#RWISA “RISE-UP” TOUR DAY 3, Jan Sikes, @jansikes3 #RRBC #RRBC_COMMUNITY #RWISARISEUP


Welcome to Day 3 of the 2nd “RWISA RISE-UP” Blog Tour! Today I’m up and I hope you enjoy my contribution!

DEPRESSION SOUP

By Jan Sikes

She stood in a line her head bowed low

There was nowhere to run, no place to go

With clothes that were ragged

And shoes that were worn

There were millions just like her

She wasn’t alone

America’s Great Depression had stolen their homes

Took its toll on their bodies

Tried to squash their souls

But she squared her shoulders, raised her eyes

Fierce determination replaced her sighs

She’d fight to survive, that much was true

Although many times, she’d be sad and blue

Someday there would be plenty

But for now, she was caught in a loop

She held out her bowl

For another serving

Of Depression Soup

Born in Missouri in 1917, my mom, Marian Edith Clark, learned about hardships at a young age.

Her mother, my grandmother, Sarah Jane, was sickly. The household chores fell on my mom’s shoulders when she was still a child. She shared memories of having to stand on a box so she could reach the stove to cook their meals.

My mom blue eyes sparkled, and her smile could light up a midnight sky. She started school in Treece, Kansas. Her family were migrant workers. Anytime they found an abandoned house, even if it was spooky, they moved in. Eventually, they landed in Pitcher, Oklahoma, where her father found a job in the iron and ore mines. She was in the ninth grade when he had an accident in the mines, and she had to quit school to help make a living for the family.

Her father became a bootlegger in Oklahoma. He would often get caught and wind up in jail for six months at a time, leaving the family to fend for themselves.

They eventually moved to Arkansas, where they had kinfolk who were sharecroppers. They picked cotton, and in Mom’s words, “Nearly starved to death.”

When she was around fourteen, her dad took the family to the Texas cotton fields. The whole family could pick, and they would make twenty-five cents for every hundred pounds of cotton.

We found this story written in a journal after Mom passed away.

“My last school was in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, population around 2,000. We lived two miles out in the country. I went to a two-room school. A man and his wife were both teachers. He taught in one room and her in the other. The man teacher went crazy and tried to kill his wife. When she got away, she came to our house. I’ll never forget how bloody her head was. When the police found him, he had crawled up under their house. So, they put him in a mental hospital.”

The Great Depression hit America in 1929, wiping out any semblance of a prospering economy. It was during that catastrophic era that my mom and dad met in Sayre, Oklahoma. At the time, she was babysitting for one of Dad’s sisters, and living in a government migrant camp with her family.

She was only seventeen, but they fell head-over-heels in love and decided to marry.

Mom had no shoes to wear for the ceremony, and a woman next to them in the camp loaned her a pair of shoes.

On April 14, 1934, they said their wedding vows in a preacher’s living room and began life together.

There were no pictures, no fanfare, no parties, and no honeymoon.

They spent their first night as newlyweds, sharing a bed with some of my dad’s younger brothers and sisters.

Their first home was an old farmhouse with nothing in it but a wood stove, a bed, and a table. Mom had no broom to sweep the floors, and when snakes crawled across, they left trails in the dirt.

Through the years, she shared many harrowing stories of how they survived as transients. They stayed within their family group and moved from the strawberry fields in Missouri, to potato fields in Kansas, to cotton fields in Texas. Often, they had no shelter from the elements, sleeping outdoors under a shade tree. Other times, they managed to have a tent or share a tent with other family members.

Mom and Dad’s life together, began under this umbrella of hopeless poverty.

 Hunger was a constant companion. My mom had an older brother who often would go out at night and steal a chicken or watermelon.

Enmeshed in daily survival, they could see no future.

Sometime around late 1934, they moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas not knowing it was in the middle of an epidemic. They were lucky enough to find housing in a WPA camp. My dad got a job digging graves for fifty cents a week, plus a small amount of food. A man working with him warned him to stay clear of the hospital; that no one came out alive.

However, the hospital laundry was the only place Mom found work. Automation wasn’t yet widespread, and especially not in Arkansas, so all of the washing had to be done by hand on rub boards.

A large scowling woman marched up and down behind the workers with a blackjack in hand. If she thought they weren’t working hard enough or fast enough, she’d whack them across the shoulders.

During this time, my mom fell ill with Scarlet Fever and they quarantined her. They kept her in a room under lock and key. My worried dad climbed to her window with food. It became apparent that they had to get out of there, or Mom would die. One night when all was quiet, she tied bedsheets together and lowered herself from the two-story window to the ground, where Dad waited.

They caught a ride to Oklahoma on the back of a flatbed truck, and Mom eventually recovered. They never went back to Fort Smith, Arkansas.

As the years passed, much of my dad’s family migrated to California, the land of milk and honey. But Mom and Dad didn’t go with them due to my grandmother’s failing health, and a younger sister who was inseparable from my mom. They all stuck together. My grandmother passed away in 1942 in Roswell, New Mexico. Pictures show a large goiter on her throat. She died long before I was born.

Mom gave birth to my siblings with help from family and friends. I was the only one to arrive in a hospital setting.

By 1951, the year I was born, Mom and Dad had settled in Hobbs, New Mexico, and purchased a lot on Avenue A. They stretched their tent and immediately started building a house. They put down roots and said goodbye to the transient life they’d known.

Like everything else in their lives, they built our house themselves. A place not too far from Hobbs, The Caprock, had an abundance of large flat rocks. Every day Dad wasn’t working, he’d head up and bring back a load of rocks to cover the sides of the house. That house withstood many storms, and still stands today.

When I was around twelve, I distinctly remember watching Mom climb up and down a ladder with bundles of shingles to roof the house. And she did this alone.

I believe I can declare with all certainty that no two people worked harder than my mom and dad.

Mom was a fantastic cook, having learned from necessity at a young age. She had a sweet tooth and loved to bake. Her specialty was pies. She could make a peach cobbler that would melt in your mouth.

She never measured anything. She’d throw in a handful of this and a pinch of that, and it turned out perfectly every time.

Mom was not a worrier. Her philosophy was, “If I can’t fix it, there’s no need to waste time worrying about it.”

I’ve strived to adopt that same philosophy.

She lived by these seven wisdoms:

  1. Count your blessings every day.
  2. Don’t whine or throw a fit if things don’t go your way.
  3. Take whatever trials God sees fit to give you and make the best of it. Never sit down and give up.
  4. Believe in yourself and your dreams, and they’ll come true.
  5. Love life and live for God.
  6. Hard work never killed anyone. Try your best and don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t turn out the way you first thought.
  7. Treat everyone with dignity and respect.

I didn’t always see eye-to-eye with my mom, as you know if you’ve read my books. But I never forgot her teachings, her strength, and her determination. And for the last thirty years of her life, we were close.

She was the best grandmother my two little girls ever could have hoped for. She adored them as much as they loved her.

I watch my daughters now and see them practice some of Mom’s ways with their own children, and it makes me happy.

So, here’s to my mom – the strongest woman I ever knew.

I’d love it if you’d visit my RWISA Author Page!

Thank you for supporting today’s RWISA author along the RWISA “RISE-UP” Blog Tour!  To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the main RWISA”RISE-UP” Blog Tour page on the RWISA site.  For a chance to win a bundle of15 e-books along with a $5 Amazon gift card, please leave a comment on the main RWISA”RISE-UP” Blog Tour page!  Once you’re there, it would be nice to also leave the author a personal note on their dedicated tour page, as well.  Thank you, and good luck!  

Giving Thanks

I thought about what I could say to honor the Thanksgiving Day we celebrate, but everything I thought of sounded cheesy and redundant. I could give thanks for my family, my breath, my life, my history, my friends, my music family, my literary family, the roof over my head and the list could go on and on.

Instead, I’ll just say that I hope each of you experience a deep true gratitude for all you have, and if you have more than enough, share with a neighbor who doesn’t.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Comments are disabled as I’m spending time with my daughters and grandchildren. I truly appreciate each of you!

Hard Times – Part 1

merry-christmas-santa-greeting-gif-14

I felt the urge to share a Christmas story this year and I truly hope you enjoy it. My family was poor. Not the kind of poor that we think we are today, but the kind of poor that, for many years during the great depression, had no home in which to live, and very little food to eat. Sometimes they had a tent, sometimes a shack and sometimes only the side of the road, but they survived. This story is loosely based on tales handed down from my mom and oldest sister. Some of this actually happened to them, but not all in Roswell and not all in the same sequence. I am taking literary license here to create a fiction tale from their recollections.

Roswell, New Mexico in 1940 was just starting to grow and develop. After all, the air base located there brought people and people brought prosperity, but not for everyone.

Roswell-1940

“Christmas is right around the corner, Walter, and we have nothing for the children.” Ella Spencer put her hands on her hips and faced him.

Walter ran a hand through thin brown hair. “I know, Ella. Can’t you see I’m doin’ my best?”

Cold wind whistled through the cracks between the rough wood boards that made up the fifty-dollar house built into the side of a hill.

Walter checked the kerosene level on the single stove in the back corner.

Ella sighed. “I know. So am I. The washings I take in help, but it’s just never enough. If we had electricity, I could do more.”

“Dammit! I can’t work more than three jobs in a day’s time. So, I don’t know what else you expect me to do.”

“If I knew how to drive, maybe I could get a job in town.”

Walter waved a hand around the small square room. “And do what with these younguns?”

Ella’s small shoulders drooped. Walter was right. She had to take care of the children with what few resources they had.

But, at least they now had a house. It was a sight better than the tent they’d lived in before Walter built this house out of used lumber and bent nails.

“Times have got to get better,” she said. “They just have to.”

“Damned government don’t care one lick about us poor people. We ain’t the only ones, Ella. There’s a whole slew of us that ain’t got a pot to piss in nor a window to throw it out of.”

Again, she knew he was right, but it didn’t lessen the sting of not having a single present to give the children on Christmas morning.

They were doing good to put shoes on their feet, and food in their mouths, much less anything that wasn’t a pure necessity.

She let her mind drift back ten years. Maybe if she’d married Tommy Turnbow instead of Walter they’d be better off. But, she hadn’t. Walter had promised a good life.

She’d learned that promises were only made to be broken.

“Walter, if I could just buy a few yards of material, I could sew coats for the girls. They need something to help keep them warm through the winter.”

“I’ll take you into town Saturday and see what we can find. But, we can’t spend more than two dollars. That’s all we’ve got to spare.”

“Two dollars is better than zero. We’ve seen many a day where that was the case.”

Walter rolled a cigarette and blew a smoke ring. “All I know is I’m doin’ my best and I’ve got to get going or I’ll be late to the gas station.”

Ella handed him a tin box that held two biscuits and a thermos of soup. “I’ll see you tonight.”

The door slammed behind Walter, and Ella turned her attention to the wash tub and pile of clothes. She carried water from a single faucet outside the door and set it to boiling on the stove. The baby, Charles, crawled on the wood floor and banged a spoon against the boards. The two older girls played in a corner with rag dolls a kind lady had given them a couple of years back.

She sighed. “Girls, watch after your brother while I get this washin’ done and hung out on the line.”

The oldest looked up. “Okay, Mama.”

Ella worried about the scorpions they shared their house with. So far, no one had been bitten, but she remained vigilant.

Her hands red and chapped from the lye soap stung when the cold air hit them. By the time she had the clothes pinned to the line, she could no longer feel her fingers. Just as the hung the last sheet, her oldest daughter ran outside.

“Mama, Mama, come quick! Charles is bleeding.”

Ella dropped the clothespin bag and ran.

Unknown Playmate, Irene, Jean 1939 (2)
Actual photo from family archives

TO BE CONTINUED…….

 

 

 

 

Circumstances of Childhood by John Howell #RRBC

I am honored and thrilled to help a fellow author launch his newest book, Circumstances of Childhood by John Howell. 

Circumstances of Childhood final front

Available on Kindle

Priced at $0.99 for the introduction.

This is a different story for John. It is in the Family Life genre and tells the story of brotherly love, riches to rags, redemption and a little paranormal thrown in. Normally John writes thrillers but this time he has stepped into a different place. This book was written with love for the story and the hope it will be an enjoyable read.

Here is the blurb:

When a former pro football star and broadcaster, now a Wall Street maven is accused of insider trading, will he be able to prove his innocence and expose those who are guilty?

Greg and his boyhood pal dreamed of big success in professional football and then later in business. Greg was the only one to live the dream. Now the founder of an investment fund Greg is faced with a routine audit finding by the SEC. The audit points to irregularities and all the tracks lead to Greg. The justice department hits him with an indictment of 23 counts of fraud, money laundering, and insider trading. His firm goes bust, and Greg is on his own.

His best friend knows he is innocent but has been ordered under penalty of eternal damnation not to help.

If you enjoy stories of inspiration, riches to rags, redemption, brotherly love, and a little of the paranormal, Circumstance of Childhood will keep you riveted.

Here is an excerpt:

I look down at my drink and wonder what will happen tomorrow. My daughter Constance wants to come and visit. She lives in New York, and before all hell broke loose, we didn’t see each other often. I missed her so much, and it seemed as if I had to beg her even to talk on the phone. Now, it’s like she wants to be here every weekend. It’s only an hour’s flight by the shuttle or three by train so she can come when she wants. I just can’t figure out why she got so clingy. I have my troubles, but it doesn’t have anything to do with her. No use in asking her husband either. Though a nice enough guy, I always wonder if he has someplace important to go when I visit. He never sits still and stays busy on the phone or at the computer. He makes a good living, but it seems a person could take an hour to sit and talk. I’d looked forward to some kind of relationship when he and Constance got married. It’ll never happen with him.

When I take another pull at my drink, I notice the burn feels less. It happens every time. First sip initiation, I call it. It’s like the first puff of a cigarette, hits hard then, after, nothing. I decide to let Constance pretty much have the agenda tomorrow. She and I have not had a chance to talk about anything deep for a while. It could just be that she blames me for her mother running off with that guy with the house on the Hudson. He has a title, and the old gal couldn’t resist, but I think the daughter always felt I should have done something. Her mother’s sleeping with another guy and what the hell can I do about that?

I’ll just go with the flow. If she wants to go out, we will. If she wants to stay in, we can do that too. I better think about getting some food in the house. Of course, we can always order take out. I need to move on to my drink and let this go. Tomorrow will be what it is. I remember the day she was born. I looked down at her in my arms and promised I would do anything for her. I love her more than life itself, and I hope we can somehow get to the root of whatever’s wrong. She sounded strange on the phone this morning, and I feel helpless to do anything about it. I hope she opens up when she gets here.

For some reason, I feel tired. Perhaps I’ll go ahead and finish my drink. Maybe I’ll just go home and forget the burger. First, though, I’ll just shut my eyes for a minute. My hands feel good when I put my head down.

“Hey, Greg,” Jerry says. I barely hear him. “What’s the matter? You taking a nap? Greg?” I can feel him shake me, but I have no interest in waking up. His voice gets further away, and I think he says, “Oh, my God, Sophie, call 911, quick.” Now the room goes silent.

Author Bio.

John Howell Headshot

John began his writing as a full-time occupation after an extensive business career. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories.  His first book, My GRL, introduces the exciting adventures of the book’s central character, John J. Cannon. The second Cannon novel, His Revenge, continues the adventure, while the final book in the trilogy, Our Justice, launched in September 2016. The latest Circumstances of Childhood a family life story is available as of October 1st, 2017. All books are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

John lives in Port Aransas, Texas with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.

John’s other books.

 

Available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/author/johnwhowell

John is a member of the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB