My belated tribute to the Glenn brothers, four real hillbillies that I knew

A facsimile of the home where the Glenn brothers lived
A facsimile of the home where the Glenn brothers lived

Meet the Glenns

There was Simp, Curtis, Quillen, and Dovey. Four brothers. Four survivors, if you will, that lived in the backwoods of northwest Alabama near Hamilton, the county seat of Marion County.

This story is true. The graphics are as close to the real things as possible. None of this story is exaggerated or laden with any colorful-elaboration. In short, what you read is what it is. My respectful tribute to my cousins, the Glenn brothers.

Facsimile of Curt Glenn's "home made" home
Facsimile of Curt Glenn's "home made" home | Source

The Glenns were the "real deal"

Compared to the fictitious "Beverly Hillbillies," these guys were "the real deal," when it came to hillbilly living. Or hillbilly survival for none of these guys held down a public job, a traveling sales position or owned a produce stand. They lived off of their land which was over 30 acres of mostly timber, rocks, and dangerous wilderness area that no one had ever dared to explore.

All except these brothers who looked at danger as if it were a Sunday picnic. Not one of the four had boastful streak in them. They were just what they were. Nothing more. Nothing less. What they didn't know they left up to God.

Facsimile of the grist mill where the Glenn brothers ground corn into corn meal
Facsimile of the grist mill where the Glenn brothers ground corn into cornmeal

The grist mill

Words like amazing, heart-touching, and humble fit the Glenn's. It was amazing and mystifying (oh, yeah. There's the word I was looking for), how these guys survived without one day or formal education. Not one day. But it didn't look as if they missed anything, for if something needed fixing, they fixed it. And the grandest, most-secretive thing about them was: if someone needed help. They helped them. Even if it meant letting their gardens and corn go for a few days. Friends were top priority to the Glenn's besides the Lord.

That was how they lived when I first met them when I was eight. And this was how their parents and generations past lived. Somehow I think that the Lord just loved taking care of these modern-day members of Marion County folklore. They owned their own grist mill where they ground their own corn meal and for a small charge, they would grind corn for meal that anyone cared to bring to them. I know. My dad swore by their talents with a millstone.

This is how Quillen and Simp went to town once a week--a 30-mile trek round trip
This is how Quillen and Simp went to town once a week--a 30-mile trek round trip
The Glenn's kept their milk (from a cow) cool in a cold spring that they had on their land
The Glenn's kept their milk (from a cow) cool in a cold spring that they had on their land
Kerosene lamps were the source of light inside the Glenn's house
Kerosene lamps were the source of light inside the Glenn's house
This style of kerosene lamp were what the Glenn's used when traveling or hunting at night when they were young men
This style of kerosene lamp were what the Glenn's used when traveling or hunting at night when they were young men
Liberty overalls were the Glenn's clothing of choice--not just one day, but year round
Liberty overalls were the Glenn's clothing of choice--not just one day, but year round

A scary encounter with Dovey

I will never forget the first time the Glenn's came into my life. It was at night. My dad and mom took me with them to pay their respects to the Glenn brothers for a death in their family. I was nodding-off to sleep when dad drove up the long gravel road that hardly anyone used. By the time we arrived at their home, I was dead to the world fast asleep.

But when I awoke leaning on my mom, my first sight as Dovey, or as he was known, "Uncle Dovey," sitting in the light of a kerosene lamp. Anyone who has ever used a kerosene lamp will tell you that the flames will dance a rhythm all their own and they were dancing on Dovey's snow-white beard. His dark eyes were fixed on me. This was reason for alarm in my book.

When my mom settled me down, I could see a small hint of a smile on Dovey's lips as he saw something comical about my carrying-on about how scary he looked. And to a child of eight, he was scary, but gentle as a newborn lamb.

While Quillen and Simpson lived in the bigger of the two homes on their hillside, it was Curt who lived in a home all by himself. A house he built by himself out of layer after layer of cardboard and what few pieces of pine lumber and slabs he could find. Honestly, it was amazing how warm his house was with the small coal heater sitting in living room.

Curt was the joke spinner of the four. He loved to tell off-color jokes to anyone who would listen. He loved to hang-out (in today's slang) at Henry Stidham's country store where he entertained those who came by, drank a Coke or two and picked-up odd jobs like pulling corn, picking cotton and clearing a new ground of unwanted saplings that would be in a farmer's way for planting.

Still, Curt was gifted with "that" carefree spirit that only fits the hobo, the restless soul and the explorer. I always wondered why he didn't go where prosperity was seen on every street corner. But Curt, being the "country comedian," who also wore three wrist-watches on each wrist, "For looks," he would say, would be out of place where people didn't know him.

Have you ever know anyone in your life like the Glenn's?

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I sincerely apologize

to you, my valued-followers and friends, for not having the real photos of the Glenn brothers photos, homes, or things they used in their lives.

I suppose some things are not meant to be.

Kenneth

The Glenn's never-changing lives

Now as for Quillen and Simpson, or "Simp," as he was known, they made a weekly trek to Hamilton to get things that they couldn't grow on their land. Both men rode bicycles. Not your sleek and swift 10-speeds, but regular bicycles. They did this until both were up in years. Their ride was a good 30 miles round trip. But all in all, the Glenn brothers, Dovey incuded, were in all great shape and none of them were ever patients of our local hospital. Amazing.

In 1984, my good friend and fellow newswriter, Susan Cordell, wrote probably the best feature story on the Glenn brothers and how Simpson and Quillen were robbed one Sunday on their way to church on their bicycles, but a few days later, Ken Mays, another friend of mine, and his team from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, tracked the robbers to a motel in Huntsville, Alabama where Ken was said to have told his men, "you stay back. I want to arrest these low lifes for my buddies, Simp and Quillen." And he did.

Not too long from the news of their being robbed had reached all over our county, a wealthy benefactor, a philanthropist who had a column in the Birmingham News, heard of the Glenns' trouble and shipped Quillen and Simp two brand-new bicycles free of charge.

Everyone who knew the Glenn's loved them like family. They were just good folks.

And looking back to 1984, I remember enjoying the story that Susan wrote to such a point I vowed to myself that one day I would write my own tribute to these guys who touched my life in so many ways.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me the time to do it.

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Comments 4 comments

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 20 months ago from Central Florida

Wonderful tribute to four amazing brothers, Kenneth. I can't imagine riding a bicycle 30 miles to pick up goods. What strong men! Strong physically, but also in character.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 20 months ago

And thank you, Kenneth, for bringing the Glenn brothers in to our lives. This is such a beautiful story, I think, perhaps because Alabama hillbillies sound just like Ozark hillbillies. Your photo second from the top looks just like an old shack that a man built by a junkyard on the old highway 67 to Little Rock. He built it out of scrap wood and sheet tin that he collected from the junkyard and heated it with a wood stove, probably one he salvaged. He lived alone and made his living by recycyling and selling the junk that people dumped there. Voted up++ and shared


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 20 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama Author

Hello, bravewarrior,

Thank you, dear friend, for your sweet words. Yes, these guys were strong physically and in character. They would not pick up a dollar bill that was blowing on the ground. It wasn't theirs, they considered it stealing.

Strong moral character doesn't nearly describe them.

God bless you for commenting.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 20 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama Author

God bless you too . . .MizbeJabbers,

for your rich comment that pumped me up so much. I needed some kind words and you with bravewarrior accomplished this well.

I miss these guys a lot. I just wish that I had been privy to the real photos of these men. That would have made this better.

Thanks again.

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