3/24/2009

Family Album - 1


I was cleaning out my hall closet over the weekend looking for some tools I had put in there about a year ago. I couldn't find the tools I was after. However, I did see one of several family albums I have. I think I may start to do a series on some of the pics there. There are a lot of people in there I simply don't know or just know by word of mouth from relatives. One such man was Luther Green from Yazoo City, MS. I don't feel comfortable just yet posting pics of people who were family friends (such as Luther) or of relatives just yet. But, I'm sure that will change. For right now, I'll just use a stock pic from Google.

Luther was no kin. But, he lived in my grandfather's work shed, in back of his house, in the late 1940s. I never knew Luther Green since he died before I was ever born. But, I remember my grandfather speaking about him. Luther came from a devout Methodist family in Yazoo City. All his brothers and sisters (all five including Luther) were subjected to stern discipline by the father, of whom my grandfather had "locked horns" with on occasion. My grandfather (maternal) was a hard drinking, foul-mouthed house painter who would give no quarter and ask for none. But, he did have a sympathetic side that was in direct contradiction to his personality. That sympathetic side came into play in the winter of 1948.

I remember my grandpa talking about the winter of '48 like he did about the Great Depression (something that we may all, unfortunately, experience soon). Many farm animals froze to death, many of them starved for lack of wheat or hay. Food was scarce and work was even more scarce that terrible winter. In the home of Luther Green, things were even tougher. With the disciplinarian head of the family, came hardships of doing chores in the worst of possible conditions. The family had one small fireplace where everyone would gather to try and get some warmth on the cold winter nights. Apparently, one night in November, sparks came from that fireplace and started a fire. The fire spread quickly in the old, pine wood home. All were killed with the exception of Luther. Luther suffered horrendous burns over 50% of his body. With the medical technology of that day, it was a miracle that he too did not die.

Luther endured several kinds of procedures that would probably be declared barbaric by today's standards. Whatever they did, it caused grotesque scars on both arms and around his neck. Luther always wore white long sleeve shirts, with the collar up, even in suffocating heat of summer in Yazoo City. Luther was then taken in by my grandfather when the local rehab center could no longer house him. Luther lived in the back of my grandpa's house, in that work shed, for the better part of 3 years. Grandpa even got him a job at a local textile mill so he could have a few dollars for the weekend in Yazoo City.

Luther Green took to drinking heavily to mask the pain, both physically and mentally, that haunted him in his dreams. It's hard to imagine losing your entire family and then endure the pain that he did. In fact, Luther took to drinking so much, he decided to start drinking on the job. He was fired from the textile mill and then had to go to working with my grandpa.

In May of 1951, Luther was coming back home from a Saturday night of drinking at the local watering hole around midnight. Luther was so drunk, he didn't realize he was walking in the middle of the dirt road when a milk truck, coming back from his run to Jackson, MS, ran over Luther Green and killed him at the age of 21. Back then, funeral parlors were a luxury for the rich. Grandpa and two other men made a pine box coffin and buried Luther Green on May 17, 1951, just slightly less than four months before I was born. Grandpa said there were only him, the two coffin makers and the preacher that were present at his funeral. Grandpa didn't like to talk much about Luther. I guess it was just a bit too painful even for a man like him.

***To see the second part in the family album narrative, click HERE. 

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