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By Sharon Rose McCormick
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Sharon Rose McCormick
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Roots (Herstory)
My earliest recollections as a child were those of being part of a large family with my brothers and sisters and sometimes my many cousins as my only playmates, sleeping with one or two of my sisters or sleeping with my very large grandmother, sitting on my father's lap and soaking in the dampness of his work clothes and smelling his sweat, going to church, Sunday dinners cooked by my mom and grandmother, and picnics in the summer. My parents are Adalene Thompson Maxwell and Davey Lee Maxwell. We were extremely poor, but my parents gave all they had to us kids and to others in need. They taught us those same core values, which we all still have.
There were 5 of us children at the time, me being the middle child. My 2 younger sisters came along several years later unexpectedly. The 5 oldest are stair-step children. There's only a year between each child and the next in line. The line goes as follows: Carolyn Francis (deceased), Shirley Lee, David Bennie, Sharon Rose, Lahoma Wanda, Boyd Keith (deceased), Robert Henry, Lydia LaDonna, and Rebecca Jane. My father's mother was divorced and had actually lived with my mother, working in the same place during the time of the Korean Conflict while my father was in the army. He came home, married my mother, and went back to base. My grandmother, Mammaw Eunice, was always there, a second mother. She did a lot of cooking and taking care of us kids. My grandmother was the source of my love for reading and for art. Both grandmothers and my mother sewed, quilted, embroidered, crocheted, and/or knitted.
My mother's family, mostly Thompson and Cyrus, settled the Wayne County, WV area before the Civil War when WV was still part of Virginia. They were and still are inhabitants of the Fort Gay, East Lynn, and Wayne areas. There are family members buried in several cemeteries in those areas. Some owned slaves and fought for the South. Others fought for the North. My great, great uncles helped build and serve at Fort Boonesborough with Daniel Boone. One of my distant relatives left an Irish serving lad in his will to one of his children until his indentured time was worked off.
My father's family was also from Wayne County, more from the area of Beech Fork, Spring Branch and Lavalette. Part of the family lived in Lincoln County close to the Putnam County line. They are buried at Culloden, WV. Their surnames are Maxwell and Dial.
My father was a carpenter, plumber, electrician, mechanic, farmer, and as he would say, "a jack of all trades and master of none." Unfortunately, he never gave himself enough credit for his talents. He was a "jack of all trades" but most who knew him would say he was master of all he did. He never did a second rate job at anything. My mother worked in the fields, chopped wood, worked right alongside my father, hard as any man, yet baked the best biscuits and cooked the best food one could imagine. My mother was a homemaker and a cook for Long's Parkette, Pioneer Drive-In, and 76 Truck Stop. She and my grandmother both worked in the now defunct cigar factory in Huntington, WV during her younger days before having children. My grandmother never worked at a public job after my parents began a family, but had plenty to do helping take care of all of us kids.
We moved frequently as my dad's work took him from job to job. Paying rent and feeding all of us was extremely difficult even though we lived on a farm and raised most of what we ate, including meat. I recollect that I moved 19 times in 21 years. I guess that's why I never want to move again.
I was an unwed mother at 16, skipped my senior year of high school, began college classes the summer of my junior year at WV State College (now WV State University), then dropped out shortly after I married at 18 and began having the rest of my 4 children. They are also stair-step children with 4 years, 4 months, and 4 days from the birth of the first one until the birth of the last one. My husband adopted my oldest son. My children and I grew up together. I was so naïve at the time, but we all learned together. My children are Davey Joe, Brian Wayne, Crystal Dawn, and Ronnie Clifton. Even though we were poor because I was not working at the time, I thank God I was able to be home with them all the time. I lived on welfare for several years with an unemployed husband. We eventually divorced after I went back and graduated Magna Cum Laude from college with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree, and began teaching special education at Hurricane High School. I lived in several areas of Wayne County until I was 13, at Milton, Cabell County for 3 years, and have lived in Putnam County, WV since I was 15, except for about 3 years in Lincoln County when I was first married. All my siblings live near me. As of this writing, I have worked as a teacher in the same mentally impaired classroom for over 20 years. My 3 great passions in life after God and my children/grandchildren are all my other "kids," my writing, and my art.
I am active in 4-H, church, school, and community activities. I was very involved with Special Olympics for over 17 years, and think it is the most rewarding program that was ever established for the mentally disabled. My youngest is moderately mentally impaired with scoliosis, and with blindness in one eye. I have one grandson at this time, my "miracle-chaser," Chase Walker, a mighty big talker. 2 of my nephews, Josh and Jacob Amory, have spent most of their lives with me and are loved as much as my grandson. I have had over 40 kids come and go from my life as live-ins for whatever reason. Only 3 were official foster kids. The rest were those that have fallen through the cracks. My mom has 18 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren as of this writing in 2010. They are all stair-step in age and very close. Thanks to all my unnamed family and friends that have provided the basis for several of my stories.
I am thankful that God has allowed me to touch so many lives and that I have been touched by so many of them in return. It is only through faith and grace from the Lord that I am able to do all that I do.
I thank Tom Gunnoe and his staff at the WV Department of Health and Human Services. They helped make it possible for me to go back to college and to graduate. My special ed. professor, Edith Lombardo, PHD taught me that I could not change the whole world, but encouraged me to choose one little corner of it and change that. I thank Roger Hart, Principal, and all the staff at Hurricane High. I thank all those in the Putnam County School system, especially the Exceptional Ed. Department, for putting up with me, and for appreciating my dedication to my students. I appreciate Rockey Saunders, terminally ill, but one that kept on going, cheating death and hanging tough until the last moment. He, along with my students and Special Olympics athletes, have taught me not to sweat the little stuff and to appreciate every little morsel of the life God has chosen to give us, and to be happy in whatever state I am in at the time.
I thank Kendall Haven, author, who paid me the greatest compliment ever by staying until I read the last word of my story, Stinking Revenge, even though he was in real danger of missing his plane. He swore he would leave at 3 PM sharp, whether we were finished with reading our stories orally or not. He did not leave until 3:09 PM when I finished reading mine. The Central WV Writing Project brought Kendall Haven to work with us, as well as provided training with other authors, teacher-writers, and mentors to help improve members' writing skills. They have all given me insight and direction for my personal writing, and have sent us out to teach other teachers, who, in turn, teach students to write more creatively and effectively so other budding authors might bloom before age 54.
Joe Denny saw my family through some very dark days of our lives. He has been a close friend and voice on the phone, making me laugh for 18 years. He also encouraged me to write. Sincere thanks goes to Mona Wandling for her wonderful smile and quiet spirit. Irene Ivy Penn allowed me to exchange my rural Appalachian culture for her African American culture teaching us both another way of living. Maryanne Barrackman-Williams-Tufts-McCullough-George, my alter ego, died way too young, but encouraged me to keep going, keep writing, until the day she died. Jeff Garrett and family saw us through the worst days of our lives and helped me not to give up on myself or God. Britt Davis offered spiritual encouragement to my special kids along with encouraging me to write. I humbly thank my church of Christ family for keeping me coming back to the well, back to God every time I fall flat on my face, which is almost every day.
Most of all, I want to thank and dedicate this book to my pseudo twin sister, Wanda Donald, that is actually 14 months younger than me, because she never gave up on me, has always looked up to me even though I am much shorter than her, has believed in me as being intelligent and creative when no one else did, who trusted my judgment to buy a home she had never seen, and who has been second mom to my kids, providing all necessities for them that I could not, and the one who has been my playmate and best friend throughout my entire life. Thank you Wanda for believing in me and for being the biggest force behind me finally getting this book to the publisher. (PS. Christmas will probably come for you in July!)
Rambling Rose rambles on constantly every day And swears she knows she's turning into her mother. She always has something really unique to say About one important matter or another. Rambling Rose laughs, jokes, and chatters on quite a bit. She tells vignettes about the chaos in her life And all the strange, and curious people in it. She speaks openly about poverty and strife. Rose is always ready to brag about her kids And how they've overcome pain to find true success. Rose is first to tell of her wonderful grandkids. She'll tell you when she's in a big financial mess. She witnesses about God and Christ with passion. Rose lets you know when she thinks things are absurd. She teases the teens about their tastes in fashion. Rose rambles on without ever missing a word. She'll converse fluently on politics and art. Everybody's sure they know her, by what they've heard. They are certain she's bared every inch of her heart. But, no one knows one part of her locked deep inside. They've heard her mention something about love gone wrong. Rambling Rose has a need that she seems to hide. She hugs her pillow when the night gets cold and long. Rose prays in the darkness, that before she is old, Her almighty God will grace her with one last chance To have a good Christian husband to love and to hold. Rose waits patiently for her soul once more to dance. She rambles on in her head where nobody knows. Many people are sure they know her very well. The adult female human known as Rambling Rose Prays again to her God, not a soul does she tell.
"Oh Gawd, I hear him comin'," groaned Eunice with disgust as she heard the familiar clanking sound of pots, pans, and gadgets dangling from the peddler's wagon. "I despise that man."
"You know it ain't Christian to be like that," her mother spoke sharply. "I'll just set another place at the table. Go tell the men that supper's ready."
"I ain't goin' without Susie. That old man is ornery," scowled Eunice as she glanced toward her sister. She wasn't gonna be miserable without Susie sharing in it. Susie was a couple years older, but she was a big chicken. Eunice tormented her because of it.
Susie frowned and stomped her foot.
"You'd think you were two instead of teenagers. Susie, go with her and bring back a bucket of water. Eunice you can draw the jug of buttermilk up from the well. It'll be good with supper."
The girls headed out the door. Susie grabbed the empty water bucket and tromped reluctantly behind Eunice. Susie was short and petite, but Eunice was tall, big boned and chunky. Long, hot dresses with boots up the leg were OK for Susie, but Eunice wore her brother's old overalls and went barefoot instead. Her brothers said she looked like a fattening hog. She hated most of their teasing, but didn't care what they thought about the way she dressed. She liked being known as a tomboy. There HE was slurping water from the dipper at the well. How Eunice loathed him.
Mr. Dunlap was rattling on to her dad and her two brothers. "Look at him," she thought to herself, "thinks he's just dandy because he peddles useless gadgets on that rickety old wagon. He always stinks worse than his mule." Nudging Susie with her elbow, Eunice gagged, "Remind me to throw away that dipper when he leaves. It'll probably give us consumption or somethin' if we drink after that old goat."
Susie nudged Eunice in the back and was pushing up behind her, closer and closer to the well. But Eunice abruptly halted and yelled, "Supper's ready," as she stepped quickly to the side. Susie fell headlong into the side of the well, into HIM, into that grimy old Mr. Dunlap. Susie shrieked. Dad yelled at Eunice as though it was all her fault. Heck, it wasn't her fault that Susie was such a fraidy cat.
Mr. Dunlap helped Susie to her feet, and then wiped the water off his beard with the dusty tail of his shirt. Eunice could see crumbs from an old biscuit entangled with dried tobacco spit. Mr. Dunlap's jaw pooched out with a chaw of tobacco. The mess looked worse than the buzzard's nest Eunice found up on top of Lookout Ridge.
Eunice glared at Mr. Dunlap as he and the others headed toward the house. Eunice didn't trust him, didn't like the way he leered at Susie and her when no one else was around, stared at 'em like he was lookin' right straight through their clothes. He always made nasty remarks to them when nobody else was around.
Then, HE did it! He had gone just a few steps when he turned around and spit in the girls' direction. Eunice was ready. She jumped out of the way, but Susie's boots got splattered by slimy, brown spit as she drew water. Susie was disgusted. Their brothers laughed. Dad tried to ignore it because Mr. Dunlap was company. But Eunice was fighting mad.
Eunice declared, "I ain't gonna take it no more. I've had enough. I've been thinkin' about a plan to make Mr. Dunlap leave us alone for good, short of killin' him, of course. But I need your help. I know you hate him as much as I do. Come on, I'll tell ya after supper."
The kitchen was still scorching hot from the wood burning stove. Fresh green beans and potatoes were on the table. Mom was taking fatback and creasy greens off the stove. The big fat hen had been stewed off the bones and filled with puffy cloud dumplings. Her brothers, Lester and Snooks, had just plopped down at the table. Cucumbers, tomatoes and green onions finished off the meal. The girls poured cool water and buttermilk for everybody. Dad said grace. What a feast! At least it would have been if Mr. Dunlap hadn't been there to devour it all.
Thank the Lord that Mom put Mr. Dunlap at the other end of the table away from Eunice. Dad had hardly gotten out "Amen," before Mr. Dunlap started raking in the food. Mr. Dunlap never used a fork, just shoved it in with fingers that looked like they hadn't seen a wash-pan in years, grunting like an old hog after each bite. Only after three big platefuls and a quart of buttermilk, did Mr. Dunlap take a break. He belched loudly, wiped his nasty hands across his filthy pant legs and began his usual blabber. He always put on airs, talking about other parts of the world to show how important he was.
Susie trembled and racked her brain trying to think of what trouble Eunice was going to try and get her into this time. She was always getting her into trouble, wouldn't listen to anyone once she made up her mind. Eunice was hardheaded, that was for sure.
While Mr. Dunlap rambled on about all his big adventures in New York City, and seeing a stock market on a walled street, Eunice was fine tuning her plan. She could care less about a street with walls. Anyway, there was a stock market down in Huntington with every kind of livestock you'd want and probably a better quality, too. While he went on and on about a new age of prosperity coming just around the corner, Eunice just wanted to survive 1925. If her plan backfired, she and Susie might not live to see 1926 or 1930.
Excerpted from Appalachian Rose by Sharon Rose McCormick Copyright © 2010 by Sharon Rose McCormick. Excerpted by permission.
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