Old Guy Frye

Collected by Richard Chase

Damascus, Virginia

Reprinted in AppLit with permission, from the James Taylor Adams Collection
University of Virginia's College at Wise/Blue Ridge Institute and Museum of Ferrum College

NOTE:  This text was recopied directly from a typewritten copy in the archives of the Blue Ridge Institute.  James Taylor Adams (1892-1954) kept typed copies of the oral folktales he and others collected during the last thirty years of his life, while he lived in Wise County, VA. In the original transcript, some typographical errors are crossed out, some characters are blurry, and spacing between words is sometimes irregular, but the copy below seems to be complete and accurate. One missing letter and one spelling correction have been inserted in square brackets. See also AppLit's notes on other variants of "Old Dry Frye."

       One time there was an old man named Guy Frye and he had been a-gon' down to where a man named Johnny Martin lived at. He 'uld go when Johnny was away from home. But one Saturday night Guy Frye went down to Johnny Martin's house, and Johnny was at home.

     Johnny was pretty mean and he didn't care about knockin' folks in the head so he could take their money. So when Old Guy knocked on the door he told his wife to open it.  She opened the door and when Old Guy Frye looked in the house Johnny come down with a stick of stovewood and hit him on the head. Hit him harder than he aimed to. Killed him.

      He meant to hit him just hard enough to addle him and then take his money.

      He seen he'd killed him, says,

      "Low me, I'll got into trouble now." Says, "What'll I do?"

      His wife had begged him not to hit Old Guy in the first place. So she says to him, says,

     "If you'd took my advice, you'd not got into no trouble." Says, "You'll just have to figger a way to get out yourself. I never got you in."

      So Johnny studied a while, then he took Old Guy Frye down the road a piece to where another man lived at, stood him up at the man's door and went on back home and got in the bed.

      And pretty soon when that man opened the door to go out after wood, in fell Old Guy.

      The man just studied a while. He knowed Old Guy Frye had had a habit of goin' to Johnny Martin's pretty much. So he took Old Guy and stood him up at Johnny Martin's door and knocked and pulled on back home.

      Johnny was scared but directly he went on and opened the door, and when Old Guy fell back in the house Johnny Martin looked at his wife, says,

      "Now what'll I do?"

      His wife didn't pay him no mind at all, just got out her snuff.

      Well, the next morning was meetin' day at their church-house. Old Guy Frye was door-keeper at the church. Johnny figgered everybody 'uld be expectin' to see Guy Frye at the church, so he decided what to do. Took Guy on up to the church-house and unlocked the door. He had the key in his pocket, Old Guy did. Johnny took him on inside and sit him in a chair down at the edge of the pool. They had a pretty deep baptisin' pool inside the church. Put Guy's elbows on his knees and stuck his hands up under his chin.  Propped him up that way.

       Next mornin' there was a fiesty [feisty] boy come a-runnin' in the church-house, first one. He seen Old Guy settin' there, says,

       "Howdy, Guy."

       Old Guy never spoke. The boy come a little closer, says,

       "Howdy, Guy."

       Guy set right on. The boy come right up to the edge of the pool, says,

       "I said Howdy, Guy."

       Old Guy never answered. The boy says,

       "If you don't say Howdy back to me, I'll knock your elbows out from under you."

       Well, when Old Guy wouldn't speak, that fiesty boy reached over and knocked Guy's elbows off his knees, and over in the pool Old Guy went, sunk right to the bottom where he couldn't be seen.

       The boy thought he'd drowned Old Guy Frye, and just about then it was gatherin' time and folks was comin' on in the church-house. So the boy decided he'd wait till the evenin' meeting broke up that night and then he'd get Old Guy out.

       So that night he took a sack and after meeting broke he put Old Guy in the sack and started off to hide him somewheres.

       The moon was shinin' pretty bright and he went up the hill through an old field with the sack on his back.

       There was two men comin' down on the far side of the field, had sacks on their backs. They seen the boy comin' and got scared, dropped their sacks and run.

       The boy went on over there to see what was in the sacks the men throwed down. It was two big dressed hogs they'd stole. The boy put Old Guy down and picked up one of the hogs and took it on home.

       The two men looked over the hill direct[l]y, seen the two sacks a-layin' there and the one-sack man gone, so they come on and picked up the two sacks and went on home. Went to the smokehouse and hung their hogs up. It was dark, you know, and they couldn't see very well.

       The next morning the old woman got up to get breakfast and went to the smokehouse to cut some meat. She reached up with the knife and there was Old Guy Frye. She dropped her knife and got away from there in such a hurry she tore down one side of the smokehouse, broke off half the back porch, and knocked the kitchen door clean off the hinges. It scared her.

       She hollered and told them men there was a dead man hangin' in the smokehouse in the place of a hog. The men come runnin' in their shirt tails and looked and sure enough there hung Old Guy Frye.

       Well, they had rounded up some wild horses that run loose out in the mountains there. So they went and picked out the wildest one there was, put an old wore-out saddle and bridle on it, and tied Old Guy on. Put him in the saddle and tied his feet underneath. Tied his hands to the front end of the saddle and pulled the reins through.

       Then they slipped out and opened the gate and let go of the horse. The horse and Old Guy took out down the road and the man run out and went to hollorin' and shootin'—

       "Stop him yonder! He's stole our horse! He's stole our horse! Stop him!"

       Ever'body come runnin' out in the road a-shoutin' and a-hollerin' but the horse went so fast there coundn't nobody stop him.

       The horse took out up the mountain and run out of sight in the woods.

       And as far as I know that horse and Old Guy Frye are out there a-tearin' through that wilderness yet.

Replaced Copy Made by the Blue Ridge Institute to Replace Unstable Original.

April, 1991


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