Where the Dirt Road Leads

A Lesson Learned From My Dad

Laura LoweDuring the summer of 1962 I learned a valuable lesson from my dad, though I did not know it at the time.

Daddy was a truck farmer. He grew vegetables, harvested them, and took them to Greenville, Alabama, to sell. He grew collards, butter beans, corn, okra, squash, field peas, tomatoes, and snap beans. That year he even planted a garden spot of butter beans for me to sell. I would pick my beans and he would load the hamper on the truck. He would give me all of the profit. 

I have such vivid memories of that summer. I went with daddy to town. He would bath and put on nice, clean, starched and ironed shirt and pants. When we arrived in town he would painstakingly visit every house in the neighborhood. I would wait in the truck while he would go around to the back door. Most of his customers were white housewives, and in those days my dad did what was expected of him. He was also very respectful. He would say "Good morning Ma'am, do you need any vegetables today?" They almost always did, and my dad and the lady would come to the truck. Most of the time she would have a big dish pan. We always sold out.

Sometime he would allow me to drive to the next house. He had taught me to drive the 1949 blue pickup truck with the three gears in floor, but I didn't have a driver's license so I didn't do much driving. It was a very hot summer and often I would get a headache and have to take an aspirin and lie down when we got home, but I would not have missed spending this time with my dad. 

The lesson I learned would come back to me years later when I became a real estate agent in the city of Columbus, Georgia. In the early years, I walked apartment complexes in the city and knocked on doors looking for leads to buyers. I also became an expert at cold-calling and developed many clients from those calls. It was almost like my dad walked with me or whispered to me to make another call when I became weary and disheartened. Oh how I thank God for my daddy.

tomatoes in basket
Photo by Adobe Stock/eqroy

Ties That Bind: Honoring a Mentor

Laura LoweThe photo below was taken on a recent visit to South Central Alabama. Shown left to right is Nadine Bell's niece Donna Perdue, Laura Lowe, Nadine Bell, and my cousin Viola Sellers.

 

ties

A mentor is someone who wants you to do well and will help in some way. Mentoring might consist of encouragement or some sort of tutelage. Mentors believe in you. It is amazing just how motivating that is. Mrs. John Bell — Nadine Bell — was this such person in my youth.

My mom was the Bell's cook for 30 years. My mom was beloved by them. She also loved them. It was not hard for my mom to love people. She seemed to love everyone no matter what race or socio-economic level. How she did this, I don’t know. The times in which they lived in the deep South were often dangerous, and racial segregation was the law. The critically acclaimed movie The Help, released in 2011, has a very familiar theme, but I believe my mother’s relationship with her employers was on a different level than those portrayed in the movie in that Mother seemed to always enjoy a respected position with the family as a confidant and friend.

My brother and I spent time with the Bells. The little field work I did was for Mr. John. One summer, my brother and I picked butter beans for him. He would take us with him at lunch time to buy lunch for the other workers. Mr. John’s life was interesting; he had gone to war and was seriously injured in action on August 28, 1944 in France. General Patton personally presented him with the highest honor a soldier can receive: the Purple Heart. According to a history of his life, John Bell was in the 3rd Armored Tank Division and served as a gunner on a medium tank. He lost five tanks before being blown up by a German 88. I remember him fondly. He treated my mother with respect, and even after she retired the Bells remained very close to my mom. When he died in 2002 at the age of 85, I journeyed from Columbus, Georgia to the Fort Deposit, Alabama area to attend the the services at the church and the repast at the home in which my mom had worked fall those years. Time and time again, family members came to me to tell me how much they loved my mom and remembered fondly some dish she prepared.

Nadine Bell impressed me because she seemed to be an independent woman. Yes, she was married, but she still seemed independent to me. She walked and talked proud and confidently. She drove a car — like a man, I thought.When riding with her, I would watch the way she shifted gears and I was so impressed. One of the things I wanted to do when I grew up was to own and drive a car. That was freedom, I thought. Daddy taught me to drive his pickup truck, but it would be years before I owned a car.

Mrs. Bell took an interest in my brother and me. She encouraged us to finish school. She always had uplifting things to say to us. When I think of the things she did for my family, I am grateful. She made sure my mom could one day draw a social security check, which made my mom’s later years more comfortable. She and her husband often visited my mom. They even drove over to Columbus, Georgia to visit my mom just before she died, as she had come to live with me six months hence. At my mom’s funeral, Nadine and her sisters were part of the ceremony. They later served the family at my cousin’s home in Honoraville where the repast was held. We have kept in contact since Mama’s death 21 years ago. I try to visit her sometimes when I am in the area.

To Mrs. Nadine Bell, I want to say thank you. Somehow it seems inadequate, but I hope you accept my belated appreciation and love. I am my mother’s daughter, and I am sure she would approve.

momma
My mom - Lorenzia Rope