My friendship with Fireball Hazel Lindsey

My friendship with "Fireball" Hazel Lindsey

I could just about cry or I'm on the verge of tears. That's saying something because I think all my friends would agree that I'm pretty strong. Really, it's not a sad cry, it's a "now I know" cry because sometimes not knowing is hard. I'm teary because I just learned one of my friends passed away. I've searched multiple times online for my friend Hazel, but she wasn't the type of person to be on the internet, so I was looking more for a sign of her, a land purchase, a news article, and because she was elderly possibly an obituary.  I didn't know if I'd ever find any information about her but then today the search engines were working in my favor. Today, on the last week of 2023, I found her.  Honestly, I suspected it would be through an obituary, since she was at least 30 years older than me, I worried that all the illness that went along with the pandemic in 2020 caught up to her. What I found first was a website about her book. Yes, in 2016 at the age of 85, she passed away in her sleep, but I also learned that a year before that she published her first book titled "Fireball" about her life. Below is my first-person account of my friend, Hazel Lindsey who is also known as Fireball.

I love Junkin'

I love finding things on the side of the road, things people have thrown out via trash or accident. I once picked up a purple skirt in the turn lane. I took it home, washed it and wore it for years. If anybody complimented me on the skirt, I would say I picked it up in the middle of the road.

I love all kinds of junk. Even going to car junk yards because I like to tinker with cars. I like to take broken cars apart, then try to put them back together, this way so I don't break my own car learning something new. I love roadside yard sales, but I especially love a yard sale/ junkyard combination which are very rare to find open to the public. I love to dig through them, going on my own personal treasure hunt. Anything you can imagine you can find at one of those stands. Going to a roadside yard sale is how I happen to meet Hazel Lindsey.

I moved to Knoxville Tennessee in 1999. I met a friend online through one of the women's groups who lived in Spring City TN. I lived about an hour and a half away but would go visit when I had time. The easiest route for me was to drive down i-75 south, get off at the Sweetwater exit for Watts Bar Dam and drive straight to Spring City. Along the way I would see a big flea market off of the Sweetwater exit, but many items were things you could buy in the stores, that type of Fleamarket was not for me because I was looking for treasure

One time on the way to visit my friend I saw a huge "Roadside yard sale" in between Sweetwater and Spring City.  It was the biggest one I have seen. I feel like it was almost 2 acres wide.  It was a half yard sale, half junkyard, all treasure hunts.  Some things were piled 10 ft high in places. There were rows of antique washtubs, bicycles, metal chairs and more. There were sheds filled with clothes and stuffed animals. There were rvs and cars for sale, some mobile homes and one mobile home that looked lived in with a car parked in front of it.  It was like going on a treasure hunt every time I went. I would dig through as many things as I could. To say that I was tickled pink would be an understatement.

The owner of this establishment was Hazel. She had to be the most straight shooting, level-headed, countrified and funniest person I had met. If I went, I would stay for hours listening to her stories while I would dig around. She'd help a customer and then she'd tell me another story.

"October Sky" Movie

Hazel told me she was in the movie "October sky". The movie is about a coalminer's son who goes against his father's wishes to build a rocket. I bought the movie on VHS, but I didn't see her in it. The book excerpts says that she was one of the coalminer's wives. I'll have to watch it again.

"Thieves are Lazy"

I learned some of my core beliefs from talking to Hazel. One was related to thieves. One time I asked her why she didn't organize the yard sale. I asked if I could help. She said "thieves are lazy". If I organize it, then it'll be easier for them to steal it. She said we might as well make them work for it. I have carried this with me to this day. She was right, thieves are lazy.

Another time I asked her why don't you get the TV show "American Pickers" to come out and do a show about the yard sale? She said because then people will know where I am and thieves will come. Boy she had those thieves' numbers. 

Invited to a Singin'

Hazel knew my son was special needs. She would talk to him when I brought him with me. He was learning to play the guitar, and he was always singing a song.  Sometimes there would be some one sitting on one of the porches of the sheds playing a guitar. Hazel told us that they would have "singin's" on the porch and we should come back for one but we never got to.

11 Husbands

Hazel was an older lady, she kind of reminded me of my great-grandmother, skinnier with tanned skin that you knew was someone who had worked outside every day.  She told me she had been married 10 times. The book says she had 11 husbands. Maybe she married one more. She was braver than I, who stopped at 2.

Lady Couple

After I came out, I divorced my husband and brought my girlfriend/wife to meet Hazel. We would spend time looking through the treasure. Hazel told me that my partner and I would be called a "Lady couple" in her time. She said she always liked lady couples. As far as I'm concerned that is the best way to say lesbian. 

Lost Touch

My friend in Spring City moved away, and then my relationship with my wife ended. I started a new job and didn't have time to visit. Years went by, then when I finally tried to visit, I found the stand gone and the land completely cleared as though it had never been there to begin with. I didn't know what had happened to Hazel. Now I do. She wrote a book about her life. What a legacy to leave behind. I never knew her nickname was Fireball, but I can totally see that. 

Hazel Neomi "Fireball" Lamb Lindsay passed away on February 21, 2016, at 85 years old. Her final resting place is Gibbs Cemetery in Anderson County Tennessee. 

Her book is titled "Fireball' by Hazel Lindsey and co author Julia Walker. It's available on Amazon. Fireball is the True Story of a Tennessee plowgirl who overcame poverty, abuse and 11 husbands with wit, wisdom and tenacity (paid link)

If you would like to read excerpts from the book, they are on the Fireball WordPress website.  Excerpts from “Fireball” – Fireball ( 

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