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Monday, May 31, 2010

Bonnie--An Amazing Lady

Bonnie Swift was an AMAZING lady.

She was born on November 17, 1918, the youngest child of Ham and Alice Arnold Swift. She had four older brothers, Wiley, John, Stacy and Rod and an older sister Ola. When Bonnie was about 18 months old both she and her brother Rod contracted scarlet fever. Rod was terribly ill with the fever but it didn't seem to bother Bonnie except it left her with no speech or hearing.

Despite her disability, Bonnie lived a pretty normal life. When it was time for her to go to school she went everyday alongside her sister and her niece Laura. She learned to read, write, spell and count. She also taught herself to sign. Sometimes she would have special signs for different things or people but she always made you understand just what it was she was talking about.

Along with her mother she kept house, helping with cooking, canning, washing and ironing. She taught herself to crochet, knit, sew and quilt. She helped her father in the fields with the crops, hoeing corn, tobacco, and other outside chores. She loved to pick blackberries and make apple butter. When her mother passed away in 1956 she took over the running of the house and even taught herself to do the milking.

When her father died in 1964 she was able to buy a small two bedroom house just a few yards from where she was born. Up until about 6 or 7 years ago she still had an outhouse but was finally able to add a modern bathroom and do some remodeling to the house. Her house was surrounded by beautiful flowers. She loved flowers and definitely had the green thumb when it came to plants.

She loved to travel. Her first trip of any distance was to Indiana to visit relatives. She was so excited she talked about it to anyone who would listen. She and her older sister made a trip west by Greyhound bus. Her sister thought she would test her to see if she was paying attention to her surroundings. When she started to get on the wrong bus, Bonnie grabbed her by the arm and told her in no uncertain terms it was the wrong bus. Her trips to the beach with her grandchildren and great grandchildren were the highlights of her summers.

She loved company and like her mother she always made you feel welcome. . On one occasion a girl who had left right out of high school to be a missionary in Cuba stopped by to see Bonnie. Bonnie had not seen her in over 50 years but knew exactly who she was and then produced a missionary card she had kept all those years with the ladies picture on it.

If you visited her she was quick to show you the latest photos of her great grandchildren. She loved watching TV especially westerns. She could relate the entire show to you.

Due to her medical condition she had nurses who checked in on her periodically. She could tell you exactly when they were to arrive and what they did. She retrained them so they could assess her condition correctly. A while ago a visiting nurse thought she should go to the hospital. Bonnie informed her the answer was no. The nurse then took it upon herself to call family members to discuss the situation and convince them of her opinion. The bottom line was Bonnie had made her own decisions for the past 90 years and she had the final say so and the answer stood.

Bonnie's love for her family was always foremost in her life whether it be sewing Peanut a shirt made from a chop sack or selling butter and eggs to buy Margie an Easter dress. She always provided for her family and made sure they were well taken care of. She loved her grandchildren and her great grandchildren were a great joy to her.

She was a woman of character, she treated others with respect and she leaves behind a legacy of kindness, love and laughter.

She was an AMAZING lady.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Toad - One Of A Kind

A repeat of my memories of my Mother from earlier blogs. I wish for all Mother's a Happy Mother's Day.

Well, Today is Mother’s Day and a time for wishing all Mothers everywhere a Happy Mother’s Day and a day in which I reflect on my own mother and what an impact she had in my life.

My mother, Vida Lola Swift was born to David Elec Hamilton Swift and Laura Alice Arnold Swift on October 9, 1910 and passed away on Septemberr 2, 1992. She had four brothers Wiley, John, Stacy and Rod and only one sister Bonnie

She lived through World War 1 (1914-1918) and through the Great Depression (1930-1939). I am sure that these historical events had a profound influence on my mother’s life.

She was a hard worker and loved working outside in the fields. She could hoe a row of corn or hoist a bale of hay as well as any man. On the other hand she was a great cook, famous for her chicken and dumplings as well as a good seamstressShe met my dad through her younger brother Rod. They both worked on the Watauga Dam together with the Civilian Conservation Corps. They were married on January 14, 1943. My dad was stationed overseas in World War 2 until the war ended. He was discharged in December 1945 and I was born in September 1946. That makes me an “original baby boomer“.

She was very proud of all her children. She was always totally devoted to all seven of us. My older brother Doran, myself, Ann, the twins Mae and Faye, my younger brother John and my baby sister June. She never played favorites and if one of us got something we all got the same thing. Maybe she couldn’t afford it at the same time but she made sure we were never overlooked.

She shared the same philosophy with her sons-in-law and her daughter-in-law. At Christmas if one got socks -- they all got socks. One year she bought them each leather belts with their names hand tooled on them. She loved them all equally as well as her children.

She was a great role model. She loved to stay busy and she certainly had to with seven little mouths to feed . Many times along with my dad she would work outside in the fields all day for two or three dollars, come home, prepare supper and do the household chores before sitting down and either mending or working on a sewing project until bedtime. In the summer it was not unusual to find her preparing or canning food late at night. She taught us good work ethics and to stick to a job until it was finished.

She wanted us to all have a good education and she made sure we were up and out the door for school each day. I remember her checking our necks , making sure we brushed our hair and that our clothes were clean and pressed. She made sure that we never went without anything we needed for school and that we were in church every Sunday, participated in all church activities and that our morals were never compromised.

She taught us to respect our elders, to love one another and to take care of each other. She taught us forgiveness even to the point of taking all of her grown kids to visit an elderly relative whom we had a grudge with. She explained to all of us , “we wouldn’t be able to get into heaven by holding grudges and we needed to forgive and let go of the past” --and at our mothers request we all made our peace--it was quite an experience.

Although our family has drifted apart, and we are each caught up in our own little world, we all need to remember the lessons our mother taught when we were growing up .

We need to take care of each other, to watch out for each other, to be independent and strong, generous, self sacrificing , always forgiving no matter how many times we get it wrong, love for all, especially those worse off than ourselves and to offer up our prayers for everyone else rather than for our own needs. Our mother is the one, who taught us to live, love, and laugh, have morals, to know right from wrong, and that we are accountable for our own actions. We should all make time for each other. Sometimes a phone call, a note or a kind word is all that is needed.

My grandchildren gave me a very special card which reads,

You're a Blessing

When special people
Touch our lives
Then suddenly we see
How beautiful and wonderful
Our world can really be.
They bless us
With their love and joy
Through everything they give--
When special people touch our lives
They teach us how to live.

Mothers in my life that have touched me would be first and foremost, my own mother, Ola Holloway, as well as Irene Johnson, Bonnie Swift, Bette Snyder, Sissie Stout, Sue Roberts, Thelma Wylie, Emogene Swift, Dodie McNeel, Alice Swift, Mary Henson Swift, Neita Jamison, Jean Humphrey and my sister, June Thomas. These are but a few mothers that have taught me how to live.

Well, it has been determined I should write a postscript to my Mother’s Day Tribute to my Mother. I heard from quite a few family members (and some I expected to hear from but didn’t) about memories of Mother.

One said, “You didn’t tell about her working in tobacco”. Another said, I didn’t mention the grandchildren. Someone thought I didn’t talk about how hard she worked.

My memories of my mother could fill a whole book, maybe two -- even a whole library but if I wrote all of those stories most of you would be really bored and never finish it.
So to keep harmony in the family here is a postscript and more insight about my mother.

Like I said in my earlier blog my mother was a very hard worker and could hold her own against any man working in the field. She loved working in the tobacco from the time the tobacco bed was burnt and sowed in February or March until the time the tobacco was sold at market in November or December. She knew how to plant it, hoe it, dust it for cutworms, top it, sucker it, and cut it. She could stick it and spear it faster than my dad. She even had her own spear. It was hard work and getting gummy and dirty never bothered her. She didn’t mind riding the trailer to pack it in the barn and when it came to grading and tying it off she was very particular about her grades and how to pack it into the baskets. She wanted it look nice as to get the best price at the market.

When my oldest niece was born she was so proud to be a grandmother. When she was old enough to talk my mother did not want to be called Granny and she told Pam to “just call her Toad”. That had been her own nickname when she was small. Of course us kids tried to rile my mother by teaching Pam to call her Granny Toad. We, of course got a “talking to “ and it was explained to us in no uncertain terms she wanted to be called Toad.

As she had other grandchildren, the name stuck and all the grandkids called her Toad. She loved everyone of her grandchildren and never showed any favoritism. There was Pam, Dockie, Vikki, Tawnee, Debbie, Jason, Lisa, Don, Little Roy, Doug, Jenny and Brad. She loved for them to come visit and was always happy to see them. She was so proud of all of them.

Again, she was so proud of her sons in laws and daughter in law. I think they were all proud of her and would do anything for her. Her son in law, Dick, always teased her about cooking squirrel and gravy for him. So one day she thought she would fix him. Somewhere she got hold of a couple of squirrels some one had killed and she put them on to cook.

When supper time came and everyone was sitting at the table she placed this bowl of meat and gravy in front of him. She passed him a biscuit and says “OK, Dick there is your squirrel and gravy”. Poor man, he had a stunned look on his face staring at those little drumsticks swimming around in all that gravy. Knowing there was nothing he could do but eat it, he began to ladle gravy onto his biscuit. “Here, have a little meat with your gravy”, she says and proceeded to place a drumstick on top. Now he was really in a pickle, he had to eat it. He did make it through supper but from that day on he never asked her to cook him anything special again.

Another of the things that made her a great mother was that she never interferred in our married lives, she never took sides, she never gave advice unless you asked for it. She never gossiped. If anyone needed help she was always there. She was very quiet and easy going.

As she grew older she was commonly referred to as Toad among her family and friends - it was a name she loved to be called. When she passed away, the minister that officiated at her funeral spoke these words, “When I met her and referred to her as Mrs. Holloway - she explained to me that her name was Toad . With no offense to anyone and no disrespect to the family in my sermon today I will refer to her as Ms. Toad".

One family member said she was “One Of A Kind” and I have to agree. I am often reminded of this saying:

“In all the world there is no other who can take the place of my dear Mother"

A mother's love will never be lost as long as they are remembered. Memories live on in our hearts and minds forever.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Weather and Stuff

Well, there has been a lot of weather in the news the past few days. East Tennesee here only recieved about a half inch of rain . Nashville recieved some twenty inches of rain

The Cumberland River has flooded parts of Nashville including Opryland Hotel and the new Opry House. Entire neighborhoods were flooded and at least 18 people lost their lives across the State of Tennessee. Everything is a mess. Opryland Hotel has been closed indefinitely.

Governor Bredesen has declared 52 of Tennessee's 95 counties a disaster area. The Red Cross and National Guard have been called in to help. Prayers go out to those who lost loved ones and to all the Nashville flood victims as well as those across our state.

I was talking to some of the old timers about the weather and other things. They love to tell stories and they all seemed to have different ways of predicting the weather.

One of them told me you know it is going to rain if you see a ring around the moon and if there are no stars in it rain will fall by morning.

Another told me if the trees turn up their leaves so you see the underside of them it will rain.

Another told me a story about the sherriff who had heard there would be a guy coming thru the county with a load of moonshine. He sat and waited for the man to pass and then he stopped him. The sherriff says to the man "I hear you're carrying a load of moonshine". The man says, "Well, now I might be" and stuck a loaded 44 out the window of the car. He says to the sherriff, " I have a Mother in heaven, a Daddy in hell and a sister over in Wilkesboro, North Carolina and I aim to see one of them before nightfall". At that point, the sherriff says, "You're free to go, drive careful", and walks back to his patrol car.

Jack, another oldtimer, always has "fish stories" to tell. He says the three things you have to watch out for when you're walleye fishing is a steep creek bank, a rock and a tree or you might end up with no fish and five days in the hospital. Now, that'll set you back a bit. Glad to see you are on the mend, Jack!

On another note, the rain has made things really green up around here. Gardens are beginning to spring up and the grass is growing fast. I can hardly wait for the cucumbers and tomatoes to be ready to pick. Nothing like growing your own vegetables.

If the signs are right maybe today is the day to plant zuchinni or maybe to sit in the lounge chair with a good book and watch the grass grow. Now there's an idea..........

That's it for today.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Springtime in Tennessee

WELL, It's a great spring here in Tennessee and I have photos to prove it. For larger photos - just click on them and enjoy the show!!

How would you like to swing on this grapevine?

A pretty little church

An Old Barn

I love old barns

Ducks ready for a swim

Just how warm is that water?

I think we will sit right here

Let the geese go first

One foot at a time

Sunshine brings out the Spring flowers

Dogwood on the lake

Beautiful Redbud trees on a a country road

Just one more barn

The best part of spring is having someone to share it with.

And in the words of my father "That's it for Today".