More About Tattooing

Maynardville Elementary School Group 1945

I knew it! I just knew when I wrote about tattooing that some of that had taken place in Union County and that I would get some feedback. Sure enough, John Brown, an elementary school classmate and much decorated Vietnam War veteran who had lived on Monroe Road, called to say he had participated in a few episodes that, in Maynardville at the time, was called Tic-tacking. Since I didn’t find that in the dictionary and since it is the exact same description as I mentioned earlier–they were tattooing houses.

John says and Joe McDonald agreed that a horseshoe nail works best. He said they used regular grocery-store twine [string]. They only rubbed the rosin on the string where one of them stroked the string with their fingers. Both told me that the noise sounded as if a crowbar was ripping the weather board off a house. I asked whose homes were the recipients of the tattooing. Joe recalled the Garland Bridges home and Max and Joanna Beeler’s (my brother in law and sister Joanna's) home. He said Max came out and shot up in the air with a pistol to try to scare them off. I had to laugh. Don said when Max shot up in the air it scared him so bad he ran down the hill so fast he tripped and fell. Don recalled that they had tattooed the Roy Monroe home.

There were different participants at different times–just whoever showed up for the evening.

John said one evening they went down to the Toby Palmer cabin behind his house, and while his renters were gone stretched a log chain along the loft of the cabin and anchored it with fishing line. Pulling the fishing line made the chains rattle. They waited for the family to come home then would pull the fishing line. John said the whole family ran out.

These clandestine activities took place from the mid-1940s to the early 1950s. Joe recalled that the neighborhood boys would gather about dark and make plans for the evening. On one occasion, someone had unloaded some timbers in the vicinity of Monroe Road . So, they decided this would be a good time to re-route the traffic on State Highway 33 from Walt Baker’s store at the intersection of Academy St. and down Spring Street then barricade both ends with the timbers. These streets are not very wide now, so you can imagine how narrow the little gravel roads were then. A trailer truck or two got re-routed and this created quite a traffic jam.

There was a Greyhound bus that came through Maynardville on its way to Cincinnati and made a midnight stop across from Butcher’s Store. A favorite prank was to get a bucket of fine chat [gravel]; and, while the bus was stopped, throw it against the side of the bus. Joe said it sounded like buckshot, and the passengers would scream. As soon as the gravel was thrown the boys would take off down the hill behind the Stiner buildings getting under the old post office building or anywhere they could hide.

Joe said Lee Turner was sheriff at the time. After the re-routing incident, Mr. Turner called a meeting of the neighborhood boys. The conversation went something like this: Now, boys, I know there’s not much to do around here after dark, but I’m getting complaints. If this stuff keeps up, I’m going to have to do something about it. You need to stop it! Joe said they liked Mr. Turner, and he thinks that pretty well ended the tattooing and other night-time pranks at Maynardville.

While we were reminiscing about the school days and the fun we all had, Don recalled that Taylor Nicely, who had lived in the Palmer cabin about the time of the tattooing, built himself a house. Mr. Nicely, who like many of our ancestors, had not had access to an education and had never learned to read and write. When Don asked Mr. Nicely, since he didn’t read or write, how he measured for the house, he said, “Just so many broomsticks long, so many broomsticks wide and so many broomsticks high.” He showed Don the broomstick. What about the materials; what if the lumber was too long or too short? “Well, if I couldn’t use it one place, I’d just use it another.” Now this was Mountain Wisdom at its best!

Picture Caption: Maynardville Elementary School Group - 1945
Row 1, L to R: Laura Kathryn Monroe, Hope Grizzell, Virginia Satterfield, Eleanor Barnes, Kate Lee, Carolyn Keck, Jack Heiskell, Mattie Jones, Betty Palmer, Terry Wayne Miller.
Row 2: Franklin Bridges, Bonnie Heiskell, Roberta Bridges, Doyle Bowman, Eugene Monroe, John “Johnny” Brown, Don Keith Bridges, Yvonne Bridges, Leo Hartgrove.
Row 3: Donald Monroe, Jimmy Haynes (also identified as Edgar Joe Lovell), H. C. Hartgrove, Thelma Munsey, Joann Wallace, Nancy Fields, Dana Cooke, Joe Lovell, Philip Hensley, Buddy Browning, Elwood Hill.
Row 4: Willa Sue Monroe, Johnnie Heiskell, Evelyn Leinart, Loretta Graves, Mildred Irick, Elvin Campbell, Jack Monroe, Jake Chesney.
Row 5: Robert Woods, Polly Ann Hartgrove, Anna Mae Adams, Evelyn Miller, Dorothy Mitchell, Floyd “Topsy” Rutherford, Mary Alice Jessie Howard Hendrix, __Adams?, Bobby Fields, Joe Sexton, Rush Hendrix.
Row 6: unidentified, Ruby Nell Chesney, Charles H. Lynch-Principal; Marie McPhetridge Lynch-Fifth and Sixth Grade; Teacher Frank Munsey, Roy Satterfield, Horace Haynes, Voyd Keck, Harold Lewis, Marshall Monroe, Junior Leinart. [Page 174 Union County Schoolday Memories]

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