This story is not about my family, but from a time and place when my grandparents struggled to raise their family. This is a picture of my grandparents Roscoe Gordon Holdaway and Mary Elizabeth Perkins Holdaway when they first married. “Mama, how come I had to live in that orphanage for a while when I was little? If you ever told me, I don’t remember.” Jenny sat in a porch rocker nursing her new baby. Her mother Lucille sat across from her in another, crocheting a blanket for Little Lucy.
Oh, Jenny, I been wondering when you was gonna ask about that. That like to broke my heart. I don’t want you to think bad of your daddy. He was a real good man, but got caught up in some trouble when you was just a baby. We was a’farming the Henderson Place up in the Panhandle where The Dustbowl was the worst and he got caught moonshining. You have to understand, back in The Great Depression, things was different. They’d been a long drought an’ he hadn’t made a good crop in years. Dust just kept a blowin’ ever’thing away. It was just awful seein’ them dust clouds roll in, knowin’ we was gonna be a’smotherin’ and lose our crops.. That dust would git down in your lungs and turned to mud. That’s what happened to your brother Jimmy when you was just a baby. He died of the dust pneumonia. Anyway, that’s what got your daddy moonshining. We was a’starvin’ and then Jimmy got bad sick. It was real flat out there and he put a still in the storm cellar. The sheriff seen the smoke and come and broke it up and hauled him off to jail. I didn’t know what I was gonna do. Since I’m a’gonna be here a few days, it’d be a good time to tell you. Now, you got a baby of your own, you ought’a be able to know what a hard thing it is to leave a young’un. I always worried you’d hold it against me, but if I hadn’t a’put you in that orphanage, you’d a’died like Jimmy. You almost did anyway.” Lucille had difficulty speaking through her tears.
“Oh Mama. I never held anything against you.” Jenny interjected. “I remember you coming to get me on your days off. I went there when I was so little, I didn’t know any other life. I couldn’t wait to see you when Mama Margie and Mama Bertha told me you were coming. Not many kids ever had anybody to come see them. I thought I was real lucky, especially when you’d take me out on my birthday and Christmas every year. Those were really special times. Most kids never went out except when we all went. I remember getting to sleep over with you a few times. Those were the best times, snuggled close to you in your bed in your cute little-bitty room in that kitchen.”
“I’m glad you remember it that way, but that wasn’t a ‘cute little-bitty room.’ It was a cot in the pantry, but it’s a mercy that’s what you thought. Mr. Jones let me clear out a space big enough for a cot. Do you remember I had all them canned goods stowed up under the bed? Till Mr. Jones let me git a cat, I had to set mousetraps all around and they’d be a’snappin’ all night. I shore was proud of Ol’ Smoky. She wouldn’t let a mouse stay on the place. I sure slept a lot better after she come. She was a good old cat.” They both got a good chuckle out of that.