When you come from a small town, ya gotta watch out, especially when it comes to finding a beau. You never know what you might get.
Case in point.
I was born in Alabama, but grew up in California. I first moved back to Alabama as an adult in 2005. Oh, I’d visited on occasion and dad would introduce me to folks here and there but mostly I didn’t remember most of them. When I visited he’d take me and my girls around and introduce me to folks and say “that’s your cousin” and I’d never see them again. I didn’t know most of them, but one time I was sitting in a store waiting on my dad and some lady comes up to me and says “You’re a Brothers, aren’t you?”, I looked around and dad was nowhere in sight, so that wasn’t her clue. I said, “Yes”. She introduced herself as another cousin, who’s name I recognized but had never met. The thing is everyone counts as a “kissin’ cousin” in the south because somewhere down the line, we ARE related. True fact.
When Grandma married grandpa it was frowned upon by her family who were, not so much upper class, as they were from a better batch and considered “refined”. Grandma is the one with hat. My sister Diana reminds me a lot of her sister, Nell.
She had just the one sister. Nell. To this day, the Freeman’s will not acknowledge the Brothers side of the family. Aunt Nell would go on to live considerably longer.
Grandpa, on the other hand was born on the wrong side of the tracks, rough around the edges and a bit crass. He came from a family of like 12 kids, but I believe only 8 survived to adulthood.
He was from the south side of the social spectrum, and like daddy, he could be meaner’n a snake and ya never knew when they’d strike. He was also a womanizing cad.
Daddy told my sister and I about the time grandma learned about one of his liaisons. It just so happens it was with a lady down the road. Far be it for grandma to take that from anybody (except grandpa). So, she grabbed one of the boy’s baseball bat and hightailed herself down the road and threatened that gal within an inch of her life! I’m sure grandpa just laughed. Heck! We told Daddy, she shoulda taken that bat to grandpa!
Grandma was a stay at home mom. She tended the chickens, milked the cow, churned their own butter and was pretty much in charge of the food. When I was a kid, I remember her cultivating about 1/2 acre of produce that would later be “put up” or canned. Grandpa would till the soil and she did the rest. Daddy said, they were poor, but the depression never affected them because of it.
When I was little, she’d send us kids’ out to pick okra, green beans, tomato and corn. She always made us wear these huge bonnets to keep us from getting too tan. Ladies weren’t supposed to get a lot of color in those days. There was nothing like grandma’s cooking either. My could she make the best biscuits, slathered in home churned butter and honey or sorghum and her fried okra and sweet corn with a side of fresh, sliced tomatoes with a dollop of mayo were to die for. Chicken was reserved for Sunday dinners.
When my sister and I moved back there to care for mom and dad, we learned that the house on the right was one grandma bought with her own money. Grandpa hadn’t bought it, but she had, if you can believe that. That would have been in the early 50’s. I remember Diana saying “Go grandma!” Grandma was also one of the first young women who made the paper when they got a drivers license! Pretty amazing lady, I’d say.
Both of them were born in the late 1800’s. 1892 & 95, I believe. They had four sons, the first one died at the age of two or three. Prior to them getting married, grandpa, in his twenties served in the Army in France during WWI. One time while in the attic, we kids found a box of letters from his “fan” club of girls he’d met there. Who knows, we may have “cousins” in France as well.
I remember once, daddy told me that when grandpa was “Sheriff”, daddy got in trouble with him, so grandpa put him in jail. Jail was very similar to the one Andy Taylor ran, only probably a bit smaller. It was a small town and that jail still exists, though it sits empty now. I mentioned this to daddy before he passed and he tells me he doesn’t remember ever telling us that story. Did Grandpa take us by there one day and tell us that maybe? Daddy is the kid that looks like he’s full of the dickens, so it’s wouldn’t have been impossible he was in trouble all the time. I told him, I could imagine him giving his momma a considerable amount of grief. He didn’t deny it. So, even though the story’s veracity came into question, we still tell it. The little cutie in the middle there would grow up to be like grandpa, liking the ladies.
From what I’d heard, Grandpa was known to have jumped around from job to job and was constantly chasing the pie in the sky dreams while doing his womanizing. One day, when daddy was doing a T.V. repair house call, some guy tells daddy, he was his illegitimate brother. Daddy did not know him, but at the same time he was not terribly surprised.
One of grandpa’s later job’s was running oil with my uncle to homes in big tanker trucks.
Before that he ran coal. He even had a jack of all trade business card that though inappropriate and offensive to us today, was a sign of the time then.
Ironically, grandpa, from what daddy said, was fair minded to all his workers black or white and as far as we kids ever saw, this was true. Grandpa was a hard worker and expected the same of anyone who worked under him, including his kids.
I believe he ran the Woodyard the longest and there’s a good chance the coal business was run simultaneously. I say this because the sawmill is where daddy, lost part of his foot at the age of 16, it’s also the backdrop of the picture with the three towheads and he was still running it when I was born, some 10 years later.
Because the train ran right up to the Woodyard and because that was where I was born and lived the first couple of years of my life, I would always find comfort in the sound of trains going by.
Even though grandpa tended to play around, he wasn’t totally without honor. When grandma got sick with cancer, the cost of her care was more than he could handle. He talked to the then sheriff and asked his permission to run a still for the time being and requested said sheriff to look the other way while he raised what he could for her expenses. The sheriff agreed. So, grandpa set up a still, tucked away in the woods on the farm a few miles away. He did this with a partner friend. Said Sheriff would later come around and ask him if he’d raised what he needed. Grandpa replied honestly that he had, so the sheriff told him to tear it down then. Grandpa agreed, but his partner didn’t want to. Grandpa walked away from it, but his partner would later get arrested. That’s how things were in those days.
After grandma died, he married her friend Minnie and when Minnie died, he married, Ada. Minnie was sweet and everyone liked her. Ada on the other hand would be the death of grandpa.
I didn’t know grandpa when he was young, so what I remember of him was kind and funny. I remember him popping his false teeth for us. He told me once to keep my arm back in the truck, because a passing car could pull it right off. He proceeded to tell me of how he was driving by and having some fellas arm on the hood of his truck, so I pulled my arm in immediately. I don’t think I believed him, but I wasn’t gonna take any chances. I remember he liked to whittle. He was skinny and looked like a witch in his later years.
My two girls did get to have some good times with their great grandpa and that’s pretty cool, though they never knew grandma. She died when I was 13.
We kids are what remain.
My Aunt Mildred, Uncle Kenneth, mom and grandma (she probably hated this pic) in back.
My siblings Diana, me, David and Sandra.