The Musselman Brothers And Other "Influences" On My Life
In the foregoing, I mentioned, briefly, Danny Musselman. There were three brothers, Daniel nicknamed Danny, Irvin nicknamed Irv and John nicknamed Johnny. Irv was the oldest of this typical mountain family. Irv dabbled in sawmills and other type of wood products and tools for cutting timber. I did not know him too well except for the times we were at the hunting camp. Irv had a son-in-law who operated a sawmill and owned land in Clinton County. He spent a lot of time up there. His son-in-law, Charlie Heikel, told the story that, as a boy, he saw this family that had unloaded a stove in a wooded area and began to cook supper. He noticed the small kids running around and said he never dreamed that he would marry one of them.
Irv Musselman was an easygoing person who tried to make a living the easiest way possible. He repaired sawmills and motors to run them. I might add that the motors were Buick and Cadillac engines that were taken from the car and set on timbers. They had a pulley welded or bolted on for the belt that drove the mill itself. We had motors like that on our mill at first, but later on, we had a regular diesel power unit.
Speaking about sawmills, before I went to the army, I worked for approximately two years at the railroad shops in Altoona. I quit there and helped my dad on his sawmill for about three years. Later on I was drafted and spent time in two different army camps. I did, however, come back home after my stint in the army, and was taken in by my dad as a full partner in the sawmill business.
To get back to the Musselmans, I might add that Irv Musselman had one lesson for me, and that was that I did not want to live like him and his family. He seemed to be happy with his life as it was. One instance that I remember very well was when he had trouble with a motor in the winter. He took it into the kitchen and worked on it there. Earlier I called them a clan. The Musselmans were truly mountain men. All three were over six feet, two inches tall. All of them could make whiskey and were able to consume large quantities of it.
Johnny Musselman was a different person altogether. He served in the Army in France during World War I. I did not know much about him, only when he saw me, he called me "The Old Soldier". He was married late in life to Ethel Stiffler. The marriage was his first, but her third or fourth. They came to the Smith Corner Mennonite Church a few times.
The one who taught me a lot of lessons was Danny. I worked with him cutting paperwood, went with him hunting, and chauffeured him around different places. On one occasion he wanted to sell a prized violin. It was a Carlos Burganzi made in Cremona, Italy. He would pawn it for fifty or seventy five dollars and when he had a payday he would redeem it back. He could play what he called "the fiddle." On one occasion, Danny took free lessons from a traveling music teacher. Several of my friends were in the class and they later recounted the story of one night class. The teacher spent a lot time explaining how to hold the instrument and gave a few simple notes to play. Whereupon, Danny said, "Iíll show you how to play this fiddle", and immediately launched into "Turkey In The Straw". The instructor was speechless. On some sunny summer days we would take my truck, load the violin, some ground coffee in a five pound lard bucket, our two 22 rifles, some sandwiches, and anything else we thought we might need. We would then head out for a drive and a leisurely day.
Danny Musselman and I cut paper wood on what was known as the Burket tract, just up the road from where we lived. The tract was covered with trees already cut. It was hard work cutting up trees that were already cut down. Actually the other cutters had already felled the trees and had taken the good logs out to be dragged down the hill to the sawmill. We then came along and cut up the tops that did not make saw logs. When they were cut in five-foot lengths they had to be peeled. Placing the logs against something solid and cutting off the bark with an axe or using a drawing knife was how that was accomplished. Those tools today have become antiques and probably no one would be able to use them. A one-man saw was used in cutting the logs into the five-foot lengths. Danny called the one-man saw, a bull saw. He did the entire cutting and I did most of the peeling. Peeling was easy if the trees were cut in the spring when the sap was up, but hard in the fall and winter. Payday was the best part of the whole operation, I used my share for clothes and Danny had a ball at the local bars.
Danny Musselman was also a good stone mason and had a lot of work building walls and stone casing houses. A lot of his work is still standing. My dad mixed mud for him, and a lot of times I went with them and carried water for them. His drinking and his readiness to get in a fight in the bars, and anywhere else, earned him some enemies. One night on his way home, several of those earned enemies were lying in wait for him in the lane that led toward his home. They beat him up very badly. I think that the result of that beating was ultimately the cause of his death. Danny died while I was in the Army, and I never did get to even view the body of the man that was such an influence in my life. He had been a hard worker and a good friend to a sixteen-year-old youngster. In all our travels he always told me to stay away from alcohol.
One more friend who influenced my life that I might mention was Allen Shoemaker. He came a lot of times to visit Laura and Brady, my aunt and uncle. It was at his insistence that when I was about ten years old, I fired my first shotgun. He gave me a twelve gauge and I fired up into a tree and got kicked back about ten feet and landed on my butt. That was the end of shotguns for me. He also was going to teach me to play baseball. I was to be the catcher. Well I did not remember that he played in a league in Altoona. After several pitches that I caught, my hand burned and I was ready to call it a day. Allen was also quite the fighter. One time at the Claar reunion, he got in a scrap with someone and it took five or six police to subdue him. At another time, a fellow pulled a gun on Allen. He took the gun and threw it back in the bushes and proceeded to whip the gun wielder. So much for Shoemaker, he never did offer to teach me how to fight.