Sunday, February 1, 2009

We Don't Know Things When We're Seven

John "Spoony" Webb & Sarah Hamby Webb
Grandma & Grandpa Webb
It was cold in Ludlow, Kentucky that winter, 1937. There really wasn't much anybody could afford to do. Every morning, Pop had paid a penny each day for six years to walk across the railroad bridge that spanned the Ohio River. Stepping onto the shores of Cincinnati, he searched for work. The days were long, and Pop did whatever he could to earn money. He swept floors, carried ice, hauled lard, whatever anybody was willing to pay him to do, he did.

Then the floods came. We lived up on Linden Street, so we didn't have flood water in our house, but so many of our friends did. Then Grandma Webb took sick. She came down with pneumonia and died that year. Grandma and Grandpa had moved up here from Tennessee, but there was never a question about where either of them would be buried when it was their time to go. So we boarded a 'troops' train' that carried troops going off to the military. Grandma's casket was in the baggage car bound for Glenmary, Tennessee.

It was cold and snowing, and there wasn't anyway were were going to get Grandma to the Webb Cemetery if we took her to Webb Mountain to be laid out in the parlor of the old home place. A lady in Glenmary let us lay her out in her home at the foot of the hill. I wish I could remember who she was. It was custom that when someone was laid out in the home, someone had to stay with the body at all times; so mom and I stayed up watching Grandma sleep all night.

The next day we had Grandma's funeral. The roads were bad and the undertaker said we couldn't get a hearse up the hill. Uncle Doc, Uncle Jim, Homer and Pop spent the night digging Grandma's grave. I'll never know how they were able to do it with the snow coming down. When Pop came inside the house, his hands were red and nearly frozen. Mom ran warm water over them and applied lineament to ward off frostbite.

The undertaker had the men load Grandma's casket onto a flat wagon, and a mule hauled her body up the hill to Webb's Cemetery. The family walked behind the wagon all the way up the hill. I remember being so scared that Grandma was going to slide off the wagon. The snow was merciless, and the mountain seemed so steep. When they went to lower Grandma's casket into the grave, Uncle Doc fell in! Buddy started to laugh, and Mom reached down and yanked him back to silence. I started crying because I thought Uncle Doc was going with Grandma, and it was bad enough losing her.

After the funeral, we did go up to the Webb farm. Uncle Doc and Aunt Annie were living there then. I remember Aunt Annie made pallets on the living room floor in front of the fireplace for Buddy and me. After everyone had gone to sleep, Aunt Annie came walking through the room, and Buddy reached out and grabbed her ankle. Aunt Annie screamed and woke up everyone in the house. Buddy got his bottom smacked, but Aunt Annie was so timid. It really didn't take anything to scare her out of her wits. She was very kind and gentle.

When we all came back to Ludlow after Grandma's funeral, it was still cold, and we were still poor. The thing was, everybody was poor. Nobody had any "extra" money. Grandpa Webb went back to his house, which was right across from the Baptist Church. Grandma and Grandpa always went to church. Grandpa never went out of the house that he didn't have on a nice pair of pants with good shoes and nice shirt. He nearly always wore a jacket, and he used a cane and sometimes wore a hat. He was a very dignified man, and people probably thought he was better off than he actually was based on how he dressed.

I remember later in the summertime, one time Buddy and I were playing with our friends in the street. I don't even remember what we were playing, but Grandpa came walking down the street. He hollered, "Rebie, come over here. I want to see my grand baby."

Buddy ran over to him, but I was too busy. At first I ignored him. Then I finally, said, "Grandpa, I'm playing." He talked a little bit to Buddy and then he went on back home, and I watched him walk into the house and close the screen door. I've never forgotten that, and I've always felt guilty about it. All he wanted was to see his grandbaby, and I acted terrible to him. I just wanted to play. He never said anything else about it. Buddy and I never talked about it. I was a kid, and kids can be mean. We don't know when we're seven what we'll regret when we're 80.

Grandpa died in 1941. We took him back to Tennessee on a train too. It was nearly a repeat of Grandma's funeral, but we laid Grandpa out in the Webb house; however, we did carry him to the cemetery on a mule-pulled wagon. Mom, Aunt Lucy, Aunt Annie, Sarah, Joyce and I stayed up with the body all night, while the same men who dug Grandma's grave dug Grandpa's. Things were very different then, very different.

Written by Reba Webb Goff

February 1, 2009

1 comment:

Janet Iles said...

Thank you for sharing Reba's story. It certainly give us an idea what people had to go through in the past.