O Shenandoah! A Rustic Refrain

O Shenandoah! A Rustic Refraineagle


Printed within this section in serialized form are unedited, pre-publication excerpts from the book "Virginia Boy: The True Life Story of Cletus Cubbage." Written in longhand over a period of years, the original manuscript comprises twelve notebooks. "Virginia Boy" describes the life and times of a widely-travelled Valley native whose primary interest has been music. Cletus Cubbage has played guitar, solo and in various bands and places, for most of his life and has written over 200 songs. His story is a window into traditional area life and values.

"Virginia Boy"


If you missed earlier sections, they're archived in "Word Preserve" as
Chapter I, Part 4, Chapter I, Part 3, Chapter I, Part 2, and Chapter I, Part 1.

Chapter I: Part 5


Monday morning I was ready and excited about going to Stanley school I got on the bus at Nauman school to go to Stanley school. When all the ones were transferred to this school from Shenandoah, the principal had all of us to go to the gym, so that groups of us were told what number room to go to. I was also new at this school. This school had two balconies and two floors. The students here were different than the last two schools I had been in. They all seemed to like me other than a few boys, that would later give me trouble. However, my home room teacher liked me right away. When me and my friend walked into the room, I heard someone say Oh boy two more ball players. We didn't have baseball there just softball. I played but didn't really like it, I was too small for the football games and too short for basketball, you could say, I was too big for little work and too small for big work. Now, I was having trouble when I would go to the bathroom. You guessed it, a few bullies always would be there. Now, these guys would hold me and one boy would unzip my pants and pull them down. I didn't like this to well but, what was I gonna do, tell the lady teacher about it. Lots of times I would use the little boys bathroom down stairs. I was bigger than they were, and they didn't bother me. Now, this went on until one day, one boy took up for me and it worked, they didn't bother me anymore. I was in the ninth grade.

A few of the boys had cheap guitars and were taking music lessons. I didn't take any lessons but, they sure loved to hear me play. I couldn't wait to get to school to get my hands on one of the guitars that one of the boys had, I loved it. The teacher would make me quit playing in the room. She didn't like country music. What other music was there? I was born and growing up country, what else was I gonna play? I kept telling my mom and dad about the guitars the boys had at school, you guessed it, I got a brand new brown arched top silver tone guitar for my birthday, from Sears and Roebuck. The trouble started for me that would come along later. I didn't have anybody to show me any chords and it was a constant battle for me with that damned guitar. My fingers got sore and would bleed, but I loved it. Something was happening to me that I couldn't explain, and still can't today. This is a love that a musician has that no matter what happens he will for sake everything for his music. I mean everything. Here I was in my own world, singing and playing along with Hank Williams.

Mom's old time washing machine was a modern piece of equipment to what we use to wash with. I've seen my mom wash my clothes lots of times on a wash rubber. This was a metal or glass board, with ripples in it. We didn't have detergents then, and our clothes were washed with Lye soap. Mom even made the soap. This was a long process by using meat skins and caustic soda and a large iron kettle. A wood fire was built under the kettle, after cookin this for some time it was cooled, and cut up in to square blocks What a way to clean my Fruit of the Looms.

Then it happened, daddy got a stroke and was paralyze on his left side. By now, I was in the tenth grade, we didn't have any sickness insurance then, so, since my mother and brother couldn't operate the farm by themselves we had to sell it to help pay the hospital bills. Daddy was in a coma and couldn't move or talk for months. Later we brought him home when he got to talking but, he still couldn't walk or get out of bed. I was missing school to help with things at home, the teachers at school and the students didn't pay me any attention or care about what was going on at my home. They couldn't have helped anyway. Back then there was welfare, which we refused, there was no food stamps, even if there would have been we wouldn't have accepted them. Then things got worse. We had to sell our pickup truck to help pay the bills and, I failed the tenth grade of school. However, I passed it the next year.

Now, I was in the eleventh grade and daddy was still paralyze but he was determined that he was going to walk. This was long and painful for all of us but, he never stopped trying. Once he told me something that I have never forgotten. He said, "son you watch the little birds that God has made and they will carry a small piece of bark or mud in his bill to a tree. This is very slow but he doesn't quit, after a period of time, he has his home made. If he had started this and only worked for awhile he wouldn't have got his job finished." Daddy would watch me work with my guitar and he told me to make up my own mind what I wanted to do, then work for it. By now my fingers didn't bleed when I played my guitar. They had got tough to it but, it was still a battle, between me and that damned guitar. I said I was gonna play it or bust it. I never had to bust it but, I did fail the eleventh grade of school.

Ever since daddy got sick I'd been working for my lunch in school, I had to carry out the lunches to the tables in the cafeteria for the kids in the first, second and third grades. After they had ate, I would bring their plates up to the dishwasher and wash them, and clean the tables for the next students. My hair now was long, and I was combing it back with a ducktail in the back, that was the style then a lot of the boys in school were doing it. However, my long hair didn't last long, one day the principal called me in his office, it seemed that some of the teachers didn't like the way I pulled my hair together in the back. I had a choice I could have it cut and still work for my lunch or I could let to grow and not have my lunch. So, I had to have my hair short. If I could have bought my lunch I wouldn't have had to have my hair cut. What could I say? Some of the problems of not having money.

By now we thanked the Lord that daddy was walking. I had quit school and was working where ever I could get a job. I worked in apple and peach orchards on the weekends. I had started playing music in a local theater with a few others that weren't any better at playing than I was, but, the people loved us. I had another outlook on my life. Here I was doing something I loved and on stage, I had something that the people liked. It was a feeling that I'd get that I still can't explain today.

My daddy now was getting seizures ever so often. We would have to put a wooden spoon in his mouth or he would chew his tongue. By now, I was eighteen years old, and I wanted to see the world. I had to volunteer for the army. At the time I was to young, I went to Roanoke for my physical and stayed over night. However, they wanted college guys to make 90 day officers. I didn't pass the education. Another disappointment in my life. I wanted to be in Uncle Sam's Army.


Word Preserve -- O Shenandoah! Country Rag Index

"Virginia Boy" Cletus Cubbage, 1997. All rights reserved.