Greezy Creek
317 pages

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317 pages

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Kentucky's Appalachian Highlands (circa. 1930's) is a world where habits and customs often bewilder: where the ties of kinship and ancestry hold to unswerving lines, where moonshiners leave incipient trails and the strains of hard times too often coalesce into the empty-eyed face of hardscrabble. It's where Bobby Yonts and Rubin Cain (as good as brothers) come of age and test the limits of things new and out of bounds. But it's the odious hand of cruelty that underscores the unraveling of their naivety and binds them to the unwritten code of the mountains, one which guarantees you're going to get what's coming to you. A first-person narrative, Greezy Creek tells of an Appalachia honed by the unacquainted ways of the Scot-Irish hybrids cloistered in its deepest regions. The story follows two childhood friends, Bobby Yonts and Rubin Cain, as they learn and grow into adulthood. Character-driven with rich historical insights, Greezy Creek takes readers behind the veil of a family known for its fierce ingrained independence; a family bound by self-determination and all that's necessary to survive. Yet, even from their bittersweet and ill-famed existence comes the imprint of their wit and wisdom, the uniqueness of their wilderness ways, and what it means to be bound by blood.



Publié par
Date de parution 19 décembre 2019
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781950895625
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo

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Greezy Creek
George R. Justice

Published September 2019
Little Creek Books
Imprint of Jan-Carol Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 George R. Justice

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, either living or dead is entirely coincidental. All names, characters and events are the product of the author’s imagination. This book may not be reproduced in whole or part, in any manner whatsoever without written permission, with the exception of brief quotations within book reviews or articles.

ISBN: 978-1-950895-20-5
eISBN: 978-1-950895-62-5
Library of Congress Control Number: 2019950681

You may contact the publisher:
Jan-Carol Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 701
Johnson City, TN 37605

To Eric, my son…and my sun.

Letter to the Reader
I was born in Pikeville, Kentucky, in 1944, in the old Methodist Hospital that sat halfway up a mountain on the backside of town…its buildings now converted into classrooms as part of Pikeville University. My mother went there just long enough to have me, then like any good mountain woman, swaddled me up and headed back to Greasy Creek as soon as she could stand. That’s where we lived up until I was four, until my daddy decided that running moonshine across the Kentucky/Virginia line carried more risk than reward. Detroit is where we ended up (where the work was anything but coalmining), and living in a one-room flat with a shared toilet down the hall. And though removed from the sights and sounds we knew as home, the inherent richness of Momma and Daddy’s storytelling kept me tuned to the mountains, moreover to Greasy Creek and its hardscrabble ways.
Daddy was the oldest of twelve and Momma from a family of faith healers and Primitive Baptist preachers. Together their accounts wove a tapestry as real and rich as the earth itself. I learned early on that Greasy Creek was not merely a backdrop against which their lives evolved (and which formed the borders of their world), but one which acted upon them as well.
It’s from their accounts that I know firsthand what rails within its deep green valleys: what rankles and what inspires, what causes us to seethe and what begs for our forgiveness; what shakes us to the core of our funny bone, and what shamefully fastens itself to those who would embrace it. It is this background that I bring to Greezy Creek , that allows me to take readers into a world only few can know intimately.
Equal Parts Angel and Demon
O n a bluff of virgin pine and in a site removed from even the remotest road was a moonshine still that Bobby Yonts took me to after I went to live with my Great Aunt Mary Olive in a place called Greezy Creek. The still belonged to Bobby’s uncle, Corbin Fairchild, and a man named U. J. Slough. U. J. and his son, Donald MacNeal (Don’l Mac), did the stilling; Corbin did the selling, the bootlegging. Corn liquor’s what they made, Kentucky’s finest.
The site itself was as hushed in shadow as it was in thicket, as dark a place as any I’d ever known given the daylight, and one fixed with eyes that warned of things hungry and undone. Under a huge outcrop of rock, out of the reach of rain and away from the likes of snow and falling leaves, cords of hardwood, split and stacked, dried in quietude. The still sat at the far end where spring water trickled steady and cool out of the rock’s face and into a huge wood barrel. As all-embracing as I’d ever seen, it sat tucked away where silhouettes against the sky were nonexistent; where saplings were laced and tied and stacked in such a way that even hunters coming close might never know it was there.
The climb getting to it was long and steep, one that U.J. and Don’l Mac made most everyday with ol’ Jenks, their black-on-black mule, hauling what they needed, in and out. I was there only once, when Bobby led me through the mountains on a trek that took the better part of a day. But from the moment we stepped under that huge outcrop of rock, my mind quickened to being beyond the veil of comfort: feeling like I was all at once tied to a secret I had no business knowing.
Days later when Bobby told Corbin where we had been, Corbin didn’t as much as flinch, just hesitated long enough to spit and swipe his lips with the back of his hand. After several long minutes, and with eyes black and piercing, he said, “Am I gonna have to worry ’bout it?” He was looking dead at me when he said it, searching my face to see if I understood his meaning; if I grasped the gravity of what I’d been allowed to see.
“No,” I said. “Not in the nine lives of nine cats.”
He said nothing for a time, trying, I imagined, to discover in me some affirmation of loyalty, something that said he had my trust. Finally, he shifted a bit, rubbed the back of his neck and hiked his foot onto the running board of his Model-A. “Awright then,” he said, the look in his eyes steely, yet settling, letting me know that nothing more needed to be said.
There was something gathering about Corbin, something that vanquished fears and instilled the type of confidence that was rooted in nobility. The same something, I suspected, that lived and breathed within his ancestral lines. It was that same all-telling force that rattled around in Bobby as well, that propelled them both higher than what their stations saw fit to grant. And though they lived by a set of standards that ran amuck of the Old Regular Baptists and the parameters of what Deputy Sheriff Virgil Blair abided by, I couldn’t help but feel elevated by their presence. Somehow, I saw them as knights: as absolute as they were set apart and living by what dared them. My sense was that they were equal parts angel and demon, and equally tempted by both.
Part I
Heard About Bobby Yonts
F rom my front porch, a long gentle slope of sour grass and pokeweed clu stered and wound through a grove of cottonwoods clear to the road, a good hundred yards away. I sat out there most mornings when I could still get the shade and when whittling took the place of worrying.
About the time the sun worked its way to the top step I heard Burl Newsome’s Jeep on the dirt road and saw the curl of dust rolling up behind it. Burl was never content to leave the mail in the box by the side of the road when it had even the slightest element of curiosity. Personal letters and anything with an official seal or a government return address were nearly enough to bring him in a straight line.
Burl was as agile as he was animated and dismounted just before his Jeep rolled to a full stop. “Hey, son.” Burl called everybody son .
“How ’bout it, Burl Newsome?”
“Got sump’m fer ye,” he said, getting right to it. “Save ye a trip down t’ the box.”
It was little wonder Burl was so attentive. What he handed me was a long white envelope with a return address in old English lettering from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio. It had all the trappings of official business, and Burl lingered just-so , his posture coaxing me toward its exposure, its revelation.
“Reckoned you’d want it right quick, being a lawman an’ all. Well, ex-lawman. You know what I mean. How long’s it been, anyways? Thirteen year I figure. How right am I?” Burl knew exactly how long it had been since I last pinned a badge to my shirt. He’d even been there, to Jerry’s restaurant, to the “goodbye and good-luck” supper in my honor. God knows we’d talked about it often enough. I suppose it was just his way of assuring me of his allegiance to never forget, kind of an unspoken oath to our fraternity.
“Thirteen this month,” I said.
“I knowd I was close,” he said, a self-congratulatory grin deepening the wrinkles in his face.
I didn’t say anything, just fingered the letter knowing full well who it was from. As Pike County Sheriff for nearly forty years, I’d been witness to more mystery and skullduggery than most folks could imagine in a lifetime—too much to fathom without a curiosity on the scale of Burl Newsome’s. After a moment of uneasiness, I folded the letter and slipped it into my shirt pocket. Burl stood frozen with a blank-but-wounded look.
“It’ll wait,” I said. “Got enough to ponder as it is.”
Burl pulled a wadded handkerchief from his back pocket and made an overt gesture of blowing his nose; gave several deep breaths and stretched right big, then scratched in several hard to get at places before he said, “Might be best if ye open it now.” He was motioning with his head toward my breast pocket. “Looks official.”
“I ain’t got the nerve for official anymore, Burl. The mind either. Fact of the matter is I’ve got half a notion not to open it a’tall.”
“Reckon it’s bad news?” he asked, trying with all his might to spur my interest.
“What else could it be?” I said, taking some small pleasure in his fidgeting for the right thing to say.
“Well,” he said after a noticeable suck to an eyetooth and moving some gravel about with the toe of his boot, “reckon I’ll be headin’ on down the road.” He paused with a hang-dog look, seeing if I would take the bait. Threatening to leave was Burl’s way of warning me that I was about to lose his counsel. I didn’t say anything, just rose up out of my rocker long enough to spit over the edge of the porch.
“I’d say you’ll have that read by tomorrow,” he said, squinting up at the sun. I knew it was his way of saying he’d be back, whether he had mail for me or not.
“Maybe. Maybe not,” I said. He gave me an “Uh huh” and a long, all-knowing pause before hoisting himself back into his Jeep. Without a second look,

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