The farm husband Dan and I live on once belong to Mrs. Pearl Marshall. Mrs. Marshall was one of those strong, tall, country women of a certain age. She was a widow during the years we knew her.
She was constantly delighting us with tales of her life. Meeting at the fence one day, Dan asked Mrs. Marshall what she thought about the current increases in the price of coffee? She replied, “It’s not bothering me, I’ve taken to putting on my sunglasses and drinking hot water.”
This was also around the time that house plants were all the rage and several plant gurus recommended talking to your plants to stimulate growth. Mrs. Marshall, a Great Depression survivor, and a country woman who knew the value of produce, planted a large garden every year. Viewing her garden that year, Dan noted that Mrs. Marshall had mulched her plants with newspaper. “No,” said Mrs. Marshall, “we’re all supposed to be talking to our plants now and I decided to just let mine read.”
Surrounded in a community where she knew just about everybody up and down the road, one spring, Mrs. Marshall saw some healthy, five- leafed tomato plants in a friend’s backyard. There were a lot of them, and she knew the neighbor wouldn’t mind if she took a few and planted them in her garden. Later she called her friend and said, “I took a few of your tomato plants today. I knew you wouldn’t care.”
Appalled, the neighbor said, “That’s just fine, Pearl, but those don’t yield very well, I’ll come pull those up and plant the better ones I have.” As you may have guessed by now, those “tomato plants” were keeping up the country tradition of moonshining, but in a different format. Instead of creating sour mash, these neighbors’ “moonshine” was made by harvesting the plant’s leaves, drying them, and then enjoying them in different format than alcohol is enjoyed. Fortunately, it all ended well. Mrs. Marshall got her tomato plants, and the neighbor didn’t go to jail.
Living close to the road, Mrs. Marshall kept a rifle by the couch. One night, just about dark, a man kicked in her front door. Remaining on the couch, Mrs. Marshall picked up her gun and aimed it at him. He ran.
Later, while repairing her door, Dan asked her if the gun was loaded. She said, “I don’t know, but neither did he.”
When I remember Mrs. Marshall, the old 1969 movie True Grit comes to mind. In the movie, film star John Wayne says to co-star Kim Darby, “Baby sister, I was born game and I intend to go out that way.”
That line sums up Mrs. Marshall. She was born game and lived her life accordingly. I want to be her when I grow up.
Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.