Adus F. Dorsey II
It is never out of my way to take a drive down Sandy Lane through the old Wayne County town site of Thurber, it is like slipping back to a simpler time in life when it wasn’t uncommon to see someone casually leaning on a shovel or plowing their fields with a horse, a time when supper came out from the garden not a can.
Through his vivid stories Bliss Brinkerhoff brought Thurber back to life, to hear Bliss share his memories about Thurber was like a living history lesson.
“Just south of that was the Willard Brinkerhoff farm, down across the fence over there was the Dee Brinkerhoff place. Willard, George and Lee Brinkerhoff were brothers and they came here from down around Circleville. Willard’s wife was sister to George Durfey, a daughter of Alma Durfey.” On and on Bliss would go, listening to Bliss was like listening to someone read a passage from the Bible and hearing him preach about Thurber was like sitting in Sunday School. When I had the chance to listen to Bliss I was mesmerized and didn’t dare flinch or take my eyes off of him for fear of missing something important that he might have to say.
What you could hear in Bliss’s fatherly voice was total respect for everyone that he knew or didn’t know. Ask anyone that had been on a Scout outing with Bliss troop and they will tell you that Bliss was a true Saint, a Saint that snored louder than anyone they ever heard.
A favorite one of Bliss’ stories that I heard many times was the one about when he went to the show house in town to see the movie Frankenstein, to hear Bliss slowly explain it would surely send chills up your spine.
Bliss remembered a time when he was young and there was a (silent) movie playing in town that he really wanted to go see with his friends Carl and Cula Taft. (Movies only came to town about three times a years so it was a really big deal.) His Mother Myrtle told him it would be all right but he would have to walk the mile and half to town to watch the show.
“So these three young kids go to see this show about these sharp scientists that wanted to make a man and they made him six or seven feet tall and he had big bones and a square head. We went to see that show and being and at that age it was quite a time. Them scientists got to building that old grizzly fellar and they got him all built but they had forgot about a brain so they scratched their heads and looked around then said there is a place down the street that has some criminal brains, lets go get one of them and put it in him. So they goes and gets this criminal brain and puts in him and sews his head up. There we were these 8 / 10 year old kids there a looking at all this a going on with big eyes, and then they goose him with some electricity of some kind and he started to shake and blinking his eyes and looking over to these fellars. It is a picture show still as clear in my mind as the day we three went to see it,” said Bliss.
“When he got a little life in him the first thing he done was reach over and tries and grab one of them guys that built him and he comes up off the table and starts in a chasing them around the room. I don’t remember how the movie ended. But there was three little kids a mile and half from home and it was almost at ten o’clock at night and there was no moon, it was dark and we had a mile and half to get home, down a dark lane with tall rabbit brush on both sides of the road for most of the way. And there was a slight breeze a blowing that was shaking the brush and there we were, three wide eyed kids a going back home in the dark.”
“We would go down through there a lookin and see a big bush and it would be a wiggling “Hey that fellar might be in there what are we gonna do?” We would round up and have a conversation, the only thing we kin do is see if we could out run him. And we would get set and say “go” and take off and run past that bush and get to where it was a little bit open and look around to see if he was a coming, but he didn’t. That is the way we went for about three fourths of way down through there on the lane until we got down to the old town of Thurber. It was there Carl and Cula was to take another little old road that slaunched off to the east to their house and I had about… half a mile left to go it alone. Oh boy!” Bliss leans back in his chair and belly laughs, remembering watching for old Frankenstein in the rabbit brush just like it was yesterday.
“So anyway I would go on down through there, and finally I decided, well if he is gonna get me, he is gonna have to get me a runnin. So I took off a runnin just as fast as I could run for about a half a mile and I didn’t even stop to turn the knob on the door on the old farmhouse.” Bliss leans back again in his favorite chair with a smile on his weathered face and says, “it is times like those that just stick in yer mind, and make life worth it.”
Bliss is gone now but his stories of a simpler life will always live on.
The old Brinkerhoff cabin where Bliss grew up as a kid, the one that Bliss always wanted to bring back to life is down on its knees now, the last remaining remnants of Thurber, slowly disappearing into the history books in what is today known as the Bicknell Bottoms.