London, KY

#1 Dec 20, 2013
my father sold everything we owned, took all the money and disappeared from our lives. My mother suddenly found herself alone to care for five boys. I was the oldest, barely ten years old. My youngest brother still wore diapers.

My grandparents welcomed us to their place –. They scratched a living out of growing row crops in the thin topsoil, and running beef cattle on open range.

Grandpa butchered an extra hog that year, and we planted a field of turnips to mature in the cool fall weather. We didn’t know a lot of different ways to prepare turnips, but the farm supplied adequate food. My mother worked in the fields and cared for us kids while I started fifth grade at school.

Changes in our lives couldn’t be avoided. My father had been abusive at times, but he’d always provided for us. Now, I worried about what might happen, but my mother stayed positive, and assured us that she would keep us together as a family and safe from harm.

Relatives donated hand-me-down clothes whenever they could, and the farm produced enough food to nourish all of us every day. I milked cows before catching the school bus, and did chores after I got home each day. The younger boys washed dishes, fed chickens and pigs, and carried in firewood. Six-year-old Jerry was paired with me on a crosscut saw, and we regularly cut wood to heat the house during the winter.

London, KY

#2 Dec 21, 2013
Our efforts paled in comparison to what our mother did, however. At one hundred-five pounds, she could swing an axe, manhandle heavy horse-drawn plows, haul hay for the cattle, and harvest crops. Still, she found time to help us with homework and say prayers with the younger boys. She also made sure we attended church regularly, and taught us to appreciate music.

As Christmas approached, my mother didn’t seem to smile as much. She hinted that Santa might have trouble bringing us presents this year. I considered myself practically grown, so I hid my disappointment, but when I overheard a conversation between my mother and grandma, I really started to worry.

“I can’t afford to buy Christmas presents for the kids,” my mother said.

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