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The Old Switchboard
Part Eight
by Romaine Walburn & Maricia Mlynek

Updated on Wednesday*:

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Hickory Hines

Just Loved Living

Hickory Hines . . . Can that be a real person’s name? In Key, it sure can be, and it was.

Hickory Hines lived up on Scale’s Hill. His house was better described as a one-room shack. Hickory was a colorful character. He visited the telephone office to pick up local news and the newspaper, The Grit.

Betty and Paul’s oldest daughter, Sarah, sold the paper around Key for spending money. Hickory never came into the office. He would simply walk up to the porch and yell. Sarah would take his paper out to him.

He would thank her for the paper and hand her the money. “Here’s your alimony,” said Hickory, as he left. This always mortified the Haughts’ teenage daughter, and never failed to send her into a rant about the silly old farmer.

Hickory worked for Alan Ball on his big dairy farm. His chosen attire was bib overalls. In the summertime, he wore them without a shirt. In the wintertime, he still wore his bib overalls, but with a barn coat.

It was always a question of gossip on the switchboard lines as to whether Hickory ever took a bath? The truth is that he probably didn’t, but he did go swimming in the farm pond all year round.

No one could say anything against Hickory’s hard work. He gave a good day’s work for a good day’s pay. On Friday, he would take his pay and head for Glencoe, a small coal mining town. The only thing in Glencoe was a saloon and a bunch of miners. Hickory always said he was headed there to buy his “division.”

Like Mary Neff, Hickory Hines lived to be very old. He died at about 105. We say “about” because he really didn’t know when he was born. He celebrated his birthday on Christmas. He said that he couldn’t share a birthday with anyone better than the Lord.

Hickory Hines lived a simple life. Paul, Jr., took a load of coal to Hickory every fall for his fireplace. He said that Hickory only had an old bed frame with a straw tick and a couple of blankets.

There was one old skillet hanging on the wall, with grease all over the wall and running clear to the floor. A couple of plates, forks, and an old rocking chair were the only other things in the shack. Yet, Hickory Hines was one of the happiest men who ever lived in Key.

Even the cattle loved the gentleness of this old man. He called Mr. Ball’s cows his “ladies.” Each one had a name of his choosing, and they came when he called them.

If you listened in the evening, right as the sun was setting, the old switchboard would quiet as the world began to ready for bed. The quiet night would allow the melody of Hickory Hines’ whistling to drift over the ridge as he walked toward home.

His melody was always of a favorite hymn. He never complained about anything, and nothing ever seemed to make him angry. Hickory Hines just loved living.

(continued next week)

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