Saturday, 13 June 2020 13:41

COLUMN: Stories of my Aunt B - Part I

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COLUMN: Stories of my Aunt B - Part I J.A. Bolton

Aunt B was one of my mom’s older sisters. There were four girls in the family of 12 children.

Each child had their own job to do on their 100-acre farm during the days of the Great Depression. They didn’t have a lot of cash, but food was always on their lazy Susan table.

During the early ‘30s, three of the brothers went to Martinsville, Virginia, and took jobs at the furniture plants. The oldest sister got married and moved to Rockingham.

In 1931, my mom’s mother died from pneumonia. My mom was the youngest in the family and only 3 years old at the time. That same year, two of my granddad’s mules died. Also that same year, the last payment was due on land that my granddad had put up his first 100 acres to buy. He was told by the Federal Land Bank that if he couldn’t come up with money by the end of the month, he would lose all his land. Needless to say, with the price of cotton at rock bottom, my granddad lost all his land.

Having nothing much more than the clothes on their backs, Granddad moved his family up to Little River to help his brother farm.

Aunt B was the oldest girl living at home and she took up the job of washing clothes, ironing, housework, and cooking. My 3-year-old mom sorta adopted Aunt B as her mother. Everywhere Aunt B went, my mom was in her shadow. Mom would even stand in a chair watching Aunt B bake homemade bread or cakes. Why, it wasn’t long before both of them, using trial and error, learned to be great cooks.

After helping his brother on the farm for a year or so, my granddad moved his family back to Ellerbe and began sharecropping for a Mr. McRae. Although there won’t much money in sharecropping, Mr. McRae was a good man and helped my family out all he could.

When Christmas came, my three uncles who had moved to Virginia would come home to visit their family. They would always bring lots of candy, fruit, clothes, and even a baby doll for my mom.

One year, my uncles brought Aunt B a beautiful store-bought dress. The only other dresses she had were made of feed sacks. This new dress was one of the best Christmas gifts Aunt B had ever received. She would put it in front of her and go sashaying all through the house. She would gently wash it with the only soap they had, lye soap. Then she would press every wrinkle with an old cast iron that she had heated by the fireplace.

On Sunday morning, walking to church, she was careful not to get her new dress dirty and be sure to pull it off as soon as she got home. Being the only good dress she had, she wore it every Sunday. One day at church, some of the girls started picking at her for wearing the same dress every Sunday. This made Aunt B so mad she ran home, laid down on the bed, and cried her eyes out. Although she was a Christian, it was a long time before she ever went back to any church.

Occasionally, with all the housework, cooking, and washing clothes for the whole family, Aunt B would lose her temper.

Seems she never liked cats or dogs, and especially, her brothers’ two coon dogs. Why, those dogs were always getting in her way or breaking through the screen door to get in the kitchen. One day those dogs had got on Aunt B’s last nerve. Yes sirree, those dogs had to go. She knew there was a sack of arsenic in the barn. That’s what farmers used back then to kill tobacco worms. She hatched a plan to slowly kill those two dogs. She couldn’t give them too much or they would just fall over dead and she might have to explain her actions. She brought a small bag of arsenic in the kitchen and hid it. Every time she had some leftover cold biscuits, she placed a little bacon grease on it and a tad of arsenic between the bread. Then she gave it to each dog. 

Well, time went by, and instead of the dogs getting sick, they grew fat and slick. My uncle said, “B, I don’t know what you been feeding those dogs, but keep it up.”

Aunt B decided that she wouldn’t try to kill the dogs by giving them more arsenic. What she didn’t know at the time was her treatment would be used by veterinarians today to treat heartworms in animals.

Next week, I’ll tell you some more stories about Aunt B: How she had a tough life raising her two kids; then, how she became a mail-order bride and moved to Georgia; and how, by having a green thumb, she just about got in trouble for growing marijuana.

 J.A. Bolton is author of “Just Passing Time,” co-author of “Just Passing Time Together,” and recently released his new book, “Southern Fried: Down Home Stories.” Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Last modified on Saturday, 13 June 2020 13:45