It is true that I never heard one of them say a cruel or angry word to the other. It is also true that they never raised their voices to one of the granddaughters. They were never critical of what we did or said. Therefore, we were always respectful and loving toward them. Many parents and grandparents should take a lesson from this.
Ma didn’t like to see us girls sun bathing. She told us that it would ruin our complexions and she was right. She had beautiful fair skin and always wore sleeves and a wide hat or bonnet in the sun. I do think that her complexion was a genetic trait more than anything we did or didn’t do.
I remember asking Ma, as I left their house on a date, “Ma, do I look okay?” I expected her to say that I looked pretty but she only said, “If you act as well as you look, you will be allright.” Ma thought that how you acted in public, whether at a neighbor’s house or at the doctor’s office, told the world what kind of person you were. Ma never used a swear word nor did she use slang. With her limited education, she taught herself proper grammar and word usage. She was an avid reader, especially the three newspapers to which they subscribed. They always got the Louisville Courier Journal and she read it front to back every day. I learned much in behavior from that gentle soul.
Ma never gossipped and didn’t want to hear it from anyone else. When her neighbor women got together for a day of quilting, you would hear much laughter but no gossip. I know because I sat at that quilt and made stitches on a quilt when I was so little I had to sit on several Sears catalogs.
Pa was a whole other matter. He could curse a blue streak when talking of some neighbor’s lying or stealing. Those were really the worst behavior he could speak about. But he was a true gentle man. He loved his family and we all knew lit. He loved his bird dogs and they loved him. He just didn’t have much respect for one or two of his neighbors. But he would go help one out of a situation in a heartbeat. Pa loved to talk and loved a good joke, though not a dirty joke or one with dirty words. When I picture him in my mind, he’s always laughing.
Pa had the reputation throughout his community of being very honest. It was said of him, “His word is his bond”. I always thought that noting could be more important to a man than his integrity. Once, during the time of Nightriders, he joined because originally the organized farmers were trying to hold back their tobacco to get the big tobacco companies to pay a decent price for their tobacco. Then this group got out of hand and were more vigilanties than any decent group. They beat some men and whipped some so Pa got out. They came to his house one night and called for him to come outside. He went and looked at the group and recognized their horses even though they all had on hoods. He told them not to come back and that he was through with them. That ended his carreer as a Nightrider.
If Ma and Pa didn’t agree on something, you would not know it. They presented a united front. She never discussed politics but he was an avid Republican and you knew that they felt alike about that. She once thought I should be spanked for throwing sand in my cousin’s eyes and I heard Pa say, “No, Sally, that is not our place. That is for her parents to do.” But she did give me a nice talking to. But they were united as usual.
From Pa I learned of his love for animals. We would sit on the front porch in the old swing and listen as he called quail and they answered. At night, we would listen to bobcats squalling that cat noise and they sometimes met down in the front yard if it was mating season. He could mimic many birds. He especially loved to hear the whip-poor-wills. We would sit out on the porch late afternoons listening to different birds and he would name them for me.
It was ironic, I thought, that as an old man, as he lay dying in the hospital, a whip-poor-will sat in a little tree outside his hospital room and gave his distinct call. I hoped that he could hear it, too.
Thank you so much for your letters of encouragement. Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632.