A writer inspired by nature and human nature


I’m delighted to welcome Jan Sikes back to 4writersandreaders to share a #Mother’sDay piece she’s written for the  2020 RWISA “RISE-UP” Blog Tour! 

 

DEPRESSION SOUP 

by Jan Sikes

 

She stood in a line her head bowed low

There was nowhere to run, no place to go

With clothes that were ragged

And shoes that were worn

There were millions just like her

She wasn’t alone

America’s Great Depression had stolen their homes

Took its toll on their bodies

Tried to squash their souls

But she squared her shoulders, raised her eyes

Fierce determination replaced her sighs

She’d fight to survive, that much was true

Although many times, she’d be sad and blue

Someday there would be plenty

But for now, she was caught in a loop

She held out her bowl

For another serving

Of Depression Soup

 

Born in Missouri in 1917, my mom, Marian Edith Clark, learned about hardships at a young age.

Her mother, my grandmother, Sarah Jane, was sickly. The household chores fell on my mom’s shoulders when she was still a child. She shared memories of having to stand on a box so she could reach the stove to cook their meals.

My mom blue eyes sparkled, and her smile could light up a midnight sky. She started school in Treece, Kansas. Her family were migrant workers. Anytime they found an abandoned house, even if it was spooky, they moved in. Eventually, they landed in Pitcher, Oklahoma, where her father found a job in the iron and ore mines. She was in the ninth grade when he had an accident in the mines, and she had to quit school to help make a living for the family.

Her father became a bootlegger in Oklahoma. He would often get caught and wind up in jail for six months at a time, leaving the family to fend for themselves.

They eventually moved to Arkansas, where they had kinfolk who were sharecroppers. They picked cotton, and in Mom’s words, “Nearly starved to death.”

When she was around fourteen, her dad took the family to the Texas cotton fields. The whole family could pick, and they would make twenty-five cents for every hundred pounds of cotton.

We found this story written in a journal after Mom passed away.

“My last school was in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, population around 2,000. We lived two miles out in the country. I went to a two-room school. A man and his wife were both teachers. He taught in one room and her in the other. The man teacher went crazy and tried to kill his wife. When she got away, she came to our house. I’ll never forget how bloody her head was. When the police found him, he had crawled up under their house. So, they put him in a mental hospital.”

The Great Depression hit America in 1929, wiping out any semblance of a prospering economy. It was during that catastrophic era that my mom and dad met in Sayre, Oklahoma. At the time, she was babysitting for one of Dad’s sisters, and living in a government migrant camp with her family.

She was only seventeen, but they fell head-over-heels in love and decided to marry.

Mom had no shoes to wear for the ceremony, and a woman next to them in the camp loaned her a pair of shoes.

On April 14, 1934, they said their wedding vows in a preacher’s living room and began life together.

There were no pictures, no fanfare, no parties, and no honeymoon.

They spent their first night as newlyweds, sharing a bed with some of my dad’s younger brothers and sisters.

Their first home was an old farmhouse with nothing in it but a wood stove, a bed, and a table. Mom had no broom to sweep the floors, and when snakes crawled across, they left trails in the dirt.

Through the years, she shared many harrowing stories of how they survived as transients. They stayed within their family group and moved from the strawberry fields in Missouri, to potato fields in Kansas, to cotton fields in Texas. Often, they had no shelter from the elements, sleeping outdoors under a shade tree. Other times, they managed to have a tent or share a tent with other family members.

Mom and Dad’s life together, began under this umbrella of hopeless poverty.

Hunger was a constant companion. My mom had an older brother who often would go out at night and steal a chicken or watermelon.

Enmeshed in daily survival, they could see no future.

Sometime around late 1934, they moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas not knowing it was in the middle of an epidemic. They were lucky enough to find housing in a WPA camp. My dad got a job digging graves for fifty cents a week, plus a small amount of food. A man working with him warned him to stay clear of the hospital; that no one came out alive.

However, the hospital laundry was the only place Mom found work. Automation wasn’t yet widespread, and especially not in Arkansas, so all of the washing had to be done by hand on rub boards.

A large scowling woman marched up and down behind the workers with a blackjack in hand. If she thought they weren’t working hard enough or fast enough, she’d whack them across the shoulders.

During this time, my mom fell ill with Scarlet Fever and they quarantined her. They kept her in a room under lock and key. My worried dad climbed to her window with food. It became apparent that they had to get out of there, or Mom would die. One night when all was quiet, she tied bedsheets together and lowered herself from the two-story window to the ground, where Dad waited.

They caught a ride to Oklahoma on the back of a flatbed truck, and Mom eventually recovered. They never went back to Fort Smith, Arkansas.

As the years passed, much of my dad’s family migrated to California, the land of milk and honey. But Mom and Dad didn’t go with them due to my grandmother’s failing health, and a younger sister who was inseparable from my mom. They all stuck together. My grandmother passed away in 1942 in Roswell, New Mexico. Pictures show a large goiter on her throat. She died long before I was born.

Mom gave birth to my siblings with help from family and friends. I was the only one to arrive in a hospital setting.

By 1951, the year I was born, Mom and Dad had settled in Hobbs, New Mexico, and purchased a lot on Avenue A. They stretched their tent and immediately started building a house. They put down roots and said goodbye to the transient life they’d known.

Like everything else in their lives, they built our house themselves. A place not too far from Hobbs, The Caprock, had an abundance of large flat rocks. Every day Dad wasn’t working, he’d head up and bring back a load of rocks to cover the sides of the house. That house withstood many storms, and still stands today.

When I was around twelve, I distinctly remember watching Mom climb up and down a ladder with bundles of shingles to roof the house. And she did this alone.

I believe I can declare with all certainty that no two people worked harder than my mom and dad.

Mom was a fantastic cook, having learned from necessity at a young age. She had a sweet tooth and loved to bake. Her specialty was pies. She could make a peach cobbler that would melt in your mouth.

She never measured anything. She’d throw in a handful of this and a pinch of that, and it turned out perfectly every time.

Mom was not a worrier. Her philosophy was, “If I can’t fix it, there’s no need to waste time worrying about it.”

I’ve strived to adopt that same philosophy.

She lived by these seven wisdoms:

  1. Count your blessings every day.
  2. Don’t whine or throw a fit if things don’t go your way.
  3. Take whatever trials God sees fit to give you and make the best of it. Never sit down and give up.
  4. Believe in yourself and your dreams, and they’ll come true.
  5. Love life and live for God.
  6. Hard work never killed anyone. Try your best and don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t turn out the way you first thought.
  7. Treat everyone with dignity and respect.

I didn’t always see eye-to-eye with my mom, as you know if you’ve read my books. But I never forgot her teachings, her strength, and her determination. And for the last thirty years of her life, we were close.

She was the best grandmother my two little girls ever could have hoped for. She adored them as much as they loved her.

I watch my daughters now and see them practice some of Mom’s ways with their own children, and it makes me happy.

So, here’s to my mom – the strongest woman I ever knew.

Contact Jan Sikes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for supporting today’s RWISA author along the RWISA “RISE-UP” Blog Tour!  To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the main RWISA “RISE-UP” Blog Tour page on the RWISA site.  For a chance to win a bundle of 15 e-books along with a $5 Amazon gift card, please leave a comment on the main RWISA “RISE-UP” Blog Tour page! Once you’re there, it would be nice to also leave the author a personal note on their dedicated tour page, as well. Thank you, and good luck!

 

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Comments on: "#RRBC #RWISA #RWISARiseUp – Jan Sikes with a #Mother’sDay post (+ a great giveaway)" (85)

  1. Gwen M. Plano said:

    I’m hopping around the internet to welcome Jan on different sites. Her tribute to her mom is simply extraordinary. Love it!! Thank you for hosting, Bette.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Thank you for sharing Jan’s extremely moving poem, Bette. What a beautiful tribute to her mother. I hope Jan won’t mind if I print the seven wisdoms her mother lived by. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Bette, what an inspirational post by Jan about her mother. I was riveted by it, read more like a piece of fiction and hard to believe this was real – the seven wisdoms are wonderful and moving.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hello, Annika. I agree that it sounds like a John Steinbeck story, but it was all true. We tried for years to get Mom to write down more of these stories, but to her, they were not interesting and just reminded her of really hard times. But, I treasure the words she did leave behind. Thank you for leaving such a wonderful comment!

      Liked by 2 people

    • I’m right there with you, Annika! Honored to share Jan’s beautiful Mother’s Day post with us. Thanks so much for stopping by to read and join in on the conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Good morning, Bette! Thank you SO much for sharing “Depression Soup!” I appreciate you!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What a wonderful tribute to her mom. Made me smile.

    You are such a supportive blogger.

    Have a fabulous day and weekend, Bette. ♥

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I saw this on another blog as well. It is a phenomenal post. I found it riveting.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Lovely to see Jan here, Bette.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Your mom was an amazing woman, Jan. People went through so much in those days and they were so strong. This lockdown would be a walk in the park for them! I loved the poem.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. What a harrowing story of survival!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. What an amazing story about Jan’s mom. I can feel the love and respect in her writing. I’m always amazed at the resiliency of people and their ability to stand up when it might be so much easier to give up. Great share, Bette.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Thank you for sharing a wonderful story!!.. the world doesn’t do enough to tell about the courage, love and dedication of Mom’s everywhere!!.. have a Happy Mother’s day and hope all your tomorrows are filled with happiness and life is all that you wish for it to be!!.. 🙂

    Until we meet again, on Mother’s Day and every day..
    May flowers always line your path
    and sunshine light your way,
    May songbirds serenade your
    every step along the way,
    May a rainbow run beside you
    in a sky that’s always blue,
    And may happiness fill your heart
    each day your whole life through.
    May the sun shine all day long
    Everything go right, nothing go wrong
    May those you love bring love back to you
    And may all the wishes you wish come true
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 3 people

    • What a beautiful saying, Dutchll! Thank you for sharing it and thank you for reading my story!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Larry!

      Like

      • You are welcome!!.. hope all is well in your part of the universe and life is all that you wish for it to be!!.. 🙂

        Until we meet again, on Mother’s day and every day..
        May flowers always line your path
        and sunshine light your way,
        May songbirds serenade your
        every step along the way,
        May a rainbow run beside you
        in a sky that’s always blue,
        And may happiness fill your heart
        each day your whole life through.
        May the sun shine all day long
        Everything go right, nothing go wrong
        May those you love bring love back to you
        And may all the wishes you wish come true
        (Irish Saying)

        Liked by 2 people

  12. I love reading about those who not just survive a hardscrabble life, but even thrive. Jan, this is a lovely tribute to your Mama, Marian; it didn’t escape my notice that we share the same name. Plus, I have a sister Jan.

    Also, I noticed the detail that “they spent their first night as newlyweds, sharing a bed with some of my dad’s younger brothers and sisters.” Wow!

    Bette, thanks for featuring Jan today. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  13. What an amazing tribute to an extraordinary person. Thank you for sharing:)

    Liked by 4 people

  14. peggyhattendorfcom said:

    Great piece about an era many of our parents lived through. Thanks for sharing this heartfelt story about your mom and family.

    Thanks for hosting today, Bette.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. petespringerauthor said:

    A marvelous poem that describes life during the Great Depression. I just finished reading Jan’s wonderful memories of her mom on her blog.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. […] via #RRBC #RWISA #RWISARiseUp – Jan Sikes with a #Mother’sDay post (+ a great giveaway) — Bette A.… […]

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Beautiful song and family history. Such a wonderful tribute! Many thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Jan, your story is a beautiful mama story. Thank you, Bette for hosting.

    Liked by 4 people

  19. This is a lovely tribute to Jan’s mom.

    Liked by 4 people

  20. Just wonderful! We need to hear these stories.

    Liked by 4 people

  21. wonderful of you to host Jan here, Bette 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  22. I read this somewhere–what a lovely post about life and growing up. The path isn’t always what we hoped for but often, it works out. Jan is proof of that.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. What a touching tribute for Jan to write about her mother, Bette, and a wonderful poem. I love her 7 “wisdoms” which are a great read for a Monday. It’s also impressive to learn that her mom wasn’t a worrier. I tend to fall into worrying at times, so I am a work-in-progress in that arena. Thanks for introducing her. 💗

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi, Baydreamer! I’m so happy to meet you here at Bette’s place! Thank you for stopping by and reading the post. I do my best every day to adhere to Mom’s wisdoms and try not to work about things I cannot change. I think we are ALL works in progress! Thank you for your comment!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Lauren. So glad to stopped by to read and enjoy Jan’s wonderful Mother’s Day post! 🙂 Thanks so much for the lovely note–we ALL are works in progress!

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Hi Bette and nice to meet you, Jan. A powerful poem. You remind me how many of us do not know the true meaning of hardships. Oh my goodness, about the teachers. Very sad about no shoes for the wedding ceremony.

    A very sad, yet inspirational story. And, it is all true. The seven wisdoms are true gems and reminders. An exceptionally beautiful tribute to your Mother, Jan.

    Liked by 3 people

  25. That’s a beautiful and touching story. If humanity lived by those 7 wisdom, the world would have been a much better place. Thanks for sharing Bette, it’s always good to know that no matter how hard life gets, someone out there had it harder and made the best of it.
    Sharing!

    Liked by 3 people

  26. Hi Bette:

    Why do I get the idea that your family story might have some common elements with your guest writer here? I hope you are staying well.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Actually, Jan’s family story is far different from mine. But it does remind me of someone close to me. Dan and I are well and taking good care in this time of self-distancing. We’re pretty much homebodies who enjoy an occasional day away these days–but those days will have to wait a while. Spring is singing its song as we tip-toe though the tulips and dance with the dandelions. 🙂 Stay blessed and well in these strange times, Jim!

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Honestly, your blogs to me do not inspire a homebody image. They make me want to travel,

    Liked by 2 people

    • Terrific! Travel is good for the body, mind and spirit! We’ve done our share of travelling over the decades and are all the better for it–inspired by places, people, cultures etc.

      Like

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