There was a time while I was growing up in the Starr’s Mill community of rural southern Fayette County that I was the only young boy my age.
My brother is six years older than I am. His friends, of whom there were several, were his age or slightly older. The last thing any of them wanted was a “kid” hanging around.
It wasn’t until I was in the sixth grade that the Pate family moved to Starr’s Mill and rented one of granddaddy’s houses. Their oldest son, Gary, was seven days older than me. We became fast friends.
But until that time I had to be content with the friendship of the older boys in the area and the relationships I had with several of the older men in the community, some of whom were relatives.
Uncle Fred, who was married to my grandmother’s sister; Uncle Roy, who was my grandmother’s brother; Uncle George, who was married to another of my grandmother’s sisters; and Freck Travis, who was not related to our family, but was an integral part of the group, were all regulars at the little general store operated by my mother and father during the 1950s and early 1960s.
And then there were the “younger” older men — Jack Adams, Cecil Lynch and, of course, the most memorable of them all, Luvell.
Luvell was a bachelor. He had lived with his mother and father for as long as I had known him, which was since I was old enough to know and remember anyone.
Luvell lived a particularly eventful and colorful life. He was the local character.
Suffice it to say, if anyone were to make a movie about life in Starr’s Mill during the mid-part of the 20th century, Luvell would be the comedy relief. He was just that funny.
He always reminded me of a cross between country entertainer Junior Samples and Otis the town drunk on the Andy Griffith Show.
The story was told about Luvell going off to fight in World War II. I never really knew what he did or where he went during the War, but I heard about him coming home.
Seems he mustered out in Texas, which is quite a distance from Starr’s Mill, and even more so back when it happened. The Army apparently arranged for Luvell to tag along on a jet aircraft that was flying back to the Atlanta area. How Luvell managed that is unknown to me, but it does make for an interesting story.
Anyway, when he got back to Starr’s Mill and was telling everyone about his time in the service, he told how he had been brought back home from Texas.
Most folks around Starr’s Mill had little experience with aircraft. And when Luvell began to tell them about his trip home in a jet-powered airplane, they expressed some doubts about his veracity.
Not one to let the doubters get the upper hand, he explained in his own unique way how fast the plane traveling.
“I’ll tell you boys, that plane was going so fast, that the pilot had to shut off the engine while we were over Alabama, or else it would have flown out over the Atlantic Ocean.”
They never questioned him again about his trip home.
After the war Luvell began to drink a little. In fact he was bad to drink. Back when I was growing up there were no alcoholics in our community. Folks were just “bad to drink.
No one would dare accuse someone of being a drunk, because that accusation might find its way back to the parents of that person. No one wanted to be known as the person who accused someone’s son of being a drunk. It just wasn’t the thing to do.
But Luvell was a happy drinker. He never caused any trouble. At least he never caused any trouble that he instigated.
There was a time or two when his friends would play a joke on him that backfired. Like the time he was dropped off outside the church early one Sunday morning (or late one Saturday night as the case may be).
He was sitting on the ground, leaned up against the church sign as people began arriving for Sunday morning services. Everyone knew who he was, and most everyone simply ignored Luvell. He was apparently fast asleep and harmless.
But as one lady passed by he opened his eyes and spoke, apparently uttering some inappropriate remark. That’s all it took.
The sheriff was called and Luvell was hauled off to jail for being drunk in public.
Ironically, the call to the sheriff was made from my daddy’s store, since that was the nearest phone to the church. And it was my daddy who subsequently got a call from the sheriff to come up and sign Luvell’s bond once he had sobered up.
All of that wouldn’t have happened had Luvell’s friends simply taken him home instead of dropping him off in front of the church. But if they had we wouldn’t have had that one more story to add to the legend.
Kerlin’s roots go back generations in southwestern Fayette County. He’s a regular columnist for this newspaper.