by Peggy Rice Wright
Jody and Josie had lived on the hill just west of us from the time I was a small child. They moved there because Daddy needed a good hand on the farm that he operated. For years I wondered why anyone would have chosen Jody to work on a farm. He had only one arm, and one would think he would be almost useless. How wrong I was!
I spent many hours watching Jody. He was extremely resourceful, and I was amazed by the things he could do.
He told me he lost his arm as a child when he fell into a pot of lye soap his mother was making. I never really knew if he was telling me the truth, and for sure I didn’t understand how it could have happened. There was nothing from his shoulder down, and he would have had a terrible time keeping the strap of his overalls in place had he not twisted them in the back to keep the strap from slipping off his shoulder. His superfluous khaki shirtsleeve was tied in a knot to prevent its entanglement in the farm equipment.
There seemed to be no limit to his ability to live his life with one arm. As an only child with little entertainment but to carry a book to the hay loft and read, I was usually at his heels. He allowed me to watch incredulously as he created a furrow in the leg of his starched blue overalls that would allow him to place a cigarette paper there to receive tobacco from the Bull Durham sack that he opened by pulling the yellow string with his teeth and his one hand. Filling the paper sparingly with tobacco, he then carefully lifted it to his lips, shaping it into a cylinder with deft fingers and thumb. He licked one edge to make it stick together and then leaned back against the porch post, put the finished product in his mouth, took a match from his Prince Albert can, and struck it to light his waiting cigarette.
Attaching cultivators to the Farmall B tractor came just as naturally to him as rolling the cigarettes. One leg braced the equipment while the one strong hand assisted. I never saw him fail to accomplish what he needed to do with the farm equipment. Daddy often helped him attach the mower because it was more cumbersome than the cultivator, but now I know he could have probably done it by himself.
Jody could pick cotton with the best of them, and few brought more to be weighed at the end of the day. I watched him throw a long cotton sack filled with the fruits of his labor upon a full wagon to be taken to the gin in a neighboring town by my mother and me that evening. He was a hard worker, and any doubt of his ability as a farm hand was quickly discredited.
Josie was Jody’s wife, his travel guide and driving instructor. She agreed with everything he said with a confirming, “Tha’s right, Jody.” They would head south on the same long Sunday afternoon trek every week to visit relatives with Jody driving the ancient two-toned blue pickup truck with wooden sideboards. He said he never drove faster than twenty miles an hour; he said that was fast enough. He told us that when they got to the first town with traffic lights Josie would tell him to just go on when the light turned red. She said it was just a Christmas light, and he would ease on down the road. They lived a charmed life and always returned home unscathed.
Jody died first, and Josie moved to town to be near a daughter. Losing them was a real loss to us, and I don’t remember that anyone else ever lived in the little house on the hill.
Peggy Rice Wright put down roots in the small Limestone county town of Mexia, Texas, about one hundred miles south of Dallas, as soon as she married her newspaperman husband Bob. Defecting from the Baptist church as a bride, she is a member of First United Methodist Church and proudly notes that fellow family tree resident Col. Samuel Doak McMahan established Methodism in Texas in September of 1833 amid the pastoral setting of majestic pine trees not far from St. Augustine, near Nacogdoches, Texas. Peggy was Mexia FUMC’s first librarian, served on the charter board to establish a pre-school, directed a children’s choir, was officer and member of the administrative board, taught children’s Sunday School classes and sings in the choir.
She is a longtime employee at Mexia ISD and is currently secretary to the counselors at Mexia High School. She also spends a great deal of time with her Mexia Daily News editor husband.
She is a member of the Jonathan Hardin Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and a charter member of the Limestone County Republican Women.
Peggy and Bob have two sons, two daughters-in-law, four grandchildren and a grandpuppy named Buddy.
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