By: Beni T. Dean
To all the descendants of Jodie Thurmon Thompson and Emma Aldora Groom:
In case you do not know it, you came from pretty good stock (Scots-Irish) insofar as longevity, good health, good looks, creativity, musical and mechanical talent, ingenuity, perseverance, determination, and just sheer grit are concerned.
Let me explain: Our parents were the children of two Texas families who owned small nearby farms in Van Zandt County. Daddy was 89 when he died and Mama was 82. She outlived daddy by almost a year out of sheer determination, as she knew he would be absolutely lost without her. Daddy, the third of eight children, outlived all but one of his siblings, and Mama, the fifth of ten children, outlived all of her siblings. Daddy and Mama had been married to each other for more than sixty years when Daddy died. They raised six children, two males (bookends) and four females (the books in between the males) and all of them survived them. They were all raised on various tenant farms within a range of twenty miles from each other in Van Zandt County, northeast Texas. All of the females finished high school. That was the one ambition Mama had for us. (I went on to become a lawyer and was the only child of my generation on Daddy's side of the family to earn so much as a college degree, and the only female of my generation on my Mother's side to earn a doctor's degree. Helen earned a pilot's license. Norve became a commercial pilot and aviation mechanic. Their first child and oldest son died at the age of 76, but as of this writing, all of the remaining five are well and healthy. (Helen and I have lived in two foreign countries each, and have traveled far and wide, the most recent trip being to Argentina and Chile when we went to Patagonia and Terra del Fuego).
First of all, as a couple, our parents were as different from each other as night is to day. Daddy was tight-fisted and self-centered whereas Mama was generous to a fault and self-sacrificing. Daddy was a sarcastic, cynical, perfectionist who loved to cuss and swear (to appease Mama he changed "by god" to "by the godlins", when he swore while around her) and never set foot in a church. He never kept any dissatisfaction bottled up inside. He let it all out. On the other hand, Mama was soft-spoken, stoical, pouted until she was ready to explode, sang in a high-pitched falsetto instead of crying, used the "S" word only if provoked beyond endurance, read the Bible when she had spare time, hated swearing, and went to church at every opportunity. But she was a veritable tigress when it came to protecting her children or her property. For example: She spied a hawk in a tree that she suspected was the culprit which had been eating her chickens; reached for Daddy's loaded shot gun that he kept in the corner next to the top of his bed, and went to the back door and aimed and shot that hawk dead before we knew what was happening. We didn't even know she knew how to shoot a gun, let alone hit the target! This is the same woman that would not cook a rabbit or squirrel that Daddy had killed or cook a fish that he had caught.
Daddy was proud, quite handsome, slim, about six feet tall, energetic, walked with a limp as one leg was shorter than the other (a congenital defect) and had brown eyes and dark brown hair. He was almost bald by the time he was forty and was so self-conscious about it that he would not remove his hat in public. We used to tease him about seeing a fly slide off and break his neck when he landed on top of Daddy's head by mistake. He was a neat dresser. His usual going to town clothes consisted of a pair of khaki trousers, khaki shirt, brown belt, brown shoes and a John B. Stetson felt hat. He rarely laughed, but when he did, he would slap his thigh. He had an infectious grin, and suffered from occasional bouts of depression and hypoglycemic attacks. (He called them the "weak trembles".) Daddy had a razor sharp mind and no tolerance or patience whatsoever for the slow-witted or lazy. He had pet names for all of us, could make a limerick as quick as a cat could pounce on a mouse, and made up words as he saw fit. Two examples will suffice. A woodpecker was a "peckerwood", and a maternity jacket was a "hatching jacket". Daddy was a good fiddle player and could also play the French harp. (All of his brothers played string instruments). Daddy used to play at dances before Mama made him give it up on the grounds that dancing was a sin according to the Baptist religion of which she was a member. (Her brothers sang in revivals and other church functions and they were also musically inclined, and there were several preachers on her daddy's side of the family). Daddy was a fantastic amateur veterinarian, blacksmith, farrier, and overall had a very mechanical mind. He could design, make improvise, or repair just anything, and took very good care of all of his possessions.