I was down at the hardware the other day and the usual local long in the tooth crowd were in their respective rocking chairs. Looked like they all slipped out of the house at the same time. The conversations usually ended in argument. Today was no different.
Cornwall Wallace or Cornwallis was the resident "retiree" who usually started sittin in front of the store after lunch. Lilly kept him busy till then. Cornwallis (he retired the first time when he was 21) was holding court about how Case knives was made in Jay pan and the steel they was using was coming from Inja or somewhar over the waters...not worth nothin', and they wasn't the first A merican made part in the whole knife.
Carl, the local "odd jobber"( it was odd when he took one) was all over it...saying they can't even spell Case in Japan so how could it be a Case knife made in Japan, it would be some other kind o' knife. One of them Ninja swords.
I went on in and commented the bench was warming up out front. Nods all around. Milford come in having relinquished his rocking chair. "This ought to be good," he laughed. "That ole Corn bet 'em a Coke he was right bout them Case Knifes, It's gonna' get interesting, now".
It wasn't long before ole Cornwallis waltzed in the store, asking for "one of them papers on them Case knives over wonder". They rummaged around in drawers and found a pamphlet for him that was a couple years old. "Corn" looked at it, studied for a minute, and asked if they had another one, a little newer. There wasn't one. You could see his ego deflating. He turned, went out the store waved his hands and hollered something at Carl, got in his truck, and left in a cloud of smoke.
Carl walked in. "Well, Carl, did you win your bet"? "Aw, Corn said y'all didn't have no papers to prove him right, got mad and left. Milford flipped the pamphlet over to Carl.
Right on the front, in capital letters CASE KNIFE, MADE IN USA. "Why that lying, cheating, thieving devil, he owes me a Coke"! hollered Carl.
"Good luck", was all Milford said.
Ah, another victory for the Wallace Clan.
I asked how long the Wallaces' had been around in this country and was told that hill over there was a hole in the ground when they came here. They had migrated from Pennsylvania in late 1700's. Seems they got tangled up in the Whiskey Rebellion, shot it out with the newly formed National Guard when George Washington was President.
The family had left the Pennsylvania: stills, kids, cows, kith and kin in the dead eyes of night. It was storied that the Government was glad they left with no more fight than they put up, 'cause the Guard wasn't too anxious to have another go at the Wallaces'
Anyway, they made a living making corn whiskey for years. Hence, the name "Corn" Wallace. A kid in every generation was given that cross to bear. The Wallace's were an industrious lot, to here 'em tell it. I never would have guessed it, knowing "Corn".
The story is they moved here, got em lots of land, and developed a system for "making" and stuck with it for a century. They all grew 5 acres of corn for just that purpose, good bottom land corn. There were lots of them contributing to the effort and they ALL threw in together making moonshine. The best, so I here. Their reasoning was it was much easier to take corn to market in liquid form than by the ear, and it paid more. Can't argue with that logic..
There wasn't a one of 'em, man, woman, boy or girl who couldn't read and figure...numbers were more important than writing. Go figure. Don't have to write to make money. And they knew how to do that! Cornwallis was living on the last 30 acres of a parcel of land that was over 1200 acres in it's day. He did not inherit "the gift". He made a meager living best he could.
The Wallace's were community minded. They donated to the collection plate on Sunday in a big way as long as the preacher railed against the vice of "strong drink". It kept the competition down, and everybody knew where to buy the best. Preacher's wife always had a little jar of clear with rock candy and orange peel if preacher got the "croup".
So, they had lived well in the warmth of Southern climes. Cheap land, good crops, trade goods to spare, and everything came their way. So what happened?
Prohibition is what happened. The feds didn't play, and after a few of the "elders" did time, they wised up and started grinding corn instead of making mash. They bought a couple of grist mills, and did well until the floods of' 36 and '37 washed their dams out.
The Great War came along and the Wallaces' did their part. They came home to a new order. Nothing seemed to work for them. The Wallace's were not cut out to work in the cotton mills. No time cards, bank loans, forced school attendance for them. They couldn't cope with big farming, banks telling them how to farm.
What to do? They slowly slipped away to the cities, the West, wherever disillusioned people go, into oblivion. All but old "Corn" Wallace. He was born during the war, grew up with the "legends" and had no shoes to fill. They died off and left him to try to figure it out. He just couldn't make it work.
Cornwallis was the last of the line...dumb like a fox, a good mechanic, good with live stock, best garden in the County, easy, fun lovin', a good fiddler, poor, but proud. How many of his kind have I known?
Maybe I'm one of those? Time will tell, I suppose.