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Old Phonies, Cronies and Other Baloney


Old Phonies, Cronies and other Baloney


Ray Steelman



International Standard Book Number: 978-0-9853931-3-7

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: pending

Copyright Registration Number: Applied For

Copyright 1996 / 2012 by Ray Steelman and Sharon Steelman,

17 Stockton Street, Huntsville, Alabama 35806


Published on Shakespir



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All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any mechanical or electronic means whatsoever, including any retrieval systems or information storage systems, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in an article, without prior permission in writing from Sharon or Ray Steelman


Shakespir Edition


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The Cover Photo


Mama Believed in Ex-Lax

The Hanging of Sam Davis

The Night that I Met Johnny Mathis

The Ghost Light at Flintville

The Great Rabbit Hunting Safari of 1956

Joe Ferguson, Our Family’s Free Man

Lonnie Glosson, Ambassador for the Harmonica

A Tear for Lonnie

T. Euclid Rains, The Most Inspiring Man that I Ever Met

The Phil Niekro Story

DeFord Bailey, the Harmonica Wizard

Going Home

Stealing Third Base

Inspiring Obituaries

Foreword to the Book, The Best of Yesterday’s Memories

Lots of Flies Follow a Garbage Truck

Learning to Fly

On Empathy

Women and the Restoration Movement

My Most Successful Students

About the Author



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The Cover Photo


On the cover of this book, you will see a photograph of some of my ancestors on my mother’s side of the family. This family was the Rudd family of Lincoln County, Tennessee. They farmed the rocky black soil on Pea Ridge just east of Fayetteville. I am not exactly sure when or where the photograph was taken or the identities of the people in the picture. I do remember as a small child looking at this picture while sitting in my grandmother’s lap. At that time, she identified all of the people in the picture and told me about each of them. I believe that the picture was taken around 1910. My grandmother is one of the two young children on the right side of the picture. Since I know her date of birth, and I can guess at her approximate ages of the children in the picture, I think that 1910 is fairly accurate. This was my grandmother’s immediate family.


When my grandmother died, and we were going through her things, I saw the photograph again. By then it was worn and ragged as you see it today. The picture brought back memories of her warm lap and sweet hugs that were a comfort and refuge for me when I was a child. I could again smell the scent of her body and feel her hand as she stroked my hair and held me close.


All of the people in this photograph have been dead for many years. Yet, they once were as you and me … alive, active, loving and caring. They had emotions, fears, ambitions and dreams as we do today. I look into their eyes and wonder where life took each of them. I wish that I had asked my grandmother more questions.


Ray Steelman



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Over the last 35 years or so, I have written several books and been a contributing writer for many different magazines and other publications. This book, Old Phonies, Cronies and other Baloney, is a “best of” collection of some of those works. These are human-interest stories about a multitude of subjects. Some of the stories go back to my childhood growing up in Fayetteville, Tennessee at 616 West College Street, and being a part of the Dead-End Gang. We were kids that were thrown together by circumstance and grew up with each other on a dead-end street. There were no tattoos; no pierced body parts; no bad attitudes or motorcycles. Our rag-tag gang was more similar to the Little Rascals. We had an abundance of characters and colorful personalities that today gives an author a multitude of subjects about which to write. Through these stories, the reader gets a glimpse of what it was like growing up in a small Tennessee town in the late 50’s and early 60’s. There is a story about the “Great Rabbit Hunting Safari of 1956.” Rabbit hunting with a shot gun shell taped to the end of a BB gun barrel was quite an adventure. It’s a wonder that any of us made it out of that ordeal alive!


In other material below, there are a couple of stories pertaining to two of the harmonica professionals that I heard on our family radio many years ago. They inspired me to learn to play the harmonica. Later in life, I met one of those two men, Lonnie Glosson, at one of the Smithville, Tennessee annual Fiddler’s Conventions, where I was a competitor. I corresponded with Lonnie until his death. This story will pull at your heart strings. There is one story below that tells of the life of the most unforgettable character that I ever met. That person was T. Euclid Raines, an Alabama Legislator who earned his degree at Jacksonville State University. While in college, Mr. Raines hitch hiked back and forth to Jacksonville State. That was really not that remarkable except that Mr. Rains was completely blind. He may have been blind but he was never handicapped in any way. This book also has a couple of stories about the Civil War. One story is about the useless loss of the life of young Sam Davis from Smyrna, Tennessee, who was hanged for being a spy for the South. In this book, Going Home, tells of that great civil conflict and how treacherous it was for the southern soldiers making the long journey home after the war was over. From their own written testimony and in their own words, you will hear their stories pertaining to their trip home.


As stated in the first story below, my mama believed in Ex-Lax, that little chocolate nightmare that made us all afraid to squirm in our seats or do anything strenuous. As stated below, it was the best thing that you could take for a cough, since after you took it, you were afraid to cough! You will also read about my experiences as a garbage man, hanging on the back of a garbage truck as it sped through the alleys and back streets of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. That was the only job that I could find one summer while I was a student at Middle Tennessee State University. That job turned out to be one of the best character building experiences of my life.


There is another interesting story about my meeting Johnny Mathis when I was a freshman in college. He didn’t exactly walk up, stick out his hand and introduce himself. But, in a way, we did meet. Since I could not afford a ticket to his concert, I met him on the steps behind the gym when our paths crossed for an instant.


Settle back, get a good cup of coffee, and let me take you back to the days when people lived closer to the soil; when the footpath to the outhouse was worn smooth and bare; when families with ten children were commonplace; and two week gospel meetings were eagerly anticipated. In our mind’s reflection many can remember when we had real heroes. Those times gave us heroes like Charles Lindberg, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, Roy Rogers, Helen Keller, Whitey Ford, Audie Murphy and many others. Entertainment in those days was provided on those enormous old tube radios by live shows such as Lum and Abner, The Green Hornet, The Lone Ranger, Amos and Andy and other masterpieces. DeFord Bailey’s harmonica and Uncle Dave Macon’s banjo echoed around the warm glow of many pot-bellied stoves and was the prelude to Lonzo and Oscar, Cousin Wilbur, the Crook and McGee Brothers, Curly Fox, Lonnie Glosson, Texas Ruby and countless others. Back then, you could buy a coke of five cents; cotton sacks were easily found; the single wing was football’s only offense; doctors made house calls; and there were real bootleggers.


Happy reading!


Ray Steelman



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Mama Believed in Ex-Lax



When I was growing up many years ago, a trip to the doctor was a rare event. If rubbing alcohol, a band aide or methylate did not fix an illness or injury, then you simply had to tough it out and hope that you were strong enough to live through it. Turpentine and a scalding hot rag repeatedly pressed against one’s chest was a sure cure for a chest cold or the flu. This was accompanied with a mixture of horehound candy, Jack Daniel sipping whiskey and another secret ingredient that my mother protected along with her best recipes. Whether or not this concoction cured any colds is yet to be determined, but one thing is for sure, it prevented me from becoming an alcoholic. Even today, I have no desire to take a drink of liquor. Another thing that I cannot eat, or even stand to smell today, is dark chocolate. My mama is responsible for that also. Anytime that I smell dark chocolate, I get flashbacks, the dry heaves and have a tendency to curl into a fetal position. You see, of all of Mama’s home cures her favorite was Ex-Lax.


Yes, Mama liked Ex-Lax. If anyone in the family had a slip of the tongue and made the mistake of mentioning that they did not feel real spiffy, here Mama would come with her box of Ex-Lax. She relied upon Ex-Lax like Willie Mays relied upon his thirty five inch Louisville Slugger; like Johnny Unitas depended upon Lenny Moore; like the Kingfish always leaned upon Andy; like…..well, you get the picture. Mama thought that Ex-Lax was the best thing since the invention of the wheel. If anybody in our family looked a little dark around the eyes…yep, you guessed it…here came the Ex-Lax.


I don’t know what happened to Ex-Lax over the years. Maybe they changed their formula or maybe, in time, a person simply builds an immunity to the stuff. One thing that I do know for sure, when I was a kid, Ex-Lax would knock you to your knees! Actually it knocked you into a sitting position….and you could not get up for a long time! I swore that if I ever grew up and left home, there would be no more Ex-Lax for me. In fact, I pledged to one day become rich, buy the controlling interest in the Ex-Lax company, then immediately vote to close the doors…forever!


I remember that Mama would force me to eat two or three of those little chocolate squares of Ex-Lax and then send me off to school. I would sit quietly in my chair all day and try not to make any sudden moves. That is the reason that I’m not good in math today. When the teacher would call on me I had something more important than math on my mind…and, of course, a trip to the blackboard was out of the question. I remember one day in particular when Mama gave me a strong dose of Ex-Lax, put me on the school bus and sent me to school. During my second period class, my insides began to quiver, gurgle and make sounds that were audible to the teacher and the rest of the class. I could feel the sweat rolling down the back of my neck as I was beginning to get a lot of strange stares from everyone in the room. I looked at the clock to see how much longer I was forced to endure that torment! Then, I could not believe it! The unmentionable happened! Needless to say, I was the last one to leave the class that day for obvious reasons. In the midst of my dilemma, I had simply let go and relaxed for a second to get a better grip on the situation. A person can not make a mistake like that with that chocolate nightmare! Then there was the day on the playground when I jumped to grab the monkey bars; the day when a friend slapped me on the back in the hall; and the day that I was tackled on the football field, and….well, I could go on and on.


One time I became very concerned about overdosing on Ex-Lax. If that ever happened, what would it do to you? The thought was really scary. In science class, we had studied about spontaneous combustion. These poor victims simply burst into flames and disappeared. There were scientific explanations for this phenomenon…but I had my own theory!


They say that each generation is different and has its own burdens to endure. I guess that is right. My children have never tasted Ex-Lax and I don’t intend for them to do so. In retrospect, I guess that Mama was right about one thing. She always told me that Ex-Lax was the best thing that a person could ever take for a cough. She was absolutely right about that. After a good dose of Ex-Lax you were afraid to cough!



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The Hanging of Sam Davis

Told from the Viewpoint of Coleman Davis Smith



“The struggle that had begun for so many as a great adventure, had revealed itself to be a perilous creation molded by the steady, destructive and deliberate hand of Satan.”


The story below is a compilation of facts taken from information provided by Coleman Davis Smith on his Civil War Veterans Questionnaire and from newspaper interviews that occurred in the late 1920’s. Parts of the story below were also taken from handwritten notes of those interviews and other information that was kept over the years by the author’s family.


My name is Coleman Davis Smith and I was a spy for the Confederacy during the War Between the States. At least Mr. Sam told me that I was a spy, and apparently the state of Tennessee agreed since they are paying me a pension as a war veteran. I was only 17 years old when I was forced into that great discord but my story actually started much earlier.


I was just a small child when I first laid eyes on Mr. Samuel. My family was sold to his father, Mr. Louis Davis, in the late 1840’s. We had been brought from Richmond, Virginia by a Mr. John Haley to be sold to the cotton farmers in Middle Tennessee. I was so young that I don’t recall Richmond at all, although I do remember my mother crying as we departed for a new life in the fertile valleys of Tennessee.


My father was Robert Smith and my mother was always called by the singular name of Miriah. My mother’s constant fear was that I would be sold at auction and removed to a distant place. She openly wept for joy when our family was purchased intact by Mr. Davis. My father worked the fields and my mother cooked and served in the domestic chores of the Davis family. I was given to Mr. Sam to serve as a play fellow.


Mr. Sam and I grew up together and became very close as the years went by. He was two years older than I, being born on October 6th in 1842. My momma said that I was the prettiest black child born in Richmond in the year of 1844. The closeness of our ages was a true blessing to both of us allowing us to share all the activities of youth. In the summer, we would hike the hills looking for ginseng to be used for the family’s ailments. Together, we learned to swim in the cool dark waters of the Stone River and to catch the blue cats that hid beneath its mud banks. All was not play since both of our services were needed when it came time to hoe the cotton, pull the corn and worm and sucker the tobacco crops. As the years slipped by, we each changed in our own way, neither forgetting his predestined position in life.


Many times the adventures of youth would get Mr. Sam and me into trouble with our elders. Our activities were always innocent and would culminate with a tongue lashing from Miss Jane Simmons Davis, Mr. Sam’s mother, who served as the family disciplinarian. During those scolding’s, Mr. Sam always took the blame completely, and in the midst of his punishment, he never failed to sneak a wink and smile in my direction.


Like all the other Davis slaves, our family lived in a small cabin which was located near the garden. We were always treated with respect by the Davis family. We never went hungry or without the essentials needed to live comfortably. Our owner was a good man and never failed to help anyone who needed his assistance. The slaughter of hogs or beef always meant that those who needed fresh meat would soon have it. The whole Davis family were good people with tender hearts and helping hands. We likewise remembered our positions and never failed to render good service and to promptly do whatever we were told.


Life was never the same after Mr. Sam left the farm to attend the old University of Nashville. I remember how my heart dropped as I watched Mr. Louis Davis and Miss Jane load the wagon to take their oldest son, Mr. Sam, to that Nashville school. And I remember how happy I was when I learned some time later that he would be coming home, as the great war spoken of by so many was about to become a reality. Mr. Sam would be needed to help defend his Smyrna home against the Northern invaders.


In only a few months Mr. Sam found himself in the middle of that immense conflict. He joined the Confederacy and was assigned to Company A of the great army of Tennessee. I was sent with him to serve as his personal servant. Mr. Sam was only nineteen years old when we traveled to Nashville to become a part of that enormous hostility. After only a short time he told me that he was assigned to hazardous duty as a courier and spy as part of a group called Coleman’s Scouts. It seemed that General Bragg was planning a future campaign through Tennessee and into Kentucky. It was very important that he knew the exact strength of the Federal forces occupying the strategic locations in Middle Tennessee. As a result of Mr. Sam’s assignment, he would wear no uniform and we would travel for an extended period throughout much of the state of Tennessee. We would eat wherever we could eat and sleep wherever we could find a place to sleep. The locals were good to us and oftentimes hid us and helped us sneak in and out of dangerous places when the Yankees were nearby. We never fought in any battles, although we did help burn a few wagons that belonged to the Yankees. We also destroyed ammunition and guns a couple of times when the enemy was careless.


Occasionally, we would get to sneak home and visit our families. Mr. Sam loved his brothers and little sisters. Their family was very close, and it was difficult for Mr. Sam to stay away. The youngsters both black and white were always excited and wanted to hear the tales about the war. We had to be very careful since the enemy was frequently nearby and it was very dangerous for us to be seen in the area.


We managed to do well for quite some time, however, our luck soon changed. Late one day in 1863, Mr. Sam and I were captured by troops of the 7th Kansas Calvary whom Mr. Sam referred to as Jayhawkers. They were under the command of a man called General Greenville Dodge. I noticed that General Dodge eyed Mr. Sam very carefully. We were captured about 15 miles from Pulaski, Tennessee at a place called Minor Hill and, along with several others, we were taken to the Pulaski jail. We were called rebel sympathizers and labeled as suspicious characters. Upon arriving in Pulaski we were questioned for several hours and searched repeatedly. Mr. Sam, it was discovered, had several pieces of strategic paper and portions of a map outlining the Nashville defenses. The General himself questioned Mr. Sam and kept calling him one of Coleman’s Scouts. It seems that the Federals had quite an interest in capturing this Coleman and they were certain that my master could identify him. Although the General spoke softly and kindly trying to win his trust, Mr. Sam would tell the Yankees nothing. They wanted to know how he had gotten this important information and asked him many times to identify Mr. Coleman. Mr. Sam continued to remain silent yet respectful and cordial. Mr. Sam was straightforward and admitted that he had the papers for the purpose of which he was accused. The accuracy of the documents indicated that the papers had been acquired from a Federal officer of the engineering department. This made Mr. Sam’s testimony even more important since it would reveal the identity of a spy within their own ranks. Even during the intense questioning it was easy to see that the officers were struck by Mr. Sam’s patriotism and gentleness.


They then turned their attention to me and asked me the same questions. Although I knew the answers to many of their questions, I, like my master, remained silent. Little did they know that in the sole of my shoe Mr. Sam had hidden papers that were crucial to the Confederacy’s cause. The two of us convinced the men that I was only an ignorant negro who assisted Mr. Sam as his personal servant and cook. Mr. Sam persuaded the officers that I hardly understood the purpose and intent of the conflict and was certainly not capable of conveying information to benefit the Confederacy. They must have believed the story because they soon dismissed me and forced me to remain on the outside of the jail building away from my master.


I may have been a simple negro but I did know the identity of Mr. Coleman, the chief of the Coleman Scouts. Mr. Sam’s pass had been signed by Captain E. Coleman. What the Yankees did not know was that Captain Coleman was a fictitious name. His true identity was Captain Henry Shaw, a name well known by the northern forces. In fact, Captain Shaw was a prisoner at that very time in the jail cell adjacent to Mr. Sam.


General Dodge questioned Mr. Sam many times, and offered him his freedom if he would tell them what he knew about Captain Coleman and the spy forces within Tennessee. Even I begged Mr. Sam to tell the Federals so that he would not be killed. He continued to refuse and made me swear to him that regardless of what happened to him, that I would never reveal what I knew.


Mr. Sam was scheduled to be hanged as a spy on November 27, 1863. The night before he was to be hanged he sent this note home to his mother.


Dear Mother,


Oh, how painful it is to write you! I have got to die tomorrow morning…to be hanged by the Federals. Mother, do not grieve for me. I must bid you good-bye forevermore. Mother, I do not fear to die. Give my love to all. Mother, tell the children all to be good. I wish I could see you all once more, but I never will any more. Mother and Father, do not forget me. Think of me when I am dead, but do not grieve for me. It will not do any good. Father, you can send after my remains if you want to do so. They will be at Pulaski, Tennessee. I will leave some things, too, with the hotel keeper for you. Pulaski is in Giles County, Tennessee, south of Columbia.


Your Son,


Samuel Davis


Mr. Sam left a few personal effects with a Rev. Mr. Lawrence, the local Methodist preacher. These items consisted of a ragged overcoat, a few brass buttons and some pocket change. Rev. Mr. Lawrence promised to see that his family got his last possessions. The chaplain, Rev. Mr. James Young, met with Mr. Sam the night before he was scheduled to be hanged and held a short devotional. Several of the other prisoners joined in as Mr. Sam studied the Bible for the last time. Mr. Sam requested that the devotional conclude with the singing of his favorite hymnal, On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand. Unknown to General Dodge, Captain Shaw, alias “Coleman”, the leader of the scouts, lamented only a few feet away in the adjacent cell.


At 10 o’clock the next morning they came for Mr. Sam. He was handcuffed and shackled and forced to ride to the execution perched atop his own casket. He was taken to East Hill in Pulaski where the troops had been assembled to witness the hanging. When he was brought outside and passed the jail he gazed into the eyes of his fellow prisoners who were looking out of the windows. He immediately stood up and bowed politely in their honor bidding them his last farewell. At the gallows he was given one last chance to save himself. A Captain Chickasaw of General Dodge’s staff pleaded with him to cooperate. He promptly replied:


“Do you suppose that I would betray a friend? No, sir…

I would die a thousand times first!”


After this Mr. Sam stepped upon the trap and said, “I am ready.” I was standing to Mr. Sam’s right at the base of the gallows. The executioner prepared to place a black cloth bag over Mr. Sam’s head. At that time Mr. Sam glanced in my direction, winked and flashed the bright smile that I had grown to know so well. I replied likewise and turned my head away.


At 10:20 AM, on a warm and sunny Tennessee morning, Captain Henry Shaw watched from his jail cell as Mr. Sam was hanged…This broke my heart… I turned my eyes away as I could not bear to watch this waste of life and this act of total inhumanity…Even today I cannot think of it without getting sick to my stomach. Mr. John C. Kennedy, a friend of the Davis family, and Oscar, Mr. Sam’s little brother, came a few days later to take his body home. I followed them back to Smyrna where his body was laid to rest near the garden swing where we had played as boys. He later received the Confederate Metal of Honor which the family treasured for the rest of their lives.


Mr. Sam’s graceful and courageous manner won the respect of all who had known him and had witnessed the hanging. At the last moment some fine ladies from Pulaski headed by a Mrs. John A. Jackson met with the General and pleaded with him to spare the life of this fine Southern boy. After he was hanged his executioners wept. One had stated as he placed the noose around his neck, “I’m sorry to be compelled to perform this painful duty.” Many of the Federal troops murmured among themselves that they wish he could have gotten away. As Mr. Sam’s body swung in the gallows, the whole area became completely silent in remorse. The General himself promptly returned to his quarters and did not appear again for quite a long time. In later years, even the Billy Yanks referred to Mr. Sam as the boy hero of the Confederacy.


Everything at the home place reminded me of Mr. Sam, so I eventually left after our great defeat by the aggressors. I moved to Mississippi where I farmed until I became old and feeble. While in Mississippi, I married a fine young woman and raised a family of twelve children. I taught each of them the strength of character and courage that I saw in my master and friend, Mr. Sam.


I applied for the pension offered by the state of Tennessee to the Confederate veterans of the Civil War. I was granted a pension of forty-five dollars every other month. Each month that buys me some groceries and puts some change in my pocket.


Note: In 1909, the official monument to the memory of Sam Davis was dedicated on the grounds of the State Capitol in Nashville. A tablet placed there notes that the heroic bronze figure was funded by private contributions from every state in the American Union.



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The Night That I Met Johnny Mathis


Mama believed in hard work. She taught me that you can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets. From an early age, she instilled in me the belief that God plus one is always a majority. Believing in what Mama taught me, in the fall of 1964 I found myself on the Shelbyville highway with my thumb high in the air. Although the odds were against me, my goal was to go to college. Since goals are dreams we convert into plans that we take action to fulfill, upon graduating from high school, my complete focus had been to earn enough money to start to college. Now, I was on my way!


Near the close of the summer, I had purchased a cardboard suitcase from Bob Posey’s General Merchandise Store on the Fayetteville public square. I now had it packed with enough clothes to get me through Friday. I made a poster board sign that read “MTSU or BUST.” With a little luck, I would be hitchhiking back toward home in five days with a whole week of college at Middle Tennessee State University behind me!


I had spent the whole summer saving every dime upon which I could get my hands. I had three younger brothers at home and there was simply no money left for the luxury of a college education for me. Actually, I had always enjoyed a challenge. After mowing a couple of hundred yards; painting a few barn roofs; cleaning out several miles of fence rows; cashing in thousands of coke bottles; and working as much overtime as I could get at the Genesco Shoe Company, I was ready!


They say that laziness and poverty are first cousins, and although I had been working every day since I graduated from high school, I still was poorer than a church mouse’s house pet. I had been anything but lazy. I had learned that you can’t wait for your ship to come in. Sometimes you have to row out to meet it. During the summer, I had managed to save a little money. Even though my savings were meager, I decided that If I was frugal, and really watched my spending, I should have enough money to pay my tuition and room and board for a couple of semesters. There would certainly be no money for the luxuries of life. The summer of 1964 taught me that people who say “that money isn’t everything” usually have plenty of it!


In spite of a tough summer, things at college got off to a great start. Upon arriving in Murfreesboro and finding my way to the University, I was assigned to the Smith Hall dormitory. This was great, because it was located only a short walk to the cafeteria, where I had prepaid a semester’s worth of meal tickets. Things were really looking good…Then I had my first challenge!


A few days into my new adventure, I noticed a poster on the wall in the Student Union Building. It caught my eye because it was a full length picture of Johnny Mathis, my favorite singer. Johnny was more than my favorite singer, he was my idol. If I could have been like anyone in the world, it would have been Johnny Mathis. I had spent hours in front of the mirror singing all of his songs. I knew them all by heart! I knew every expression, every tone, and every hesitation in his voice. I knew everything about Johnny. I read all the magazine articles about Johnny. If he was coming to Middle Tennessee State then I was going to be there! Then it hit me. I did not have a dime in my pocket! What was I going to do? Was I going to miss seeing my idol because I was temporarily poor? What could I do? Maybe I could work concessions. Maybe I could volunteer to clean up the place. Maybe I could sneak in.


For the next few days, I was planning and scheming. I knew that in the middle of every difficulty there was opportunity, but I was beginning to get discouraged. Nothing that I tried worked. The concession crew had already been hired. Arrangements had previously been made to clean up the place. The last option was to try to sneak in. The concert was to be held in the gymnasium and security would be very tight but, with a little planning, maybe I could crawl in a window or hide inside for a couple of days before the show. I would not normally even think of doing something like that but… after all this was Johnny Mathis, not exactly one of those hillbilly singers from Nashville! I pledged that when I got rich, the first thing that I would do is pay the school back.


After considerable thought, I had a plan. After several trips around the outside of the gym looking for a window that someone might have left open, I noticed that there was a stairs and small concrete porch at the back door to the gym. Johnny would be performing inside only a few feet away. Although I couldn’t see the concert, if I sat on the steps near the top of the stairs, I should be able to hear very well. I liked this plan because it was an honest approach and I could look at myself in the mirror the next morning. Desire is always the great equalizer, and I had determined that this was my best idea yet! I decided that the poorest of all men was not the fellow without a cent but rather the man without a plan.


On the night of the concert, I was very excited. I would hear Johnny Mathis perform live and would be within a few feet of the actual show! People started arriving several hours early. The place was packed. After the last straggler filed into the gym, I quietly sneaked to my seat at the top of the stairs on the porch and sat with my back against the wall of the building. The show was great and I could hear everything that happened inside. My imagination wandered as I heard Johnny perform all of his biggest hits. I discovered that night that the person with imagination is never alone. I sang along as he performed Misty, It’s Not For Me to Say, Saturday Sunshine and all of his greatest hits. I sat quietly in the dark as Johnny swooned, not knowing that I, his greatest admirer, was only a few feet away.


As the show progressed, I came to appreciate my special seating even more as I realized that I actually could hear the instrumentation and vocals very well from the quiet solitude of my reserved seating. This was even better than being inside. Besides, the price was much more reasonable than the ten dollar tickets in the gym.


As the show progressed, Johnny was in the middle of his beat version of Wonderful, Wonderful when I noticed a particularly long instrumental break. This was certainly not like the version on his albums. Had something happened? Suddenly, the back door to the gym burst open and a figure sprinted to the handrail around the porch where I sat. He cleared his throat and spit over the rail! It was Johnny Mathis! I could not believe it! I jumped to my feet scaring Johnny half to death! Although in the dark, for an instant, we were staring into each other’s eyes! ‘‘Great show Mr. Mathis” I blurted. He jumped, since he was startled by my presence. I was almost sure that I detected a slight smile and nod as he dashed back into the gym. As quickly as he appeared, and without saying a word, he was gone! In a few seconds, he was finishing Wonderful, Wonderful. Was I dreaming? Did it really happen? Was he really there? Had I really met Johnny Mathis?


Needless to say, the rest of the show was a blur. I had really seen Johnny Mathis! I kept hoping that he would come back out, put his arm around my shoulder and invite me inside, but that never happened. It didn’t really matter anyway. My college career had gotten off to a great start! I had been in school only a few days and had already met my idol face to face. It’s the little things in life that make all the difference and determine the big things. If I had not been on that porch that night, I could never boast that I once met Johnny Mathis. Today, when I see Johnny with Jay Leno on the Tonight show or in one of his TV concerts, I wonder if he recalls the night when I nearly scared him to death. Over the years, those simple and hard times have become very precious to me. Life must be lived by looking forward but can only be understood by looking back. The years have taught me that what you get by reaching your destinations in life is not half as important as what you become by reaching those destinations.


I recall that the day after the Johnny Mathis concert, I was standing in the hall with several others waiting to enter our algebra class. The conversation naturally drifted to the concert. “He really seemed like a super guy,” one fellow stated. “Yes he is,” I replied. “I was backstage!”


Note: Ray graduated on schedule four years later and returned to get his Master’s degree at MTSU. During that time he got jobs riding a garbage truck; doing landscaping; working as a mail clerk; working in a cheese factory; cleaning out fence rows; coaching football; and being paid to play centerfield for the local State Farm softball team. He earned two degrees without borrowing one penny or getting any financial help at all from home.



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The Ghost Light at Flintville


I never believed in the supernatural. Ghosts, I once surmised, were simply figments of superstition and over reactive fears and imaginations. Early in my life, I heard the old folks tell of strange sounds and happenings which they attributed to wandering spirits of lost or disturbed souls of the departed. Around the glow of the open hearth, I listened to the stories of “haints” and strange unexplained events which caused us all to gather a little closer together and to look under our beds before going to sleep each night.


I grew up in Lincoln County in Southern Middle Tennessee. This area was well known for its ghosts who roamed the valleys and preyed on the most unsuspecting. There was the tombstone at Huntland which glowed upon occasion; the Bible that could not be removed from a nearby abandoned church building; and the spirit that for years had spooked horses and climbed aboard buggies to hitch a ride to the top of the ridge at Teal Hollow. There were numerous others which I also dismissed as exaggerations of old wives’ tales.


I was never concerned by things that went “bump” in the night. No night was too dark for me; no wind roared too loudly; and no graveyard caused me to change my path. After all, I had never seen a haint. No ghost had ever revealed itself to me. Nothing had given me a reason to whistle in the dark or take an apprehensive glance over my shoulder. That is, not until I was chased by the ghost light at Flintville!


November had been usually wet and windy in 1963. It seems that the rain came down in sheets, the wind howled a little louder and the nights were longer and a lot darker. It was Thursday and we had not seen the sun shine for quite a while. My brother, Joe, and I had finished most of our assigned chores and had nothing in particular to do when we heard a car slide into our driveway. It was David Maddox, our best buddy, and we could tell by the way he headed for the house that he had something on his mind. He wasted no time informing us that he was going to Milner’s Switch to watch for the ghost light. Local folklore told of a ghost light that wandered up and down the railroad tracks between Flintville and the location of the old switching station referred to as Milner’s Switch. It was said, that the light had appeared sporadically for longer than any of the old timers could remember. Generally, it would make its appearance on the spookiest of nights and preferably during or after a heavy rainfall. Since conditions were ideal, and we had nothing else to do, within five minutes we were pooling our pocket change searching for the fifty cents worth of gas money that would take us to Milner’s Switch and back. With windows down and radio blasting we were soon on our way.


Mike Mason was a fullback and in 1963 was an “all-stater” on the Lincoln County football team. Mike was fearless and never believed in running around 230 pound linemen and linebackers. Mike’s biggest thrill in life came from running over them! Not only would Mike run over them, but he would most always drag them for 10 or 12 yards in the process. If Mike was afraid of any living thing, he certainly never showed it. On this particular night, Mike was spending the night with Joe and I and was the first in the car for our ghost chase. “Bring it on, bring it on!” Mike muttered as David backed nervously on to the highway and pointed his Ford Fairlane toward Milner’s Switch. Twenty minutes later we were there.


Upon arrival, we noticed that the area was a bit frightful. It began to rain harder and the lightning prepared us for each of the thunder blasts that followed seconds later. The railroad tracks were straight for a mile or more in either direction, and the underbrush and trees along the tracks almost formed a tunnel from years of neglect.


“So this is where it happens” Mike mumbled as he bolted from the car and headed down the tracks to find that perfect observation point. The rest of us followed closely behind his lead and perched in unison atop Milner’s trestle some thirty feet above the creek waters below. The frogs bellowed to each other and the snakes played on the creek bank as the lightning flashed about and the rain became steadily heavier.


On the way to Milner’s Switch we had picked up Tony Bradley, another of our buddies. Tony was the eternal prankster and most always managed to get us in trouble. When money was short, Tony’s superb skills with a siphon hose managed to provide gas for our vehicles by making periodic raids on his dad’s tractor. This “blue gas” worked just fine and our secret was only discovered when Tony’s dad began to question the gas mileage of his Super H Farmall. Tony believed that some people get the breaks and some people had to make their own. His innovative ideas and his ability to talk his way out of any situation made him a valuable member of our group.


After forty-five minutes of starring down the tracks, our assembly was beginning to fall apart. Mike was throwing rocks at the snakes below, Tony was telling ghost stories that he swore were true, and the rest of us were becoming more nervous at each lightning strike which seemed to be getting closer. We had all but abandoned any hope of seeing the ghost light when Tony jumped to his feet and shouted, “Here it comes, boys!” Since none of us were impressed with Tony’s reputation with the truth, we reluctantly stood up and glanced behind us in the direction that he was pointing. At the point that the tracks dropped from the horizon there was a faint glow. We would not have taken this very seriously except there was nothing in that direction for miles. Expecting that this glow was all there was to the light, we were all expressing our disappointment when suddenly things changed.


There were many rumors as to the origin of the ghost light. Some said that shortly after the Civil War a switchman carrying a lantern made a careless miscalculation and was struck by a steam locomotive coming full speed down the tracks. The lantern that he was carrying lodged high in the “cow catcher” and for the past 100 years could still be seen roaring down the tracks. Another story told of two lovers who met near the tracks late at night to consummate their love. Late one rainy night one of the lovers carelessly stepped into the patch of the N.C. and St. L. and was promptly decapitated. Now when weather conditions are the same, the headless spirit roams the tracks with lantern in hand in search of his head and lost lover.


We had all heard these stories and had passed them off as nonsense. However, as we gazed at the glow a mile or so away we had to admit that there was a light approaching the knoll and it was coming slowly in our direction. As we continued to watch the glow, the group suddenly became silent and began to hover much closer together. Suddenly, without a sound, the light came into full view and began to accelerate very rapidly directly toward us. It appeared as a round light with a bright yellow glow suspended directly above the tracks and looked to be 8 to 10 feet high in the air. We would not have been very concerned about the light except it was quickly coming in our direction as if to taunt us because of our unbelief.


“It’s going to hit us!” someone shouted as we began to retreat from the trestle to safer ground. A few steps of retreat evolved into a fast pace which soon became a panicked run toward the car. Years later, as memories go, some were accused of grabbing and pulling each other or even pushing in efforts of self-preservation to get off the tracks and back to the car. As memories fade, it’s hard to recall exactly what happened, but all agree that there was shouting and screaming as the light got within a few feet of the group. Then as suddenly as it had appeared and without a sound it was gone!


None of us stopped running until we reached the car. In retrospect, we all agreed that when we got to the car Mike was already inside and huddled in a fetal position. We wasted no time in leaving Milner’s Switch and the ghost light behind us. On the ride home everyone was quiet. Tony was in no mood for jokes and Mike gazed straight ahead and had a strange expression that none of us had ever seen before.


The light came to within approximately 25 feet of us. It covered a distance of perhaps a mile in a matter of seconds. As it got close to us, the beam was so bright that we could easily see the blackberry bushes and club oaks alongside the tracks. The light had absolutely no sound associated with it and appeared to us in full view for approximately 20 seconds.


Over the years I have seen the ghost light many times. I was so intrigued by its mystery that I became the local expert on the light and was even eventually interviewed for an article that appeared in the Nashville Tennessean newspaper. The tracks were removed several years ago and I am told that the light disappeared with their removal. Many have tried to place a scientific explanation on the light’s existence. Some say it was a focused prismatic reflection others say it was foxfire and still others claim that the light was caused by swarms of insects that were pushed rapidly down the tracks by strong gusts of wind. The most believable theory states that the light was caused by “ball lightning” that was magnetically suspended above and between the rails and rapidly shot in either direction as thunderstorms roared through Lincoln County.


Whatever caused the light, the light was certainly there. The hair on the back of my neck still stands on end when I recall the many times that I sat alone and watched the light speed toward me. Time is the ultimate teacher and the ghost light taught me a valuable lesson. Over the years, I have learned that I am no longer young enough to know everything. I learned also that a good scare is worth more to a man than good advice. I no longer quickly dismiss stories of the unexplained. There are things that happen and things that people see that are real and simply beyond our understanding. I am now more open as to the possibilities and I never pass a graveyard without glancing over my shoulder and whistling loudly.



  • * *



The Great Rabbit Hunting Safari of 1956


In 1956, McCarthyism had the country scared to death; Rosa Parks had become a household name; I Love Lucy was the most popular show on television; and I was 10 years old. I was a member in good standing of the Dead End Gang, a group of rag-tag kids who lived at the dead end of West College Street in Fayetteville, Tennessee. Back then, gangs were just a bunch of kids who were thrown together by circumstance, enjoyed each other’s company and hung out together. I’m sure that there were those who said that the name “Dead End” not only described our location on the street, but probably more clearly defined our direction in life.


The gang members changed from time to time as families drifted in and out of our neighborhood. The core members of the group over the years were: Robert Simms, Dickie Trulson, the Himebaugh brothers (Gary and Mike), Gerald Woodard, the Hickson kids (there were six of them), Bobby Vann and my brother Joe and me. Small as the group was, we certainly had our characters. Robert was the sensible one and the brunt of many of our tricks. Dickie was the instigator, always dreaming up ideas that got us into trouble (At ten he had a strange resemblance to Spanky of the Little Rascals fame.). Joe was the tag along and the one who unknowingly was utilized to carry out many of our plots. I always visualized myself as the smart one that wore the white hat and rode off into the sunset. I guess I had watched too many westerns.


Over the years, we got into a lot of innocent mischief. Once Dickie got the idea of buying pea shooters and taking them to the Lincoln Theater. We located ourselves strategically throughout the movie house and took turns shooting the screen. The peas lit up like shooting stars when they streaked through the lights of the projector then slammed with a loud pop into the screen. After an intensive investigation, we were found guilty and banned from the theater for one month. Then there was the time that we dug a deep hole, covered it with sticks and straw and tricked Robert into walking into it (We got that idea from a Tarzan movie.). Once Dickie fell through the ice at a nearby fish pond and nearly drowned and froze to death while demonstrating his ice skating abilities. Another time, we got the idea of one of us buying a ticket to the movies and opening the door to the emergency exit to let the rest of us sneak in. That resulted in a two month ban from the theater. The stories go on and on but the best one was the “Great Rabbit Hunting Safari of 1956.”


The best Christmas of all time was in 1956. That was the year that the members of the Dead End Gang each got a BB gun from Santa Clause. We had a mixture of Daisy Red Riders, pump actions, and Roy Roger lever action saddle guns. Cruel as it was, no bird was safe at the end of West College Street. Like all kids, we had our share of accidental and intentional shootings; marksman contests; contests to see whose gun would shoot the greatest distance; dog shooting contests and other nonsensical competitions that make me shudder today.


After a few months, we began to run out of new things to do with our new BB guns. Then Dickie had the best idea yet! “Let’s go rabbit hunting!” he exclaimed. We may have been kids but we were not completely stupid. Even the dumbest among us (and there were several candidates) knew that our BB guns couldn’t kill a rabbit. Dickie, being the genius that he was, said, “Yes we can.” He then produced a 12 gage shotgun shell from the front pocket of his genuine Davy Crockett hunting vest. “The way I figure it,” Dickie explained, “If we tape one of these shells on the end of our BB gun barrel, then the BB will strike the cap of the shell and…Bingo! We’ll have fried rabbit for supper!” What a great idea! One could never underestimate the brilliance between Dickie’s ears!


The next thing that we knew, we were all looking for the tape while Dickie raided his dad’s gun cabinet in search of more Winchester six shot shells. Twenty minutes later, there were six of us in the nearby woods kicking the bushes in search of our unsuspecting victim. We all had agreed to the game plan. Once we saw a rabbit we would hold our fire and shoot in unison. Surely one of us would hit the poor creature.


Sure enough, after shaking every bush in the nearby woods, we finally jumped a rabbit. The poor Tennessee hare was running for his life! Six guns fired at once and the rabbit continued to run out of site. As the guns fired, each of us ended up on his back. When the smoke cleared, we began to assess the damage. The magazines of our BB guns had been forced down into the gun barrels splitting our barrels and nearly ruining our guns. Although we managed to fix each gun, they really never shot as true after that day. We made everyone “spit shake” and promise never to tell our parents about what had happened. As I think back about that day, I realize that it is a wonder that someone did not get killed! It has been said that God watches over fools and children. There is no question that we had double protection since we fell into both categories.


“You know Christmas is not that far off,” mentioned Dickie. “I think that we should all ask for go carts this year. I’ve got a couple of great ideas.” No one said a word as we rubbed our bruised shoulders and wandered on toward home.



  • * *



Joe Ferguson, Our Family’s Free Man


The following story is true and was taken from the Bryant family notes and facts passed from generation to generation by word of mouth.

October 29, 1859 was a sad day on the Bryant farm. The family had gathered on the knoll near the Brighton Road to say good-bye to an old friend and a devoted member of the Bryant clan. For the past twenty seven years, Joe Ferguson had been a tremendous influence on this colorful pioneer family. It was hard to believe that he was gone.


It was obvious that the Bryant children were deeply touched by Joe’s passing. Elizabeth recalled how Joe had given her her first horse and taught her how to smile while riding erect and proper. Joe had shown her how to train and groom her horses in order to win the competitions at the county horse shows and fairs. Choking back tears, Elizabeth stated that Joe was the best friend a little girl could have had.


J.D. and William James recalled how Joe had taught them to skin a buck deer, lay a trap, and trim the hooves of the cattle to avoid the foot rot. The boys had released Joe’s hounds earlier that morning and they could be heard baying in the distance at the ridge of Duke’s Creek Hollow in a hot pursuit of a cunning gray fox. J.D. wiped a tear from his cheek as he placed Joe’s fox horn on the top of the simple pine casket and watched it slowly disappear into the ground.


Gander, Joe’s pet goose, squawked in confusion calling to Joe to feed her a handful of cracked corn. That night, the family watched from the kitchen window until the darkness gradually hid Gander’s image, which was still visible standing next to Joe’s tombstone.


The Bryant family loved Joe Ferguson. William Robert and Joe had been together long before William realized his deep love for the lovely Eliza and asked her to marry him. William was a young man full of spunk, spirit, and adventure when Joe first came into his life.


William Robert Bryant’s grandfather and parents came to this country from Ireland in the mid 1700’s. Near the border of South Carolina, William’s father entered into the distillery business with a man named Ferguson. William was born in Orange County, North Carolina and as a child grew up in the shadows of the brandy barrels as the distillery business flourished. After a few years, both of William’s parents died unexpectedly leaving him an orphan. The Edmond Hicks family had been friends with William’s parents and were touched by William’s being alone in the world. They allowed William to move in with them and always treated him as if he was one of their own sons.


After a few years, the Hicks family decided to move to the fertile lands on the frontier of what is now Alabama. Edmond Hicks, the father, was a true pioneer and believed in living off of the land. It was from Edmond that William learned to work with wood, to trap, to hunt, to tan hides, and to build a life out of the rugged land that lay around him. It was this versatility that served William so well later in his life.


Edmond Hicks had three sons and along with William had decided to herd a huge flock of turkeys through Indian territory to sell near the Natchez Trace. Written permission had been obtained from the Department of Indian Affairs and the journey began in the early Spring of 1832. With three dogs, a supply wagon, and one mule the journey began.


It was one of the dogs that first found Joe. When the caravan reached the eastern border of Indian territory near Sand Mountain, one of the dogs began to bark uncontrollably. It was soon joined by the others. William and the three Hicks boys sprinted toward the excitement expecting to find a treed black bear or bobcat. Upon approaching, they realized that instead, it was a man lying face down on the ground.


After restraining the dogs, the boys cautiously inspected their new discovery. Half hidden by the blackberry bushes and laurels lay a black man. He had been terribly beaten and was swollen beyond recognition. His shirt was torn from his body and what remained of his pants was pulled around his ankles and soaked in blood. He had been castrated and his tongue had been cut out of his mouth. The amputated parts lay next to his body and were alive with green flies and maggots. The air was filled with the stench of rotting flesh. It was apparent that he had been there for several days and was probably dead.


Edmond Hicks arrived a few minutes later and shouted to the boys to stay away from the injured man. The buzzards were eagerly circling only a few feet above the hickory tops, and according to Edmond, even if there was any life left in him, he was beyond the point of being revived. In curiosity William reluctantly moved in for a closer look. “This is a corpse for sure, Mr. Edmond,” whispered William. As William backed away the poor man groaned and gasped for air. “He’s alive!” shouted William as he knelt beside him and began to inspect what was left of the pitiful creature. After much debate Mr. Hicks persuaded the boys that God and his angels were prepared to accept this dear soul and they were in no position to deprive the Almighty of that opportunity. As the group prepared to depart, William refused to abandon him. “This is our chance to negotiate with God…He expects no less. Why, this unfortunate being is probably an angel and God is testing us!” exclaimed William. After much more debate it was agreed by all that they could at least see that he did not die alone. All resolved to give him a decent burial once they were out of the rocky terrain of the mountains and could dig a grave. William accepted complete responsibility for his care if the others would assist in digging the poor man’s grave. All agreed to the compromise. Immediate attention was given to his most serious wounds. He was then loaded aboard the wagon and the party continued to move deeper into the wilderness.


Over the next two days their passenger lay unconscious and showed very few signs of life. William’s crude pioneer medical techniques began to control the bleeding and on the third day William’s patient drank a few swallows of water. He gradually opened his eyes and slowly began to move his limbs. Miraculously, and through William’s constant attention, he began to slowly gain his strength. By the fifth day, he began to take nourishment.


William named the Negro, Joe Ferguson. This was the name of William’s father’s partner in the South Carolina whiskey distillery business. Over the next few weeks Joe made a remarkable recovery. Once he could stand, his size and strength was realized by all. Joe was a tall man with huge biceps and forearms. His chest and neck were as big as any man’s and his hands were a living testimony of years of hard work. Joe was not an old man appearing to be no more than ten years older than William. Joe’s appearance was a striking blend of both strength and dignity. In full health, he was as handsome as any black man that had come to the frontier.


In the next few months, Joe’s story began to unfold. Joe was a runaway slave who had been treated badly by his master. He had been living in the wilds of Cherokee territory for over two years. While sleeping near Little River Canyon near the Georgia border, he was surprised by six marauders who robbed him of his meager possessions, tied him with bale twine and began to beat him. In a moment of wild anger, Joe broke loose, jerked one of the culprits off of his horse and broke his neck with his bare hands. He was in the process of doing the same to another when he was knocked unconscious. He was tied again and dragged behind a horse for some time. The next thing he remembered was looking into the warm eyes of William Robert. (All of his life Joe lived with the fear that the men would someday return and kill him. He often awoke screaming in the night as he relived his ordeal. Because of this fear, Joe rarely ventured far from William’s side.)


Because Joe’s tongue had been cut out, he could not talk. This did not mean he could not communicate. Joe developed different sounds and grunts that each had their own distinctive meaning. Over the years, Joe learned to hum tunes and to huff and puff in a particular manner that made him, when combined with his hamboning or spoon playing, quite an entertainer. When visiting the supply store at Corder’s Cross Roads, Joe was always begged by the locals and children to perform a tune or two. His syncopated rhythms, when coupled with a flatfoot buckdance or soft-shoe jig, were certainly a site to behold.


In order to hide Joe’s secret of being a runaway slave, William told those that inquired that Joe was the Bryant family slave. William said that he had purchased him from a man in South Carolina named Ferguson. After Joe recovered from his injuries, he remained with William. Both William and Joe remained briefly with the Hicks family in Buckhorn, Alabama where the family finally settled. Joe was known by those in the community to be William’s personal slave and servant.


On March 22, 1833 William married pretty Eliza Hicks, one of Edmond’s daughters. They moved to Bedford County, Tennessee where they remained for two years. Of course Joe remained with them and was treated as one of the family. William and Eliza finally settled in Lincoln County, Tennessee where they raised five children and eventually owned a 2,000 acre farm. William and Eliza were very enterprising and became quite wealthy. They simultaneously owned a brandy distillery, a screw manufacturing operation, a barrel shop, a tannery and operated the Bryant farm. The Bryant farm had seven tenant houses and barns. Over the years many in the community were employed by the Bryant businesses.


Joe remained with William and the Bryant family all of his life and became an important part of the business operation. The children kept Joe’s secret, and few, outside of the family, ever knew Joe’s true background. (When John David, one of the Bryant children completed a Veterans of the Civil War Questionnaire many years after the war, he stated that the Bryant family had owned one slave, an old man named Joe Ferguson. Even in John David’s old age he continued to hide Joe’ real identity.)


Joe had a pet goose, Gander, which followed him everywhere that he went. Gander would follow Joe as he taught the boys to be tough, hard workers and hunters and the girls to be ladies. Gander would wait patiently outside the back door each morning waiting for Joe’s journey to feed and water the cattle. Joe was seldom seen without Gander at his side.


There are many stories pertaining to Joe and the events surrounding the pioneer Bryant family. These stories tell of the love, the hard times and the happenings that truly mold a family. All of his life Joe was accepted as a member of the family and was buried as a free man near the Bryant home place. By Joe’s request he was buried close enough to home to see the lantern’s glow in the kitchen window.


Joe’s favorite past time was to take the hounds to the backside of the farm and chase the foxes that hid in Duke’s Creek Hollow. Joe would sit there by the fire with Gander and listen to the crying of the hounds in the distance. Many times late at night, if one listens very carefully, some say that the sound of Joe’s fox horn can still be heard calling the dogs home.



  • * *



Lonnie Glosson – Ambassador for the Harmonica


The following story was written from a phone interview with Lonnie Glosson by Ray “Bama Jammer” Steelman on March 4, 1998.


In a chain reaction, the couplers began to pop as the immense machine struggled in efforts to initiate its departure from the station in Memphis, Tennessee. The sleek, black locomotive was bound for Union Station in St. Louis. In Memphis, the Illinois Central, Louisville and Nashville, N.C. and St. L, and the Southern railroads all merged to form a huge regional hub. It was a busy and exciting place where the aggressive could “steal” a ride to virtually anywhere in the United States that had a railroad.


The engine began to lazily move, belching steam and soot as the whistle screamed to notify everyone of its departure from Memphis. No one noticed the young, rag-tag 17 year old boy who broke from the shadows and quickly ran alongside the passenger and box cars, jumping the rails and tie plates, as the steam engine began to slowly pick up speed. His wavy hair whipped in the breeze as he began to run faster and faster in efforts to reach the “blinds” of the train. The “blinds” was the area between the tender (the coal car for stoking the engine) and the first car. He knew he would be safe there just behind the engine and that no one would suspect that anyone would dare to steal a ride so close to the front of the train. Quickly, he grabbed the handrail and in a sudden leap found himself in his hiding place aboard the train. His next stop would be St. Louis.


Hopping the locomotive to St. Louis in 1924, started a musical career that would span 74 years and would place the young man, Lonnie Glosson, among the best harmonica players in the world. His influence and musical talent would inspire the yet unborn, and become the standard for generations of aspiring harmonica musicians.


Lonnie was born into a family of 10 in Judsonia, Arkansas on Valentine’s Day in 1908. From the cradle he listened to his mother’s harmonica playing and quickly accepted it as a natural part of his environment. Playing the harmonica came as easily to Lonnie as learning to speak. By the time he caught the train to St. Louis, Lonnie was already an accomplished harmonica musician.


Trains were the life blood of the little town where Lonnie grew up. He became fascinated with them at an early age, so it was only natural that he began imitating them on his harmonica. By listening to Lonnie’s train songs one could hear the steam puffs, the pumping, the rail pops, the rolling of the rails, the brass bell and the screeching whistle. Lonnie’s early renditions of steam locomotives were so good that he became a sort of connoisseur of train pieces. Lonnie’s rich bag of techniques allowed the listener to follow the steam engine as it started off sluggishly, quickly picked up speed, then roared out of town. The listener then heard the train in the distance with the whistle wailing as the engine continued to echo far, far away. It was this train imitation that quickly launched his career.


Upon arriving in St. Louis Lonnie had intended to learn the bricklayer’s trade but shortly wound up playing his harmonica on the then four year old radio station, KMOX. As he played the Train and the Fox Chase at the station, he was overheard by the officials of the Cotton Belt Railroad. His train imitation was so good that before he left KMOX he was booked to play at the railroad convention in Pine Bluff Arkansas. That was the first time that Lonnie was ever paid to play the harmonica.


From that point forward Lonnie became an expert at hopping trains. Always hiding in “the blinds,” Lonnie spent a lot of time riding the rails to places where he could play his harmonica. Many hobos and trainmen played the instrument as a way of passing the long hours alone. Over the years they were very helpful in giving Lonnie tips and ideas about how to get different sounds out of the harmonica. Lonnie’s second position “cross harp” skills skyrocketed as a result of his exposure to the many styles of play that he heard while riding the rails.


In 1930, Lonnie caught the blinds of the Chicago Limited on the Illinois Central to go to Chicago. WLS radio was one of the most powerful stations in the country and Lonnie intended to audition as a staff musician. Upon arriving at WLS, George Biggers, the station manager, would not allow Lonnie to play on the air and refused to even listen to an audition. Lonnie finally enlisted the help of “Ford and Glen,” a hot NBC duo on KMOX. With their recommendation by telegram, Lonnie was hired to play on the WLS “Dinner Bell” program. That came about without Lonnie ever being heard by station officials. That was his first regular gig and earned Lonnie $30 a week. A short time later, Lonnie was hired to play three times a week at the WLS Barn Dance at the 8th Street Theater in Chicago. He was to be paid $17 for each of three performances a week. This was extremely good pay during the depression and was more than many working men earned in a month!


WLS radio was owned by the Sears and Roebuck Company and Lonnie soon caught the eye of their top executives. The same year that Lonnie came to WLS, at the urging of the Sears officials, he recorded his first two songs. These songs were “Lost John” and “The Train” imitation. Recording had become very popular in America in the mid-20’s and many other harmonica players had recorded both of these tunes among them Henry Whitter, DeFord Bailey, and Dr. Humphrey Bate. Of all the harmonica musicians, Lonnie stood out as a unique stylist. He amazed even the best “harp” players as he was able to keep the rhythm going while still playing the melody. Lonnie’s recordings and his exposure on the pioneering radio stations soon made him well known in the South and Midwest.


In 1930, another big even occurred in Lonnie Glosson’s life. He met and married Ruth Moore, a pretty little girl from Arkansas. She was able to cure some of Lonnie’s rowdiness but not his desire to wander. After four years at WLS, Lonnie again became restless. In 1934, Consolidation Drug Products was promoting Purina as a health product and contracted with Lonnie to perform on KNX in Hollywood, California. Lonnie was to be a regular on the “Hollywood Barn Dance” which aired every Saturday night. Here, Lonnie worked closely with several Hollywood stars and even appeared in a movie, “Millions in the Air.” Lonnie appeared in the movie not as a harmonica player, but rather as a jug blower. Two years later, Lonnie was back in Chicago on WJJD performing every day on the “Suppertime Frolics” show. By now two things had happened. Lonnie Glosson had become a household name and his family had started to grow.


During the next decade, Lonnie criss-crossed the U.S. performing on every major radio network including NBC, ABC, CBS and the Mutual Network. He was the master of ceremonies of the “Renfro Valley” show; appeared with “Red” Foley on the Ozark Jubilee; and was a guest on the Grand Ole Opry so many times that everyone thought he was a member. Lonnie formed the “Sugar Creek Gang” and Consolidated Drugs sponsored the band wherever Lonnie’s wandering feet led. Over the years, Lonnie formed lasting friendships with such names as Gene Autry, Hank Williams, Patsy Montana, Archie Campbell, Les Paul, Red Foley, the Delmore Brothers and many others.


In 1950, Lonnie teamed up with Wayne Raney, another harmonica wizard. Wayne was 15 years younger than Lonnie and had been greatly influenced by Lonnie’s skill on the harmonica. In the new union, Lonnie played harmony and Wayne played “backup” harmonica. They played all the big stations in the United States but are best remembered for their stint on the border stations in Mexico. These were the big 200,000 to 500,000 watt stations that were strategically located across the border to blast out the U.S. stations.


The border stations were the envy of every entertainer and were literally heard around the world. Through electrical transcriptions the programs were aired simultaneously on over 200 radio stations. Lonnie and Wayne Raney were allowed 15 minutes twice each night to sell Kratt harmonicas as well as their guitar and harmonica instructional material. During this period of time, Lonnie and Wayne sold over 5 million harmonicas. Their record for a “one-day” sale was over 8,000 Kratt harmonicas. The team of Lonnie Glosson and Wayne Raney ended in 1992 when Wayne died of cancer at the age of 72. Note: Mr. Kratt was the Superintendent of the M. Hohner harmonica factory in Trossingen, Germany. He fled Germany as Hitler was in the process of a complete takeover. Upon arriving in America, he started his own harmonica factory in Union, New Jersey. The Kratt harmonica was said to be equal to, if not better in quality to the M. Hohner instruments.


Over the years, Lonnie wrote thirty five songs the most popular being “Matthew 24.” Wayne Raney and Lonnie teamed up to write the super hit “Why Don’t You Haul Off and Love Me.” Both of these have been recorded by some of Nashville’s biggest artists. During a 40 year period, Lonnie promoted the harmonica by performing at school assemblies for children of kindergarten age through the eighth grade. In his younger days he played four schools a day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. He performed in nearly all the schools in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi. He also performed in many of the schools in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, California, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, Florida and Kansas.


Lonnie and Ruth’s family grew to six children, 16 grandchildren and, 14 great-grandchildren. During all of Lonnie’s escapades, he always kept his family close to him. After school dismissed for the summer, he and Ruth would take their children on fruit-picking vacations throughout California, Oregon, Washington and Montana. During Lonnie’s bookings, the children had the opportunity to visit historic sites, national parks and to attend festivals and regional events.


Lonnie’s life is a reflection of the true pioneer and entrepreneurial spirit. Little did the kid who hopped the train in 1924 realize where his journey would take him and the fame and adventure that he would find. Lonnie was a recording artist for both Mercury and Decca Records and an inspiration for aspiring harmonica artists for over 70 years. During his entertainment career, he played on more than 200 radio stations and appeared on four television networks. When listening to the young harmonica musicians today, it is easy to depict the influence of Lonnie Glosson – the World’s Greatest ambassador for the harmonica!



Lonnie Glosson performed until he was over 90 years old. Lonnie’s darling wife, Ruth, died on November 6, 1995, after 65 years of marriage.

Lonnie Glosson’s songs were popular all over Europe, and documentaries about Lonnie were produced in both Germany and Canada. He appeared many times on the Grand Ole Opry and the TV show, Hee Haw. When Charlie Pride was in the process of being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, he named Lonnie Glosson as one of the biggest influences on his decision to become a country music entertainer. This was based on listening to Lonnie on the radio as a child.


Lonnie died of congestive heart failure in Searcy, Arkansas at the age of 93.


The preceding story was taken from a phone interview with Lonnie by the author on March 4, 1998. Lonnie made the following statement:


“I was born poor and am still poor moneywise…but…I have riches untold, in my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. And I must remember and never neglect the friends I have made along life’s highway. Come to think of it, I am outliving a number of them.”



  • * *



A Tear For Lonnie


The date was Tuesday, February 27, 2001, and I was conducting a harmonica seminar in Athens, Alabama for the Athens City School system’s community education program. A hand went up in the back of the room and an older gentleman asked me if I could demonstrate Lonnie Glosson’s “Talking Harmonica.” I gave it my best shot trying to remember how Lonnie had made the harmonica call for its mama, whine and ask for a drink of water. After I concluded my impromptu performance I knew exactly what the old guy was thinking…“He ain’t no Lonnie Glosson.” And he was right! There are not many Lonnie Glossons left.


Lonnie was one of the old style harmonica players and could make the harmonica do anything that he wanted it to do. It could sound like a bird, a fox hunt, a tin Lizzy, a speeding locomotive or even talk. For over seventy five years Lonnie’s harmonica playing had entertained thousands of people and produced unbelievable music from a simple 10-hole diatonic “French harp.”


I briefly met Lonnie and his wife, Ruth, over 30 years ago at the Smithville, Tennessee Fourth of July fiddlers’ convention. I stood at Lonnie’s feet at the edge of the stage as Lonnie stole the show with his harmonica expertise. Little did I know that I would spend countless hours listening to Lonnie’s tapes and attempting to steal his “licks.” Over the years, Lonnie taught me how to play the harmonica and did not even know it.


As time passed, I got to know Lonnie. I knew that the tragedy of losing Ruth, his wife of sixty-five years had torn him apart and, for a while made his harmonica playing a little sadder. I knew that every year at Christmas I would get a personalized card from Lonnie which always contained some words of wisdom imparting to me his philosophy of life. Last year’s card read, “Wishing you blessings, Ray “Bama Jammer” at Christmas Time.” Inside the card contained Lonnie’s special hand written message “To love and to be loved is the greatest joy in the world.” Lonnie had a great attitude and outlook on life. Recently, for absolutely no reason, he sent me a little note with the following message:


“Life and death are parts of the same great adventure.

Do not fear to die and do not shrink from the joy of life.”


With each message Lonnie’s handwriting got a little shakier. I knew that diabetes had gradually robbed Lonnie of his legs and was taking a toll on his body. I thought of my old friend and harmonica teacher a few days ago on Valentine’s day when Lonnie celebrated his ninety third birthday. I remembered his tough beginning, being born into a family of ten in Judsonia, Arkansas. I thought of his life story as a teenage hobo riding the freight trains across the country. I remembered how Lonnie had hidden in the “blinds” of the train and imitated with his harmonica the rhythm of those great steam locomotives. This was the humble beginning of a talent that would make Lonnie one of the world’s greatest harmonica players. Lonnie became the greatest ambassador for the harmonica, gradually selling over five million harmonicas during his lifetime. Most of these were sold with his buddy, and fellow harmonica player, the late Wayne Rainey, while they performed on those live border radio shows and became famous together.


After my embarrassing attempt to imitate Lonnie at Athens, my phone rang early the following Saturday morning. It was a phone call from Lonnie’s home in Searcy, Arkansas. Lonnie’s second wife, Marcella was choking back the tears as she told me that Lonnie had died peacefully during the night. Although I was not surprised at the news, the finality caused an emptiness that I knew would stay with me for a long time. How do you say goodbye to someone whom you admire so much and who had become such a big part of you? Lonnie’s harmonica had been silenced forever on this earth. A legend had died and a piece of history was gone forever. To paraphrase Tom T. Hall, “I guess the good Lord likes a little harp’n too…” I could not help but shed a tear for my old friend.



  • * *



T. Euclid Rains

The Most Inspiring Man That I Ever Met


I want to tell you about another man, whom I did know personally, and who was truly remarkable. I use the past tense because he and his wife left this world in a tragic automobile accident while on his way to church a few years ago. His name was T. Euclid Rains, Sr. During his lifetime, he was a colorful character and one of Alabama’s best known citizens. Hollywood has really missed an opportunity by not producing a movie about the life and accomplishments of Mr. Rains.


I met Mr. Rains when Jamie Cooper and I were hosting the Cooper and Company TV show on Channel 48 (See Chapter 14) in Huntsville, Alabama. Mr. Rains appeared on the show as a guest several times during my four year stint as co-host. I was immediately fascinated by his down-home nature, rugged honesty and his dynamic personality. Mr. Rains had been elected to the Alabama legislature from District 26 where he served for three terms. He was quite a celebrity, having appeared on the Gary Moore TV Show and had been featured in scores of national publications and magazines. The thing that made Mr. Rains so unique was that he was totally blind. He lost his eyesight at age three in a home accident. Despite that misfortune, Mr. Rains was never handicapped. Here are some of the things that he did during his lifetime:


• Read over 5,000 books

• Could hit a pitched baseball by listening to the sound

• Could play miniature golf

• Could play ping pong by listening to the sound of the ball

• Hitch hiked to college many, many times

• Rode a bicycle on public roads

• Bird hunted with a shotgun from sound

• Washed dishes while in college to pay his room and board

• Frequently used an ax and chain saw

• Did farm labor – pulled corn and picked cotton

• Milked cows

• Hand grabbled for fish

• Rode a galloping horse while standing on its back

• Raised hogs for twenty-two years

• Taught Sunday school for twenty years

• Wrote great poetry and songs

• Played the guitar and piano

• Operated a 200 acre farm

• Operated a grocery store

• Operated a broom and mop factory

• Built guitars and banjos

• Authored several books

• Coached baseball

• Coached basketball

• Was a scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts

• Recognized and honored by President Truman

• Made many TV appearances

• Was a good wrestler

• Taught school

• Entertained governors and dignitaries

• Rode a mule to college

• Won a shooting match with the sheriff

• Recovered treasures from 30 feet of water

• From 1930 to 1986, each year jumped into a river from cliffs above Town

Creek Falls, AL

• Castrated pigs

• Served three terms in the Alabama Legislature


As you can see, Mr. Rains was never handicapped. When, in his eighties, he was asked about his life he replied this way, “Life has been exceedingly good to me. Even if I could, I would not change a thing in my life. I am pleased with it just like it is. The only true test of any good experience is whether or not we would do it again. In the case of my life, I would gladly live it over again exactly as it was.”


Mr. Rains showed strength of character even as a child. He once told me the story about when he was blinded at age three. When he was examined by the doctors, his mother was told that the blindness was irreversible. She immediately began to cry uncontrollably. Mr. Rains said that he took his mother’s hand and said, “ Momma don’t cry. I’m not afraid of the dark.” This statement later became the title of one of his books that was published in 1996. Two of his books, I’m Not Afraid of the Dark and Count Me In are truly heart-wrenching and inspirational works.


Here are Mr. Rains’ own words….words from a man who would not accept defeat!


“Ignorance, poverty and total blindness couldn’t keep me locked out of life, for I have been motivated and driven, as far back as I can remember, by a fierce philosophy that: if I want a thing, though it be barricaded behind a snow-capped mountain range, I will walk to it and take it – if I had no feet, I would crawl to it and get it – if I had no knees, I would talk my way to it and possess it—and if I had no tongue, I would think my way through to that thing and make it mine. I came out of the Roaring 20’s; I was hammered and shaped in the thread-bare 30’s; I was tempered and matured in the Fiery 40’s; I walked straight into my future for I was not afraid of the dark.”

In my personal trip through life, this man has inspired me the most. A person should take his attitude and drive and apply it to all efforts in life and one cannot help but succeed. Do not let anything discourage you. Do not let the gifts that God gave you be a hindrance to your success. Mr. Rains once told me that he could not understand why sighted people could not at least foul off every baseball that was pitched to them. He reasoned that a baseball was three inches in diameter. So, to hit or foul, the ball, if a person would swing within three inches above the ball or within three inches below the ball (a total of nine inches), the batter would at least touch every pitch. He could not understand how, if he could hit a ball by listening to the sound that it made while whirling through the air, why could sighted people not hit or foul every pitch. Each of us should challenge ourselves to hone and develop our senses and talents and not become complacent with our God-given skills and blessings.

On my bookshelf, at my home, are Mr. Rains’ books, Count Me In and I’m Not Afraid of the Dark. The inside covers are autographed in Mr. Rains’ handwriting. It states:


“To my good friend, Ray Steelman, a man of understanding, good judgment and excellence” T. Euclid Rains


I pray to God each night that I can live up to Mr. Rains’ evaluation of me.



  • * *



The Phil Niekro Story


Here is the Phil Niekro Story with some the facts and statistics taken from the Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and from Hemispheres Magazine, March issue, 2009 pages 77-78.


(The inspiration for this story is taken from this author’s heart while watching Phil pitch for the Atlanta Braves for twenty years. I also met Phil Niekro (while writing this book) in July, 2011 at the Gwinnett Braves baseball stadium in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He was just as I expected; cordial, humble, friendly… a really nice guy! A photo of the two of us now rests on my bookshelf along side an autographed baseball.)


Have you ever tried to hit a knuckleball? The knuckleball is hard to hit because the ball has no rotation, only a floating, flat trajectory, which, when thrown properly and fast, builds friction on the ball’s surface. This friction causes the ball to dive and dart up, down and side ways. Even the pitcher is not sure of where the ball is going. It has been called a voodoo pitch because it has a possessed, haunting and mysterious character about it. The word voodoo comes from the Dahomean word for “spirit,” an invisible mysterious force that can intervene in human affairs. The knuckleball has certainly intervened in lots of people’s batting averages.


This is the story of the knuckleball pitcher Philip Henry Niekro:


Phil was born on April Fools Day in 1939 in Balaine, Ohio, a fitting time since his knuckleball played tricks on batters for two and one half decades. With 318 career victories, Niekro won more games than any other knuckleball pitcher in history. Among Niekro’s accomplishments, was the fact that he won the National League Gold Glove Award five times. The Gold Glove Award is the award given annually to the major league baseball player judged to have the most “superior individual performance” at each position (in each league). This honor is awarded by the managers and coaches.


Together with his brother Joe, the Niekro brothers became the biggest winning brother combination in baseball history, with 539 wins combined. One of Niekro’s accomplishments was his 121 career victories after the age of 40. At this writing, this is a major league baseball record. His longevity is attributed to his only real pitch, the knuckleball. The knuckleball, while a difficult pitch for pitchers to master, is easy on the arm and nearly impossible for batters to hit. In fact, there were few catchers that could even catch Phil’s knuckleball. Those catchers wore over-sized catcher’s mitts so, if they could not catch the ball, at least they might knock the ball down.


Niekro pitched for twenty seasons for the Braves (Two of those seasons were when the team was still in Milwaukee.). Phil was very popular in the city of Atlanta for remaining loyal to a team that often had a losing record (known as the bad years), as well as for his contributions to Atlanta area charities. On August 5, 1973, Niekro pitched a no hitter against the San Diego Padres. The no-hitter was the first no-hitter for the Braves since they had relocated to Atlanta. He was often the only star on the Braves team and was by far the most popular player with the Braves fans. In 1979, Phil tied with his brother for the league lead with twenty one wins. This happened while playing for an Atlanta team that only won 66 games. During his tenure in Atlanta, Niekro was selected to five All Star Teams, won five Gold Gloves, led the league in victories twice and in ERAs (earned run average) once.


Niekro was also a key to the only two division titles Atlanta won before 1991. In 1969, he had a 23-13 season with a 2.56 ERA and finished second in Cy Young balloting behind New York Mets sensation Tom Seaver. He lost his only appearance in the NLCS, as he and his Braves were swept by the Mets. In 1982, at the age of 43, Niekro led the Braves’ pitching staff with a 17-4 season. On October 1, with the Braves clinging to a one-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers, Niekro beat the San Diego Padres almost single-handedly by throwing a complete game shutout and hitting a two run home run.


How long could the old guy go? Against popular opinion among the fans, the Braves released Niekro in 1985. That did not stop Phil! After being released by the Braves, he signed with the New York Yankees and went on to win sixteen games. It was while he was with the Yankees that he made the last of his five All-Star appearances. It was also while pitching for the Yankees, that Niekro gained entry into the 300 win club with a shutout win over the Toronto Blues Jays on October 6, 1985. At age 46, Niekro became the oldest pitcher to pitch a shutout in the major leagues, and became the only pitcher to throw a complete game shutout for his 300th win. He did not throw his trademark knuckleball until the final hitter.


After two seasons in New York, he still did not stop. Niekro pitched for the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays in 1986 and 1987 respectively. The Blue Jays released him after he pitched ineffectively. Late in the 1987 season, the Braves, out of loyalty, brought him back for one last start to wrap up his career. At the age of 48, Phil Niekro was the oldest player in major league history to play regularly, until the record was later broken by Julio Franco (also an Atlanta Brave). Phil Niekro’s twenty-four seasons in the major leagues without a World Series appearance is currently a major league record. In his career, Niekro pitched a total of 5,404? innings. This is the most innings pitched by any pitcher in the post-1920 live ball era. He only appeared in the post season twice, making a playoff start in 1969 and again in 1982, both for Braves teams that would go on to lose the series. Phil Niekro was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.


What a story! Now, as the late commentator Paul Harvey would have said, “Stay tuned for the rest of the story.”


Phil and his brother, Joe, learned their famous knuckleball pitch from their father, Phil Niekro, Sr. The senior Niekro was a coal miner who pitched for a local amateur team in the Coal Miner League. Phil and Joe took that pitch and used it effectively while pitching at Bridgeport High School in Bridgeport, Ohio. Although Phil had a good high school record, he was not recruited as a college player. No one wanted the poor boy from Ohio with that weird knuckleball. After all, he only had that one pitch and he pitched it every time.


When Phil graduated from high school in 1957, he joined his Dad working in the coal mines. He also joined the company baseball team and figured that the rest of his days would be spent pitching in that amateur league and working in the coal mines. Then an event occurred that changed Phil’s life. One day, a major league scout saw Phil pitch and invited himself to dinner at the Niekro home. The scout offered Phil a contract to play in the minor leagues (at the D league level) for $275 a month and a $500 signing bonus. That was not much money for a baseball player even in those days. It was, however, much better than the coal mines paid and gave Phil the opportunity to play baseball, the game that he loved. Soon after, Phil caught the train and was on his way to Waycross, Georgia for spring training.


Phil was somewhat intimidated by the major league golden boys and their huge salaries and signing bonuses. His tiny $275 was laughable compared to their earnings. Because of the huge investments that the team had in the high interest recruits, those recruits naturally got more attention. Phil struggled through his first year in the D league.


His first season was not good and he was called into the office by the team manager. Phil knew what this meant. He was going to be released and sent back to the mines. As Phil tells the story, “I could not help it. I broke down and began to cry. I cried so hard when I got the news that I was being released, that it touched the manager’s heart. He felt sorry for me.” Reluctantly, it was agreed that Phil’s release would be delayed and he would temporarily be sent to another D League team.


That was Phil’s last chance and he knew it. Phil was devastated by the fact that if he failed, he was destined to spend his life in the coal mines. That was great motivation. He became totally dedicated to baseball and his knuckleball. His dedication worked. The next season he advanced to the A League. In 1964, Phil got his first big break. The Milwaukee Braves called him up to test his abilities as a relief pitcher. During his first appearance on the mound, Niekro faced one batter. He got him out. That was his first big victory and an important milestone for the kid from Ohio. In 1967, he started his first game for the relocated Atlanta Braves. The rest is history!


Persistence is the seed of success and the element that pays off in the long run.



  • * *



DeFord Bailey

“The Harmonica Wizard”


In the fall of 1925, radio came to Nashville, Tennessee. Although there had been stations in Atlanta, Dallas and Memphis for a couple of years, the excitement of “the miracle of radio” in the deep South had everyone talking. What made the event even more thrilling was the fact that Nashville had two stations to begin broadcasting within one month of each other. On September 13, 1925, WDAD (We Double a Dollar) began broadcasting and on October 5th of the following month, WSM (We Shield Millions) took to the air. Suddenly Nashville had two radio stations! The strongest station of the two, WSM, could actually be heard hundreds of miles away. Opening with 1,000 watts of power, WSM suddenly became one of the two strongest radio stations in the South.


WSM was owned by National Life and Accident Insurance Company who spared no cost in making the WSM studio a real showplace. Since most programming was composed of live performances, the studio was equipped with the best in furniture, extravagant crystal chandeliers, thick plush carpeting, colorful drapes and a grand piano. National Life and Accident sought out and hired the best young radio announcer in the business and on November 2nd, brought George D. Hay (from WLS in Chicago) to Nashville as station manager.


Upon arriving in Nashville, George D. Hay immediately set out to upgrade the programming at WSM. Seeking to capitalize on local talent, he immediately started “The Barn Dance” which every Saturday night featured the talents of local singers and musicians. Although many singers and musicians would come and go during the first year, the program began to center around such talents as banjoist and singer Uncle Dave Macon; fiddlers Sid Harkreader and Uncle Jimmy Thompson; the local fiddle and banjo team of Lovel and DeMoss; and the subject of this article, DeFord Bailey, the black man who would become the legendary harmonica wizard.


As radio gradually became more popular in the rural south, it naturally became the family’s main source of entertainment. Late at night by the glow of fireplaces and potbellied stoves, families would listen to the songs performed by Uncle Dave Macon, Uncle Jimmy Thompson and the others in the Nashville WSM studio. Probably none touched the hearts and souls of America during the pioneer days of radio as much as DeFord Bailey. DeFord’s “Fox Chase,” “Old Hen Cackle,” “Pan American Blues” and “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo’” were songs the common man could understand. DeFord instantly became a household name in rural America. Families who could not afford a piano or expensive musical instrument often had a harmonica and DeFord became the standard of measurement as these families took solace in the plaintive, mellow tunes of the harmonica.


Bailey was born near the small community of Bellwood, not far from Carthage, Tennessee, on December 14th, 1899. His mother combined the names of two of her teachers (a Mr. Dewberry and a Mrs. Ford) into the given name of DeFord. At only 4 feet 11 inches tall, his small frame and stature could be attributed to his having contracted infantile paralysis (polio) as a child, leaving him with a twisted back as an adult. He was born into a strong musical family. His grandfather, Lewis Bailey, and several of his uncles had a well-known rural band. Young Bailey learned to play guitar and banjo quite well, but preferred his “French Harp.”


In 1925, Dr. Humphrey Bate, a harmonica player with The Possum Hunters Band (he was also a physician from Summer County, Tennessee) took Bailey to the WSM studio for a Saturday night performance of WSM’s Barn Dance. DeFord had been playing for over a year at WDAD. As the story goes, Bailey and Dr. Bate were stopped by George D. Hay (the solemn Ole Judge) who initially refused to let Bailey play without an audition; however after much persuading by “the Doc,” Hay agreed to give him a try, and when Bailey did take the microphone, he brought down the house! His style was so different from the playing of his predecessors that it won him an instant slot on The Barn Dance. It is said that Hay was so astonished at the music Bailey got out of a harmonica that he pitched his now famous “steamboat whistle” high into the air. Bailey became Nashville’s first big discovery!


On Saturday, December 8, 1928, Hay announced in jest, that “For the next three hours the audience would hear The Grand Ole Opry,” after which Bailey took the microphone and played the sound of a fast-moving freight train called “Pan American Blues.” The name, The Grand Ole Opry, stuck and Bailey had the distinction of being the first official performer on the show. In 1928, he played on 48 out of 52 Grand Ole Opry broadcasts, twice as many as any other artist.


Bailey remained with the Opry until 1941 when he left in the midst of controversy, which has long been misunderstood. It resulted from the BMI-ASCAP licensing struggles in 1940-41when Opry performers were not allowed to play any of their older tunes licensed with ASCAP and were required to develop new tunes to be licensed with BMI. Bailey did not fully understand what was occurring and was not willing to change his style or forego his favorite oldies. Years earlier he had not been allowed to play newer tunes and didn’t fathom this about-face on the Opry’s part, and wasn’t willing to change 16 years later. He knew he could always make a living from his shoe shine shop and other business ventures. He was fired from the Opry in mid-1941.


One of DeFord’s accomplishments was playing in the first recording sessions in Nashville when RCA Victor set up shop there in 1928. Although he played on many tunes, there is very little recorded history of Bailey’s talents. Some of his best tunes were: “Pan American Blues,” “Lost John,” “The Fox Chase,” “Muscle Shoals Blues,” “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo,’” and “The Evening Prayer Blues.” He had various megaphones along with a cow horn, a bell, etc. that he often used as part of his act with the harp.


DeFord Bailey died in Nashville on July 2, 1982, at the age of 82. Long a local celebrity around Nashville, he was a dapper little man, always wearing a coat and tie, a hat and brightly gleaming shined shoes. Upon his death, both the Nashville Tennessean and the Nashville Banner newspapers carried his obituary on the front page. A legend of Nashville had died.


Over the years attempts to get Bailey to appear on the Opry were seldom successful; however, he did appear twice in 1974, once in 1975 and finally, only three months before his death, in 1982 as part of an old-timers reunion. He played his three favorite tunes; “Pan American Blues,” The Fox Chase,” and “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo.’” The crowd went wild and Bailey got the largest ovation of the night.


The greatest injustice of all is that he has not yet been admitted to the Country Music Hall of Fame. There have been numerous attempts to overcome this failure of the country music community. Historians have recorded that Bailey and Uncle Dave Macon were the most popular performers on the Opry, yet today, Bailey has not been properly recognized for his tremendous contributions to the development of the early Opry. (Note: Since this story was written, DeFord Bailey was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on November 15, 2005, the same night as Glen Campbell and the group Alabama.)


His gravesite in Nashville’s Greenwood Cemetery is marked by a monument depicting a harmonica with the words “Harmonica Wizard” ( an early label given him by George D. Hay). At his gravesite when the monument was dedicated in 1983, his old friends Herman Crook, Roy Acuff and Bill Monroe, played the music that DeFord Bailey loved so much.


The blues is a sad music. It ain’t nothin’

but you’re hard up and can’t do nothin’ for

yourself. Like you’re way away from home

and try to make it home and can’t. Or got

children and they’re sick and they can’t

feed’em and feel bad. Almost like a church

song. Real serious. Like you’re sick and

don’t know what to do for your family. You

go to singin’. Callin’ on the Lord to help.

We call it the blues.


—DeFord Bailey



Note: Our special thanks to David Morton, a long-time acquaintance of Bailey’s, for contributing some of the information in this article.



  • * *



Going Home


The struggle that had begun for so many as a great adventure, had revealed itself to be a perilous creation, molded by the steady, destructive and deliberate hand of Satan.


The Civil War ended on April 9, 1865 with General Robert E. Lee surrendering at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. It took several days for the word to spread to all the men in the field that the bloody campaign between countrymen was finally over. The first thoughts that entered the minds of the warriors on both sides were thoughts of home and the families and friends that had been left behind. All were eager to return home and anxious for their lives to be reinstated. The struggle that had begun for so many as a great adventure had revealed itself to be a perilous creation molded by the steady, destructive and deliberate hand of Satan.


Both sides agreed on orderly rules of transition particularly as they affected the soldiers of the Confederacy. The ones that had horses were allowed to keep them. Each officer was authorized to keep his side arms and every fourth soldier was permitted to keep his weapon. Each of the Confederates would eventually be required to recite and sign a pledge of loyalty and allegiance to the United States of America. All prisoners of war on each side would be issued Certificates of Release as expeditiously as possible and would be free to return home. Whenever possible, transportation would be provided but in most cases each Confederate soldier would have to find his way home the best way that he could. The boys in gray were told that the mountains were swarming with bushwhackers, robbers and deserters from both sides. Warnings were issued that the Confederates should travel in groups, not tarry along the way and return to their homes as soon as possible. Most of the Southern boys had never traveled very far from home prior to the war and had no idea how to return on their own. Without the protection and assistance of the army, they were confused, helpless and vulnerable. For many of the men who fought so bravely for the South, the journey home was as treacherous as the war itself.


Many years after the war, the state of Tennessee issued a questionnaire to the Civil War veterans so that the events and circumstances of that great conflict would accurately be preserved for future generations. Recorded below are the responses of a few of those who told of their dangerous trip home. The stories below are recorded in the words of those who experienced the cruelty of the victors and the persistency of the parasites who preyed upon the defeated rebel soldiers as they made their way home to the families that they had left behind.


William Gibbs Allen – Dayton, Tennessee


I was a Lieutenant Colonel in my regiment. We had our last muster at Charlotte, NC on April 20, 1865. We had furnished our own weapons and horses. Our arms were a shotgun or Colt pistol. Some had an old flint lock rifle. Our saddles were poor. We soon captured better guns and saddles. The Western Horse was no good to a Tennessee or Kentucky Calvary man. We needed a keen horse, and active horse of medium size. We had no tents. The rich sympathizers and the government furnished each of us with a blanket and a pickax. The heavens were our cover, rain or shine, hot or cold.


On May 4, 1865, we passed Ashville, N. C. at a pass in the mountains. Here we met Colonel Robert Kirk, a well known outlaw and a leader of a group of bushwhackers. He had approximately four hundred bushwhackers with him. They demanded our horses and our weapons. After a long parlay, our colonel, McKenzie, ordered me to bring up the officers. Colonel Kirk let us pass.


W.F Blevens – Rhea County, TN


On our journey home we were met at a gap in the mountains by a group of bushwhackers numbering about four hundred. They demanded our weapons and our horses. Our colonel ordered Colonel Allen to bring the officers forward. Colonel Kirk was told that he was going to get a lot of people killed. Colonel Kirk concluded to give us the road and let us pass.


Felix Grundy Bilbry – Overton County, TN


We had just been paid twenty-six dollars per man for guarding President Davis to Washington, Georgia. From there we went to Chattanooga where all but eleven of our horses were taken by the Yanks. When we realized what was happening, several of us made a dash across the river. We were ordered to bring the other horses back but did not heed their orders. We rode our horses on home without any bother.


Lewis Green Bing-- Smithville, DeKalb County, TN


I was discharged at Atlanta, Georgia in May of 1865. I rode my horse from Atlanta to Smithville. I ate nothing until I arrived at home. I let my horse eat the way-side grass during the day and I walked at night. I had some Confederate money but it was worthless.


T. N. Bledsoe – Petersburg, Tennessee


I was discharged at Dalton, Georgia. Me and John Cates walked all the way home. We crossed the Tennessee River at Bridgeport, Alabama on two logs tied together with grape vines. G. S. Boles and many more that I knew lost their horses at Chattanooga. They were stolen by the Yanks.


James Amos Brown – Hometown unknown


I surrendered at Appomattox. Without money, or anything to eat, I walked to Knoxville. I rode a train to Decherd then walked seventy-five miles home. I was fed by citizens.


Wylie Richard Bryant – Coldwell County, Tennessee


I was discharged in North Carolina and rode a mule three hundred miles in six days. I begged food for my mule. An old lady baked me some bread which lasted until I got home. I slept on the ground.


Jack Busley – McNairy County, Tennessee


I was a prisoner of war at Lookout, Maryland. I was paroled when the war ended. I went to New York and caught a steamer to Mobile, Alabama. A storm blew the ship away but nobody drowned immediately, although several died later. I came to Mobile on another ship. It took two months but I arrived in Mobile on August 27, 1865.


James Polk Byrne – Nashville, Tennessee


I was in the Fort Delaware prison when the war ended. I went up Delaware Bay to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on a steam boat. From there, I went by rail to Nashville. I had only one dollar in greenback. I bought fifteen cents of cheese and ten cents worth of crackers. That is all that I had to eat on my trip home. I arrived in Nashville on June 11, 1865.


D. P. Chamberlain – Lawrenceburg, Tennessee


I surrendered on April 26, 1865 at Charlotte, North Carolina. We were allowed to keep our mounts and every fourth man kept his weapon. When I got to Strawberry Plains, Tennessee the Yanks took everything. We were put in cattle cars. Once we were inside, the Yanks tried to wreck the train. We finally made it to Murfreesboro. From there, we footed it on home which was about eighty miles away.


Henry Alexander Chambers – Chattanooga, Tennessee


I surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9, 1865. I was wounded at the time of surrender. I was allowed to stay with a friend of General Ranson while I gained my strength. I reported to the hospital each day. I stayed there until the railroads were repaired. I was then given transportation home.


Henry Sowell Cherry – Nashville, Tennessee


I was paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina. General Grant allowed us to keep our horses. At Strawberry Plains, they were taken from us by Yankee officers. I came home on the train. Years later the Federal government paid us for the horses.


E. R. Cook – Wilson County, Tennessee


I was paroled at Washington, Georgia on May 9, 1865. We were accorded the privilege of keeping side arms, horses and equipment. At Chattanooga we were provoked and insulted until we resisted it. We were stripped of everything. We were sent to Nashville in cattle cars.


Henry D’Annond – Roan County, Tennessee


I was discharged from Johnson Island Prison on June 16, 1865. A Federal lieutenant loaned me twenty dollars, which I divided with several others. When I arrived in Cincinnati, I made myself known to a gentleman, who, after giving Jeff Davis a ten minute cursing, handed me five dollars. My next stop was Louisville. I learned that a large steamboat was loading and going south. The ladies of that city, God bless them all, prepared several boxes filled with everything good to the appetite. The captain consented to have the boxes put on his boat. They were distributed to the returning Confederates. The return home to Louisiana was very pleasant.


William C. Dillihay – Nashville, Tennessee


I was paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina. We were allowed to keep our horses, and every fourth man his weapon. At Strawberry Plains, the Yanks took them. Years later, the government paid us one hundred and thirty-five dollars for the horses and the equipment that was stolen.


Zachary Taylor Dyer – Giles County, Tennessee


I was paroled at Charlotte, North Carolina on May 8, 1865. In the terms of the surrender, we were allowed to keep our horses, bridles, side arms and every fourth man his gun. When we got to Strawberry Plains all was taken from us. We were placed in box cars and brought to Knoxville. There we were taken off the train, marched through the streets and then placed back in the same box cars.


A. H. Cross – Nashville, Tennessee


I surrendered at Christiansburg, Virginia. I, and a fellow named Tucker, decided that it was too dangerous to cross the mountains alone since the Southern soldier was being treated so badly. We stayed at Saltville, Virginia doing whatever we could find to do until it became safe to return home.


Wiley W. Gray – Woodbury, Tennessee


I rode a mule to Bridgeport, Alabama. There the Yanks took my mule and sent me to Chattanooga. I rode the top of a box car home.


Mirion A. Hall – Memphis, Tennessee


When we were discharged, we were told that we could bring our horses with us. When we got home I had three.


William Thomas Hardison – Nashville, Tennessee


I was paroled in Charlotte, North Carolina with our horses and side arms. At Strawberry Plains they were taken away. We were sent home in box cars. The government paid us for our horses forty years later.


Charley W. Harris – Aspen, Tennessee


I was discharged in May, 1865 at Washington, Georgia. I walked all the way home. I took the measles on the way home and liked to have died.



John Pryor Hikman – Nashville, Tennessee


I was paroled at Fort Delaware Prison. I was released on May 28, 1865. I came back home through Pennsylvania without much molesting. At Louisville we were arrested and carried to the Yankee Headquarters where our brass buttons were cut from our uniforms.


Stephen Harrrison Howe – Nashville, Tennessee


I was paroled on May 10, 1865 at Gainsville, Alabama. We were allowed to keep our horses and personal property. From Gainsville, we came to East Port, where we were hired by federal soldiers from across the river. When we finished with them, we continued. When we came by the Natchez Road, we captured one bushwhacker and kept him overnight.


William James Kirkman – Grainger, Tennessee


We were disbanded at Christiansburg, Virginia, on orders of Colonel Echols. I had my horse and side arm while passing through Charlotte, North Carolina. At Athens, Georgia

my side arm was taken and I was paroled. I then came to Baines Cross Roads in my home county of Grainger. Our horses were taken by a bushwhacker who claimed to be in the Union Army. These stragglers threatened to kill us, but finally let us go. As I have previously spoken of our capture by stragglers, some months later, after Lee’s surrender, Jack Long and I were given a severe whipping by Union soldiers and stragglers. I was at Mr. Long’s house and after giving Mr. Long a severe whipping on his bare back, with large switches, I was taken out and being overpowered by numbers, I was also given the same kind of whipping.


Samuel B. Kyle – Fayetteville, Tennessee


I was discharged at Gainsville, Alabama, on May 9, 1865, where we surrendered and stacked our guns. The next day, we were told to go home and to make as good a citizen as we had been a soldier. We started home. Within twenty miles of home, we met a Federal Calvary company. We thought our pistols would be taken, but they let us pass unmolested.


R. P. Lanius – Lebanon, Tennessee


At Greenville, Tennessee, the government gave us horses, wagons, tents, cooking vessels and what provisions we had left. With full equipment, we headed home. Near Knoxville, we pulled off the road, about half a mile to get horse feed. A lady came out and said she didn’t have any feed, but we could get some at the next farm. At that house, four men came out with guns, took our wagons and horses, and left us on foot.


Sims Letta – Columbia, Tennessee


According to the terms of surrender, we kept our horses and side arms. At Salem, North Carolina, we had trouble with a company of drunken Yankees on their way back to town. The problem was settled, for the time being. Later at Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, our horses and side arms were taken. We finished the way home on box cars.


Later, Congressman Padgett succeeded in getting pay for our horses and side arms. This had come up in every Congress since the war, but the bill never passes until Mr. Padgett went to Congress and stuck to the matter until it was put through. NOTE: The pay was $135.00 for each horse, saddle, and pistol.


Walter Thomas Lenoir – Sweetwater, Tennessee


I was paroled at Kingston, Georgia, on May 14, 1865, and was allowed to bring my negro boy and two horses with me. I got home in two days, after I surrendered.


Theodoric Erwin Lipscomb – McNairy County, Tennessee


I paroled at Greenville, North Carolina. I had everything taken from me at Strawberry Plains, Tennessee. Then, some forty years later, the U.S. government paid for the horses.


William Winston Eades – Unionville, Tennessee


I was paroled at Washington, Georgia, on May 8, 1865. Our brigade had been paid twenty-eight dollars and twenty-eight cents for escorting President Davis to Washington.


Duke’s regiment was paid thirty-two dollars each man. While Diheral’s twenty-six dollars each. This took place on the Survance River. Coming home we met a Yankee scout patrol, but they did not interfere with the terms of our surrender.


Wiley Benton Ellis – Fayetteville, Tennessee


I was paroled at Washington, Georgia, Colonel McLemore. Our horses were taken from us at Chattanooga. Colonel McLemore got them returned to us a few weeks later. NOTE: The horse issue went on for years, it was a hot subject all over the south. Some of these veterans in later years were elected to the United States Senate, on the promise that these men would get paid for their horses.


George Gann – Lebanon, Tennessee


Our horses were taken from us at Sweetwater, Tennessee.


William Garton – Dickerson, Tennessee


On the travel home, we walked some and rode the train some.


William Reeves Giesler – Piney Flats, Tennessee


I was discharged on April 10,1865, at Christianburg, Virginia. Twenty-four of us came home together, within three or four days. We swam the river to get home.


James Calvin Giles – Spring City, Tennessee


I was discharged at Morgantown, North Carolina, on April 17, 1865. I had married in Morgantown in 1861. I brought my family across the Blue Ridge Mountains in wagon trains. Finally, we came back home and settled in a place of our own.


James W. Gillock – Neptune, Tennessee


I was discharged with one dollar and twenty-five cents in my pocket. I came to Wartrace (TN) and was water bound for a few days. I depended on the good will and charity of the people for food and clothing.


William Clinton Gudsey – Dayton, Tennessee


On May 4, 1865, we started home by way of Ashville, North Carolina. At the head of Watauga Mountain, where the road enters the narrow gap, we met Captain Kirk. He had about three hundred bushwhackers. They were lined up and demanded our horses and arms. Our colonel, Colonel McKenzie talked to them. Then he ordered Lt. Colonel Allen to bring up the fourteen officers. They were the only one with arms. Captain Kirk was told to open ranks or he was going to be killed. Kirk opened the road and let us pass through his robbing, murderous gang. We arrived home on May 10, 1865.


James Neville Logan – Winchester, Tennessee


I surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1864. I started for home on May 12, and got home on May 29 at 4:00 PM. It was a hard vicious trip. We walked 600 miles in 18 days. We were so dirty and ragged, my mother did not know who I was until I spoke.


William Lewis McCay – Nashville, Tennessee


I was not discharged, I was shot out of the Army. I was shot at Murfreesboro, on December 31, 1862. I came home on an old, broken down U.S. Army horse.


William Robert Oldham – Lincoln County, Tennessee


After I was paroled, I went to City Point, Virginia. From there I went to Fort Monroe, Virginia, and took a steamer to Mobile, Alabama. From Mobile I went to New Orleans, then to Memphis, then to Smithland, Kentucky. After that, I went to Nashville, then to Fayetteville.


Robert Lanier Morris – Robertson County, Tennessee


I surrendered with General Forest at Gainsville, Alabama on May 11, 1865. Colonel Withers, Lieutenant Dismukes, and I separated from the column and made our own way home. We came by way of Tuscaloosa and Courtland, Alabama. On Sand Mountain, we encountered a band of robbers operating in that section. It was made up of deserters and thieves. We joined with some Tennesseans and their wagons. By putting on a bold front we were unmolested.


James Lewis Nesbitt – Montgomery County, Tennessee


At Appomattox, I was given the cross of honor. In returning home, I contacted smallpox on the Duck River and was delayed five weeks. I walked about four hundred miles.


John M. Patrick – Big Sandy, Tennessee


I had just got out of the hospital and was staying with a friend. I went to Atlanta, surrendered, and got a parole. I could not get any transportation home. The railroad tracks were tore up to Chattanooga. I went to the country and got another place to stay. On July 8, the cars came through and I went home.


W.W.Patton – Lauderdale, Tennessee


I was a prisoner at Elmire, New York, when Lee surrendered. I was released from prison in June and took oath. From there, I was sent to New York City, and took a steamer to Charleston, South Carolina. I arrived home on July 6, 1865.


M. V. Payne – Big Creek, Tennessee


I was paroled in Washington, Georgia. We had a good time on our way home. Each man had thirty-two dollars, escort for Jefferson Davis. This was the most money we had seen in the last four years.


Thomas F. Perkins – Hartsville, Tennessee


I was paroled from Point Lookout, Maryland Prison, on May 20. I had to walk from Richmond, Virginia to Bedford, Virginia. A man from Wisconsin took my jacket, and a man from Rhode Island took my cap.


John M. Powell – Nashville, Tennessee


I was paroled from Point Lookout, Maryland Prison on May 20, 1865, at about 5:30 PM. We were put on a vessel and went down to Washington, D.C., and arrived there at about 5:30 AM. On May 21, 1865, we were ordered to a depot to get transportation home. From there, we were sent to another station about five miles away. There we could get more information. We tramped from one place to another, all day. When we got back to the place where we had been this morning, we got transportation home.


Powatan Powhatan Pull – Paris, Tennessee


I was released from Rock Island Prison on May 26, 1865. When released, we were given six day rations. Some of the boys ate theirs the first day. A good lady, Mrs. McCourtney, the wife of one of the prison doctors, knew me from prison, and put a five bushel box of provisions on the boat when we left on. The McCourtney’s were from Davenport, Iowa.


Crawford Monroe Rankhorn – Dekalb County, Tennessee


I was paroled on May 22, 1865 at Rock Island Prison. I came home on a boat to Cairo, Illinois, thence to Nashville, Tennessee, thence, I walked to Smithville. I got home on June 7, 1865.



John R. Reagan – Bellview, Tennessee


I was paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina on April 27, 1865. We marched to Ashville and then on to Greenville, Tennessee. At Greenville a negro soldier called us Jeff Davis’ “shin plasters.” There was nothing we could do except endure the insults!


Deering J. Roberts – Nashville, Tennessee


I surrendered at Greensboro, North Carolina in May of 1865 while with Johnston’s army. I rode my horse through the mountains of North Carolina with a fragment of the soldiers of the Army of Tennessee. From the North Carolina mountains I continued to ride to Greenville, Tennessee. Wayside grass was the only feed that we had for our horses. When I reached Greenville, I had to abandon my horse. There were no provisions for my animal on the train. The U. S. authorities would not let us ride across country. Later, by an Act of Congress by Senator W. B. Bate, I received a treasury check for $145 for my horse.

Note: William Brimage Bate was a Confederate General. He was wounded three times in the war and had five horses shot from under him. In 1863, he was offered the Governorship of Tennessee. He refused stating that he would not accept it as long as the enemy remained in the state. In 1882, he was elected Governor for the first of two terms. He was a U. S. Senator from 1886 to 1905. For a period of time he was the Democratic power in the state.


John K. Roberts – White County, Tennessee


I was paroled at Meridian, Mississippi on May 14, 1865. I came by railroad car to Columbus, Mississippi where I stayed with Tom Evans. From there I footed it to Tupelo where I laid out for a while. After a spell I walked to Corinth where I slept in railroad cars. I then hiked to East Port on the Tennessee River where I laid on the ground and spent the night. The next morning, I got passage on a boat to Johnsonville, Tennessee. From there I rode on the railroad cars to Nashville.


William Polk Sims – Coffee County, Tennessee


We were at Raleigh, North Carolina when Lee surrendered. President Davis rode through and there was an order to “Give the Road.” We lined up on each side of the road. President Davis rode through. He was graceful in his manner and like a gentleman held his hat in his hand. The boys made the woods roar with cheers. As I remember, we rode with him for thirty-six hours without stopping. He ordered that each man got twenty-six dollars at Washington, Georgia. From there we headed home. We were met by a Federal patrol. They searched us and allowed us to keep our horses and side arms. Later, they returned and took our side arms. Eventually, they took our horses, which was in violation of our parole. When General W. M. Bate was a senator he reviewed the matter and the Government paid us about half price for our horses.


James Calvin Tipps – Winchester, Tennessee


Enterprise, Mississippi is where we surrendered. I took it toward home afoot. I was poorly clad. It took me fifteen days to walk the 800 miles home.


S. N. Todd – Leona, Tennessee


On my way home, I was put into prison at Chattanooga. While in jail I was forced to take an oath of allegiance to the United States.


Merritt Buckner Tomlinson – Culleake, Tennessee


I surrendered at Greensboro, North Carolina in April of 1865. We were marched through King’s Mountain to Ashville., from there we were marched down the French Broad River to Strawberry Plains, Tennessee. We were then loaded on stock cars and box cars and sent to Chattanooga. From there we were sent by train to Nashville and on to Culleake, Tennessee. From there I walked the three miles to home. I had been in the army of Tennessee a few days over four years.


Francis Marion Tripp – Mulberry, Tennessee


I surrendered along with the others on April 9,1865. I walked one hundred miles before I got a ride on a train. I brought plenty of grub to last until I got home.


W. J. Tucker – Troy, Tennessee


I was forced to take the oath of allegiance to the United States at Rock Island Prison. We got transportation from there to home. We furnished our own rations and managed to get plenty to eat…Sometimes too much…We had friends at every stop.


James Anderson Vincent – Lewisburg, Tennessee


I was in the hospital at Lauderdale, Mississippi when the surrender came. We went home from there…Rather we walked home. I was still sick and weak. We slept in hay stacks and suffered hell. I was ill from diarrhea and would give out and have to stop to rest. Sometimes a wagon would give me a ride. Food was really scarce. Once I drew a chunk of fat meat that without bread was my meal. I felt that to get home would be heaven so I kept pushing myself along.


John Vincent – Ruthville, Tennessee


I was not discharged when the war was over. I was on special duty to assist a sick soldier at Oxford, Mississippi and did not surrender. I came home a month after the war was over bringing the sick comrade with me. He almost died on to journey home. I was detailed to wait on him until he died. Since he refused to die, I brought him home to his momma.


Thomas S. Vinson – Gallatin, Tennessee


I was at Shreveport, Louisiana when Lee surrendered. We then marched to Navaro County, Texas. We had decided to go to Mexico. After some thought, we disbanded at Navaro County.


Thomas Shappard Webb – Knoxville, Tennessee


I surrendered at Gainsville, Alabama. From there I went to Memphis with Colonel Stuart. We had hard sledding. In Memphis we met D. Woodard who had gotten there two days earlier. All I had was a one dollar gold piece. Woodard held our horses while we went in to the “Whiskey Chest.” I paid my dollar and got two drinks. That was the best whiskey that I had ever tasted. I can still taste it now! I still remember that bar keeper.


James J. White – Martin, Tennessee


I surrendered at Dainsville, Alabama on May 12, 1865. I started home without incident until I got to Dresden, Tennessee. Four miles from home, I was arrested by three bushwhackers who took my horse, bridle, saddle and spurs. They left me afoot.


Jasper Newton White – Hardin County, Tennessee


After the surrender I walked through the country. I crossed the Tennessee River in a little canoe or dugout as they were called. After crossing the river I came home through the woods since there was a report that there was a band of hoodlum soldiers robbing and killing.


W. L. White – Waverly, Tennessee


I was discharged in Augusta, Georgia on May 1, 1865. I was persuaded by seventy-five crippled soldiers to lead a charge on the quartermasters for clothing. They had nothing to make their charge with except their crutches. We won the charge and they got their clothing. I got an overcoat. We received transportation to Atlanta. We then walked one hundred miles to Dalton, Georgia. It took ten days for the crippled soldiers to make the trip. I then got transportation to Chattanooga and then made it on home.


Thomas Hamilton Williams – Columbia, Tennessee


I was paroled in Charlotte, North Carolina. The terms were that we could keep our horses and side arms. When we got to Strawberry Plains, Tennessee our commander was arrested and our horses and side arms were taken. This was in violation of our parole. Many of us threw our pistols in the Houston River rather than give them to the Yankees. We were put on top of railroad cars and sent on home.


John Wesley Young – Clinton, South Carolina


I surrendered in May of 1865 at Waterloo, Lauderdale County, Alabama. We were ordered to surrender at East Port, Mississippi. They came to where we were to administer the oath of allegiance to the United States. They brought whiskey with them. We became so drunk that we ran home without taking the oath.



  • * *



Stealing Third Base


After graduating from college, my first teaching and coaching job was at Huntland High School, a small middle Tennessee school on the Alabama border. Baseball had been discontinued there for a few years and it was my job to rebuild the program. I was really excited since I had played a lot of baseball as I grew up, and was actively playing sand lot ball when I got the coaching job. I, naturally, believed in aggressive baseball. Base running was my specialty, therefore, I spent a lot of time teaching the fine art of base running, more specifically, base stealing. If they played for me they had to stretch their lead off of each base to the maximum. If the pitcher tried to pick them off, then my players had to come back to the base head first. Otherwise, their lead was not long enough. Each player had to be an expert at sliding, preferably head first. There was no excuse for poor, sloppy or non-aggressive base running!


There are lots of philosophies pertaining to baseball strategies. One has to do with stealing third base. There are coaches who say that you should never steal third base. It is no secret that the throw from the catcher is much closer to third base. There are philosophies about the speed of the ball from the pitcher to the catcher and the catcher to the third baseman that makes the probability of successfully stealing unlikely. Others say that since the runner is already in scoring position (at second base), stealing third base is immaterial. These theories go on and on. As you have probably guessed by now, I loved to steal third base. It is only common sense! There are a lot more ways to score from third than there are from second base. Here they are:


• A balk

• An infield hit

• A wild pitch

• A passed ball

• A one-base infield error

• A fielder’s choice (where the hitter and any other base runners are safe)

• Base running interference

• Catcher’s interference

• A steal of home


As you can see, there are a lot more reasons to get to third than to remain safely at second. In fact, I actually think that sometimes it is easy to steal third base. You can get a much bigger lead off of second base than you can any other base. If there is a right handed batter at the plate, then it is harder for the catcher to make an accurate throw to third base. Many times, you can actually steal off of the pitcher if he is too slow or habitual in his delivery. Yes, it is risky, but if you properly train and prepare yourself … yes, you, too, can steal third!


I am telling you this because the same principles apply in life. There are times when you must steal third. The reason that you steal third is because your competition does not have the guts to do it!


Now, how does this apply to you personally? Well, it is simple. There are times when you have to be aggressive. There are times when you must evaluate the risks verses the rewards. There are times when you must surprise the competition. This does not mean to take foolish risks or throw caution to the wind. It does mean that there are times when you must take that extra long lead, watch the second baseman and short stop, and break toward third with passion the minute that the pitcher starts his delivery. Yes, and, in life, there also are times when you must steal home!


Not failure, but low aim, is a crime.



  • * *



Inspiring Obituaries


These are actual obituaries that I cut out of the Nashville, Tennessean newspaper.


James Harris


After retiring at 103, James Harris died at 110. A man who never smoked or drank proved healthy living can lead to a long, fulfilled life. James S. Harris, who was described by relatives as a man who loved to work, died Thursday at 110 years old. Family members said Harris died of natural causes. Mr. Harris was full of life even after he turned 100. When he was 99 or 100, he paid cash for a new blue Blazer sport utility vehicle. Before retiring at 103, Mr. Harris worked as an independent distributor of magazines and newspapers for Capitol News. He often took his grandchildren and great-grandchildren with him when he made deliveries. He never used a calculator when adding up his customer’s total. He was good with numbers. He always said: “You don’t work for money; you let money work for you.” He believed in having your own business. Practicing what he preached, Mr. Harris owned a grocery store on Whites Creek Pike around 1945. He was the type of person who wanted something of his own. Mr. Harris stressed this to his grandchildren by teaching them how a business worked. Mr. Harris was also very active in his church, Greater Bethel A.M.E., where he worked as a secretary and treasurer. He also worked as a printer for several years at the A.M.E. Church Sunday School Union before working at Capitol News.


Carl Carlton


The world lost an amazing man this week. Upon first glance he looked pretty average. But one little wisecrack or piece of advice or information and he lit up like a Christmas tree. He was the most intelligent person many of us had ever met. He could remember a joke that was 50 years old, and still tell it as if no one had ever heard it. He could fix anything, but even better, he could tell you what was wrong with it just by listening to it. He could recite instructions he had read too many years ago to count, word for word, and he could remind you of something you said, whether you wanted to remember or not. He was the epitome of the word “amazing” because everyone who ever came in contact with him was his friend for life. He never met a stranger and could discuss anything with anyone, and, in most cases, led the conversation because he knew more on the subject than the person who brought it up. He was an amazing husband. He was a wonderful father. He was the grandfather everyone wanted to be like and wished theirs were like. He was the best kind of brother, uncle, cousin, anyone could want in their life. But most of all, he was an amazing friend to anyone who was lucky enough to hang out with him for five minutes or fifty years, and we say lucky because we were all truly lucky if we had ever enjoyed Carl’s company. He filled our lives with so much. He could have been a world leader had he been given a chance, but he chose to keep his wisdom, love, and wealth of information confined to those of us who were fortunate enough to have him in our lives. We are saying good-bye to the dearest man we will ever know. We wish you a long safe, happy ride, our dear husband, father, and friend, Carl. We think God has taken you so he could ride with the best. We all love and will miss you, dear one.


Wow! I only hope God grants me the years, the wisdom and personality to be loved like these two men were loved. That is God’s greatest blessing!



  • * *



Foreword for the book, The Best of Yesterday’s Memories


A few years ago, Ray Steelman, the author, was honored to be invited to write the Foreword for a book, The Best of Yesterday’s Memories. It was compiled of the best stories from the contributors of Yesterday’s Memories magazine. The author was invited to write this by Steve A Maze, Editor of Yesterday’s Memories.


We are each a part of every person that we have met and our personality and character have been molded by the influences of the summation of the experiences of our lives. In reflection, we can recall the smiling eyes of the warm faces as well as the cold stares of the not so friendly that taught us to sort out our moves like a sieve in the hands of the wisest of sages. Yesterday’s memories, both good and bad, are a part of us and assist each of us to take from our past experiences insight that will serve us in the present hour. We each are often in such a hurry to get to the “good life” that most of us rush right past it. That is the reason God, the great creator, gives us memories. It is so that we each can smell the blooms of roses in the midst of the coldest of Decembers.


Time teaches each of us that we are all fellow travelers along the highway of life and co-authors of the Declaration of Inter-dependence. We should never forget the importance of love and relationships nor should we forget the value and exactitude of time and its swiftness to evade us. We all understand that the rapid disappearance of time is Satan’s greatest accomplishment. We also should understand that change is inevitable and we should welcome it as a friend. We should always visualize new possibilities and opportunities but never should we resist a backward glance at all of the places that life has taken us.


This book contains some of the best stories that have been selected to be reprinted from the nostalgic magazine, Yesterday’s Memories. The authors have poured out the secret treasures of their hearts for the whole world to see. The English poet, Christina Georgina Rossetti, once said, “It’s far better that a person should forget and smile rather than remember and be sad.” So it is with the authors of this publication. Hard and bitter times have not been forgotten but have been transformed by the passage of time to tender places in their hearts. In paraphrasing Thomas Paine, the Anglo-American political writer and philosopher, the authors “bring forth the fruits of their hearts; and through these fruits may differ from each other like the fruits of the earth, the grateful contribution of everyone is accepted.”


Steve Maze’s magazine, Yesterday’s Memories, each month takes us back to explore our history, to discover roots and appreciate our heritage. Anytime a person dies, a library of knowledge and memories is forever lost. We each preserve sacredly the privacies of our own mind. To share the precious jewels of life’s experiences is a person’s greatest contribution into the collection plate at the grand assembly of the divine fellowship of mankind.


Yesterday’s Memories is a monthly treasure for those who long for simpler times. Those were days when people lived closer to the soil; when the footpath to the outhouse was worn smooth and bare; when families with ten children were commonplace; and two week gospel meetings were eagerly anticipated. In our mind’s reflection, many can remember when we had real heroes. Those times gave us heroes like Charles Lindberg, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, Roy Rogers, Helen Keller, Whitey Ford, Audie Murphy and many others. Entertainment in those days was provided on those enormous old tube radios by live shows such as Lum and Abner, The Green Hornet, The Lone Ranger, Amos and Andy, the Great Gildersleeves, Fibber McGee and Molly, and other masterpieces. Uncle Dave Macon’s banjo echoed around the warm glow of many pot-bellied stoves and was the prelude to Lonzo and Oscar, Cousin Wilbur, the Crook and McGee Brothers, Curly Fox, Lonnie Glosson, Texas Ruby and countless others. The days are gone when you could buy a coke of five cents; cotton sacks were easily found; the single wing was football’s only offense; doctors made house calls; and there were real bootleggers.


As we escape into the pleasance of simpler times, we cannot forget the reality of the past and the bitter sweet evolution of our history. We must remember segregation; ringworms and stocking caps; bed bugs; the seven year itch and the ensuing hot baths and the sulfur and grease rub downs. We cannot forget Black Tuesday, Pearl Harbor, Black Lung, Gray Lung and polio. In our hours of disquiet, we must remember our victories, our accomplishments, and our spirit as a people. In time, we have learned that character survives; goodness lives; and love is eternal. In looking at the past we have learned that in the democracy of the dead, all men are finally equal.


In this publication containing stories from Yesterday’s Memories, you will glance backward once more and examine the footprints left by the wise as well as by the foolish. Let yourself go and you will recollect the smell of the earth; you will once again feel the warm wind on your face and listen as it converts all the trees to wind chimes; and you will meet old friends that you have never met before. So settle back. Let’s turn back the clock and smell the rose petals of Yesterday’s Memories.



  • * *



Lots of Flies Follow a Garbage Truck


In 1966, I had one of the best experiences of by life. I learned about humility, hard work, the value of a good education and the toughness of the human spirit. I learned that to survive, a person has to do what is necessary. I learned the value of good, honest work ethic.


I have had to work fairly hard all of my life. I began delivering newspapers when I was only eight years old. I would get up early in the morning, ride my bicycle across town, pick up my papers, and for the next two hours, deliver them to my customers. When I became a teenager, I advanced to doing farm work. I have mowed grass and weeds with a push mower. I have chopped cotton (This is a long lost term for cutting the weeds out of the cotton crops with a hoe. They now use pre-emerge poison.). I have picked cotton. I have wormed and suckered tobacco plants. I have hung tobacco in barns for drying and seasoning. I have cleaned out long-neglected fence rows. I have hauled hay from the fields and stacked the bales in barn lofts. I have painted barn roofs in the middle of scorching Tennessee summers. I have mowed pastures with a tractor and bush hog. I have held pigs while others castrated them. I have driven a tractor during corn picking time. I have cleaned manure from barn stalls. But in 1966, I had one of the toughest jobs of my life. I became a garbage man!


Every Wednesday morning at 7:00 AM, an automated garbage truck whizzes around the corner of our cul-de-sac and slides abruptly next to our 50 gallon plastic trash container. A steel robotic arm extends from the side of the truck, grabs our trash container, lifts it high in the air and shakes the contents into an opening in the top of the truck like pepper from a pepper mill. Then, quicker than a shake of a lamb’s tail, the truck is gone. There is no nod from the driver, no personal contact or trash in the streets. Garbage collection is now a fine art. It has been perfected. It is automated to the point that the driver is barely visible through the tinted windows as he sits comfortably inside his air-conditioned cabin, listening to Barry Manilow love songs on satellite radio. It was not like that in 1966!


Our oldest readers will recall when only real men could qualify as garbage men. That was not a job for the faint-hearted, lazy or those with weak stomachs. The truck had no air conditioning, radios or automation. Garbage work was hard, smelly, tough and nasty. There was no limit on the weights of the trash cans. There also was no limit on the number of cans a household could have, nor were there restrictions on what could be put inside those trash cans. In fact, a lot of times, the trash was simply placed on the side of the road and had to be picked up by hand and placed into the giant compactor at the back of the truck. Each truck had a driver and at least two individuals who rode on the back of the truck, holding on for dear life! One of the outside workers would handle the trash on the right side of the road and the other would handle the left side. Sometimes, during the holidays and peak seasons, another worker would ride inside the cab with the driver and exit at each stop to help with the heaviest cans or extra trash. Back then, we did not call it trash. It was garbage! Most of the cans dripped from whatever was placed inside and would leave a trail from the curb to the truck and back. It was impossible for a worker to remain clean. After an hour of work, each worker would be wet from the knees down and covered in dirty grease and filth. Many of the cans weighed more than I weighed at that time. Flies were another problem. It was impossible to avoid the flies as they followed the truck from one stop to another. My first day on the job, I did not even eat lunch. I stretched out and rested, hoping to regain enough strength to work the rest of the afternoon! If there was any fairness in this world, garbage workers would have been the highest paid jobs in a community.


As you have probably guessed, people were not exactly standing in line to work as a garbage man (I say “man” because I never saw a woman working on any garbage truck.). The job was not exactly a resume builder, although it should have been. My stay on the garbage truck was only temporary. I knew that, after two more years of college, I would move on to better things. I often think of those poor souls that I left behind. I often think of those who were destined to spend their lives hanging from the back of a truck fighting the flies, heat and cold. Today, when I see a garbage truck I feel a sort of sense of brotherhood, because I have been there. I, too, have felt the sting of the cold, the sunburn on the back of my neck and the bite of the house fly.


The purpose of this little story is to illustrate the fact that to succeed in life, sometimes you have to pay the price. Life is one great big adventure. To fully appreciate it, a person has to take, as Roger Miller once said it, “a big ole’ sip.” How can a person understand the plight of the working man unless they have been in their shoes? How can a person truly have empathy for those with whom they come in contact unless they have shared a common experience? How can one appreciate success unless they have looked into the eyes of the desperate? How can one understand hunger if that person has never missed a meal? How can a person appreciate clean jeans unless they have worked all day in torn, wet and tattered Levis? To be an effective entrepreneur, business owner, supervisor and fellow worker, a person needs all of life’s experiences that he can get. Some of the greatest lessons that a person learns in life are those experiences that are the most painful. Never be afraid to work. Calloused hands are the trophies of the successful. Nobody ever drowned from his own sweat. Here are some thoughts pertaining to hard work:


• He that is afraid of doing too much always does too little.


• “Miracles sometimes do happen, but a person has to work terribly hard for them.”


-Chaim Weizmann


• “Too many people today only want to work a 40 hour week. I always have told my managers that they cannot be successful unless they tell their spouses not to expect them home for dinner.”

-C. Kemmons Wilson, founder of Holiday Inns


• Remember this: “If it is to be done, it is up to me to do it.”


• “You will never have to want for anything or be out of a job if you learn to work hard.”


-Mabel Counts – my mother



  • * *



Learning to Fly


The article below was written on August 10, 2005 in response to an upcoming magazine article in Advantages Magazine (a international publication of the Advertising Specialty Institute) pertaining to Ray’s learning to fly.




Yes, I am getting my pilot license and I would be most happy to answer your questions.


This has been quite an adventure. Sharon and I do everything very aggressively, so I told her that I would get my license in thirty days (an impossibility). That was a year ago! This has been one of the toughest challenges of my life. Over the years the process (that once was twenty-five true and false questions) has become very complicated, especially since 911. The process now involves extensive aeronautical training, ground schools, cross country flying (both dual and solo) (both day and night), extensive weather training, a tough written test, a intimidating oral exam, a complicated “white knuckle” check ride with an FAA Examiner, and more avionics and mechanical and medical (yes, medical) knowledge than I ever wanted to know. I have read a stack of books that are a least two feet tall and watched enough DVDs to cause me to miss every Atlanta Braves game this summer! Aviation CD ROMs now litter my desk like rats at the garbage dump. I have learned to do all kind of stalls, complicated turns, short and soft field takeoffs and landings, spins and anti-spins, landings while blindfolded (I’m not kidding), steep turns, chandelles, s-turns, eights-on-pylons, cross-controlled stalls, lazy eights, forward slips, side slips and…if you can do it in an airplane I have probably done it. I have learned to talk to air traffic controllers like a professional. The local controllers now recognize my voice and I can feel their empathy when they respond to me. During the past year, I have become a weather expert. I feel like, without hesitation, I could now do the weather on TV. Talk about expensive! At one point I thought that I was going to have to mortgage the farm! If I had known what I was getting in to, I would never have done it.


Andrew, it all started on May 23rd of 2004 when I fell off of the top of our house while doing some routine maintenance. I bounced a couple of times, careened onto the deck, slid across the porch and in the process severely broke my ankle. I had never been sick a day in my life. Now, I was flat on my back and had a metal rod and seven screws in my leg and ankle. I stayed in the hospital for six days and later (due to my temperament) had to be readmitted for another day. I convinced myself that I was dying and, if I ever lived through this ordeal, I was going to do some things that I had always wanted to do. It was very much like that country song that that guy sings, Live Like You are Dying. That song came out after I broke my leg and became my theme song that summer. I was on a “walker” for twelve weeks. Once I had recovered to the point that I could drag myself around, I wandered into the local airport (I actually hobbled in on a walking cane) and said that I wanted to learn to fly a plane. You should have seen the look on their faces as they glanced at each other then, reluctantly, back at me. They could see that I could hardly stand up! Nonetheless, a few days later I was in the cockpit, had a scarf around my neck and I was ready for my first flight. My instructor was half (maybe a third) of my age. He looked like a kid, barely shaving. I asked to see his driver’s license and a picture ID just to be sure that he was old enough to teach me to fly. I was his first student ever! What a way to break in the new kid (him not me)!


Then we were off! After the first ride, I was hooked. I loved it! Flying high into the wild blue yonder, I kept thinking about those Sky King TV shows that I watched as a kid. …dreaming about the Red Baron and feeling like Tom Cruise in Top Gun! … And a sunset at 10,000 feet…there is nothing like it! I was beginning to laugh at those poor souls who were bumper to bumper on the interstate as I dipped down, tipped my wings and soared on by…There was no question…I loved it!


The ground school was a real eye opener. I was the oldest guy in class. In my class there was me and 18 pimple-faced kids who also wanted to see those sunsets. For 16 weeks, every Tuesday night from 6:00 – 9:00 P.M., my wife, Sharon, knew exactly where to find me…on the front row in room 2-A at the airport. After class we all shared our stories of drama in the skies, so I would not get home until 10:00 or 10:30 if the stories were really good. After that came the dreaded written exam. Each night, I would fall asleep cramming for the test. I would wake up still holding my books at 2:00 in the morning and wander to bed. After a couple of months of that madness, I stuck on our refrigerator door next to the recipes and real estate magnets, a bright red test score of “95.”


Next, came the day that I soloed. I have never been prouder in my life than I was the day that they cut the tail out of my T-shirt (a Hanes Beefy T) and pinned it to the airport lounge wall between the coke machine and water fountain. I was now half a pilot! I had gotten into an airplane and managed to fly around the field three times and (after a bounce or two) return safely to earth. I could tell that there were those in the crowd who had had their doubts. As I glanced in his direction, I thought that I noticed a few grey hairs on my instructor’s head. It was also impossible to establish eye contact with him. After I soloed, I could then fly by myself, alone in the skies. What an honor and thrill!


After I soloed, it was back to work. Next came the flight maneuvers, the cross country trips, the night flying and half a dozen other things designed to scare you to death! I bought a book entitled One Hundred Ways to Kill Yourself in an Airplane. For several nights I would wake up in a cold sweat yelling “Who forgot to pack the parachutes!” I would have quit but I had gotten so excited about being in the same realm as the astronauts, that I had bought my own airplane, a Cessna 152. Now, the pressure was on. I had to learn to fly! By now the word had spread around town that I was flying an airplane. I was now so deep in debt and so many people knew about my new adventure, that I would have to leave town if I failed to earn my wings.


The excitement was something else. During the year, I have had to make one almost emergency landing due to a faulty alternator and came very close to making a second one another time when the plane would not climb on takeoff. Due to my quick thinking and prompt action, I managed to correct the situation before I hit the ground! Since last August, three times while landing or taking off on a runway I met another plane coming the other way (I’m not kidding). That will make your hair stand up. Once I got air sick while practicing dives, climbs, stalls and usual attitudes. Thank goodness I packed a barf bag!


This has been the story of my life for the past year. Our bathroom floor is now littered with Flight Training Magazine, Flying magazine and numerous catalogs filled with aviation paraphernalia which I really can not afford but buy anyway. My computer “favorites” now mark all the major aviation and weather web sites. I bought a Treo Palm Pilot so that I could have internet access on my person and more accurate and immediate weather information. And, of course, every good pilot has to have one of those $2,000 Garmin handheld GPSs. I now know within three meters where I am any place on the earth! As far as airplanes, I am now looking for a second airplane. I have to get a bigger and faster one so that we can fly to the ASI shows in Orlando, Chicago, Philadelphia and Las Vegas! I am beginning to visualize vacations in far away places eating those $200 hamburgers (That’s what they cost if you figure your gas, oil, maintenance and hanger fees.).


During this summer (2005), I flew across the whole state of Alabama (The long way from north to south) to Gulf Shores, Alabama from our home in Huntsville. It normally takes six or seven hours to drive but I managed to fly there in less than three hours (My plane is a little slow. I need a faster one.). I proudly walked into the airport office at Gulf Shores, got a coke and flew back home. I have also flown to Tuscaloosa , Alabama, the home of the “Crimson Tide.” I have flown to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville. I have flown to Montgomery, Alabama, McMinnville, Tennessee, Chattanooga, Tennessee and a few other places that I did not intend to go.


The text book says you can be a pilot with appropriate training and experience after 40 hours of flight time. The book goes on to say that most people, however, take 80 or more hours. I am one of those. As of today, August 10, I have 116 hours in the sky. I guess you could say that I am one of the most experienced student pilots out there. The guys at the airport are now placing bets as to when I will get my license. If all goes well, I will officially be a pilot next Thursday, August 18, 2005 at 11:30 AM CST (As all good pilots know that’s 1630 Zulu Time)! An FAA examiner is standing by to sign my license, shake my hand and launch me into the skies of America. Tonight, I have butterflies in my stomach. Yesterday, I noticed that my instructor sure has aged a lot.


Sharon and I are hoping to use my new skills as a pilot to expand Bama Jammer. We are intending to travel to make sales and service calls in places that are too far for us to drive. We think that this will be a great way to expand our services and grow our company vertically (a little play on words). We are excited about the possibilities! Sharon has not ridden with me yet. I am continuing to work on that.


Ray did indeed get his pilot license. He has since been certified to fly high performance and complex aircraft, multi-engine aircraft and aircraft in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC). That means he is certified to fly under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) completely in the clouds by the use of flight instruments only. He is now on his third airplane and had flown to many major airports all over the southeast. He spends a lot of his time ferrying charity patients to medical facilities and surgeons in far away places through the Mercy Flight Southeast program. Sharon now rides with him.



  • * *



On Empathy


All of my life I have been very handy with tools and using my hands. I can remember always having the ability to build just about anything that my mind could conceive. I also was a pretty good athlete. Although I never was a star, I was always good enough to make the team for any sport that I wanted to play. Although I was small in size, I was quick, agile and could take care of myself. I had been very lucky. Until May 23, 2004, I never suffered any injuries. Even though I played all contact sports, I never had even one stitch or one broken bone. My fingers were all intact despite the years of carpentry work and teaching wood shop at one of the local high schools. All that changed on that Sunday morning in May.


I have always heard that it is quietest just before the storm. That is the way it was on May 23, 2004. The day was perfect. There was not a cloud in our blue Alabama sky. Birds were singing. Trees were budding and showing their blooms. Lovers were holding hands in the park. Spring was chasing the winter back to the north where it belonged. All was right with the world. It was a great day to do those chores that the cold breath of winter had convinced me to postpone.


There it was! A shingle needed to be re-secured on our second story roof that the southwest wind had curled up during one of those late night storms. On that Sunday morning, the time had come. With my caulking gun and roofing cement in hand, I positioned the twelve foot ladder against the gutter and started up. In a few minutes, that problem with the shingle would only be a memory.


Forty minutes later, I was in the emergency room staring at the ceiling. Lucky for me, Bethany, our daughter, had heard the commotion and found me near shock, lying on my back on the deck at the back of the house. From the very top step of the ladder, I had fallen and shattered my left leg and ankle. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, my life had changed and would never be the same. At least my outlook on life would never be the same. Never again would I take good friends for granted. Never again would I take for granted God’s great blessing of a good family. Never again would I overlook the anguish of the suffering. Never again would I take for granted the blessing of mobility, trips to the mall, the ability to drive a car and freedom from pain.


On May 24, the orthopedic surgeons put my leg back together. With screws and drills, like I had done thousands of times with wood, they repaired what was left of my leg and ankle. My stay in the hospital initially lasted six days. I was dismissed from the hospital but had to be readmitted a day later when I was suspected of having a blood clot on my lung. This was a tough ordeal for a person who thought he was invincible and had never had been sick a day in his life. It was tough for a person who had always refused to take even an aspirin. Now, I was on morphine! It was really difficult to lie flat on my back with my leg in the air all twenty-four hours of each day. I was accustomed to being constantly on the go. My days all started early and ended late. I was constantly running all day to new challenges, solving new problems, making music, building things, jogging, lifting weights, supervising businesses and driving sports cars. Now, I could not move. I had to have help going to the bathroom. My foot was black. My appetite was gone. I was in pain.


For twelve weeks during the summer of 2004, I could walk only with the help of a walker. After that, I graduated to a walking cane which was my companion for a few weeks. Finally, in the kitchen of our home, I took my first step sometime in the fall of that year. That was quite an accomplishment. I did something that I never did before, I got emotional. Six months after that first step, even though my ankle still hurt, I jogged for the first time since the accident.


Today, when I see someone using a walker, I hold the door for them. I rarely walk through the doors of Wal-Mart without realizing the blessing of being able to do so. I am much more conscious of the pain and suffering of those around me. I make a serious effort to visit and call the sick. I understand the plight of the bereaved, suffering, sick, lonely and elderly.


That was an ordeal that I certainly would not like to repeat. However, I do realize that I am a much better person today than I was before the accident. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, defines Empathy as follows:

Empathy (from the Greek meaning, “to suffer with”) is commonly defined as one’s ability to recognize, perceive and directly experientially feel the emotion of another. As the states of mind, beliefs, and desires of others are intertwined with their emotions, one with empathy for another may often be able to more effectively define another’s modes of thought and mood. Empathy is often characterized as the ability to “put oneself into another’s shoes,” or experiencing the outlook or emotions of another being within oneself, a sort of emotional resonance.


To be effective in life, it is imperative that a person develop empathy and emotional resonance toward all others.



  • * *



Women and the Restoration Movement

“The Rest of the Story”


The Restoration Movement (also known as the American Restoration Movement or the Stone-Campbell Movement) is a Christian movement that began on the American frontier during the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century. The movement sought to restore the church and “the unification of all Christians in a single body patterned after the church of the New Testament. For some interesting research read further about this movement for the sources in the Bibliography that follows this story.


This was written by the author for private research purposes and to study the reason for demise of women’s involvement in the most of the present day Churches of Christ.


During a study of the Restoration Movement, one thing becomes very obvious…It is strictly a man’s story. Most of our Christian brothers who author books pertaining to the Church of Christ’s roots and history during the 19th and 20th century conveniently overlook the vast contributions made by women, our silent partners in Christ’s Church. In Bill Humble’s filmstrips and book, The Story of the Restoration, the names of over 133 men are listed as being crucial or at least worthy of mention as contributors to restoring God’s kingdom. In the same publication, not one woman’s name is mentioned as aiding in efforts to restore New Testament Christianity! Where were the women in Christ’s church during that period of time? Was there not one woman since 1801 (over two hundred years) that furnished support worthy of mention in the establishment and growth of the Church of Christ? Were the Christian women simply mindless and worthless pacifists occupying space and politely nodding in approval of all the actions of the all-knowing and powerful brotherhood? Only the most naive and foolish would believe that this was the way things really happened!


In most of today’s Churches of Christ, women are kept silent and in subjection, contrary to Christ’s example, New Testament writings, and dissimilar to the practices of the first century church. This also was not the custom in the 19th century Church of Christ as the spiritual foundation stones were carefully selected and positioned while the church searched for restoration and unity. In Alexander Campbell’s own words:


“the Christian religion has been for ages interred

in the rubbish of human invention and tradition.’‘


From Christ’s own lips, Christians were forever warned about “transgressing the commandments of God by (man’s) tradition” (Matt. 15:3, Mark 7:3-9). Have the traditions and petty viewpoints of men dictated the distortion of even the history of the restored Church?


Here is something that most people in today’s Churches of Christ don’t know. From the beginning of the Restoration Movement, women were active in the Church of Christ. They were particularly active in the embryonic Churches of Christ inspired by Barton W. Stone. In the 19th Century Church of Christ, it was not uncommon for women to participate in all aspects of the worship service and in leadership roles. Women were known to regularly testify, which was a common worship practice in the emerging Churches of Christ for nearly a hundred years. They were known to exhort, comfort and edify the Church as preferred by Paul in I Cor. 14:3-5. Women served in leadership positions in the restored Church of Christ and many even preached to the rehabilitated congregations.


John Mulkey from Kentucky denounced the tenets of Calvanism and became a radiating center point for the Restoration Movement. What the church historians forgot to tell everyone was that Nancy Mulkey, John’s daughter, was a preacher in the Church of Christ and one of the very elements that caused the gospel to “spread like fire in dry stubble” throughout the Southeast. It is said that she preached powerful sermons that pricked the hearts of thousands of Christians during the first decade of the 19th Century. The Church historian, J.M. Grant, records the following in his manuscript, “The Reformation in Tennessee:”


“She would arise with zeal on the countenance and fire in her eyes, and with a pathos that showed the depth of her soul, and would pour forth an exhortation lasting from five to fifteen minutes, which neither her father nor brother could equal, and brought tears from every feeling eye.” (Source: Jones, p. 55) (Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University)


Joseph Thomas (The Life of the Pilgrim Joseph Thomas) heard her preach and stated that “surely she preached by the power of the Holy Ghost. Many felt the weight of her exhortation, and some were mourning under conviction the greater part of the night.” (Source: Thomas, p. 132)


Church historians tell us that “Churches of Christ influenced by both Stone and Campbell utilized not only deacons but also deaconesses throughout the first half of the 19th Century. The early church “creed” that John R. Howard drew up in 1848, was designed to explain the “original marks” of the true church, and acknowledged both “deacons and deaconesses.” (Source: Howard, p. 226-235)


In 1835, an ad hoc committee from various Stoneite congregations in Tennessee issued a report with recommendations for proper organizational structure in the churches. Among other things that report suggested:


“Let us choose elders, deacons and deaconesses. Let them rule and minister according to the law of God. Let churches submit to their rulers and those who watch over them for good.” (Source: Jones, p. 251)


By the mid 1800’s, the influence of Alexander Campbell began to de-emphasize the emotional aspect of faith and emotional worship services. Personal testimonials and participation by women were aggressively discouraged until both had largely disappeared by the beginning of the twentieth century. Women were thought to be more emotional and through the influence of David Lipscomb and other powerful male church leaders, women were systematically phased out of leadership and participation positions in the Church of Christ. “Churches of Christ excluded women for the same reason that they excluded the Holy Spirit: both appeared unmanageable and therefore, threatening to a male “brotherhood” that put a high priority on preserving order and control based on strictly rational considerations.” (Source: Hughes, p. 381)


“This general opposition to the role of women in the Churches of Christ escalated in 1892, when David Lipscomb launched a consistent and sustained attack on the Christian Woman’s Board of Missions.” (Source: Bailey, p. 79-122) Lipscomb stated that “Every man who encourages women works against God, the church, womanhood, the interest of the family, and against true manhood itself.” (Source: Lipscomb, p. 644) It is ironic that the same bigoted perspective that eliminated women from leadership and worship activities in the fourth century of the early church also eliminated them from the restored church during the 19th Century. That factor was male prejudice and petty distorted biases that were completely contrary to God’s purpose for all Christians as stated in Galatians 3:28.


By the beginning of the 20th century, women were forced to worship their God in silence and from positions of submissiveness. Many worked quietly behind the scenes supporting their husbands in their Christian works. One was Charlotte Fall Fanning (1809-1896). Few knew that she was the “C.F.” who authored the stirring articles that appeared in her husband’s (Tolbert Fanning) publication, the Gospel Advocate.


Today, most members of the Church of Christ have absolutely no knowledge of the fact that women were not always forced to exist in the Church of Christ as second class Christians. The role of women today in Christ’s Church has been determined by pulpit theology and doctrine and not by the scriptures and intent of God.


Listed below are the names of a few Christian sisters who were instrumental in the growth and Restoration of the Church of Christ. Each of these fine women contributed in their own way to the Restoration Movement and are worthy of further study.


Charlotte Fall Fanning (1809-1896)

Selena M. Holman (1850-1913)

Sarah S. Andrews (1893-1961)

Annie C. Tuggle (1890-1976)

Bobbie Lee Holley (1927- )

Helen M. Young (1918- )

Geneva Franklin

Today’s Restoration Women

Miki Pulley

Katie Hays


  • * *


Bibliography for Women and the Restoration Movement


1Jones, “The Reformation in Tennessee,” cited by J.M. Grant in “A Sketch of the Reformation in Tennessee,” manuscript, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, p. 55.

2Thomas, The Life of the Pilgrim Joseph Thomas (Winchester, VA; n.p., 1817), p. 132.

3Howard, “The Beginning Corner; or The Church of Christ Identified,” ACR 1 (August 1856): 226-35.

4Jn. T. Jones, Jno. Rigdon M. Elder, and D.P. Henderson, Committee, “Report,” CM 9 (November 1835): 251. Cf. J. Stephen Sandifer, Deacons: Male and, Female? (Houston: Keystone Publishing, 1989).

5Hughes, Richard T., Reviving the Ancient Faith, 1996, (Cambridge, U.K., Wm. Eermans Publishing) p. 381.

6Bailey tells this story in detail in “The Status of Women in the Disciples of Christ Movement, 1865-1900,” pp. 79-122.

7Lipscomb, Woman and Her Work, GA 34 (13 October 1892): 644.

8See Nichol, God’s Woman (Clifton, Tex.: n.p., 1938), p. 137; and Tant, “Women Preaching,” FF 6 (25 December 1890): 3.

9See Thomas E. Kemp, Putting Woman in Her Place, Mission 7 (May 1974): 4-7;

10Lipscomb, cited by Fred Arthur Bailey in The Status of Women in the Disciples of Christ Movement, 1965-1900” (Ph.D. diss., University of Tennessee, 1979), p. 67. Bailey’s work is the standard history of the debate over the role of women in the Stone-Campbell movement from the Civil War to 1900.



  • * *



My most successful Students


The great motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar says, “Great people are just ordinary people with extraordinary determination.” Over the years, I have found this statement to be true.


I taught high school for sixteen and one-half years. As I reflect back on the kids that I taught, the ones that accomplished the most in life were the ones that I would never have predicted to do so. They were the ones that were average kids with little opportunity and lots of drive, grit and determination. When the caveman went out to go hunting, he soon learned that to bring the game home, he had to carry a big stick and learn how to use it. These kids also had to learn to carry a big stick and lots of arrows in their quiver. Here are their stories.


Story One:


Bob graduated from high school with less than average grades. Never did he, or anyone else, expect him to go to college. He met their expectations by starting to work immediately after high school. Although he did not like school, he was very good at working with his hands. He liked the immediate gratification of seeing his projects come to fruition. He enjoyed construction work and began his first job as a carpenter’s helper. In a few years, he borrowed money from a local bank and built his first house. Then, he built another and then another. Fifteen years after graduation, he built his first condominium complex and found that he could quadruple his return by building and reselling multiple units. Bob is now a millionaire and continues to build condominiums and commercial properties.


Story Two:


Eric, like Bob in the first story, barely graduated from high school. If a vote was taken, he would have been selected as the most likely not to succeed. Also, like Bob, he enjoyed working with his hands. His first few jobs were working as a helper for an auto mechanic. He started working part-time in construction and learned fast. He enjoyed the challenge and satisfaction of seeing a project completed. Before long, Eric quit his job as a mechanic’s helper and built his first house. Eric moved into the house and immediately began his second house, then a third and then a fourth. Before long, he was developing subdivisions in his hometown. He negotiated and signed a contract to build grocery stores all across the country for a regional food store chain. The rest is history. Eric is now a multi-millionaire and travels the world expanding his investments and counting his money.


Story Three:


Tom graduated from high school in the middle of his class. He was average at best and never attempted to go to college. Instead, he started to work selling televisions at a retail store in a strip mall not far from home. Tom enjoyed sales and became very good at it. While others were in college classes, Tom was learning from the school of hard knocks. He eventually left his job selling televisions and started to work as a salesman for an electronic company that supplied components to the company that manufactured the television sets. By the time that Tom’s classmates graduated from college and began to join the workforce, Tom had managed to buy the troubled electronics company. Before long, through Tom’s diligence, determination and perseverance, the company had recovered, and Tom sold it to his biggest competitor. He immediately reinvested his profits into other ventures, which included several radio stations, a restaurant chain and a regional health club chain. Tom now lives in one of the biggest houses in town and spends most of his time playing with his diversified portfolio.


Story Four:


John graduated from high school as the class favorite. He was always well-liked and popular. Most were surprised when John did not go to college. He, instead, started to work with his brother-in-law building commercial properties. They soon discovered that they could build high-rise apartments for government housing at hefty profits. One thing followed another and soon their company had grabbed the attention of others who wanted to purchase the company. Not long afterwards, John and his brother-in-law sold the business and both retired. Since he was forty years old, John has done exactly what he wants to do each day. He has not worked in many years.


Story Five:


Our fifth story is the story of Andy, one of my favorite success stories. I take special pride in Andy’s story since I did play a small part in opening a door to get Andy started. Andy was a great kid in high school. Andy lived in the government housing projects and had witnessed many of the personal tragedies of others growing up there. He was exposed at an early age to gangs, drugs, violence and crime. Andy was smart enough to remove himself from those who were bad influences on him. Andy was active in his church, played on the high school football team and made good grades. Upon graduation, he knew that the likelihood of a college education was not good. This is where I enter the picture.


Andy had a job working at one of the Taco Bells in Huntsville, Alabama. As fate would have it, one day I got a craving for a spicy bean burrito. When I entered the Taco Bell, I saw Andy sweeping the floors. I asked him why he was not in college. After a short conversation and three burritos, I promised Andy that I would see if I could help him get into college. A few phone calls to Middle Tennessee State University and to State Farm Insurance in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, things were beginning to fall into place. I had worked my way through school at MTSU by working in the mail room at State Farm Insurance’s South Central Office. It was mere luck that the personnel manager remembered me (although it had been over ten years) and agreed to give Andy a job. A few weeks later, Andy was enrolled in MTSU and had a steady job at State Farm Insurance. He caught a greyhound bus to Murfreesboro with only ten dollars in his pocket. Four years later, he graduated with honors from MTSU and entered law school. While at MTSU, Andy earned a position as a split receiver on the football team and was the President of the student body. Since graduating, Andy has been named the Most Outstanding Alumni and earned many post-graduate honors. One of his first jobs was as the legal counsel to the Governor of the state of Tennessee. He was later Registrar of Davidson County (Nashville), Tennessee where he served for many years. At this writing, Andy is an attorney in Nashville and a law professor at two universities, MTSU and Tennessee State University. Andy’s success truly touches my heart since he had the least opportunity of any student that I encountered yet, he accomplished the most.


All of the above stories are true. Of those mentioned, only Andy had a college education. What did all the people in the stories above have in common? They all had determination, an overwhelming desire to achieve and each had great work ethic. They each overcame the odds to attain the things that they accomplished. In this author’s opinion, work ethic is more important than a stack of college degrees. In the stories above, each learned to carry a big stick, to fill their quiver, and they each had a passion for what they did.


A Short Story about Determination


A young guard was placed on guard duty for the first time. He was instructed that no vehicle was allowed to enter the compound unless it had a certain identification number on it. As luck would have it, the first unmarked vehicle to approach the gate was that of a general. The General had total disregard for the young guard and instructed his driver to drive on through the gate. The young guard leaned inside the vehicle and politely stated, “I’m new at this, sir, and I really don’t know what to do. Who do I shoot first, you or the driver?”



  • * *



The Authors

Sharon and Ray Steelman


If it has to do with starting, sustaining, and growing a small business, Sharon and Ray have “been there and done that.” During the past thirty years, Sharon and Ray Steelman have started and run six successful businesses. Their most recent accomplishment is Bama Jammer ™ Promotions. Beginning from scratch, with no money, no equipment and no office, in seven years they transitioned a modest business into a multi-million dollar advertising specialty company. After trial and error, long hours and lots of sweat equity, the pieces finally began to fit.


It is amazing enough to build six successful businesses, but to do so completely debt free is even more amazing. By applying Biblical principles, frugal business practices and good work ethics, Sharon and Ray have proven that anyone can realize the “American Dream!”


The Steelmans have co-authored eight books, some of which have been marketed by Books-A-Million, Barnes and Noble, Baker and Taylor, Wal-Mart, Hohner, Inc., Amazon.Com, Gaylord Entertainment, Opryland, many tourist attractions and local and regional book stores. They also have been published in numerous business and trade magazines. In one recent year Ray was named “Writer of the Year” by Yesterday’s Memories magazine, a nostalgic publication with national circulation.


Sharon is no stranger in business and professional circles, often appearing as a speaker or panelist at national and regional conventions and business meetings. In 2004, she was nominated from a pool of executives from 23,000 companies as “Woman of the Year” in the Advertising Specialty Institute’s most prestigious award for women. Sharon and Ray were both nominated in 2004 as “Entrepreneur of the Year” by ASI. By very narrow margins, they came in second place nationally in both of the above awards.


For years Ray, known in harmonica circles as the “Bama Jammer,” has amazed audiences with his skills playing the harmonica. The Bama Jammer has taught literally thousands to play the harmonica through his books, audio and video tapes and harmonica seminars. His books, cassette albums and CD’s have been marketed by Wal-Mart, Books A Million, Barnes and Noble, Baker and Taylor, Amazon.Com, Hohner Harmonica Company, theme parks and on the internet. Today, Ray occasionally teaches harmonica in seminars for schools, businesses and professional groups.


As stated above, Ray and Sharon started and ran six successful businesses. One of them was Bama Jammer Promotions, an advertising specialty business. Based on sales growth, Bama Jammer Promotions was named the “Fastest Growing Distribution Company in America” in 2003 and again in 2004. In the fifty seven year history of this award, this is the only time that the same company has received this recognition twice. In 2004, Bama Jammer Promotions was named “Small Business of the Year” (wholesale / retail division) by the Huntsville / Madison County, Alabama Chamber of Commerce. In 2005, Bama Jammer was named a “Torch Finalist (ethics in business)” by the North Alabama Better Business Bureau. In 2006, The South Regions Minority Business Council named Bama Jammer “The 2006 Supplier of the Year” (in the medium size company category) in the Southeast. In 2007, Bama Jammer was the recipient of the BBB’s Torch Award for ethics in business.


A few years ago, Ray became a general aviation pilot and is certified to fly single and multi-engine aircraft, high performance and complex aircraft. He also is IFR certified to fly in the clouds with no outside references, flying completely by the aircraft instruments. Through the Mercy Flight Southeast program, he spends much of his time flying patients to and from hospitals and medical centers in far away places. This is a voluntary pilot program where the pilots are not compensated and pay all of the expenses of theses flights.


Ray also has over 200 videos of his flights, his travels, and his vocals and harmonica music on You Tube, Vimeo, Reverb Nation and many other places.


If you can imagine it,

You can achieve it;

If you can dream it,

You can become it.


-William Ward





Sharon and Ray Steelman are a husband and wife team living in Huntsville, Alabama. Since 1972, they have had numerous publications to their credit. They have had articles published in several magazines including Life Insurance Selling, Home Mechanix, Broker World, Yesterday’s Memories, Our Old Town, Health Insurance Underwriter, Harmonica Educator, Old Tennessee Valley Magazine, and others. They have written several books which are shown below. They also have marketed two commercial video tapes and six easy listening harmonica albums that have been marketed and sold internationally. Ray has over 200 You Tube and Vimeo harmonica and vocal videos that are viewed around the world each day.


Both Sharon and Ray have been Sunday school teachers and are ongoing Bible students. Their publication, All God’s Children, was written in 1997, because of discrepancies in church practices and doctrine that they discovered during their personal exploration of the scriptures.


One of their most popular works, Herman…the Male Cow, is a series of short stories pertaining to the childhood of Ray’s uncle, Frank Bryant. These stories are heart-warming tales that depicts life in 1920’s and 1930’s in rural Lincoln County, Tennessee as seen through the eyes of a young farm boy.


Many of Sharon and Ray’s books have been sold at:


Barnes and Noble Bookstores

Books A Million


Baker and Taylor

Hohner Harmonica Company

Amazon.com Books

Local and Regional Bookstores


Most of their books are now sold as e-books on the internet by most e-book publishers.


Books by Sharon and Ray Steelman


Learn to Play the Harmonica (1978 – no longer available)


Learn to Play the Harmonica… Nashville Style


Harmonica 101


Caveman Entrepreneurship


All God’s Children


It’s a Tough Act to Follow Myself (poetry)


When Sherman and the Boys Came South (True Civil War Stories)


The Truth about Tithing


Old Phonies, Cronies and other Baloney (A collection of short stories)


Jokes You Can Tell Yo’ Mama (joke book)


Herman the Male Cow


These books are available as e-books from most book distributors.



Other Works and Publications by Sharon and Ray Steelman


1972 A Curriculum of Industrial Arts for Female Students in Public Secondary Schools


1972 A Study of Safety Hazards in the Industrial Arts Wood Shops in Middle Tennessee Secondary Schools


1973 A Curriculum Guide for Residential Architectural Drawing in Public Secondary Schools in Huntsville, Alabama


1975 A Brief History of Major Developments in Legislation affecting Secondary School Administration


1978 Learn to Play the Harmonica (book and cassette tape)


1985 It’s a Tough Act to Follow Myself (collection of poems)


1989 Protection Through a Service Agreement

(Broker World Magazine, August 1989)


1990 The Mechanics of Self-Funding (Broker World Magazine)


1991 Six Steps to Minimizing Agent Liability

(Life Insurance Selling magazine, March 1991)


1991 Learn to Play the Harmonica … Nashville Style

(book and audio tape)


1991 Legal Forms for the Insurance Executive

(Book – now out of print)


1991 Add a Room…Up (Home Mechanics Magazine)


1991 Hyperventilation Blues (harmonica music album)


1991 Locomotion (harmonica music album)


1991 Insurance … The Greatest American Profession

(Broker World Magazine, October)


1992 Why Are Pre-paid Dental Plans Skyrocketing in Popularity?

(Broker World Magazine)


1993 The Nuts and Bolts of a dental Maintenance Organization

(Broker World Magazine, June)

(Life and Health Insurance Sales Magazine, July)


1993 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (harmonica music album)


1993 Harp Attack (harmonica music album)


1993 Dental HMO’s: A new Opportunity for Health Brokers

(Health Insurance Underwriter Magazine, October)


1994 Bama Jammer (harmonica music album)


1994 Dental HMO’s … The Wave of the Future

(Health Insurance Underwriter Magazine

& Broker World Magazine)


1995 Harmonica 101 (Harmonica book)


1995 Harmonica for the Absolute Beginner

(instructional video tape)


1995 Advanced Harmonica Instruction

(instructional video tape)


1996 Smoky Mountain Harmonica (harmonica music album)


1997 Herman the Male Cow (book)


1997 Deford Bailey, The Harmonica Wizard

(a short biography published in Yesterday’s Memories Magazine and other places)


1997 Foreword for the book, The Best of Yesterday’s Memories


1997 All God’s Children… Women’s Leadership and the Church (book)


1997 Various articles in Harmonica Educator Magazine pertaining to the technical and

advanced aspects of playing the harmonica


1997 Various stories from 1997 – 2000 in Yesterday’s Memories Magazine


1997 Various stories for Our Old Town Magazine


2005 How I learned to Fly (Counselor Magazine)


2010 The Truth About Tithing (book)


2010 Over 200 harmonica videos featuring Ray’s harmonica music on You Tube, Vimeo and



2012 Caveman Entrepreneurship (book)


2012 Various articles for Old Tennessee Valley Magazine


2012 When Sherman and the Boys Came South (book)


2012 Old Phonies, Cronies and other Baloney (book)


2012 Jokes You Can Tell Yo‘ Mama (book)



Old Phonies, Cronies and Other Baloney

Like is a curious turn of events down roads that are often as twisted as a tub of pretzels. It's not the straight and true course that we had envisioned when we set out on this journey that we, with no choosing of our own, were cast head long into nine months before we existed. This book is a series of things experienced by the author during his journey through life. This a series of short stories...all true.. written by the author and published in magazines across the country.

  • Author: Ray Steelman
  • Published: 2016-07-27 17:20:08
  • Words: 33933
Old Phonies, Cronies and Other Baloney Old Phonies, Cronies and Other Baloney