Appalachia Appalachian Writers

Mama And The Splinters

Today’s guest post was written by G.W. Newton. It’s been over a year since GW first sent me the story about his Mother. After reading it, I immediately identified with her fierce determination-with her make do attitude-with her practical nature of just doing what needed to be done and not complaining about it. See if you do too. She reminds me of the strong women I’ve been blessed to know in my life.


Mama And The Splinters written by G.W. Newton.

The log cabin in GW's story


(The log cabin in GW’s story after it was moved to its present location in 1999.)

The log cabin I was born in has a long and varied history. It was built by my Grandma’s Papa in 1887 and used as a one room home, later as a Primitive Baptist church, and then moved three miles by my paternal grandparents for their first home.

After they built a new home, it was used as a makeshift jail when Grandpa was Sheriff of Colquitt County in the 1890’s, a corn crib one season, and then moved across the field to the hill where it sat for the next ninety-nine years.

The cabin served as a home for several tenant families before Papa purchased it along with one hundred acres from his Papa shortly after he got married in 1935. Even after our family left the cabin, it stayed there for 65 more years, used for tenant farmer’s homes, as a tobacco pack house, and then sat empty until 1999 when it was moved to a new location.

When Papa brought Mama to the “new house” in 1935 she was a young and blushing bride, who knew little to nothing about home making and less about house keeping. Raising children was not her mama’s strong suite, so Mama, Miss Opal, was left to her own devices to make a home.

Papa’s Mama, did not approve of the tenant farmer’s daughter he married, and she did little in those first years to help or guide Mama. There is more to that story, though, for as Grandma saw what a good woman my Mama became, she became her best friend and supporter. Grandma told me that it was because of her prayers and Mama’s goodness, that her son, David, turned out to be the man he became.

The cabin had a main room that served as living room, bed room, and parlor, with a fireplace for heat, and one light hanging down in the center of the room after the R.E.A. brought electricity to the farm in 1938.

Behind the front room was the small kitchen with a wood stove which had one light and off to the side was a back porch where we took our baths in a #3 wash tub. To the right of the main room was another small room that served as a bedroom for us four boys.

The cabin didn’t have a ceiling in the kitchen and back room and the only heat was from the fireplace and the cook stove. Funny thing, I don’t remember ever being cold in that house. Childhood memories are that way I guess.

The cabin was set inside a fenced clean-swept dirt yard, to keep the chickens, cows, hogs, mules, and horse outside. To the north, the chickens had their own house and yard out past the privy by the Yellow Plum Orchard.

Just outside the front gate was the wood pile where both firewood and stove wood were piled. There was usually a fat lighterd stump or jump-butt (cat face) out there for splinters used to start fires.

Papa was not a happy farmer in those early years. He was the youngest of nine children, raised by his five sisters and his mama as the “Little Prince”, so when he decided to marry, against everyone’s wishes, he suddenly had to learn the “cold hard facts of life”.

Mama quickly found that to be David’s wife, and by then pregnant with her second child, she had to make do just to survive those first years. Many quiet wagers and prayers were made during those years that when her sharecropper Daddy moved on to another farm so would she.

Papa tried to be a good husband but his happy boyhood memories kept getting in the way of the reality he faced, of suddenly being a poor dry land farmer. That was the price he paid to earn his independence from his father who only wanted his son to become a good farmer, husband, and Christian.

Mama learned that keeping a fire going was a lot easier than trying to start a new one before each meal. But it was just about a full time job to keep a few hot coals in the stove.

Getting Papa to keep a pile of stove wood split was near impossible. He left the house early, came back in from the fields late, and was usually angry about something so his mind was on other things than the wood pile.

Mama learned to split the pine logs and chop the stove wood. But many times Papa forgot to replace the fat lightered stump for splinters and the often damp stovewood was impossible to light without kindling. Then one day, as she was chasing a hog out from under the house she discovered “King Midas’s treasure!”

The cabin sat about thirty inches above the ground with the new front porch on brick pillars. BUT, the main cabin rested on the original pillars from 1887 and they were of hand-hewn heart pine, which is pure LIGHTERD!

Never again was she troubled for splinters. She went to the wood pile when there were lightered stumps to be used, but if there were none, she and her trusty hatchet went to work on the pillars. Papa was never the wiser.

In 1999 when the cabin was torn down to be moved for the last time, the workmen commented on the pine pillars that had so many chipped and odd shaped corners. None of us children knew why so we asked Mama.

She was almost defiant as she described how she had out-smarted our father so many years ago. She said, “That old sow did me the best favor of my young life when I chased her out from under the house, for I discovered that every pillar under there was pure lighterd. All those years when David was so mad at the world, I just got my splinters the best way I could, and didn’t bother him. But just to stay out of trouble, I would spit on some dirt, and rub it on the fresh chop marks, so they didn’t show. David never did find out.”


I hope you enjoyed G.W.’s guest post as much as I did. The story of his Mother making do with what she had, of doing what she had to do, of keeping it to herself all those years really stirs my heart. I don’t in any way think I’m as strong a woman as she was, but I want to be.

If you’d like to read more about G.W.’s childhood-you’re in luck. He has just published a book: A Bunch Of Wiregrass. For more information you can contact him at the following address

GW Newton 476 Jewell Mason Rd. Blairsville, GA 30512 or you can email GW at: [email protected]

Leave GW a comment and I’ll make sure he reads it!



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  • Reply
    David Templeton
    January 20, 2012 at 8:51 am

    We are fortunate that you know so many people like Mr. Newton. His is good writing, free of hackneyed terms and tiresome idiom; he talks like normal people talk and his story is enjoyable because it has no flowery wordy distractions. He should have written his book and it will be as enjoyable as his story given here. Thank you, Mr. Newton and thank you Tipper for all that is Blind Pig and The Acorn.

  • Reply
    January 20, 2012 at 6:38 am

    Wonderful story. Many things reminded me of Grandma’s house, except it was brick not a log cabin. I loved chopping wood for the old wood stove that sat in the kitchen and we hauled water from Grandma’s pump across the field to our house.
    Thanks for the memories. It was so nice to hear from you.

  • Reply
    January 20, 2012 at 6:05 am

    I enjoyed this story. I love all your posts, but I don’t always have time to read them. Thanks

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    January 19, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    I have been blessed to know some of those fine, strong mountain women & no matter what hard times I might live through, I know I could not touch the hem of their aprons!

  • Reply
    January 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    I really enjoyed Mr. Newton’s story from a past generation. It
    was a hard thing for women back
    then to be thrusted into all the
    hardships of daily life. I
    sincerely hope he sells a bunch of
    those Wiregrass books…Ken

  • Reply
    January 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    What a wonderful story –it sure should make each of us appreciate the value of strong women and to be of thankfullness to not have to do all she did—I love the picture of the olde log cabin.

  • Reply
    Lonnie Dockery
    January 19, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Wonderful story! There are still lots of strong women in these hills. And Tipper, I expect Miss Cindy is right when she says you are one of them.

  • Reply
    January 19, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Great story! I’m thankful for the modern conviences we have now. I look back at my own Mother’s life and she had it rough at times. They had to be strong to manage the way they did.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth K
    January 19, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Wonderful story! Thanks for sharing it!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    January 19, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Tipper, and
    G W..thanks for sharing this story, it is a wonderful vision of times past…Those gals didn’t have much time to do any loafin”.
    I often wonder when we look back at today’s women (and men) and the hard times some of them are having…(even though we have modern conveniences).. if we will read stories of stuggles and making do in their own way!
    Thanks again for a great post..

  • Reply
    January 19, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Great story! What an example of a woman with a ‘make-do’ attitude.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    January 19, 2012 at 10:01 am

    What a wonderful glimpse into the past. I never underestimate the strength of women. The inner strength it takes to birth babies, keep them fed and warm, etc. Even though many of us women have it pretty easy these days, I’d like to think we could tap into that inner reserve of strength to get the job done!

  • Reply
    January 19, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Great story! Loved how she did what she had to do to keep her family taken care of without putting any added pressure on her husband. Reminds me of so many strong and resourceful women that I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded with in my life. Love how they kept and the ways they utilized the little cabin all those years.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    January 19, 2012 at 9:12 am

    What a wonderful story! It was rather tough back then. Sometimes I wonder if some of us city bred beings would survive if placed into the days gone by.

  • Reply
    January 19, 2012 at 8:47 am

    I loved this story. I know it took place in a different day and time, but I glad most women don’t have to go along to get along now.
    I think it may have been John Wayne in one of his movies when he was talking about some girl that was tough as nails which had just knocked some guy down. He said, “That girl is tough Pilgrim but, I’m by my women the way I am by horses. If your horse ain’t got spirit you don’t want it, but I wouldn’t give a dime for one that ain’t got spirit.”
    It is a good thing I feel that way cause my wife is as high spirited as a wild Texas Mustang!
    I really enjoyed G.W.’s story.

  • Reply
    January 19, 2012 at 8:44 am

    I loved the story ~~ reminded me so much of the old house I was raised in. I think we heated with coal by the time I could remember things, but I do know our woodpile was by a white oak tree outside the back door. I’d like to think I could make do ~~ but who knows? Just hope I never have to. 😉

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 19, 2012 at 8:30 am

    What a beautiful story and yes, there was real strength in the women that came before us. Tipper, there is no less strength in you. I know, I’ve watched you. You have the same strength of conviction in caring for your family.
    Every time I see a picture of a cabin like this one I wonder about it’s history and the families it has held. This one has quite a story to tell!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 19, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Great story…reminds me of the house my dad grew up in. Started life as a cabin, was converted into a one room school house then bought by my grandfather who added 2 bedrooms and a a kitchen at some point. He lived in the house until his death in 1969 when it was purchased by a cousin who lives there still.

  • Reply
    January 19, 2012 at 8:28 am

    I Love that cabin, would also love to own it and live in it if we could add electric and an indoor potty

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    January 19, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Great story Mr. Newton, thank you for sharing it with us Tipper.
    I remember my mother telling me about sweeping the yard when she was a child. They would use what she called broom sage that grew wild. They would cut it and bundle it and then tie one end tight to make a handle. Everytime I see it growing in a field I think about that. The cabin in the picture is wonderful.I would love to visit it and imagine life back then. Boy, now we complain if the air conditioner is broken and think we can’t live without it!

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    January 19, 2012 at 8:08 am

    Now that is just as fine a story of making do as you’re going to come across. G.W., you’ve captured the silent but defiantly proud spirit that is present in many of a mountain woman.
    Like the lighterd pillars she chipped away at, she quietly supported the home and gave of herself in ways that nobody knew about.
    My siblings and I were blessed to see that same spirit at work in our own Mama when we were growing up – though (speaking for myself) we didn’t understand the extent of strength and pride that was present there until much later on.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    January 19, 2012 at 8:02 am

    That is a real nice story. I remember my Mamaw sweeping a lot as well. There were 11 children. My mama was the oldest and of course had to do things like collected splinter wood for fires. And after several were married and had their own children, it would get mighty crowded for the after church Sunday dinner at Mamaw and Papa’s house. With all the cousins running to and fro you know there was a lot dirt trackin’, but Mamaw never said much about it. Sunday dinners were a tradition as I grew up…but that’s another story. Thanks for bringing back good memories.

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    January 19, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Wow, tears to the eyes with this one. So many memories of ‘strong women’ I have known came back with a rush.
    Sweeping the yard, keeping a fire and making do. Hardship and humor were the way of life.
    Thanks to you both!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    January 19, 2012 at 7:34 am

    A great story, GW! Sure makes me appreciate what we have now, although the people I know who lived that lifestyle look back on it with fondness.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 19, 2012 at 5:52 am

    I loved this little story. Reminded me so much of my early childhood. Especially the part about the swept yard. My mother swept our little house twice a day, sometimes more depending on how much dirt six kids could track in. When the rough wood floor wore out most of the bristles on her broom she’d set it aside to sweep the steps and the yard, which she did regularly when the weather was dry.

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