Miner Memories: Sentimental holidays and stories to record
By Ginger English
With the holidays fast approaching, thoughts turn to home. Memories are rekindled of freshly baked yeast rolls, chocolate pie, and a warm crackling fireplace that welcomed family together as laughter filled the house.
A twinge of sadness overwhelms me this holiday season, however, as this will be the first Christmas without any of my siblings. My emotions have been very fragile the past few months, since the unexpected death of my oldest brother, which left me the lone survivor of the Fox family that was started on May 6, 1933.
To snap one back to reality, it only takes tragedies close to home such as the car crash on Christmas Eve 1936 and the recent accident involving five teenagers from Benton. In my September 2012 article published in The Saline Courier, I recounted the events of the accident in 1936. Four young people lost their lives that night and the two survivors were severely burned, scarred for life. In the more recent accident, 17-year-old Drew Melton lost her life and four other teenagers were hospitalized, with their lives changed forever by this tragedy.
During visitation hours the night before Drew’s funeral, I witnessed the tremendous outpouring of love and support for her family and friends who were overwhelmed with grief and shock. Drew’s grandparents, Mary and Joe Don Davis, have been my friends for many years. What they and other members of Drew’s family are experiencing is hard for me to comprehend. As I think of Drew’s short 17 years and my brother’s long full life, what a blessing both of them were to us. Grief is something that cannot be measured.
I am now ready to get my emotions under control and enjoy the Christmas season just ahead. Once again family will be gathering and sharing stories that have become favorites through the years.
Stories once told by my Grandpa Turner will be shared again, I am sure. He told of getting “skunked” on an all-night hunting trip, coming upon a rattler as big as his arm, and seeing a big black bear in the woods just behind the house. Grandpa also had some unusual encounters with hobos and “mad dogs.” He often told sad stories of losing two children to the likes of diphtheria and smallpox. Grandpa’s adventures must be recorded for my grandchildren, a project for me in 2013.
Christmas 1989 before my mother became seriously ill, I gave her a book titled, The Grandparent Book. This small book contained questions for her to answer about her life, from earliest memories as a child through adulthood. I requested that she fill in the blanks and give the book back to me as a present the following Christmas, which she did. Writings in this book were used to create her chapter in our family storybook titled, Fox Tales, which also contains life memories from each of her four children. Copies of our storybook have been distributed to family members.
Gathering with others to share tales about our hometown of Bauxite is special to me. There are numerous stories involving that old mining town, where memories were born and colorful characters were plentiful. Many tales have been passed down through the years by word-of-mouth and should be recorded for future generations.
One of my favorite Bauxite stories immediately comes to mind. A young man was out on a cold rainy day in the early days of Bauxite, when he spotted the Pea Vine Train on the track where it crossed the Bauxite Cutoff Road. The young man instantly decided to hop onto the slow-moving train for a joy ride. As he jumped into the boxcar, he plunged straight down; there was no floor in the car. When his feet hit the ground between the railroad tracks, he started moving. He quickly realized there was no turning back so he ran, keeping pace with the slow-moving train. He said he ran all the way to Pine Bluff.
The same man told that he was once engaged to the daughter of a wealthy oil man from Tulsa. Before he got married, he bought a herd of hogs to start a hog farm. He needed to transport the animals to his farm back in Arkansas, so he borrowed an airplane from his well-to-do future father-in-law and loaded the hogs on board. As he flew over his farm, he parachuted the herd from the plane, and wouldn’t you know it, every one of them landed directly in his hog pen.
This man’s nickname was “Lyin’.” Enough said. I won’t mention his last name.
During a recent visit with Rose Harris, she shared stories of her life as a young lady in Bauxite. Her favorite memories were of trips to Clear Lake in the summer. Back then, it was unusual for girls, as well as boys, to long-distance swim from the old dock on the west side of the lake to the beach area on the far side. Rose chuckled as she realized how dangerous that swim was, but it never occurred to her as a teenager on those hot summer days.
Rose also told about seeing a group of boys at Clear Lake with a friend who was wearing a cast on a broken leg. Not wanting to leave their friend on the bank by himself while they swam, the boys lifted him onto a small raft in the water and propped his broken leg on a floating log. Apparently, they never thought of the consequences had their friend slipped off the flimsy raft while wearing that heavy cast.
This Christmas season keep the family traditions going and old stories alive by sharing them with the younger folks. How blessed you are if you still have family near you to share stories. Make sure you don’t let the opportunity pass you by.
These are Miner Memories and some of them are not so minor.
(Ginger English grew up in Bauxite. Her column appears the first Tuesday each month exclusively in The Saline Courier.)