“It leaked out in pieces,” he said of his mother’s story. Maysel began sharing bits of the story with her eight children after her father died.
McCarty wrote the bits of the story down — on napkins, scraps of paper, even a piece of a brown paper bag.
He lined the scraps of paper across a table, planning to connect the pieces just for himself, and began writing it down.
“This was going to be a little story just for me,” he said. “I wasn’t going to share it with anyone.”
It took him 10 years to write the first 22 chapters. Those chapters remained shelved for seven more years.
Then, one New Year’s Eve, alone and in a melancholy mood, he made up his mind to finish the book.
“I wrote the last 12 chapters in four weeks,” he said.
The story of a young girl stolen from the only home she’d ever known by her own father was too compelling, McCarty believed.
“I thought, this has romance, survival, a little history...”
“My Name Is Maysel” is the result. The book is available at Tamarack and from Amazon.com.
Maysel, five years old in the late 1920s, had been the light of her mother Lela’s and her grandparents’ lives. Maysel is taken from them after Lela discovers that Maysel’s father, known to her as Frank Adams, has been living a lie. He has another wife in McDowell County. Once Lela discovers this lie, she kicks Frank Adams — whose real name is John Brunty — out of their lives in Greenbrier County.
In retaliation, Brunty steals his young daughter and hides her away in rural Wyoming County, in the back of Laurel Branch Hollow. Maysel is now forced to work hard every day, making illegal moonshine, and hiding from government agents in search of the brew. Knowing Lela would continue to search for her baby, Brunty tried repeatedly to change her name to Mary, but the obstinate five-year-old held steadfast to Maysel.
“I cried a river while I was writing this,” he said.
Johnny McCarty grew up in Oceana and graduated from Oceana High School. He taught at the Beckley Institute of Hair Design and worked as a hair dresser in the area for nearly 40 years.
He returned to college and went into the permanent make-up industry, he said.
With a dislike of snow, he moved south, near the beach. Currently, he owns Perfect Touch Permanent Make-up Center in Calabash, N.C., where he practices with physicians and other professionals.
McCarty is also a master instructor through the American Academy of Micropigmentation and the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals.
“Mom was a wonderful wife and mother,” he recalled.
“Her faith was unshakable and she could shoot the eye out of a squirrel,” McCarty recalled of his mother.
McCarty’s dad, Wannie McCarty, would hold a match in his mouth. His mother would light the end by shooting it.
“He trusted her that much,” McCarty said with a laugh.
Maysel McCarty’s faith served her well when one of her young daughters was run over by a car.
“Diane was about two-and-a-half,” McCarty said. The family had been grocery shopping. Without anyone noticing, Diane moved in front of the car while the groceries were being loaded.
The car ran over the youngster. She was transported to a hospital in McDowell County, where the doctor didn’t hold out much hope for her recovery.
Maysel and Johnny McCarty were forced to sit in the hall, outside Diane’s room, for nearly three days. Then, the preacher came by and prayed with Maysel, who had to force her way past an obstinate nurse seemingly determined to make the tragic situation worse.
Before the preacher left, he told the family the baby would live — Heaven had told him so.
About four hours later, Diane raised up, then asked for her mother and ice cream. The family was called into the doctor’s office again. This time the first set of x-rays, complete with numerous broken bones and untold injuries, were displayed alongside a new set that indicated no broken bones or injuries.
Diane stayed in the hospital for two more days, just for observation. The doctors had no explanation.
“My mother said, ‘Doc Edwards, we serve a mighty God’,” McCarty recalled of the conversation.
“You must, because there is no other explanation,” McCarty remembered the doctor telling his mother.
Despite being kidnapped by her father, John Brunty, Maysel Brunty McCarty forgave him.
“She didn’t want to rob us of time with a grandparent as she had been,” McCarty said.
“She never talked ugly about him and she was careful not to reveal any of this until after he died.”
However, Johnny McCarty’s dad, Wannie, never liked him. He and his siblings never understood until their mother’s story came out.
Lela indeed continued her search for Maysel for 17 years.
McCarty is now working on the sequel.