Saturday, November 27, 2010

Daddy Speaks Out

My family has lived in the Dug Gap community for over 70 years. My father grew up on the family farm. Years later, my grandparents deeded an acre apiece to my father and his sister. They both built houses in the '50's. My uncle also got an acre of ground to build his house on in the '80's. My aunt and uncle moved away but my father has always lived there. Daddy knows a lot about the community.

One time  my mother was driving home from town down Dug Gap Road when a limb broke out of a big tree growing on the side of the road, smashing her windshield on the car. She asked the people who owned the house if they had homeowners insurance to cover the broken windshield.  The homeowners  claimed that it was on the right-of-way and it was the county's responsibility. They contacted the county but they said that they didn't own the right of way. Daddy and Moma went to the courthouse to check the records and find out if the county owned the right-of-way. The county didn't own the right-of-way so they weren't able to get them to fix Moma's car.

Fast forward a few years later when the county was widening the road down Dug Gap. They were taking about a foot or so of everyone's property on each side of the road and paving it. Daddy said they were going to have to pay him if they wanted to pave beside the road because it was illegal  to take people's property without paying compensation.

When they got to his property, he went outside to tell them that they couldn't widen the road at his property unless they paid him for it. The road crew called their supervisors and they came to talk to Daddy. They got the commissioners to come down and tell him that they owned the right-of-way. He told them that he knew for a fact that the county didn't own the right-of-way and he wasn't going to allow them to pave the shoulder of the road unless they paid for it. The commissioners said that they would bring proof to show Daddy that he was wrong. They left Daddy standing at the driveway to make sure nobody started paving while they were gone.

Everybody in the family went inside talking about the excitement and wondering what would happen next. It didn't take long to find out.

Instead of the commissioners coming back with proof that the county owned the right-of-way, a deputy sheriff came down the road and stopped in the road in front of the house. He told Daddy that he didn't have a right to stop the road crew from paving the road and he was wasting their valuable time. Daddy told him that the commissioners were coming back soon to tell him if they had the right-of-way to Dug Gap Road. The deputy told Daddy that if he didn't stop obstructing their job he would arrest him.

Daddy told the deputy that he was on his own property and the sheriff  couldn't arrest him because he wasn't breaking any laws. The deputy grabbed Daddy and yanked him into the road and said, "You're not on your property now, are you?", then  he punched him in the side near his kidneys with the end of his billy stick. It made Daddy double over in pain. Daddy had been suffering with prostate problems when the sheriff's deputy punched him. He had been under a doctor's care because of his prostate gland. Being jerked around by handcuffs and hit in the side didn't help.

The deputy  forced Daddy into the back of  the sheriff's car and took him to jail. One of our neighbor's saw Daddy get arrested and told the family that Daddy had been arrested.

I was pregnant at the time. When I went outside and saw that the commissioners had returned I went up to them and started yelling at them and telling them what a bunch of cowards they were to call the sheriff on my Daddy and that they were a bunch of crooks and liars. One of the commissioners said they thought Mr. Burchfield's "wife" was going to go in labor because I was so upset. The dumbass wasn't even listening when I was cussing them and telling them how sorry I thought they were for having my Daddy arrested. No wonder they wouldn't listen to my Daddy. Daddy's no dummy. He knows an awful lot about local law and things going on in the community. He was right about the law and the right-of-way..

Moma found out that Daddy had been arrested so she got off work and went to arrange Daddy's bail. She got PawPaw to go with her to help get him out of jail. The road crew worked hard to pave that strip of land and get out of there before Daddy got out of jail.

Daddy is not one to sit and let people walk all over him. He contacted a lawyer. Actually, he contacted a lot of lawyers. He found out that no lawyer in Dalton would take his case, even though he had proof that he was right about the right-of-way and the unlawful arrest. It took him a while until he was finally able to find someone to take his case.

In the meantime the road department came back down the road widening the bridges on Dug Gap Road. Moma was at home that day. She went outside and told the workers they didn't have the right to widen the bridge on our side of the road and that she and Daddy were in the process of sueing the county and if they paved the bridge on our side of the road she would just sue them, too. The road crew called their supervisor and he told them to leave that bridge alone. The bridge at my parents house still isn't paved today.

It took years before the case went to court. Both of my boys were big by the time the case went to court. Daddy won his case and was paid a settlement.

Another time Moma and Daddy befriended some neighbors who were old maids. Moma had asked them if she could have some of their pecans. After getting to know the ladies, Moma and Daddy felt sorry for them because they all seemed helpless. Their yard was overgrown and their bushes needed trimmed. Daddy went to one of the churchs at Dug Gap and told them that some old ladies who lived in the neighborhood needed some help to get their yard cleaned up. He asked the preacher if he would get some young people together to clean up the old ladies yard. He said that the preacher asked what church they went to. Daddy said he didn't know what church they went to but they needed help and he was asking for it. He promised to get back to him. Nobody from the church ever showed up to help. Moma and Daddy ended up taking their trailer up there and cut down three huge loads of limbs and brush. They hauled it all down to their house and burned it.

Years later, when the electric company wanted to put huge power poles down a small section of Dug Gap Road, everybody in the neighborhood wanted to stop them. People got together trying to get the electric company to use another less invasive route. Daddy and Moma went to meetings to discuss the gigantic metal power poles being proposed. Daddy and other members of the community went around talking to people about the power poles. He even asked one of the pastors from another church for their support in stopping the electric company from putting huge power poles through that part of Dug Gap. Instead of supporting him, they told the electric company that it would be okay with them if they wanted to put the poles on their church property.

When people in the neighborhood found out that the only ones to get any money from the electric company would be the actual people who owned the property that the poles would be placed on everyone lost interest. Never mind the fact that Dug Gap looks hideous with those monstrous metal power poles running through a short section of Dug Gap. It seems that the only way people care about anything is if money is involved.

Daddy has a huge 142 foot metal power pole in the front yard between his house and his neighbor's house. I've learned to ignore it but it is HUGE. And so unnecessary. They could have run the line from Highway 41 through the woods and by the Ryman Farm and subdivision. There are already electric lines that run across that section of Dug Gap Road from Highway 41. It would have been able to go directly to the Valley Point power station by that route along Highway 41. I think the commissioners and the electric company probably chose the route they did to make sure to put a huge ugly power pole in Daddy's front yard. But that's just my theory.

There are a lot of churches in the Dug Gap community. When the Muslim's bought some property in Dug Gap, the community banned together in opposition of a mosque. Daddy went to those meetings, too.

When Daddy was allowed to speak he told everyone in the meeting about asking one church for help in blocking the power lines through Dug Gap and how they hadn't helped. He also told about asking another church to help the elderly ladies in the community. Then he told about one church that had purchased land to build their church on and how they had desecrated a graveyard. He offered to talk to anyone after the meeting if they wanted more details.

The preacher from that church caught up with him after the meeting and told him that he had no right to say things like that about his church. He said they hadn't bulldozed any graves. Daddy told him that he was a liar. He told the preacher that he was going to town one day and saw that the church was bulldozing the land all around the graves. When he came back from town the dirt had been graded down and there wasn't a sign of the graves.

The preacher said, oh well, there weren't any bones and so they didn't desecrate any graves. The preacher also said that someone had told him it would be alright to level the graves. Daddy said he had probably been talking to Quinton Babb and he didn't even own the property so he had no right telling them that they could flatten the graves.

People had used the excuse that the mosque would bring in too much traffic down Dug Gap so Daddy told about all the churches that had been built over the years. One church had been built recently and was adjascent to the property owned by the Muslims. He said that, so far, the churches in the community hadn't done a thing to help him but, he felt, if he asked the Muslims for help they would probably be more accommodating than some people in the neighborhood. He also said that since they didn't meet like the churches in the community they probably wouldn't attract any more traffic than the other churches. Daddy said that he thought the Muslims had as much right to build their church in Dug Gap as all the other churches. The mosque was built but not everyone was happy. The property has been vandalized.

My father is one of those rare American's who believe in standing up for the things that he believes are right and he isn't afraid to stand up to local government or big business or community discord. He inspires me.



  1. I love hearing this story too. I see some of Roy in Scout. I can't believe the cop punched Roy, I must have missed that the other times I've heared this. That's terrible. I hate those power poles too. Just an eye sore. It's too bad no one else was brave enough to stand up for their rights. It is very inspiring. Love all yall!

  2. Stubborn Burchfield blood runs strong! Tom knows to back off when I get riled up. It takes a lot, but if I see someone taking advantage of others, I see red. Then they better watch out!

    ~ Melody

  3. Sounds like life in Dug Gap is a soap opera!

  4. That was a wonderful and incredible story, and Roy and Jude haven't changed one bit. I have seen their incredible spirit, and I've seen it from Paw Paw and Beulah too! What a great story! Love, Susan


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