Jay Hayes



He was an uncommon man, in and uncommon time, and an uncommon place.

He was a carpenter: I remember when he built the pigpen, the chicken house, and his work shops.  The workshops served to house his collection of woodworking tools and provided a place to create his various woodworking projects.

He was an electrician.  I remember my first lesson in electrical wiring- it was in the attic of a house in Valley Forge.

He was a plumber. I will never forget a cold winter day under an old, creaky, damp house in the Lilly Addition helping Dad repair the plumbing.

He was a farmer. A gardener, whether in the hot cornfield, hoeing tobacco, raising cows, chickens, and hogs.  He did it all.

He was a cabinet maker: built them, delivered them, and set them.

He was a dentist: he cut the legs off of a cane-bottomed chair, used moonshine for anesthesia, and using forceps given to him by a traveling dentist he pulled teeth for the mountain neighbors.  I met a man once, years after Dad had died, who told me that my grandfather had pulled his teeth.  I had gone to church in Poga, and this man came up to me after church and asked if I were kin to Jay Hayes, then he told me about Dad pulling his teeth for him when he was a young man.

He also pulled some of Mom’s teeth.

He had much to tell about and talk about, but he never talked much with me.  When I helped him on a job I just tried to do what he told me to do. But he never elaborated. He could talk with his old buddies of long standing.  They had a lot to share.

He was a doctor. He made and delivered hot stew to his neighbors when they were sick with influenza during the various epidemics that raged through the mountains.

He and Mom patched up Oran’s face and teeth when Oran was kicked in the face by a mule.  They pulled his teeth back into place, stitched and bound the wound, and kept him in bed until he healed.  The result of his encounter with the mule’s hoof jammed into his face was a neat scar in the middle of his chin that looked like a cleft chin.  Oran’s teeth and face healed, and, in addition, he developed a great respect for mules.

Jay was a wheelwright.  He built wagon wheels for the Pittsburg Lumber Company.  This included making the hubs, spokes, and steel rims.  The wheels were designed to take the stress of heavy loads of the lumber wagons as they negotiated the twisting, steep mountain logging roads.  The design was crucial. The spokes had to have just the right pitch in order to prevent collapse of the wheel from the thrust of the centrifugal force generated by the steep turns.

He was a sled maker.  He would search the woods for trees with just the right curve for runners.  Then he would cut the tree, cure it, and form the sled runners.

He was a mechanic for North American Rayon Corporation in Elizabethton, TN.  It was his job to keep the Spinners and other machines in the mill running.

He was a worker.  Always working.  When he was home he was working on the small mountain farm or in his workshop.

He was a builder.  He built the house that we lived in at Valley Forge.  It was one of the nicer homes in Valley Forge.

He was the brains and strength that brought in the money that fed and sheltered the family.

When he lived on Walnut Mountain (the Grapevine Ridge), he would on occasion go to Baltimore or Philadelphia to work and pay off accumulated debts.

He was a gardener.  He was a nurseryman.  We had a great variety of fruit trees and grapevines. We combed the mountains for blackberries.


He butchered the hogs and beef and cured the meat.

He was a businessman. He owned and operated a general merchandise establishment on the White Oak for a while.  The same store started by his father. The location of the store was at the junction of Walnut Mt. Rd. and the White Oak Rd.

He outlived 12 brothers and sisters.

He was independent-minded and self-reliant

He was gentle and a gentleman

He showed respect for all people

He was generous with the needy

He had no use for the wealthy who beat him or others out of money

He loved to whistle. He always whistled while he worked

He loved to use his tools to make things that others would enjoy

He made many pretty red rocking horses and toy trucks for his grandchildren

He built a beautiful barn of classic design

He built caskets for community people when he lived on the White Oak

He owned and ran a diesel powered grist mill when he lived at the old Lunsford place

I cannot think of any survival skills that he didn’t turn his hand to

On the Grapevine Ridge he had an apple orchard, field crops which he cultivated with mules.  One mule was named Maud and the other one Jack.

One of 13 children

One of his favorite treats was a biscuit opened on a saucer and smothered with sugar and soaked in coffee.  Mom never threw a biscuit away.

Dad was a good shot. The first time I went to the Grapevine with him he showed me where he shot a flying hawk. He was proud of that shot,

He was a beekeeper. He produced an abundance of honey.

I remember his remodeling projects. Once the new room was livable the challenge was gone.  And often the small finish chores were never completed.  This was often a bone of contention between him and Mom.

One Sunday when I was about 10 he was demonstrating a new tool to one of his sons- an emory wheel.  The wheel broke at about 3000rpms and struck him squarely in the forehead, driving his steel rimmed glasses into his forehead and nose.  Some people thought the glasses saved his life. He wore that scar the rest of his life.

He was an innovator. He would fasten the hay to the wire and send it sliding down the wire right into the barn loft.  Once he ran a wire from a tree on top of the hill above the barn to the back of the barn loft so he could shoot hay from the hill top into the hay loft.

He often cut his own hay on the farm in Valley Forge using a scythe.  He left it to cure in the sun then raked and stacked it and carried it to the barn.

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