"Help Me Outta Here"

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"Help Me Outta Here"

A True Story By George

Contributed by Connie Knipp

The old East Hill cemetery in Bristol covers a fair sized piece of land, part of it in Virginia and part of it in Tennessee and back when I was young a lot of people did not have cars so they had to do a lot of walking. Now when people have to walk everywhere they go they will take a short cut about anywhere they can find one.

You could save a lot of steps by taking a short cut through the cemetery instead of walking all the way around it so thats what a lot of people did. Some even at night if they were brave enough or drunk enough.

My story is about a couple of good old boys who were brave enough at least most of the time, and quite often they were drunk enough. I'll call one of them Ed and the other one Earl.

As far as I know Ed and Earl never knew each other but both of them took short cuts through the cemetery quite often, a lot of times in the wee hours of the morning after a night out on the town.

Back then we did not have all the malls, super Wal~Marts and all kinds of shopping centers scattered all over creation like we do today.

Four blocks of State Street was the main business section of Bristol and you could walk down all four blocks and several more blocks with one foot in Virginia and the other in Tennessee if you did not get run over or picked up by the police.

In those four blocks we had at least four five and dime stores where you could actually buy lots of things for a nickel or a dime, several department stores including H.P. King, J.C. Penny, Parks, and Belk, Sears and Roebuck and Montgomery Ward. A couple of furniture stores, three or four drug stores including Buntings where you could buy the best hot dogs ever made and of course we had about a dozen or more beer joints. A few of them on State Street, the rest not too far off.

At that time Bristol was known as the shopping center of the Appalachians. People would drive for miles on old dirt and gravel roads to do this shopping in Bristol and trains would stop to pick people up at little stations every five or six miles along the route and bring them inot town just like buses do now.

State Street was busy day and night all week long and on Saturdays it was elbow to elbow. We had five movie houses in a two block section that brought in a lot of night traffic and the beer joints brought in a few people too.

East Hill cemetery runs along the east end of state Street for about a half a mile and the southwest corner where the steps are located is just about three blocks from the main business section of town and on a fairly steep hill.

When Ed would leave town heading home, he would walk up State Street Hill, up the cemetery steps and on up the hill through what we called the old soldier ground. It is an area where a lot of civil war soldiers are buried.

Walking east about fifty yards or so above the old soldier ground and just over the top of the hill Ed would take a left turn and head north to his place.

When Earl left town he would follow about the same route that Ed took to the top of the hill above the soldier ground but he would keep going east all the way to the lower end of the cemetery and come out on Williams Street.

Well one day my brother David dug a grave on top of the hill just above the old soldier ground. the next day, I just happened to stop by to talk to him for a few minutes and he was having a good laugh about something. He said, sit down a minute and let me tell you a good one.

He said he came to work that morning got a mowing machine out and before he could get it ready to go, this old feller from down on Williams street came running up to the tool house huffing and puffing like he had run the whole quarter mile and thats about how far it is from his house to the tool house. He said, "Dave, you know what happened over here last night?" and Dave said: "No I dont have any idea, I was not over here last night."

The old man said (between puffs to catch his breath) you know that big old tall boy that lives over there on the bank? (he was talking about Earl). David said: I just know him when I see him. He comes through here about every day. The old man said: Well Dave, something scared that boy half to death last night. I was sittin over there on the porch about midnight and all of a sudden I seen him comin down through the cemetery and he was just hittin the ground about every twenty feet and he cleared that fence like it werent even there, crossed the road in two jumps and up them steps about four at a time and he like to tore the door down gettin in the house. I tell you something just scared the hell out of that boy. Dave said: It sure sounds like he was scared all right but I don't have any idea what happened.

Later on that morning Ed came walking down through the cemetery hollered at David and when David stopped his mowing machine Ed said: Dave, you know what happened to me last night? David said: No, but I bet its got something to do with that old boy that lives over there on the bank.

Ed said: I don't know nothin about him but you know that grave you dug up there on the hill above the soldier ground? David said: I oughta know it, I dug it. Ed said: Well, I know it pretty damn good too, I spend the night in it. David said: What in the hell are you talkin about Ed? And Ed said: Well I took a short cut through there last night goin home and I fell in that grave and like to broke my damn neck. It scared the hell out of me. I thought there for a while the devil had come up to get me.

I tried my best to get out of there but I just could not make it so I finally just gave up and laid down there in that hole and I must have passed out for a whlie. I don't know how long it was but when I woke up I like to died. I didn't know where in the hell I Was, layin in there in that dark hole on that cold wet ground. All I could see was a little patch of stars. Everything else was just pitch black. I finally got on my feet where I could see out and everywhere I looked was tombstones.

About that time I seen somebody comin up through there and I hollered just as loud as I could holler to come and help me out of there and you know that S.O.B. stopped and looked right at me and just took off like a scalded dog.

Well by that time David had figured out what had happened so he told Ed about Earl and how he had scared the mortal hell out of him and they sat down and had a good laugh about it.

While they were sittin there laughing the old man that lived over on Williams street next to Earl came out on the porch and saw them and he came over and they told him what had happened to scare Earl so bad and he laughed till he cried.

I don't think anybody ever told Earl what happened so he may still think he got a call from down under that night.

This was received in the mail: August of 1999. Written by: Samuel W. Thomas ...my first cousin - Connie 

Here is a copy of a letter George sent to Granny ( Eliza Canter) on June 26, 1950 from Okinawa.

Dear Granny,

Thought I would drop you a few lines to let you know I am getting along just fine and I hope this finds you all the same. Well, they got me working in an office over here as a dispatcher. I have to give the trip tickets on each vehicle that goes out of this motor pool. I don't care too much about this job though. I work 24 hours and I'm off 24 hrs.

Well, this country around here is pretty much like the country back home except it rains about every other day and a lot of this country still shows the ravages of war. There are plenty of mountains over here. I can look out the window and see the China Sea.

And it's just a few miles back the other way to the Pacific Ocean. I think this is very picturesque country, myself.

We don't have to pull K P over here. We've got these Okinawan boys in here on K P. They take about a dollar out of your pay each month to pay them for pulling K P for us. I had to pull guard day before yesterday though for 24 hrs. There's plenty of that guard duty around here for everyone.

Well, tell Arvil and all the kids and everyone I said hello. Is Jimmy learning to play that guitar yet? I bought me another guitar. I mean I've got it. It isn't paid for yet. I got it from one of my buddies, his name is Thomas too. He's from "Texas". I'll send you a picture of it when I get paid so I can have some films developed. By the way, can you send me a set of Gibson guitar strings and a few of those straight picks and let me send you the money for them when I get paid. I should get paid on the 1st of July. Well, I guess that's about all for now.

Love - Sam