Sunday, September 21, 2008

Stories about Ourselves and Others

Tonight I heard Jo Carolyn Beebe read stories passed down from her parents and grandparents about life in Mississippi before Jo Carolyn was born. She is a genealogist and says that when she is writing she wants to research a person and when she is researching she wants to write a poem or story. The two go hand in hand. My writing is usually character driven and I have some interesting characters in my family background just as many of you. One of my favorite stories was about my Uncle Lewis Hobby.
It is said that during the Great Depression when jobs were scarce, Lewis bluffed his way into a good paying job. He noticed some men working for the Florida power company and thought to himself, "that would be a good job." Having no experience in working as a lineman, Lewis faked it.
He talked with the workers and pretended he knew what they were doing. He asked how he might get a job with Florida Power and was directed to the man he needed to see. Lewis was hired. While others struggled through the depression, Lewis received a regular salary with a guaranteed income.
Lewis lost an arm in an accident, but he did not lose his job. He became a "desk jocky" and there he stayed until the day he retired. He raised a son and lived a comfortable life.
Lewis Hobby had determination and would not accept no for an answer. After he lost his arm, he learned to do everything with his other hand. "The only thing he can't do is button the cuff on his sleeve," his wife Lillian once said. I doubt he ever spent a minute feeling sorry for himself.

Jo Carolyn's stories are much like my stories as we both grew up in the rural south. I remember the ice man coming to put the fifty pound block in the ice box. Ours was a white square appliance that sat on the back porch or in the kitchen.

With her 90 year old mother telling stories of the past to Jo Carolyn, she has a vast store of material for her deep south memoirs. "Special Delivery" is one of her personal essays I like. I'm not sure if it has been published, but it should be.

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