A True Mountaineer
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founded 2004 by ron cruger
A place for intelligent writers
by Frank Shortt
A place for intelligent readers
2016 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
When one begins to write the attributes of another they seem almost endless.
What one man can accomplish in a lifetime seems almost impossible!
Being fourth in a family of
ten siblings, this son of the native soil learned early on, that if a person is to survive, he must always be on the alert for any
possible way to gain a foothold in life. Most days he never shirked his duty. As a youngster he could hold his own hoeing corn with
much older boys and girls.
He was a gentle boy, not easily riled, but ready to protect whoever
was placed in his care. With his younger siblings he had a tendency to be the mother hen making sure they were not in any danger.
Most days he tended to put them first, allowing them the best of the situation.
He learned to
throw rocks at an early age. He was probably the best marksman in the whole Shortt Gap community. He could cut down young poke stalks
with one throw and at a long distance. In a rock or a green apple fight most boys wanted him on their team. Snowballing was child’s
play to him.
As he grew older he watched carefully the grownups and older boys who were adept
at any given trade. He learned to make things from what grew naturally around the hillsides of Buchanan County. He was a fantastic
artist even while in elementary school being able to draw cars, animals, and the likenesses of humans. He taught other children to
draw as they watched him crafting his pictures. He learned the healing herbs of his native people, the Cherokee. He could survive
in the wild because he knew the edible mushrooms and other non-poisonous plants. He became very proficient with firearms, an excellent
hunter of deer, squirrels, and other small game. He often taught youngsters the correct method of shooting, hunting, and the care
He left high school when in the tenth grade, not because he was too inept
to finish, but out of the necessity of helping out with the family finances. He worked at any job that would allow him some income.
Many hillsides were denuded of foliage by his sharp scythe cutting ‘brush’ for neighbors. He cut timbers for the miners around his
area. He became chauffeur to older folks who did not drive or was not able to drive. Most of what he earned was given to his mother
to buy clothes for younger siblings so that they could continue their schooling. Giving became a way of life for him.
After while he became restless earning the meager wages of a ‘jack-of-all-trades but master of none’ so he and a neighbor decided
to head out on their own to Eastern Virginia, where they heard there was work around the shipping industry. This lasted for a short
time until both boys became homesick. The work was not as plentiful as they had been led to believe. They arrived home tired and hungry
for some of their mothers’ home cooking.
His next sojourn was to Delaware, where he ended up
working for the Electric Hose and Rubber Company. It seemed that most boys from the hills who went to Delaware ended up there. This
lasted until he decided to join the Air Force.
Basic training, at Lackland AFB, Texas, came easy to this, already, disciplined person.
He became Barracks Chief as a result of his prowess. The only problem with this added responsibility, if any of the younger airmen
failed at their duties, he was held accountable. He always did an inspection of their areas before any major barracks inspection came
about. Of course, he was not always apprised of these inspections so in these instances he just had to stay prepared. His flight became
an ‘honor flight’!
After basic training he was sent to Sheppard AFB, Texas for aircraft maintenance
training. He graduated this course showing a great aptitude for the care of aircraft. This is when he was shipped to Korat, Thailand
as the Vietnam War was in full swing. Pilots from Korat flew sorties over Vietnam, sometimes being shot at from the ground with anti-aircraft
weapons, and having to struggle their way back to home base. This is when aircraft maintenance crews showed their mettle. It was their
job to put these crippled birds back together for the next sortie. This man became a crew chief on an F-105 that made many flights
into Vietnam. In fact, there were more airmen stationed in Thailand during the war than were stationed in Vietnam. This was due to
the importance of their mission of supporting ground troops. After Korat, Nellis AFB in Nevada became this man’s final station while
in the Air Force. While stationed at Laughlin, AFB near Del Rio, Texas, he used to go to Calderon’s establishment in downtown Del
Rio. There he became acquainted with ‘Blondie’ Calderon, a multi-talented musician, who later became musical director for the now
famous, Ray Price, of Country Music fame. As this man was a good guitarist himself, he used to sit in with Blondie and the band
during time off from Air Force duties. His prowess as a guitarist grew as he practiced more and more, mastering the instrument, but
only playing for close friends and relatives. He could have fit in with any band.
Virginia, after the war, this ex-airman was hard put to decide what to do. This is the time when the coal industry was paying more
than most any other enterprise in Virginia and as this man wanted to stay in the neighborhood where he grew to manhood, he applied,
and was soon hired, by the Island Creek Coal Co., Beatrice Mine. One of his jobs was to set the giant jacks that held the top up as
coal was extracted from under the mountains of Buchanan County, Va. He told of huge, petrified trees falling in front of the miners
as the jacks were let go. Many pre-historical artifacts were found by the miners. Work areas were always damp, cold, and with insufficient
air. Things improved somewhat as the UMWA became involved more efficiently to see to the miner’s needs. He spent almost 25 years 1300feet
down and many miles back underground. He worked second shift for most of his mining career going about it with precision and caution.
During his time off on weekends, his favorite pastime, which eventually became a paying proposition,
was to go to the local flea markets and trade guns with the traders in the area. In order to make sure he knew which gun was worth
trading for, he taught himself to be a very efficient gunsmith. This grew into a very profitable situation as most of the traders
had guns that needed new firing pins, a new stock, hammers, triggers and whatever else a gun might need. As a result, he was able
to supplement his income as well as to build up a very great gun collection. Up until today it is still legal to buy and sell a gun
at a flea market in Virginia.
This man died suddenly in November 2015 of a blood clot that traveled
quickly to his brain. He had suffered in the past, with cancer, probably brought on by Agent Orange in Thailand. Also, he had very
severe arthritis from working all those years in the damp underground filling the pockets of mining moguls. He was never a complainer,
sparing the feelings of others so that they did not become concerned about his real condition. He was, most of all, a firm believer
in the Holy Scriptures, never preaching, but ‘living’ his sermons. He was well loved by, mostly all with whom he came in contact,
especially his beloved wife and companion, Patsy.
Most of what I have written is from first-hand
experience watching this man, Wendell Shortt, grow to manhood, and staying in contact with him until he became a void in our lives.
You see, I am his younger brother, Frank.