Missing Horses and Killer Skillets

As Bill and I scan the hills for Major the Horse, he tells a cast-iron tale on why you should never cross a pissed-off, kitchen-armed hillbilly woman. | A reprint from TheHartoftheMatter.substack.com

Bill is not at the moment seen here seeking Major the Horse. But he shortly will be out in the nearby foothills. | december2023 | thehartofthematter photo

EDITOR’S NOTE: WestVirginiaVille.com has been on an extended hiatus as I attend to other projects. The magazine will continue in that state, but, meanwhile, I wish to occasionally post West Virginia-related features from my other work. Just so you know we are still here, fighting the good fight and continuing to share tales and lives worth lifting up into view in this “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma’ — which is a far better way to capture the state of mind that is the state of West Virginia than the cliches and hackneyed stereotypes afflicting the place and its people. TheHARToftheMATTER is a site and newsletter devoted to the life & times of Bill Hart, one of the topmost interesting human beings I know. He is a sharp-minded, master instrument craftsman, horse whisperer and Lettuce Master who lives way back up in the Appalachian hills, yet who was born in Naples to a key Naval commander in the Vietnam War. And therein lies a tale. Many tales, actually, plus some entertaining videos, as you will see below. See some of them and free subscribe at this link to read more. This is a reprint of the site’s december17.2023 post.

words & photos by douglas john imbrogno

During a visit with my buddy Bill Hart in early december 2023, we went searching for Major the Horse, who is terrified of Porker the Pig. We wished to visit with Bill’s equine comrade up close and once again admire his dappled wonderfulness, while enjoying Major’s deep curiosity and intelligence. I daresay that Major has more horse-sense and self-awareness than more than a few human beings, especially those now tilting the current presidential polling in the direction of a horse’s …. um, posterior. We also wanted to serve Major midday canapés and nibbles: carrot fingerlings, a couple of bananas. And a delectable—to a horse—mortar of Morton Iodized Salt, extruded from its package and ready for licking.

But where was the smartest, dearest horse I have ever met? Had he been freaked into the deeper woods by Porker, his bête noire? The French phrase literally means ‘black beast,’ signifying a person or thing one particularly dislikes. But perhaps—given that Sir Porkloin is a classic, big-bellied representative of the Sus domesticus family—the phrase should in Major’s case be bête rose.

Pink beast.

Bill notes that horses and pigs go way back in their uneasy relationship and policy disputes. Hear all about in the video below, which is a two-fer from theHARToftheMATTER site and newsletter. It should be noted that Major has a habit of being late for snacks or being a no-show, except for when he wants to climb onto the porch to hang out with his humans.

While waiting on Major, Bill tells the neighborhood tale of a famous cast-iron frying pan — suitable for the whole family — used by a local woman to ward off Delford and his dangerous drinking bouts. And how the lady who brandished it upon Delford’s drunken noggin thought she had offed him. A neighbor lady had some counsel when her friend from the other side of the holler came over to confess: “I just killed Delford … What do we do?” You will have to watch the 5-minute video to find out what happens next because it is a tale with a twist. And not just Porker’s twisty tail. Bill, winding up his storytelling, concludes with some important counsel in this video:

“Gotta pay attention to these hillbilly women …”

As to the deployment of family-size iron skillets in one’s own defense?

“You’re in West Virginia, now,” he observes, sagely.

CLICK TO VIEW VIDEO : A production of TheStoryIsTheThing.com

You can also view the video at Youtube at: youtu.be/KsTB-KGb5Yk

VIDEO NOTE: The soundtrack features the melodic, full-length original composition “Freedom Ring VIP,” a fine piece by a talented electronic music composer, musician and DJ whose stage name is Lucas the Flow. I should note my bias since my wife and I birthed him into this realm. But he’s good. Very, very good and his music can be heard on small, but worthy labels in more than a few countries. Check out more of his tuneage at soundcloud.com/lucastheflow.

NOW, FOR A LOOK FROM BARK RAVEN | Click arrow to advance slideshow

One day, I will compile a clip reel of Bill’s dog, Bark Raven, seen in rapid motion — a ‘sizzle real,’ as actors, editors, videographers, and other creatives call it, featuring short clips sampling one’s best work. In Raven’s case, the sizzle real will showcase her joi de vivre. Though she can bark like a Hound Out of Hell if she doesn’t know you, she is one of those sweetheart companion animals who are a joy and pleasure to see again—once you are well sniffed and pass muster.

Her exuberance is certainly partly, if not largely, related to being given a second lease on life, courtesy of Bill, who nursed her wounded, bedraggled, emaciated doggie self back to health after she showed up on the road and in his yard more than a year ago. As it is, you can see how much she adores playing and running really fast in the ‘Lettuce Talk’ HARToftheMATTER newsletter of Oct. 24, 2023. I am not a misanthrope by nature and yet the wannabe-autocratic cancer of cruelty currently afflicting America’s body politic has me occasionally agreeing more than I may like with a bumper sticker I saw last week: ‘I LOVE MY DOG. THE REST OF YOU — NOT SO MUCH.’ It’s a funny line, but maybe ultimately a dangerous pose to consign ‘the rest of you’ to the outer darkness. That’s a lot of folks.

One thing is true, though. Happy dogs (and fuzzy cats, in my household) restore our faith in the worth of daily living. Maybe this is not a vale of tears, after all, if a Black Hound from Hell turns out, instead, to be a goofy lovepuppy of adorable energy who wants to nuzzle and lick your nose. ‘And, by the way, are you going to finish that hunk of warm buttered cornbread, huh?’


Speaking of cornbread, I have never left a day-long visit with Bill without sharing a stellar home-cooked meal or table snacks worth their munching (and suitable for a cheese snob). Since Mr. Hart is a top-shelf gardener and good cook, the freshness and tastiness of his pantry is high, indeed. On our most recent visit, he cut up the last vestiges of this summer’s yellow tomatoes, stewing them in a tasty pottage of beans. He matched the beans with dippable, real-meal cornbread which you may espy above. Before we scarfed it down, his loaf looked like it might well be close to the status of a perfect circle—which, if you’re looking for a formal definition, is: ‘A shape consisting of all the infinite points that are a distance r from a central point …’

At the very least, Bill is cornbead close.


One last image of three things from the dining room of Hartsylvania. 1) One plate of crackers and good white cheddar chunks. 2) Three of the final—now dried—sweet Hungarian peppers from his garden, which ended up chopped and redolent in that day’s mess of beans. 3) One SHUBB-brand, solid-stainless steel slide for playing resophonic and lap steel guitars—of which William has concocted, embellished or revised a few in his day. Among them is a masterpiece he recently fashioned from a forlorn, closet-abandoned classical guitar, which had sunk into depression from non-use—as closeted instruments do. It is now singing out and ready for its closeup. Story to come in a future newsletter. But what you see here in the photo below are some of the main food groups in Bill’s house:

Homegrown Stuff. Other Tasty Stuff. Musical Stuff.

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