Clell remembers the physical warmth of the Bragg home, which, unlike his former home, was airtight against the winter chill. He also found that his foster parents were kind and generous and were glad that he had become a part of their life. Clell recalls that Jessie was particularly proud of the fact that Clell’s red hair matched her own. The first of many trips on which Clell accompanied Jessie was to the barber shop in Weston where Clell received his first “store bought” haircut, ironically by a red-headed barber who presented Clell with a pencil at the end of the ordeal.
Right: Bee Heater, who took Clell to the Horseshoe competition
During his final year at Locust Grove, Clell remembers being taken to Weston by Bee Heater to take the West Virginia Golden Horseshoe Test. (The Golden Horseshoe is a symbol of scholastic achievement for 8th graders who excell in the study of West Virginia.) Although he was unsuccessful in winning the prized award, Clell was appreciative of the opportunity. Some of his classmates at Locust Grove whom Clell remembers were Bill Skinner and Hayward Skinner, Louise and Virginia Heater and Rosemary Riffle. Clell remembers being enamored with Rosemary.
After finishing the eighth grade at Locust Grove, Clell entered high school at Burnsville in 1946. Although Clell was no bigger than a mite during his freshman year, he played football at Burnsville. He recalls that his early football initiation was having the air knocked out of him when he was tackled. Clell survived the season and attended the season ending football banquet at Burnsville High School along with his Orlando neighbors Bill Stutler and Charley Knight.
Hey Clell, the War is Over
World War II seemed to last a lifetime. Men were away in the military and many lives were changed. Even as a bare teenager, Clell was keenly aware of the war in Europe and the Pacific. In August 1945, while on the hill above the Bragg home bringing the cows in for milking, he heard Jessie’s booming voice coming from the valley below. “Hey Clell, the war is over,” were the memorable words he clearly heard, announcing the end of hostilities in the Pacific.
Clell remembers Jessie Bragg as an excellent fish catcher. When Clell moved to the fisherman’s paradise of Clover Fork, Jessie showed him how to lasso fish by crawling out onto willow limbs hanging over the fish laden pools of water, looping a wire around the fish and flipping them out of the water. Clell remembers that the first time he tried this acrobatic trick, the willow limb broke and he ended up swimming with the fishes.
Riding a Cow Cross County
As every Orlando resident is aware, Clover Fork forms the boundary between Braxton and Lewis County. The Pres and Jessie Bragg farm was partly in Braxton County and partly in Lewis County. When Clell began living with Pres and Jessie Bragg he would ride their milk cow occasionally across Clover Fork. Clell recalls that he would sometimes brag to strangers or the unsuspecting that he “had ridden a cow all the way from one county to another.” This boastful exploit often drew a look of incredulity from the listener.
Seventeen Horse Fill
Clell still remembers stories of his new environment. When he was a youngster living with the Braggs on Clover Fork, he learned of a site along the railroad right of way on Clover Fork near the home of Vaden Traylor which had a storied past. At this site, seventeen horses died from exhaustion during the building of the railroad in 1905 and were dragged into the fill and buried. Thereafter, the spot was known by railroaders and people in the neighborhood as “Seventeen Horse Fill.”
Champion and Two Cent Stamps
Pres Bragg was the mail carrier for Orlando, Route 2. This route traveled up Clover Fork and then over the hill onto the waters of Knawls Creek, down the Little Kanawha River, up Riffle’s Run, over the hill onto and down Road Run, and back to Orlando. Clell would sometimes accompany Pres on his mail route riding on the back of “Champion,” the trusty horse which Pres used during bad weather when a motorized vehicle was impractical to use. Clell remembers on many occasions having to ford Clover Fork in high waters on the back of the trusty steed. He also remembers that the postage stamp for a letter at that time was sold for two cents, an outstanding bargain considering the difficulty in delivering the mail.
Clell also learned some interesting peccadilloes of his neighbors. He recalls Charlie Pritt telling him that when a lady who lived in the neighborhood wanted Charlie to pay her a visit she would hang red drawers out on a clothes line with the washing. It goes without saying that Clell never passed the house thereafter without scrutinizing the clothes hanging on her clothes line.
Prepare for a Famine
Another interesting memory about his neighbors involved Maje and Sylvia Knight who lived in the large two story farm house above the Bragg home on Clover Fork. Mrs. Knight was a very religious person and was very observant of scriptural teachings and prophesies. In her study of the Bible, Mrs. Knight discerned that the holy book contained a warning of a coming famine and that the whole world would starve. To prepare for the coming famine, Mrs. Knight began a whirlwind campaign of stockpiling food. Clell was visiting the Knight farm one day and Mrs. Knight began fervently explaining the coming famine to Clell. Mrs. Knight asked Clell to come into the Knight home and see how she had prepared for the holocaust. Clell was amazed to find that every room in the house, with the exception of the Knight’s bedroom, was full of food. There were pickled eggs, crocks of sauerkraut, canned tomatoes, canned green beans, canned meat, and canned food of every description filling each room of the house. In addition the cellar house was overflowing. Clell recalls that as small as he was, he still had to walk sideways to go from one room to another. Clell was shell shocked at the amount of food which Mrs. Knight had preserved to tide her over the supposed famine. Fortunately, Mrs. Knight died in 1971 without the need of the horde of food.
Right: Mary Sapp, Dorothy Sapp, Clell Smarr