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Betty Stone: Your own opus magnus


Betty Stone



I am on a crusade. I think it is not one that would come to your mind immediately, but something that would provide every family with a precious document. If you have ever felt the urge to write your memoirs, then, as Nike says, just do it! You would give your youngsters an account of "the way it was," something they are not born knowing. More satisfying, you will literally have the time of your life doing it. 


From time to time someone will lend me a copy of his memoirs, and each time I look at the past through someone else''s eyes, I am enriched. 


One such person is G.W. Land, who did it twice! First he wrote " The Life and Times of a Sharecropper''s Son" and later augmented that with "A Lifetime of Memories." 


G.W. remembers some things I have only heard about, but shares some Columbus memories with me, if from a little different perspective. 


For example, he recalls the great flood of 1927 and the dreadful impact it had on some local families. That surprised me; I had thought that flood was just of the Mississippi River, especially around Greenville. Although like many Columbians of my time, I remember many Tombigbee and Luxapalila floods, I never experienced them in the way the 1927 flood destroyed for some people their livestock, crops, harvests, possessions and even homes. G.W. remembers being ferried to a hill, then to a big house for refuge. 


He recalls also some of the scrapes he got into as a youth, things that surely must be a revelation to his children and grandchildren, but also to whoever knows him now as a dignified, well-groomed gentleman.  


G.W. has recently celebrated his 90th birthday. To me the most impressive feature of his backward glances is the prevailing feeling of gratitude that saturates his every memory. In fact, I''ll just bet that''s one thing that got him to a significant age. As for his family, I don''t see how any one of them would not cherish the loving way he describes his wife, Earline, his son, daughters, grandchildren and parents. What a terrific gift to them. 


Then, to top it off, he has an appendix of poems he has written, some sentimental, some humorous, some commemorating occasions. I don''t know why I am always somewhat surprised when someone reveals a penchant for poetry or rhyme. There has to be a reason it appeals to so many of us. 




Just begin 


Back to my crusade, I believe every family, every generation, deserves someone to record those times. If you''re the one, get to it! Don''t hesitate because you are "not a writer." Just write as you talk. You are, after all, not trying for a Pulitzer. 


One winter, when Doug and I were stuck at home for long, tedious, sick weeks, when television, magazines, even books did not satisfy, I went out and bought a spiral notebook. I took it home and started writing while Doug watched ball games. About 300 pages later, I had gotten up to the point where Doug and I got married. (I admit it would be a labor of love for anyone to read that much of my trivial life. I guess I have always needed an editor.)  


Whether or not anyone else ever read it -- they said they did and enjoyed it -- it was one of the most satisfying things I have ever done for myself.  


All of us live lives of joy and disappointment, grief and love, success and tragedy. I found looking back did reaffirm that sense of gratitude for all that makes each life unique. It made me think a little bit like what William Faulkner said when he accepted the Nobel Prize -- that mankind will not only survive, but prevail. 



Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.


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