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Drue Stories

In January 1973, my sister Becky and I visited my grandmother, Drue Shipman and my grandfather Gar Shipman at their home in Corinth, Mississippi. She was a storyteller, she loved to tell them and we enjoyed them immensely. We were college students on winter break and brought a cassette recorder along for the visit. My sister Becky recently found the tape recordings, which we both lost track of in the course of our lives. Following is a transcription of the recordings of some of the stories. (I will add more, as I can) The transcription of course can not match the flavor of her voice and drama and laughter, but will have to do for now. To hear one of her stories in her voice, from the recording we made.. scroll down to "Aunt Alma's Pussycat". click on the mp3 player located above the title of the story.

Drue was born (Nellie Drue McKinney) in Red Sulphur Springs, Tennessee in 1911. She was the daughter of Nellie Bazzell and John Rosemond McKinney. Nellie died of consumption when Drue was a child of two and John was murdered in Arkansas in 1926, when Drue was 16. Drue was partly raised by her grandmother, Martha Elizabeth (Sanders) McKinney - known by local people as "Grandma McKinney". Her life sounds sad and hard (they were poor) but my grandmother told her stories because she loved to tell about her life, the people in it and she found humor and laughter in all of it. My grandmother died in 1996 and we miss her, we miss her stories and we are so glad she told them.


All the people were really superstitious. We used to say that if somebody come to your house on New Year's, if they come, if ladies come all your chickens would be hens and pullets, if a man come all of em would be roosters. If they wanted to raise a lot of pullets if a man come, they'd be very displeased!

Gar had an aunt, your mama's great aunt, she'd be your great great aunt. (talking to Becky) She was the world's worst! She was really superstitious , of everything. Especially washing clothes on Wednesday! She just couldn't stand to know of anybody washing on Wednesday. She left her husband, got mad at him, left him for a week or two one time and came to our house and got real sick. She had a high fever, doctor come and give her medicine and her perspiration was so, I had to change her clothes every morning, put on the stove, boil em and turn em out and have em ready for the next morning.

Well, Wednesday morning come, and I knew how she felt about Wednesday. I went to see bout washin her clothes, I said "Aunt Jackie, how you feeling this morning?", "Oh, I'm just so much better! I just feel so much better! I didn't have that bad sweat last night, and I reached over and felt her and I said "Shoot, you did too!, you was just as wet as water! Well, she said it'd be all right today, you just worked so hard, you don't need to take these off today. I knew how she's gettin, and said, Yea, yea, these clothes got to come off! And she held on to em, cried, begged me not to take the clothes off and I just give her a sponge bath and pulled them off anyway, she still wouldn't let me get that sheet off. She said, well promise me one thing. You won't wash until tomorrow. And I said I can't do that, I haven't got but them clothes. She just begged and pleaded with me not to wash them. I just laughed at her and went on and put em in the pot and boiled em. She'd a been saying, " I wish I was dead!, I wish I was dead!, I wish I was dead! I told her one time I didn't want to hear her say that anymore.

She'd hush that and I went up the next morning to change her bed, and I said "Aunt Jackie how you feeling? She said, I'm better. I said, you not supposed to be! She said "What do you mean? I said, you're supposed to be dead this morning! (laughing) She said "Don't you never risk nothin else like that again!" She said, "You're just lucky!" "You're just lucky that I didn't die! (more laughter) I hadn't convinced her at all!

And after that I went to her house one time, she was awfully superstitious...I went to her house one time, she was always whistlin , something dreadful's gone to happen! Twice, recently, a woodpecker's been on the east side of the house a peckin', She said when they get on that side of your house a peckin' on a wall you better watch out!, Somethingdreadful's gone a happen! (more laughter) She was so superstitious. Gar's mother would go over there and she'd just fuss on her for washing on Wednesday and all that stuff. It was real to her!

("aunt Jackie was Jackie (Stockton) Cresap. She is buried at White Sulphur Cemetery in Tennessee. She was my grandfather Gar's maternal aunt. She was born in 1891 and died in 1955.)

My Calf

Let me tell you about this little calf I had....I'd just married you know, and ,Oh she was so pretty and she was a good cow! I always heard that a cow had to eat their afterbirth, no, really and truly, I'd always heard that and I wasn't no more than 18 years old and I thought that was gospel! I went down to the bottom and there she'd had her calf. And there was that afterbirth layin in the stable and I stayed down there with her as long as I could and I was going to make her eat it! I had to go back to the house and get me something then I spent some more time with her that evenin. I got me an old rag, and wiped the dirt off and got me a stick and I'd get her to open her mouth and I poked it in there, and she's shake her head and spit it out the other side (more laughter)

I worried all evening tryin to get her to swallow that thing, and I cried cuz, she wouldn't eat it! I just knew she was goin to die! That night, Gar come in I told him about it he just died laughin! I said I made him promise him not to tell nobody. I said "don't you tell nobody that!" Then I said, what are we going to do? He said well, I'll go down there and take the thing off and bury it. He said you actually believe that silly stuff! I said, well I'd been told that, I guess I wasn't a very good midwife. (laughter) I guess I didn't hurt the cow none, but I worried her to death, tryin to make her eat that! (more laughter)


Talking bout Midwifing, my grandmother was a midwife

(Grandma McKinney-
Martha Elizabeth (Sanders) McKinney-picture at left )

She delivered more babies in that whole county than any doctor,in fact she delivered your granddaddy. Yep, she's tellin us some funny things about midwifing...Said she once went to this place, the people were so poor, they didn't hardly have clothes to put on, and there were two beds in the main room, just had two rooms, they had a kitchen, and they had this other bedroom with a big fireplace in it, and there's two beds, and the lady was on one of the beds and she was going to give birth to a baby. The old man's got the other kids up and took em away from the chimney corner and she knew it was freezin , she told him, I can't work with her till, you go and get those children and bring them back in, or they're going to freeze! They can just turn their heads the other way.

Well he went out and brought em back in the house and set em down there until the baby's born. Well there was a little girl named Liza Jane, and the old man was saying "Step Lively! Liza Jane! Help Mrs. McKinney, Get her some things, help her...! Get her something to wash this baby in! And Grandmother said when she got there she hadn't found any utensils or anything. He said get her something to wash this baby in! Get a teacup! (laughter) She said, well you just set down there, honey, I'll just wait on myself! So she went in the kitchen, layed the baby down and went in the kitchen and couldn't find a thing in the world, but an iron skillet! She got the skillet, got it down in front of the fire, the old man had plenty of water, that's the one thing they had plenty of, had plenty of water combined it with soap, she mashed it and combined it with water and scrubbed that skillet.

Got it clean enough to use it for a pan to bathe the baby in. And then after she got it bathed and wrapped up in something, they didn't have no clothes, the kids were all hungry, daylight had come, and she got down again, carried the skillet in the kitchen, cooked them some food in it (laughed again) then she went home (laughing) One skillet! they had to use it for everything! I said, "Grandma, did you eat any breakfast that mornin?" She said, "honey, I didn't eat there. It was clean, cause I didn't feed any to them till it was clean, cleanest thing they ever had, I guess, but I waited till I got home! (more laughing)

The Hobo and Nell

When I was little we lived about a mile and a half from anybody. There was wild goats out and they had a big fence, so me and Corbin wouldn't get killed from them goats!

(Picture at left -Drue (age 2) and Corbin (age 4)

And there's always hobos coming down the river on the riverboats, and they'd get off before they got to Hamburg landing some of them big landings, walk through the country, then catch the boat below, because they'd probably get arrested at those big landings they's probably escaping from the law or something. One day my grandfather (William "Hugh" McKinney) and daddy was in a field plowin, and this man come through, he's a tough lookin character, and daddy said, (he's tellin me this), "Pa I believe I better go and get on my mule and ride up and see about Nell, she's not feeling very well, and that's a tough lookin man that went by here" And he'd plowed longer than he thought he had after he went by, but he got up on his mule and went up there, and said Mama was just dying laughing!

She never was afraid of nothing. She kept a big old double barreled shotgun loaded, settin around. She's settin in the hall, mending or something, sewing or something, and said she heared the gate click, open, the man was coming in the gate and she said "You stop there! Don't you come in this gate! but he just started on in anyway. So she reached and got her shotgun, and he was going to run. She said, "if you run, I'll shoot you! If you come in gate". She was real little, thin, weighed about 110 pounds. So that scared him, he's a fixin to take off. So she said, "If you run, I'll shoot you. And if you come in this gate, I'll shoot you! You stand right where you are!" What was you coming in here for anyway? and he said "Oh, Lady I just wanted some food and drink" She said well, you seen me sittin here, why didn't you holler? He said, I didn't mean no harm!" She said, I think you did but you going to get some food and water, and he said, "No ma'am I don't want anything!"

She said, "yes, you do too, you stand there , If you run, I'll shoot you!" The well was in the yard and the food, she could just go right on in she went in the house, and she said "I can see you through this window now, if you run, I'll shoot you! (laughing) he stood there at the gate and she went in there and got him a plate of food, went to the well and got him some water, poured him a jar of clean water, and he looked like he was scared to death, a great big old huge man...and he said I really don't want anything and she handed it to him and said "You eat every bite of that food and drink all that water!" And she helt the gun on him and made him eat and drink! (laughing) And she was so tickled when daddy got there, he said "Nell, did that man come out here and scare you? She said, "no he didn't scare me, but I sure scared the fire out of him! (laughing) She said, "I filled him up with food and water, and then scared him too. After you eat, ok get down the road! He went down that road a runnin as hard as he could run! (more laughter) He probably did mean harm!

The Dog's Tail
(Picture left) John McKinney, Nellie McKinney and their children, Corbin and Nellie (Drue)

He kept that gun loaded, we weren't afraid. He'd take that gun out and kill squirrels, and shoot them for supper. Daddy never left her alone up there at night, I'm pretty sure hardly ever this one occasion he had gone with his friends, Jim Ledbetter, Jim South (White Sulphur Cemetery,Hardin County, TN 1893-1965) and Elmer Ledbetter (White Sulphur Cemetery, Hardin County, TN 1893-1947) They's out possum hunting and they decided they'd go by our house and have some fun with daddy. And they seen his buggy was there,well they just knew he was there you see, but they didn't know somebody 'd come by to get him to go somewhere, and he was gone.

Mr. Jim South was tellin me about this one time, not ...Oh, I guess the children were great big children, Billy was a pretty good sized baby. He said "Let me tell you how brave your mother was!" "Are you afraid of anything?" I said, "well, no, not much." He said "well, you takin after your mother I guess, cause she wasn't either." He said they went in front of the house to not scare daddy, but have some fun out of him. They said (In deep scary voice) Helloooo in there! They got a little closer and (in deep scary voice) Helloooo in there! Bout that time they heard somebody jump out of bed and uh, he realized daddy wasn't there...and he said "Run, Elmer, Run!...that's Nell, and she's gettin that gun and she's by herself!

They took off running , they went up the road like that and they had a window by the fireplace, a slide window. And that's what really scared em...they heard that window slide open. And they took off down that path and he said he could just feel her shootin him right in the back! Bout that time he heard that window open he knocked Elmer Ledbetter right down and he fell down, and she shot right down through there, (laughing) got the dog's tail, shot the dog's tail off! (more laughing) Said she'd of killed both of em, if he hadn't knocked them down. That ole double barrelled shotgun both barrells went off right down that path right over their heads! (more laughing) Shot the dog's tail off.

Said they went on, they's afraid to go back that night to try to apologize you know, afraid they'd scare Nell. They went on home and went back the next morning and told it was them and they really was sorry. She said well, don't think you never scared me, cause I'm not afraid, as long as I've got a gun, nobody's gonna hurt me or my children. (more laughing)

Aunt Alma's Pussycat

Click the player above to hear my grandmother tell one of her favorite stories of a family character, Aunt Alma.
Please be patient, it's an old recording with a little static at the beginning before the story starts.

Aunt Alma's Pussy Cat
I wish you could of known my Aunt Alma Jones. She's my great aunt and she'd be your mama's great great aunt. She was a character! Talked with a real shrill high voice (imitating her voice). In the winter time she'd sit around with a big fire in the fire place, and the door just as wide open, snow all over the porch, I never went there in my life with the door shut! She's just that kind of character. She'd sit down with a big sweater on, and heavy shoes and she'd say "Dave, bring in some more wood, and he'd just pile wood! He burnt more wood than anybody in the country just because she wouldn't shut the door! (Becky asks why she kept the door open)
She just liked fresh air! (Imitating her voice again) "Who could stand an ole house, shut up all the time!" (laughing, "that's just the way she talked!")
Oh, she'd just keep you in stitches! Me and Irene (Irene McKinney Robinson, my grandmother's aunt - who was close in age to her) use go to the grocery store, we'd have to walk out in the country, and we just had to go by Aunt Alma's, and Grandma (Grandma McKinney) would say "Now, don't go by Alma's and stay all day! She'd take care of Nellie, Melba and Irene's kids and we'd leave her there and go get a whole load of groceries. Instead of hurrying back home, we just HAD to go by Aunt Alma's, just a little piece, just to see how she was, and she'd tell us things and we'd talk, she'd have us just in stitches!

One day we went there and she said "Y'all ought to been here this morning!" Irene said, "Why? Aunt Alma?

(Imitating her voice again) We had roasted pussy cat for breakfast! (Laughing again)
"What you mean, Aunt Alma, you had pussy cat for breakfast?"
(Alma) "Well, you know Dave gets up and builds a fire in the stove and builds a fire in the fireplace, then goes down and milks the cow, and I'm never in no hurry, I's about an hour getting down to my kitchen. I got down there and made up my biscuits, and I opened the door (to the woodstove) and there's Old Tom! He's a roasted! Just a settin up there, with those paws up, you talkin about stinkin! Whooah you could smell him all over this house! She said, we had roasted Pussy Cat! (Drue is laughing now...) We just laughed at her!
Then one of us, Irene I guess, said "well what'd you do about your biscuits, Aunt Alma?"
(Alma) "Why, I threw them things away! You think I'm fixing to cook in that old pussy cat oven?" and she threw that stove away! Uncle Dave had to get her a new stove and they cooked on the fireplace until he could order a stove. She would never cook on that stove no more! Oh, she was the peculiarest thing! (Someone asks in the background - did she do it on purpose?) Drue explains as if she is Alma..."Why somebody left the door open last night, Dave went down there in the dark last night to light the stove, he didn't light the lamp , we didn't have no electric light, he just pushed the door to, and old Tom had slept in the oven. And it cooked him!

We went by there one time, and she said "Y'all better watch out!" Look at your salt boxes! (Drue explains... We bought salt in bags, we didn't have this dry salt like we have now ) she said, "I found a big wad of green stuff in my salt this morning,. Irene said "well, what'd you do? You just throw that wad out, your salt'd be all right, Aunt Alma."

(Aunt Alma) "Why, it wouldn't! I had Dave Jones bury that whole sack of salt! Some foreigners is tryin to kill us all, Irene, you'd better watch your salt!"
She was a character! She'd read! I'm tellin you! She'd read everything all over that country and set up there with that door wide open, a big roarin fire, all bundled up in that chimney corner, a reading! And they all waited on her hand and foot! (Laughing again)

That was my grandpa McKinney's sister. He had a sense of humor, just like she did. Aunt Alma was a twin, Aunt Alma and Aunt Alice.