Nov 20, 2013 by

B: …Cheat Mountain to ‘sang?
D: You hear ‘bout that, Roy?
B: He knowed there was ‘sang there and he knowed that country
but Neal [Roberts] had never been there and he had told him it was just as thick and it was . .
D: He told him what?
B: He told him it was just thick there. “Now you’re a’foolin’ around, why don’t you go with me sometime” he said, “I’ll take you where the ‘sang’s thick, where you can dig all you want.” “If you’ll just take me that’s all I want. If you’ll just take me with you.” “I’ll take you”. And Shorty come in one time, “Well, Deedle, let’s get ready and go to Cheat” he said. And they went up on the train, you see, you could go up on from Marlinton on the train and then when you got in them mountains they was no road ner nothin’. Took Neal and started in, just took a little batch of grub, “Oh” he said, “It won’t take much grub to do us tonight, a night or two.” And they took it, and they started. And he headed for a big thicket they was in there, a big thicket, he headed right for that big thicket . . .
D: He done that on purpose?
B: Why, he done it a’purpose. “And oh by gosh” he said “the snakes is thick in this country, when you get in here. . .” And Neal said “How far is it through this thicket before we hit the ‘sang?” “Ah” he said “pay no attention to that little bit of thicket . . .” he said. And they traveled and traveled, traveled, purty near all day, until that thicket . . .and Shorty ‘d turn around and Neal didn’t know the country, and he ‘d turn around and then walk back around so they ‘d keep in the thicket all day long. He said “How far is it out through this thicket?” he said, “I’m a’gettin’ tired of this kind of a thicket.”he said, “Let’s go back and go. . .” “No by gosh,” he said, “you’ll get lost if you start back out, you never will get out ‘a here.
Now pay no attention to the thicket.” And last, they eat a sandwich I reckon, one little sandwich, said “we have to be savin’, we may be lost in here, maybe for a week, you never know.” “What” he said “I thought you knowed the woods” “No by golly I never was here in my life” he said. And well, they just went on. “Now watch for the ‘sang, and it’s in the thicket to where you couldn’t” “I can’t see” he said “nothin’ that low. . .I can’t see for this big laurel” and it uz, some of it uz green briar and a’ter while it got to tearin’ their clothes up, purty near naked direckly, it uz just purty near dark at last, now he said, it commenced gettin’ dark, purty near dark. “By gosh we’ll have to camp somewhere. I don’t know where to camp for”, he said, “the rattlesnakes is plumb thick. . .”
D: Said what?
B: “The rattlesnakes”, he said,” is thick here. We’ll get on this big high knoll” he said with the wind a’comin’, blowin’ it uz just, and hit’s cold on that Cheat Mountain anytime, in the summertime you can go there and it’s cold. All Neal said was “We’ll have to kind a’ build us a fire in this thicket,” he said, “you can’t . . .” “I’ll be damned” he said, ” if you build ary fire hyere, Why” he said “the rattlesnakes will come by the thousands.” “What?” he said. ” Why yes,” he said, “just as quick as they see a light ever’one of ’em, why, here they are, no sooner than you strike a match,”he said, and all night they put in there in that cold wind, and way before daylight. . . .
D: Didn’t you say it was on the side of a hill? B: Yeah, back in that Cheat somewhere. . . D: Yousaiditw
as . . . they didn’t camp on the level.
B: No, shoot, right on a mountain, right on the side. And told him if he struck a match, uh, he said, “if you strike a match ever’ rattlesnake in this country’ll be right here.” And the next mornin’ they tuck off. They hadn’t, he hadn’t found any, they just eat a few bites, he said “Let’s get out of here as quick as we can. By gosh I’m a’gettin’ sick of this.” And they, about, pert nearly dark, here they come to Cheat River, and it uz deep. Now Neal says “I can’t cross the river, and how far is it to get to
where we can get to a place to cross?” “Hell,” he said “it’s ten miles before you . . .” And it uz deep, and Neal said, “I can’t swim.” “I’ll be damned if you don’t swim or drownd it don’t make no differ’nce to me for I am a’goin’ across. You just rar…”, he could swim, you know, “that’s rar way just as far as you can jump, across. . .
D: He just jumped into the river?
B: Yes, shoot, he said “I am a’goin’ but it’s the only way we can get out of this place.” And Neal told him he couldn’t cross, ‘at that uz all there was to it. “If you don’t come across there if I have to come back after you” and he got Neal, at last he went back, he went back, and got Neal kindly on his back you know and they started, and he swore, that he never, he said that uz the worst scared that he ever he was, he said hit uz just like a horse, he said jus’ “Blurb. . .” “Now will you quit”, but he got him across. And they went down there, and mind you, after while they run out, they eat the last bite they had, and they went on down there to some Bohunk camps you know, and Shorty asked them for somethin’ to eat. “And be damned” he said “if you don’t get me somethin’ to eat if I don’t tear the camp down and burn you ever’one up in there” he wouldn’t ‘a cared to, that’s the kind of a man, “If I don’t kill the whole gang of you and burn the house” You ought ‘a seen them a’getting them somethin’ to eat.
D: Is that right?
B: “No, we’ll a’getta you somethin’, no we’ll a’getta you somethin'” They got ’em somethin’ to eat. And the next evenin’ about dark, the next day they landed in the house. “Now don’t name that man any more”, Neal said, “now don’t name him no more. I wouldn’t go with him if he ‘d tell me that they was a gold mine about a half a mile from here” he said, “I’ll never go with him again.” “By geezus” he said “I know where another patch is, if we don’t go to the middle fork of Williams River” “I’ll be damned if I go to the middle fork of Williams River ever” he said. He never . . .
J: You ain’t told him about “hoopee”. . .
B: And all at once, through the night . . .he’d just holler like a panther “What was that? Did you hear that?” “Try to get a little nap if you can.” “Hoooopee”
J: a ‘sang patch . . .just a standing thick . . .
B: and then make a noise kind ‘a like a rattlesnake. . .”Did you hear that? I believe that uz one a’comin’. Did you strike a match here?” And Neal get, he couldn’t, wouldn’t even let him strike a match to smoke and “Now don’t you never strike a match where a snake is . . . ”
J: got on the ridge “We’ll camp here tonight”
D: Hegotrightonthesideofaridge….
B: Right on the top of a ridge, on the ridge, and it uz the wind a’blowin’ up that Cheat River, it uz cold as ice. “Why, I’m a’freezin’ to death” “If you strike a match, I’m a’leavin.” And Neal wouldn’t . . .”If you strike one match” he said, “I’m a goin’.”
J: “Get on up here . . . a good place to camp. Had plenty of ‘sang this thick.”
B: “Now he fooled me then”, but he never fooled him no more. J: “Damn such a feller as that”
B: “Don’t name him” he said “he’s the biggest lar that ever was.”

Notes: Ralph Roberts, now 84 yrs old, said that Neal Roberts was his father. Ralph said that the family would gather in at his grandfather’s house on Sundays and play music all day. Ralph is still playing the fiddle and is continuing to learn new tunes. In 2012, he was updating his favourite fiddle tune ‘Yew Piney Mountain’. He has also been working on the banjo for the past year and a half. Cheat Mountain is part of the “Back Allegheny Mountains” here in Pocahontas County. West of the Shenandoah Valley is the Allegheny Front. At the top edge of the Front, the Allegheny Plateau begins, and Pocahontas County is part of this Plateau. The second highest point in the West Virginian Mountains is Bald Knob, Cheat Mountain, at 4,800 feet. An instructor I once had at WVU said that the climate on Cheat Mountain is similar to 400-500 miles into Canada. The lowest temperature on Cheat has been clocked at -44F, but this could have happened many times. As for Pocahontas County, there are 8 rivers that flow out and not a drop flows in. It is supposedly the highest average elevation east of the Rockies. Hopefully this will give you some idea about what Neal went through. After timber is cut, in some places, blackberry briars are among the first things that will start growing back. When I worked for the U.S. Forest service, there were times when those ‘cat claw briars’ were growing so thick that instead of wading through them I could walk on top of them, although still ripping my clothes.

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