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Myrtle’s Memories

Myrtle’s memories were waiting in my mailbox a few days ago, in a large brown envelope from Calloway County.

Myrtle Rickman Cooper’s nephew, Bobby Barron of Murray, had told me they were on the way. Myrtle died in 1996 and Bobby’s uncle Jimmy found some of her writings entitled Memories, which Bobby thought I might like to see.

While reading the few pages, I kept wishing that Myrtle’s mother, Lucy Rickman, who died in the spring of 1990 at age 96, could have seen the tribute her daughter had written about her soon after her passing.

Myrtle, the fourth of 10 children, three of whom died in infancy, began by describing the Calloway County farmhouse where her family lived when she was born in 1920—three rooms with a porch downstairs, and an unfinished upstairs where some of the children slept under the tin roof. Water was drawn from a cistern that had to have water hauled to it and poured in from a big tank with a rubber hose. No electricity. Myrtle writes:

I recall seeing my mother in the kitchen more than any other place…I have always wondered how she could be everywhere at once, with a baby in her arms and another hanging onto her skirt. She managed to hoe the garden with one baby on a pallet and another in a big box. She would hoe tobacco and cut corn around the edge of the field so that she could keep an eye on the little ones.

I recall many days after I started to school when she would have the washing started before I left and would still be washing when I returned home about three or four o’clock. But, during that time, she had fixed lunch for six or eight men working in the fields, gathered vegetables and prepared them, and picked fruit such as apples, peaches, and blackberries. She never let anything go to waste…

I know my mother could make a gallon of water go further than anybody I know. I think some days now I use more water in one day than we used in months.

Myrtle wrote about homemade toys and good times, church meetings, broomstick skirts her mother made, and working in tobacco. Her father, Edd, often borrowed money to buy their school shoes, she said, but always repaid it when his tobacco sold.

We washed on the back porch with two tubs on two chairs turned down. We drew the water, heated it in an iron kettle, scrubbed on a washboard, and hung the clothes on a line and on the garden fence since we never had enough line.

When she finished in the kitchen at night (my mother) always had some patching or sewing to do. I never had a dress made just for me until I was a grown girl…

I never remember hearing my mother complain about not having enough of anything, or having too much work.

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