Alas, coronavirus spring has arrived, and new life has emerged in the hills of Logan County. As my favorite time of the year, it brings back thoughts of many seasons ago when plowing time arrived for those stalwart men and women who cleared mountainsides and bottom lands of the Guyandotte Valley in order to plant gardens that would months later provide the potatoes, corn, green beans, tomatoes, beets and numerous other vegetables that usually wound up in canning jars, churns, or at least in a family’s cellar, before there was refrigeration.
Long after the garden was gone and the frost of early autumn appeared, the preserved “veggies” would make a mother proud to provide good food for her family. The following is the story of one man, who plowed a lot of gardens in his day, but also was, well, let’s just say, “different.”
Growing up, I never knew his real first name, and very few others did either. I have since learned his name to be Harold. To nearly everybody, though, he was known simply as “Stiney Pig” Evans. I, like others, just called him “Stiney.” He was a heavy-set gentleman with a full beard, long hair and he walked with a noticeable limp. Stiney was disabled because of a bad leg he had dealt with since childhood. However, that did not keep him from making a dollar, either legitimately or otherwise.
Not only would he plow a garden for someone — like he did many springtimes for my father and others, but also during summer months he would peddle produce up and down the road, utilizing his pickup truck. Using his father’s mule, he had plowed many garden spots on Mud Fork from the time I was a toddler until my eventual adulthood, thus earning my humble respect.
Sometime during the late 1960s and early ‘70s when long hair was becoming fashionable on young men in Logan County, Stiney, who had allowed his hair to grow long way before the “hippie” generation arrived in the county, found a unique way to take advantage of his looks. There was a night club located on Mud Fork named The Twilight Club that was quite popular, especially for the younger set, mainly because it featured a live band on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The place would often be packed with young girls who came for the music and dancing.
Although I was at the time not old enough to frequent the place, I did sneak into the crowded arena whenever possible. After all, I had never seen a live band before, and there sure were always a bunch of good looking girls. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately (I’m not sure which), I was a few years too young to be considered much competition for the otherwise male sector. It seemed there were always fights going on there because of jealous rages by both men and women. Fact is, the place was truly dangerous, but it also was darned well exciting.
Besides, the guy behind the bar was a “real” bartender and added “class” to the place with his tidy bow tie.
Because Stiney was a little older and seemed harmless, some of the girls took a liking to him, which he found to be quite flattering. Suddenly, Stiney, with his long hair and beard, became “cool.”
As time went on, Stiney liked his new role as the cool hippie, and he played it well. It was a time of “sex, drugs and alcohol,” and Stiney was fitting in well with his newfound image. So well, in fact, that he decided to make some money while playing his psychedelic role. While there were some “hard” drugs — like LSD and other mind-altering hallucinogens — that somehow had made their way into the county, for the most part the younger generation around here had only read about them in the newspapers or seen them used in movies, or highlighted on the evening news.
So, suddenly Stiney was the guy the younger generation was catering to because he sold the “acid” that made some people feel that they had become a part of the teenage rock ‘n roll revolution — the same revolution most adults were condemning. On a personal level, I was always afraid to fool with the stuff, and I never did. However, I had a lot of friends who liked to take a trip and never leave the farm, if you know what I mean.
It was funny when the people taking the birth control pills would pretend they were actually getting “high” from Stiney’s so-called LSD. I have always wondered how the pills affected the men’s masculinity later on in their lives. I guess it became a hormone thing, but at least they never became pregnant, right?
Stiney had other rather unique ways of making money. For instance, he often would pay a few younger boys to go with him in his pickup, and for a few dollars, the boys would pick up stray dogs along the roads. The bearded wonder would then head to either Lincoln or Wayne counties where he would guarantee the dogs to an interested hunter as “the finest rabbit dogs in the country.” His guarantees depended upon the breed of the canine. It might be the “finest” coon dog, squirrel dog, or whatever, according to what the dog looked like. He sold or traded the dogs for hundreds of dollars or items such as shotguns and pistols.
I heard about two men from Lincoln County who somehow found out where Stiney lived and went to his father’s house with blood in their eyes. Apparently, they did not appreciate the trade they had previously made. The men supposedly went into the house and found Stiney hiding under a bed. I was told that his father, George Evans, paid a handsome price for the men to travel back up Route 10 and not harm his son.
Usually, on his way back from Lincoln County, Stiney would pull off the road near a huge corn field and have the boys with him hurriedly pick a truckload of corn from one of the many cornfields. The next day you would find him back in Logan County peddling the stolen corn along some roadway.
Once, when he had a full load of corn, he literally parked on the sidewalk directly in front of what was Lewis Furniture Company on Stratton Street in Logan. From there, he quickly sold a truckload of corn at extremely cheap prices. Within an hour, the bearded wonder would be gone.
The unfortunate souls who thought they received outstanding deals on the corn later discovered they had purchased what is called “field” corn, which is usually only grown for livestock and chicken consumption, and is far too hard for humans to enjoy boiled or even baked.
Like myself, most people liked Stiney, and he usually didn’t try to take advantage of his friends. One unfortunate incident I recall hearing about occurred at what at the time was termed a “beer garden,” many of which existed in the county during the ‘50s, ‘60s, and some in the ‘70s. The place on Mud Fork was simply called “John’s” because it was operated by a man named John Mullins. The cinderblock structured business consisted of a couple of gas pumps, two pool tables, a juke box, a bar — and John, but, no actual “john.” There was an outside toilet that few people utilized.
It was rare for any woman to venture into the always smoke-filled beer joint, which had one tiny window that served as a source of ventilation. Nevertheless, when a woman was present, John Mullins, who always carried a .38 pistol in his back pocket, made sure his customers behaved properly in front of any “lady.”
One night some man dropped off a woman he had been with earlier in the evening. He just left her there like an abandoned kitten. The woman, I’m told, was from somewhere in Lincoln County and was looking for a ride back home.
Among the 10 or so men in the establishment that evening was the ever-plotting Stiney Pig Evans. Stiney was one of the few men who had a vehicle there. Soon, Stiney and the woman left the joint, and the men there assumed the woman was then on her way home.
After a good while, I have been told, the poor woman came back into the place looking for Stiney, who apparently had left the scene of the shameful crime. It turns out that Stiney did promise the woman a ride. It being dark outside, Stiney had enticed the woman into a car parked near the beer garden.
After having his way with the woman, he made some excuse to leave the vehicle the two were inside and then escaped in his truck. Turns out the vehicle the woman had expected to be transported in wasn’t going anywhere soon. It had been abandoned for a good while and was actually sitting on cinderblocks, as it had no wheels. The Lincoln Countian had become another one of Stiney’s “suckers.”
Now, if it appears to you that I am painting a substandard picture of Stiney, well, perhaps so. But, few of us can lay claim to one endearment he received in later years — by pure chance.
When I was actually an employee of The Logan Banner, one spring afternoon in the 1980s, I hit the road looking for photo opportunities — maybe state road workers repairing pot holes or children playing some kind of ball — something depicting the advent of springtime. At the head of Mud Fork as one starts up Dingess Mountain that leads to Mingo County, I saw Stiney plowing a field for someone. What better could there be for a springtime newspaper photo than a man plowing a field with a mule? So, I ended up walking through the freshly plowed rows, getting dirt into my shoes as I went, just to get a picture.
The Banner’s managing editor at the time ran the photo on the front page the following day. Stiney suddenly became a “front page hero,” so to speak.
Even so, it was many months later that I found out his picture was so well liked by a well-to-do Man area family that the couple commissioned an expensive artist to use the Banner’s copy for a painting. The family later telephoned me and I went to their home at Hensley Heights where they proudly displayed a wonderful likeness of Stiney and his mule.
Any way it goes, Stiney Pig Evans will remain a local legend in his own right — and as far as I know — none of the remaining “Porch Sitters” ever did anything to inspire someone to have a portrait or other type painting done of any of our “swarm” that I will warmheartedly refer to simply as the Verdunville Villains.
On second thought, my talented cousin Phillip Burton, now of the Myrtle Beach, S.C., area, just last September at a Chief Logan Park family reunion surprised me with a portrait of myself that he had painted using a picture posted on Facebook.
While Stiney’s artwork probably still hangs nicely in someone’s dwelling, what a great dart board copies of my painting have likely become for some of my political enemies and jail inmates.