A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Addie and Joe

Addie was Mama’s older sister. She was always kind of like our second Mama; I guess that got started when Mama was in the hospital for over a week in the early 1960’s, and Addie took care of us. She lived on a farm seven miles east of Waldron with her husband Joe Carmack. Joe’s real name was Ira, but he was known in the family as Joe. They used to live in Wichita, Kansas, and Joe worked for Boeing Aircraft. But he was seriously injured one time when he fell while working on a plane, and Boeing settled with him for his injuries in the amount of $3,000. So, he and Addie headed back to Waldron in about 1961 and used the $3,000 to buy their farm.

Joe was actually Addie’s second husband. She was first married to Herman Cameron, an inveterate gambler and womanizer, who broke her heart. This was well before my time, during World War II. They divorced a few years after the war. My older brother Gary has a vague recollection of Herman coming by the house to say goodbye, and Gary recalls that he refused to go out on the porch to see Herman, because he knew that Herman had done something to hurt Addie. The years eased the pain, I have no doubt, but I’m not sure Addie ever completely got over the hurt.

For a big portion of the 1960’s, Addie and Joe were our primary means of transportation. We didn’t have a car; Daddy got to bring home the telephone truck from work, but with our family of seven, that wasn’t too conducive to dignified travel. Of course, most of the places we needed to go were within walking distance anyway, but we did catch a ride to church with Addie and Joe.

Joe was a man of few words. He had a deep, gravelly voice to go with his long, lanky frame. Sometimes at church, when the testimony service was dragging, whoever was leading it would call on people to testify. On those times when Joe was called upon, it always amazed me to hear him speak up in church. It was just rare to hear him put that many words together. He was a kind, patient man who would do anything in his power to help out someone who needed it.

One cold winter morning, Addie and Joe were on their way to Sunday Morning services when they encountered a man walking along the highway. The man was without a coat on that frigid morning, just walking along the road. Addie and Joe stopped and talked to him, and he told them he was just trying to get into town. They insisted that he climb into the back seat, which he did, and Addie and Joe brought him into town. Later on at church, someone asked Addie if she had heard about the men who had been caught stealing cattle out their way the previous night, or had seen anything of the one who managed to get away. “I guess we gave him a ride into town,” she replied.

Addie was a gifted artist, poet, and writer. She loved to draw pictures and write poetry during the long winter days on the farm. She was deeply religious, and her writings reflected her faith. She was also a fountain of knowledge about the history of Mama’s side of the family, the Waganers. She kept copious writings detailing the family lineage and history. She also had many, many photographs, on the backs of which she had detailed information about the subject of the picture.

Addie and Joe lived a very simple life. The farmhouse they lived in hadn’t changed much from the time it was built. I think Addie longed for some of the modern conveniences that living in town offered, but at the same time she loved the farm. When I was little, they had some chickens that they kept for eggs, and Joe had a few head of cattle. They also had three or four horses, in addition to some hunting dogs that Joe kept out behind the barn and an untold number of stray cats that Addie just couldn’t stand to see go hungry. Of course, Addie gave them all names and made pets out of them. Farming was just a sideline for Joe; he got up at the crack of dawn every morning to go to his job at the feed mill at AVI. We always looked forward to getting to go out to the farm, particularly at Christmas time when Joe would lead us up into the woods to find a Christmas tree.

Addie and Joe didn’t ask for much. They enjoyed the simple pleasures. When you sat down at Addie’s kitchen table, you could be sure that she would bring out a box of Little Debbie’s. Usually it would be the snack cakes with white icing. Around Christmas, she would make what she called an “unbaked” fruit cake that Joe dearly loved. On Wednesday afternoons, they would come into town early for church so that they could go by Owen’s Drug Store and have ice cream. They were content with what they had, which really wasn’t all that much, but they found joy in life’s quiet moments.

They finally did get to live in town, after Joe’s health got bad. Addie was proud of her house in town and the conveniences that it offered. And, she even managed to find a stray cat to take care of.

Addie and Joe are both gone now. But in the spring, there will be blooms in my sister’s yard, and my yard, and in the yard at Mama and Daddy’s house, blooms from plants that were lovingly tended by Addie, who could get a start of just about any plant by breaking off a twig. Blooms from plants that were shared out of a mutual love of God’s beautiful creation, and admired by a gracious lady who saw life as a poem.

1 comment:

  1. You are a sincerely good writer, and the things (and people) you write about are the type that made this country the great place it is. Very good.