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The Man from Nevelsville

Eighty-three year old Deemes Nevels is still going strong.


Eighty-three year old Deemes Nevels grew up in Nevelsville, a northern McCreary County community established by Deemes’ great-grandfather, J.W., and his grandfather, Oscar.  Those childhood years from 1932 until 1948 were happy ones.  With his ancestors having built the community store, post office, and many of the houses, Deemes was truly at home in the neighborhood.  Deemes recalled his own father spending most of his time logging, running a saw mill, and supporting the family.

Deemes remembered walking to Nevelsville School-a single room building that could be divided into two rooms by pulling a partition across the middle.  One teacher presided over the students.  Deemes has lasting memories of teachers such as Conley Taylor and Adrian Stephens, and recalled Mr. Taylor and the oldest female student cooking large, tasty lunches at the school after the hot lunch program started.  Before the introduction of hot lunches to the Nevelsville School, students typically had a “cold breakfast” from a lunch packed in from home.  Lunches from home typically consisted of homemade biscuits with ham.  The ham usually came from hogs butchered at home.

When asked if he ever got in trouble at school, Deemes giggled before replying.

“Did I ever get in trouble at school?” he asked rhetorically.  “I was always doing something I shouldn’t have been doing!”

After leaving Nevelsville School, Deemes was drafted into the Army for two years of service during the Korean conflict.  He spent two years stationed as a soldier in Alaska and only made it home for nine days during the entire assignment.

“We soldiered a lot!” Deemes exclaimed.  “We were in snow, ice, whatever the weather.  I remember when we marched five miles wearing snow shoes.”

One memorable part of Deemes’ life was during the period of time he spent working with the KY Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Nevels recalled challenging days of searching for turkey nests and setting up “drumming logs” using mirrored traps to catch grouse.  Deemes explained how mirrors lured male grouse onto the logs, providing places for male grouse to “drum”-a ritual for marking territory and attracting females.  The male grouse, upon seeing themselves in mirrors and perceiving themselves as other males, fought the images in the mirrors and eventually were caught in the traps.  The captured grouse were then weighed and tagged.  Deemes and fellow workers also recorded the unit numbers of the grouse, dyed the tails of the trapped grouse red, and tied ribbons to the back of the birds’ necks.

When it comes to gardening, Deemes is the boss.  He’s a first class teacher to “wanna be” gardeners, and he enjoys giving advice to those who want to learn.

“When planting corn, plant three grains to a hill,” he advised, sharing some of his homegrown gardening tips.  “If you want to keep the worms down on corn, just spray corn oil on the corn when the ears start getting silk.”

According to Deemes, red potatoes are the best even if they are “a little hard to peel,” and he highly recommended the Pineapple (yellow stripe) tomato as the best eating tomato.

Despite health problems, Deemes tries to remain active and sometimes rides his go cart or four-wheeler.  He attends Flat Rock Church, and when asked to share the secret to his long life, he sums it up nicely.

“I’ll be around as long as the Lord lets me live!”

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