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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Former resident pens book on life in Bootheel

Sunday, October 7, 2007

SIKESTON -- A new book by a former Sikeston teacher, available now at the Sikeston Depot, gives readers an intimate view of life in a simpler time and the perspective of one who has walked nearly all of life's path.

At just over 100 pages, "The Long Journey" by Violet Jones shares, in prose and verse, observations and reflections, personal experiences and second-

hand stories gathered and written over a lifetime in Southeast Missouri.

"I was born near the little village of Grayridge in Stoddard County," Jones said.

Jones, who moved to Springfield in 1990, was first employed in Sikeston at a well-remembered downtown dime store. "I worked at Sikeston at F.W. Woolworth's Five and Ten," she recalled. "I was just out of high school, so I must have been about 18."

After she married and her husband went off to fight in World War II, "I taught in a little country school in New Madrid County called Charter Oak School," Jones said.

Following the war, she earned a teaching degree from Southeast Missouri State College in Cape Girardeau and began teaching in Sikeston's public schools.

"My first contract there was in 1960 and I retired in 1985," Jones said. "I taught special education until the last six years and then we had the area of learning disabilities."

After residing for a short time in the Cape Girardeau area while her husband finished college, the Joneses settled down in Sikeston for many years.

"We raised our family there," Jones said. "We had three children, two sons and a daughter, and when the last one went away to college we adopted a five-

year-old little girl and had a lot of fun raising her."

The book's first chapter, "'Til Death Do Us Part," is made up of anecdotes and verses about her school-days sweetheart and husband for 64 years, the Rev. Robert Jones, who died a little over a year ago. The book is also dedicated to his memory.

The next chapter takes readers back to Jones' life "As A Child" on her family's farm and her early education in a schoolhouse that was located just north of Bloomfield.

"It was known as Link School," Jones said. "It had one room, one teacher."

The third chapter, "True Stories," includes the short story "Courtship and Marriage" in which she shares how she and the Rev. Robert Jones were wedded under less-than-romantic but memorable circumstances. The story describes "a time when there was plenty of work to be done, but not much money to be earned."

The book is sprinkled with words that have faded from common use over the years or had their meanings shifted.

A reference in the book to a "huckster," for example, isn't meant to indicate he was a swindler, but rather a person that offered a valuable service in that day and age.

"This would be someone who drove around over the country with grocery items to sell," Jones explained. "He would take money for the items you wanted or he would take chickens -- he always had a little wire cage to haul his chickens."

As homemakers at the time didn't have the means to go into town very often, hucksters were appreciated for offering "things that mainly would be needed in the kitchen," she said.

In another story, Jones recalls a lady who always wore a tam: a Scottish cap with a wide, round, flat top and, often, a center pompon.

In recalling her wedding day, Jones relates how she ended up wearing a "dimity" (thin corded or patterned cotton cloth) dress instead of the new dress she had intended to buy.

Throughout her stories are details that show just how much things have changed over a single lifetime.

For example, blended families were not uncommon when she was little, but not because of divorce as in today's society.

"My father's first wife died of tuberculosis," Jones said. "My mother's first husband died after an injury with dynamite. I believe he worked in timber and they were blowing stumps or something. They amputated his leg right in their home and I guess he died of gangrene."

As a result, she grew up with three older half brothers she and her four sisters totaled up lovingly as their "brother and a half."

While there is a chapter dedicated to "Faith and Values," these two themes are woven into nearly all of the stories and poems. And in sharing tragedies -- the loss of a childhood home to fire, the death of not only her spouse but of one of her children -- Jones shows how this faith has given her the strength to carry on without bitterness.

The book's foreword notes that Jones has successfully battled cancer twice. "The second time I was not expected to come through," she recalled.

Even so, Jones doesn't think of herself as remarkable.

"I've just lived quite a normal life," she said. "At age 86, I have done well. I've been healthy and I've been active and my life has been good."