Everyone has a list of "favorite people" they have known in life. One of mine is my uncle, J.W. Hylton, who became a father to me when my own father was killed in an accident on his job with the Norfolk & Western RR in Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1942, when I was four years old.
Uncle J.W. was a substitute mail carrier for Elmer Turman on RR3, Floyd, VA., in the 1940-50's. RR3 went up through the Laurel Branch community and around Will's Ridge, some tough roads in the winter back then. If I were not in school when J.W. was carrying the mail, I would ride with him. It would be common for people to meet the mail carrier at the box to get news from "town", or to ask about someone one the route who might be sick. Quite often he also carried a hand-written note on a brown paper bag to a neighbor for free. I loved to ride with J.W. on the mail route, and many was the time I had to help dig the car out of drifts, or push it from behind to get through a mudhole.
J.W. went to work for Doris Turman at the Floyd Gulf Station in the late 1940's. I would ride to town with him and Aunt Alpha, walk out to Woolwine & Sowers Drug Store, and help them build a fire in the potbellied stove, or sweep up, or chip ice....anything that needed to be done...until time to walk out the street to the Elementary School. Mr. Turman later decided to add a tire recaping service at his station, and J.W. became the recaper. Later he trained James Weeks, and they ran a tire route through Floyd, Franklin, and Patrick counties, picking up and delivering tires to small country stores.
J.W. was very good with woodworking, and his specialty was making gun stocks out of raw blocks of wood. Through this, and his other gunsmithing abilities, he became good friends with Dr. William Hetric, who ran a clinic in Floyd for several years. Dr. Hetric would often come over to our farms to target practice, or go goundhog hunting....it was his way of relaxing. During this time, Dr. Hetric saw firsthand my problems with asthma attacks, and it was he who cured me.
J.W. made a deal with Dr. Cundiff, the dentist, to have his teeth pulled and dentures made for a certain price. It was agreed that J.W. would not pay the bill until he picked up his dentures. Dr. Cundiff pulled the teeth and made the dentures, but J.W. never went to pick them up. He lived the majority of his life with no teeth, and he was able to eat anything he wanted to without them. Dr. Cundiff never asked for his money, and he kept the teeth put away in a drawer until he retired.
J.W. Hylton died April 8, 1988, and is buried in the Laurel Branch Cemetery, Floyd County, Virginia.