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Interview with Beulah - His Purpose, His Direction

(Only nicknames or middle names will be used in my interviews, to help protect each person’s privacy.)

 

Beulah, you were born in the Ozark hills. Would you tell me a little about your childhood? Any hardships when you were little?

We lived in Norfork, and Momma said that Dr. Sheid delivered me on a stormy night. I was the second child. My sister was 15 months older. Then, a third sister arrived but lived to be only nine days old.

 

Nine days? That loss had to impact each person in the family.

My sister Linda Jean was born premature. Momma and Dad kept this precious little baby in a glass incubator by the stove with a blanket around her. It was January and cold. Everything was iced over outside. Don’t ask how I can remember that as young as I was, but I do. Not long after that, Dad went off to the War. When he returned, Momma said he was different.

 

I’ve heard that before—how men might be one way when they leave for war, and they come back different. This would have been WWII. Back then, no one had even heard of post traumatic stress syndrome.

Dad returned from war, but times were still hard. I remember being hungry. The family went to work in cotton patches near Parkin, Elaine, Lepanto, Earle, in Eastern Arkansas. We had relatives in all those places except Parkin. I was picking cotton with a 50-pound tater sack when I was five to six years old.

 

So, you picked alongside parents. It makes me think of The Painted House by John Grisham.

One incident stays with me, but it has nothing to do with the actual work. During cotton picking season, we stayed in a tent outside a house where relatives lived. One of the girls in the house came out onto the porch. She had long, perforated pieces of bubble gum, the kind that lets you break off the pieces. She chewed the sweet out some of it, then spit it out onto the ground. Then she asked if I wanted a piece. Of course I did! I hadn’t ever had any, so I didn’t know what it was for sure—but it was pink and pretty and looked good. Instead of breaking off a piece and giving it to me, she spit a piece onto the ground and said, “Well, pick it up.” Then she laughed. I felt so ashamed. It has been 70 years, and I still remember that. Not logical.

Everyone has been hurt by words. As children, we can’t figure out how to deal with it, so the memory gets stuck inside of us. Paul Zahl talks about that in his book Peace in the Last Third of Life. He says that when we discover we have held on to a bad memory from childhood, we can consciously forgive that person who hurt us. The act of forgiving makes that memory fade. Once dealt with, it no longer bothers us.

 

Beulah, was there anyone you wanted to be like when you grew up?

My teacher at Bethel Springs, Miss Mae Strubhar. She was probably in her 20s. She liked children. She sang so pretty, wore pretty dresses, and she really knew who Jesus was. She talked about Him as if He walked with her daily. I wanted to be just like her, with that kind of relationship with Jesus.

 

Your career was nursing, right? What’s your story on that?

I started off at a coat factory in Kansas City, doing production work. I was only 15. Then Momma took us five kids to Little Rock, where we stayed at a Salvation Army place for a week. Dad went another direction. The Salvation Army helped Momma and my older sister get jobs, and they put me with an elderly lady 24/7. I kept her house, gave her baths, walked her dog, took her to the bathroom, cleaned up whatever got messed up. She was 4’9”, probably 80 lbs. I felt like a giant beside her, but I became protective of her. She was so beautiful with her long, silvery-white hair. A few months later, she passed away. That must be where my nursing ‘bent’ came from.

 

So, you finished school and went into nursing?

No, I worked in factories for years: coat factories, pants, shoes, boots, ’bout everything, always a factory job. I told my youngest sister I wanted to be a nurse, but I’d be no more than a production worker. She said, “That’s a crock! You can be anything you want to be. You just have to want it bad enough to go after it.” She was the motivator in the family. I have learned more from my youngest sister than from anyone else that I can think of. She was the glue that held our family together, the sunshine.

 

She sounds like a supportive sister. Did you go after it?

I guess I did. I didn’t have a high school diploma, because Dad had taken me out of school. But eventually, Momma and I both decided to go to Melbourne and take a test to see what subjects we needed in order to get diplomas. Well, we passed and didn’t need any extra schooling! We were awarded diplomas!

From there, I went to the nursing home at Calico Rock and got a job caring for the residents as CNA. Then, I went on to nursing school. At the interview, I was asked, “Why do you want to be a nurse?” I told them, “I love these people, and they didn’t ask to be where they are. They deserve more than they have. They need someone to care about them. The more I can do for them, the better it is for them. In order to do more, I need to know more about what they need, so I need more schooling.” I was accepted! So, I started as a CNA, then went on to become an LPN, and finally, an RN.

This is far more than the neighbors expected of the Honeycutt kids who lived on the Culp side of the river! Eventually, our family had a respiratory therapist, two registered nurses, an electrical engineer, and an advocate for abused women.

 

A lot of achievements in one family. I can tell you were a devoted nurse. What about your family life?

Larry and I wanted a baby, but it didn’t happen until five years after we were married. I squealed with delight when that nurse said I was pregnant. Larry didn’t let himself believe it until he felt her kick!

 

You had a daughter. What did you want for her future?

I’d gone to so many schools, I mostly wanted my daughter to have the same friends from Kindergarten to twelfth grade—and that’s what happened for her in Calico Rock, Arkansas.

 

As we age, we have the advantage of time as a teacher. Beulah, what knowledge has been the greatest help to you in the aging process?

There’s no way to stop aging. Fight all you want, it will win! I knew I could become my patients someday. It helped that I’d worked with the elderly, but there's always going to be surprises. I say, “Fix a ramp BEFORE you need it!”

 

Where do you go from here?

Not sure. I love reading, and I like to “rest my eyes.” That’s what Momma called it when it was time to not think about anything.

Everyone who knew my Momma always remembers her laugh. She could even laugh at herself. I don’t think I’m anywhere near that.

 

I bet you’ll figure it out as you go, Beulah. Those of us who came from a big family often realize they usually told us what was next, how to think, and to share whatever we had.

I shared everything—my bed, my clothes, my time, my money. When Larry and I married (almost 61 years ago), I kept asking, “Does this mean you’re mine now?” It meant a great deal when he told me, “Beulah, you know I’m yours, no one else’s. Okay? You don’t have to share me.” From that point on, I called him “my Larry.” He was and always will be “my Larry.”

 

I love the colloquialisms you intersperse into conversations. Last week, I heard you say, “slickern goose grease” when talking about icy roads.

Oh, that probably comes from Grannie Myrtle!

You have your own way with words, Beulah. I’ve received notes and heard others comment on cards they received in the mail from you. Your words are encouraging. You do much good in this world by teaching in church and by writing notes to others. Maybe you're just passing on to others what you learned from your youngest sister, the sunshine and glue of your family who inspired and motivated you; from your teacher Miss Mae Strubhar who walked and talked with Jesus; from your time spent in studying scripture.


I once heard you tell about Decoration Day. I was full of questions.

Oh, the anticipation of that day! My, oh my! Old Galatia Church was the meeting place for young and old alike. Red wasps came, too! No telling how many kids got stung! But there’d be someone with a chew of tobacco to fix it. We had preaching and singing, a big dinner with tangy lemonade, then the decorating of family graves. Prior to all that, of course, the ladies spent weeks making flowers out of crepe paper to honor and decorate graves. Oh Lawsy, it was so good. Kin folks from everywhere on the second Sunday of June, every year. So exciting to see everyone, to hear music, to visit.

 

So did anyone in your family play music?

Oh, yes! My Grampa Louis, Grampa Jurnigan, and Grampa Cunningham played the fiddle. Most everyone played the guitar and mouth harp, of course. Dad was said to be the best in the hills of all the harmonica players. I wanted to play the harmonica in the worst way! I also wanted to be a singer and dancer. Stage fright—that’s what got in my way.

 

I think I’m hearing about the love and fellowship in your family, in your community.

Yes, and it happened recently, too. When we miss church because we're iced in/snowed in, it is awesome to reconnect. Even before I see people, I may cry. And strangely, even though I’m excited to see them, I may have a hard time hugging them. Maybe I’m afraid if I don’t get too close, it won’t hurt so bad when they leave me.

 

Beulah, I think it’s too late. You are already close to people. They probably know you love them, and they love you. I think you made it. God is surely pleased.

If I made it, I made it because God wanted it. It was His purpose, His direction. Each day is a gift, you know. My hope is to be more, do more for my Savior, to get rid of this fear that holds me in my seat when I’m asked to do something. God is the only hope I have. Thank you, Lord, for loving me just as I am.


 

I thank all of my readers for taking this time with me. I hope you are enjoying my interview series focusing on some remarkable women. Please share! Anyone can subscribe to my blog by scrolling to the bottom of any page on my website and filling out the form. This will ensure that each time I release a new blog post, you'll get an email reminder and link!


God bless,

 

Pat Durmon


P.S. A list of my published books follows after the beautiful drawing of this week's interviewee, "Beulah," done by Mary Chambers of Jonesboro, Arkansas.


Drawing of "Beulah" by Mary Chambers, Jonesboro, Arkansas.


Poetry Books by Pat Durmon


Prose by Pat Durmon

The story of Lee R. Farrier from Norfork, Arkansas, is Pat's first book of prose and a tribute to Lee, the town of Norfork, and its people. All profits from sales go toward a scholarship at Norfork High School.


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