Thursday, June 29, 2006

Mr. Obe Pruitt's public service

Mention the name Mr. Obe Pruitt and many of the people still living will remember this public servant who served as a U. S. Deputy Marshall in Georgia's Northern District for 23 years and for twelve years as mayor of Blairsville. They will remember him and his wife Nettie as lovers of people and of animals, and genuine neighbors and friends to those who needed a helping hand.

Obe Pruitt was not a Union County native. Born in Banks County, Ga., in 1895, he received his early education in schools there, growing up on his father's farm.

When America entered World War I, Obe Pruitt enlisted and after training was sent to France. There he was wounded in battle. Returning to America following the Armistice in November of 1918, he continued to recuperate from his wounds and then farmed for awhile in Banks County.

In August of 1922 he married the love of his life, Nettie S., also reared in Banks County at Homer. The couple did not have children of their own, but every niece, nephew and neighbor child experienced the strong influence of these two stalwart people.

Feeling that law enforcement would be to his liking, Mr. Obe Pruitt was appointed a United States Deputy Marshall and served the Northern District of Georgia, mainly in Union County, for 23 years. One of the requirements of the job was that the deputy live in the area where he was assigned duty. The couple moved from Banks County and bought a house in Blairsville on what is now named Pruitt Circle.

It was at their house where I first met Mr. and Mrs. Pruitt. I was a close friend to their neighbor, Charlene Wimpey, who lived at the corner of Highway 129 and Pruitt Circle.

Sometimes when I visited Charlene at the Wimpey house, we would walk to Mr. Obe and Mrs. Nettie's house close by and look first to see what stray animals Mr. Obe had taken in to tend in the pens in his back yard. These ranged from opossums to wildcats and once even a mountain bear.

We school children also knew Mrs. Nettie as one of the school nurses employed by the health department to go to our schools and give us immunization shots. We had a certain dread of that needle, or the scratch and application of the smallpox vaccine, but Mrs. Nettie, with her kindness and gentle ways made "shots" day far less fearsome. She was a strong Christian lady and taught Sunday School at First Baptist Church, Blairsville, for over 30 years.

When Highway 129 was first built, it curved right by the Obe Pruitt House. Then, when the state decided to widen and straighten the highway, the roadway was rerouted through a mountain that sloped upward from the roadbed in front of the Pruitt house. The rerouting obstructed the view of the road from the Pruitt House. Mr. Obe took the problem to Atlanta, straight to Governor Eugene Talmadge's office. He pled that the obstructing land be smoothed out so the Pruitts could again see the traffic on Highway 129 as it went to and fro in front of their house. The mission was accomplished. Attention was brought to the ability of this Deputy Marshall who had influence enough in state governmental affairs to "move a mountain." Now, driving around Pruitt Circle, one can imagine how the land that was moved blocked a beautiful view across to busy Highway 129.

For 23 years in the job of Deputy U. S. Marshal, Mr. Obe Pruitt was frequently away from home attending to his duties. One of the important tasks of the marshals in the mountains was to arrest and bring to trial those caught making bootleg liquor, or "moonshine." They worked hand in hand with revenue agents. The 18th Constitutional Amendment in 1920 prohibited manufacturing, transportation and sale of intoxicating beverages. Marshals and their deputies take an oath to uphold the US Constitution and the rule of law.

The office goes back to the first president, George Washington, who appointed the first U. S. Marshal on September 24, 1789. The motto of this law enforcement unit is "Justice, Integrity, Service." The marshals and their deputies took on various responsibilities such as upholding the Constitution, offering security for witnesses in a trial, and enforcing civil authority of all three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. Obe Pruitt was a highly-respected deputy marshal and stood tall as a purveyor of national law on the local level.

After his retirement from being a deputy U.S. Marshal, he entered local politics and was the mayor of Blairsville for twelve years. Beloved by his constituents, he and the City Council worked diligently to bring some visionary changes to the county seat town. The Blairsville Airport was built during his tenure. A central water system for the city received an affirmative vote and was installed. Many city streets were paved, street lights installed, and the first city fire truck and police car were purchased.

These additions to the growing town are taken for granted now, but Obe Pruitt pioneered in bringing about these needed changes.

Obe Pruitt passed away in 1975 at age 80. His widow, Mrs. Nettie, lived on at their house on Pruitt Circle until infirmity beset her and she had to enter the Union County Nursing Home in 1987. There she soon made new friends and kept her sweet, outgoing spirit. She died on August 16, 1991 at the ripe age of 91. Blairsville and Union County owe a debt of gratitude to these two citizens who worked hard to bring needed changes to the mountain region.

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 29, 2006 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The 'Sacred Harp' Tradition of Singing

Sometimes it is called 'fa-sol- la" singing. Passed at first by oral tradition long before they were published in tune books, the metrical hymns and psalms of Isaac Watts and others were an important part of frontier worship as groups met first in homes and then in a church house built where they set aside an acre or so of land for a church.

This method of singing was taught in widely-practiced singing schools in the south, beginning in the 19th century. The song leader would announce a tune, known to most people, and then "line out" the words to go with that tune. The preacher or the song leader would often be the only one in the congregation to have a book. By repetition, the members would soon learn the words of the song. When "New Britain C. M." was announced as the hymn tune, the singers would know that "Amazing grace! How sweet the sound," the inimitable words by John Newton (1725-1807), would be sung to the announced tune. "C. M." stood for common meter, a metrical count of syllables in the phrases of the song being The version of this beloved hymn we so often sing now was published in Virginia Harmony in 1831 and repeated in subsequent hymn books even to the present day. It was also in Jesse Mercer's Cluster.

Much of this singing tradition has been attributed to the "Old Baptists," although other denominations like Presbyterians, Mennonites and Methodists also sang the old tunes to sacred words. Why, then, were so many of them attributed to Baptists? George Pullen Jackson formerly a professor of music at Vanderbilt University in his Story of the Sacred Harp, states that "freedom" has always been a watchword of the Baptists. Prior to and during the Revolutionary War, Baptists worshiped freely, without centralized religious authority. They wanted no part of the established religious orders and state churches practiced in some of the colonies. They did not want even their singing linked to what they considered governmentally controlled denominations.

Most of the Old Baptist tunes found in the early years were secular songs with religious texts. They were remembered tunes that our ancestors sang in the hills of Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales and brought to America with them. These tunes had been "spiritualized" with words written to show Christian experiences. For example, the minor-key hymn, Wondrous Love was set to the tune of a song about Captain Kidd, pirate.

Fortunately for the hymn, the tune name was given Wondrous Love, not Captain Kidd. The meter in the old folk song in a minor key carries well the words of "Wondrous Love": "What wondrous love is this! Oh! my soul, Oh! my soul! What wondrous love is this, oh! my soul! That caused the Lord of bliss, To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul, To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!" We don't know who penned the words for the four-stanza hymn in its irregular (12, 9, 6, 6, 12, 9) rhythm. Even modern hymm books list the words as being An American Folk Hymn. It was published in William Walker's Southern Harmony in 1835. Benjamin Franklin White collaborated with Walker in compiling Southern Harmony, but when Walker took the manuscript to New Haven, Connecticut to be published, he did not include White's name as co-author/compiler.

Evidently, this breached the friendship of the two musicians. Ben White packed up his family and moved from Spartanburg, S.C., to Hamilton in Harris County, Ga. There he became editor of the local newspaper, The Organ. He also began working on The Sacred Harp songbook. Many of the songs he published in the newspaper. In 1844 the whole collection of songs was compiled by B. F. White and Joel King and published by Collins Press, Philadelphia. Subsequent editions came out in 1859 and 1860. The hymnbook was reprinted in 1968 by Broadman Press, Nashville, Tenn. White and King's Sacred Harp became the official music book of the Southern Musical Convention in Upson, County, Ga., (1845), the Chattahoochee Musical Convention, Coweta County (1852), and the Tallapoosea Singing Convention in Haralson County (1867) and countless other Singing Conventions as they organized in counties after the Civil War. The book was popular not only for its songs but for the Rudiments of Music, a 21-page manual of music instruction which was often used by singing school teachers.

The Union County Singing Convention held at the court house in Blairsville was an all-day event and well attended by singing groups from the mountain areas of Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. Some of the singing school teachers of the 1930s and 1940s were the Rev. James Hood and Mr. Frank Dyer of Union County, and Mr. Everett Prince Bailey of Fannin County, GA and Polk County, Tenn. Groups of Sacred Harp musicians still meet and sing the old songs. Noted names among them are descendants of B. F. White and the Denson Brothers, Howard and Paine; families of McGraws, Kitchens, Cagles, Lovvorns, Parrises, Manns, Drakes and others, some in the fifth generation of those who contributed to the Sacred Harp back in 1844.

In Watson B. Dyer's Souther Family History, (1986), page 154, he printed in our great grandmother's handwriting (Nancy Collins Souther [1829-1888], wife of John Combs Hayes Souther [18271891]), a copy of a song they were learning at church. She had written the words April 13, 1868. I was thrilled to see the words of the song that had been "lined out" as my great grandmother wrote them. She wrote:

"Come all ye righteous here below,
O hal-le, hal-le-lu-jah.
Let nothing prove your overthrow,
O hal-le, hal-le-lu-jah.
But call on Me both day and night,
O hal-le, hal-le-lu-jah.
And I'll visit you with delight,
Sing glory, hal-le-lu-jah!"

She penned words to other stanzas as well. I looked in the reprint of White & King's Sacred Harp for the song my great grandmother wrote out to help her memorize the words. I found the tune, "The Good Old Way" (L.M.-long meter) with the refrain, but the words given for the stanzas in the song book were not a match for what my ancestor wrote. There were many versions of the stanzas, as various people were inspired to write verses to fit tunes. I felt a deep kinship with her. The words she wrote fitted a commonly used tune she sang as she worshiped in the little New Liberty Baptist Church in sight of her cabin. She had a desire to participate more readily in the services by knowing the words to a song they enjoyed singing there. She was the mother of ten children. Maybe she gathered them all around and they had a little Souther choir at home as she taught them the words to The Good Old Way tune.

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 22, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Philip Humphries: an itinerant preacher

The story of Phillip Humphries, itinerant preacher of another century, sprang out at me like dewey mists on a spring morning. The story was told as a childhood memory by my cousin, the late Watson Benjamin Dyer, who did much research into family history. Sometimes his five books of genealogy yield rich little stories that leave the reader wanting more.

Such was his story about one Phillip Humphries, itinerant preacher, who came by Watson's father's home in Choestoe. The appearance and message of the old preacher man left a lasting impression on Watson who was about 10 (1911) when he first saw the old preacher.

Watson's story went something like this:

He and his father were working in the cornfield along the road that led by their house (this road is now named Collins Road). They looked up from their work and saw an old man with a long white beard approaching. Albert, Watson's father, was not surprised to see him, for he knew Phillip Humphries. But to Watson, the stranger with a pack on his back, disheveled clothes, and his long white beard looked as Watson imagined Moses, the biblical patriarch, in appearance.

In the spring and again in the fall they would look up and suddenly Old Phil Humphries would be there, ready to talk, ready to give an account of his travels through many states and as far away from Choestoe as Texas. Watson called the old man "Uncle Phil" out of deference to his age and stature as a man of God. Actually, he was a "first cousin, thrice removed."

First, "Uncle Phil" warned people of their sins. This was his God-given message, one that he carried with him unabashedly in all of his travels. "If people did not repent and turn from their wicked ways," Uncle Phil stated, "God would visit them in his anger and cause devastation to come upon their homes, their crops, their families." From Georgia to Texas, this was his mission, to give the burning message God had put upon his heart.

It being about noontime, my Uncle Albert (Watson's father) invited the preacher to remain for the noon meal. He accepted gracefully, and at table the men talked of crops, people, politics, the weather, and what God expected of believers. The young boy Watson listened with open ears as his father and the preacher talked.

From reports on his journeys, the old preacher had really been to Texas. He talked knowledgeably about things he saw in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas.

In Spring, as he stopped by the Dyer farm, he was coming from Texas. In Fall, as he again stopped for his talk and a noon meal, he was on his way back to Texas, proclaiming his message along the way, the themes of which were repentance and the coming catastrophe. He did not want money for the Word he delivered from the Lord, but he welcomed food, clothing and a place to lay his head at night. He also caught a free ride in buggies or wagons going in the direction of his mission trip. Watson said that Phillip had a sister who lived in adjacent Arkaquah District named Lottie Humphries, or Granny, as she was known because of her age.

Were Watson's 10-year old memories of Old Preacher Phillip Humphries a figment of his imagination? No. A little research revealed that his family did live in Arkaquah and he was a son of John and Kizziah Souther Humphries. Kizziah Souther was Albert Dyer's great aunt, a sister of his great grandfather, John Jesse Souther.

Kizziah Souther married John Humphries in Burke County, N.C., on December 27, 1831. They moved to Georgia, along with others of Kizziah's siblings (for her mother and father were already settled in Choestoe) in the mid to late 1830's. Phillip Humphries was the sixth of 13 children born to John and Kizziah. The first four of their 13 children were born before they left North Carolina. The last nine were born in Arkaquah District where they settled in Georgia. These 13 children, by name and order of birth were Jesse, Jane, Catherine, Willis, James, Phillip, John, Noah, Sarah, Mary, Nancy Ann, Joseph F. and David.

Phillip Humphries was born about 1841. He was listed as 9 years of age in the 1850 Union County census. He married Cordie Parker. He served in the Confederate Army during the War Between the States. Family legend holds that an injury, or the terrible experiences of war, left his mind "deranged"-hence his wanderings between Texas and Georgia and his unusual way of delivering the gospel message. Texas had a pull for Phillip Humphries, where he took his wife and family, because his older brother, Willis, and his wife, Mary Johnson Humphries, had migrated there. Known names of Phillip and Cordie Parker Humphries are Joseph, James, Louise and Maggie, and possibly others whose names are not known.

The Lottie Humphries who Preacher Phillip Humphries visited at the "old Humphries place" in Arkaquah was actually Phillip's sister-in-law, Charlotte Duckworth who married Jesse Humphries on March 11, 1855. Charlotte, called Lottie, was the sixth child of David and Mary Duckworth. Lottie's husband Jesse also served in the Confederate Army. Jesse and Lottie moved their family to Walker County, Ga., where Jesse died. However, it seems that Lottie moved back to the "old Humphries" place at Arkaquah, because she is listed in the Union County Cemetery Book as buried in Bethel Cemetery, with her tombstone reading "Granny Lottie Humphrey - died 1923." Having been listed as 13 in the 1850 census, Lottie was born about 1837.

Preacher Phillip Humphries made his last visit to Georgia when an old man and became so ill that he could not return to Texas. Both the message and the desire to journey had left him. He was so ill that relatives placed him in a facility for Old Soldiers somewhere in North Carolina where he died and was buried.

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 15, 2006 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

American Chestnut Trees and Their Possible Comeback

The American chestnut tree may have a comeback. Scientists, organizations and an army of interested persons are working hard to restore this giant to eastern forests.

I was a very young child, but I remember picking up American chestnuts and enjoying them as the Mel Torme/Robert Wells song indicates: “chestnuts roasting on an open fire"

The song was recorded in its original version in 1946 by the famed Nat King Cole, years after the Asian Chestnut blight had made havoc of the tall, productive chestnut trees that once were so prevalent throughout the Appalachian region of America.

We had a short-cut road that led through the forest from our house to my Grandpa Bud Collins' house. It was alongside this road that the largest American chestnut tree I had ever seen lifted its huge trunk from the forest floor. It was to the right of the road on a steep bluff overlooking Town Creek. We could hardly wait until the tree began shedding its burrs, each of which yielded two or three chestnuts. We would climb the bluff up to the tree, gather a few chestnuts, and hurry on across the bridge to Grandpa's house. When we showed our Aunts Ethel and Avery our treasures, we could be sure to entice them back with us and fill the buckets they provided with the nuts from that large tree.

Thinking back now, that large chestnut tree may have been among the last of the American chestnut trees that succumbed to the Asian chestnut blight, a bark fungus, that had, by 1940 or thereabouts, made havoc of the beautiful deciduous trees that had been important to the Appalachian economy since settlers came to the mountains.

I remember hearing stories of how my father and others, when they were children, gathered chestnuts by the sack-full and hauled them to Gainesville by wagon, along with other farm products, to trade for coffee, sugar, spices, shoes, cloth and other items not grown on Choestoe farms. The chestnuts, then plentiful, were a valuable commodity free for the taking to anyone with the industry to pick them up and use them as barter.

In my childhood, the American chestnut trees were less numerous throughout the forest. The large specimen near my grandfather's house was the best-remembered because of all the pleasant associations of our making a game to gather the nuts and to have a party roasting and eating them.

Dark gray areas show the American chestnut habitat.

The American chestnut once dominated forests from Maine through Georgia and from the Atlantic Coast to the Ohio Valley. In 1904 the Asian fungus blight came to America on some Chinese chestnut ornamental trees planted at the Bronx Zoo in New York. The Chinese chestnut had a natural immunity to the fungus, but not the American chestnut. The bark fungus spread at a rate of 50 miles a year, and within a few decades had infected and killed the American chestnut trees.

Before range laws were enacted and cattle and hogs were allowed to graze at will in the mountains, chestnuts were an important food for the livestock. Wild animals depended on chestnuts for much of their winter store. Bears fed on them before taking their winter hibernation. And many of the industrious settlers in the Appalachian areas depended on chestnut crops for extra cash. Chestnut trees provided wood for building purposes, fence posts, and making furniture.

More than four billion trees from Maine to Georgia and westward to Indiana and Illinois were killed by the blight. The root system was not affected and shoots from roots and stumps sprang up after the blight killed the large deciduous trees. But then the shoots almost always succumb to the disease.

There is hope on the horizon for the American chestnut tree. Thanks to the "Mother Tree" Project and extensive efforts of The American Chestnut Foundation and the Georgia branch of the same conservation organization, scientists are working hard to seek a comeback for this valuable tree.

In 2005, Nathan Klaus, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, found a stand of healthy American chestnut trees near Warm Springs, Ga., in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park. The largest of this stand of trees is from 30 to 50 years old. Klaus reports that the trees near Warm Springs are rare in that they have the ability to germinate and produce fruit. Most of the shoots springing from original chestnut stumps contract the disease and die long before they can produce nuts. The "Klaus" tree, as the largest has been named, is about 40 feet tall and has a diameter of ten inches.

The large tree found by Klaus in Georgia and other "Mother Trees" in other locations will be the focus of a backcrossing program in which scientists will pollinate with a resistant strain in order to produce hybrid trees unaffected by the chestnut blight. This process will take a few years to complete.

I read with interest that the Union County Rotary Club at the April 2006 meeting heard Dr. Mark Stallings from the Georgia Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation (GATACF) who spoke on plans for restoring blight-free chestnut trees to our forests.

Maybe in the future we can walk again under one of America's sturdiest and most prolific trees and see the burrs opening with their luscious nuts to be gathered by delighted pickers. Nostalgia walks with us still to form precious memories of going to Grandpa's by the old chestnut tree. So does singing the "Christmas Song" with its lyrics about chestnuts roasting. Many of us, no doubt, memorized Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "The Village Blacksmith." The Currier and Ives painting on the subject of his poem helps us see vividly, "Under the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands."

Harris Green in the Spring 2006 issue of "The Georgia Sprout" (GATACF) wrote, "Longfellow's loving depiction of the tree inspires us to do what is necessary 'at the flaming forge of life' to bring back that wonderful tree-and maybe some of those missing virtues in the process."

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 8, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

In tribute to my friend, Barbara Ruth Sampson

Waiting for the postman will not have the same anticipation again. My long-time friend and pen pal, Barbara Ruth Nicholson Collins Sampson retired her "living pen" and slipped beyond the vale on May 27, 2006. All of us who knew her and her active, alert mind thought she would recover from her last debilitating illness. We wanted more poems, letters, essays, cryptic wisdom to flow from her so that we could be the happy recipients of her gift of words.

Even now as I consider her life and work, I seek words that will paint a picture of who she was: daughter, sister, life-long student, teacher, friend, writer, painter, wife, mother, grandmother, lover of nature, friend to people and animals, proponent of mountain living, appreciator of family heritage and history. And even this list does not cover the multi-faceted person known as Barbara Ruth Sampson.

She was born in Louisville, Ky., on June 8, 1914, to James M. Nicholson and Flora Manard Nicholson, their second child. She had an older brother, James Frank (1911), a younger brother, George Truett (1917), and a younger sister, Flora Nelle (1922).

Her father, James M. Nicholson, was born in Union County, Ga., the eldest of eight children of Jackson Van Buren Nicholson (1836-1924) and Barbara Anne Etris Nicholson (1844-1898). Barbara's great grandparents were Alfred and Mary Chastain Nicholson, and her great, great grandfather was John Nicholson who served in the American Revolution and whose grave is in the Pleasant Grove Cemetery, Blairsville.

Family lines and genealogy fascinated Barbara Ruth Sampson. She had traced the families of Nicholson, Chastain and other lines, appreciating the contributions made by ancestral patriots and pioneers to the freedom and growth of America.

Her father met Flora Manard as both were students at Carson Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn. Both were training to be teachers. Her father, having accepted the call to preach, went to Southern Baptist Seminary, Louisville, Ky. It was while the family was there that Barbara was born. After teaching at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn., the Nicholson family moved to Union County, Ga., where her father, Dr. James M. Nicholson, assumed the principalship of Union County High School in 1929, formerly the Blairsville Collegiate Institute. There he remained until his retirement in 1946. Mrs. Flora Nicholson taught Latin, English and Home Economics at the high school until she retired for health reasons in 1943. The three younger Nicholson children graduated from Union County High School.

Barbara, academically gifted and competitive, was valedictorian of her 1931 Union County High School class. All four Nicholson children received degrees at their parents' alma mater, Carson Newman College.

Barbara chose teaching as her career. Her early years of teaching were at Town Creek Consolidated School, Union County. In 1934 Barbara married Paul Collins, son of Andrew and Sarah Alice Davis Collins. Paul and Barbara had two daughters, Frances Nelle and Barbara Andrea. Paul was in service during World War II. Barbara's second marriage was to Harold Sampson. Their daughter is Sylvia Ruth. As Barbara traveled, she found teaching positions in several places. Her last years as an educator were as an English teacher at Hiwassee Dam High School in North Carolina until her retirement.

She loved her role as grandmother. From her elder daughter Frances Nelle came three granddaughters, Rebecca, Leah and Dabatha. Barbara Andrea has two sons, Jarrod and Ryan Freeman. Ryan is now serving with the U.S. Marines in Iraq. Sylvia Ruth has one daughter, Ashley Ruth who is a college student. As they were growing up, the grandchildren living in the Atlanta area happily spent much of their summers at their grandmother's house on Nottely Shores, Blairsville. They had delightful nature treks and she could not refrain from teaching them creatively to put words together into reflective poetry as she had done all her life.

Barbara had a gift for painting, for catching the essence of a scene, a still-life or a flower on canvas. She had the gift of words and used this gift to encourage through teaching creative writing in the classroom, in her correspondence to friends, family and acquaintances, to elucidate through essays, to craft stories and a novel (unpublished), and to write exquisite poetry. She won numerous awards for her poetry, among which was National Senior Poet Laureate for 2004.

I had the privilege of writing the review for her book of poems, Earth is a Splendid Place, published by Sparrowgrass Press, 2000. As I read and reread her book, I noted immediately how her skill with meter, rhyme, rhythm and poetic language was akin to Byron Herbert Reece's style. In my correspondence with Barbara over the years, we often exchanged ideas about Reece's poetry. Although she was three years his senior, they were contemporaries and had exchanged poems to benefit from each other's critiques and suggestions for improvement of their poetic craft. She greatly admired Reece.

With her, poetry-writing and other personal literary productions had to be relegated to being "stress busters," a catharsis, a well-loved hobby. Her life was devoted to teaching, making a living, making a home and rearing daughters. The 63 poems in her one published book are but a miniscule number of the ones from her prolific pen. She wrote me once, "Poetry writing does not pay the bills!" How well we who are writers by avocation know that truth. We could wish that all her poems could be collected and published posthumously. We would all be richer if we could read all that she has written.

She expressed a sense of concern about what would happen to her writings in this poem (page 12, Earth Is A Splendid Place):
What of All the Little Words
What will become of all the little words
I've breathed into the listening air,
When I am gone, long, long gone,
’Till no one can hear me there?
And what of all the little words
I have entrusted to my living pen
To keep my joy alive and vital,
As I will not be then?
Will all be gone when I am gone-
No permanency - will they surely pass
Like apple blossoms faintly falling,
Fast forgotten in the dewy grass?

I have a fat file labeled "Sampson, Barbara Ruth - Letters." To me her regular letters were not "little words" but dear missals worth saving. I have my replies to her, dated, and copied, attached to her letters. Now that I won't be going to the mailbox to receive an envelope with her hand-written address, I will be reading through the file, remembering how we shared what pleased us of life and living.

My life has been enriched from the influence of her father and mother as my teachers, and in more recent years of their daughter as a dear friend and correspondent.

She wrote a quatrain and its title became the title of her published book of poems:

Earth is a Splendid Place
High the sky to the edge of heaven,
Bright the sun as a smiling face,
Life is a treasured blessing given,
And earth is a splendid place.

When I heard of her passing, I quietly reread her book of poems and then wrote this quatrain:

Transition to Heaven
Quiet the night when transition came,
Her life a rich tapestry woven
Was folded and labeled with her name
As she gently slipped into heaven.

Goodbye, dear Barbara Ruth. Though wheelchair bound, your mind knew no bounds of high and noble thoughts. We will miss you, your words, your ability to pluck thoughts from the wind and write deeply of life.

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 1, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.