“I’ve been all over Europe, Stirrup, Asia, Africa and parts of Hell, but Braxton County is the best God damned state in the university.” (said after he returned from the longest trip of his life, to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair).
“Bread is potato’s mother.”
“I could eat soup even it was made over a lizard.”
“It’s just my luck that if it was raining soup, I’d have a fork instead of a spoon.”
“In the old days we did everything by hand-power and awkwardness.”
“They say that money talks, but all it ever said to me was goodbye.”
“I’ve been as lucky as a one-legged man at an ass-kicking!”
“You have to believe in yourself, even if you know you’re wrong.”
Shelt Carpenter was an early 20th century fixture as a guide to fisherman on WV’s Elk River. He also entertained at the fishing camps with his fiddle and his tales. He was well known by the professional class of doctors and lawyers from Charleston who brought him to their fishing camps. He showed them where to fish, when to fish, and what bait to use. He told tales, played music, and drank their whiskey.
Family lore has it that Shelton’s great grandfather Jeremiah and his son Solomon were fiddlers. Certainly Shelton’s father Squirrely Bill was, and Shelton passed the tradition down to his son Ernie.
“My father was a good old-time fiddler,” said Ernie. He used to keep that fiddle in a large safe that we had. The safe was never locked. He kept that fiddle on the top shelf. Just kept it laying in there on a cloth, never had a case for it. Not a kid on the place ever touched that fiddle or ever even went close to it. I was the first one to take an interest in it when I got big enough. As soon as I hit my first note on the fiddle, he said, ‘The fiddle is yours. I’m through. I won’t be a-playin’ no more. You’re going to do the playing from now on.'”
Ernie Carpenter was awarded the Vandalia Award, WV’s highest folklife honor, at age 80.
From “Play of a Fiddle” by Gerald Milnes
1999, University Press of Kentucky