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My Mom…Otera Bonner Hester….Part of Her Story…

Posted by Pete | Posted in News | Posted on 28-07-2015


From my Facebook page of July 28, 2015 ·

J. I. Bonner’s second wife, Genie House Bonner, died shortly after giving birth to Lenoit Bonner McCool, leaving J. I.’s oldest daughter, Otera, my mother, to be the mother of a new baby girl and a host of rough and tumble boys. It was a job that my mom often spoke to me about and oft times would show me her bicep indicating the means of keeping them in line. They came around to visit her on a regular basis and I know she loved them more as her children than she did as siblings…. What I wanted to tell you about was the oldest boy, Horace, left home and family during the depression and went out west, hoboing all over the west, rough necking or panhandling or what ever else he could find to do. He was gone for several years with no word getting back to my mom as to how he was doing. I don’t think he contacted his own family during that period. I was very young during this time and found out most of this later….But when I was about 5 years old, 1940 or so, we lived south of Reform, AL on the Carrollton Highway. I was out swinging on a tire swing one morning out in the front yard. All of a sudden from behind me my Mom let out one of the most blood curling screams I had ever heard, before or since. It scared me, almost to the point of crying. I turned to look at her and she was looking down the road. There was a tall man walking down our road and had to be coming to our house. Momma went to running as hard and fast as I had never seen before. What a time of rejoicing for her, and I guess for him. Uncle Horace had come home…I pieced all of this together over the years but I have come to understand just what she really experienced that day and just how much that scream meant…..This was more like one of her children coming home and she was so happy….I think Uncle Horace came home to stay. He never went back to his family and I have no idea of the story there, but he was home and over the following years I got to visit with him many times. Not like with my other Uncles, but I got to know him….One of my earliest childhood memories…… I don’t think of this story often, but it is with extreme clarity that morning lives in me….

Comments (3)

Boy! I didn’t know any of that about Uncle Horace. I knew that he had left home, and he wandered about, and eventually came back; but I didn’t know any of these details. I only knew Uncle Horace as practically a hired hand and a live in of Mrs. Armstrong. When I was attending the University of Alabama, I did visit and talked with Aunt Irene some, but the only thing about Uncle Horace that I found out from her is that she hated his guts. I guess she hated him until she died and taught their children to hate hime as well. I’m talking about Cecil Bonner of Tuscaloosa and Laura.

I have no knowledge of that family except for his youngest daughter. Uncle Horace was a good man and a very well rounded individual ..He traveled the west very extensively and worked the oil fields of both Oklahoma and Texas. I learned a lot about him after he passed on. He and Dad were pretty good buddies.

I agree! Uncle Horace was a good man. Life was hard during the depression era in Pickens County and Coal Fire. A young man of that period really had only one of two choices: to follow in his Dad’s footsteps into subsistence farming or to hit the road in the hope of making his fortune elsewhere. Young ladies really only had one choice and that is to get married and start a family. I only fault Uncle Horace in one thing. He should have gotten the urge of wanderlust before he had gotten married and had kids. His only fault is that he waited to late to get the urge to wander; or, at least, the guts to set out into the unknown world. My mother’s oldest brother, my Uncle Jesse Harper, did much the same thing, but he was propelled to wander and to join the Navy after his wife, Aunt Vera Lee Harper (Bonner) died, leaving him with two very young kids to raise. From his viewpoint, I understand his wanderlust. He must have felt really burdened when such an awesome responsibility was suddenly thrust upon him, especially since his only means of making a living in Coal Fire was in farming the old Bate’s Place for his Dad who was teaching in Birmingham. I also understand his actions from his daughter’s, point-of-view, too, who was old enough to miss her Dad at the time and who never really forgave him for what he did. Ellene never really had anything to do with her Dad as long as either she or he lived after that early event. In contrast, Hortense, who was younger and who didn’t really remember the extent of what happened, did forgive him. I don’t blame the actions of either my Uncle Horace or my Uncle Jesse on themselves as individuals. I only blame it on the socio-economic times in which they lived. It must have been really a time that tried men’s (and women’s) souls, but it was a period that produced the Greatest Generation (in my opinion and in the opinion of the author of the book of the same name). They were members of a generation that survived economic hardship and won two World Wars. It is just to bad that they felt the need to overly pamper the next two generations so as to produce the sorriest.

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