What can you say about the old cuss?
All the fella's gathered on the back veranda. All put on "Texas Tuxedos" in his honor - basically, a nice, new pair of bib overalls with a bow tie, white gloves and tux shirt.
Up in the hills of East Tennessee, they didn't wear cowboy boots "back in the day", so in their stead they all wore button-hook logging boots, with the overalls tucked in.
A gamely lot they were.
Each had a pint Mason jar of "the corn liquor" in the bib.
To be a proper man of the hills, one had to proceed all things with the word "the".
"It was ashame 'bout Ol' Cleve, way he got the cancer and all," it was a common lamentation from all who gathered there on that foggy, snow-drenched day.
Assembled here in Leighton Barber's palatial farm house "garden room" was a who's who of local legendry.
Fed Mashburn, Whiley Simms, "Cussin" Eddie Marsh (Cuz, and kin to all), Nate Riseleau, Waif Simpson and Crook McKaey.
It was a gentleman's club of men tempered by the wild and boisterous mountain way.
They each held up their jar as if hailing an emperor.
Hail to Cleve, the best of the bunch.
"I don't know why it is that the good Lord above has to take a man of such outstanding caliber. Cleve Oliver could shoot better, run faster and climb higher than anyone from the Four Knobs.
Cleve was simply the best, and here's to him," and with that Fed raised that jar yet another time.
Each of the men in one gulp swallowed a full half of their pint jars. Not one looked for a chaser (but they'd all been known to follow up with "sprang" water)...but not on this day.
Cleve deserved the best...and just as he had lived, so would they put him down.
It was a long drive from Barber's Knob to the cemetery, way down there in the valley, and no one thought it appropriate.
They all felt Cleve deserved a high peak, somewhere up in them hills he loved so well.
"They'll be plainty of celebratin' this day amoungst the boar hogs, shore 'nuff", spouted Crook, there in the snow at the graveside.
Whiley spat his cannonball twist on the snowy ground and in usual stop-gap fashion uttered, "you know they is".
And the preacher came, and said them words they heard so often before when they'd buried a dearly departed.
His lodge brothers showed as well, and Wiley, Fed, Crook, Waif and Cuz all broke with the gang to go put on their aprons and join in the service.
It was a somber day, when they put Cleve in the cold, hard ground; and to his memory and the memories they'd all formed together somehow, everyone there assembled just knew - an angel sang the tails of their exploits in those cold, blue mountains they called their home.