Simple Living: A True Story of Old Timely Ways of Living the Simple Life

Read a true story and amusing personal account of simple living in the middle of the woods in a 2 roomed cabin. Read about the pot-belly stove and the snake that came into the cabin through the crack in the floor. One person's account of living the simple life.

Simple Living: Old Timely Ways - I don't know about teaching any classes on the "good old simple ways" of doing things. Growing up back in the hills of Kentucky, five miles from the nearest paved road and two miles from the nearest neighbor, with no electricity or indoor plumbing, we lived simply, but we may not have lived the best. Far as I'm concerned, today's Amish, even the most conservative of them, have a lifestyle that's full of 100 times more modern conveniences than we ever had.

I never got ice cream, candy or soda pop. At 12 years old, I saw my first television cartoon..."Popeye the Sailor". I saw my first singer on the TV. It was Rudy Valley singing "Winchester Cathedral". Later, I'd see my first cowboys and Indians in a show called "Rawhide". Also, I remember seeing "Lassie" and a show for kids, on Saturday morning, called "The Banana Splits". That was about the extent of it. My Great Aunt owned a set and, sometimes, she'd turn it on for awhile when I was visiting. Most of the time, she preferred to leave it off. Her son had bought it for her, but she never did take to watching it. I'd have to wait till I grew up before I got to watch much TV.

Simple Living in the 2 Roomed Cabin - The Exterior

Our little two-room "cabin" was built from "sawmill slabs", so it looked like it was made of log, but it really wasn't. When the sawmill "squares off" a log, the pieces cut from the side are just waste. These rounded slabs were free for the hauling. Basically, they were used as siding, only they made a more substantial contribution to the structure of the building. They were "chinked" with mud, just like a cabin would be, only to a lesser extent because the thinner edges of the slabs overlapped each other. Eventually, our cabin's exterior walls were covered with tar paper, then with a sort of green "rolled roofing" material that had a "brick" pattern to it. Personally, I preferred the look of those rounded slabs, but the covering helped keep the wind out.

Simple Living in the 2 Roomed Cabin - The Exterior

The interior walls were cardboard boxes with wall paper covering. There was no dry wall, plaster, nor insulation of any kind. We couldn't afford such luxuries. The ceiling was the same way. The roof was made of tin...and I miss that most of all.

We heated with an old pot-belly stove and my Grandmother cooked on a wood-burning stove. Grandmother cooked with wood, but we heated with coal dug right from the mountainside. It was free. It had to be or we couldn't have used it.

Simple Living in the 2 Roomed Cabin - The Kitchen

One room of our cabin was devoted to being the kitchen. It had a sink with the drain pipe running on the ground, just outside the cabin. The sink was part of a "shelving unit" that was made of sheet metal. It had 4 metal doors on it and two metal drawers. Someone had bought it for us. It came with a set of the same sheet metal cabinets that were mounted over it. I think there were 4 doors in those cabinets. Outside of that, we had a table and 3 chairs and there was a large "wood box" by the stove. That was all.

Simple Living in the 2 Roomed Cabin - The Second Room

The other room was our bedroom/living room. It had 3 iron beds, a chest of drawers, a "dresser" with small drawers and a large, round mirror attached to it, and a "couch" that sat right in the middle of the floor. Each bed was in a corner and the pot-belly stove had the last corner all to itself. Grandmother made our own quilts. Her "quilt frame" had been whittled out by my Grandfather and it hung from the ceiling, out of the way.

Simple Living in the 2 Roomed Cabin - The Floor

The floor was made of the same sawmill slabs with the flat part turned up, naturally. It was covered by linoleum. This, too, was a gift. Before that, it had been just plain, but it had been "worked down" with bricks and sand from the creek, to make a smooth finish. It had cracks in it. You didn't dare drop a penny on it. My Mother used to talk about all the change and marbles that must have been under that old floor; things she'd lost when she was a little girl.

Simple Living and the Rattler

Occasionally, a snake would come up through the cracks of that old floor. Grandfather tried to keep the old "creek rock" foundation chinked so they couldn't get in, but they'd still find a hole. One day, Grandmother moved her clothes basket and there was a big timber rattler under it, with its head stuck down a hole in the floor. She grabbed the meat cleaver and cut it in two where it went through the floor. Grandfather awoke, one morning, and felt something moving around on top of the quilt. (Mountain nights get cool, even in the summer.) He thought it was the cat, but when he rolled over and kicked it off, he heard the rattles hit the floor. He grabbed his pistol from under his pillow and shot it.

I still have those rattles...twelve rattles and a button. He tied them to his fiddle's bridge and they stayed there all the rest of his life, rattling when he hit a certain note.

Simple Living and Entertainment

That old fiddle was our only entertainment, for a long time. I can still hear it echoing back off the hills when he'd sit on the front porch and play it.

He didn't know many tunes and I never did hear him play with anyone else. Eventually, Grandfather traded a wristwatch for an old "transistor" radio. It was a little "cream colored" radio with no back on it. Only one station would come in over those mountains, and then for only about one hour in the evening. He'd take it down off the shelf, plug the little 9-volt battery into it, and we'd sit on the porch and listen to a Bluegrass Music station, I don't know from where. (Eventually, I grew up to be a professional musician and made a lot of my living on the road, playing 5-string bluegrass banjo. I guess that music got into my blood. I'm retired from that, now.)

I could tell you more about our simple living, but that's probably enough for now. I appreciate your interest and will continue if this hasn't bored you to tears.

- Written by Jesse Taylor

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