The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Ozark Dreams and Mountain Memories - Part 21 of 24

By Lillie A. Emery © 1989

Issue: November, 1989

Editor's Note: This is a serialized, true story of a poor Ozark family in the 1930's as seen through the eyes of one of their children; experience their hardships and heart warming togetherness as they struggle through and celebrate life in the Ozark Mountains.

It was Jonathan's turn to go in early with Mama to get the milk and fix supper. Ben had gone to town with Mr. Moses to get our groceries. It was quite a spell till sundown but the field was mostly empty and I thought about Byron and them city girls going to a movie and I felt so disgusted I sat down in the tall cotton and cried. I was sick and tired of endless cotton fields and of being an unschooled hillbilly and I made me some plans to run away - maybe across the ocean and go to school and then become a princess or maybe a real queen then I'd come back to pick cotton wearing fancy clothes and jewels and I'd tell them city girls about the fancy parties I'd been to where they had Baby Ruth candy bars and lemonade.

Suddenly Jeannie and Andy were shaking my shoulder saying "Wake up Winnie, it's time to go to supper." They carried my sack of cotton to the scales.

Ben had got back from town and Mama truly had a feast for us on that oak plank table. We had pork and beans, potatoes, ham, cheese, bananas, lemonade and Baby Ruth candy bars. Ben was talking about how rich we could get picking cotton every year and we might get us a fine piece of bottom land and raise us a big field of cotton all our own. His excitement was contagious all the other kids joined in with his plans to buy bottom land, build a brand new cabin home, go to school. I was setting there looking out the windows across the endless cotton fields thinking of Papa and our golden hills in autumn. Mama kept looking at me then she placed her work worn hand on my brow and said, "Winnie, are you feeling bad?" I wanted to tell her I was miserable and felt awful and hated the cotton fields and had made me some plans to run away. But most all I wanted to cry in Mama's arms like a little girl but she looked so tired and worn I just said, "No Mama I'm really feeling purty good." She said "Jonathan pumped the wash tubs full of water in the lean-to why don't you take a bath and nap."

Inside my chest my heart was jumping around like a bunny rabbit in the meadow and breathing was not so easy to do, so I did as she said. When I fell asleep the other kids were talking about buying our farm back and a fine piece of bottom land and in a year or so build a brand new cabin home and all of us little ones going to school.

From late August till into November we were in them fields except when it rained and we all had a round a bad colds and the cotton thinned down till we were only making a few dollars a week.

We worked so hard and there were tears and fights with other kids but we made friends with most of them and we all had a world of hopes and dreams and we had laughter and music. Lord, even today I can still hear the singing in them fields, and at dawn and at dusk and Saturday nights the bittersweet sounds, soulful sounds from the heart of my people. I wrote many a song verse in the sand between the rows of cotton and then watched them blow away in a whirling dust cone.