Burning bales with a barefoot friend

Published 3:54 pm Tuesday, January 2, 2024

I want to dedicate this column to the memory of my lifelong friend of 85 years, Martha Jo Childs Hall.

Dear Martha Jo: I don’t blame you for going on and checking out. We talked about how different the world is now than when we grew up. I was one year old, and you were three, when my daddy and mother, Jeff and Jessie Palmertree bought the farm next-door to your parents, Milton and Francis Childs. Mr. Milton helped them move, and he and Mr. Jeff became lifelong friends.

Our early lives were filled with joy, as we played together, when Mr. Milton and Miss Francis came to call every Sunday afternoon. As we got older, we were allowed to walk through the woods to each other ‘s houses. It was safe back, then for children to do this. We often talked about how children today are not safe to enjoy nature as we did.

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Remember the sand? It was halfway between houses. We would sometimes meet up there and spend so much time climbing up and sliding down the banks for hours, the beautiful red, orange and brown sand seemed to wash right out of our homemade clothes. 

We were also barefooted as shoes were saved for Sunday.

We entered Mt. Olivet School. Being two years older you were two grades ahead. It was at this time that a wonderful church pianist Ms. Lois Eley Marberry began to teach piano at Mt. Olivet.

We excelled beautifully, because there was nothing else to do. During this time, Miss Lois has some severe health problems. The two little girls who went to church there, Donna and Martha Jo had to try to fill in. 

Even though we were just beginners, it gave us an early sense of commitment. It turned out to be a great blessing because it was not long before we had to play full-time.

Being an only child, I became like a little sister to you. Mt. Olivet school was consolidated into Batesville school after sixth grade, and you graduated on up. It was about this time that the Oxford skating rink opened. your daddy had an old homemade school bus.

Every Saturday night he gathered a lot of kids to go skating. He had me, you, the Scruggs, kids, Mr. John Cooper, and Johnny Cooper (who later in life, became deputy sheriff). He and Mr. John learned to skate and had as much fun as us.

We shared this secret that no one else knew. Is it OK to tell it now? When my brother, Eugene came home from WW2, he had picked up the habit of smoking. One day I sneaked some of the cigarettes and we climbed in the hayloft behind big bales of hay. It took a lot of matches to light one. We took a few puffs, coughed, and our eyes filled with tears, then set the hay on fire. 

The only way we had to put out the already blazing dry hay was for two little girls to let mother nature take its course.

We graduated high school, went on to college, jobs, marriage and children. We came back to the Mt. Olivet community after children were grown. 

We endured the death of our parents and spouses. We came closer than ever because we still had the same love and commitment. Community involvement, church, and helping others became the uppermost project. 

Your mission has been completed, and your body became so frail that it was impossible to carry on. I reluctantly let you go.

P.S.I wonder if there is a sandy gully in heaven?

Email donnatraywickmusic@gmail.com