Ninety-five-year-old Miss Katherine drove up just as we arrived at church last Sunday night. She and I are both involved in Gainesboro’s Bicentennial coming up in 2020. Not surprisingly, our roles involve teaching local kids about the past 200 years here. As we walked into church, she mentioned something that happened during World War II when General George Patton led maneuvers in the hills of Middle Tennessee.
Our hills were similar enough to the hills of Europe to make this a good place for an estimated 800,000 servicemen and women to practice what they were about to do in Europe. Our Cumberland River stood in for Germany’s Rhine.
Miss Katherine was away at college when the soldiers came here to Jackson County. When she came home one weekend, she noticed a big white spot on the ground in town. She learned the reason. Army planes had dropped flour bombs on Gainesboro.
As we walked into church, I told Miss Katherine that my mother has also told me about the soldiers who camped near her childhood home in Robertson County, some two hours away from here. My Granny did washing for the soldiers and the family was happy to have the money she earned doing so.
“I bet she did it on a washboard,” said Miss Katherine.
“I’m sure she did,” I replied.
Miss Katherine laughed. Our chat reminded her of a story of her own. You need to know that Miss Katherine’s daddy owned a store in Gainesboro and that she and her husband lived in Memphis, Tennessee, while he went to medical school.
“When we were living in Memphis, I called Daddy and got him to send me a washboard. I washed our clothes in the bathtub,” she said with her wonderful grin.
The next time I feel inundated with a massive pile of laundry, I’m going to try to picture a young Miss Katherine on her knees scrubbing hers and her husband’s clothes on a washboard in a bathtub — and be thankful.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Here’s a reminder about Miracles in the Camp, playing tonight and tomorrow at the Cookeville Performing Arts Center.