I was beginning to get a bit worried about Good ‘Lige, since I hadn’t seen him for some three weeks. It was with a feeling of relief when I knocked at his door last Sunday to hear his cheery voice call to me to enter.
He was sitting before the fire, reading his copy of the weekly newspaper, and he had a pot of ginger stew simmering in the coals on the hearth where a couple of hickory logs were blazing.
“Sit and help yourself,” he urged hospitably, nodding toward some cups and saucers on a nearby table.
While we were talking, I glanced about the room at the magazine cover-pages with which he had papered the walls. Over the fireplace, resting on a pair of deer’s antlers, lay a gun that caught and held my attention. It appeared to be a muzzle-loading, double-barreled weapon, with one barrel directly over the other. I arose and took the gun down to examine it more closely.
“That’s old Hide-an’-Taller,” explained Good ‘Lige, “the best gun ever seen in the Apern country. I got her thut’y-forty years ago from one of the Eversoles when he was scoutin’ in that French-Eversole war they had down in Kaintucky.”
“Hide-and-Tallow?” I queried bewilderedly.
“Yeah, we used to have shootin’ matches for beeves,” said Good ‘Lige, lighting the cigar I gave him. “Beeves wa’nt worth much then, an’ the first choice was allus the hide and taller, because they was worth the most. I allers won with that rifle-gun there.
“She’s a double-barr’l,” he continued, taking the gun and caressing it. “Ye see the top barr’l is for a single ball an’ the bottom barr’l is for shot. She shore has been a meat-gun. If it wa’nt so muddy out thar’ I’d show ye how she shoots. I reckon she’s got the longest range ever seen—around her anyhow.”
From Tales of the Tall Timbers, a weekly column in The Dickensonian [Clintwood, VA] written by Herbert M. Sutherland, the paper’s owner/editor.
As editor of Dickenson County’s local county weekly, Herbert M. Sutherland was looked on by the mountaineers as almost one of their own. He was the boy they had seen around town in his teens; the boy who had fought in France in 1918 and come home honorably discharged. After being hospitalized at Walter Reed Hospital for a period of time in Washington, DC, he enrolled in the School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York, where he received a B.A. in Literature in 1921. He worked for the New York Globe, and after it ceased publication he worked for the New York Times.
In 1924 his health failed and he returned to Dickenson County to recuperate. There he spent his time hunting, fishing and writing. During the 1930’s, Sutherland became interested in local politics, and was elected four times to the Virginia Assembly.
In 1939 he acquired the Dickenson County Weekly and named it The Dickensonian. His weekly column “Tales of the Tall Timbers” was read and enjoyed all over the country, and by servicemen all over the world during the 1940’s and 1950’s. This column included stories, using fictitious names, told to him by area friends and associates, whom he fondly referred to as ‘The Liars Club.’ His tall tales were published after his death in 1967 in a volume called “Tales from the Devil’s Apron.”
Sources: American Folk Tales and Songs by Richard Chase, Joshua Tolford, Courier Dover Publications 1971
HISTORICAL SKETCHES OF SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA PUBLICATION 13-1979, ‘Mountain Scribes’ by Bonnie S. Ball