Call – Opelika-Auburn News
She was the meanest mama in the county
Memory is not perfect. There are some
things I wish I could remember – like being cradled in the arms of my mother
when I was a baby. I am sure I was; I just cannot push my memory that far
Being the oldest of five children I do
remember mama in a rocking chair, singing softly and caressing my sisters and
my brother. I can even remember holding my siblings in my arms and rocking them
to sleep when they were babies. The youngest of us, my brother Seth, was born
when I was eleven years old.
I have no doubt that mama was kind and
gentle with her babies. She wanted a
family. Becoming a homemaker was a destiny she gladly embraced.
The two of them, Walter and Caroline,
turned their backs on city living and made their home in the country. They
rented some river bottomland in southern Elmore County and carved out a niche
for themselves. With a seventh-grade education and an iron will, dad bravely believed
he could make a living by farming.
Dad built a home on high ground less than
a mile north of the Tallapoosa River. When the river flooded most of the farm,
the water never reached our home. The site he chose was covered with thick
briars. I have always felt an affinity
with Brer Rabbit because my mama birthed me in a briar patch.
Dad completed the home in 1930. He had no
architect’s assistance and the help of only one farm hand. The house still
stands secure on the Cyprus logs hewed and put in place by my dad’s hands. After 80 years the foundation shows little
signs of decay. My sister Neva and I were both born in that home.
Several years passed before dad was able
to improve the house with indoor plumbing. I have a treasured picture of my dad
and me taken when I was only two years old. In the background is the window
through which dad poured water into the tub where our family bathed during our
growing up years.
Some people call those years “the good
old days,” but my parents called those years “hard times.” Mama was mighty proud
to have a toilet in the house. Nobody was ever happier to swap an outhouse in
the back for a bathroom inside. I don’t remember using “the path” when I was
small, but I do recall how the site of the throne room smelled long after it
was torn down.
I started to school my schoolmates in town laughed about how far out in the
country I lived. “They have to pipe in sunshine out there.” Years would pass before
I realized how fortunate I had been to grow up “in the sticks.”
was while growing up on the farm that I began to realize that my mother was the
meanest mama in the county. Mama made me mind her. As far back as I can
remember, if she told me to do something, she expected
me to do it. Obedience was required. I learned that yes meant yes, and no meant
If I sassed her I got two whippings – one from
her with a switch and another from dad with his big, black belt. With that
awesome belt he taught me that sassing my mama was not a smart move.
did not wait on daddy to handle my punishment. She was so mean she even made me
go cut a peach tree limb for her to use on my behind. If the one I brought her was
too small, she made me go back and get a larger one.
made me dress up and go to church. I had Sunday clothes and Sunday shoes. Mama
and daddy did this church thing from day one. She plopped me in the nursery
when I was only a few weeks old. I hated Sunday school. The other children
intimidated me; they lived in town and I was a country boy. But mama paid no
attention to my feelings and made me go to church.
was mean because she insisted on my doing chores. I had to take the garbage out
to the burning barrel. I had to bring in a constant supply of stove wood. I
even had to make up my own bed and keep my room cleaned up. She had the nerve
to expect me to become responsible.
I skinned myself mama poured iodine on the hurt places. She had no compassion
when I begged her not to use iodine because it burned so badly. She said it
would feel good when it quit hurting.
school days mama insisted that I do my homework when I got home from school.
Playing was out of the question until my homework was finished. She was so
cruel that she demanded that I learn to read and how to spell.
was not satisfied with my doing only the basic requirements of school. She was
so mean that she signed me up for extra stuff. I had to take piano lessons, and
voice lessons, sing in the glee club, take “expression” (a speech class), and
learn how to recite long poems.
I became a teenager mama did not soften up. I sometimes tried to get my way
without going to dad, especially when I knew his answer would be no. She
refused to be manipulated and would say, “You will have to ask your father for
never wavered. If she disagreed with my daddy, I never knew about it. They were
always in agreement when I tried to stretch the boundaries they had laid out
for my behavior. Their requirements were strict but I knew what they were, and
I knew that I would be punished if I crossed the line.
was mean about the food we ate. She expected us to eat what was put before us.
What she prepared, we ate, and not just some of it, all of it. You were not
excused from the table until you had “cleaned your plate.”
expected us to work hard just like she and daddy did. The flowerbeds always
needed work. Mama hated nut grass. My siblings and I pulled up tons of nut
grass so the flowers could grow. It was hard work in the sunshine, but mama was
expected me to be home when I said I would be home. She insisted on knowing
where I was, and what I was doing. She kept close tabs on her brood.
expected me to be honest too. If she gave me two dollars so I could bring home
some bread and eggs, she expected me to give her the exact change. Money was
tight and every penny was needed.
is no doubt about it. My mama was the meanest mama in Elmore County when I was
a boy. But on Mother’s Day I sure do miss her. I wish I could thank her one
more time for being so mean to me. + + +