As I’ve mentioned several times in this blog, I grew up and live in an old mining town, and by old I mean when the mines first started up they were dug out by men and the coal was hauled out of the mines in carts pulled by donkeys or mules.
Over the years, there were quite a few mines being worked in these mountains surrounding our town, which is where all the miners and their families lived, along with all the other tradesmen that went along with mining.
Coal was a booming business back then and our little town had a lot of the modern conveniences of the day. We had a huge motel, a movie theater, a YMCA, a company store, a hospital, a “beer garden”, a bank, and lots of other “citified” stuff for a little coal town in the Appalachian Mountains.
Down the holler a ways from the actual mine operations was the tipple. This ain’t a picture of our tipple, I couldn’t find one but it looks a lot like what ours looked like. If ya went on down the track another few hundred yards you would start runnin’ into houses and what is called “Straight Road.”
The tipple would stand and work for many years, but like all things, it’s time came to an end and it was torn down. All that was left of it was a concrete slab on the top of the hill that was the ceiling for a shallow “cave” that was maybe 12 feet deep back in the hill.
Now, back in our young days, there was no fence or guard rail to keep anybody from going to, or over, the edge, and it was a good 80 feet or better drop. Now to my knowledge, nobody ever fell over the edge, which was a good thing. Even though the actual tipple was no longer there, the place was still referred to as “The Tipple.”
I spent many hours sittin’ on the edge of that drop, sometimes alone, most times with my buddies. We’d talk about anything and everything, or we’d just sit and throw rocks and watch ’em bounce when they hit the ground below.
At one point, somebody got the bright idea to build a tennis court down below and we’d sit up top and watch people play tennis for a while, until we got bored, then we’d either just get up and leave or we’d start tossin’ pebbles down on ’em, just to make ’em mad. After a few years, people got tired of the tennis court and nobody ever used it again.
There were also ghost stories about the tipple and the surrounding area. The screaming baby and the woman in white bein’ the best known. We all knew the tales, right down to the last gory detail. Some of us even said we’d seen the woman in white or heard the little baby scream. There were others, all just as scary and for a time we all took ’em to heart and believed every word.
Now, I’ve told you all of that so I could tell you this.
As we got older, some of us stopped believin’ the old stories, me bein’ one of us, and some of us didn’t, but would never admit it. Case in point, my buddy Matt.
When we was young’uns, we’d spend the night at each others house most every weekend. Sometimes he’d be at his mamaw’s house, which was just down the road a piece from his house and we’d stay there.
To give you a bit of perspective here, the distance from his mamaw’s house to mine was, at most, ¼ mile, if that, but, the tipple was almost smack dab in the middle between the two. Actually, it was a bit closer to him than it was to me.
Usually I’d get a call sometime near dark. It would be Matt, wantin’ to know if he could come around and spend the night. After gettin’ the required permission he’d say, “OK, let’s meet at the tipple.” To which I’d reply, “OK,” and out the door I’d go. Now, knowin’ that he was a bit closer to the tipple than me, I would walk a bit faster than normal so as to get there round about the same time as him.
By the time I got there it was near on full dark and Matt was nowhere to be found, so I waited a few minutes for him to show up. He never did. I took to walkin’ on up in the holler to his mamaw’s house, figurin’ the whole time I would meet him somewhere between there and the house. I didn’t.
I got to Maw’s house and went on in, and there sat Matt. I’m not even going to attempt to tell you what was said, mainly because I just don’t remember. I do remember the word chicken bein’ spoken a few times, to which a boisterous denial was forthcoming.
The funny part about the whole ordeal was when we got a few yards from the tipple we had to start running, and we couldn’t stop until we were a few yards past it. I’ll just let you use your own judgment.
There’s nothing left of the old tipple now. The whole slate dump and area where the tipple stood has been reclaimed and it looks nothing like it did back in those days. I guess the woman in white and the crying baby finally had to leave too.