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by Frank Shortt
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Sometime in the 1960's the new four-lane highway called Rt. 460 was completed through Buchanan
County, Virginia. Before this, the old Rt. 460 was a circuitous road with multiple horseshoe turns, one even being called, 'Dead Man's
Curve'. It was not called that for reasons that one would suspect. Instead, there was a multiple hanging of some men whose guilt had
not yet been proven. Many different versions have arisen about this infamous event. The tree, used for this dastardly deed, stood
for many years until the new highway came through.
My Great Uncle Joe wound his way up
from his dwelling in a hollow underneath Shortt Gap. He lived with his son, Jay. He had taken this same route for many years as he
had retired at a fairly young age. He had invested his money wisely thus allowing him this luxury. Speaking from experience, I can
say that it was not easy to pry him loose from a single penny. If one asked him for a chew of his tobacco, he would say "if you are
old enough to chew, you're old enough to buy it"!
It has been told that Uncle Joe was pretty
rough in his early days.
One story is told about how he owed Old Joe Clifton some money for 'moonshine'. When the two met up suddenly,
Joe Clifton demanded his money. Uncle Joe, not wanting to part with the money at the time, began to run up toward Shortt Gap. The
path led along Grassy Creek, which fortunately for Uncle Joe, had sand bars at intervals. As Joe Clifton gained on him, the only way
he could escape was to grab some sand from one of the bars and throw it into the eyes of his pursuer. This did the trick and Uncle
Joe lived to tell the tale.
"How's it goin' this mawnin', Uncle Joe?" Could be heard from
the combination store and post office just over the line in Buchanan County.
"Fair to middlin"
He would reply. It looks like it will be fair and I'm middlin' sure it is mawnin'."
that he would make his way to the outcropping of sandstone, just inside Tazewell County, where he spent many leisure hours sitting,
chewing Day's Work Chewing Tobacco, and whittling cardboard and sundry sticks. As far as most folks knew, that is all he ever did
in the way of exercise. When the cardboard he sat on became too soiled or rained upon, he would replace it. If anyone sat on his favorite
stoop, when he arrived, they hurriedly removed themselves. This was Uncle Joe's seat. Uncle Joe knew every kid in the Shortt Gap neighborhood.
How he knew them we never figured out. He had pet names for each child and would use them if any ventured his way.
"Howdy Truth" He would say to one.
"Why do you call him 'Truth' someone asked. 'Cause it
ain't never come out of him", he would laughingly reply.
Ted Shortt was 'Smoss'. Uncle
Alvie was 'Rabbit'. Lula and Nell Shortt were 'Cobalily and Rachel D', etc.
On Sunday mornings
Uncle Joe could be seen coming down the path toward Shortt Gap with his constant female companion, Eva Lowe. She liked to attend the
Grassy Creek Church with Brother Albert Ball as pastor. Uncle Joe was obliged to go along, although, he never made a declaration of
belief. It was comical to see them walking along. She in her blue Rayon dresses with old style black perforated pumps, he with his
well pressed pin stripe suit and a tall Stetson hat. He never put a crease in his hats, just left them natural. This presented them
with a rounded effect.
I had joined the Air Force by the time the new four-lane was completed.
The whole Gap took on a new look. Canyons were filled in to make the new highway straighter. Whereas, before the new road, one would
have to walk several miles to get to the local store, now it could be done in half the time.
Unfortunately, when the mountain was leveled, Uncle Joe's rock was removed and is now under tons of earth and debris. If it is possible
to look down from one's death destination, it is sure that Uncle Joe was totally aggravated to see what was being done to his favorite
spot on earth.
It is said, that when Uncle Joe passed on, the ambulance carrying his remains stopped at the spot
of Uncle Joe's whittling for a moment of silence.
Joseph SHORT was born February 1881 in Tazewell County, Virginia, and died 27 November 1961. He was buried in Short Family Cemetery,
Shortt Gap Mountain, Tazewell County, Virginia. He married Mollie NEWBERRY 29 December 1904 in Tazewell County, Virginia. She was
born 15 March 1886, and died 27 October 1930. She was buried in Short Family Cemetery on Shortt Gap Mountain,Tazewell County, Virginia.