Unless otherwise noted, the Kathryn Tucker Windham blog is written by her children, Ben Windham and Dilcy Windham Hilley.)
We didn’t yell in our house when we were growing up. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember a voice ever being raised except in a joyful moment or in the telling of a story that required it.
We children did yell a lot in the deep lush woods behind our house. The woods provided a supreme playground for a neighborhood full of children. There, we could crawl through ditches, climb trees and play war. War was a favorite pastime of the boys in the neighborhood, and brother Ben often recruited me to serve as the decoy. The decoy’s responsibility was to run past enemy lines while being pelted with hard balls of sticky red clay. I have no idea why I agreed time and again to be the decoy. It was just big brother adoration, I suppose.
My mother devoted much of her time and energy to the church, and she did her best to follow the teachings of the Bible. That wasn’t always the easiest route while raising three rambunctious young children, but she rarely showed what must have been a recurring state of aggravation. I expect the pages of her Bible were thin and worn around Proverbs 15:1 which says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
I do remember a few trying times when most parents would have howled in anger---but not my mother. When she reached her boiling point, she would declare calmly, “I’m going to run screaming to the woods.”
As a child, I was horrified by that statement. I envisioned my sweet mother, hair in flames of anger, racing through the woods, her curdling Tarzan-like scream echoing through the oaks. My brother and sister knew that statement meant it was time to quietly disappear. I, on the other hand, would beg Mother not to carry out this horrid vow. Soon, we all would settle down and peace and calm would return.
But to this day when I’m frustrated and tired and angry, I can hear my mother saying, “I’m going to run screaming to the woods.” And I know what she meant….
(Unless otherwise noted, the Kathryn Tucker Windham blog is written by her children, Ben Windham and Dilcy Windham Hilley.)
My brother and I hit our teenage years and early twenties in the heart of the hippie movement.
It was an energetic time to be young. We had wars to protest, nature to worship, artistic music to experience, establishment to rebel against, and lots and lots of long beautiful hair.
In Selma, as in most of Alabama at that time, the movement was much more about hair than it was about drugs and being antiestablishment, and, man, did those freak flags fly. Our former-military high school principal would have none of it and regularly suspended the boys whose hair tickled their shirt collars. That often meant those same boys were ejected from their homes for refusing to conform.
Oh, it felt good to rebel. It didn’t, however, feel so good to be hungry.
For some reason that can be explained only as having a Haight Ashbury inner child, my mother regularly welcomed our long-locked friends into our home. She fed them when they were hungry and sometimes even negotiated a truce with their parents. The accord generally involved a haircut, but not before Mother would share with the boys an ode to revolt she remembered from her childhood. It went:
“Johnny Boy, who cut your hair?
You say your mother did.
Did she cut it with a meat axe,
You funny looking kid?
Did she freeze it, son,
And break it off?
Whatever she did was wrong.
So take my advice
If you wanna look nice,
And, Johnny, let your hair grow long!”
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"Some people are important to intellectuals, journalists, or politicians, but Kathryn Tucker Windham is probably the only person I know in Alabama who is important to everybody."
–Wayne Flynt, Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at Auburn University.
Ben Windham & Dilcy Windham Hilley
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