Dad and Mom
The elderly man lay in a hospital bed in the small southeast Missouri
town of Poplar Bluff. It was a warm June day. He had just come through
a serious surgery for colon cancer. His eyes were vacant from the drugs
he was hooked up to, he had a tube up through his nose and numerous IV bags
were running through a needle in his right arm. He had an oxygen line
under his nose. He probably only weighed around a hundred pounds.
I was distracted as his wife entered the room. A fairly large woman
in her 86th year by one week. She was bent from arthritis, but neverless
moved hurriedly. When she looked at him the years seemed to fall away, and
one could see the love that had kept them together for 61 years. I was
touched. One sometimes forget about the youth that hides in all of us
inspite of the mask that age places on us. For a moment you could see
the young girl in her 20's worried about her boyfriend.
My hope is the reader will perhaps relook at his elderly parents,
grandparents,etc. and try to see the person, not the old person. All
our ancesters were people and had lives, and coming to understand those
lives and learning of their experiences can only enrich you.
My parents are those people mentioned above, at the present time
in poor health, due to age mostly.
My father, Clavis Wilson Murley, was born November 26, 1916 near
Blue Mountain, in the Blacklands community near Booneville, Tippah Co.
Mississippi. His family were primarily cotton farmers, but like so
many other country people, raised their own gardens, slaughtered cattle and
hogs, hunted for wild game, and fished to supplement their tables.
They wild-crafted herbs, made much of the home remedies to treat them
and their livestock. I remember my grandmother telling of digging Ginseng
when my dad and his brother were very young.
My dad always enjoyed hunting, and was an excellant marksman.
When I was younger I thought I was very good, but dad was better, and his
dad was better, but that is another story. In 1920, in the month of April,
the community in which they lived was ravaged by a killer tornado, or
cyclone as I grew up hearing the story. As I remember hearing the story,
as the storm approached, the the decision was made to stay in the cabin
because Grandmother Mandy was quite ill, being advanced in years, and
they didn't feel she could be moved and they didn't want to leave her.
I don't think they had any idea what was in store for them. I feel this
storm was probably many times more intense than any they had ever seen.
I remember visiting the area in 1956, 36 years after it happened and the
path was clearly visible. I remember it as being close to a mile wide,
and from stories I have heard it must have been a class 4 or 5 storm.
When the storm hit the log cabin just about disintergrated. Dad says
he remembers flying through the air and being struck by debris. During
this time his father was holding him under one arm and his brother Hermon
under the other. When they landed the roof, or a part of it, landed on
them, penning them down. Grandfather braced himself and picked the roof
up on his back while Uncle Hermon crawled out and propped it up with
something, then grandfather crawled out. I can only imagine the destruction
they witnessed. I have heard them say that nothing was left standing
except a fence post somewhere in the immediate area of the house.
Grandfather James K. Bartlett had been carried a great distance(some say
as much as a mile from the house)and his skull had been split open by
something that hit him. He however was able to walk back to the house.
They sat him down and tied him up to the fence post by wrapping him
in an old quilt. He had survived the Civil War and a lifetime, he
lived several days in this condition, he was 87 years old. Grandmother
Mandy was dead, but the other 3 adults and two children were alive and well.
Dad had been scalped, but it left no visible scars. There were others
who didn't fare so well. One humorous story was about Dads mothers
cousin Myrtle, who was with them. Being a religious lady, she was down
behind a trunk praying when the tornado hit and when it was over, they found
her sitting astride a timber over the top of an old dug well.
Care had to be taken removing her, less she fall in the well.
Dad went to school and lived a normal life for a young man of his time.
He earned about a nineth grade education but he always seemed to be better
educated than the record shows.
When he was nineteen years old, in 1935, he and his family moved
to northeast Arkansas, where one evening on the way home from a small
country church(Calls Chapel), he met a young lady 4 years his senior named
Bertha Florance Smith. It was the custom in that community to walk
the dusty dirt or sometimes gravel roads to and from church, in the
farming community it was also the major social event. Most couples
met, courted and probably bonded on those dusty walks. Dad however,
rode a horse. I'm not sure if that is what attracted her to the slender
wiry built young man, but less than a year later on January 13, 1936
they were married in nearby Kennett, Missouri. It was a rainy day
and the roads were bad, and to make matters worse they had a flat tire
and dad had to walk several miles to get the tire repaired.
Mom was born June 7,1912 near Damascus, in Faulkner Co. Arkansas.
She grew up the oldest of four children. She speaks of her earlier
life being poor but having the basics for life. She remembers her
dad taking her to school on the back of a mule and swimming a creek
on the mule enroute. Her life seemed to be one of hard work even as
a small child, as indeed was most of the inhabitants of the small Ozark
towns of that era.
When she was about 12 her father moved the family to near Greenway,
Clay Co. Arkansas life seemed to be better there. They had loaded
themselves and all that they possessed into a boxcar and traveled by
train to their new home. Stories of this time seem to be happier, mom
enjoyed school, seemed to be a good student, and in high school played
girls basketball. She earned a High School Diploma for finishing the 12th
grade from Greenway High School. She went to work as a housekeeper
for a wealthy family in Kennet, Mo. The man she worked for was a dentist.
I think she must have worked for him about a year. During the early
years of their marriage mom and dad lived on a sizeable farm owned by
a Paul M. Phieffer. They sharecropped the rich bottomland and worked
together with my grandparents(dads Parents). An interesting point -
Mr. Phieffers daughter, Pauline was I believe, the first wife of the
celebrated author Earnest Hemingway. My dad and Uncle used to go hunting
with him in the days prior to World War II breaking out.
On May 26, 1939 in a frame 2 story farmhouse about 3 miles east
of Piggott, Clay Co. Arkansas where grandparents Murley lived I was
born, 10 1/2 lbs of bouncing baby boy, my mother had to have been a
I will leave my story and the continuing story of my parents for a later
Chapter 7: Choices
A Genealogy |
Chapter 5: My Grandparents |