Monday, January 7, 2008

Darty Rhoten

Daddy's chair 1

This chair has been in my family for as long as I can remember. Actually, at one time there were about 4 of these old ladder-back chairs. I can't tell you what happened to the other three but this one was my Daddy's favorite chair to sit in on the porch. Over the years, usually every spring, my mother painted it many different colors. The last color was this green. You can see where the paint has worn off over the years. Since you know me pretty well by now, you know there's a story behind this chair besides the fact that it was Daddy's Favorite.

My oldest brother got married when I was somewhere around 2 years old. By the time I turned 3, he and his wife had a son named Ronnie. With only 3 years between us Ronnie and I grew up almost like brother and sister. We were the best of friends and each other's only playmates. Every day we played together and invented games to keep us occupied. My brother at that time worked for the State, working on roads and such, hard work. We heard him talk a lot about two friends of his that he worked with named Guy and Lubert. I had a tricycle and Ronnie had a little pedal car so we would pretend to be Guy and Lubert and jump in our vehicles to go to work for the State. Part of our job description was raking leaves, a job that was actually assigned to me by my mother not the State!! But my inventive mind and Tom Sawyer cleverness, incorporated this into our job for the State where I could get help from Guy to rake the leaves.

One day while we were in the yard "working for the State", an old man came walking down the road with an old grain sack on his back. At this time in my life we lived right beside the main road before the "holler" days. This wasn't the first time I had seen him and had heard my parents many times say, "There goes poor ole Darty up the road!" This man's name was Darty Rhoten, always referred to by Mommy and Daddy as "poor ole Darty". All at once my mind kicked into gear and I grabbed Ronnie and dragged him around the house and made him hunker down beside me. You can imagine his surprise at being snatched up and made to hide so suddenly. Well, being the imaginative child that I was and given to story telling even at a young age, and having a mind that worked in mysterious ways sometimes, I conjured up a story!!

"Do you know what I found out?" I asked in a whisper, "You see that sack Darty carries on his back? Well, I found out that he goes up and down the road stealing little children and putting them in that sack. So from now on we have to hide when we see him coming so he won't get us!" His eyes got big as saucers and he began to shake and tremble in fear, because after all, WE were children so WE were in danger! Questions started to flow from his trembling lips like, "What does he do with the children...where does he take them?" The more questions he asked, the more I conjured, telling him that Darty probably takes these children on up the road and dumps them somewhere to empty his sack so he can come back and get more children! It never occured to me then that I was just flat out telling a bare-faced lie!! But oh, I was good! So good in fact that somewhere during this conversation I started to believe my own story! I can't even blame television for this (warped) imaginative mind I had because we had no tv and only listened to the radio on Saturday night to hear the Grand Ole Opry. I don't remember anybody on there ever singing about an old man with a sack who stole little children!! It all came from my own strange, little mind and I became so scared of Darty that I would run inside the house and hide when he walked by.

Then one day while "Guy and Lubert" were at work in the yard, we saw HIM coming and started to flee into the house. On the front porch we were met by my mother who told me to run out and stop Darty. She had something she needed him to do. I was in shock! Had my mother lost her mind, sending me out there to stop a man who would take her daughter and grandson and put them in his sack and take them off to God knows where?? Didn't she know? So I just froze there in my tracks, not saying a word, knowing my feet wouldn't carry me back to the yard to stop this man. My mother was frustrated with me but didn't have time to argue. Darty was walking on out of sight so she ran herself to holler at him. Ronnie and I stayed on the porch in utter disbelief, trembling. My mother was actually bringing this man, this kidnapper, onto our porch and we could see for ourselves, up close, his sack was full!!

We stayed to watch what happened next...our curiosity outweighing our fear. And besides, my mother was there and surely she would let him get us! She pointed to the old ladder-back chairs and told Darty that the bottoms were wearing out and breaking and she needed new bottoms put in them. Darty was a man of few words and immediately lowered the big sack from his back to the porch. He slowly opened it up to reveal....STRIPS OF BARK!! Ronnie and I breathed a collective sigh of relief! There were no little children in there! We watched in amazement as he removed the old chair bottoms, then taking the strips of bark from the sack began to weave them in and out almost as if by magic. As our fear dissapated and our awe began to grow, we moved in closer to watch the nimble fingers of this great craftsman at work. He didn't talk, he just worked until every chair had a new bottom. We were seeing this man in a whole new light as he left our porch that day, once again with the familar, no longer mysterious sack on his back continuing on up the road to help others.

I found out after I grew up that Darty had once been a homeless man who had been taken in by some distant relatives who lived in our little town. He was homeless but not a "freeloader". He went all over doing woodworking or chair bottoming to earn a little money to pay his keep. Even when we moved to the holler, I swung on wooden gates that had been built by him. I'm sure there are samples of his work still evident in that area. He built things to last. Just like the chair bottoms. Over 50 years have gone by but you can see from this picture the lasting handiwork of Darty Rhoten.

Daddy's chair 2


Lib said...

Hi Hope,
Lol LOL LOL Girl you are too much.I can't stop laughing.You were(are) good!
I know where 2 of your chairs are, I think we were sepreated as kids and I have 2 .We had 6 somehow my sister ended up with them and a couple yrs. ago she gave me 2 ,our Bro.2 and she has 2 .We Used them at our "EATEN" table.I wouldn't give them up for nothing things like that are "TREASURES" to me.
Have you ever been to Jonesboro,Tn.? They have storytellers there I think some sort of fest.Now you would be good!
We rode up to Pigeon Forge and had a picnic today:o) we take the back roads I saw a road sign "Rattlesnake Holler" we don't have hollows here only hollers.:o)
I'll be back tomorow for my daily fix.LOL
Thanks for the good laugh!

Betty said...

OMG, you won't believe what I first thought when I read the heading of this post and saw the picture of the old chair. I chuckled to myself thinking you were trying to be funny when you said darty rhoten when you were really meaning dirty rotten, lol. Not that your chair looks rotten, but that's the only connection between the chair and the name that I was able to come up with right then. I shouldn't have told that, but we have to laugh at ourselves at times.

You are indeed a great story teller. I so enjoyed that story, so much that I want to go back and read it again. You did have a vivid imagination when you were a child, but I can see that you still have that same vivid imagination and creativity as an adult from the way you manage your blog. Always so interesting.

Again, thank you, Hope for the award you passed on to me today.

PEA said...

I thought I was bad telling stories as a little girl! lol What a great story this was to read and it truly is amazing that Darty's work is still holding up! I can see why you love that chair. xox

Brandy said...

I left you an award. You can come get it when you want it.

Brandy said...

Oh I love it it is soo cute!! I would have loved to have seen "Guy's" face when you told him all this.

Brandy said...

Well I am going to drive you crazy but I left something else for you.

Penny said...

What a great story! You are indeed a wonderful story teller!

Penny @ Lavender Hill Studio said...

What a great story teller you are! And I absolutely love that green chair!

Tammy said...

Ah, Hope! I loved this story from your childhood!
When I was six I decided the reclusive next door neighbor woman was a witch...nobody could convince me!

Anonymous said...

Hope the crazy thing is I have never liked this home. This is not me. I love old fashion, Large porches,Colonial. I mean I thank god for a home, but I have always wanted historical

FarmHouse Style said...

Oh my goodness, Hope, what a wonderful story:) This day and age, you can never be too careful, but it does go to show how someone like Darty can be misunderstood.

You did have quite the imagination!! LOL! You are a very good story teller, Hope. You should write a book.


Karla said...

What a great story!!! Thanks for sharing it.