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Written by Larry Alderman; edited by Cheri Todd Molter

An Oral History

In 1965, when I was thirteen years old, my great-grandfather, Friel Combs, told front porch stories from his home on Rockford Street in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, and I listened to them intently. One day, after he spit his ‘bacca and wiped it off his chin, he told me of a terrible event in the Combs family that happened during the war—he always referred to the Civil War as just “the war.” It seems that a husband of one of Zadoc Combs’ sisters had gone home on leave to plant crops for his family and forgot to go back to the army camp to serve afterwards. Zadoc Combs was in the Home Guard, and one of his duties was to “encourage” men to return to their regiments, or to bring them back, if that was what it took. When Zadoc showed up to remind his brother-in-law of his responsibilities to the army, an argument ensued because the man did not want to go back yet. A shot rang out, and the man ducked behind the hog pen fence. A few minutes later, tragedy struck as Zadoc’s brother-in-law was fatally wounded. When my great-grandfather told me that story, I thought it must have been a tough time at that man’s house that night—Zadoc would have had to face his sister after he had shot her husband dead. War is awful and poor working people suffered. Zadoc was known as a hard man.

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