Was it self-defense?

A gentleman—a long-time native of Middle Tennessee—related this story about his great grandmother, that took place around 1930 in the mountains of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau.


In all likelihood, this story was set in an area without electricity. Electricity would not begin to flow into rural Tennessee until the very late 1930s or 1940s. Spawned by the New Deal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electric Administration (REA) by executive order in 1935. It was permanently established by Act of Congress on May 20, 1936.
REA funding was channeled through cooperative electric power companies similar to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). In 1985, the United Postal Service issued a stamp to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the REA.

US Postage stamp issued in 1985 on the 50th anniversary of the REA

US Postage stamp issued in 1985 on the 50th anniversary of the REA

Many rural, especially mountain dwellings were rarely more than two, maybe three rooms with no indoor plumbing. Water was from a well, heating from a wood or coal stove, and there was no indoor plumbing.

Now, the Story

In the rural mountains of Tennessee, children played simple games like hide-and-seek or marbles.

This was the setting for the following story, set in the hills of the Cumberland Plateau in Middle Tennessee.

Miss Kit, as she was called, was a strong, no-nonsense, frank-speaking woman who lived on a farm in the mountains not far from Altamont, Tennessee. She was the mother of three children; the oldest was about 12 at the time of the story. Miss Kit also had a younger brother, about 18, named Josh.

Josh, by all accounts was an ornery cuss. One day, Miss Kit’s children were playing marbles in the yard. Josh was there and he was tormenting the kids, taking the marbles and disrupting the game. Miss Kit told Josh to leave the kids alone. But Josh persisted. Again Miss Kit came out of the house and said, “You leave them young’ns alone or I’ gonna get the gun and shoot you!”

But, as we were told, Josh was not inclined to mind, and soon he was tormenting the children again—to the point that one of them began to cry and scream. Sure enough, Miss Kit came out of the house, carrying the shotgun, pointed at Josh. She was walking fast, and Josh could see that she meant business. He took off at a run, and just as he jumped the fence, Miss Kit pulled the trigger.

Miss Kit was a good shot, and she peppered Josh’s rear end with shot often used for small game. Josh let out a howl as he disappeared into the woods. Josh was not seriously injured, but the pattern of BB-sized shot surly stung and probably left a pattern of tender welts on his rear end.

Now, even in rural Tennessee you cannot shoot someone with a shotgun without having to answer for your actions, and within a week or two, Miss Kit was summoned to court for shooting at Josh. The trial was conducted by the judge and he soon asked Miss Kit, “Ma’am, did you shoot him in self-defense?”

“No, your honor,” Miss Kitt responded directly to the judge, “I shot him in the rear when he jumped ‘de fence’.”

There is no recollection of how the judge ruled on that particular occasion, but Miss Kit spent many more years ruling her little piece of the mountain.

About Entry
A little something different: several months ago, a local gentleman related a bit of humor, allegedly about his grandmother. I have since heard the same story from another source. My father was a postmaster for many years, and that fostered an interest in stamps—seems there is a stamp relevant to almost any story—as in this case. And the whole story is brief!

Contents Entry

Was it self-defense? Relates a story told to me some months ago about a young man, a woman, and a shotgun.

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4 Responses to Was it self-defense?

  1. Pingback: Renaissance Musings Table of Contents | Renaissance Musings

  2. axelan says:

    Wish I would have known of your interest in stamps when I was working with you. Both my Aunt and her husband were postmasters in rural Arkansas in the 20s and 30s. Her husband later became Governor of Arkansas and during that period my Aunt collected stamps (loose in bags collection … ) from all over the world. It might have been fun to look at them one day at work!

  3. merlinjr01 says:

    My dad was a postmaster, and even before that, his mother, in my earliest years collected and saved stamps for me. I have bubs of stamp stuff–something to go through when I can’t do anything else I guess. But how did you get from “Was it Self Defense” to stamps??

  4. merlinjr01 says:

    I have “tubs” not “bubs”!

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