Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"O Holy Night"

I admit that I laugh out loud at "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" and love "The Hannuka Song" by Adam Sandler. But one of my favorite Christmas carols is "O Holy Night."

To hear Celine Dion sing "O Holy Night" please click the link below:

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
Noël, Noël,
O Night, O Night Divine.

The soaring musical composition is by Adolphe Charles Adams (1803-1856), a successful composer and friend of Cappeau's .

I love most of the Christmas songs, but "O Holy Night" touches my heart in a totally different way from most of the others.

Last week, I was listening to the song while I drove down a country road to work, and I think we all listen closer to our music when we are isolated in our cars on lonely highways. I realized that this song PRAISES God and Christ's birth in a whole-hearted, breath-stopping way that makes you really feel it.

Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure was a wine "Commissionaire" in a small French village in 1847, when the parish priest approached him to ask for a poem for Christmas mass. Though not known for rigorous church attendance, Cappeau said he imagined what it would have been like to be in Bethlehem for the birth of Christ.

He pictured the humble worship of the shepherds and the soaring praise of the heavenly angels. I, too, could imagine people and angels dropping to their knees and lifting their arms as the words "Noel, noel" bursts from their mouths in praise and gratitude for this wonderful gift. I believe that the writer, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, experienced worship while writing these lyrics. I envy him that exquisite spiritual moment.

Later in his life, Cappeau drifted from the church. I don't know, of course, whether Cappeau turned from God or only from organized religion. But I wonder about a man who could imagine and write such thrilling lyrics about the birth of Christ. Obviously, just like all the rest of us, he wasn't perfect.

I often feel inadequate as a Christian. I'm willing to work myself nearly to death in high temperatures and humidity when I'm involved in Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief, yet am tongue-tied in the face of grief and loss. As a vessel, do you sometimes feel shallow, inept, broken? So do I.

Maybe we should ponder Cappeau's story. Surely he struggled with the same questions and fears that we do. He was not perfect. Yet, when we listen to the awe-inspiring lyrics that this fragile vessel left for us, words that take us back to the very beginning of our faith, we may be comforted by thoughts that we, too, can serve our God.

(All art by Holly Harbin Simpson, my daughter.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Five-Year-Olds' Party


At the nature center party for 5-year-olds I saw . . .
12 children wiggling,
11 mommies talking,
10 siblings fighting,
9 babies screaming,
8 grannies dozing,
7 dads on cell phones,
6 flies a-buzzing,

5 rem - i - nesc - ing gramps!

4 nursing babes,
3 wet pants,
2 naked kids,


Thursday, November 24, 2011


Olive will land on my arm and take food from my hand. LOVE IT!

As a nation and as individuals, we have had some struggles this year. But, as the old song goes, "I still think the good things outweigh the bad."

I am thankful to have my two part-time jobs. I love working with children and animals and that's just what I do. I also have friends at both workplaces - Cochran Mill Nature Center and Central High School in Carroll County, GA., who make going to work each day a pleasure.

Below are some photos of the things I give thanks to God for each day.


We had two "Circle of Life" events this week at Cochran Mill Nature Center. Sadly, our Great Horned Owl, Kenda, left us on Wednesday. Kenda enriched the lives of thousands of children (and adults) who viewed her up close and heard her story. Rescued from a barbed-wire fence, Kenda lost one eye, but lived at CMNC for years in comfort and dignity. When I worked in her enclosure, it was thrilling to feel the whoosh of her great, silent wings as she flew over me. We miss you, Kenda.


On a happier "Circle of Life" moment, our Emperor Scorpions are having babies! Lots of babies! They average one to two dozen per event. In the photo you can see the white babies on their mother's back. They sort of come out of her chest and crawl up. She defends them until they become independent. Even scorpions are cute when they are babies!



I give thanks for all the baby animals that I helped feed, who survived and were released. My little buddy is (as far as I know) still living on the CMNC property, maybe married by now with a family.



Pearl visited my school and the students loved her! This is one of my favorite photos, showing the first tentative touch. This student became so enthralled with Pearl that I had to hide her!


As you might know, we lost our little Silvie this summer. She was a tiny poodle who was 17 years old. Still miss her. But I am grateful for Michelle, who is 13 years old. She is loving and, though she seems to miss Silvie, we believe she is enjoying being an only child (the cat doesn't count!).


Lastly, but mostly, I am so grateful for my family. My husband is doing pretty well, healthwise. My daughter, Holly, is happily married and working. My Aunt Helen is 88 and doing very well. Above is a photo at Helen's home from this summer.

I am grateful for my three step-children -- Danny, Steve, and Darla -- and their families, including grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I am thankful for my "Russian son" Misha and his lovely wife and 2 children. Also for my "Texas daughter" Heather and her husband and 3 children, and the several kids who lived with us at times throughout our lives and blessed our home.

I am also thankful for my entire extended family, especially my nieces, Angie and April, and their families.

I am also most grateful for living in the United States. I pray for our nation daily.

I hope all of you have many things to be thankful for this year and in the years to come. I wish you health and contentment, safety and peace. May God bless you.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Here is another story from my collection for the book of memories of girls growing up in the South. Although she is 83, Jan's, mind, unlike her body, is active and agile. She is the sweetest lady in the world, gentle and funny, and an admirable Christian.

(Recorded on 2/3/05)

I grew up on a farm in south Alabama. The country was coming out of the worldwide Great Depression. We’re talking about 1928 – 32 & 33. I was born in 1928; six months later, in summer, I had polio.

As I remember, my parents said I cried for 3 days and nights and I don’t know why they didn’t throw me away. But when I stopped crying, they noticed that when they put me down, I would play with my hands, but my feet wouldn’t move. I couldn’t kick. They took me to the doctor, a pediatrician. I’m surprised back then they had a specialist. Dr. Kannady, in Dothan, Al.

We lived 18 miles from Dothan, in the country, and Dr Kannady, my father said, took a match and pocket knife and trimmed the match off sharp. He tickled my right foot with it and my foot wouldn’t move. And he said, “ This child has polio and she will never walk.” This is what my father told me, years later. He told them some things to do that might help me.

One was to give me sun baths every day. They would put me on a pallet outside in the sun after my mother took the oil from peanut butter and rubbed my foot and leg. Agnes, my sister, was 10 years older than I was. She would have to take me and put me on the blanket or pallet outside. She said I was so slippery one day from the oil that she dropped me. We had a family hound dog and he would lay out there in the sunshine with me. He was protective and stayed with me.

Agnes said I would have to stay ½ hour. She would watch me as I flailed my hands and they would time it. When it was time to come in, I must have been really slippery. She said we had the driest peanut butter she ever saw. Back then peanut oil would come to the top in the jar. You were supposed to stir that oil into the peanut butter, “but all that oil went on you,” Agnes said.

I didn’t walk until I was 2 ½ or 3 years old. Mother told me I was holding onto a stool one day, and I pulled up and my mother told my father, “Coleman, that child is going to walk someday.” It was a prophetic statement because when I was around 4 years old, my daddy and mother took me to Warm Springs, GA, from south Alabama.

That was a long trip back then. We did not have a car, but my uncle, Phillip Killingsworth (mother’s brother), was a contractor and we thought he had money. Well, he could own a car. He and his wife, Aunt Cora, took my daddy and mommy, their little boy, and my smaller brother, Bobby and me to Warm Springs. There were eight of us in a Model A Ford. We were sardines!

My family took me to Warm Springs for help. It was so expensive! I am told my parents were very discouraged because the only thing they could afford was a short leg brace with an ugly brown high-top shoe for the right leg. That didn’t seem to help much. But my father never gave up. He was a determined man and my mother had a lot of good common sense. She was the educator in our family, too.

When I got to be five years old, she said, “We knew we couldn’t send you to school if you didn’t have more help. Because my foot was so deformed I walked on the side of my foot. And falling! I tried to walk so I could go outside and play. I always wanted to be where the action was. Mama would beg me not to go outside because I had permanent scabs on my knees. I remember falling and seeing the blood run down my legs (I was around 5 years old).

By this time, the March of Dimes must have been established (established by Franklin D. Roosevelt as "National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in 1938). My father found a children’s hospital in Mobile, Alabama that would take me and help me. I don’t know how he found this out. The first time I went there, a lady named Ms. Collins took three children to the Mobile Infirmary in her car. She had a lot of energy; her hair was pulled back in a neat, stylish bun. She always carried a dish pan because often we children would get car sick. Bless her heart. I don’t remember ever vomiting, but I remember helping her hold the pan for other children. It was traumatizing for me because I had never spent one night away from home.

Did I mention that I was number five in a family of seven children? I had a sister, Jeanette, who was 14 months old when I was born. As we went through childhood, we were the same size and people thought we were twins. Of course, I never went far from home; we had no car. Mobile is 200 miles from Dothan. The first time I went to Mobile, I thought we were going around the world! That 200 miles is a long way when you don’t have any of your family with you. The first time Ms. Collins took me and that night we got to the hospital. I remember about 5 beds in my room. We were in a ward, and I remember homesickness. I sucked my thumb on my right hand and that was my salvation – that and sleeping.

Next day, Ms. Collins left and didn’t take any of the children with her. I don’t remember how long I stayed the first time, maybe the whole summer. It seems like I always went in the summer. That was the first of 15 trips I made to Mobile. The other times I went alone on a Greyhound Bus. My father would take me to Dothan to catch the bus and mother would pack my little cardboard suitcase.

The first time I went to Mobile, they didn’t operate on me. The anesthesia they used then was ether. It’s not used any more. They didn’t put me to sleep the first time, but several people held me on a surgical table. They pulled my foot around and erect. It was called a dropped foot and a curvature. Of course, it was so painful they had to hold me and they put a cast on it. Back then they were experimenting. They left my foot, which was very painful, in the cast with it pulled around straight. When they took the cast off, it went back to its old deformity.

They would send me in a taxi from the hospital to the bus station and I would always sit on the front seat because the driver was responsible for me. The next time I went to Mobile, I went on the Greyhound Bus. Each time I would go my father would console me. He didn’t mean to lie, he meant it, saying, “The next time you come home Honey, you are going to wear shoes like Jeanette.” That was the incentive I had. I would go with the hope that one day I would have feet and legs like Jeanette, because she always had the prettiest feet and legs. She is an old lady now and still has pretty feet and legs. But that never happened to me.

The second time I went to the hospital in Mobile, the doctors performed an amazing surgery. My heel string was shortened by polio – my heel would never go down on the floor and I walked on my tippy toes on that foot. The first surgery I had, was a heel string graft (hamstring) They took sheep tendon and cut my heel string and grafted the sheep’s heel string so my heel would extend to floor when I stood. It was amazing, remarkable, the most successful surgery I had. It worked wonderfully.

Many times, I would go to the hospital for evaluation or observation or wondering what they could do for me. One time they operated on my ankle and braced it with sheep bone. That time they sent me home with a cast on and evidentially they sent me home too early because I remember the cast bleeding through. When I got home, my foot started swelling and my toes began to turn purple. My daddy got to a phone (we didn’t have a phone back then) and he called the hospital in Mobile. They told him to get me back as soon as possible. That was the only time that my mother went with me. She said she could not let me go alone on that bus in pain. I was so elated that I had somebody to go with me that it didn’t matter if I hurt. I wanted the world to see that I had my mama.

But I didn’t know what was ahead of me. I thought she could see my friends there and I would show them that I had a mama! When I got there, they brought a container with vinegar and eye dropper and cut a trench down my long leg cast .They let me drop the vinegar down that trench to soften the cast. I guess they thought that occupy me and keep me out of trouble. I thought that mama would stay or that she and I would go home together. But the next morning mama left and I had to stay so the doctors could take the cast off, check the incision for infection, then put on a new cast. Then I would go home. I don’t know how long I stayed, but I must have stayed another two weeks. They seemed to send me to Mobile every summer so I wouldn’t miss school.

I started to school on time. I remember my daddy buying a little red wagon. The hospital would send me home without any crutches. Even though I had a cast or brace, I never had any crutches. My sister, Jeanette, would put me on her back (I was as big as she was) and take me outside so I could see my brothers and sisters play. I never knew why I didn’t have crutches when I was a little girl.

We had to walk a distance for the school bus; it didn’t come to our house. My brothers and sisters, Jeanette, maybe Ed, they would pull me in that red wagon to meet the school bus. I guess I didn’t do much walking after I was at school. I don’t remember that much.

But they helped me in Mobile. After surgery, I had a short leg brace and a hightop shoe. I never knew why I had a long leg cast and short leg brace. I think the worst problem I had at that age was my foot that was turned over or deformed from having polio.

In all those visits, I never had one visitor; I was so far from home. One day a class of elderly Sunday school ladies came to visit the hospital. They looked old to me. I don’t know how old they were. One lady came over to my bed and said, “Little girl, is there anything you want? Can I send you something?” And I said, “Yes, ma’am, I want a coloring book and some crayons.” To this day I love to color. She said, “I’ll send you some”. Made my day! I would wake up and say, “The coloring book is coming today.” I had told my mom not to write to me, “If I see your handwriting, I’ll cry.” I thought it was better not to read any letters to make me cry. So I didn’t expect any letters from home. I turned home off, and turned my thoughts to what was happening in the hospital.

If didn’t have surgery, I would help the nurses. I could work pretty well. I was not confined some of the times that I was in the hospital. Every day nurses would take us out under the large oak trees with Spanish moss hanging in them. The ice cream truck would come by, and each child would eat an ice cream (there were wheel chairs for those who couldn’t walk).

Now I looked for the postman. I was waiting for my coloring book and crayons. The postman was happy guy, came in whistling. He would throw the mail onto the beds and we would catch it. He came and I got no coloring book. I kept thinking, “Maybe she’ll send the coloring book tomorrow.”

Then one day the postman came in and threw a brown paper-covered package on my bed and I tore into that package and it was crayons and coloring book! I opened the first page and it was already colored! I thought, “She has sent me a used coloring book, second-hand!” Then I looked down at that page and started crying because somebody had signed it and it was Nette (my sister, Jeanette). Then I grabbed package and saw it was addressed in Mama’s handwriting. And it was God. My mama sent the coloring book and crayons and I had mixed emotions. I was so proud of that coloring book and angry with that lady who didn’t come through. I really learned right then, at an early age, you never promise a child something without following through. I never have forgotten that lady who promised me a coloring book. She probably forgot it and never thought of it again.

Other things happened there that God did even though I didn’t know the Lord. One time I was so homesick and I told the other children. A girl said, “I heard that if you hold a Bible and let it open randomly and if you make a wish and hold your hand on the verse “And it came to pass,” it will happen. I got a Bible and opened it. It seems like I had to open it several times before I found “And it came to pass.” I said, "I wish to go home on Tuesday." It must have been Wednesday or Thursday of that week and I was going to give it several days to happen. I sort of forgot about it, but Monday morning, somebody ran into the girls’ ward shouting, “Needham Hunt has company! His daddy is over there.” Boys stayed on one side of the hall and girls on the other side. Needham was a teenager and I was a little girl, but I think I had a crush on him. We got in trouble together sometimes. We got in our wheelchairs and raced down the hall. It was a semi- basement – I could look out the window and see feet walking by, but couldn’t see the whole person. The hall had a decline -- we could go down fast. But we were not supposed to do that. But we would slip around. I raced with Needham and I knew that Needham’s home was not far from mine. I wanted to meet that man. I was forward (I have never been shy anyway). “How long are you going to stay?” I asked Needham’s father. ”I have to leave tomorrow.” he replied. “I could go home if someone could take me, I hinted. ”Would you take me home with you, I live in Headland.” Needham stayed, but there I was available, hitch-hiking, never seen the man before. He took me home and as we rode, I thought about that wish several days ago on the Bible. I didn’t pray, I wished, but don’t you know God was in that? He knew the desire of a little crippled girl’s heart. And it says in the Bible, “God knows the desires of our hearts.” Tuesday night, a car pulled up in front of my house. They weren’t expecting Jan but I was home. It was night when we got there. A full day’s journey – a long drive. Wasn’t that something? I really believe that my faith in God started way back then, when somebody told me to find a Bible. I know that it’s not true, wishing on the Bible – but that’s what happened anyway.

I don’t know how many surgeries I had but the ether was taking its toll on me. One time in the recovery room I woke up screaming for my father. (He was my friend. See I have memories of him swinging me in a swing on the front porch. He would put his feet up in the swing and hold me in his lap. I loved to smell him – he smelt like Prince Albert smoking tobacco. He rolled his own cigarettes. He would let me hold his can of smoking tobacco -- a tin can -- and I would put my nose in the can and smell the tobacco. It’s a wonder I didn’t turn out to be a smoker, but I didn’t.)

I thought I was hollering, but my diaphragm had collapsed. That’s why I have a speech problem today. Recently - -2 yrs ago, I had an appointment with an orthopedist. He and I talked and I asked him, “Dr. Edwards, why don’t they ever use ether now?” He said it is too dangerous. I told him about the time I had my 3 or 4 surgeries and was screaming with no sound. He said my diaphragm collapsed –“you almost died”. Well, the ether was so terrible I felt like I was smothering. He said ether cut off a patient’s oxygen for a time then eased up on it once we were asleep. He stated, “It is so dangerous you won’t smell it in a hospital again.’

One time I came home and my nerves were shot. I had nightmares and, even in daytime, mama said I would cry out. I would see an old woman who would “yah yah yah” at me. I guess I was hallucinating. My mother told daddy, “She’s had all she can take. She’s not going back to the hospital.” I needed another surgery to stabilize my ankle, to bring my toes up and stabilize it. Mother had common sense. “This is it. Fifteen times she has had surgery. We are not going to send her off.’’

I had to wear such an ugly shoe! When I was almost in high school, I came home from school one afternoon, and said, “I am tired of this ugly shoe. I’m never going to wear it again.” I took off the shoe and threw it hard on a pile of corn and it made corn start falling down. I guess I walked into our house barefoot.

So Daddy bought me some penny loafers. He had to buy two pairs, because my right foot was two sizes smaller than my left one. I wore size 6 on the left and 4 on the right. I would take white gauze and strap my ankle up and put on socks. That’s how I went through high school. I believe it was good for me because I used no corrective shoes, stick, or crutch. I had the best time in high school.

. In 11th grade I went out for cheerleading. I liked to perform and was not shy. Before my diaphragm collapsed, I was in every play in school. The teachers had me singing, acting, and everything, because, I think I was good. After my diaphragm trouble, I started stuttering and hesitating and having speech problems. I went to speech school. At high school try outs we had to perform for the student body and they voted on us.

Jan's story ends here, but she went on to live a life filled with love and accomplishment. She had no children of her own, but "took in" an Asian boy and she and her husband raised him with such love that they not only have him as their son, but his wife and children who loved her husband, T.W., and love "GranJan" immensely.

Note: From T.W. Snider (Rev. Snider, now deceased, was Jan's husband. He lived -- in excellent health until the very end -- until 1 day past his 100th birthday) on Jan’s condition:

Jan is in a wheelchair at all times, except when in bed. However, she has a “lift” on the rear of the car which carries the chair. The chair is electric. Polio finally got her back and legs and is now working on her arms.

When one has polio and the germs do their job, the go to sleep in the spine. Then, 60% of the time, they awaken long later and do much harm. Now they are after Jan’s arms. I can’t cook because of ignorance. She can’t because of inability. So we sit and wait and the food comes to us!

Monday, August 1, 2011


This is another chapter in the book I am compiling about girls growing up in the South. Ella was my mother's aunt, half-sister to mother's mother, Elizabeth, who is mentioned in the story. Aunt Ella is gone now, but lives on in the love and memories of her children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren as well as her other family members. She had a remarkably clear head when she wrote this and I wish I had more of her memories. Ella was born in 1909.


Dear Niece,

Thanks for writing and the pretty card. Hope your cold is better. I haven’t had one so far this year and am so grateful.

Of course, I don’t get out any more unless someone is with me to keep me from falling as I don’t have any balance and I can’t hardly hear. I don’t even talk on the phone as I can’t hear. I am now 92 years old (written in 2001), have been lots of places, seen lots of things. I am proud of that and have my memories of them.

I will try to answer your questions as best I remember them.

I grew up mostly in Belmont (N.C.). Our house was made of wood painted white with 3 bedrooms, a living room, and a sitting room, a kitchen and dining room in one end of the kitchen. No inside bathroom. Took our baths in a big washing tub. Like we did our clothes. Used a wash board. Boiled them in a big black boiler. Used 3 tubs of Ranch Water (rinse water). My mother was not well. So a black woman did the work. Most times, all 6 of my sisters and 1 brother worked at the mill. Dad worked at Union Store. We always had plenty of food and Mom was a good cook and a loving mother. I never heard Mom and Dad talk mean to each other. And all of us got along good together.

We all had good friends, which was at our house lots. There was some kind of entertainment in the park on Saturday night. If it was raining, Dad would make a big oyster stew and the older sisters had their friends at our house. I didn’t eat oysters, so we had ice cream, too. Them was the good old days.

Well, I was nervous as a child, so I didn’t do too many bad things those days. Only got 2 spankings from Mom. One of them was calling Marry (sp) and Lula a devil. They caused me to get the spanking in the first time. They was always fighting each other over something little. People thought they were twins and they didn’t like that.

In the first grade at school, I did not like my teacher. She was a old maid and very hateful. I got sent to the principal’s office several times. I did not get a spanking from him. He would say, “Honey, you can dust my desk and straighten it up for me.” He knew how my teacher was. He was a young crippled man and so good. We walked to school just a short distance from our house. So was the town of Belmont.

When I was young, I had lots of friends – a happy childhood. A loving Mom and Dad, 5 sisters and 3 brothers and we loved each other. My home was happy.

Well, I played basket ball and we were called the Bloomer Girls as our bloomers was black satin. Took 3 yards of cloth to make them. White blouse. And I liked to play Hop Scotch. Hide and Seek.

I had a nice boy friend when I was 14 and loved him very much. And almost married him. But just too young.

When I grew up, I had nice boy friends. My Dad said, “Do your dating at home.” And we had a nice living room to entertain them. We had a Victrola, so we listened to music or just talked. We had a big fireplace in it which burned logs. Dad always built a fire in it and said, “When the logs burn up, it’s bed time.” So we would slip out and get another log. Couldn’t leave a fire going as it might set the carpet on fire.

If I did go anywhere in a car, my brother, Bill, and his girl friend was with me and they got married one week after I did. I was just 16 when I married. He was a good looking you man, but he liked (lacked) 3 months of being 18, so both of our Dads had to sign for us to get married so young. Was married on Valentine’s Day – 16 on January 9, married February 14. That’s just too young. But lived together as long as he lived. O, we had our ups and downs, but stayed together. Had one son Stan Baker. Have 4 grandchildren, 6 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-granddaughter. There is 5 generations in my family.

When I lived in Belmont, I had lots of girl friends to play with and we was so happy. And, of course, I claimed some little boys as sweethearts. So did the other girls. I never forgot my friends there. The ones I loved there are all dead now. And most of the ones I had in Lenoir (N.C.) are, too. I never forget a friend.

One time my older sisters went on a train to Edgemont and stayed in a hotel there. Well, I wanted to go, too. But I could not. I cried but I didn’t get to go anyway. It made me so sad, I wished I was older. Now I would like to be younger, but I can’t get that, either.

We had a 5-piece living (room) set, a center table, plenty of room and gas lights. Carbide gas, which was made at home when we moved to Lenoir from Belmont. Dad built a 7-room house.

I was took to church when small. The Lutheran church and joined at12 years old. My Mom always went to the Lutheran church and Dad was raised a Lutheran.

I cannot tell you much about your grandmother, Elizabeth. She was grown up when I was small. She was a very pretty young girl. I did know her in later days and I loved her. Went to see her as often as I could. And all the rest of my sisters and brother – I loved them all.

Had a good home, plenty to eat, a loving Mom and Dad, sisters and brothers. One brother I’ve never seen. He died before I was born and a little sister died. She was the baby of our family. She was so pretty. I was 6 years old when she died. She was 3 years old.

When Grandma Wise died, I was 4 years old and Clyde was 2. But I remember how she looked. Mom took Rosamay, Clyde and Cathern (sp) to Lincolnton (N.C.) to Aunt Jesse to see her. It was pouring rain and we went to the grave in buggies. It was cold, too.

I was named after the only sister Dad had. Her name was Ella and Mom’s sister’s name was Jane. So my name is Ella Jane. I have a coffee cup an old lady gave me when I was 6 years old and the cup was old when she gave it to me. It’s over 100 years old now. It’s precious to me. That’s the most I remember about things.

It was sweet of you to write me.

Write me again. Tell Holly (Beth’s daughter) hi for me. I like the pictures she draws. She is a pretty girl. Tell all hi for me. I love you.

Hope you can read this mess. I can’t hardly read it.

Old in years and looks,

But young at heart

At 92 Love, Ella

P.S. I do not remember too much about what I done in those days. Am sure I wasn’t a little angel.

Best I can do.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Katie's Story

This is an excerpt from a book I am compiling about girls growing up in the South. This is the first story that I received and it was so compelling that it set the whole book in motion. Katie was a friend and a lovely Christian woman. She struggled all her life, but kept the wonderful attitude toward life that shines through her story. She wrote this in "stream of consciousness" style and I have recorded it as she wrote it. She didn't receive much education as a girl, but continued to improve herself all her life. Her children called my daughter her "white grandchild" because of her love for Holly. Our lives wouldn't have been the same without her advice, grace, and love.


September 14, 1932January 9, 2001

My name is Katie Lovett High.

I was born in Meriweather County, in Woodbury, GA. I was the oldest girl of five children. I had one brother and 3 sisters. Everlene was next to me. Most peoples thought Everlene and I were twins. I was three years older than her. Mary Lou was born in 1938. She is tall and very thin. She is the real quiet type, kind, and very nosey. But don’t talk much unless she knows you. After I turned 12 years and 2 days old, my sister, Betty Jean, was born. She, too, like all of us, were born at home, delivered by midwives. We was glad to have another little sister and we loved her so much. But I was so large for my age, I sometime thought she was my baby instead of my sister. My brother was about 15 years old at this time. When Mama and Daddy couldn’t be with us (at work), he would watch over us and made sure we done our work well. His name was Arthur Lee Lovett – a tall, very intelligent young man, very mannerable and very smart. Our parents were sharecroppers on a farm. We lived on Mr. Bill Pipe Gill Place. Our grandparents lived there, too. We was very poor. Sometime we didn’t have enough food to last from one week to another. But we had love and that made a lot of difference.

I started school very young. We didn’t have to have a birth certificate then, not even health shots. We went to school in a church. One room church out in the country. (Little Bethel AME Church) One teacher. Same as the children, parents went to school to this teacher. Her name was Mrs. Glenna A. West. The parents would let her punish their children any way she wanted. Sometime she would whip them very bad. Soon they stopped me from going to school for a while. They told me I was learning too fast. But I think maybe because my shoes tore up. We only got one pair of shoes a year. If they tore up, you just didn’t have any more for a long time.

I started work for money at the age of 9 years old – dropping seed in a corn field. And chopping cotton. I sometime would make $1.00 a day and sometime $ 0.75 a day. Mr. Walton’s wife hired me to sweep yards for her. She would pay us in old clothes that her three daughters didn’t want no more. I remember one year after my sister Everlene got started to school we had been chosen to be in the Easter program. I had let her start help me sweep Mrs. Walton’s yards. So they gave us a large bundle of clothes that time. We were so glad. Everlene and I could dress up for the Easter program. Mrs. Hart gave us some shoes -- black and white saddle oxfords. They was too small, but we wore them to the church, anyway. I hated to walk back home that night because my feet hurted so bad, but I knew my dress was pretty and Everlene’s dress was pretty and we looked as pretty as the other childrens did. Mrs. Walton sold Mama one of her son’s suit for Arthur and he and I found his shoes in the Junk Pile. Of course we had to do a little work on his shoes, but we were still happy. We felt like we had climbed a big hill in our lives. We could go to church like other peoples.

When we finished our chores on weekends, we could go out to play. We didn’t have real toys, but we had animals to play with. My grandfather had 2 large work oxes. Their names were Dock and Dane. We grew up with the cows. We played with them (including) Arthur and my two youngest uncles, Curtis and James Godfry.

Seem like we stayed in that same way for such a long time. There was no work in the winter for none of us but Daddy. By the time he bought food for the whole family and pay Insurance bill, it wouldn’t hardly be any money left. My brother and I began to want to help better our living situation. We began to wish for some of the things like the neighbors had. So, I began to make our clothes anyway. When Mama would be sick, I had to take over all of the housework. I remember one time they all got sick with the flu except me. I had to cook, wash, cut wood, make the fire and go to the store. We didn’t have running water. We drew water from a well.

My brother left home at the age of 16. He went to Florida to find work. Fort Lauderdale, FLA. I hated for him to leave but he had made his mind up. He did find work and he sent money back home to help out. I missed him so much. We wanted to go to church and Sunday school together. We would talk problems over together. We were a close family, except Daddy – sometime he could be very mean. I guess that was some of the reason my mother was sick.

Then I began to think how life might be in the future for me. I was growing up in age. I was the only girl in the family for a while, so I guess I was a bit spoiled.

My grandparents had 9 childrens – 6 boys and 3 girls. My youngest 2 uncles grew up with my brother and me. My brother worked and made sure that we did, too. Everlene talked a lot and wanted things to go her way. Mary Lou wouldn’t talk to you if she didn’t know you. She sing a lot. My sister Betty Jean was short and pretty and talked and laughed a lot. All of my sisters and my brother looked like Mama, but I look like Daddy. I had started school when Mary Lou was born, but I didn’t have to miss many days out of school. She was born the 13th day of December.

The next year after Betty Jean was born, I worked in the peach orchard. My father was a fruit orchard man. He knew about fruit trees and how to make them bear good fruit. He knew how to bud a peach tree, to make it bear different fruits. He knew when to add the fertilizer to make the trees grow and what kind of insecticide to spray the trees with to keep away the insects. He knew how to prune the trees and cut away dead limbs.

When the fruit got ripe, we start to picking them. We had to choose the right ones to pick. We had to carry bags that holed (held) a bushel on our shoulder and stomach, fasten with straps. All day long, we was promised to be paid a dime for each bag, but we was told that so we would pick peaches faster and harder. We was given numbers and we would work so hard trying to earn more money. Somtime Mr. Gill would pay us more money and sometime we wouldn’t hardly make nothing. So this would be money for a new dress for homecoming at our church and for a good Sunday dinner. This went on every year for years.

After the peach picking was over, we then would go back to work on the farm. Picking cotton, picking peppers. When we pick the pepper, we would have to grade it before we could take it to the plant. When we picked the cotton we would have to pick at least twelve hundred and fifty pounds before we could take it to the gin. After being ginned and all the cotton seeds been taken out, the cotton would be made into bales. And they would weigh about 450 to 500 lbs.

Let me tell you what sharecropping means: Whoever owned the farm get half of all the money that is made on the farm. Half of everything else that raised on the farm if he want it, and you have to pay for your half of fertilizer and insecticide. You have to do all the work. If, for any reason, you have to borrow money for the farm or have to have outside workers, the sharecropper have to pay all of that. Sometime you would work all spring, summer, and fall and wouldn’t make enough money to buy your family clothes and shoes for winter. Sometime the boss man, rather the owner of the farm, would keep all of money came out of the farm.

I remember there was sometimes my mother would go to the barn and get the mule corn and cook it for us. She would cook hominy with the corn and sometime she would parch it and after we finish eating, we would be full. And could wait until next mealtime. After our grandfather gave us a heifer calf and later when she came in fresh and was giving milk, that was a blessing to us. At first we didn’t have a churn or dasher, so when her milk was ready to churn the first few times, Mama would shake it up and down in a bucket until the butter would come. After that my grandfather made her a dasher and she bought a churn. Then we could have cornbread muffins for breakfast, butter, and milk.

My grandfather, which is my mother’s father, was a craft maker also. He made work baskets. In those days, peoples used work baskets in the cotton field. They used clothes baskets. He made them and he could put a new bottom in chairs. And he made quilting frames. In those days, peoples made their own quilts. He would get to the woods and cut down white oak trees, bring them home, cut off the bark, split the trees up and then he would run the splits to make the baskets or whatever he wanted to make.

I remember my grandparents and us would be sitting under this large mulberry tree. Big Mama and Big Papa would be working so hard. I like to work and watch what and how they made things. After running them splits about tree length, they would roll them up and soak them in water. That help them to be more flexible to bend and slide more easily so they could weave in and around the basket frame or whatever they were making. Peoples came far and near and bought baskets and things from Big Papa. But never paid him much money, for anything they made.

He also was a blacksmith. In his workshop, he shod mules. In those days, peoples worked their farms with mules. This is when his work oxes was so much help to him. He really didn’t have to use the boss man’s mule to work his farm or for traveling. He used his oxes. He worked his farm with Dock and Dan. And he also had a 1- horse wagon so he would also hitch one to the wagon and we ride in the wagon wherever we had to go. So in his blacksmith shop he sharpen plowing tools such as scatter and scrapes, hoes, made bits to go in mules’ mouth and also he put shoes on Dock and Dan.

Then one day Big Papa and Mr. Gill had a bad disagreement, so Big Papa and his family moved away. My mother and we children was very sad. Daddy didn’t really care, because he and Big Papa didn’t get along so well. After that Big Mama began to be sick a whole lot. After some time passed Big Mama died and they we felt sorry for Big Papa, but he married again in such a short time. A woman that we didn’t like and I really don’t think she liked us. I never wanted to go to Big Papa’s house any more. Eventually Big Papa died, too. So we didn’t go around his wife any more.

Well, after this all happen, we grew up and continued in school and church. Our mother and father went to church with us sometime. We would go to church on Sunday morning and stay until late in the afternoon, go home, milk the cow, get in wood and water, eat dinner and go back to church again that night.

In the fall of the year on the farm is gathering time. We would pick cotton. After that was over we then would pull corn. That was another hard job – you could so easily pull your wrist out of place or cut your hands doing that. But it had to be done.

Sometime we would plow up the sweet potatoes and put them in hills. We would make the potato hills by putting down dead pine straw in a slightly dug out place. We first would leave the sweet potatoes out in the sun so they could dry out before putting them in the hill. It would take a lot of pine straw. Then we would get dry corn stalks and place them around them potatoes in a round circle, after piling the potatoes in a pile onto the pine straw. Then you have to stack the dry corn stalks very closely together around the potatoes. After you get the corn stalk as close as you could, then we would tie them together at the top so they look like a Indian tepee. Then they would just pile a lot of dirt, lots and lots of dirt, around the cornstalks. Some more pine straw and some more dirt, then they would leave a certain place so you could reach inside the potato hill and get sweet potatoes out of the hill whenever we needed to.

Then we would gather the peas. Sometimes we could store them in a sack or just put them out on the barn floor. When we wanted to cook some peas, we would put some in a sack, tie up the sack and get a piece of wood and beat the sack until all of the hulls would come loose. Then we would find out what direction the wind was blowing and we would pour the peas from one container to another until all of the dry hulls were blowing away. After picking the bad peas out, we washed them and cooked them.

There was a old woman that lived in the neighborhood. Her name was Aunt Sarah Brown. She lived with her sister, her niece and husband. Their names were Nettie Cofield, Lottie and John Hamler. They were nice peoples but didn’t nobody care too much for Aunt Sarah, especially the neighborhood childrens. She knew everbody in the neighborhood and in those days everybody respected and loved everbody. Regardless how they treated you. Aunt Sarah would visit the parents while the children would be in school and ask for food and they would let her go into the kitchen and fix her something to eat. Aunt Sarah would eat up everything. She act as though she never got enough to eat.

One cold and rainy Sunday, Aunt Sarah died. She died at home. They didn’t take Aunt Sarah’s body to the undertaker. They embalmed her body at home. Our parents went to their home to be with the bereaved family and left us childrens at home all night by ourselves. I had never been so afraid in my life. We were afraid to go from one room to another by our self. After Mama and Daddy came home the next day, we got all right. Our house had shutter windows – they are windows that look like doors. We were afraid to leave the windows open. I went to see Aunt Sarah’s corpse. Some one told me to rub my hands over her face so I wouldn’t be afraid of dead peoples no more, so I did. But I am still afraid of dead peoples.

My granddaddy operated a syrup mill, so in the late fall, people would strip their sorghum cane and sugar cane, cut it down and bring it to the syrup mill. Then Big Papa would start to grind the syrup cane by hitching a mule to a shaft and the mule would go round and round to grind the juice out of the cane into a very large pot. Then they would start the process of cooking the cane juice. And they would dip the foam off of the cane juice as it cooked so that the syrup would be a bright color. Sorghum syrup is darker than sugar cane and taste different, but the sugar cane syrup cost more. Sometime the owner of the cane would pay Big Papa off in syrup and he would sometime store it in barrels and we would enjoy eating the syrup by sopping it with bread or sometime we would cook with the syrup; if it was left in the barrel long enough the syrup would turn to sugar. And we would dissolve the syrup sugar by place it in warm water.

Our chores in the afternoon, such as sawing wood for the fire place and piling it on the front porch and getting something very light to start the fire in the morning. The house which we lived in was very old and shabby. We could look through the cracks in the floor. The rafts was rotten some place – seems as though you would fall through. The floors was made with big wide planks.

I remember my Big Papa made Mama a scrubbing mop for the floors to be cleaned with. The scrubbing mop was made out of a thick piece of wood about 1 ½ feet long and about 1 foot wide. He drill about 12 holes in the wood and attach a handle to the wood just like a hoe handle. We would stuff the holes in the mop with corn shucks. Very tight so they wouldn’t come out of the mop. Then we would mix some home made soap in hot water and scrub the floor with that and a little sand.

We made our own soap by using waste fat from the kitchen, a can of lye and water. We first would put the waste fat in a wash pot and then we would pour the lye on top of the waste fat, make a fire around the wash pot and cook the waste fat and lye very slowly until the fat and lye would look like a very thick foam. Then we would add water about a gallon at a time. The water had to be sterilized also. We would continue to add water as the soap cooked slowly until it became very thick. We would test it by sticking a long chicken feather in the soap and, if the feathers stayed on the stem, then we knew it about ready. We then could add a little pine tree rosin to help make it firm. Then we would put the soap back to cool so we could slice it into bars. We used this soap to wash the laundry and boil the clothes in the wash pot and they would come clean, like the floor would come so clean, until they looked white.

In the winter time we never were warm when the weather would be real cold or just cold and rainy. Sometime it would rain and the water would leak on our head. We would get up and move the bed around, or if we could, we would put down pots and pans to catch the water in. For a long time, our house had a wooden shingle top. By the house being old and shabby, when the March wind came a lot of the shingles would fall off of the top of the house, because they was rotten.

My three sisters was born in that house – Everlene, Mary Lou, and Betty Jean Lovett. Arthur and I were born before Mama and Daddy moved there. But we lived in that house for a long time. One day Mrs. Walton and her family sold their farm and house and moved to town.

We all had to use water from a dug well and something happen to the well and the water wasn’t good to use. At first our well water got so bad until we couldn’t use it. So Mama and Daddy would make us draw all the water out of the well in our spare time. I mean we would have to draw all of it out, but when the water came back in the well, it would still stink. It seem like something were growing in the well, so we had to stop using the water. Then we had to start carrying water from the neighbors’ house – those that would let us. But in the country, the houses is a long way apart, so that wasn’t much help. You never know how much water you use until you have to bring it from a long way. Then we discovered we had a water spring down in the cow pasture, which were another blessing from the Lord. So we carried all the water we needed from that spring. A spring is a vein of water that came up from the ground by itself. So we cleaned around the spring and had plenty of clean, clear good and pure water again. There also was something like a lake which the spring supplied water for the cows not far away and some time we would have to fight or kill snakes before we could get our water, but we got it just the same.

Mama wouldn’t hardly ever go to the spring because she was so afraid of snakes and worms. Mama was so easy going and nice and as long as she and her family could be together and barely survive, she would be happy. She taught us to love everybody and be thankful even though she knew what the situation was, but she didn’t complain. I loved her so much I almost felt sorry for her but I didn’t want to be like her. But I would have like to had her looks. She was very pretty. The rest of them looks like Mama and they have her beautiful color, but I looks like Daddy. But I really don’t care now because I know color is just skin deep.

Then, one day Mr. and Mrs. Walton sold their home and farm and moved to town. And the peoples that bought the place remodeled the house and when they had finish, they threw away a lot of good lumber so they let us get as much of the lumber as we wanted. So we didn’t have anyway to bring the lumber home, but to carry it in our arms. So we carried enough to fix the walls of the kitchen because before we fixed the kitchen, you could stand outdoors and reach in the kitchen and get things. Just like before they let us have electric sometimes if the wind blew hard enough it would blow the lamp light out. We used lamps for lighting because we didn’t have electric. We study our school lesson by lamp light. Arthur, Everlene and I. But after the man that owned the house saw that we were trying to fix the house, he started to do some work on the house. He put in glass windows, he put on a roofing shingles roof. And he wrapped the house in black and tan roofing siding. He also let Daddy rebuild the porch. We were so glad. For the first time our home looked more like a house instead of a barn. But we still didn’t have but four rooms. But the house looked so much better.

Everlene, Mary Lou, and I shared a bed until my brother left home. Sometime I use to wish I had a bed to sleep in by myself, but I thought it would never happen. I just sort of dream about it, but I never wanted to spend the night with other peoples. I always wanted to sleep at home, use my own hair comb, toothbrush, wear my own clothes and shoes. I never wanted to borrow other people’s things and didn’t want to lend……

Katie’s narrative ends here. She had written 20 pages of memories for me and intended to continue, but somehow never did or never got her later work to me.

Thank you, Katie. I know where you are and am so happy to have known you. You were a blessing to our lives. I love you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


This is a child's book that I wrote many moons ago. My husband, Ray, told me once of a Cherokee legend about "Moon-Eyed" people, who were nocturnal, with huge eyes and pale skin. The Cherokee displaced the Moon-Eyed tribe when they moved East and South during their migration. I questioned many elders of the Eastern Cherokee tribe and searched for information in books about the Cherokee. Finally I found the story, with three different endings - obliteration of the Moon-Eyed tribe, absorption of this people, and banishment.

Holly did the artwork when she was in second grade, under the supervision of Jeanette Weimer, her art teacher. I was always proud of the artwork, but never found a publisher for this little book. So here it is, at last, on my blog. I hope you enjoy it.

(Please click on each picture and it will enlarge.)