My Grandmother Laura (Locklear) Bowers, never had a sunburn in all of her life. At least that is what she told me. I have no reason to doubt her word either. I remember as a child seeing Granny in the summertime turn a dark, dark brown. “It’s the Indian blood” she would say.
She told me of her childhood, and how she had been put out into the cotton fields as a child with a burlap sack and told to pick cotton. And so she did, all the day long. It was not something which was out of the ordinary in the early 1900’s for a child to work those long days in the sun. In the aftermath of the Civil war, “The Reconstruction” had left the South broken and divided. Families had to “do the best they could do” said Granny, in order to get by.
So from that childhood of hard work in the field, and “never getting a sunburn” she went to an early marriage to a man who was old enough to be her Father. A man who was actually a friend of her Father’s. There was only three years difference in my Grandfather Bowers and my Great Grandfather Locklear. My Grandmother was 23 years younger.
She married young and had a lot of children.
My Grandfather had lost most of his first family and obviously was a man who believed in having children. Granny had 19 children. Many of them died in childbirth or as infants. Eight of them lived to see adulthood. Those years were in the deep center of the Great Depression. My Dad was born in 1928. Dirt poor in a mill town. All the kids started to work as children in the mill. All the money was needed to buy food and a few clothes. “Living hand to mouth” I remember Granny saying.
I don’t remember my Grandpa Bowers, as he died in 1952 and I was only two years old. I had been living with my Mother’s family for those first two years in Blue Ridge and probably didn’t have much time with my Grandfather. I have never seen a photo of my Grandfather and me at the same time. I don’t know if one exists or not. I have a number of them with my Granny and me in the same photo. In a lot of them, there was some kind of work going on. Cooking, washing clothes, hanging clothes, gardening. Work to be done, and not much time for play.
Granny married again sometime in the late 50’s. A Kansas man named Arthur Knox. I remember much more of him than I can go into right now. He was good to Grandma. He died in 1964 and she was alone again. Much of her life after that revolved around where she was going to stay, which child she was going to live with, where to go. She went from place to place, staying for the longest time with my oldest Aunt, Addie.
She always seemed to be there for all the important things. High School graduations, weddings, funerals. She lived a hard life and died at age 92 back in 1988. I had been married for almost 20 years by then and had three children. My wife and I were busy raising our little ones.
I know I speak often and tenderly of my other Grandparents. My Mom’s folks. But Granny Bowers played a big part in my childhood. I was out at the old Trion cemetery the other day and thought about her, and her favorite meal of pinto beans, taters and cornbread. I think I must have inherited her tastes because it’s also my favorite. You can’t beat simplicity. I believe Granny lived that philosophy.