BY ADA BROWNELL
The old cook stove hadn’t had a fire in it for a while because of the hot weather, but that day wood was laid inside and set ablaze.
My big sister, Joan, seven years older than I, decided to give me a bath. I probably was a toddler. Thinking the stove was cool, she set the dishpan, which was my bathtub, on the stove. Then she plopped my bare body beside it.
Where was Mama?
I don’t know for sure, but I can guess. She probably was in my family’s huge garden, planting, watering, harvesting, hoeing, or something. making sure the ten of us had food to eat.
I was born in 1937 on the tail of The Great Depression. Daddy and my oldest brother, Virgil, worked 12 hours a day shoveling coal from railroad cars onto trucks. Their pay? Each of them earned one dollar for the entire day.
The family had hard times before. Refugees from Kansas droughts, dust storms, and locust devastations, after moving to Colorado the cupboards were bare but their land and irrigation water promised food for the future. They could fill canning jars and then the cellar.
I don’t think they contacted a doctor when burns covered my bottom. Except for once when I had croup and the doctor came to the house, as far as I know I didn’t go to a doctor until after I was married.
I learned at a young age my parents had no money. When I was in the third grade the teacher told every student there was a fee for books and things that our parents had to pay. I didn’t give the note about it to my parents, and didn’t tell them about the fee.
The teacher reminded us frequently in class that if we hadn’t paid, we better get it in. I ignored it. I thought I had invaded our family which already had seven children and I didn’t want to cause trouble or cost my parents anything. One big joke in our house was how angry my oldest sister became when Mama had another baby. My sis, Marjorie, wouldn’t look me for a week because she was so mad. So I felt guilty. They had enough children when I barged in.
Marjorie became, however, one of the most loving people in our family, but I’ll tell about that later.
My teacher gave me a D-grade in citizenship because I didn’t bring the money. Mama, a redhead like me, believed in education and was astounded by my low grade. She trotted the half mile to the school and demanded to see the teacher.
Mama admitted there was no money, but Daddy now had a better job. Although he was blind in one eye, he drove a truck for Grand Oil Company delivering oil to farmers. Yet, to pay the fee they had to take a little bank, a tiny Pennzoil can with a slit in the top, and save pennies and few nickels until they could pay the school.
While they were still in Kansas the depression hit hard and Dad thought up many things to provide for his family. One year there was no firewood, but near their house was a huge tree stump. He decided to dynamite it and made the dynamite out of sugar and salt peter. When he was pounding the substance into a crevice in the stump, it exploded, driving a sliver about six inches long through his eyeball.
He waited until morning and that time he had to go to a doctor. When the doctor removed the sliver, Daddy was blind in that eye.
But Dad kept going. During the drought he dammed up the creek and figured out how to irrigate his garden. That year the cellar was full and by bartering food from the garden, Virgil was able to go to high school. The food paid for his board.
The high school was too far away to walk and Virgil no longer had a horse. When the locusts came, probably the previous year, my grandfather put poison around his corn trying to save it. Virgil’s treasured Shetland pony got into the poison and died. The locusts were so bad they even ate all the onions in Dad’s garden out of the ground, and anything else available, including brooms, clothing and leaves off the trees.
The family didn’t know then how important it was for Virgil to receive his high school diploma. Years later Virgil earned his doctorate in education and sociology and not only became a college professor but became the force behind Evangel University’s great accreditation.
Although I was too young to remember, I’m sure I had third-degree burns from Joan setting me on the stove. I remember nothing about it. Mama, as most people did in that day, probably used home remedies. But I believe the biggest thing was prayer.
Before our family arrived in Fruita, Colo., from Kansas, a little church heard a big family was moving to town and began to pray for us.
Shortly, a new friend Marjorie met at the Fruita high school invited her to church. Determination to go filled Marge, but Mama pitched a fit. The church was Pentecostal. A Holy Roller church!
Mama, a Methodist, was raised by Christian parents, but from what older siblings told me the hardships and trials of life left her faith pretty beat up.
“Let her go,” Daddy said, “I hear they teach children to obey their parents there.”
Young men working with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a public work relief program that was part of the New Deal, swarmed all over our valley, and some of them had their eyes on my older sisters. Daddy didn’t like it.
So Marjorie went to church, accepted Jesus as her Savior and suddenly changed. The family later told me she was filled with joy and love. Rebellion and selfishness disappeared.
Virgil, Everette, Clara and all those who were old enough to understand the gospel, including my parents, were born again by God’s power. They were discipled in the Word and knew how to pray. I’m sure when Mama discovered what happened to me, she asked the church to pray. Perhaps the pastor came and anointed me with oil.
They might have given a doctor a couple of chickens to look at the burns. I should have asked Mama and the older children while they were still alive.
It’s strange how people often experience or know of a miracle and forget it. I’ve thought of the scars few times in my life. Two scars about the size of an egg have been on my back side as long as I remember. As I grew, the skin stretched and the scars went up to my lower back.
After I got married, my husband asked what caused the scars. Occasionally doctors asked, “What happened there?” Otherwise I never thought of the miraculous recovery that the scars represented.
I should have said, “A miracle.” Only in recent years have I thanked God for life that could have ended because of the burns.
In the same way, I now realize how close I came to being blind. When I was an infant, my 2-year-old brother emptied a salt shaker into my eyes. I thank God for eyesight.
Mama and my older brothers and sisters might not have been able to watch me all the time, but I’m thankful my Heavenly Father saw me and heard when my family prayed.
The Lord told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” (Jeremiah 1:5 NKJ ). David wrote, “You have covered me in my mother’s womb… My frame wasn’t hidden from you, when I was made in secret… your eyes saw my substance” (Psalm 139: 13-17 NKJ).
Psalm 33 tells us “The Lord looks from heaven; he sees all the sons of men. From the place of his habitation he looks on all the inhabitants of the earth” (Psalm 33:13-14 NKJ).
I learned “Jesus Loves Me” at a young age. I memorized John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
I’m so glad God not only exists, but He loves me and hears and answers prayer.
Copyright 2017 Ada Brownell
This book is fictional suspense based on things I heard about my maternal grandmother's life.
THE LADY FUGITIVE
By Ada Brownell
Jennifer Louise Parks escapes from an abusive uncle who is a judge. Will she avoid the bounty hunters? Can she forgive the person who turns her in?
Reviewer: The adventures and mishaps that JL Parks gets into will have you laughing out loud, biting your nails and perhaps even wishing you had a gun with which to help.
The most common remarks among readers of The Lady Fugitive “I couldn’t put it down;” “I love the characters;” “Sorry when it was over.” “I was hooked from the opening page.”
Available in paper and for Kindle
The Lady Fugitive 2015 Laurel Award runner-up.