It ain’t true, none of it. The yellow cat, the buck-toothed mule, the sixteen stories — all whoppers. When a man gets too big in the world, everybody tries to bring him down, that’s all. Success ain’t a crime.
Sure, I like a card game, and women, and no shame in that, unless you listen to my pa. Bastard son of a circuit preacher, that’s me. And I got the law on my side, too, because I went and bought a license for my distillery, and I sell corn cheap and in broad daylight. A lot of them moonshine boys don’t like that. My next-door neighbor’s missing an arm, and you can ask him why if you want to sing about something that’s true and packs a lesson. But if you sing about the ladies you’d best be careful, or I’ll shoot off something you’ll miss more’n an arm.
I ain’t no different than anybody else, except when I go for something, I aim to get it. Every man has a shadow as long as the sun shines. And 46 ain’t old.[audio:http://www.fileden.com/files/2007/1/5/600283/Old_Joe_Clark.MP3]
There are several stories surrounding his death. J.B. Weaver gave this account, as told to him by Joe’s son. Clark was living with a woman named Chris Leger and they split up. He then began living with a McKenney woman in his store, renting his house to Chris and her new friend, the brother of Old Jim Howard. Leger and Howard then devised a plan whereby they would kill Joe and she would claim he had left the farm to her. Howard shot and killed Clark on April 22, 1886, near the back porch of the store. Howard then fled to Beattyville, where a few days later while crossing a bridge, he was stabbed to death by two men from Clay County.
Clark is buried in the family cemetery on a hill overlooking the farm at Sextons Creek.
–Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives
Old Joe Clark Ballad
Mountain ballad, about 90 stanzas, sung during World War I, and later wars by soldiers from eastern Kentucky. Early version, as sung in Virginia, printed in 1918. Joe Clark, born 1839, lived here; shiftless and rough mountaineer of that day. His enemies were legion; he was murdered in 1885. In the moonshining days of 1870s, he ran government-supervised still.
—roadside historical marker, Jct. KY 577 & 1350