Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Blog 7

                              The seventh of seven blogs

                               HERE COME RALEIGH
          Raleigh also likes to tell of his trips up the Amazon River when in the Merchant Marines.  To young ears, listening to his fish tales was convincing enough to believe that he was surely one of the world’s great fishermen.  In retrospect, that might have been an exaggerated conclusion.   
          .Consider this story!
          While traveling up the Amazon River, he baited a large hook with a chunk of meat, tied a rope to it, and threw it overboard.  It caught a fish so large that it broke the rope when he tried to get it on board.  I realize that there are big fish in the Amazon and he didn’t elaborate on the rope size so I guess that I have no reason to question the accuracy of this tale.  However…
          Raleigh was single during this time.  Ruby, whom he later married, contends that Raleigh made enough trips up the Amazon that he reportedly became mighty friendly with some of the natives, of the female gender-no evidence reported that he left behind any little Raleigh’s.  This tidbit might carry the same amount of weight as does the accuracy of his fish tales.  Nevertheless, it made for entertaining evenings while sitting around a campfire.
          Raleigh had a special place in his heart for youngsters.  He would not knowingly allow a young person to be abused or bullied.  He told the story of being on a ship with a young deck hand that was bullied and mistreated by an older sailor.  The boy tired of it and so did Raleigh.  He cautioned that if the bulling continued that he would put a stop to it.  When this was ignored and the mistreatment continued, he poured a jar of pepper sauce over the bully’s head which put an end to the harassment.  His eyes were filled with pepper sauce which caused considerable discomfort.  Raleigh recalls that the last time he saw the sailor he, when they reached port, was being escorted from the ship by medical personnel.
          Reminiscences can continue indefinitely but one thought leads to another and space is limited.  Raleigh is certainly worthy of having his name associated with the access area on the river which he crossed countless times as he operated the ferry over the Tombigbee.
          Incidentally, after growing up, I left the house on the dead end road and ventured all the way to Searcy, Arkansas, where I graduated from Harding (College) University.   After seven years in Arkansas, in 1965, I moved back to Walker County, Alabama, and held an office in the county courthouse, where I was the officer in charge for the Alabama State Board of Pardons and Parole, until my retirement in 1998. 
          I have been privileged to have traveled to many countries in different parts of the world. I have seen places that I, as a country boy, never expected to see.    The adventures that Raleigh mesmerized us youngsters with have taken on a new meaning.  There is a big world out there which country boys like myself could never have imagined while growing up at the end of the road in Big Ridge Alabama.  
          I can now better understand the motivation behind Raleigh’s wandering lifestyle.  In my travels, however, I have yet to find that message, “Raleigh was here,” scrawled on a wall in a foreign city,  maybe Kilroy erased some in order to make his own announcement. I am aware that the chances are good that Raleigh got there first.  Maybe there were those at that time, in the Amazon or elsewhere, who would proclaim “Here comes Raleigh”!

Here Comes Raleigh

Blog 6

                              The sixth of seven blogs
                             HERE COMES RALEIGH

          My recollections of Raleigh and Pickensville are many.  Although I was not privileged to make the trip while young, later in life I made a number of trips to Pickensville to see Raleigh, especially enjoying the trip  to fish in the Tombigbee.  The ferry stopped operations at night so after the last car departed at dusk, Raleigh would load us on the ferry and go to the middle of the river where we would fish.  We caught catfish and lots of eels.  At times, we would go to a sandbar, build a fire and spend the night-Raleigh keeping us entertained with his tales.  Before locks backed up water to form the Tenn-Tom waterway, the river at times would get quite low creating many sandbars which  provided an idea camping and fishing area.
          My brother, Kenneth, remembers the episode with the mule.  We were the proud (snicker, snicker) owners of “Ole Dock.”  I remember Dock as being a mining mule.  Kenneth elaborates to say that he was originally a wild mule, captured out west to be used by the military but the end of the war negated the need for beast.  How the animal ended up in a wagon mine in Walker County is a mystery.  When Dock proved less than being the ideal mining mule, my Dad got him cheap.  We needed a beast of burden to pull a plow.  Dock didn’t take to that eagerly either, but Dad managed to get him to “gee” (right) and “haw” (left) after some effort.  Dock, however, simply refused to allow a body on his back.
          Raleigh contended that there was not a horse (or mule) that he could not ride.  We expressed our doubts that he should attempt to prove this contention regarding Dock.  Raleigh insisted!  It wasn’t pretty!  Raleigh mounted the mule and as was Dock’s m.o., he allowed him to sit on his back until Raleigh was comfortable.  When he insisted that Dock move, he did so--in a flash and violently.  Raleigh hit the ground hard-on a rock.  In his old age, Raleigh admitted that at times he still suffered from the results of that challenge.
           Garland, Jr. stores a treasure of Raleigh memories.  Get him started and he tells tale after tale.  In addition to the memories of Dock, Garland recalls an occasion when Raleigh was helping us cut pulpwood.  In the process, a swarm of yellow jackets were stirred up from their hole in the ground.  Raleigh had a hole in the seat of his pants and yellow jackets took advantage of it.  If only video would have been available to record the scene!  It surely would have made America’s Funniest Home Video-except for the nudity.  The pants came off!  Video was still decades away but memories have replayed this scene many times.
          The story does not end there!  Raleigh’s solution to the yellow jacket problem was to pour gasoline in the hole and burn them out.  This worked as far as stamping out the yellow jackets.  The problem was that he did not fully extinguish the fire as he had at first thought.  It caught back up, causing a forest fire.  We were then forced to stamp out the fire which proved to be a far greater challenge than getting rid of the yellow jackets.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Blog 5

                              The fifth of seven blogs

                             HERE COME RALEIGH
          Perhaps this glimpse of the family in which Raleigh Ryan was born sheds light on his later life style.  His aunt Gertrude and Pickensville were his safe port in an unstable childhood.  His visits to our house provided another port when not sailing with the Merchant Marines.
          As Raleigh aged and tired of his wandering life on the seas, he returned to Pickensville and unpacked his bags for good.  Gertrude had sold her property in Pickensville and moved to Arizona.  Raleigh moved into the house in which she had lived where he remained until his death.  My brother, Garland, purchased this property from Raleigh’s wife, Ruby, and utilized it as a second home while working as a counselor in the Mississippi school system.  Each workday morning he crossed the bridge that replaced the ferry over the Tombigbee River which was operated by Raleigh for so long.
          I conferred with my siblings regarding their recollections of Raleigh.  Lots of shared memories were recalled of many things, our “Here comes Raleigh” excitement being one of them.  Our memories, however, varied as we recalled specific incidents.
          Lora, my older sister remembered a trip to Pickensville with our father. She was young and the trip was a special event for her.  She recalled a store near the house in which Gertrude lived that had a row of post between the two. She was impressed that the posts were painted (or whitewashed) white with red tops.  The house also was white with red trim.
          Lora said that a later trip revealed that her young mind had perceived the store to be larger than it actually was.   Next to the store was a raised stone or brick platform which supported a large tank that was filled with gasoline. Cars waiting for, or leaving the ferry could fill their tanks from the gravity fed filling station.  The old store building, house, platform and road bed can still be seen on the property.
The fourth of seven blogs

                             HERE COMES RALEIGH   

          Charley, my grandfather, was known to do a little drifting.  His first wife, Annie May (Angie) Daniel Pounds died when my father was around five years old.  He then married widowed Janie Herron Allen.  They had one son, Gaby.  This was a rocky marriage.  One day grandpa hoboed a train and ended up in Texas.  For a period of time he drifted around living the life of a hobo.  His travels would occasionally bring him back to Alabama but it was not until later in life that he would settle down.  He, like Raleigh, did not like strings attached.
          When Gaby was in Europe serving in World War 2 he was able to contact his dad with a request that he check on his mother to insure that she was cared for.  This led to their being reunited and grandpa settled down in Cordova-well, sort of.  He never lost his desire for adventure and it was only sporadic that I saw him as I was growing up.  On March 14, 1961 he died in Cordova and is buried there beside Janie.  A few yards away, across a gravel road that runs through Mt. Carmel cemetery, Angie, my grandmother is buried with her relatives, the Daniels. 
          Charley and his nephew, Raleigh Ryan, had a kindred spirit which could be described as “footloose and fancy free”.  As Raleigh would arrive unannounced at our house, so would Charley, although not at the same time.  When Raleigh’s travels brought him to Walker County he would search out his uncle Charley-sometimes successfully, sometimes not.  When they made the connection they would share tales of great adventures.
          It is worth the climb to go up a little further on Raleigh’s family tree.  His grandfather, Raleigh Pounds, Sr. (born July 30, 1818) was first married to Martha Mitilta (Scales) Otey, a widow.  They had five children before her death.  He had accumulated 160 acres of land, some wealth, and he was not ready to admit that he was beginning to age.  When he was 65 years old he married 25 year old Elizebeth Riley (March 13, 1883).   This was the beginning of his second family.  At age 66 their oldest, my grandfather, Charley, was born exactly nine months after their marriage.  At age 68 Raleigh, Jr. was born.  A third son, Richard, was born a year later.
          Raleigh Pounds, Sr. married Elizebeth Riley when he was sixty- five years old and before he turned seventy they had three boys; Charley (my grandfather), Raleigh Jr. and Richard.       Their first daughter, Gertrude, was born when Raleigh, Sr. was 73 years old (Aug. 8, 1891).  She would later become a significant person connected with the early history of Pickensville.  Mary, their fifth child and second daughter was born just over 11 months later (July 12, 1892). She would later become the mother of Raleigh Ryan.   
Dewey, the sixth child of Raleigh Pounds and Elizebeth was born when Raleigh was about three months  past his 80th birthday (Sept. 5, 1898).  He died in 1911 at age 93, living long enough to reach the year that Dewey would become a teenager.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Here Comes Raleigh-blog 3

The third of seven blogs
                              HERE COME RALEIGH     

          Where does the Pounds family fit into this picture?  Raleigh Ryan and my father, Garland Pounds, Sr. were first cousins.  My grandfather, Charley Pounds, and Raleigh’s mother, Mary Pounds Ryan were siblings.  Mary Pounds married Edward Jefferson Ryan and they had four children.  Mildred and Minnie Alice were their daughters, Edward and Raleigh their sons; Raleigh being the youngest.
          Charley Juneapple (Yes, that was his name) Pounds, my grandfather, was the oldest of six children born to Raleigh Pounds, Sr. and Elizabeth Riley Pounds.  They first had three boys, Charley, Raleigh Jr. and Richard.  Their daughters, Gertrude and Mary followed.  Dewey was their youngest child.
          Raleigh Jr. and Richard were both early members of the Birmingham fire department. Raleigh worked as a master mechanic. He was killed in early August, 1916, when the gun he was removing from a boat accidentally discharged, killing him instantly.  Dewey, while fighting in the First World War, while in Europe, was the victim of a poisonous gas attack which caused a severe mental disability.
          Old timers in the Pickensville area remember Gertrude. She arrived in Pickensville in a roundabout way. When young she moved to Miami, Florida and opened a café. While there she met a man from Cordova, Alabama whose family owned a sawmill and a mercantile store in Miami.  They married and from him she learned the store business.  They later moved to Cordova where they opened a general merchandise and grocery store.  After a divorce, Gertrude moved to Pickensville where she opened a store and café, establishing a successful business.  Silas (Sy) Yagle also had a business in Pickensville and a marriage and merger resulted.  Combining their merchandise, charge accounts and customer base, they created a monopoly in their small town and became quite prosperous. 
          Because of health reasons, Sy and Gertrude sold their business in Pickensville and moved to Arizona, thinking that the climate might be more favorable.  They later moved to Washington State.  After the death of Sy, Gertrude moved to the Republic community in Jefferson County, Alabama where she lived near her nephew, (my uncle) Gaby Pounds.  She died on November 25, 1967 and was buried in Forestdale, Jefferson County.  She had no children.

Here Comes Raleigh-blog 2

The second of seven blogs
                             HERE COMES RALEIGH                      
          Raleigh talked about the “Merchant Marines.”  I never learned why he signed on to sail the seas but this became his livelihood.  World war two was then a recent memory and the sea lanes were safe again, leading to almost anywhere in the world.  My childhood memories are that he hit every port in which a ship could dock.  He did not, of course, but Raleigh could make you think that he had done so, multiple times.  With every arrival at our house, there was always the new tales of adventure.  We loved it!
          This country boy could never have imagined what would happen later in this story.  To me it is unreal that I can now cross the Tombigbee River at Pickensville via a bridge and launch my boat at the Raleigh Ryan Access Area.  Yep!  That’s the same Raleigh Ryan.  Well, maybe the same person but one who had mellowed over the years. 
          Raleigh eventually tired of his nomadic way and deserted his seafaring life and downsized his vessel to a riverboat.  There was a need for someone to operate the ferry across the Tombigbee at Pickensville and Raleigh was the natural candidate to fill the position.  The year was 1951, and he stayed at this job until 1979 when the waterway bridge called for an end to ferry service at Pickensville.  He was the only person to lose his job because of the waterway.
Raleigh was given a new job by the Tenn-Tom’s service contractor on the snag boat Montgomery which is moored behind the Tom Bevill Visitor’s Center in Aliceville.  He was a popular host at this exhibit.  In 1988 he officially bade goodbye to a livelihood on the water.  After working a total of 37 years on the river that he loved, he was not ready to go home to his rocking chair!  The remainder of his life he could be seen frequently talking to park visitors, spinning tales of past adventures and sharing his vast knowledge of the  historic Tombigbee River.

Here Comes Raleigh


          First there was a solo declaration which soon increased into a chorus.  One of us Pounds’ kids would spot him as he turned the final bend in the dead end road leading to our house and loudly announce his arrival.  Soon the other five would be jumping up and down, joining in the excitement.
          Here comes Raleigh!”
          Living at the end of a country dirt road, anyone who entered was either a visitor or they were lost.  Most visitors drove in.  Raleigh walked in, the last leg of a hitchhiking trip from Pickensville, Alabama, or from wherever he had disembarked from a ship.  He packed very lightly-a few clothes and a couple of bags of Prince Albert with rolling papers.  He knew that we would provide food but not tobacco.
          We never knew when Raleigh would come or how long he would stay-nor would we ask.  He would stay until he got ready to leave, announcing that he had a ship to catch, and he would be gone.  We would have no idea when we would see him again. 
          In 1994 Raleigh died while living in Pickensville.  Garland Pounds, Jr., and my brother, was asked to conduct the funeral service.  He began his eulogy with these words:  Here comes Raleigh!”  I suppose he wanted to give St. Peter advance notice that Raleigh was on his way-otherwise, he might try to slip through the pearly gates unannounced. 
          As I grew up, the unannounced arrivals and departures became a way of life.  When he came, we eagerly waited with anticipation to hear tales of his latest adventures.  Raleigh would fill our young ears with exciting episodes of journeys to faraway places in a world we country kids had no hopes that we would ever see.  Walker County was our world and a trip to Birmingham was high adventure.  There was not much promise that these boundaries would be extended to any degree.  We dreamed of making the ultimate trip-to Pickensville on the Tombigbee River.  If we ever made this trip, we vowed that we would cross the river and walk to Mississippi.  This would give us bragging rights that we had been outside Alabama.  
          Did I mention that this was only a dream?