Saturday, March 31, 2007

Flukey Posey – Baritone, Sheep Shearer & More

by David Parmer

Making A Joyful Noise
The Oil Creek Valley around Orlando has a remarkable acoustical quality. Many former Orlando residents have remarked on the clear sounds of the railroad trains as they approached Orlando from the north and south and how close they seemed to be, or how clearly Mike Moran could be heard a thousand yards away calling to his collie dog Major on an evening day.

Another sound which greeted Orlando residents as they sat on their front porches on calm evenings in the middle of the last century was the unmistakable baritone melody of an old hymn wafting on the twilight breezes coming from down Oil Creek. Can’t you just hear the praiseful ode? Everyone within earshot recognized the baritone voice of Flukey Posey as he praised the Almighty from his front porch on Road Run about a mile away by the way the crow flies. Flukey was nothing less than fervent when he gave thanks to the Lord in song and he wanted all to hear his piety. On Sundays Orlando Methodists enjoyed Flukey’s singing in a more formal setting as he, Hays Riffle, Hayward Riffle and Joe McCauley served as the songmasters at the Orlando Methodist Church.

Above right, Daniel Floyd "Flukey" Posey (1880-1958).
Below left, Mina B. (Conrad) Posey (1883-1966)

Flukey & Mina's Farm
Daniel Floyd "Flukey" Posey and his wife Mina (Conrad) Posey worked hard on their farm on Road Run. Their grandson Wesley Riffle remembers life on the Road Run farm with much fondness and his grandparents with great admiration. Life on the farm, although a lot of hard work, nonetheless was enjoyable. Wesley said they raised everything they ate and the only thing they bought at the store was snuff for his grandmother and tobacco for his grandfather.

Farming Poultry
The farm was awash with poultry year round. Turkeys, geese, and chickens galore roamed the seventythree acre farm near the head of Road Run searching for natural foods to eat such as grasshoppers, beetles, worms, caterpillars, and anything else that came into sight. This natural diet for the fowl was generously supplemented by corn and other grains raised by Flukey on his productive farm. Wesley Riffle, now 83, and living in Williamstown, advises us that he was raised by his grandparents, Flukey and Mina Posey on the Road Run farm and that his grandfather always raised a crop of sorghum. After the sorghum was harvested, the heads of the canes would be dried in the loft of the barn and would be used to feed the poultry crops. Wesley recalls that the flocks of birds loved the seed from the cane heads. The poultry raised by Flukey and his wife not only ended up on their dining table but also on the tables of Orlando and Burnsville restaurants and homes. The poultry business of Bill Barnett of Orlando also sent Flukey-raised poultry to places like Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Philadelphia from the Orlando freight terminal of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad1. Flukey’s flocks also were well known by the foxes roaming the hills of Road Run and adjoining hills according to Flukey’s grandson Richard Strader The foxes did their best to keep the flocks thinned out but there were still plenty left to supplement the income of the Posey household and to pack in Bill Barnett’s barrels for shipment to urban markets.

Raising Hogs
Flukey’s grandson, Richard Strader, also tells us that Flukey would raise three or four “bunches of hogs” per year. Just how many hogs this amounts to is uncertain, but it is certain to have produced a lot of breakfast sausage and Sunday ham dinners for the Posey dinner table during the year.

Flukey Was A Builder
The home of Flukey and Mina Posey was a log house with porches on both sides on the southern side of Road Run. We are not sure when the house was built or who built it. Flukey, in his lifetime, added a couple of rooms onto the original structure and built a cellar house on the lower side. Flukey was a fair to middlin’ carpenter in his own right, as were most of the old-timers in their day. Flukey also worked for neighbors in the construction of dwellings and outbuildings. Uncle Zeke reported in 1932 that Flukey and O. M. Stutler were building a barn for “Boss” Riffle on Posey Run.

Another demonstration of Flukey’s versatility in earning a living was reported by Uncle Zeke in his Buzzardtown News. Flukey helped satisfy the demand of the coal mines around Gilmer, Bower and Copen by cutting mine props from the wooded areas of his farm in the 1920s. Flukey’s son-in-law Linzy Strader and Jim Bee also helped in this endeavor.

To the right is Mina and Flukey's daughter Mae Posey whith her husband Linzy Strader with their granddaughter Trisha.

Flukey the Hunter
Junior Strader, Flukey’s grandson, advises us that Flukey was a crack shot with his .22 rifle. Junior tells us that Flukey could sit on his porch and pick off groundhogs sunning themselves 75 to 100 yards away. Junior also recalls his grandfather being a stickler for proper hunting techniques. For example, when Flukey took family members hunting, gun safety was paramount. Flukey always insisted that upon crossing a fence the hunter’s gun had to be unloaded, broken down, and handed to another hunter. While rabbit hunting, the hunters had to stay in line and not point their weapons toward another hunter. Any offending hunter would incur the embarrassment of having his ammunition confiscated until the offender acknowledged and accepted his mistake. Flukey’s prowess as a hunter was reported by Uncle Zeke in a 1936 column of the Buzzardtown News. Uncle Zeke reported that Flukey “says he killed three squirrels with one shot.” Now whether this was what Flukey said or whether Uncle Zeke was exaggerating what Flukey said is up for question. Of course, if it were true, Flukey was indeed a remarkable marksman. The truthfulness of Flukey’s “three squirrels with one shot” has, however been confirmed by Wesley Riffle, Flukey’s grandson, who was also hunting with Flukey on that day. Wesley was keeping track of the number of shots Flukey took with his 16 gauge shotgun. After the hunt when the squirrels were being counted Flukey had two more squirrels than shots he had taken. Flukey told Wesley that he saw a squirrel tail waving and that he shot where he thought the squirrel was sitting. When it fell from the tree, Flukey at first thought it was the world’s largest squirrel. Upon reaching “the” squirrel, he found that in fact there were three of them.

Mina Was A Democrat
Whether Flukey was interested in politics, or not, we don’t know, but his wife Mina more than made up for any shortcoming on Flukey’s part. Mina was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat and was an avid follower of every election. Helen Jeffries2 recalls Mina coming to the Henline home in Orlando to listen to the election returns on HeaterHucks3 radio. In those days, elections were not decided by 9 p.m. but were often uncallable until the wee hours in the morning. Whenever the results were known, Mina would start for home down the B & O tracks for Road Run. Of course, Mina was usually happy when she started out for home because the “Demmycrats” most always won the tally.

Flukey Sheared Sheep
Flukey’s local fame however was not his singing prowess, or how many chickens he raised, or how many mine props he could cut, or how groundhogs and squirrels feared him, but rather his amazing ability to shear sheep.

In the early part of the 20th century, sheep farming was probably the primary livestock farming done in central West Virginia . Nearly all farmers in the Oil Creek and Clover Fork valleys raised sheep. Sheep farming provided two returns on the investment: meat and wool. In the spring , after the hard winters had ended, and the wool was still in fairly pristine condition, sheep had to be sheared. The recognized expert sheep shearer in the Oil Creek valley was Flukey Posey. Flukey was a large man, maybe six feet two, and was a well conditioned two hundred pounds. Sheep are not all together cooperative when being sheared and the shearer needs to apply muscle along with the adeptness with shears. Flukey was graced with both qualities and could quickly shear a sheep with a minimum of trouble.

Flukey used a portable shearing machine. This device sat on folding legs, and had a handle which was removable and flexible. The machine was powered by a hand crank which required the services of a helper to turn the crank while Flukey set the sheep on its rump, and began shearing from the neck down. After just a few minutes, he would have a full fleece removed from the sheep and would be ready for the next one. According to Richard Strader, Flukey contracted with farmers all over the Orlando area from Rocky Fork to Clover Fork, to shear their sheep. Richard, a sometimes cranker of the shearing machine, tells us that Flukey would charge from 15 cents to 25 cents per sheep. Flukey would strap his portable shearing machine behind his saddle and start out early in the morning to the farm he was working that day. It often was the case that Flukey would spend more time getting to the farm to shear the sheep than it took him to actually do the job. Richard estimates that Flukey would shear hundreds of sheep a year. Uncle Zeke reported in a column in June of 1933 that Flukey had sheared 574 sheep that season so far.

To the left, this portable sheep shearing machine taken from the internet fits the description of those who remember Flukey's shearing machine.

Dale Barnett recollects that just after sheep shearing season, a wool buyer would come to the Orlando freight station beside Charlie Knight’s store to buy the season’s sheep fleeces. Dale tells us that the buyer had what appeared to be burlap bags, probably 10 or 12 feet long to hold the bundled fleeces which would then be loaded on B & O freights and shipped to the woolen markets of Baltimore or some other place.

Flukey Did Some Smithing
Wesley also tells us that in addition to all of the other means of earning a living, his grandfather was also a blacksmith. Flukey would order horseshoe iron through Charlie Knight’s store and would make horseshoes and shoe horses. Wesley recalls helping his grandfather on one occasion when a red-hot piece of horseshoe iron broke off, flew up and struck him in the chest and lodged in his rib cage. Wesley carries the scar of the incident to this day. An interesting side note to Flukey’s blacksmithing is that he fueled his blacksmith forge with coal which he dug on his farm from a coal bank. In fact for several years Flukey burned this coal in his house for heat. The coal however was “high sulphur” and aggravated Flukey’s asthma so he ceased using it.

The Good Grandpa
Wesley Riffle, Flukey’s grandson, recalls Flukey with much admiration. Wesley was raised by his grandparents and recalls that Flukey “possessed the wisdom of Solomon.” One day Wesley had planned on going night fishing with four friends. Wesley had gotten all of his chores done, had dug his fishing worms, and was gathering his fishing pole when his grandfather asked him where he was going. Upon advising his grandfather of his fishing plans, Flukey said that he couldn’t go. Being the obedient grandson, Wesley sat aside his fishing plans. The next day, Wesley learned that his four friends had spent the night in jail in Burnsville for illegally fishing with gill nets. Wesley says that but for the wisdom of his grandfather he would have been sitting in jail also.

But It Wasn't A Fluke
I have asked numerous people how Flukey got his nickname but all, save one, hadn’t a clue. At last, Wesley Riffle told us that when his grandfather decided to court a daughter of John B. Conrad who lived over the hill on Riffle Run, the girl he was first interested in was not his eventual wife Mina, but her sister Lizzie. While he was courting, Flukey would get involved in shooting matches with the brothers of Lizzie and Mina, and would always win these contests. The Conrad brothers, apparently hurt by losing, thought their sisters’ boyfriend was not a good marksman and considered his shooting success a “fluke”, hence the nickname “Flukey”. The nickname stuck and Floyd was “Flukey” from then on.

All life must end and the life of Daniel Floyd “Flukey” Posey ended in 1958 at the age of 77. His wife Mina followed in 1965 at the age of 82. They are buried on their beloved Road Run in the Posey Cemetery.

Genealogy Note:
Daniel Floyd Posey was born in 1880, the son of John Fountain Posey and Emmorella M. Cosner Posey. Daniel Floyd Posey married Mina B. Conrad was born in 1883, the daughter of John B. Conrad and Mary Jane (Riffle) Conrad of Riffle Run. She was a sister of Dr. Ord Conrad.

John Fountain Posey, known as J. F. Posey, was born in 1857. He died in 1934. He was married three times, first to Emmorella Cosner, who died in 1900, second to Lucy H. Skinner who died in 1927, and third to Laura May Gillespie, who survived him.

Daniel Floyd Posey and his wife Mina Conrad Posey had four children, two sons Clifford and Clinton, and two daughters, Mary who married Okey Strader, and Mae who married Linzy Strader.


Flukey's dad, John Fontaine Posey, is third from the right in this photo of Alfred and Christina Posey's kids. (From lt ot rt, Amanda (Posey) Heater, Mary Posey Knight, Andrew Newton “Ruddle Posey”, Edward A.Posey, John Fontaine Posey, George Jackson Posey, Alfred Jerome Posey.)

1. For more on Bill Barnett's poultry processing business see the March '07 entry
Fowl Business in Orlando
2. For more on Helen Jeffries, see the Jan '07 entry
Helen Frame's Story

3. For more about Ernest Roy "Heater-Huck" Henline see the Dec '06 entry My Great-Uncle Heater Henline

comment 1 from Darrell Groves' Family Tree:
"The following was taken from Minerva Hopkins' small scrapbook:
Report of the Oil Creek school for the first month, ending January 13th, 1892.
Number of pupils enrolled, 54;
average daily attendance 40;
per cent of attendance, 80 1/2.
The following pupils were neither absent nor tardy: Rowzina Posey, Sarah E. Posey, Adetha Posey, Abraham Posey, Marshal Posey, Floyd Posey, Wayne L. Posey, G. C. Posey, Oley W. Posey, and Willie Bee.
W. Lee Armstrong, Teacher

comment 2 from Homer Heater, Jr.
David Parmer:
What a delightful writer you are. I thoroughly enjoy your articles. Writing about Flukey Posey you mentioned the Riffle brothers, Hays and Hayward. These men were my Dad’s cousins. I attended the Mt Olive ME church (along old route 5 on the way to Napier) until the adults would fall out and close it down. Then I would go to the EUB church along the river 3 miles from Burnsville. There Hays and Hayward would lead the singing out of the Stamps Baxter song books with shaped notes. Hayward taught our boys’ SS class, often with tears in his eyes. When I asked him what “beget” meant, he stammered out a definition that I don’t remember. I will always have fond memories of them.
Homer Heater, Jr.
President Emeritus
Washington Bible College/Capital Bible Seminary

1 comment:

  1. In this article you mention a number of my family members. Richard Strader was my Grand father, Linzy Strader is my Great Grandfather, and Mae Posey who was his second wife and of course my Step Great Grandmother. I have been searching for information of my family geneology for sometime and is nice to catch a glimpse of their life.


    Mark C. Strader