Skip to content

Growing Up Country

My Uncle Robert (Daddy’s older brother), owned and lived on a farm at least a mile down river from where our house was. He had built his  house near the canal where he had slightly higher ground from sand and silt buildup. This was slightly north and east of Miller’s lake. His whole place was several feet lower than our place. It was not on pilings, either. 

Uncle Robert had a second wife, Aunt Gladys. His first wife, Lottie, had died early on. She was the mother of all  his children but, for the most part, I think Gladys was the only mother they had ever known. His children were James, Ray, Billy, and Robbie (a girl). Daddy said he begged Robert to elevate his house, but he thought he’d be okay here. It didn’t work and a lot of heartache and sorrow came from that decision. 

I remember one time when Daddy sent David with the wagon and team to help Robert get his family out of that bottom. I can still see them coming up the field road; the mules were up to their bellies in water and the wagon almost ready to float. David’s wagon and Robert’s wagon were loaded to the brim with necessities and people. Although I only saw this happen one time, David said it happened a  number of times. He said the stock found whatever high ground was available, chickens floating on logs, hunks of wood, or whatever they could find. It was survival time for man and beast.

After a while Robert gave up living in the lowland. I don’t know if he bought the old Pilcher place or rented it, but it seemed to be a good arrangement. He was living in the hills with a field road going to his property in the bottom. We were poor, but at some point while Robert was living on the Pilcher place, Daddy said Robert put in a crop on a 100 pound sack of oatmeal and whatever they could shoot, or catch out of Millers Lake. This Pilcher place was located where Carroll Crenshaw now lives

Daddy, Brandon and Robert’s baby brother, Charlie Jones, had been killed probably 10 years prior to this period in Missouri. He was a big winner in a crap game, but one of the players knocked him in the head with an iron pipe on his way home. There was no Social Security then, and Charlie’s widow was destitute with two young boys, Charlie, Jr., about 15, Wayne about 12, and one daughter, Annabelle, about 14. I think Brandon Jones may have given Aunt Christine the land. Daddy did most of the construction and with the help of Mr. Roy Samuels, they built Aunt Christine a house. Several years later, Aunt Christine married Mr. Will Henderson. This place is where Charlie and Betty Appleton now live.

It would be an understatement to say that Uncle Robert and Will Henderson didn’t like each other. Their houses are about 200 yards apart, and I think shots were actually fired occasionally, and curses were fired daily. Will was very careful to not let Robert get  his hands on him. This happened at least once. Will was a little guy with a big mouth. Robert was big and strong as a bull. 

David said that the sheriff came and arrested both of them, put them in a cell together and Uncle Robert almost beat Will to death. Robert said that he was to hard on the boys, and Will said Robert was meddling with what wasn’t his business. 

The fact was that Will was indeed abusive to the boys. Junior had already moved in with Uncle Robert to get away from Will. Wayne would disappear from time to time, and my brother was the only one who could find him. David said that he had a huge cypress tree down at Millers Lake that was hollow at the bottom. This was his house for the times when Will would bear down on him. Wayne and his famous dog, “Broudus Pumpkin Big Ears Jones,” would just vanish. Aunt Christine would come and ask David to talk him into coming home, telling him that Will would not bother him. 

Wayne went on to overcome his abusive upbringing and educated himself, had a wife and two daughters, and was pastoring a large Baptist church in Montgomery, Ala., until his death. After Wayne was grown and had already become a minister, he confessed to burning grandma’s  original house. This had been a mystery among family members for years. It seems that grandma was having a quilting party.

Wayne was about four years old and he found a snug place to play under the stairwell. There was quite a bit of stored cotton there and some matches and Wayne said he wanted to see if the cotton would burn. This was a grand old home, which was located across from the old Grinder’s Switch Store on what is now known as CR 328. 

Eventually, Uncle Robert would continue to work the land, but would move his family in with Grandma Jones, who was now widowed and lived at the old homestead in the smaller house that grandpa had built for her at the north end of the levy. Before Robert and Gladys moved away from Millers Lake, one Saturday afternoon in February 1941, Daddy was on his way to go squirrel hunting around the Lake and stopped by to visit with them. They weren’t home, but daddy could hear sounds coming from the house that were sounds of agony. He went inside and found James writhing in terrible pain. 

Daddy went back to the house, got the 1936 Chevrolet, and managed to get down the field road to Robert’s house. He carried James to the doctor, but it was too late, he had a ruptured appendix and died in a very short time, robbed of his future on this earth by a stoke of twisted fate at the age of 16. 

They laid James out at  our house so that friends who drove automobiles could come by and show their respect. The field road to Robert’s house was primarily a wagon and team road in February. This was such a terrible thing to happen to Robert’s family and to my family, who said James was such a sweet boy. Times were hard then, especially for Uncle Robert. They buried James in the Browning Cemetery without a marker and, at this writing, he still doesn’t have one. Maybe, we’ll take care of that before we’re gone, and James is forgotten.

1 Comment

  1. Nancy mikell on April 5, 2024 at 11:04 am

    Thanks for the article. Robert was my Grandmother’s brother. Do you know Gladys maiden name. I remember her from family reunions at Uncle Robert’s house. Found a photo of her cemetery stone and it showed Gladys Jones Patterson. Maybe she remarried after Robert died.

Leave a Comment