the garden, and received strict instructions to leave them alone... They put a foddershock on the top of it; Vergil and I went to the side opposite the house, made a hole in the foddershock, removed the boards, the hay, and the dirt - and helped ourselves to the apples! Boy, were they ever good!! We made several trips to get them, and were feeling pretty pleased about the whole affair - knowing we would get in trouble when the theft was discovered!

All the family, of course, gathered around for the official opening. They opened the other side first, and there was much disappointment, for many of the apples were rotten. Then they got to the side where our prying fingers had been. Lo and behold, the apples were missing, but those that remained were much firmer and less rotten! Of course Vergil and I were glad, but we didn't dare draw a deep breath yet. Mama said that the good condition of the apples was probably due to the fresh air. So we were home free. Boy, that was a good feeling, too. If your children have not heard this, tell them, won't you? Be sure to put the blame on Vergil and me, too, for Edith would never have done such a thing, I'm sure. But we two got into a lot of mischief. 

Do you remember how we always had an extra dessert for Sunday dinner? That was especially true during Mama's lifetime. That's when we would get into trouble, too. For after dinner, Mama and Edith would put away the cookies, cake or pie for Sunday supper. They knew how hungry we would get while playing, and so would want something to tide us over until supper. Of course that was strictly forbidden territory! But we two would invariably find it, and take just a small bit... 

I have told my children, Phyllis and Jack, about that, so you don't need to think they look on me as perfect - far from that. When she was small, Phyllis found a small basket in the fruit cellar in which I kept chocolate bits for cooking - especially cookies. She helped herself to some, then had a prick of conscience, and came and told me about it! But I just laughed at her, and told her she was a chip off the old block. She didn't have a brother to help her, either. She didn't ever tell Jack where they were! Sometimes we mention this entire episode, and she has so much fun thinking of the trouble I got into. 

You remember how Mama smoked apples, don't you? I'm sure you do, but just in case you do not: You use a shovel of burning charcoal and sprinkle sulfur onto them, and then quickly put it into the bottom of a metal barrel. Hang a basket of peeled, quartered apples across the top, cover with a heavy material such as a quilt, and move!! Those fumes will nearly kill you!! At least you think they will, for they sting the eyes quite badly. Have I omitted any details? Leave them overnight, and put them into a crock in the cellar. At least that is where we put them. And weren't they delicious? 

Those were the days before antibiotics, and many parents gave their children a dose of the sulfur and molasses every spring, for a routine spring tonic. But Mama didn't, thank goodness. She said we ate them all through the winter! Boy, would I like some now! 

One day we children were out in the peach orchard, and eating about as many as we were putting into the sack to take home. Ray Haddix came; he had been to the house, and Mama sent him up to see us. He said, "You may not believe this, but your mother is making a cake about ten inches high! It's the truth, I swear it is." We were not overly impressed, for we were familiar with Mama's applesauce stack cakes. But Ray's eyes kept getting bigger and bigger... 
Do you remember how we made sauerkraut in the big 20-gallon crock? We would gleefully stick in as many stalks as we could - for they were so good. Then we had the crock filled with pickled beans... and pickled corn. I remember one night I was left to get supper, while Mama went to milk. I didn't think of what I was doing, and I salted the pickled corn. Of course it was inedible. I can still remember the surprise in Dad's face when he took a bite! 

Do you remember how we used to go to the woods with a mule and sled, and bring home a load of walnuts? Didn't that green husk really stain our fingers? Washing dishes was supposed to remove the stain, but it still took a terribly long time to get it all removed. Those walnuts were just as good as the ones we buy now. When you start to make your Christmas fruitcake, remember the walnuts we used to gather, won't you?

You remember how we used to store apples in the room over the dining room, I suppose. One year Dad was away working, and we put the apples there. When he came home, he was afraid they would crash through the floor! But Vergil and I helped remedy that - we ate enough to reduce the weight very soon! Now, we had help, too. It was just that we would get into some kind of mischief more than the others.

Vergil taught me to like carrots. We had some in the garden, and he showed me how to find the large ones, and slip them up. Mama tried so hard to get us to leave them alone so she would have enough for her family. She surely had two mischievious children. 

But we weren't the only ones! Ross got into mischief, too. Mama had to keep her sewing machine turned around - to keep Ross out of the machine drawers. He used to go to the barn loft and collect the eggs... He would very carefully carry them to the ladder, drop them to the ground, and then go down and pick them up and take them to the house!

Bert and Joe were good children. They didn't get into mischief like Vergil and I did. Do you remember their dog that they raised from a tiny puppy? They kept it in a lard can during the day when they were at school. Once they were both gone for two or three days... I put on a pair of their blue jeans to go pick berries, and the dog nearly went wild! He jumped all over me, and I really had a time getting him settled down. 

Have you told your children about picking berries, and seeing snakes?!! Of getting chiggers? Of getting to go swimming afterward, in an effort to wash away the chiggers? Of going "up the branch" in the autumn to collect pawpaws? I never liked them, but I delighted in gathering them. Mama liked them, and I was always so happy when she would tell about my gathering them for her. 

We would go birch-sapping in the spring. Cut down a birch tree, carefully remove the bark, and scrape the juice and pulp from the inside. Then, when the tree was completely de-barked, we would sit on it and slide down the trunk of the tree. 

Do you remember gathering and eating persimmons? Or going to a stir-off? Getting a letter from a serviceman, and having to hide it from Dad? He had an awfully big family not to want any of them to get married! Getting your high school graduation ring? Attempting to wear some of Edith's clothes, and getting caught? Having to listen to Dove tell of Joe seeing her with her stockings rolled down?!!

I don't know what got into me to write such a letter, but I have thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it, and hope you will too...

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