The Gray Fox... Myth, Legend, or Man? By Steve Batson
The Gray Fox was born sometime around 1900, he lived and ran the Carolina mountains like his namesake. He went off to France in the First World War with the Wildcat Division and he served as a cook. He died with his era and is buried under a simple soldiers headstone at Reedy River Baptist Church in Northern Greenville County. During the course of his lifetime, he packed in much living. He made whiskey and grew corn and cotton. His life was no different than most of
those who shared his station and place of birth.... yet somehow, even when living.... he was more... he was heroic. It was said that he never got caught at a still... for in that place and time, if a man could get away, he was allowed to go his way.
He was faster, quicker, more glib with his tongue and more fierce with his fists than his contemporaries. He could be a yard-ax preacher, a moonshiner, a farmer or anything else that was needed. He was named the Gray Fox by the lawmen who sought to catch him, for he was like the gray fox, an animal that is little more than mist and wind. When they finally caught him, in possession of untaxed whiskey but not at a still he was at an old age, it was with sadness that they all saw him off to Atlanta on that lonesome train. John Law was certain that a soul as wild and free as that of the fox could not stand the hardship of Atlanta Federal and live.
They were, of course, wrong... for just as the train had taken him away... so it brought him back, as it brought back the walking canes he had made and sent home while there. In the twilight of his years as a quiet and respectable member of the community, few mentioned the name "Gray Fox".
It was said if you chanced by the front porch of the old store in Travelers Rest and asked for the Dark Corner, you would be told it was up the road a little ways... and you would get that same answer all the way to Hendersonville where they would point you back the way you came and say, "Down there aways... toward Greenville... you know..." and look at you like you were a fool.
However, if you chanced to stop by that store in Travelers Rest and ask the old men on the front porch of that store about the gray fox and if you were very lucky and you got there on the right day and had the right old man... they say his face would light up and he would say, "Oh...well, you know about foxes, they ain't nothing but mist and rain... no substance a tall...." and so it is that the fox came to be what we all will be.... nothing but mist and rain, dust on the wind.
His freedom, his love of life, and his peculiar sense of the absurd... well, may it
never die. When you read of the fox... thinking of him this way... gray and sleek...
bright eyes flashing in the darkness... running for his freedom... against a black
Carolina sky... for that was him at his best... in a time and a place that is little more
than a legend today.
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