Pass by Judy’s Market on Minor’s Branch Road and travel about a mile and there will be Mule Hill looming between the trees and bushes. During my time on the Fork, it was gravel and winding, and I am sure it got it’s name because a mule was all that could get up it in the olden days. It was so narrow you could not pass but in certain places. In winter months Mule Hill was often too slick or treacherous to attempt unless you wanted to end up in a ravine or some holler.
Red lived on the other side of Mule Hill from the store and so did Lewell and Jewell Mills. Lewell and Jewell had somewhere around eight or nine children, all of them girls except for one boy, Dean. They were all good people, a very close family and enjoyed their life. Most of the girls were grown but some of them lived with Mom and Dad and so did Dean. The others were pretty close by or home on weekends and holidays. I heard tales of Lewell tying a car hood to the back of his truck, loading the girls on the hood and pulling them thru the snow and down Mule Hill like a big sled. They were great neighbors and customers. Lewell was a real character. I think the only moonshine I ever had was a bottle Lewell got for me from one of his friends that still made the stuff. I kept it in freezer in my kitchen because Lewell told me it was better that way and would not freeze.
One Sunday morning Bruce Crain came by and when he found out I had some moonshine he wanted to taste it. He said he had never had it before. I got the bottle from the freezer and Bruce took a big “swig” right from the bottle. He went into some kind of fit!! He said it burned all the way down to his stomach. He was coughing and wheezing and carrying on like he was going to bite the dust right there in my kitchen. Bruce left and three days later he came into the store and said he could still feel the burning in his gut!
There was a lot of gravel backroads in and around the fork. It was nothing to be out for a ride on Sunday afternoon and come upon several vehicles pulled over on a gravel road with people standing around visiting, their radios turned up,with country music blaring, and a cooler of beer shared by all. This always amazed me growing up in the city. You never knew what adventures you might behold on a gravel backroad. Once while making the trip over Mule Hill on my descent I passed a burned out car on the side of the road and someone had painted a sign with white
spray paint on the side in big white letters. The sign said “SEE ROCK CITY” with an arrow pointing straight ahead. I thought this was hilarious!
We traveled those backroads like they were super highways, with radios blaring. I never saw a law enforcement officer on one of those roads in all my time I lived on the Fork.
There was a song out by Ricky Van Shelton at this time that describes exactly what you feel when riding the backroads. Below is a verse from the song:
I’ve got the radio blastin
I’ve got the windows rolled down
And I’m cruisin’ these backroads
On the outskirts of town
I can feel the wind a-blowin
Hear the big engines whine
When I’m cruisin’ these backroads
All my troubles are behind.
I think that says it all!!
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