Monday, October 10, 2011

Arise up, and call her blessed

Pauline Barker Vincent at the Dry Flat reunion, June 2010.

Sometimes in October, I come back to the hickory grove blazing on a hillside across a valley to the east, and cottonwoods in brilliant yellow marching with some degree of precision up the tiny stream that carved that valley, rising west toward prairie highlands.

We were “Valley View,” or had been until someone refreshed the barn’s white pant but neglected to restore the lettering. Blue Ridge Farm, a mile south across the fields, was where John Milton, “Miltie” to us, Barker lived in one house, the Vincents --- Howard, Pauline, Elzan, Dianne and Jacob --- in the newer one beside it. Pauline was Miltie and Minnie (Yocum) Barker’s only child, both Barkers and Yocums stretching up lines of descent to Wayne County’s founding.

The Cottrells, the Kelsos and the Allards lived lived on higher ground around us, but so many of them are dead now. Houses were torn down, farmsteads have vanished, so much is gone. But Pauline continued, gently on the land where she was born, until Saturday evening, when she died at 99, or perhaps “only” 98. I've forgotten which.


Pauline had been a friend of my late Aunt Mary. About 1930, after concluding her studies at Dry Flat school just down the road east of Blue Ridge, it was decided that she should attend high school in Chariton, rather than in Russell or Corydon, the other likely options.

Upon arrival with her dad to register at Chariton High School that fall, they met first my granddad, Will Miller, who had brought his daughter into town from out east of Williamson to register, too. Pauline and Mary became friends.

Years later, after we moved to Valley View, I started school at Dry Flat, “primary” then, not “kindergarten.”

Because Dry Flat lacked safe water to drink, each school day began with a short walk up the road west to Vincents’ with a bucket.

Although Miltie Barker lived until 1978, when he died at 96, Pauline’s mother passed away during 1954. I was very young, sensing only that somehow the nature of the days had changed. My parents did their best then to explain death.

When my mother died, a cousin in characterizing her said that my grandmother had raised her daughters to be “ladies,” an old-fashioned term, not often used now. Pauline had been raised that way, too. In the context of these women, “lady” translated into the consistent, unshakable, degree of respect they demonstrated in their dealings with everyone --- everyone.


Pauline and Howard helped build, literally and spiritually, Sunny Slope Church of Christ, southwest of Confidence, north of Promise City. Their son-in-law and daughter, Harold and Dianne Mitchell, continue that work.

I can be awfully cranky some days about Christianity, especially the conservative variety. But if there is hope for any of us who claim that designation to one degree or another, it rests with those like Pauline, whose life was her testimony.

There is a “Blue Ridge Farm” blog, where posts are infrequent but carefully thought out. I found this there, under a photo of Pauline dated May 2010.

There are so many hills to climb upward,
I often am longing for rest,
But He who appoints me my pathway
Knows just what is needful and best.
I know in His word He hath promised
That my strength, “it shall be as my day”;
And the toils of the road will seem nothing,
When I get to the end of the way.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Fielding’s here in Chariton. Burial will follow in the Confidence Cemetery.

1 comment:

Elzan said...

Thanks for the beautiful tribute to mother.