Turning the Pages

By: Paige Cline

Sometimes I am asked to reprint a column from the past. Here is one. 

Pineville was never what you would call a railroad town. Mullens was. 

Still, when we were growing up, the railroad was a significant part of our everyday lives. We put pebbles on the tracks and watched as the gigantic wheels crushed them into powder. We put nails or screws on the rails to be flattened into arrowheads or knives or whatever. 

On occasion, when the coal delivery truck was late, we would climb on the coal cars laden with big, shiny black lumps of fuel and appropriate enough to tide us over. We were authorized by our parents to fill our buckets only with the lumps that had fallen to the ground as the train vibrated on its way up the river. We always waited until we were around the curve and out of our parents sight before we climbed the grabirons and relieved the overcrowding. 

Very early in or lives we viewed railroad men as people who were just guys who lived and worked on trains and traveled to different places every day. A little later, we were surprised to find out how many our father actually knew. They were just guys. They had a job. 

Many of the train crew took advantage of the periodic waits they had at the crossing in front of our house and came in for a cool drink from the well in our back yard. We maintained that well for years although our house had indoor plumbing. 

After being fascinated by the railroad and trains for most of my youth, I had an opportunity to work for that same Virginian Railroad for a few years before I went to Marshall. At that time you had to endure the extra list and the certain periodic layoffs. It was during one of these long layoffs that i packed my other shirt and headed for Huntington. 

I have always been intrigued by “characters.” And the Virginian had more than its fair share. And much of the uniqueness of these guys was portrayed in the descriptive nicknames that were given to them. And they stuck to them like glue–whether unflattering or not. 

Railroaders were known on their paychecks or official papers by their initials. So, most of the nicknames were derived from those two letters. For instance, a certain new brakeman by the name of W.P.Cline was known for his interest in baseball, so he was soon dubbed’ Wild Pitch ” Cline. Anyway, you get the point. 

My old buddy, Jim Bower, a retired railroad man, and I talked about the characters on the Virginian (and later theN&W) and their nicknames. I offhandedly asked Jim to make me a list of all he could remember. He did. And later, at a baseball game, he gave it to me. It was six (6) legal pages long. Of course, if you know Jim, you know he was the source of most of the nicknames. 

Anyway, here, as space will permit, are some of the ones suitable for print. (I won’t bother with the quotation marks). 

They are: Chink Lawson, Rhubarb Roberts, Hungry Eye martin, Cotton Haga, Notre Dame Mason, Bullet Milam, Paddlefoot Miller, Bugeye Parker, Gus the Greek Kaman, Skip Ashley, Dude Roles, Poor Boy Graham, Spot Allen, Double E Roach, Mink Wilhelm, Rabbit McNamara, Chirpy Linville, Yellow Hammer Sowers, DooJohn Stewart, Dog Ramey, Tug Houck, Big Train Newsome, Bear Miller, Low Joint Miller, Muscles Tolliver, Smokey Pack, Kilroy Houck, Rocky Humphrey, Tojo Rasnake, Slim Carr, Shorty Christian, Horsey Burcham, Marble Eye Hoge, Sheriff Kidd, Shake Foot Pearl, Football Head Blankenship, Slick Inge, Mule Lefler, Tag Linkous, Blackie Allen, Whitey Allen, Rich Creek Broyles, Whale Farmer, 

Head farmer, Dad Beavers, Stud Hess, Tomcat Wilson, Drawhead Lilly, Brakeshoe Brakefield, Sarge Fortner, Lightning Wolfe, Big Daddy Lewis, Fesser Kenneda, Froggie Williams, Happy Gregg, Peanuts Crotty, Trigger Green, Fat Back Frank, Few Clothes Johnson, Foots Tilley, Shorty Prichard, Jug Worley, Dinty Moore, Buzz Mutter, Tubby Murdock, Kokomo Moran. 

Screwdriver Wade, Cat Head Boyd, Cub Reed, Little Britches Steorts, Possum Green, Dog Brown, Red Thompson, Two Gun Lawson, Crabby Kanode, Penny Young, Jello Crawford, Cherry Picker Elkins, Louse Tabor, Stump Daddy Goins, Scaley Canterbury, Deacon Gott, Stud Norman, Strawberry Ashley, Zip Cozort, Curly Newsome, Big Bird Yeager, Mad Dog Dixon, Mousy Hoge, Horsetooth Wheeler, Buster Newsome, Humpy Thomas, Cigar Cook, Hack Bailey, Brylcreme Wyatt, Gatemouth Neal, Cotton White, Wimpy Applegate, Lucky Sexton, Dink Price, Frosty Farmer, Eagle Eye Dooley, Choo Choo Newsome, Poke Bradbury, Whodat Ingram, Carbide Morgan, Sleepy Burcham, Jitterbug Brown, Peavine Graham, Pappy Reed, Tug river Herald, and Moon Mullins. 

If you were a railroad man and know of some other colorful nicknames, send them to me. 

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