Windham was a remarkable woman who lived near Selma, Alabama. She was a master storyteller, and when she died in 2011, Alabama lost a treasure.
My grandmother, Willie Watson, wasn’t well known outside of Sloss Hollow, but she told stories as rich in texture as a Persian tapestry.
I remember one story where she talked about my grandpa making moonshine whiskey back during the Depression. He was bad to drink, but he also managed to sell and trade enough white lightning to keep the family fed during those lean years.
He often left her and the four kids alone while he walked deep into the woods at night with 50 pound sacks of yeast and sugar on his back. The yeast and sugar were components of whiskey.
One moonless night, my grandmother heard footsteps crunching the brown autumn leaves in the front yard. She and my grandpa had a signal worked out so she'd know that he was approaching in the night.
That night there was no signal, so she silently slipped out of bed to investigate. She said the heart-pine floors were cold as ice on her bare feet as she eased into the front room.
She kept an un-breached 410 gauge shotgun by the door with a load of buckshot in the chamber.
She remembered that it was so quiet she could hear the ancient mantel clock ticking over the fireplace and feel her heart pounding against her ribcage like a sledgehammer.
When she heard the timbers creak on the front porch under the weight of the intruder, she called, almost in a whisper, "Charlie?"
When there was no answer, she grasped the handle of the shotgun with the barrel of the gun on the hardwood floor, clicked it into a breached position, and pulled the hammer back, which made the gun ready to fire. For those who’ve never heard a shotgun being breached, let's just say, there is no mistaking that sound.
Apparently the intruder immediately recognized the sound because he wheeled around, jumped off the porch, and ran for dear life.
My grandma unlatched the lock, threw the door open and fired a shot in the direction of the crunching leaves.
The old gun broke the silence of the night and sounded like a cannon echoing off the hills and hollows around where they lived.
I smiled as I thought about that story. It also made me wonder about how the younger generation will view the stories told by my generation.
Interesting things happened to me all through my life, but when compared to what my parents and grandparents endured to stay alive, my stories seem wispy and thin as a veil.
I’m guessing younger folks would spend more time rolling their eyes than they would looking for a recorder to capture my stories.
I hope I’m wrong, because we cannot trust the media to give us a true picture of what’s going on around us. We all need to learn to tell our stories.