Saturday, April 25, 2009

May I have some Mayhaw wine, please?

So for those of you who have not heard, my Mamaw (my mother's mother) passed away last Sunday. We were able to go to Farmerville this past weekend and spend some time with her before she left us.

I believe that there is a Heaven, and throughout her entire life, my Mamaw showed others what it meant to love, and I believe that a love like that can only come from God. I consider it a great blessing from God that he would put such a wonderful woman in my path. I have learned so much about life because of her.

So I wanted to do a little tribute to my Mamaw. I wanted to tell you a little bit about her.

Audrey Pardue Hollis and her twin sister Aurlee were born to Calvin and Molly Pardue in the summer of 1922. They also had a set of twin brothers. She grew up in Dean, Louisiana. With her first husband she had three boys, Eugene, Rudolph, and John. She later remarried my Papaw (who had three children of his own, Jean, Bruce and Jerry), and together they had two children, Danny and Jane (my mom…the baby!). She loved to sew, I can remember her making all sorts of wonderful things including placemats, curtains, dresses, etc. She was also very involved in her church and community. She used to do some volunteer work at Union General.

Mamaw had 20 grandchildren, 26 great-grand children and 5 great-great-grand children. She had a very large family!

Below is a story she wrote for a book published in 2004 titled "I Remember: Life in Union Parish, 1910-1960."

Mama made jelly and wine from large red mayhaws that grew plentiful by our home on Morgan Ridge, near the Ouachita River. This is where my parents lived after they married in 1916. First came twin boys, Roy and Dan. They were very small, weighing about two pounds each. Mama put them in shoeboxes and set them near the heater to keep them warm. This was in 1918, during World War I.

Then in four more years, twin girls were born---I was one of them. My sister and I were big babies, weighing about eight pounds each. As we grew older, our mother had plenty of help picking mayhaws so she could have more berries for her "vinegar" as she called it. We knew better, and slipped around drinking a sip or two of that sweet red wine. It did taste good.

I remember the house had a heater in the big room for us to warm by in the wintertime. A wood stove in the kitchen was a good place for putting on your clothes. The doctor came around giving shots for whooping cough. I was so afraid and hid behind the heater. Somehow we survived those shots.

Mama encouraged education, so she had the boys walking to a small school at Dean. Sometimes they got to ride in a wagon.

Food was plentiful at this time. Our father was not only a farmer, he was also a fisherman and would sell most of his catch. He would leave Mama enough to cook for a meal. Then he went off to town with a load of fish and vegetables to sell.

The great flood of 1927 came and swelled the Ouachita River. The water rose and came closer to Morgan Ridge every day. I remember playing in the backwater, rolling off logs, and then getting "switched" by Mama. Daddy told Mama it was time for us to move from Morgan Ridge over to Dean. All of us and all of our possessions were loaded on wagons pulled by a horse. As we crossed a creek that was rising very fast, the horse fell into a stump hole and could not move. I remember crying and being afraid. But we got out of that creek, and continued our trip to our new home.

When we arrived, I was happy to see climbing roses and other flowers blooming in the yard. I had never seen such beautiful flowers before. We were very happy to have this new home. Daddy bought the land and started farming with a mule and plow. We were ordered outside to do our part. We chopped cotton, planted potatoes, picked corn and other vegetables. My father also raised sugar cane. We'd take the cane to a sugar mill in the community, where the cane was squeezed. The press was run by a horse walking around and around. The miller would cook down the juice until it became syrup; the miller kept half of the syrup as his payment.

I remember the Great Depression of the 1930's. Unlike many others, we had food and money. Dad always worked to take care of our family and helped keep other people from starving. I remember when he bought a new red truck. We were happy, but Mama said, "Save that money." But Dad won.

When Roosevelt was president, he created jobs for men to do and make a living. Men from the WPA (Works Progress Administration) came and built an outhouse for us. It had a concrete floor, a roof and a window. We gathered up catalogs and had a nice place to go sit. When company came, we were so proud to take them to see our outhouse, as we never had one before.

When war began in 1942, both of my brothers entered the service. This was a long war and many men were killed, including my brother Roy. He was a prisoner of war in Bataan and Corregidor, and never came home. My other brother, Dan, served as a radioman in the Royal Air Force in England.

When the war ended and soldiers returned, progress began. Electricity and telephones came to the rural areas. There were plenty of jobs for men, and GI's had a program so they could go to college. Many did. People were buying cars, electric refrigerators, irons, and other appliances. Progress was noted as the important product. Yet I still long for a sip of Mama's mayhaw wine.

Well I hope you enjoyed the story. I love to go back and read about what life was like in the early 1900's. We take so many things for granted! I spent a week with no power and bad bathrooms in Nicaragua, and I thought I was going to die. For them, it was just a way of life.


  1. Emily,
    I LOVE this story :D It was beautifully written, and reminds me a little of the very few stories my grandmother told me. I forgot you're a Hollis :) I wonder where you can purchase that book your grandmother wrote...I've always wanted to hear stories like this, but my grandfather won't tell them :P
    I'm so sorry about your grandmother, but what a wonderful memoir she left!

  2. That was very interesting to read, Emily! Especially the part about how her brothers were kept in shoeboxes by the heater! And how they rode in a horse drawn carriage & stuff! It seems like that stuff was going on so long ago that it had to have been our great great great great grandparents. You know?! But really, it wasn't all that long ago!