Friday, September 4, 2015

It Is 1914 And You Are A Possum Hunter

You wouldn't think we have been here long enough to have a clean out the closet day, but some closets here just got crammed with stuff to get it out of the way. So today, I have tacked the big closet under the stairs and the disastrous and totally unorganized pantry. The pantry is better organized, sort of, but at least we can see what we are looking for...well, we can see things a little better. I am not totally there. But really, who has the attention span to get everything accomplished? Not this child. Roy put together a shelf for the big closet so the closet is getting toward the goal. Now a guest room closet and my closet in the bedroom needs to have a little tweaking done to them. There is a corner in the garage where I am putting things for next year when the church has its yard sale to raise money for missions. Thankfully, it is not a huge amount...yet but I'm sure there will be a load when it comes time.

Today, I also got a library shelf hung in the living room. And with the recent clearing of the land, I got birdseed and water out this morning. Just when I was about to give up that the birds would return, here came the cardinals and Carolina wrens. A few doves too but they might just be hiding out in case it is hunting season for them in these here parts.

For those following along with the foray into finding out about my grandfather and his brothers being part of a gang in Muhlenberg County, I don't have any concrete facts but I think I might have come to a conclusion of what transpired and their leaving Kentucky for the grass is greener in Indiana and Illinois or what we now might call freedom from having a prison record. Reading about other last named people from the past in other eras beside my grandfather's, a thread runs throughout it all...anger issues, hot tempered, seething anger that may not be in an outburst but in revenge and all other various temper and anger areas. Maybe this is why my father's side of the family doesn't end life well and happy. That anger and jealousy and lack of regard can take a whole lot of life out of you, if you let it. I have no idea if any of these people I have read about are related to us but high emotions, hurt feelings, and the ever present trait of conspiracy theories makes me think we are. So, I read about the Possum Hunters, the 1914 gang we heard about just a few years ago from my father. The Night Riders might have been a precursor to the PH. The Night Riders whole purpose was to control tobacco prices and they soon died out cause they accomplished their mission. Then the Possum Hunters goal was to make  the communities better they lived in. But as the saying goes boys will be boys, some innocent people got shot at and whipped...oh maybe a few barns were burnt down, but they did start out as regulators of the community. One of the stories that I had heard from my dad concerned a man who didn't treat his family right and there is a story of just such a man in the book Murders of Muhlenberg County.

"Those that didn't support their families were targeted by the men who took it upon themselves to dispense the justice they thought appropriate for the offence. Some were told to "get busy or leave the county." Others were shot at and run from their homes."

The group started small but grew to over several hundred and they were feared by most of the county. Now, this is where the story goes another direction and I don't know which side my grandfather and his brothers were on. The leader of the gang was killed, hung in a tree and was ruled death by hanging although many said he was killed elsewhere and then hung in a tree. No one has known who really was behind his murder...was it his own gang? Some thought it was the well known men in the county that had some authority and power...some said it was the unions or the coal mines that killed him. The county had a large meeting of everyone who wanted to gather and informed the community they were going to do away with this gang and bring anyone to justice who was in it. The speeches were so moving it is reported that many of the men who had been in the gang, changed sides and left the gang. Many years later a letter was written to a newspaper person giving the details since the last person who had had something to do with this mans death had died in the 1960's. My grandfather and his brothers all died in the 1980's and 1990's. The informer never told anyone the names of the men. Here comes the story I heard from my dad,that it was a man who was mistreating his family who was hooked up to the electricity and was killed. The story in the book is where the leader of Possum Hunters was hooked up to a generator and given a little shock. He wouldn't give names of those in his gang, so they thought they would just shock him a little again, only they had no idea that the volts had been accumulating and the next shock killed him. They got scared and decided to hang him from a tree and make an example of him to all the members in the Possum Hunter gang...word is the gang pretty much died, no pun intended, off without their leader and with the community leaders willing to arrest and prosecute.

It seems to me that our family was in the gang and they might have switched sides. If they were there but they weren't the ones who actually did the shocking the chances are good they might have been at the scene. Or maybe they did electrocute a guy, who was mean to his family and it is a separate story from the one in the book. So, maybe I should do a little more research.

I thought it so funny that a story about another Doss whose first name was Moody. Oh my, how appropriate is that! Those mood swings in the Doss family are where stories become legends...of anger and fear, of retaliation, of words that hurt to the bone. Emotional and physical abuse and yes sadly, sexual abuse. Really, I don't know of any family that doesn't have its secrets. Sadly, we were led to believe that our lineage was a pristine, God fearing people. Maybe that was the story that needed to be told to give hope to the next generations, who knows? I am thankful that somewhere along the line. someone in the family turned to Jesus and thus we too were introduced to Him.

Over the past eight years, since having a virus attack my heart and thus beginning this journey that thankfully I am still on, I have said I would have never chosen this direction. To tell you the truth, heart issues have had the biggest effect for changing my approach to anger and temper for the good. I still internalize things too much, but again, I hope to end life well...and not go out to eternity like so many before me.

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