ALICE ANN PENNINGTON: Remembering getting by in rural Franklin County
“I was raised on a farm way back when. I’m approaching 86, so that was a lot of years ago. It was on top of Spruce Pine mountain – that’s where I lived before I married.
“When I was born we lived at Spruce Pine. It was a big two-story house, and it was right next to the railroad. The whole house was about to fall down, but it’s still up there. Momma always left her doors open, and hobos would come in at night because they knew about Momma’s place, and they would come in and eat. They never stole anything or hurt anything; they just came in for the food. She would always leave food for them. She had 10 children – of course, some of them was grown, and I had a sister who married the day after I was born, I think.
“Momma had a reputation of feeding all the kids in Spruce Pine. She would always cook and have a table full of food, and they knew about it and would always manage to get to her house for dinner.
“It was hard work on the farm. I picked cotton – I had a long sack, and you put the strap around your shoulder and went down the row picking cotton. Then they would weigh it and put it on the truck and haul it to the gin to have it ginned – and I helped get corn in. Back then school would turn out for two weeks for us to pick cotton. We would go to my brother’s house in Liberty Hill and help pick cotton.
“When I married we went to Illinois, and he got a job to work for Caterpillar Tractor. There were no jobs around here. There were a lot of people who went up there and to different places. We stayed there two or three years, and then we came back down here.
“We had a place rented down on the creek over here – I can’t remember the man who owned it back when we rented it – but my husband worked at rentals and at Robbins Tire and Lumber company. When he left to go to work, everything was left for me to do. We farmed, and I had to haul the pickers to the field and take them home after they picked cotton all day. I had 10-15 or so pickers picking way down a steep grove. One day I picked them up, and I was driving out, and the truck stalled with me. It was on the side of a bluff, and a little narrow gravel road was the only way you could get to it. It was just about at the falling off place, and it stopped. They all got off and walked out. After they got off, it lightened up so I could drive it on out.
“I didn’t know to do anything but what was before me to do, so I did whatever it was. And I raised nine kids.
“I had a grandma on my husband’s side – she was a Jackson, and she was a faith healer. We had a furnace for heat, and Jackie, my daughter, fell on it when she was little. It burned her pretty bad. We put her in the car and took her to Grandma Jackson’s house, and she said some stuff and blew on it, and by the time we started up the mountain, Jackie quit crying, and it never left a scar or anything. When my babies would get thrush in their mouths, we could call Grandma Jackson on the phone, and she would cure it. I had an uncle who was a faith healer too.
“I hadn’t thought about all of that in so long.”