Having an abundant supply of something that you may want or need is not always a blessing.   I have often told the story of why I allowed my membership to Sam’s Club to expire. Upon at least two occasions when we lived in Milwaukee, Ken came home with bargains that he just couldn’t resist. The first was a gallon can of chocolate pudding. He said he bought it for me. I explained to him that the gallon container was what institutions such as public schools used in the cafeteria. It was never meant to feed an individual who liked chocolate. Due to its quantity and method of packaging, the contents would start to separate once it was opened. You would still have some pudding, but you would also have liquid as the contents deteriorated. If this gallon of pudding couldn’t be consumed in one meal, it would soon go to waste.  Even I wasn’t up to that challenge.


On another such solo venture to Sam’s, Ken brought home a half gallon bottle of soy sauce. I must insert here that I do not cook Chinese food, and we do not get Chinese take out. It remained in our refrigerator for several years until we moved to Alabama. Thinking that it may have turned to sakè, I poured it down our sink in Milwaukee. I am sure there were some fish in Lake Michigan that were swimming in circles once it hit their water.


This morning, I awakened thinking about people who work so hard to get ahead, and a lot of things that they accumulate are not truly blessings. They are just things. I thought about the Israelites in the Wilderness who were given instructions on how to gather and use the manna that God provided on a daily basis. If they got too greedy and collected more than they needed, it turned into a putrid mess. However, God instructed them to collect a double portion on the day before the Sabbath, and it remained edible for the Sabbath when  no manna would be provided.


A bargain is not a bargain if you don’t need the thing that is on sale. Life is not life if you go through life thinking that the one who dies with the most toys is the winner. A twofer is not always a wonderful find.


Matthew 6: 19-21 (KJV)
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.




Blue Skies

“My blood pressure is lower than a kite.”

Sometimes my husband gets his idioms mixed up. I think the saying is “lower than a snake’s belly.” Then, of course, he may not have had the same success that I had flying a kite when I was a child.

When I was young and lived on Chisolm Avenue in Bridgeport, the Purdy family owned the whole city block across from us. Their house sat on a hill on the southeast corner of the block. For many years, it was the only house on their block. Across from our house and down from theirs was a very low area that filled in with water in the spring, and my parents called it the “Milly Pond.” Of course, since they called it that, I still call it that today.

When spring came, I had the most fun catching tadpoles in a Mason jar at the Milly Pond. I would keep them and watch their development. They were so interesting because you could see through their skin and see their intestines. At least, that’s what I think I was seeing. None of them ever made it to the frog stage in my Mason jar. I guess at some point they needed to have somewhere to come out of the water. When the water in the Milly Pond receded, Mr. and Mrs. Purdy (“Sister” Purdy to my mom), planted a garden in the higher part of the Milly Pond. It seemed to be rich soil, and I remember that they grew cabbages and made their own kraut. I don’t remember that they ever shared.

Then came summer! On those long, hot, beautiful days of summer when the skies were bright blue and the clouds were brighter still, I would go across the street to the Purdy’s property and climb the hill toward the southwest corner in the high grass that my father always called “Johnson grass.” I would carry my ten cent store-bought kite with me. Attached to it would be a tail made of various bright fabric scraps that my mother had allowed me to use.

After wading through the Johnson grass, being careful as I walked to look for snakes, I would reach a spot not quite at the top of the hill, turn around, and catch a breeze in the kite by holding it up in the air. I wouldn’t even have to run to get it to rise. I would slowly let the string out from the spool and watch the kite rise higher and higher. Sometimes, it would dip when it reached a pocket of calmer air; sometimes it would almost make a figure eight as winds buffered it from different directions, and it tried to dive. On more than one occasion, I lost a kite because I had allowed it to go to the end of my string, and I could not reel it back in. By that time, it was so high in the sky that I just watched it drift away like a bird that had won its freedom.

Sometimes, on a rare occasion, a nearby persimmon tree ate my kite. I forgave it, though, because I loved to eat its fruit. I learned early in life the true meaning of another idiom–“pucker up.” For those of you who have ever tried eating a persimmon before its time, you know what I am talking about.

Skies were more blue when I was a kid. Clouds were more white. Times were simpler, and I still enjoy the simple things in life. Beautiful memories are free . . .


John 3:16-17 (KJV)

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.


I don’t remember the time when I memorized John 3:16, but it must have been early in my life. It seems that all Southern Baptists were required to know that Scripture verse from toddlerhood, if not from birth. I am sure I was required to memorize it to get some prize at Sunday school or VBS very early in my Christian crawl.

I was really never good at memorizing. One of my two memories of kindergarten at the Church of Christ in my little town of Bridgeport is that of having to sit on a little stool in the corner because I did not know my Bible verse for the day or week. Our elementary school did not have kindergarten. If my memory serves me right, my mother paid fifty cents a week to send me to kindergarten at the Church of Christ. My other memory of going to kindergarten was equally spiritually derelict. I had gotten dressed evidently by myself and had forgotten to take off the bottoms of my shorty pajamas. When I leaned over to play in the sandbox at recess, someone saw my pj’s and began to laugh at me. I was a very shy kid, and the laughter still stings in my memory these six decades later.

I don’t actually remember when I memorized John 3:17 either, but it was in adulthood by my own choice. I couldn’t see telling people that God loves them (John 3:16) without telling them that Jesus wasn’t sent here to condemn them but to save them (John 3:17). People who don’t love God have no concept of a God that loves them, but due to the words and actions of many Christians, they picture God as someone who is ready to condemn them and snuff them out for anything that we as Christians perceive as sin in their lives.

As I lay in bed last night thinking about John 3:17, I thought of how many Jews were not willing to accept Jesus as the Messiah in the New Testament. They would have a big problem with John 3:16-17 because they weren’t expecting the Jesus that God sent to earth. They were expecting a Messiah who would be more like the Jesus that we are expecting to return in the clouds triumphantly.

During Jesus’ time, Israel was under Roman rule, but thanks to Julius Caesar’s proclamation over 40 years before the birth of Christ, Jews were allowed to practice their religion and have their own court system with the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were ruled by Rome, but within their own community, they ruled themselves.

We see evidence of how the Romans ruled in the New Testament. Roman soldiers could compel the citizens of Israel to walk a mile with them to carry all of their goods and equipment. Thus, we see Jesus telling the people if someone asks you to walk a mile with them, walk two. When Jesus was carrying His cross down the Via Dolorosa, we see the Roman soldiers pull “A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus” out of the crowd to carry the cross. To me, just the fact that Simon’s name and family members were known means that they didn’t just pick a man from the crowd to do their will–they chose a known person to carry the cross. All had to obey the Romans. And, in the end, we see the Roman soldiers at the barbaric crucifixion.

Even though the Jews wanted Jesus to die, they also wanted to be removed from Roman rule, and thus they were looking for a Messiah not at all like Jesus who rode the colt of a donkey triumphantly into Jerusalem. They wanted a king on a stallion in full armor with an army to conquer the Romans. They wanted the legacy of Saul and David—a fighting man. Instead, God sent them a teacher, a healer, and a lover of people. They did not receive the only begotten Son of God who came not to condemn them but to give them eternal life. Just like we put God in a box by trying to define Who and What He is, the Jews of the New Testament put Jesus in a tomb because He did not fit their description of a Messiah.

Jesus came to seek and to save when He came to earth as a newborn babe. When He comes again, He will be coming to rule and to reign.





Moma’s Hands

408001_3383135777948_1601767203_nMoma’s hands
gathered wood and built a fire
washed clothes in a big kettle of water
scrubbed work clothes and play clothes alike
on a rippled scrubbing board

Moma’s hands
picked cotton until her fingers bled
canned garden vegetables to feed the family
ironed homemade clothes with an iron warmed by the fire
turned flour sacks into dresses

Moma’s hands
diapered the six of us
cooked pinto beans and cornbread to keep us going
protected us from danger
corrected us with a switch

Moma’s hands
wiped away our tears
soothed our fevered brow
pushed us out the door
pulled us back to love us more

Moma’s hands
grew old and crippled
wrote poetry about Jesus
embroidered gifts for her children
folded nightly in prayer

Moma’s hands
though gnarled and crippled
are always in my memory
Moma’s heart.

In 1997, Ken took me on a 13-day Insight bus tour of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. He knew that I had always wanted to see the land of my ancestors, so off we went. Let me state this right up front. Ken, by his own admission is high strung. Some would say “tightly wound.” I have told friends that he is a cross between Barney Fife and Mr. Monk. For me to have been an English major and for him to have been in the newspaper business for all of his career, we often have, like is spoken of in Cool Hand Luke, “a failure to communicate.”

Our bus tour had begun in England and continued through Scotland and had come down the west coast of England to board a ferry to Ireland. It seemed that Insight must have had an agreement with the many woolen mills everywhere we went. We would stop at woolen mills for restroom breaks, to buy snacks, and to shop. I discovered right away that I would not be taking a kilt that Zach had requested back to him. They cost something like $400, and then you needed all the other stuff to be an official kilt wearer. I understand that all that was not needed was underwear.

On 7/17/97, there should have been enough 7’s in the date to bring us good luck. We were in Ireland. We should have experienced at least the luck of tBlarney Castlehe Irish, but we had a major failure to communicate. Our tour took us to County Cork and to the Blarney Castle. Before we got out to tour the grounds and parts of the castle, our guide told us that if we wanted to kiss he Blarney Stone that we needed to be aware that we had to lean out of a window on our back while someone held our feet to keep us from falling. I immediately decided I would not be kissing the Blarney Stone. I did not want to be interred on Irish soil at that early time in my life, and I know Ken would have had me buried right there in County Cork.

The Blarney Stone

As I sat on the wooden wheel, I spotted some tiny white flowers growing high up on the castle.

I was walking around the grounds taking photos. The day was sunny at times and then very cloudy. Ken decided he was going to go kiss the Blarney Stone. There were some large wooden spools or as called them “wooden wheels” that were near the spot where he disappeared out of view. I told him I would meet him there at the WOODEN WHEEL because they said the it might take him an hour to get through the line to kiss the stone. I sat down on one of the spools to wait for him. I waited, and I waited, and I waited. An hour had gone by, and there was no Ken. I began to see others from our bus walking by, and I would ask them if they had seen my husband. No one had. Finally, someone told me he was in the WOOLEN MILL hunting for me.

It turns out that Ken had decided he didn’t want to wait in line for an hour. He had left the line and had gone to find me at the woolen mill instead of at the wooden wheel. When I made it to the woolen mill and found him, to say that he was fuming is to put it mildly.  He declared that I told him that I would meet him there. And, I stated that I told him I would wait at the wooden wheel. That was almost 17 years ago. For 17 years now, when we have had a disagreement about something that has been miscommunicated, I look at him and simply say, “Wooden wheel!”




I love watching the birds at my bird feeders.  Just watching them reminds me of several Bible verses.

Matthew 6:26 ~ Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Matthew 10: 29-31 ~ Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Luke 6:38 ~ Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your lap. For with the same measure that you measure it shall be measured to you again.

What does that last verse have to do with the first two?  I look at the birds eating freely of the seeds that I have provided for them.  They are being taken care of by the Father through me.  He has given me a caring heart, and they are benefitting from that.  When winter comes, they won’t be able to find food so much in nature, but the food will still be there in the feeders.  If they don’t migrate farther south during the winter, they will keep returning to their source in my backyard to gain sustenance.

It is the same with us as humans.  God has promised to provide for His children.  But, He has also told us to care for and love one another.  We are even supposed to heap coals of kindness upon the heads of our enemies.  When we give, God uses others to bless us.  He doesn’t appear in our presence and hand us a check like Michael Anthony did in the old “Millionaire” TV show from the 50s, but he does use others to be His hands and to share the blessings that He has given unto them.  In Luke 6:38, the verse says “shall men give into your lap.”  In the original KJV, it says that men will give into your bosom.

That verse paints a picture to me of a bushel basket of money, packed as tightly in the basket as possible but running over so much that I have to hold the basket against my chest to keep the bills from flying away in the wind.  You may say that God has never used others to bless you in that fashion.  But not all blessings come in the form of money.  When you give of yourself to help others, that blessing comes back to you.  When you befriend the friendless, that blessing comes back to you.  When you care for the elderly and the young, that blessing comes back to you.  When you feed His sparrows, that blessing comes back to you.

If you want God’s abundant blessings, then you need to become a giver.  The birds at my feeders give me so much pleasure in just quietly watching them that I will keep giving.  The feeling that it gives me to help others gives me so much satisfaction that I will keep giving.  God just keeps packing His goodness down into that bushel basket that it doesn’t matter to me what is in it for me.  I know that what I do must be what is in it for Him.

Moma, Part 2


William Wesley Horton in the U. S. Army

I don’t know much about my mother’s life from the time she attended ninth grade two years in a row and when she married my father, William Wesley Horton.   When I look at a photo taken of him in the 1920’s when he served in the U. S. Army at Fort Sill, OK, I see a handsome young man.  Maybe that was the attraction.  They each grew up on a farm, and I know those farms were several miles apart.  I don’t think they would have ever attended school together because my father was almost four years older than my mother, and he only went to the third grade.  I know that most of my mother’s people were Baptists, and most of my father’s people were Methodists.  So, I don’t think they met at church.  Maybe, they met at a family reunion that is so often joked about in the South as to where one finds a spouse.

Aside from growing up on a farm, my mother and father came from very different family experiences.  My father was one of 17 children—that we know of.  His father, James Smith Horton, had 12 children with his first wife.  I am sure she must have passed away from being worn out by childbirth.   James Smith Horton married Martha “Mattie” Colburn around 1903, and my father was born in 1904.  James and Mattie had five children together.  I refer to the older 12 as the “upper litter” and the younger five as the “lower litter.”  My mother grew up as an only child—deserted by her father due to running from the law and by her mother due to an early death at age 30.  Uncle Ernest, who raised her, had many children, so I am sure she was never lonely for company.

In my early teenage years, I can remember laughing because my father did not know how to multiply.  He was going to cash in some U. S. Savings Bonds, and he had a string of $18.75 amounts written on a sheet of paper and was adding up their original worth.  My mother corrected me immediately when I made fun of him for not knowing how to multiply.  She told me that my father had only gone to third grade because his father made him stay at home to help take care of his younger siblings while the older 12 worked in the fields.  After that, I never again made fun of my father not knowing things that I did not know.  I do know, that even though he only went to the third grade, he could read, write, and do addition and subtraction.  He subscribed to the Chattanooga Times and read it aloud to anyone within hearing range daily.  My mother’s correction of me also taught me something else.  Even though my father mistreated her, she still had compassion upon him and for what he had faced growing up.  She also knew her Bible—“Honor your father and your mother.”

Moma?  Ruth?

Moma, possibly in her 20s

On April 12, 1928, Phoebe Helen Byars married William Wesley Horton.  She was 19 years old, and he had just turned 24.  He had been discharged from the U. S. Army on February 8, 1928, two days after his 24th birthday, and they were married a little over a month thereafter.  This makes me think that they knew each other before he joined the Army in March of 1925.

The chimney of the house where Frances was born remains on Uncle Ernest’s farm

On Monday, July 8, 1929, Moma gave birth to her first child, Mattie Frances Horton.  At the time, Moma and Daddy were living in a small house on Uncle Ernest’s property.  Today, all that stands of Frances’ birthplace is its chimney.  Then, as now, that house could be seen from Uncle Ernest’s house.  Frances was named for her two grandmothers—Martha “Mattie” Colburn Horton and Mary Frances “Fanny” Carlisle Byars.  I have always thought it odd that she wasn’t named Martha Frances but that she inherited a nickname from one grandmother and a formal name from the other.  However, I am sure she was glad that she did not inherit two nicknames—Mattie Fannie!

On a Friday in January of 1932, Moma gave birth to her first son, Alfred Jackson Horton.  The story has been told that Daddy was upset that one of Moma’s relatives had named a son after Herbert Hoover, so he named Al after Alfred E. Smith who had been the Democratic presidential candidate in 1928 against Hoover.   Whatever the case, when Al reached adulthood, he changed his name to Al Jacques Horton.  At the time of Al’s birth, Moma and Daddy had moved to Waco–a small bump in the road near Russellville.  Five of us children would be born at home in communities near Russellville that actually carried other names, but our birth certificates listed it as Russellville.

On a Sunday in September of 1934, Moma gave birth to Charolotte Ruth Horton in Oxford, AL.  I don’t know if the doctor misspelled Ruth’s first name or if Moma did, but we never sound the extra “o” in Charolotte when we pronounce it.  Ruth is the only one of the six Horton children to be born somewhere other than Russellville.  Daddy had enlisted in FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and he moved Moma, Frances, and Al to Oxford where he was helping construct different projects.  Within my photo collection, I have a photo of a beautiful stone building that Daddy helped build that still stands in Cheaha State Park near Oxford.  Evidently, the men in the CCC also had to attend classes.  When I was growing up–along with our Compton Encyclopedia on a bookshelf that Daddy had built–was a set of about 20 books on agriculture that my father had received as part of his CCC training.  He often referred to those books to see what to do with his fruit trees.

After Ruth’s birth, my mother had a brief rest from childbirth, for it was almost four years before her next child was born.  Knowing what I know about her physical condition when my younger brother and I were born, I am sure that she must have already been experiencing some of the joint pain that would later be diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis.  I know she must have lived a hard life as a young wife.  Each of her first three children were born in a different house—none of which she and Daddy owned.  They had none of our modern conveniences—no electricity, no running water, no indoor toilet.  Cooking was done on a wood stove.  What heat they had came from wood that was cut for a fireplace.  Kerosene or coal oil lamps supplied their light.  Moma washed clothes by hand using a washboard after boiling the water in a big kettle.  She ironed using the actual implement from which our irons received their name—a metal implement made of iron that was heated up near the fire.  Her life wasn’t much different from the other poor folks around them, but hers was complicated with the arthritis pain that would eventually cripple her and by a husband who liked to drink too much and could not handle his liquor.

4 Horton kids

Frances, Al, Ruth, Dean c. 1939

On a Saturday in August of 1938, Willodene Horton was born.  She is the only one of us who has no middle name.  Moma named her for a friend of hers.  “Dean,” as she is called and as she spells it, was born at home in a house near Waco.  At this time, Daddy was 34 years old, and Moma was almost 30.  They had moved from Oxford back to the Russellville area where so many of their relatives lived.  However, most of the upper litter of my father’s half brothers and sisters had migrated to Oklahoma and Texas, so it was mainly my Uncle Cas—Daddy’s brother—and Moma’s many cousins who were still living in the area.  For over eight years, the family would now be Moma, Daddy, Frances, Al, Ruth, and Dean.  During those eight years, I believe my father was mainly farming and also working at a rock quarry near Russellville.  I know that Daddy and Uncle Cas (a younger brother) both worked at Aday Quarry near Russellville.  I understand that it was mainly a limestone quarry, but I remember Moma telling me that they helped cut some of the marble that went into the Empire State Building when it was built in 1931.

A few days after Dean’s first birthday, World War II broke out in Europe on September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland.  On February 15, 1940, Daddy’s youngest brother, my Uncle Homer, enlisted in the Army in Houston, TX.  On March 24, 1941, my Uncle Cas Horton enlisted in the Army at Fort McClellan, AL.   I think Moma and Daddy had been living in Cas’s house with him at that time.  On October 20, 1943, Daddy enlisted in the US Navy.  He was 39 years, eight months old—almost 40—and yet, he enlisted.

Daddy wasn’t drafted.  His decision to enlist amazes and puzzles me in several respects.  First and foremost in my mind, he was leaving Moma behind with four children.  Frances, the eldest, was 14 at the time.  Dean, the youngest, had just turned five.  How would they survive with no man to help on the farm, with no income coming in from Daddy and Cas working at the quarry?  Evidently, this was not something my father considered.  I am not sure, but I think Daddy would have been exempt from serving due to his age and his family, but his discharge papers from the Navy indicate that he had registered with the Selective Service Board.  However, I do know from my Daddy’s stories of the war, he was proud to have served.  Uncle Cas and Uncle Homer ended up in the European Theatre.  Cas fought in battles in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes, and Central Europe.  Homer fought and was wounded at Normandy.  After he was shot in the neck, the medics patched him up, and he continued fighting through France, Belgium, and Germany.

When Daddy enlisted and was trained, he boarded a ship in New Jersey after a night of drinking and being considered AWOL.   Due to this, he spent the trip from New Jersey through the Panama Canal to Honolulu in the brig.  I don’t know how many weeks that took, but I imagine he was sick of being at sea without ever seeing the sea.  In Honolulu, he sent home postcard photos of him standing in front of a grass hut with a hula dancer.  I am sure this endeared him to Moma even more.

My mother in the 1940's

My mother in the 1940’s

Daddy spent his war years as a Navy Seabee in the South Pacific.   According to Al, he was attached to the First Marine Division, and wherever they went, he went.  He was in a construction battalion as a carpenter.  The Seabees went onto the islands of the South Pacific after the Marines captured them from the Japanese and built barracks, runways for planes, and whatever else was needed to keep control of the island.  I don’t think Daddy ever had to fight, but he did work with a pistol in a holster on his belt in addition to his carpenter’s gear, and he was issued a carbine.   I can remember his talking about The Marianas, Iwo Jima, and the Philippines.  He told a story of working on one island, and a soldier came through in one vehicle telling everyone to stand at attention.  Not long afterwards, a jeep came through carrying General Douglas MacArthur.  After serving two years, 11 months, and seven days as indicated on his discharge, Daddy was discharged from the Navy on October 3, 1945, at Great Lakes Naval Station near Chicago.

While Daddy was in the Navy in the South Pacific and Cas and Homer were in the Army in Europe, Moma had been left at home with four kids to take care of.  I think that she received some type of check due to Daddy being in the military, but I am not sure.  I know that Uncle Cas, having no family, would buy US Savings Bonds with a portion of his military pay, and he listed Moma on them as co-owner.  I have asked Al about those years, and he said it was very rough.  He said the thing that he remembers most about it is that none of Moma’s relatives helped in any way.  He said he thinks they stayed away because they thought that whatever she had that was crippling her was contagious.  I wish I had had the curiosity and caring to ask Moma about those years before she passed away, but I didn’t.  If it hurt her that none of her cousins helped her, she never voiced that.  Daddy often sat and talked about how people treated him wrong.  Moma didn’t.  She had been handed a hard life, and yet she kept a smile on her face and a heart free of hate.

Dean standing in front of house where she and I were born

Dean standing in front of the house where she and I were born c. 1941

On a Saturday in November of 1946, I was born.  My siblings have all told me the story of the day of my birth.  They said that Moma and Daddy sent them to the cotton fields to pick cotton while I was being born at home.  Dean, the youngest, was eight years old.  Frances, the eldest, was 17 and probably a senior in high school.  They have all told me about my day of birth because they didn’t appreciate being sent to the cotton fields on a cold November morning to pick cotton from plants that had very little cotton left to pick.  I don’t know how long they were required to stay away from the house, but it made an impression on them.

I was born in the same house that Dean was born in, but it wasn’t located at the same spot.  I don’t know how they moved a four-room shack back in those days, but it was moved to land that was owned by my Uncle Cas.  When I was born, evidently Moma and Daddy had not chosen a name for a girl.  I think Daddy especially wanted another boy.  So, my mother asked Dr. Burns if he would like to name me.  Dr. Burns named me Bettye after his nurse.  I am not sure where the Lou came from.  But, I was saddled with a most Southern of names—Bettye Lou.  When the scraggly, frostbitten Horton kids returned to the house, and I was presented to them, my sister Frances and brother Al immediately objected to my name.  They told Moma that the whole town knew that Dr. Burns and his nurse Bettye had been having an affair.  I was named for a loose woman!

I have spent most of my life spelling my name aloud to others due to that extra E on the end of it.  Evidently, that is how nurse Bettye spelled her name, so the doctor turned it into the state spelled that way.  My mother had a postcard in her collection mailed to her by the state saying that the birth of Betty Lou Horton (without the E) had been registered.  Not until I started school in 1953 did she know that the doctor had spelled the name with an E on the end.  At that time, she had to have an official birth certificate to enroll me in first grade.  When it arrived, it had my named spelled with the E.  Instead of changing it, she told me to start spelling my name with an E on the end.  I guess if she didn’t change the spelling of Charolotte, I could live with an extra E.  It looks neat when written in calligraphy.    Somewhere in my young years, I asked my mother if she really never thought of a name to name me at birth.  She said that she had thought about Harriet after Daddy’s paternal grandmother.   All in all, I am glad that I wasn’t named Harriet Horton.   Dr. Burns, by the way, was running for mayor of Russellville, and on my birthday, he had to miss a big political rally to deliver me.  The election was on the Tuesday following my birth on Saturday, and he failed in his bid to become mayor.

In 1982, when my mother passed away, I caught a glimpse of nurse Bettye at my mother’s visitation in Russellville.  She came to pay her respects the night before the funeral.  Evidently, she had not changed much in 35 years.  My brother Al spotted her signing the guest book and told me to go look at it when she walked away.  He said he was fairly sure it was the woman I was named for.  When she did go in to pay her final respects, I glanced at the guest book, and there it was — “Bettye.”  I don’t recall her last name, but that is just as well.  I felt comforted that someone who had once cared for my mother in a medical office cared enough to pay respect to her when she passed away.

There is little that I remember of my life in Russellville with Moma, and sometimes I wonder if my memories are because I heard the stories repeated so often or if I actually do recall things from my toddler years.  One thing I do not have to wonder about because I still have the evidence.  I have a scar below my left eye made from when a rooster pecked me.  The scar shows two parallel lines to match up with his beak.  He was going for my eye, but it missed.  Moma said that any time she would let me play on the big almost totally submerged boulders in Cas’s front yard, this rooster would chase me.  We had a hen house, but our chickens weren’t fenced in.  They roamed the yard, and evidently this rooster thought I was invading his territory.  Moma made Daddy kill it after it went for my eye.  It was his favorite rooster.  He didn’t want to kill it, but I guess he drank enough moonshine to wash his sadness away, and we had fried rooster for supper.  I don’t know if I partook in the old red rooster, but I hope that I did.

When I was two years old, Moma was sitting in a straight-backed ladder chair that she used to scoot around the house in.  This was before she had a wheelchair, but she did have the heavy metal braces and crutches that she could use to walk.  But, she had mastered “walking” the chair around the house, and occasionally she would lean it back against the wall to rest.  On a day when Daddy and Cas were at work and all the kids were at school, she leaned back in the chair.  It slipped out from under her, and she could not get up.  The fall had broken Moma’s back.  We were miles from neighbors.  We had no phone, and I was too young to send for help.  So, my mother lay in pain on the chair on the floor until the first kid came home from school and could run to someone’s house that had a phone to get help.  Moma told me that while she lay there, she asked me to bring her a pillow and then a drink of water and that I did.  In my mind’s eye, I can see her lying there in pain.  I can see myself getting a pillow from the bed and taking it to her.  But, I don’t know if that is because I actually remember it or because she told the story so often.

I can remember watching Moma wash clothes in the big black kettle and using the washboard and lye soap.  She told me that one cold November she had picked up some sticks to use as kindling to start a fire under the pot.  When she lit the sticks, one of them came wiggling out of the fire.  It had been an almost frozen snake.  I can remember her ironing in the combination living room/bedroom where the fireplace was.  I can remember that my mother used a chamber pot in the house rather than going to the outhouse.  And, she had what she called a “pee can.”  Anytime I hear people pronounce the pecan nut with a long E, all I can do is silently laugh to myself about Moma’s pee can.  Evidently she would also use Mason jars, too, for the same purpose.  Once, my sister Ruth rinsed her hair in what she thought was vinegar that she found sitting on the back porch in a Mason jar.  She was telling Moma to feel how soft her hair was after she rinsed it in vinegar.  That has provided us with tears of laughter each time someone mentions it.

I can remember standing on the bottom rail of a fence and looking over into the pig pen to see the litter of pigs.  I can remember the hen house and the smokehouse—both scary places for a little kid.  I have no memories of my oldest sister Frances or my oldest brother Al ever living at home at the same time that I was there, but they did.  I can remember that once my sister Ruth took me to school with her, and I now wonder if that is because Moma was in the hospital.  School was a scary place for me—especially the outhouses.  I can remember Uncle Cas coming home from work and bringing me a pack of chewing gum.  I can remember the night that an owl got into the house, and my father and the older kids chased it until it flew back out the front door.

Somewhere in the great scheme of things in my early childhood, Moma had an operation that I never have heard of anyone else having.  Dr. Burns sent her to a specialist in Birmingham, and his solution for her painful knee joints was to have an operation that would permanently fuse her bones together at the knees so that they would no longer move.  She had a choice of having them frozen in a standing position or in a seated position bent at a 90-degree angle.  She chose the seated position.  I don’t know who drove her, Daddy, and me to Birmingham, but I remember standing in the floorboard of the back seat of the car and looking at all the tall buildings.  I don’t remember anything else about the trip.  I don’t remember her coming home.

I don’t remember the Tuesday in June 1950 that my baby brother was born.  Moma was a few months short of her 42nd birthday and really had no business having another child, but God gave her a baby boy that she loved like no other until her dying day.  William Max Horton was born at the hospital in Russellville—the only one of us that was not born at home.  Had Max not been born in a hospital, he probably would not have lived.  Moma said that Dr. Burns worked with Max for almost 45 minutes to get him to breathe.  He was born with a sunken chest and a collapsed lung.  Dr. Burns told her not to expect him to live but a few days.  That changed into a few weeks, then months, then years.  I don’t know if Moma named him William or if Daddy decided he wanted a child to be named for him since he had no recent Republican president to be mad about.  Al added the middle name of Max.  Al and Daddy were both big boxing fans, and evidently Al’s favorite was Max Baer.  I guess I was overruled.  Moma said I wanted to name him Tim Holt Horton.  Although we had no electricity, Uncle Cas had a battery-powered radio.  We listened to Tim Holt westerns on the radio in addition to “The Shadow,” “The Lone Ranger,” and the Grand Ol’ Opry.  Moma had wanted to name him Phillip— a good Biblical name.

Some of the last photos taken of Moma when we lived in Russellville show her sitting on the front porch in one of those ladder-back chairs as she held Max.  I am sitting nearby in another chair looking very forlorn.  Maybe I am just looking sad; I didn’t know the definition of forlorn in those days.  To me, it looks like I have black bags under my eyes.  It was probably just dirt.  Looking out from the front porch, I could see a very busy highway with cars whizzing by.  We had a mailbox beside the road that sometimes Moma would let me go get the mail out of.  But, I was not to cross the highway on my own.  To make sure that I didn’t disobey, Moma used a threat with me that I heard many times in my very young life—Bull Moose or Bloody Bones would get me.   I don’t know from where she grabbed these evil beings.  Other than the Bull Moose party in politics, I don’t know if it was something from the radio or from comics or even if from her youth.  And, Bloody Bones was even worse in my imagination.  These never-seen evil beings haunted me for years.  It was a means of controlling me and keeping me from harm when she wasn’t physically able to, and I understand that now, but it really played with my mind for many years to come.

Somewhere in this time span, Frances graduated from high school and went to live in Ohio with relatives.  She met and married her husband Bill Dean Goodman there.  In February of 1951, her eldest daughter Coleen, Moma’s first grandchild, was born in Painesville, Ohio.  I became an aunt at the age of four.  Max became an uncle at the age of eight months.  Al also left home and hitchhiked to Sulphur, OK, where our half-uncle Henry lived.  He met and married Lona Lorece Smith there. Their anniversary is always on Moma’s birthday.  He was almost 19, and she was 15 (I think).   And, probably one of the greatest events in the early lives of both Max and me, Daddy was hired by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to help build Widow’s Creek Steam Plant near Bridgeport, AL, in 1950.  I imagine that the truck that moved us to Bridgeport looked somewhat like the Beverly Hillbillies’ truck that loaded them up and moved them to Beverly . . . Hills, that is.  I am told that my second cousin Houston Seay, one of Moma’s relatives, loaded our meager belongings onto one of his trucks and moved us approximately 140 miles to Bridgeport.  I don’t know if Bridgeport was prepared for Daddy, Moma, Ruth, Dean, Max, and me, but I know the move was for the good for Moma and the sick infant that she was struggling to keep alive.  And, I thank God that I did not grow up on the farm in Russellville.

To be continued . . .