Although my Grandpa didn’t know Talton when he was a young boy, his mother Sarah (Hall) Banks told him stories about the kind of child he was. Sarah had been born in 1849 and visited her Hall relatives, on Beaver Creek, often with her mother, Roxanna and Grandmother, Martha “Patsy” (Talton’s Aunt). Talton was David and Anna’s youngest child and he was small for his age. He was only three years older than my Great Grandmother Sarah so they played together when she visited.
Grandma Sarah said Talton didn’t talk much but he thought a lot. He would pull pranks on his friends and family and stand back to watch the fun. He was never suspected as the culprit, because he was so quiet and seemingly so sweet. He really was a sweet little boy, but he loved to stir up something and watch the pot boil. He was very bright and learned quickly. He spoke very little until he was about five years old because, according to him, he “didn’t have nuthin’ ta say”. He didn’t fight and scrap like the other kids because he was small and usually got “stomped”. One thing that would always send him into the fray was ganging up. If one person was ganged up on by two or three kids, Talton would wade in with both feet. Then he would get “stomped”.
As were the other children in the family, Talton was expected to do his chores and help tend the crops and animals. He did this without complaint because he loved being outdoors. When his chores were finished, he loved exploring his mountains with his dogs and cousins, finding caves to play in and apple trees to raid. Apples were his favorite food. He became as familiar with his mountains as he was with his own home. He hunted his mountains for small game with his father, brothers, and cousins to help feed his family. He was a natural with a rifle. As he grew older, he grew into his rifle and his bones.
Talton attended school whenever it was taught, usually in the winter, and only if weather permitted and a teacher was available. He learned to read and write well for his day and loved newspapers. He wasn’t overly concerned with the Bible or other books, but the newspapers told of events that were happening in his time. He learned something of the world outside his mountains and decided he liked it just fine where he was.
In the fall of 1860, the upcoming presidential election was all over the newspapers. Talton was 14 years old and politics had captured him. He hated the lying, cheating politicians, but would argue his ideas about the issues and with anyone and everyone to the point that nobody wanted to talk to him. He had learned about taxes early in life when he traveled with his family to the county seat to pay the taxes on their land. In those days, the taxes had to be paid in person. On one of these trips, Talton asked his father, David why they had to pay taxes to men they did not know for land these men did not own. His father explained that taxes were a way for fat worthless old men in the government to keep the mountain people poor and to make the fat old men in the government fatter.
Talton then suggested, “Why don’t we just stop payin’ an’ shoot ‘em when they came on awr land ta git the money? It ain’t ther land, it’s awrn. They don’t tend it, they just tax it.”
To that, his father replied, “ Because they’d jest sen’ more men an’ more men an’ finally they’d kill us all or throw us off awr own land an’ sell it to somebody’d pay the taxes”. His father added, “Ye got ta learn ta pick yor battles, boy. Some ye cain’t win. Tain’t smart to start fightin’ a loosin’ battle”.
“What if ye think it ain’t no loosin’ battle? What if ye think it’s the only right thing ta do?” Talton pressed.
David looked at his son long and hard before he answered, “Then ye stand up an’ fight with all that’s in ye an’ never stop, even if it kills ye. But ye’d best be willin’ to die fer it, son, fer most times right an’ wrong don’t make no matter. It’s who holds the power, decides yor fate.”