Musings on My Father, on His Birthday (Part 1)

parents wedding pic

Bill and Kathleen Swain’s Wedding Picture, June 29,1945

family3   My father and some of his siblings.  He is the small boy with the wet pants holding his cap.

If my father had lived, he’d be ninety-one today.¬† I’ve been thinking about him all day.¬† He was born to share-croppers during the deepest of The Great Depression.¬† He was shaped by it, just like everyone else.¬† He was fourth of seven children.¬† His father died young, leaving a widow and¬†three young girls still at home.¬† Bill was thirteen and never really lived at home again.¬† He worked and lived wherever he could for something to eat and maybe a little something to bring home to his mother and the three sisters left at home.¬† He said he worked a whole day chopping bushes in the winter rain one for a five-pound bag of meal.¬† He spent a lot of time at his Uncle Albert’s home.¬† Though Uncle Albert wasn’t always kind, he always provided him a home and something to eat when Daddy showed up.

He was over six feet tall at fifteen, and passing for seventeen, got his first job for the public, as a watchman at a drill rig.¬† It wasn’t far from his mother’s house, and sometimes he’d slip home to get something to eat.¬† His older brother got him on as a greaser in the oilfield soon afterward.

He joined the Navy at seventeen¬†at the start of¬†World War II, knowing¬†he’d be drafted,¬†choosing the Navy because he heard they got regular meals.¬† He never intended to be hungry again if he could help it.

Upon discharge from the Navy, he joined a construction crew running heavy equipment, and met and married my mother in East Texas.  They barely knew each other. Before long, they moved back to Northwest Louisiana, where he got on at International Paper Company and worked thirty-five years.

I knew my father as a driven, difficult man.¬† He was very loving to us when we were younger, but didn’t deal well with older children.¬† He made it clear he preferred having¬†our “respect” than “love.”¬† I don’t think he understood¬†he could have had both. I loved him dearly as a small child, but he wasn’t comfortable with girls and distanced himself from his girls as we grew older, thinking we were¬†Mother’s responsibility then.

Daddy bought¬†remote, unimproved¬†acreage to build a cattle farm¬†in my early teen years.¬† I thought that was wonderful till I learned the reality of what that entailed.¬† The place hadn’t been farmed in decades.¬† The house place under three huge oaks was overgrown in a locust thicket.¬†¬† Locusts bushes are covered in long, sharp thorns, almost as hard as iron.¬† We had to help clear that thicket, pile it and burn it before the slab for the house could be poured.¬† Many times one of us stepped on a locust thorn and had it pierce our shoe and go into our foot,¬† sometimes more than an inch deep.¬†¬†When you pulled it out, the tip was left to get infected and fester for days before it swelled and shot out in a purulent core.¬†¬†¬†The process was hurried along by soaking the pierced foot in hot salt water.¬† I don’t think any¬†of us ever went to the doctor; it was such a common problem.¬†We learned to dread those locust thorns.¬† For several years after we moved there,¬†those locust thorns would¬†turn up in our feet. ¬† (to be continued)

Pictorial Family History

parents wedding picBill and Kathleen Swain’s wedding photo, June 29, 1945. ¬†Pic Pic revisedRoscoe and Lizzie Holdaway early marriage.Mary Elizabeth Perkins and Roscoe Gordon Holdaway Wedding PictuR G Holdaway Family with Johnny Bell early 1930'sMy maternal grandparents, Roscoe and Mary Elizabeth ¬†Holdaway with their children, then elderly.family6Maw, Eddie, and Kids ¬†Pictured above, paternal grandparents Eddie and Mettie Swain and their young family. ¬†Next several of their childre, then finally, Mettie, much later in life.

family3Maw Maw by Car

Mary Ann Graybeal Hardin Jones McCarrell

Mary Ann GraybealThis is my great-great grandmother, Mary Ann Graybeal Hardin Jones McCarrell, born July 5, 1838 in North Carolina,  pictured with her second husband, my great-great grandfather John James Jones.  Her first marriage was to a Mr. Hardin when she was twenty-two.  He died in the Civil War, leaving her with young children.  She married Captain John James Jones when she was thirty.  They had two daughters, including my great-grandmother, Sarah Catherine Jones.  He was a Civil War Veteran, his left leg perpetually bent at the knee.  He had to have lived less than four years after the marriage, since she married Mr. Evan McCarrell, a widower with two sons and two daughters when she was thirty-four.  It is likely this was a marriage of convenience since he was several years her senior and both had children to raise.

Mary Ann Graybeal died accidently at the age of fifty-eight, July 8, 1886,  when she travelled with her step-son to Knoxville, Tennessee, to consult a doctor about a lump in her breast.  Unfamiliar with gas lights, when they went to bed in their hotel room, one of them blew out the gas-light instead of turning the gas off.  She was asphyxiated, though he survived.

Her older three daughters were married at the time she died.  The youngest, Sarah Catherine(Kate) lived with her married sister Carrie for a while.  At the tender age of fourteen, she married my great-grandfather, Gordon Perkins.  My grandmother always felt she married as soon as she could to get her own home.

People Ought Not to Have to Live That Way

imageAfter his father died , Daddy told of his family moving in a battered old shack sitting in a open field occupied by a bull and herd of cows.  It was really not much better than a barn, just unpainted planks with unfinished walls inside, tin roof visible above the open rafters. The  cows offered little threat, but the Jersey bull raged when the cows were in heat.  Mettie and the kids had to always had to keep a look out for him when they stepped outdoors to do laundry or fetch water from the well.  Mettie kept the little girls close by in case they had to make a run for the house.  She and the older boys made sure he was nowhere around before starting across the open field to the road. Continue reading

See What All that Marrying Gets You!

Surprise party

I’ve never properly introduced you to my family.¬† You hear me tease and torment my mother Kathleen in my blog all the time.¬† She’s a good sport, and believe me, she gives as good as she gets.¬† Luckily, she lives very close to me.¬† I see her several times a week, and speak to her at least daily.¬† Mother illustrates my blog.¬† She has always loved sketching but came into professional art late in life. Continue reading

Trial by Fire

fireI don’t write much about the history of my father’s side of the family because they simply didn’t have the strong oral tradition that my mother’s family did.  This is such a loss.  My paternal grandmother was abandoned by her mother, raised by her grandmother till she was nine.  She spent the rest of her childhood in the home of an uncle whose wife made Continue reading

Cousin Kat and the Axe-Murderer

axeIt’s not what you think. They were good friends. The Axe-Murderer had played the piano at Little Pearson Methodist Church for years. She never missed a service, but let me start at the beginning, the part where Cousin Kat took us to visit her. Continue reading

V Mail

V Mail from on board from Neekie and EmilyThis


is a V Mail Kathleen Holdaway received from her sister Annie Holdaway. ¬†V mail was photocopied mail used during WWII to cut down on mail. ¬†Annie was in the Women’s Continue reading

Diary of Simpler Times

Diary Jan 2Diary Jan 30002Mother and I were going through some of her things looking for pictures for my blog when she came upon her homemade diary from 1939. ¬†I copied a couple of its tattered pages. ¬†I found it endearing to get a peak at a day in her eleven-year-old life. Do little girls that age play dolls now? ¬†It was delightful to hear of her playing and running errands. ¬†I’m so glad to get this little peek.