No. 437


Every once in a while a person comes into my life that makes a lasting impression. I bet the same is true for you. My most recent example of this is a lady who lives down in the great state of Alabama, Walker County to be more specific. Her name is Ruth Teaford Baker and I've told you about her before when I wrote a column about her book, Southern Homespun. Ruth Baker was the youngest of 12 children who grew up on a 250-acre farm during the Great Depression of the 1930's. After high school she went on to college and became a teacher and distinguished herself as Alabama's Teacher of The Year, Walker County's Mother of the Year, State of Alabama's Governor's Award and many others.

Over the past several weeks I have thought many times about why I related to her so much and I finally figured out a couple of the reasons. First, she is a woman of integrity and excellent character, qualities that I admire in any person. But more than that, her writing has a way of touching my roots and providing me a link to my past. Personally, I believe this is very important for every American. If we don't know where we have been and who we are, we don't have an anchor or anything to hold on to when things begin to unravel in our lives.

When Ruth was growing up, in her own words she was a "Tomboy" and "tough as a pine knot." Apparently her mother and father were the Ôsalt of the earth' kind of people and their home was, more or less, the hub of the community. Back in those days they all worked, the mother and father and all 12 kids. They had to just to survive. They grew a crop to earn the income they needed to buy staples and they raised cattle, hogs, chickens and a big garden to provide for everything else. A big wood-burning cook stove, and a mother who worked from sun-up to sundown and beyond, was the glue that held the family together.

When I think about life today and compare it to the life these people lived, I am very grateful. I can get in my car and go anywhere I want to go, get on a plane and get there faster, turn on the television and get instant news, e-mail my friends anywhere in the world with the click of a button, call 911 if I have a fire or a medical emergency and so many other blessings that it would take a month to name them. The people who lived back then had none of the modern conveniences that we just take for granted. That's why I said that Ruth provided a link to my past. She also does this for many others on a regular basis, as she has been writing a weekly column for the Daily Mountain Eagle in Jasper, Alabama for the past 25 years.

If you will forgive me, it's along about here that I would like to get personal. A little earlier I said it was Ruth's hard working mother that was the glue that held the family together. Depending on your age, if you will think about your own mother, or perhaps your grandmother, I believe you will see many of those same qualities that helped you to get where you are. A few weeks ago Ruth sent me a copy of her latest book titled, "Barefoot Dreams" and you talk about "links" to the past, they are throughout the book. In little short, one or two page articles, she relates many different aspects of a young child growing up in this era. They did not know they were poor.

One of the chapters that touched me was titled, "My Mother's Apron." I never knew there were so many uses for an apron, which is a testimony of the kind of life that women of this day and time lived. Here is an excerpt that says it better than I could. "The apron was the most useful article of clothing. It became a potholder if a pot started boiling over on the stove. Gathered up from the bottom, it formed a bag just right to hold eggs while gathering from the nests. It seemed to be just the right size to hold a "mess' of beans, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, or other garden goodies.

It also held splinters of rich pine or chips for starting a fire in the wood cook stove. The apron became a soft cloth to dry tears from children's faces. It was used as a fan when the heat became unbearable and a mop when perspiration dimmed the vision. She used it to fan a sluggish fire to life. When it came time to milk twice a day, she found the apron held the right amount of corn to feed the cow while filling her milk buckets. Gathered up from the bottom, she carried shelled corn to throw out to the chickens." There are even more uses that space do not permit me to give you. This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it. The title is "Barefoot Dreams" and the cost is $10 plus $1.50 postage. Send orders to Ruth Baker, 2100 Hwy. 102, Townley, AL 35587. Ê(Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)