My Mother

Bonnie Gay would have been 90 today. She grew up poor, in a very large family. She was the 8th out of 11 children. Her oldest sibling was born in 1916 and the youngest was born in 1937. Her father died when she 9 years old. She married at 15, had her first child at 17. She waited until she was 19 to have her 2nd child and that was me.

Their wedding day – August 17, 1948

She only lived in Smithwick and Jollyville her whole life. She was a friend to many and an enemy to no one or nothing. She was a deadly shot with a Winchester 30/30, lever action rifle with open sights.

Bonnie Gay’s 30/30

She wasn’t very big, maybe 5’2″ tall. She is the only thing that Cecil Lewis was afraid of, including beasts, crazy people and the IRS. I don’t remember her being afraid of anything either. Bugs, spiders and snakes didn’t cause her to jump. There were only two foods that she wouldn’t eat. Celery. I can’t imagine why, but she detested the taste of it. The other was tea. She didn’t like it sweet or otherwise. She would taste it when she sweetened it and would shudder each time, but knew when it had the right amount of sugar in it. She always made it sweet for me and another pitcher of unsweetened for Kenny and Cec.

Few women cut up and packaged more venison than Bonnie Gay. Once a deer was dressed and brought into the house, it became hers to deal with. She had the hacking it with the edge of a saucer (as in a cup and saucer) to tenderize it and then soaking that deer meat in milk down, before it was floured and seasoned, to a science. Her gravy wasn’t white gravy. Each piece of meat was trimmed to a perfect size and thickness. He browned the flour just slightly, to give it the Bonnie Gay flair. She did cut corners a little on one thing. She loved canned biscuits. I never begrudged her on that. It was one of the only easy things in her life.

She washed out and saved every milk carton. That’s how she packaged and froze catfish. Filled those cartons mostly up with fish, but leaving just enough room for water to completely surround the fish. She knew just the right number of cartons to get out and thaw, depending on how many friends and kinfolks would be there at that meal.

I remember her as being cold natured, but had the warmest heart. She never complained, but she didn’t let anyone run over her. She drove fast, but carefully. I’m not sure, but I doubt she ever got a speeding ticket or had a serious wreck.

She was the perfect mother for two wild boys, but she transitioned to become the perfect mother to her nieces, Joy and Jan that she raised as her own from a young age of 4 and less than a year, when her sister was tragically killed in an automobile accident within months of me leaving home after high school.

Little Bonnie Gay, as my dad and most others always addressed her. While she came out of a very large family and was near the youngest, she took up the role of family leader. I can’t explain why, but her whole family turned to her for leadership and for wisdom. What she said, was what went, never in a harsh or demanding way, but her star shined the brightest.

She only had one job outside of the home. That was at the Marble Falls Post Office, not long before she died. The did janitorial work there. She loved going there every day. It really gave her purpose. She didn’t want to have nowhere to turn if she was left alone. Since her husband hadn’t done a very good job of taking care of his health, it seemed enviable that she would be on her own at some point. But as things sometimes happen, she went before him. She was only 57. Her sudden death on December 14, 1990 was one of the greatest shocks in my lifetime.

What I know for sure, she had the love, dedication and respect of two sons, that would never within their power allowed for her not to have been taken care of. That was our duty.

While Bonnie Gay was not a regular church goer, she had a great faith within her. At her funeral, the preacher seemed critical of the fact that she hadn’t been faithful in attending church. I’m sure he had a point, but it was a clumsy way for him to say it. I thought she deserved higher praise than she received day. I feel like she got it from everyone all around, except for the person delivering her eulogy. No one set in judgement of her, but I kind of did of the preacher. Oh well, I’ll just leave that here.

The Smithwick Power Couple

(Sorry for using the word “she” so many times in this story, but that’s the way it is)

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