A Gift from the Past
Blanche Haddix Landrum
as told to
Mona Landrum Proctor
© 2013 All rights reserved.
Do not duplicate in any form.
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Do not duplicate in any form.
E-mail request for printed copy
Secrets in a Small Town
I clicked through the rack at Jett's Dress Shop with a keen eye, savoring my secret. 1944 was still a new year, and the winds of war swept into even the remote corners of eastern Kentucky. "New clothes are such a rare treat these days," I thought, "so even this outfit must serve more than one purpose." At least I had a little money to spend, thanks to that teaching job last year up on South Fork and my job now at the A&P. Wishing my sisters were around to consult, I smiled and settled on a tailored, two-piece suit of soft gold wool with a crisp white blouse. Then I paused for a moment to consider the occasion on which it would first be worn.
Mrs. June Jett, the store owner, watched me with more than a passing interest. She was a friend of the family, had known me since I was going around on roller skates with pigtails in my hair, playing the tomboy... gee, not so very long ago! Like so many others, she was very sympathetic when my mother (Maude Noble Haddix) passed away so suddenly - it's been five years ago now.
At the time we were living in Richmond; we had moved there so my eldest brother and sister, Vergil and Edith, could attend Eastern Kentucky University. My parents had both taught school, and they put a high value on education. Mama seemed to be a very strong woman, and she was certainly a hard worker. She had to be, with eight children! But she suffered from rheumatic fever when she was a child, which damaged her heart. She was only 46 when it finally gave out on her. I still remember that day like it was yesterday.
My dad (we all called him 'Pappy' then) was working back in Jackson to make ends meet. We all worked hard to help Mama during the week. I can hear her now: "Don't bring me flowers after I'm gone," she would say, "do what you can for me every day." Pappy had come to visit us in Richmond for the weekend, and he returned to Jackson on Sunday evening.
Edith slept with Mama that night. There were plenty of beds, but they had grown-up whispers to share. Next morning, they awoke and talked for a bit; then Mama started gasping for breath. Before she could even get up, it was over. She was gone. Someone sent a telegram to our dad, and a house full of children spent a long day in tears. Oh, what a heartache! If only she could be here now... I know she would have good advice and a warm hug to offer...
When Mama died, my brother Vergil and his wife Ohna lived in an upstairs apartment in our house on Fifth Street. We all looked up to Vergil, as the oldest, to help us take care of things while Pappy was away working. But this was something even Vergil couldn't fix. The youngest, little tow-headed Dove, was only seven years old. I was fourteen.
We took Mama home to Lost Creek, in Breathitt County, and buried her in the family cemetery on the hill (the one that was later named for Paw, my grandfather - William Washington Haddix). After the funeral, Uncle Mitchell and Aunt Ina brought us all back to Richmond in their car, a crowded and quiet ride. Then the cloud of tragedy mushroomed.
That very day, some kinfolk and neighbors were holding a memorial service for Mama in the little church near her family home at Clayhole. Some young men were outside, drinking and wrestling over a gun not far from the church. Suddenly the gun fired. The shot went into the church, ricocheted, and hit Mama's youngest sister, Ada Noble, right behind the ear. She didn't make a sound, just slumped right over in her seat.
They sent Aunt Ada down to Louisville, I think, for a special doctor. She lived about five days. We had barely got home to Richmond when Pappy and Uncle Mitchell and Aunt Ina had to turn around and go right back to Lost Creek. The rest of us stayed home that time.
Ada was a pretty, single schoolteacher, just 27 years old, a favorite with everyone. Her mother, "Mother Noble" to us kids, lost two daughters, both lovely young women full of life and promise, almost both at once... a burden no mother should ever have to bear. The shooting was ruled accidental; those fellows served about two years for it, I think.
We moved back to Lost Creek not long after, into the rambling two-story house that Pappy built for Mama just down the road from his own parents. Edith taught school and stayed home to help with the young ones. Pappy put all the pictures of Mama away in a trunk, and we just didn't talk about her. It was too painful. Dreams of a home in the bluegrass dashed for good, he buried his grief in hard work on the hilly mountain farm.
Years later I saw him sitting beside her grave over there - across the creek, beyond the swinging bridge - when I came home from school unexpectedly in the middle of the day. He must have seen me, too, because he slipped 'round the back way and beat me home. Never said a word about it. I think he must have spent many hours with her there on that little hill, with worldly chores abandoned for a brief respite in her company. I know he loved her dearly, and he missed her fiercely every day.
They say time heals, but even after all these years I still grieve for Mama. I can see her working in the kitchen, wiping her hands on a flour-sack apron, pushing away a stray strand of hair with long slender fingers, fixing a big hearty breakfast or a fine Sunday dinner for her brood. I can hear her voice, calling the boys to bring in wood for the cook stove, asking, "Where has little Ross got to now?" and sending me to fetch him home. She was always so busy. I got my roller skates then, when we lived in Richmond. Saved up wrappers from Blue Horse notebook paper and got the skates by mail order. Zipped around just about everywhere on those things!
I remember an earlier time, too, when I was about eight or nine... out on the back porch at Lost Creek. My hair was in two long braids, about down to my waist. I don't suppose it had ever been cut. Vergil always barbered the younger boys' hair, but I don't think he cut mine. Mama was there, and maybe Mother Noble too. I can swing my head today and remember the sudden light-headed, grown-up feeling when my heavy braids were cut off, and for the first time my hair swung freely around my face.
Suddenly Mrs. Jett shattered my woolgathering with a conspiratorial whisper. "You're fixin' to get married, aren't you, honey?" Startled, I grinned a little and tried to give an evasive answer. It was true, but was it so obvious? It was supposed to be a secret!
- MORE TO COME -
PARIS – LANDRUM, Blanche Haddix, (age 87), beloved widow of Ollie James Landrum, passed away on Monday, August 8, 2011, at Bourbon Heights Nursing Home after an extended illness. She was born on March 27, 1924, at Lost Creek, Breathitt County, Kentucky, daughter of the late Arthur Haddix and Maude Noble Haddix. She attended Breathitt County High School, was graduated from Riverside Christian School, and was a member of the Riverside Brethren Church at Lost Creek.
Survivors include two sons, James (Anne) Landrum of Richmond, Ky., and Stuart (Laurie Garner) Landrum of Versailles, Ky.; two daughters, Judy (Jim) Vining of Versailles, Ky., and Mona (the late Allan) Proctor of Paris, Ky.; a granddaughter, Dana Massie of Lancaster, Ky., a grandson, Patrick (Tammy) Massie of Lawrenceburg, Ky., and two great-grandsons, Tyler and Joshua Massie; two brothers, Bert (Helen) Haddix of Dayton, Oh., and Joe (Eliza) Haddix of Fairborn, Oh.; a sister, Dove (Roy) Margenau of Grass Lake, Mi.; and a host of beloved nieces, nephews, extended family, and many friends.
In addition to her husband, parents, and stepmother Beatrice Tharp Haddix, she was preceded in death by two sisters, Selena (Ray) Carnahan and Edith (Levi) DePew; three brothers, Vergil (Ohna) Haddix, Ross (Edie) Haddix; and half-brother Philip (Ruth) Haddix.
Blanche was happiest when surrounded by her loving family, for whom she cooked many delicious meals from the gardens she and O.J. raised together. She was a talented seamstress and homemaker, took special interest in genealogy and kept extensive records of her research. She was a gentle, loving spirit and will be missed by all who knew her.
For their kindness and loving care, the family wishes to especially thank Donna Griggs and the staff at Bourbon Heights Nursing Home in Paris, Ky.
Visitation and funeral services were conducted at Scobee Funeral Home in Winchester, Kentucky, on August 11, 2011, followed by interment in the W.W. Haddix Family Cemetery at Lost Creek.