In a short time he had a fire in a fireplace in the adjoining room. I sat as near the fire as I could stand the heat and my clothes steamed so that I had to move back occasionally, the heat being too fiery. They had me to supper with them and after that I sat before the fire until nine o’clock when he said would retire as he wanted to be up early in the morning to do some ploughing. He gave me bed in adjourning room it was awfully cold, having become colder after the storm. My underclothes were still damp and the night seemed about to freeze me. Was afraid I would have pneumonia before morning but fortunately my coat saved my undershirt some and my chest was protected from dampness. I could not remember when I fell asleep but at 6 o’clock in the morning he awakened me. It was no wonder that I was cold during the night as he informed me there had been a heavy frost and the early corn and vegetables ruined. Asked me if I was cold during the night saying they had divided the covers and all of them were cold. They gave me breakfast and had me sit by the fire until 8 o’clock when I said I would be moving on thanking him greatly for their hospitality.
The sky was grey and threatening and the air quite cold. After going some distance I came to a tunnel it gave me shock to think what might have happened had I not found shelter at that cabin.There was a curve in the tunnel and I could not see daylight ahead so had to take a chance to get though before a train came be which would necessitate my lying in the depression at the side of the tracks, possibly in water, as I could not get back before a train would overtake me. Fortunately I made the grade, saw day light ahead and a clear track. Not long after a engine and car passed by which appeared to be a pary on an inspection trip. About this time it began to snow and for about an hour, melting on touching the ground.
I plodded along through an uninteresting landscape until at noon came to a town which looked as if it might be an entrance to an inferno. A grey sky and over the tow a ball of yellow smoke over it, and smoke stacks belching forth fire and smoke and gases which permeated every where. A cement town – Kingsport, Tennessee. May I be saved from ever entering another on such a day – an atmosphere too heavy to allow any foul exhortations to rise. Save the aviator who may get tangled such a pocket. I was still cloudy and cold on leaving Kingsport, but in about an hour it cleared and was warm enough to entirely dry my clothes and I felt as if had come clear of wearing damp clothing,.
In frosty weather for well nigh 24 hours. Along in the afternoon I crossed the boundary line between Tennessee and toward evening reached Gate City, Va. I had gone since breakfast without food and it came to the point where I must beg for food as there seemed no chance of getting any work in this territory except possibly the hardest kind of labor which I did not feel myself capable, noting the husky man engaged in such work. Besides it did not seem as if I had any knowledge of work, my hands and muscles being too soft for labor and yet not adapted for anything in particular. I had no hesitancy in asking for “a little something to eat” except waiting for a hunch as to when best to attain it. My first attempt was a success, quite a good dish of food handed me on the back steps of a cottage, the woman appearing to take pleasure in the giving me food and talking to me about my day tramp. From then on I did not do any indiscriminating begging but followed my “hunch” and it seldom failed a few of which will follow later. After leaving this house came the question of sleeping quarters for the night but I could not bring myself to asking anyone to give me lodging for the night and just before dusk coming by an unoccupied hut and no one in sight I tried the door, but found it locked and going to the rear brought the same result. There was a ruined cellar door which had no catch and opening the door saw no steps but a slanting earth entrance to the cellar slipper and moist and working my way down with some difficulty reached the floor to find the ceiling so low it was necessary to stoop slightly. There was still light sufficient to find the stairways leading upstairs. Returning and closing the cellar door, lightning a match I went to the cellar steps and cautiously worked my way fearing they might go down under my weight but beyond some creaking and loose boards they were safe and the door to the upper room very likely the kitchen and light streamed through the cracks in the shutters sufficient to see by. There were a couple other small rooms entirely empty but as the wind was from the front and the kitchen floor dray that was my resting place. It had been getting colder. Lightning my pipe I sat against the wall for probably a couple hours shivering with the cold but as my clothes were entirely dry did not fear any effect from the weather. Feeling rather sleepy, I laid myself on the floor with my arm for a pillow and slept but not for long. The cold cramped my arm and legs and it was turn and turn throughout the night with occassionally snatches of sleep. Naturally, i was a awake at the day break, glad to see the light and at once returned to the outside by the way I entered as it seemed to me it would not be right to open the door of the house and leave it unlocked.
to be continued..