Remembering Hardburly Coal Camp

When you think of Eastern Kentucky, one thing is sure to come to your mind. Coal. Perry County, the piece of Earth that I call home, is no stranger to the coal business. Black Gold has been hauled in and out of these parts for years, and still is today. Bulan, nicknamed “Pistol City” in the early 1900’s for it’s fast ways and dangerous territory, lies on the outskirts of the one of the most famous coal field towns in Eastern Kentucky, Hardburly.


Nestled back deep in the Eastern Kentucky hills, lies the remnants of a once thriving coal camp. You can still see the rows of cookie cutter, box homes that were built by the Hardy-Burlington Mining Company, dating back as far as the 1930’s. The ruins of the commissary lie uninhabited, a keep out sign hanging ominously. The old post office, established in April of 1917, is closed but still stands. A lot of these homes have been restored, and wear the tag of homes long lived in and much loved. Kids still play out in their yards, adults still come and go for work as usual, but the tipple is long gone and, no coal is hauled on the two lane. No more dusty men carrying their lunch pails, no more hustle of mine life, no more boom town days when life was good, profitable and Hardburly itself was a city to rival that of Hazard. By all accounts, Hardburly, back in it’s prime was a special place.

harburlyBulan, Duane and Ajax, in the early days were comparable to the Wild West. During the early days of the mining boom, an influx of outlaws and rough and rowdy characters marked their territory here, hoping to get rich from land. Fights, murders and crime sprees were common in the area, and Bulan soon earned itself the nickname “Pistol City”. Not even a Hollywood movie director could have thought of some of this stuff. Many old timers around these parts have passed down stories from generation to generation about these areas. Bulan, Pistol City and Hardburly remain areas that are still steeped in legends and lore. With so much of our history and heritage being lost with people passing, or folks moving away, its easy to lose a grip on what made these places so special, and a way of life that has all been but forgotten.



I am lucky enough to be acquainted with a very special man who remembers what Hardburly was like during it’s prime. Mr. Ellis Fugate, who was born and raised in the area, was kind enough to share some memories with me. Mr. Fugate is also a WWII veteran, and shares the most wonderful stories of this region and his youth on his Facebook page. His stories are as eloquent as his memories, and I love to hear anything he has to say. Mr. Fugate is not only a true gem, gentleman and person, but somebody I am glad to call my friend. The words that he has penned are much better suited to paint the picture of times gone bye than any article, or any history book could ever convey.

Ellis Fugate:

“Duane is a little town about which I have known all my life. I did not frequent the town very much until I was in my late teens and early twenties, but it was there, and I heard stories about the place in earlier times. It was nicknamed “Pistol City” because, if you were trying to make yourself out to be a bad man, you could get that idea knocked out of your head as quickly in Pistol City, as nearly any place around. People got killed there with remarkable ease. I knew some folks who ran a business there for years and they said that nearly everyone carried a pistol on his person, though who did and who didn’t carry a weapon would be only a guess. Duane is pronounced with two syllables. Strangers to these parts, seeing it written down for the first time, try to pronounce it with only one syllable, Dwane. But local yokels call it ‘Dew-ane,’ both syllables getting about the same weight. The post office for Duane was called Bulan, and it still is today, though now it is housed in a relatively new structure down the road a ways where the Lotts Creek road takes off to Cordia School and other features in Knott County.”

“Jakes Branch is a stream that flows out from the hills between Duane and Dwarf. It has several branches the names of which I do not know, so I will just call them all Jakes Branch. Jakes Branch has its beginning somewhere in the hill north of Hardburly and empties into Trace Branch between Duane and Ajax. In the old days when butter was really butter and fanny was a girl’s name, I used to peddle in the coal camp called Hardburly. I sold many things raised on the farm and coveted by the housewives of the miners who lived in the camp.”

“I will describe this camp for you. People my age need no description but the young folks of today have never seen living like they had in the coal camps during the years prior to, and during World War II. The houses were built by the coal company that was operating the coal harvesting business. They were sometimes built for two families to live in one house. The houses were two stories high and divided so that one family lived upstairs and downstairs on one side of the house while another family had the same facility on the other side. Rental properties have always utilized that arrangement and the camp houses used it because it is easier to provide housing under one roof than it is to provide it under two. Many of the houses were of individual architecture but some of them were the duplex design.”

“These houses were very close together. Some were closer than others but many were within twelve to fifteen feet of each other. There was room for washing clothes and other duties behind the house but very little front yard. Typically, they were built on both sides of a narrow dirt road, and that road was never a highway. While I peddled in Hardburly, I never saw a paved road to any of the houses except those fronting the drive through camp. Houses like this were provided all the way to the top of the hills. Access was by switchback roads that angled up the hills to the very last house. To get to the camp from our home, we would walk up the left fork of Combs Branch and cross the hill, entering the camp from the north. This was an arduous journey for us, so we would ride horses or mules into camp and tie them up in some convenient spot, leaving the produce or whatever we were selling on the beast of burden until it was sold.”

“I have taken loads of frying chickens, eggs and various fruits and vegetables to sell in the camp in this manner. Many a time have I stood in the back door of a kitchen and asked a housewife if she wanted to buy a frying chicken. Sometimes she would come out to see if the chickens were fat or as large as she thought they should be, but sometimes she would be wringing out clothes or mopping the kitchen floor, and she would say, “Bring me two.” When I had complied, she would say, “What else you got?” I usually had green beans, which everybody wanted. If I had roasting corn, they usually bought all I had. You can’t carry many messes of roasting ears on a mule. Some of the ladies would come out and look at the chickens, saying how scrawny they were, shaking their heads, then offering about half the price that the chickens were worth. But when they saw that I was selling the fryers for fifty cents to others, they would begin to nudge up the price they had offered. I told a lady once that she was being foolish trying to bring down the price. She wanted to know why I thought she was being foolish. I told her that she could have had her choice of the chickens when I had a mule load, but she waited until I had only two chickens left. She handed me a dollar and said, “I’ll take’em both.” But in the fall of the year when apples get ripe, the people in the camp went crazy for apples.”

“We had no apples to sell. Our orchard produced what apples we used and a few to give to neighbors, but Lewis Smith had a large orchard on his farm on Troublesome Creek just a half mile below Dwarf. He came into possession of a Ford Model A pick-up truck and used it servicing his orchard with various sprays that he used to control pests. He also used it to transport apples into Hardburly every fall when apples got ripe. We would load this truck with bushel baskets of apples and drive across the hill to Duane, turn left at the junction in Duane and proceed the three miles or so to Hardburly. This is county road 1146 now, from Duane to Hardburly, but in those days, I don’t think it had a number. We called it Hardburly Road. It was a bit rough driving but by being careful we could negotiate it easily enough. Steering around the chuck holes in the road and crossing the railroad several times, we finally came into the main street of the camp. We usually drove up the hill first to where Lewis knew some folks that had asked him to bring apples. Sometimes we would sell the whole truckload without moving the truck from that spot. Sometimes we would have to move around to another hill and enter another road up a hill. But I don’t remember ever bringing apples back when we went into Hardburly.” 

“This is how we did things back then. It may not have been the best way, and God knows it was not the easiest way, but it was our way. We saw a need and filled it, and that is what business is all about today, filling a need, and making a profit in the bargain.”

Ellis Fugate

I want to thank Mr. Fugate again for his words. Taking his knowledge of this area and time in the world is great, for two reasons. The first is what he saw, heard, and otherwise experienced about Hardburly, Kentucky. A picture of what the area was like circa 1940 is given by someone who witnessed it firsthand. Accounts like these are important and should be written down and shared.

The second reason is the way we are able to get glimpses of how Mr. Fugate perceived what he saw and heard. Giving his real-life experiences of Hardburly gives us a personal feel from someone who has lived and been shaped by these mountains. The same type of place found all over eastern Kentucky. Mr. Fugate’s account is important because it is written from a mind molded by this region. It shows a part of who we are, and it shows some of those intangible attributes special to this place. That is heritage.  If you are from this area, you should value our heritage, and if you are not, it is well worth the knowing.

 The research I sought for this piece was tough. There was not a lot I could find about the coal camps, or the folks that lived there. I invite all of you who read this to share a memory of Hardburly, if you’ve been there, lived there, raised a family, or simply know some history of the area. To better understand where our communities are going, it’s important to understand where we came from. Hardburly is such an important and interesting piece of Perry County History, and needs to be preserved and appreciated.



In Response To “Friends with Kids.”

After reading all the harsh comments, hate mail, and general nastiness I’ve received since penning the friends with kids article, I thought it appropriate to address some of the things that are being said, not only about me, but about Mothers in general, flaky friends, and of course, women who choose not to have kids.

First off, my purpose of writing this article was certainly not to offend anyone, strike up any form of debate, or make any station of female life seem inferior or superior to the other. I think ALL women are beautiful, smart, and wonderful, no matter if they have 10 kids or none. I simply write about the things that I know about firsthand, which just happens to be having kids. I only wanted to illustrate my journey in regards to friendship and having kids. This was my opinion and only mine. I count those that stayed with my through all the muck as my true friends, and just wanted to celebrate them, and how amazing they’ve been to me.

I am a stay at home Mother, living in a very small town in Eastern Kentucky, and the response and exposure I’ve received in writing this post have been overwhelming. Some has been positive, and some has been negative. I penned the post as a way to thank to my friends for being with me, despite the fact that I have (sadly) put them on the back-burner of my life for now. I wrote it to bring attention to how wonderful, understanding, loving and above all forgiving they are for putting up with the missed plans, the unanswered calls, my chaotic life, and the distance. I wanted to show how much I love them and admire them. I wanted to say “thanks, guys, for realizing that I’m not a shitty friend on purpose, I just have two little people who completely depend on me for everything right now, and I’m focused on them.” I also never claimed to be winning any “friend of the year” awards. My friends also have the good sense to know that my kids NEED me. I know that I should go out of my way to keep up my friendships, but I’m not the only one who is busy.They aren’t sitting at home twiddling their thumbs. They have lives, marriages, careers and dreams. I’m just lucky that they love and understand me enough to know how much I adore them all.

There was no intent to make my life seem busier or more important than the lives of my friends who do not have kids. I’m not naive enough to think that my amazing group of ladies are inferior to me just because I have kids and they do not. They have careers, they are spending their time teaching, administrating, helping people, going out into the world and making their marks. I do it too, but in my own way and through my kids. Their purpose is different than mine, but neither is more important than the other. For all the women out there, who’ve read this and feel that I’ve put myself and other mothers on a pedestal for simply being “mothers”, you misunderstood me, and for that I sincerely apologize. I think that a it’s a woman’s place and right to do whatever the hell she wants to do. Whether it be busting balls in your career of choice, having tens kids and staying home, or traveling the world. Woman have no boundaries in this world, and that’s a great thing. Nobody out there says that a woman can’t have it all.

Last, I certainly was not asking for any sympathy in writing this. I love my life, my kids, my role as a wife and mother. While some people may not want or agree with what I am, it’s just what I am. All of these things I’ve chosen for myself, and have no regrets. I also think that if a woman chooses to have no children, that’s fine too! Like I said before, it’s all about choices and preference. What’s right for one person may not be right for another. But honestly, if you know that this a “mom blog” and that you might not have a lot in common with me, why do you even come here to read it? Far less take the time to write some rude and awful comment about me, or certain roles that women have. If I disagree with someone, I certainly will not take the time to write an unnecessary response to a blog. Isn’t it hard enough just being a “woman” without all the name calling, job bashing and pitting one against the other? In my opinion, we should all stick together, regardless, and lift each other up instead of tearing each other down.

So, I’m not sure when this article became a thread for debate, but somewhere along the road of good intentions it’s blown into something that I really do not like. I do not appreciate everyone bashing each other. I do not appreciate bashing friendships that people know nothing about. My site is not a forum for you to unload your bitterness. If you think that, please, just hop on off tbsm and go somewhere else. Here, we enjoy and celebrate women of every walk of life, and even though I, or others may not understand the world, or all the people in it, it’s not for me or anyone else to sit on any kind of high horse.

There you have it, my thoughts on it all. I apologize to those I’ve offended, I beg those who have misunderstood my intentions to re-read and try to see it through my eyes, and I thank all of you who have read and shared, or sent me encouraging words. I think everyone could learn something from the definition of the word empathy. I wish you all a wonderful day in the lives of whatever paths you choose, and hopefully in reading this, you like me a little more, or in the least, try to understand where I’m coming from.

-Courtney, TBSM



Winter Weather Must Haves

I have always had really sensitive skin. It has taken me years to come to terms with the fact that I just can’t use some things because they will inevitably break me out. I’ve finally gotten my skin regiment down to a T, and I wanted to share the products that work for me, especially the ones that save my face in the winter time.

Clinique’s brand is built on being dermatologist developed and skin friendly. I can honestly say their moisturizers and serums, along with their makeup are the only ones I have ever been able to use. The makeup and products aren’t cheap, but since they work for me, I allow myself to splurge on them. Again, I’m no expert, dermatologist, or makeup artist, but I wanted to share this for my friends who may have trouble with their sensitive skin, and need to find a way to remedy their face in this nasty weather.

Foaming Cleanser: My favorite gentle cleanser. It lasts a long time because you only need a tiny, tiny bit and it will take off the world. Plus, there is no drying out, and it makes your skin feel really hydrated after you use it. I love it, and use it religiously.

Pore Refining Solution: I received this in a gift bag a few years ago and I loved it. I have large pores, and I hate them, and this serum really helped to minimize their appearance, and aided in helping with my breakouts. I use this stuff as a primer for my foundation (when I do wear makeup) and it helps my makeup go on so smooth, and keeps it in place.

Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel– This stuff is my every day moisturizer. I use it a couple times a day, if I’m not wearing my makeup.

Repair-wear Intensive Night Cream– I make sure to put this stuff on at night because it helps with wrinkles, and you wake up with super smooth and super hydrated skin in the morning. The cream helps rebuild your natural supply of collagen, so it helps to minimize the appearance of fine lines, and also corrects skin tone.

Moisture Surge Intense– I love this stuff for when you have really dry skin, or if you get chapped from the cold. It’s always really great to wear at night and a cheaper alternative to some of the other moisturizers and serums, with equal results.

I hope you guys will find this post useful. Stay safe, and warm in this crappy weather.



Books for The Southern Lady.


Since we are all snowed in, I wanted to share some of my favorite books! I hope that you are all keeping warm in Snomageddin, and not going too stir crazy!

1: Gods in Alabama-Joshilyn Jackson

“There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel’s, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus.”

2: The Secret Life of Bees-Sue Monk Kidd

“There’s nothing like a song about lost love to remind you how everything precious can slip from the hinges where you’ve hung it so careful.”

3: Boys in Trucks- Katie Crouch

““I wish I were the graceful sort. I was trained to be. “Never chase men or buses,” my mother told me. “Another one will always come along.” Still, I always run after the subway, and when men go, I follow.”

4: What Southern Women Know (that every woman should).- Ronda Rich

“It is cynical to say never trust anyone, but it is realistic to say rarely trust completely.”

5:Bless your heart, Tramp: and other Southern Endearments.- Celia Rivenbark

“Never marry something until you’ve established the perfect pizza ratio…The premise is simple. My husband and I knew we were made for each other because we’re a 6:2 ratio, six slices for him and two for me…Never marry a man who wants two slices one week and four the next. They’re undependable and highly unpredictable and will likely dump you for some Internet honey who says she doesn’t mind his back hair.”

6:We’re just like You, only Prettier: Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Bell-Celia Rivenbark

“To the newcomer to the south, hearing that a coworker plans a weekend visit to ‘mama and them’s’ (the correct plural possessive, don’tchaknow), might make him think that mama has been left alone either throught an act of scoundreldom involving the town’s resident hoochie-mama (an altogether different kind of mama) or Daddy’s untimely demise.”

7: Fried Green Tomatos at the Whistle Stop Cafe-Fannie Flagg

“Face it girls. I’m older and I have more insurance.”

8: Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen.- Susan Gregg Gilmore

“Remember guls,” preached Mrs. Gulbenk, always holding the most perfect red tomato in her hand for all of us to admire, “you can fry ’em, bake ’em, stew ’em, and congeal ’em. A good wife and mutha will always have a tomata on hand.:”

9: Steel Magnolias-Robert Harling

“Louie brought his new girlfriend over, and the nicest thing I can say about her is all her tattoos are spelled correctly.”




Through the Looking Glass. My Children are Growing Up.

Last week my eldest son turned three. I had been anticipating the day for a while. I had thought of what kind of cake to get, what time to wake him up singing Happy Birthday, and I had to be sure to take him to all his favorite places that day. My heart was broken when he told me he wanted a “big boy bed” for his present, and even more broken when we moved his Mickey Mouse toddler bed out and his new full sized grown up bed in. When he spent his first night sleeping in it, without a tear or even a call for Mommy, I was awake all night and let my heart sink all the way to floor. He needs me less and less everyday. This thought has weighed so heavy on me, and continues to. How should I feel about my babies getting older? I am not sure that any Mom really has the answer.

Everyone always told me to enjoy the “baby” time you have with your children. I was always reminded that it goes by so quickly. Time never felt like it was going by fast for me. When Greyson was a baby, I felt constantly in a fog of exhaustion and uncertainty. I always was worried about whether or not I was doing the right things, saying the right things, and teaching the right things. I found so much happiness in watching him grow, and learn, and reach those precious milestones. Before I knew it, he was turning one and walking, and talking and then gone went the diapers, and now, he’s three. Where did all the time go? Where did two go? Where did one go? It all passed me up before I knew it had even began.

I’ve had a week to sit and process Grey’s birthday. I watched him open presents,blow his candles out, and eat his pizza. His little face is no longer the face of a baby, but that of a little boy. I realized it the night we brought his cake out, and I was devastated. He really is growing up, I thought. I knew that this would happen, but in my mind, he was frozen as a newborn. When he puffed his candles out last week, he blew out the light of being a baby, and brought in the era of being a boy. I left his party heartbroken, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t go home and cry in the bathroom.

I have never counted myself as a person with a tender-heart. I’m no sap, and I face life head on and see things mostly for what they are, but when it comes to my children, I’ve been naive. I’ve kept them as babies in my heart and thought they would never grow up. There’s always more time. That was my thought. It was almost as if I thought I was keeping them in a glass bubble compatible to Neverland, where they’d never age and I could keep them forever. Last Friday, as I watched my oldest speak in full conversation, blow out his candles and take his place at the table as a capable, tiny, person, I knew that I had been unfair to them, and to myself. I know people think I am being silly, that three is still so little, and there is still so much time to enjoy them being children and all that is true. But this is the point where I have realized that my babies aren’t always going to be babies. Things are changing, always, and it’s really sad and hard. It’s cliche and all you Mommy-bashers out there that like to frequent my blog (and write mean comments) will roll your eyes, but I really do wish I could freeze time.

After dwelling on this, and feeling positively miserable about it, I’ve started a new chapter in my life. I’ve realized how much time can get away from you and I am determined not to waste a second of seeing and enjoying my children growing up. I’ve took it for granted a little too much up until this point, but not anymore. I’ve complained about nearing insanity in staying home with them. I’ve chosen housework over playing. I’ve not been the best Mother I could possibly be, because in my mind, there’s always tomorrow, or the next day.  I’ll let the housework go a little longer to help them finger paint, or take them to park more often. I’ll make sure to take them places and let them see and experience new things, especially before they are off to school and our time together is limited. I do not want to be the Mom that wakes up one morning and her kids are off to college and she’s left wondering what happened?

Seeing my kids grow has been so rewarding. Watching them learn and get strong, and see who they are turning out to be has changed me in so many ways. I love watching them, and am so proud of being their Mom. I know that I have many years left to enjoy them, (God willing) and I know I am lucky that they are happy and healthy. I’m told it will never get easier, seeing them grow up and watching as their need for me grows thinner and thinner. I am determined to cherish them now, small and innocent and completely reliant on me, and only me. Sometimes, it takes a wake up call to get us to see the beauty of the wonderful mess that Motherhood truly is.




Eat at Pat’s. Manchester’s Historic Burger Joint.


Pat’s Lounge is one of my all time favorite burger joints. Whenever I am in the Clay County area, I always stop for a plain cheeseburger with Grippos. There is just something special about the atmosphere and down-home feel of this unique, and historic little restaurant.

My Dad is a Clay County native, born and raised in Sexton’s Creek. When I was a little girl, he always stopped on the way to the farm and would take me inside to Pat’s and show me off. I always enjoyed it, and those memories have stuck with me. I believe if you ask anyone from Clay County, they have a story to tell that involves this famous little place.

Founded during WWII by Pat House, who was also one of Clay County’s first basketball stars, Pat’s was a quick growing institution. By all accounts, House, was very particular about the meats he bought and the food that was served in his restaurant. My Dad always referred to the place as “Pat’s Pool Room” because that’s what it was. Rough around the edges, you’d always see groups of men playing games of pool, complete with plumes of cigarette smoke billowing and plenty of rough language.

Today, the place has been remodeled, and when I went in a few months ago, it was almost unrecognizable in comparison to the Pat’s I knew when I was young. No more plumes of cigarette smoke, or raunchy games of pool. They do have big screen televisions to watch ballgames, and since Manchester is wet now, you can enjoy a beer with your burger, which is always a plus. You can also purchase an authentic Pat’s tee shirt which reads, “Pat’s Burgers. Nobody beats our meat.” Hilarious.

If you are ever in Manchester and would like to stop and soak in some local history and get an amazing burger, Pat’s is your place. I promise you are not going to leave disappointed. Be sure to get the Grippos with the burger though, it makes all the difference.


For a more in depth description and history of Pat’s, hop on over to the “Eat Kentucky” blog and see what writer Alan Cornett has to say. He is also a Clay County native, with plenty of Pat’s lore and history.