Write Your Story. Prompt #436

An article in the Mail Tribune, Medford, Oregon, September 14, 2006 described how Betty Henshaw wrote about her childhood in the Oklahoma hills and her family’s move to California. 

Author Sandra Scofield read a collection of Betty’s work and said her history needed to be in the hands of a university press. Texas Tech University Press published her story and Betty did a book tour in 2006.

Here’s an excerpt from that newspaper article.

“The family hired an auctioneer and sold their cows, horses, pigs, chickens, farm tools, the potatoes in the barn and the home-canned fruits and vegetables. Mama kept her sewing machine.

The next morning I helped herd the younger children into the truck before first light.

Daddy and Robert had placed a feather mattress on the pickup bed. The babies crawled to the back, grabbed a pillow each, and rolled up in quilts.

Sadness washed over me when we drove past the high school that morning.

There’s an old tradition that Okies were supposed to sing and holler when they came over the 3,793 foot Tehachapi Pass near the south end of the Sierra Nevada.

Mama said we were too tired to holler.

It was a hardscrabble life. Laundry was done with a washboard after heating water in a kettle, and hung on an electric fence to dry. Sunday dinners might be beans and cornbread and fried green tomatoes. My sisters and I wore dresses Mama made of flour sacks on her Grandma Bristol’s old Singer sewing machine.

Mama and my grandmother picked cotton to buy that machine.

Today the machine sits in a place of honor in my living room, a piece of the past contrasting with the computer on the desk at the other end of the room.

“It was hard,” Betty says, of leaving Oklahoma, “I left behind a part of myself.”

Prompt: Write about your history, either fact or what you imagine could have happened. Or write about a something you inherited.

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