Tag Archives: Progressive Farmer

The Jitterbugging, Jeep-Driving, Hostess with the Mostess


I nearly scared my mom to death the day I was born. Mainly because I didn’t make a sound. That wasn’t my choice; I had the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around my neck which prevented me from doing much of anything.  I was her third and Mama, a nurse, knew full well I should be hollering my little bald head off. Dr. Phillip, the physician for whom she worked, was working feverishly to rectify the situation.

And soon enough, I was letting out a wail. There are times when I wonder if just a little brain damage didn’t set in from the lack of oxygen; oh well, it’s a good excuse anyway, right?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my mother the past couple of weeks, seeing the ads for Mother’s Day (this weekend here in the US) in the paper and on TV, and seeing posts on Facebook with photos of moms and daughters. It’s been more than four years now since we lost her, but I can’t say I don’t still miss her every day. I don’t know that those feelings will ever change. Some losses just stay with you.


Ova in her nursing uniform, c. 1945. She and Daddy met when he was a military policeman at a German POW camp near Crossville Tenn.

She wasn’t perfect. She worried too way much. She could be over-protective of her three girls. She had a temper and patience was not her long suit. Mama was one of those people who could “do,” but couldn’t “teach”. So I never learned how to sew or cook, both of which would have come in handy.  (Thank goodness my husband said that if he’d wanted a cook, he would have married Julia Child.)

Mama was fiercely loyal to those she loved, a hugger, a woman who cried over those sentimental cards we sent for birthdays and Mother’s Day. As a kid, she’d preferred hanging out with her brothers to following her eldest sister’s homemaker lead. Mama played basketball in high school, ice-skated over frozen Tennessee ponds as a girl and jitter-bugged–rather daring for the daughter of a “hardshell” Baptist preacher. Even as an adult, she preferred the outdoors to domesticity. Somewhere, there’s a wonderful picture of her on horseback, dark hair streaming over her back, a contented smile on her face. Did I mention she was gorgeous?

In a time when many women left the driving up to their husbands, Mama got behind the wheel of not only a car, but the old Army Jeep, Daddy’s cantankerous pickup trucks and the little “putt-putt” John Deere, as Daddy called it.


This photo was taken by a photographer for “Progressive Farmer” Magazine c. 1951-52. It was our favorite of the batch of photos he took while visiting the farm. Mama always worried because her slip was showing, but I think she looks gorgeous here–the wind tumbling her hair, that smile. And my oldest sister looks pretty delighted with the goat, too!

She tended to thousands of chickens, fed cattle, weeded countless rows of vegetables and put up umpteen jars of preserves and jellies. Mama had a gift for making visitors feel welcome in our simple country home. She fed you well and frequently and served it all with that trademark smile.

She worried things weren’t fancy enough for some guests, but I don’t think anyone ever went away feeling neglected and they certainly didn’t go away hungry.  She was just as welcoming at our church. Who knows how many platters of her famous chicken salad sandwiches and bowls of creamy citrus punch were served at wedding and bridal showers and anniversary celebrations?

She and Daddy worked hard on the farm to give us not only that roof over our head,  food on the table and clothes on our backs; they worked to give us books and music and art, and the educational opportunities denied to them.  They really did give us both roots and wings.

Mama, thank you. I love you and I miss you. And I really do wish I could have seen you jitterbug.  Your hair flying loose from its pins, dark-lashed blue eyes flashing, that smile on your face . . .  that would have surely been a sight to behold.