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Memories of my mother

Lucille and Vern Sitton had lived in Van Buren County for more than 70 years.
Lucille and Vern Sitton had lived in Van Buren County for more than 70 years.
Vern and Lucille Sitton were married in 1942.
Vern and Lucille Sitton were married in 1942.

My mother, Lucille Williams Sitton, was born in 1927 to T.I. and Rosa Williams, the second youngest of eight children.

In 1942, at age 15, she married Vern Sitton. Dad was 18.

Soon Uncle Sam called and Dad was in the Army now. World War II was under way. Dad came home from serving his country and built a little house near Oxley in Searcy County.

I was 3 when my sister was born. When I was 6, Dad moved us to Van Buren County. This has been their home for more than 70 years.

This is my story of memories of my mother. One of my first memories was of a thunder storm. I was 4 and terrified. On this day, a bad cloud came up and Mother took us to the cellar. She was sitting in a chair, cradling my little sister in her arms and I was by her side in my little chair.

As I began to cry, I remember Mother taking my hand, telling me to be a big girl. “Be very quiet and I will tell Jesus that we are afraid.” As mother began to pray, calm filled my heart and I knew everything was going to be all right.

Through the years I have heard my mother pray many times and she was the very first person to tell me about Jesus. I am certain she has said a ton of prayers for my sister and me as we were growing up. The nicest thing is, she didn’t stop praying for us just because we grew up.

My mind wanders back to our home on the mountain. It seems like yesterday. Mother was 22, which I thought was ancient, and I was a pesky kid of 6. Life was good for my sister and me. We were wealthy beyond measure ~ we had a Mommy and Daddy that loved us unconditionally. We didn’t know the sacrifices they made for us. Mother cared for us, loved us and taught us to be kind.

As my sister and I were going through the learning process, we were a little stubborn. This was no problem for Mother; she had a peach tree growing near her bedroom window. Let me tell you, if you have never felt a keen peach tree limb wrap around your legs, you have missed a good “upbringing.” Not abuse, only “tough love.” Parents today need Mother’s recipe for Peach Tree Tea. It only takes a couple of doses and most anything will be cured.

We lived in the country where it was safe for kids to “run wild.” We could roam the hills and hollows and see and smell the wildflowers, the birds and animals that children who live in cities only get to see in books. Occasionally, Mom would give us a “cat bath.” Neither of us liked that. I could never understand why our kittens always sat still for their mothers to clean their faces when all they had to do was run away. I think I may have tried that once.

Some of my fondest memories are the times spent walking with Mother to bring the milk cow to the barn. She would show us every little wildflower that popped up in the meadow. She would tell us to pick this or that and have a taste. I remember sheepshire, crowsfoot, lambsear, buttercups, wild violets, spiderwart, penny royal (we used this to thrash the seed ticks from our legs), and many more for which I have forgotten their names. She taught us to dig sassafras roots and dry them for sassafras tea (yuk!). She taught us to make dolls from the hollyhock blossoms as she had done as a little girl.

When Mother had time, we had a special treat ~ a picnic in the woods. She made peanut butter and cracker sandwiches and a jug of Kool-Aid. We would toss an old quilt on the ground. What a picnic!

Mother always had us ready for church on Sunday morning. Church was not optional; if you were sick enough to stay home, she would administer a big dose of something awful. Otherwise, we were shined and scrubbed and off to church.

You don’t know country if you’ve never had the preacher over for Sunday dinner. Every Sunday he would take dinner with a different family in his congregation. When it was our turn, it always made my heart sink. That preacher could put away the food. He would always eat the fried chicken and I mean all of it. I used to wonder if God knew how ill-mannered that preacher was. When I had enough of this, all I need do was say something to my little sister. “I don’t think Brother White should eat all the chicken up from little kids. This was her cue. She would inform Brother White, “Your manners stink. Our mommy slaps our hands when we take the last piece of chicken. You better be careful or God will slap your hands.”

Mother had a beautiful voice and led the singing at our church for several years. I always knew when she sang the angels listened. Guess which daughter could sing? You are right, not me. Couldn’t carry a tune if I had it in a bucket. She has a grandson who can sing and play anything you hand him. When he was learning to play the banjo she hauled him all over Arkansas and Missouri for him to play.

Mother had a great deal to do when we lived on the mountain and times were very hard. Daddy worked from daylight until dark in the log woods. Later he worked in the big timber out West. She had the job of being Mommy and Daddy to my sister and me as well as taking care of the farm. I am afraid we were no help to her.

I have seen her cry because her hands were freezing from hanging clothes on the clothesline in winter. The clothes were almost dry by the time she had them on the line. This is the first “freeze dried” anything that I knew about. Mother washed these clothes on a rub board after heating water in an iron wash pot over an open fire. She had to draw water from a well in the back yard, using a bucket, pulley and chain. I can shut my eyes now and smell the smoke from the fire and the best part was when we carried the clothes into the house. They smelled so good. Mother had a way of making everything around the house smell good. I can almost smell supper on the old wood cook stove. Mealtime was always a special time for my sister and me. Kids always come home from school starved to death … at least Mother’s two did. She made the best beans and cornbread in the country. After that preacher quit coming for dinner, we discovered she made the best fried chicken, white gravy and biscuits in the world, too.

When we were little, Mother would sing to us by the hours. We would beg her to sing the same songs over and over. “Froggy Went A-Courtin’” was a favorite, as well as “Put My Little Shoes Way,” “A Mother Went out on a Party” and “A Great Store Filled with Pretty Bottles.”

She was an expert at sewing, finding pictures in the Sears and Roebuck catalog then making pretty little dresses from the flour sacks she had saved for my sister and me. Dresses prettier than those in the catalog.

I have sat beside Mother and her treadle sewing machine many hours. She would give me scraps of cloth and a needle and thread and tell me to make something. She would sew something special for me and I would sew something special for my dolly. I cannot remember not knowing how to sew.

In earlier years, Mother had to make quilts to keep us all warm. Now she was making them for pleasure and creating something beautiful. She had a craft shop and everyone wanted a handmade quilt. One day she came to the shop all excited. She had a dream and had seen a quilt that she could not wait to make. She later named the pattern “Lucy’s Creation.” The quilts sold faster than she could make them. Many of her friends were recruited to help and the quilts were shipped all over the world. I finally lost track of how many and to all the places they were sent. Alas, arthritis ended her quilting a few years ago.

Mother loved to fish. Our favorite times were when we had the family camping in the cabin on Little Red River “just a ways” up the railroad tracks from Arlburg. After her grandchildren were big enough to camp, off to the cabin we would go. Eat, sleep, fish and play. The stove was seldom used, Mother and Charles always cooked outdoors on an open fire. If I could choose only one thing to eat the rest of my life, it would be without question, Mom’s fried potatoes fried on the open fire in bacon fat.

Late one afternoon we were getting ready to eat when two hunters came down the lane. They were looking for their “coon hounds.” Mother invited them for supper. Our guests were “Grandpa” Jones and Tony Joe White of Grand Old Opry fame. After a bit, White suggested they move along to continue looking for the dogs. Grandpa Jones said, “It’s been too long since I’ve had a bait of fried taters, beans, cornbread and onion. I’m staying to eat. Them stinkin’ dogs can wait.”

For as long as Mother could remember our favorite fishing hole was the Round Hole. I have many fond memories of Mother and Jeff, as well as her other grandchildren, sitting on the banks of the Round Hole. It didn’t seem to matter much whether the fish were biting, they always had fun. Closing my eyes, I can hear their laughter. Which one had told the joke? Mother had a knack for remember jokes and Jeff had inherited this gift from her. They would sit on the shady side of the river bank for hours. Around noon the sun would move in on them and they would make their way to the cabin. They were always starved. We could hear them walking up the road … making plans for their afternoon fishing. “Maybe they could move up the river and over the next shoal in the afternoon.” They trouble was they needed a lift. It was too far to walk on an empty stomach. I would wager they had a snack stashed away somewhere in their gear or along the river bank. Charles would usually drive them upriver to their afternoon fishing hole. He would give up on fishing and come to the cabin much earlier than they. About the time he thought they would be ready to come to the cabin, either he or Dad would go meet them to help with their fish … or at least carry some of their gear. Many sweet, sweet stories. Jeff and Mom, best friends. … We lost Jeff in an automobile accident in 1976. He was 16.

Read the rest of Glenda’s memories about her mother in next week’s Democrat.

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