The Ginseng Man’s Bus House

Raymond:Minkbus #1My Great Uncle, Raymond Pruitt wore numerous hats and was dubbed with many names: Beekeeper, Naturalist, Pap, Daddy, Preacher, Whiskey Maker, Bible Scholar, Farmer, Backwoodsman, Hunter, Eccentric, Trapper, Herb Digger, and the man who built his house around a city bus.

 

My first memories of Uncle Raymond date back to the early 60’s when I was a young tyke. My daddy loved to go home to his roots in the Friendship Community of Surry County and visit with his Uncle Raymond. We’d pull up in front of the old homeplace and there Uncle Raymond would be with his wife Novella, and son Joseph who never married. It was rare when the yard wasn’t sitting full of people, for Uncle Raymond loved to share his insight and wisdom with others.  But you might as well not ask him the location of his many patches of ginseng because he never shared that information.

 

Many a morning before daylight my daddy would pick up his Uncle and take him up into the mountains. Daddy would leave him there until late evening and then he’d go and get him. Uncle Raymond had been digging ginseng all day. He sold the ginseng for profit, made medicine out of it and chewed on the roots religiously. In one of Bob Pate’s oral histories he quoted Uncle Raymond to say, “They say it’ll (ginseng) make you hug the women. I hug them pretty good – especially the good looking ones.” Uncle Raymond lived a full life up until a couple of years before his death at age 102. That ginseng must be good stuff.

 

Sometimes Uncle Ed would wonder up from Grandma Ida’s place and sit with us under the shade trees. Uncle Ed was known for his story telling. I don’t remember a lot about him but my cousin Grace often shares tales that were passed around from way back when. The Pruitt side of my family has always intrigued me. Not only because my Grandma, Verlie Pruitt Martin and I were very close, but because “we” Pruitt’s are just sort of different. I’m proud of my heritage. I believe my love of nature and story telling came from Pruitt blood.

 

The other day my cousin Grace called me and said, “Guess what? I have some good news. Daddy’s bus is sitting up at the old Wolfe Brothers building. They’re going to redo it and put it on display.” Then she proceeded to tell me about the bus that I remembered so well. “That old bus used to pick people up and take them to work at Chatham. It traveled all around Elkin and even over into Arlington.”

 

My cousin was so excited. She said her brother Junior had donated the bus back to the Town of Elkin. You might ask why did a man build a house around a bus? I don’t remember all there is to know about the why and why not’s of the reason Uncle Raymond did that, I suppose the eccentric part of his brain kicked in.

 

This post is dedicated to my Uncle, Raymond Joe Pruitt, July 19, 1902 – March 9, 2004, and the old Elkin City Bus. May the memories of him and his unique presence live on.

 

 

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