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Growing up in an Abernathy household, I heard an interesting variety of “family stories".  It often took a while to discover if they were about real events or Tall Tales. 

Abernathy’s uphold the grand tradition of being  great story tellers, embellishing when the occasion calls for it. 

My grandfather, “Big Daddy” not only had a furniture store, he was also a mortician and especially enjoyed sharing the unusual things that could happen in his line of work.

This is our story of ‘The Gambler’.

by C. Brian Abernathy

Copperhill, Tennessee was a mining community. While it was a relatively quiet area, occasionally some excitement was bound to happen. This apparently happened in the early 1900’s.

     A gambler came to town hoping to make some money off the local miners. Nobody knew much of anything about him, aside from the fact that he was always ready for a game of cards. During an evening of gambling, he was accused of cheating and was promptly shot dead.
     Big Daddy was the only mortician in town, so of course The Gambler was taken to his funeral parlour. The Gambler had no identification, very little money and no family to claim him.  So it was decided that the expense of the casket, gravedigger and tombstone could all be bypassed by simply – not burying him! Dressed up in his finest clothes and a stovepipe hat, The Gambler was seated in the back of the furniture store. Where he stayed for quite some time.
     Eventually, concerned town folk got together, the hat was passed and enough money was raised to pay for the coffin and the burial.
     In all those years, one would think he would have been reported as missing or someone would have come around asking about him.
     Since I was working on our genealogy and interviewing family, I wanted to include the story and the picture of the mysterious gambler.
     One of the best sources of family history and the person who has kept our oral history ‘honest’, my aunt debunked the legend and told me the REAL story:
     My grandparents traveled out west for a vacation. While visiting a “wild west” town, they heard a story about an unnamed gambler who was shot for cheating. Of course, they could purchase a photo to go with the story!  
     Big Daddy took the photo home, put it on display and embellished the story as though it happened locally. It was told and retold over the years, eventually being thought to be a true story. 
     Well, it WAS true, just not in Copperhill! And that is why sometimes you need to do a little detective work to determine if it is family history or a Tall Tale.

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