Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River. It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.
Writing this series is a continuous learning experience. Last time I posted some email traffic that I had had with descendents of Ben Boggs, and they took me to task, properly, for not portraying him as they knew him. Amongst other things, he held the Purple Heart. I honor him for serving our Nation in time of war.
This weekend I received a long email from his daughter, Jenny, whom I knew well with even more information. Here is what she sent me, her words exactly copied and pasted in blockquote, and my responses to her words in plain text.
Ben taught his children manners. There is no doubt about it. I could not have come up with a better topic for tonight than to give the side of the story that I never realized.
In any event, you probably have read the post given in the link above that I provided, along with the email chatter that I had. Here is the story from Jenny herself. By the way, after I read her email I replied to her with my telephone number and we talked for over an hour the other night. Although we had not seen each other for over 40 years, we took up right where we left off, and had a delightful conversation. The punctuation is as she wrote it; I have not omitted anything, so those are not ellipses of mine.
Hi David, my nephew [Redacted] has sent me some of the correspondences of your hometown story about Daddy...I have since joined but can't post for 24 hrs..don't even know if I will post or not but wanted to just reconnect with you...about the remembrance of Daddy....I do thank you for remembering him kindly but I too was a bit upset over the recollection of him..This has caused me to consider carefully the things that I write about My Little Town.
If you remember him sad, for that I am sorry because I can assure you that he was anything but...maybe you think of him leading a sad alcoholic life...truth is, he was anything but sad..True to your words, my Daddy was an alcoholic but drunk or sober..he was fun...he and Mom both were young at heart...I remember many evenings spent playing SCRUB..there were so many of us, we had our own ball team...he would stand out there for hours with us hitting the ball and one of us would have to be the pitch runner since he couldn't(his left leg was missing, not the right as you stated)..He was quite the athlete for a man with 1 leg....This also has taught me to make sure and get my facts absolutely correct.
he always had pretty good control of his kids..he was a very strict disciplinarian that insisted on YesSir and YesMaam which has served me well in my life...I remember many times he was drunk and more playful but as his child, you knew when you were about to cross the line...if he promised you a whooping..well, you got it with the belt...I learned at an early age from watching the older kids get it that I really wanted to be a pretty good kid...Jenny is quite correct. I do not remember any of the Boggs kids getting into significant trouble with the exception of one brother who had a drinking problem, now since overcome. He never did anything really bad, just DWI and such.
Daddy was always a positive influence in my life, he was an optimist and always said,"You don't have to look very far to see someone in worse shape than you." In other words, don't feel sorry for yourself which he lived and taught us by...I never saw him feeling sorry or pity for himself but I saw him extend his hand many times to help others..he was a very kind gentleman...or Gentle Man..both...if you remember gray hair, you must remember your grandfather's white hair because Daddy always had black hair, even when he died, his hair still had a lot of black in it with silver around the ears..
Once again, this reminds me to get my facts exactly right. In my defense, I am working from memories that are many decades old.
there were fights in our home from time to time, lots of cussing but Daddy preferred to drink up in the back pasture to avoid this...I only remember 1 time of seeing him and Mom actually scuffle and she got the best of him then...we tried to keep them apart whenever possible..mainly to keep them from fussing when he was drinking..as I said he was a Gentle Man but she could push those buttons occasionally..I am not excusing any behavior here but as a child and living it...we took the responsiblity of being adults sometimes much like children of alcoholics do...I remember Ben sitting in his car out in the field lots of times.
My Mother by the way never drank and for that I am thankful every day of my life...She and my Daddy were happy together most of the time, they moved out from your Grandad's built beautiful rock house in 73 and bought a house in Hackett not too far from the school..his drinking had slowed down but he didn't actually quit until 1980...he quit drinking and smoking at the same time...something I never ever dreamed would happen but a few minor health problems made him see things in a different light..In 1973 I was finishing high school in Fort Smith at Saint Anne's High School, and by that time has lost pretty much all contact with most of the Hackett folks with few exceptions. By the way last night Sr. Pierre Vorster, my high school biology teacher, called me and we talked for over half an hour. Next week the piece will be about her. I had not spoken with her for 35 years, since she attended the former Mrs. Translator's and my wedding. She is 90 years old and is the superintendent of grounds at her convent!
he and Mom were getting older and I talked them into moving 2 houses down from me in Charleston(where most of us kids were born in Bollinger Hospital)..in 1993...they had been here almost 6 months and Mother died of a heart attack in a Ft. Smith hospital on Feb. 25th, 1994 at the age of 67..she would have been 68 in June...Johnnie, her mum's name, died of the same thing that killed my mum. Most people think of heard disease as primarily a men's problem, but particularly after menopause heart disease is a very real threat to women.
Daddy lived by himself with assistance from me and my husband until he died in 2003.....in 95 he had a car accident that broke his arm, so that almost ended his days of being on crutches, he was pretty much confined to a wheel chair...up until a few months before he died, he still managed every day to call me and tell me to come down there, he was going to walk on his crutches and he did but only for a short distance from his couch to the patio door and back...he was very determined...For a man to overcome both addictions to alcohol and tobacco, determined is an understatement.
I watched out for him, took him to dr. appts.,did all of his errands and honestly, even though he lived by himself and took a lot of pride in that, he would have had to go in a nursing home if not for me and my husband...and, the last 6 months of his life were spent in the nursing home here in Charleston, 5 min. away from me...I can almost say the last 6 months of his life, I spent in the nursing home too...he had been diagnosed with lung cancer in Feb. of 03 and given 5 to 6 wks to live...he had to have a feeding tube put in and that stopped me being able to care for him at home but I made sure that I was with him most of the time at the nursing home...he lived for 6months after the terminal diagnosis but again, not once did I hear him complain and he would comment about how so and so was not doing very good...I use to think to myself,"Old man, you are in worse shape than they are.",This shows how well Ben raised his children. Jenny was dedicated to him.
True to Ben Boggs though, he always saw each day a gift and his life was fulfilled..he always said he loved all his kids and gave us and Mother credit for taking care of him when he was drunk...he knows had it not been for us, he probably would have died much younger...we spent many nights walking up in the back pasture to check on him, take him a bite to eat and some water...sometimes, I would just sack out in the back seat while he was passed out in the front...because of him, I learned to drive at a very early age(to keep him from getting DWI's or wrecking)...Mother was a horrible driver and I would have rather ride with Daddy driving drunker than ol Cooter Brown as we said than to risk riding with her..my baby brother Rockey is probably my best friend in the world..no matter how dark, what time of the night or day(I was a big chicken liver of the dark), he would get up and go with me on the trek to check on Dad...Daddy died peacefully in my arms on August 17th, 2003 at the age of 85...he would have been 86 in December..he was a Christian man and even though his life to you may have been a Sad one..to me and the rest of us Boggs kids, (and grandkids)..he was a very loving, sweet, hard working, independent Gentleman...he died a democrat, also debt free and very proud...he was a hero to me and I miss him very much..She was there to the very end for him. That is dedication.
I know this is a long email and rambles a bit..thank you for taking the time to indulge me...JennyThis is a very sweet and loving tribute to a father from his daughter. She gave me permission to use the entire email, and I thought it only fitting that she be given the entire post tonight except for a couple of comments on my part. Just as I said about her relative last week, she took the time and trouble to contact me with her issues and did so in a very nice manner. Even after 40 years, we are still friends.
P.S. One more thing, he actually didn't have his leg shot off, he was shot in the left hip and the bone was shattered, he laid on the battlefield for a few days before help came, gangrene set up, he lost his left foot first and then they had to take it off just below the knee....If I remember correctly, he stayed in the Army hospital on his stomach for over 2 yrs....he also received the Purple Heart, which he always thought was kind of funny because he said he was scared to death the whole short time he was in combat..he was only in the active army for 6 months when he got shot..maybe that is where I get my chicken liver from...haha..Regards to you David...
Note also that even though this was intended to be just a casual email to me, it is devoid of misspellings and grammatical errors. Jenny was one of the few in Hackett that pursued her education and obviously it has served her well. That is also a tribute to her parents, because statistics show that children of parents who insist on them doing well academically generally do. Jenny has the advantage of being bright as well, but even bright kids often do poorly if their parents are not involved with education. I think that Ben and Johnnie did very well indeed, and I regret that my recollection of Ben was so one sided. I appreciate the chance for her to give a much better accounting of him than I did.
If you have any stories that you would like to share about growing up, whether or not in a small town, please feel free to add them in the comments. I know that many readers of this series as well as I enjoy seeing them.
There are two other things that sort of stood out to me in addition to my meager comments. Ben was a Democrat, for one. The second is that Jenny is now a Kossack. Perhaps my ham handed piece about him did some good by causing the addition of a very bright and kind person to the community.
Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith