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For mama on Mother's Day
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The older I get, the more I appreciate Mother’s Day – and the more I appreciate my own mama, Gertrude. Born in 1907 in the old Goodbars community, “Gert” was one of 10  children; five boys and five girls.
Large families were the norm back then, especially in the country. The more “hands” the better. Rural life was labor-intensive. Boys and girls had to share the load without regard for age or gender. Infant mortality was a cruel fact of life, and death, back then. This was another reason for lots of children.
Mama never talked much about her youth, but I got the feeling she had to grow up fast. She had only an eighth-grade education, but if they awarded diplomas from the “school of hard knocks,” she would have qualified for top honors.
As a young woman, mama ventured down to Fort Payne, Ala., where she landed a job in a hosiery mill. She lived in a boarding house, and worked long hours for little pay. It was a brave thing to do. Later she returned home to work in a local hosiery mill. That would become her lot in life for decades.
By the time I came along in August, 1938, she was married to George Vaughn. He was a “ladies man” who lived by his wits in a variety of endeavors. He traded horses and mules, worked as a blacksmith and a “boiler tender.” I vaguely remember him as a man with a hot temper and wandering ways. Maybe that’s why we moved so often.
Actually, I never really knew my daddy. Nor did I care to. Mama divorced him when I was a small boy. She then became, out of necessity, the sole parent for my sisters, Doris, Geneva, and me. She was a struggling “single mom,” way before that term grew common in American parlance.
To mama’s everlasting credit, she did her best to raise my sisters and me as well as she could. She worked her fingers to the bone at the hosiery mill, and “took in” washing and ironing from other families. She also cleaned houses for others. She did all this to keep our family fed, clothed, sheltered, loved, and most of all, together.
Mama knew the value of getting  a “good education” because she had endured the trials and tribulations of not having one herself. Her words of wisdom echo through the years to touch my heart today: “Get a good education, son. That’s something nobody can take away from you.” Her sage advice took a while to sink in, but I’m glad I followed it.
I’m not saying my mama was unique. Others have similar stories of loving mothers who nurtured them through trying times. I am saying she was unique to me.
Part of her is part of me – and always will be.
Happy Mother’s Day to all!
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at