A Poem by Kimberly A. Bolton
Now, I dunno what it was
‘bout Corrie May an’ cows,
although cows was always
part an’ parcel of her life,
same as they was in everbody’s,
but Corrie never did take a hankerin’
to any cow that I ever heard tell of.
This here one time,
Corrie May an’ Norma Jean
Was gone fer the day,
an’ one a their cows got into
the yard, nudged open the backdoor
an’ walked right on in without a howdeedoo.
Was scairt sumbody had done broke
into the house was what Corrie May
thought when they got back home
an’ saw the backdoor standin’ wide open.
Said she stepped into the house an’
stepped right in it before she smelt it,
cow pies all over the place.
She wasn’t none too happy ‘bout it, neither,
let me tell you, havin’ to clean up all
An’ nother time, way up in the middle-a
the night it ‘twas, an’ the chickens
all started makin’ a racket.
Corrie May just knowed someone
had got into the chicken coop an’ was
gonna steal her chickens.
Charlie was home at the time,
an ‘she sent him out there to see what
was goin’ on.
Charlie, he grabbed his shotgun an’ took off
to the chicken house.
It was so dark he couldn’t hardly see
nothin’, when all of a sudden
he saw somethin’ white floatin’ up
outta the dark, comin’ toward him,
an’ whatyaknow, if it wasn’t a durned ol’
white-faced cow what wandered into
the chicken coop scarin’ the chickens
an’ Charlie nearly to death.
No sirree, Corrie May never did take
to cows much.
I recollect it was durin’ the war,
at one them meetin’s of the Cotton Club ladies,
us women all gettin’ together fer the comp’ny,
sharin’ receipts an’ whatnot,
while most-a the men was all off fightin’
somewheres we never heerd tell of;
We’d hear the names of battles in these
places you couldn’t even pronounce an’
wonder how a body’d even know to git there.
Didn’ hardly pay fer a person to sit an’ listen
in on the radio anyhow.
The war was in full swing by then and the news,
an’ there was plenty of it, was all bad.
Don’t think there was a woman in the county who
didn’t dread the sound of a car comin’ down
the road and lookin’ out the winder,
didn’t breathe a sigh of relief
when it wasn’t from the telegraph office
from over in Clarksburg.
Well, at this here meetin’ I was talkin’ ‘bout,
One-a the ladies, Missus Davisson, just burst out cryin’
right in the middle of everythin;
Didn’t any of us know why right then, but we all understood,
if’n ya know what I mean.
The strain was hard on all of us what was left
back home never knowin’ if a son er a husband
what were kilt out in one-a them places we couldn’t
It turned out, this Missus Davisson
got word her son was a-missin’ in action.
Then ol Bridey Brewster who didn’t have
a lick-a sense nohow, she pipes up,
askin’ Missus Davisson why she was carryin’ on so?
Why everythin’ was gonna be just fine, just fine,
an’ she ought to quit makin’ such a fuss ‘bout it.
Now, they wasn’t a woman in the bunch,
my own self included, who didn’t have some member
of their family off fightin’ in that durned ol war.
Everbody ‘cept Bridey Brewster, a’ course,
an’ thank God fer that.
None-a that Brewster bunch was worth a plug nickel.
When it come to totin’ a gun they’d as soon shoot their
durn fool foot off than shoot the enemy an’ that’s a fact.
But Bridey, she just kept jabberin’ on an’ on
‘bout how’s they was no use to worry an’ how we
should git on with our meetin’ an things would work
out fer the best.
Well, an’ let me tell you what,
that just made Missus Davisson cry harder
an’ rubbed the rest-a us the wrong way to boot.
We was all getting’ madder’n wet hens,
til Corrie May spoke up an’ tol her to hush up,
how would Bridey feel if’n it was some-a her kin
gone missin’? Would be plenty to worry ‘bout then,
An’ here Corrie May was with three sons in the service
her own self, an’ none-a us knowin’ if any were alive
er dead at that very minute.
But she shore shut Bridey Brewster right up; she didn’t
say ‘nother word the rest-a that day . . .
An’ lookee here, done made it to the cemetery.
Too bad we couldna buried her out at Cotton
with rest-a her folks, but it closed up all these
years ago now.
No more spaces left to put folks in the ground.
I’d figured on bein’ buried out there myself til
the new highway pert near put Cotton off the map;
a body’s likely to take a wrong turn and get
theirselves lost way out there if’n they don’t
rightly know where their goin’.
Yessirree-bob, it was a nice service,
Short an’ sweet just the way she woulda liked it
God love her.
What say we drive over to the Nic-Nac after fer
a cup a coffee an’ we’ll talk more then?
A Poem by Kimberly A. Bolton
Well, it was a right nice service
she had, wasn’t it?
All over but the buryin’ now,
It was good to see all the
homefolk in one place agin,
wouldna been the same without ‘em,
an’ that’s a fact.
I dun tol you didn’t I, Corrie May was
a right smart woman, an’ tough too;
had to be,
whatever she was gonna make-a
herself an’ them kids,
it was all up to her anyhow.
Harry wasn’t no help to her,
an’ James, he was always up to
no good, drinkin’ an’ gamblin’.
Why shoot, ol’ Harry, he didn’t waste
no time gittin’ Corrie May in the family way
an’ on the first try, too.
Seems like Corrie May said to me
this here one time, said, she knew
ever’ time Harry’s overalls hit the floor
beside the bed of a night, she knew
she’d be pregnant.
Wasn’t too far from the truth, neither,
as I recollect.
Raised a bunch-a turkeys that year she
was carryin’ her firstborn just so’s she
could sell ‘em an’ buy herself a
rocker to rock that baby to sleep of
Yup, the very same rocker she was in
that night last March when she tol’
us all the story of the day they’d come
home from church an’ found Harry dead in
the back room-a the house.
That was the first stick-a furniture
she an’ Harry every owned outright, no thanks
an’ course, when the baby was born,
Harry was out in the field that day;
Doc had to go out lookin’ fer him
Just to tell him he had a son what was borned
an’ he ought to get hisself back to the house
to see after his wife an’ baby.
But ol Harry he wouldn’t budge from
that field fer love ner money.
Stayed out there til the day’s work was done.
Harry, he didn’ have a clue to what all
us women went through to have a baby er
what men called women’s work back in
those days. James neither, fer that matter.
Corrie May, she had her own garden an’
canned all she could when it come time.
Made her own lye soap, too, like most
ever other woman in those parts.
We used lye soap to warsh all kinds of things,
hair, clothes, scrubbed our skins raw in the tub
with a bar of it ever Saturdee night by the
Corrie May, she pitched right in to help
the neighbors at butcherin’ time an’
cooked up those big thrashin’ dinners.
She wasn’t afraid-a hard work an’
that’s a fact.
Saw that youngun through the measles
an’ pneumonia an’ the polio;
saw them three boys of her’n off to the war.
Went through more’n what one woman should
have to in a lifetime, I reckon.
This here one time, they was two men
what had been up in the hills a-drinkin’
white lightnin’ an’ they stopped right out
at Corrie May’s front gate, talkin’ long
an’ loud, actin’ up an’ a-braggin’ ‘bout
how’s they gonna come on inside the house.
It was after dark a’ready an’ Corrie May,
She didn’ know ‘em from Adam.
It ware just her and Norma Jean in the house.
Harry was long dead by that time an’ the boys
all growed an’ gone, hadn’t met James yet.
Well, like I said, she heard ‘em out by the gate
an’ she figured if’n they was gonna git in
her house, it’d be over her dead body.
Tol’ Norma Jean to stay put,
went in the back room an’ got the shotgun,
walked out the door to meet ‘em.
Now I didn’t even know Corrie May
knew how to shoot,
ya coulda knocked me over
with a feather when she tol’
us all ‘bout it later;
but she pointed that gun straight at
their feet to let ‘em know she meant
Corrie May, she says to me after,
said she knew what she was a-doin’.
She’d had three older brothers what’d
taught her to shoot.
Said the men skedaddled an’ never
bothered ‘em agin after that.
Ain’t nothin’ scares a man more’n
a woman with a shotgun, determined
to protect her own, an’ that’s a fact.
A Poem by Kimberly A. Bolton
She shore looks good don’t she,
all laid out in her Sundee best,
hands folded together an’ at rest
fer the first time in years,
leastways ever since I can remember.
Those hands of her’n were never idle an’
that’s a fact.
Why she was still warshin’ clothes
on the scrub board up until a few years ago,
bent over that ol tin tub, suds up to her
elbows, hands all rough an’ red from the heat.
She always used to say warsh for wash an’
receipts when she was atalkin’ ‘bout recipes.
Speakin-a which, that woman could shore
fry up a pan a chicken that’d make yore
She used that big cast-iron skillet of her’n,
even baked biscuits in it on top-a the stove
I’m missin’ her cookin’ a’ready just thinkin’
Corrie May’d cook up those big thrashin’ dinners
fer all the farmhands way back when, ‘member?
An’ the men, they didn’t waste no time gettin’
to the table neither.
Her chicken an’ biscuits couldn’t be beat, an’ if
you was late to the table that was just too durn bad.
She looks so natural layin’ there don’t she?
Fixed her hair up right nice, just the way
she always wore it.
She grayed early, you know, when she was
in her twenties;
Such a shame, an’ she was a looker to boot.
They said folks in her family all grayed early
‘bout every other generation.
But me, I reckon it was that was durned ol husband
Harry went an’ kilt hisself back in ‘thirty-nine,
I reckon it was, on accounta losin’ the farm to the bank. .
Just up an’ put a shotgun in his mouth an’ pulled
God-awful mess it was.
Her an’ them kids comin’ home from church
that Sundee n’ findin’ him in the back room
Harry made her a widder way too early,
an’ leavin’ them kids without a Pa.
‘Course, the boys was old enough by then
to help out their Ma, but that lil un,
Norma Jean, she didn’t know whut was goin’ on,
whut with her Pa dead an’ them havin’ to pack up
everythin’ an’ move clean out to Cotton.
The insurance man, he felt sorry fer Corrie May
an’ the fix she was in.
He fudged on that claim doncha know,
we all knowed it, but didn’t nobody pay no mind.
It was the Depression-
onliest ones to have money back then was bankers
an’ the insurance company.
Why should they keep all that money?
They shorely didn’t need it, not as bad as Corrie May
an’ her brood did-
wrote down it was a accidental death er some such.
She got six hun’red dollars to buy that ol’ farmhouse
an’ a Jersey cow an’ a course they had them chickens
what Charlie done raised an’ the bank fergot
to collect with the rest-a the stock. . .
Oh, an’ that reminds me of a funny she tol’ one time-
when she was a young ‘un at home an’ before all this
Her Ma sent her out to the chicken yard onc’t
to fetch a chicken an’ wring its neck fer supper.
Said she went out there to catch the damn bird,
an’ it was a-squawkin’ an’ a-floppin’, beatin’ her all to hell
with its wings, an’ she tryin’ to get a hand ‘round its neck.
First time she ever wrung a chicken’s neck, she said.
Corrie May finally got a-holt of it to where she could twist
its neck ‘round, when it up an’ flopped outta her hands an’
onto the ground, started chasin’ her ‘round the yard with
its head all twisted backards, slappin’’ its wings an’
screechin’ like a banshee, an’ Corrie May scairt so bad
she’s a-runnin’ an’ screamin’ with that chicken after her,
til her Ma come out to see what all the ruckus was ‘bout.
Granny Patterson, that was her Ma, took one look
an’ started laughin’, couldn’t help herself, it was too
She stepped off the porch an’ reached down an’ got
a-holt of that chicken to finish what Corrie May
started, an’ Corrie May still screamin’ an’ carryin’ on til her Ma
Tol’ her to hush, or she’d cut a switch an’ give her somethin’ to scream ‘bout.
She remarried, ya know, a few years after they put
Harry in the ground.
‘Course all the boys was growed an’ gone by then,
Norma Jean was the onliest one left at home.
Ol Jim, he was a decent ‘nough feller, but he liked
his cards an’ his likker.
They lived in Cotton fer a good many years,
stayed in that ol farmhouse of her’n,
kept a cow er two fer the extry money it brung in
what with the butter an’ cream.
I ‘member Jim before he died, tol’ me onc’t
how Corrie May went out to the barn this here
one time to milk the cow.
Got herself a nice bucketful, when that cow done
raised its tail an’ pissed right in that bucket-a milk.
Jim said he never heard such caterwaulin’ as what
come outta that barn that day.
Hoo-whee! Said he didn’t know that woman could
cuss like she did.
She come stormin’ outta that barn, face redder’n- a
pickled beet an’ madder n’ a wet hen.
pointed a finger back at the barn, said that damn cow
done pissed right in a good bucket-a milk.
Jim tol me he laughed so hard he thought he’d pee
hisself right then an’ there.
Well, that only made Corrie May madder’n hell.
I tell you, that was one woman what could holt a grudge.
She stayed mad at Jim an’ that cow fer days,
wouldn’t have nothin’ to do with either one of ‘em.
Ol Jim, he died long before she did, God rest his soul.
Good thing, too, she wasn’t the easiest woman
to live with from what I heard tell.
An’ Corrie May never married again after that.
Figured two husbands was enough fer one woman’s
lifetime, I reckon.
She moved into town an’ did a lil housekeepin’ fer folks
an’ fer that no account priest over to the Holy Mary,
Mother of God Church.
She had a lil house all to herself. Liked her soaps on
the tv, did a lil quiltin’ now an’ then.
Charlie’d come over an’ mow her grass an’ help tend
her garden. Norma Jean’d help her with the grocery
shoppin’ ever Fridee,an’ the grandkids all gotta kick
stayin’ with her on the weekends.
She went on like that fer years until the fam’ly started
noticin’ she was fergettin’ things like turnin’ the
burner off’n the stove or lettin’ the bathtub water
run over onto the floor.
They’s ascairt she’d set the house on fire or drowned
herself in the tub or some such.
So, the boys an’ Norma Jean they packed her off
to the nursin’ home.
Twas the onliest thing they knew to do.
Two-a the boys lived clean outta state an’
neither one in too a good-a health theirselves.
Charlie’s wife had the cancer an’ Norma Jean
still had younguns at home an’ no room fer her
The nursin’ home was all that was left.
I reckon it’s a blessin’ she didn’t last very long
in there anyhow.
Corrie May woulda hated to know she was in a
Cain’t say as I blame her either.
Well, they’re tellin’ us it’s time to sit ourselves.
I see Corrie May’s kin is a’ready to close up
God rest her soul, she lived a long life.
I ‘m gonna miss havin’ her ‘round to jaw with.
A Poem by Kimberly A. Bolton
Like I was sayin’,
it wasn’t all bad times,
there was good times, too.
No money, so’s we had to
make our own fun.
The men back then was
mostly farmers an’ field hands;
They was a hard-workin’ bunch;
worked hard an’ played hard, too.
Come the weekend,
they needed to blow off a lil steam
after bein’ in the fields all week long.
The dance hall was a pop’lar place
on Saturdee nights.
Wasn’t no fancy announcements an’ whatnot,
like they got now;
You just showed up, an’ if’n you played
the fiddle er a guitar er a banjo er some such
you brought it with you an’ you
was part-a the band what played that night.
There was always food what the ladies brung
from home an’ some pop to warsh it
down with, maybe a jar er two a
white lightnin’ out back so’s the men
could sneak a nip now an’ then.
But ever-body showed up,
nobody wanted to miss out on a good time.
Even folks what lived outside
the county came,
an’ that’s how the trouble started,
The Cotton boys all got along,
fer the most part,
‘cept this here one time when
ol’ Dwight went at it with
Hulitt over Hulitt’s geese gettin’
into his garden an’ ruinin’ his
tamaters an’ his rhubarb.
Geese have a hankerin’ fer rhubarb,
an’ they loved Dwight’s rhubarb more’n most,
don’t know why.
Rhubarb is rhubarb, seems like,
Exceptin’ the geese, I reckon.
But fer the most part,
the Cotton boys all got along.
Throw an outsider into the mix
an’ the fight was on.
Now our boys didn’t start
the fights, but they’d finish ‘em
right enough an’ that’s a fact.
Got so’s the owner of the dance hall
kept a axe handle behind
the counter to keep the peace,
an’ sometimes that didn’t always work.
Why this here one time
this feller from over to Otterville
was a causin’ trouble at one a the dances,
an’ the owner chased him outside threatin’
with his axe handle.
Now this here Otterville feller, he was
purty stout an’ could more’n hold his own.
He grabbed fer that axe handle an’ got
a-holt of it an’ threw it in the brush,
an’ just ‘bout that time, here come
ol’ Wade with a baseball bat;
now where he come up with a baseball bat
at the dance hall is anybody’s guess,
but Wade he took that baseball bat an’
cracked this other feller over the head.
Liked to brought him to his knees.
Didn’t knock him out, tho’,
blood all runnin’ down his face,
an’ then, wouldncha know, one a the
bunch this Otterville feller came with,
was ‘bout to haul an’ plant his fist on
the Porter boy’s jaw when Porter’s sister
grabbed up a empty beer bottle an’ smashed
it right on his head.
Never seen a girl do that afore,
an’ that was the end-a that, let me tell you.
Run them Otterville fellers clean outta Cotton,
an’ they never come back neither.
Yessir, Cotton boys’d go outside an’ settle
their business, then go back in the dance hall,
grab their girl an’ finish their dancin’-
Well, looks like we’re here,
an’ in plenty a time, too-
Ain’t never seen so many cars
in one parkin’ lot before,
ain’t been to the fun’ral parlor
since the Hofstettler boy
got tangled up in his combine
a couple years back;
if that wasn’t an awful mess-
Yessiree, Saturdee nights at the
Cotton dance hall was the place to be.
A Poem by Kimberly A. Bolton
Let’s drive over to the Nic-Nac Cafe
an’ have us a cuppa coffee;
the fun’ral won’t be fer ‘nother hour er so.
You an’ me ain’t seen each other
in a month-a Sundees,
an’ we can catch up-
talk ‘bout ol’ times.
Durn shame we only get together
Fer weddin’s an’ fun’rals
Like this here.
Time was when folks‘d
Use any excuse to get together-
Box socials, quiltin’ bees,
Thrashin’ dinners at hayin’ time,
Dances at the Cotton Club.
An’ none of us was too busy
to stop an’ visit with the neighbors.
Yep, it shore was hard times back then
Guess we’re the last gen’ration
To ‘member what them days was like:
The run on the banks,
A body losin’ their life’s savins’ overnight,
Losin’ jobs an’ the endless hunt fer ‘nother’n,
Scrimpin’an’ savin’ jus’ to git by.
An’ FDR on the radio tellin’ ever-body
The only thing to be afeared of was fear
Shoot, didn’t none of us have sense enough
to be scairt, we was too busy just gettin’ by.
Yep, we seen it all.
Had to depend on our own-selves
an’ that’s a fact,
livin’ way out there in Cotton like we did.
I guess maybe they’s still a farm er two
left out thataways,
but not like it was, no sirree-bob!
Onliest one to have a car was Ambrys,
the rest of us got ‘round with a horse an’ wagon.
‘Member the hoboes what would
come through on the trains?
Some of ‘em would steal ya blind,
an’ the others downright appreciated
a plate a food er a warm blanket
on a cold night.
Onc’t in a while a body’d run ‘cross
a whole family, kids an’ all,
tryin’ to keep warm in somebody’s barn.
It was a durn shame what the Depression
did to families, ‘specially the kids.
It warn’t no fault of their’n,
just the way things was.
I ‘member this here one time-
dead a winter-
Ol’ Harry found a man an’ his wife
an’ two er three young ‘uns
hold up in that empty house
what was close to their farm.
It was a drafty ol’ place,
fallin’ apart, nobody’d lived in it
an’ here this fam’ly was out in the
middle-a nowhere, no food, nothin’
an’ youngest child still a baby
wrapped in a blanket.
Well, Harry, he took to feelin’ sorry
fer ‘em an’ brung ‘em home.
First thing, Corrie May took that baby,
‘scairt it’d done froze to death,
but thank the good Lord it was still a-breathin’.
Never did learn what happened to
that fam’ly after,
just up an’ moved on, I guess.
No hospitals close by neither;
Nary even a doctor ‘round them parts;
closest doc was over to the next county.
Folks took care-a their own at home
in them days-
‘member when lil Norma Jean got the polio?
She was still a baby what had just
learned to crawl when Corrie May noticed
she was draggin’ that leg behind her
like dead weight.
Nearly scairt us all to death, right then an’ there.
Somebody ran to Ambry’s to call the doc;
Ambry’s was the onliest ones to have a
telephone, too, at that time.
Doc said stick that baby in a pan-a
warm water an’ keep workin’
the stiff outta that leg.
After she was growed, Norma Jean’s
leg ended up bein’ a lil shorter
than t’ othern, but leastways
she wasn’t crippled like some-a
the kids what come down with it
er put in a iron lung like some-a them
poor lil fellers.
an’ then the flu epidemic hit the very
next winter- if that wasn’t terrible.
Lotta good folks pushin’ up daisies
in the cemetery over to Cotton
On account-a that flu.
Yep, it was hard times.
A wonder we survived it all.
Gave us plenty-a backbone tho’
to look life square in the face.
If’n you sunk down to the bottom-a
the barrel, an’ a lotta folks did,
you just pulled yerself up by yer
bootstraps an’ got on with it.
But there was good times, too;
We was so pore we had to make
Our own fun-
Not like it is nowadays with all them
Computers an’ video games an’ such.
Time to be leavin’ a’ready?
Feels like we just sit down,
An’ here my coffee’s gone cold in the cup.
But I reckon we better head on over
to the fun’ral parlor,
See the folks an’ pay our respects.
Shore is a durn shame
We don’t git together more
Like we used to.
A Poem by Kimberly A. Bolton
At Passover, it is the custom to open the door
For the Prophet Elijah in the instance that he should
Pass by and take his place at the table. . .
Those of us who survived,
Remnants of the living and the dead,
The emaciated, the sick , the starving,
Watch from behind the barbed wire
With empty eyes and hollow souls,
As liberation approached:
Tanks, trucks, guns, uniformed soldiers;
Liberation, arriving brash, loud, cheering,
Happy to have found us alive,
As if the spirit of Elijah himself was leading
Liberation through the very gates of hell to avenge
The Great Wrong which had been done here.
Liberation crashed through the gates,
And we stood out of its way to let it pass through;
Behind us, the chimneys stood, stark, soul-less,
Stained with the black sin of this evil place.
We were all that remained,
All that were left,
And what is left of our lives sifts like ash through our fingers.
We are all that remain,
Ours not to reason why,
Only that we bear witness.
Later, much later, when we have risen from the ash
To return to the land of the living,
When we have rebuilt ruined lives,
Later, much later, when we have learned to live
With the guilt of survival,
And bring forth a new generation into a much different world
Than that to which we had belonged,
Only later, much later, when we can bear it,
Will we show you the number stamped into our flesh,
Speak of barbed wire and barbarity,
Of smoke and ash,
And of indifference, the greatest sin of all.
We are all that remain,
We are all that is left,
Ours not to reason why,
Only that we bear witness.