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Memories of Gran Talbot

by

Mary Ruth Dedman Abbott

January 2000

Gran had lived on his farm near Thornton where he and my grandmother raised their family. They had five children. Their first-born was a son, Jewel, who was born December 5, l887 and died May 12, l889. An infant daughter was still born in l889. The three surviving children were my mother, Henri Alma who was born May 12, l893 and died May 16, l952 of a massive heart attack.
Her brother, Ivey Sewell was born December 21, l894 and died October 15, l976. Their sister, Mary Ruth was born May 29, l897 and died at age 92 on January 8, l990.

The dress code of the day for farmers featured overalls and a shirt and that's what Gran wore every day. On Sunday he wore a dark suit and white shirt and a tie to church. He was raised a Baptist but attended the Methodist Church with my grandmother after they married. He loved to walk and did so nearly every day and he always walked the mile to church and back when weather permitted as long as he lived with us. He was a very devout Christian man. I shall always remember the twinkle in his eyes and the fact that it was always there even when he wasn't smiling. Looking back, I believe this was evidence of the obvious contentment and inner peace that came from his strong faith in God.

My grandfather, Larkin Monroe Talbot moved to Fordyce, Arkansas from Thornton in l926 to make his home with my parents, Hugh Edward and Henri Alma Talbot Dedman. His wife (my grandmother, Sallie Elizabeth Samuel) died January l of that year at age 60. I believe that my aunt, Mary Ruth Talbot , also lived with them at that time. She taught and coached girls’ basketball at Beech Grove School. My dad built the house where they lived and added another bedroom to provide a place for his father-in-law. I was born in that house on January l, l929.

What a privilege to spend my early years not only with loving parents, but with a grandfather who doted over me. I called him Gran, but it should be spelled with a d at the end! He must have had a very positive influence on my life because my memories of him are very happy and comforting. I regret that I can recall only a few specific details.

I remember that just looking at him fascinated me. He was tall and thin, had long slender fingers, thick white hair and a handlebar mustache which was snow white also. Another vivid memory was his cheerful demeanor. He was always smiling and always a gentle, loving man. If there was ever any negative word or situation, I did not know about it. I recall often sitting in his lap in a rocking chair on the back porch listening to him tell funny stories, or standing beside his chair as he peeled peaches or helped Mother in some way – perhaps just entertaining me.

Every morning he came into the kitchen and poured himself a cup of hot water from the kettle and drank it before eating his breakfast. He told me that this made him healthy and he never started his day without it. He went next door to visit Aunt Ruth and Sara and Ann, my cousins, every day. I'm sure it gave him a thrill to be with his daughters and granddaughters. Wherever he went, he spent his days helping in some way.

The story of how he "batched" and took care of two or three sons of his sister, Sarah Ann Talbot Abernethy is an example of how benevolent he was. She and her husband, John Ware Abernethy lived nearby. She had given birth to eight sons, but died after suffering the miscarriage of her ninth child. Abernethy took the older sons with him to Texas to find land and resettle, leaving two or three of the middle ones with their Uncle Larkin and the two smaller ones with Mary Jane Talbot "Aunt Mollie" Youngblood of New Edinberg. She kept Arthur and Jim, who also spent some time with my grandfather. I think this was a period of about two years before their father returned for them. These boys were very fond of those two who cared for them. Arthur, whom I always called Uncle Arthur came to visit every year from Altus, Oklahoma where he practiced medicine as an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist. During his visits we had family reunions. Those were very exciting affairs as all the family assembled for them, and all the cooks "put the little pot in the big pot" as the saying goes. There was much laughter, practical jokes, and many tales of years past. I cherish the memories of those special times when we were all together.

In the summer of l938 he brought all of the seven brothers and a nephew, Oscar Abernethy, to represent the oldest brother, Sterling Green Abernethy who had died an untimely death from blood poisoning. Every year thereafter, he brought as many relatives as would come. Uncle Sam always came. He was a Baptist preacher and also taught commercial subjects at Hollis, Ok High School for many years. They all spoke fondly (and gratefully) of Uncle Larkin and Aunt Mollie. Uncle Arthur considered his Talbot heritage his greatest blessing. He practiced medicine until he was 90 years old. At age 99 he told me that he read his Bible and medical journals three hours every day to keep his mind alert. He died at 101 in a nursing home, but was never an invalid. He dressed in his suit and tie every day and was always clean- and alert. He was a Talbot in many ways. Every June when he came, he gathered us all in the Chambersville Cemetery where many of our relatives are buried, and then into the little unpainted church (door always open) named Bethesda Baptist Church which was organized by our great grandfather and which he served as the first pastor. Family members were remembered and as he stood in the pulpit and talked to us, he never neglected to give his Christian testimony and encourage us to live for Christ. He helped educate l8 ministerial students at Oklahoma Baptist University where he served on the board and was always very generous to many ministries. His wife died at a young age and he never remarried. His daughter Edris helped raise his son Edward who was l7 years her junior.

Perhaps the most vivid memory I have of Gran Talbot is his death. Late one very cold December night, my parents found Gran on the back porch in his "long johns" where he said he was waiting for Jud (his brother) to come take him to church. He had developed pneumonia and was hallucinating. The next day my dad and I drove to Little Rock to get the medicine he needed. Dad dropped me off at the orthodontist's office while he picked up the medicine. I remembered being very sad and frightened. Dad drove faster than I had ever seen and I felt the pending death of my dear grandfather. He lived only a day or two longer and on December l6, l938, he joined the other saints in heaven. We were all gathered at his bedside and my first and so far my last encounter with such an experience is one I’ll never forget. He went peacefully, just with each breath becoming shallower, and then he was gone. My mother was sitting on the bed holding his hand and I watched her lay her head on his chest listening for a heartbeat, feeling for his pulse and then announce that he was gone. Aunt Ruth and Uncle Son (Ivey) were there and I can't remember who else was present. Several hours later my dad discovered that the mantel clock had stopped at the same time of his death. They spoke of how they had heard of this occurrence, but had never seen it happen. I was only two weeks away from my tenth birthday when he died and shortly afterward my mother moved me into Gran’s room. I still felt the warmth of his presence although I missed him terribly for a long time.

Edris Abernethy Starkey Peterson, who compiled a Talbot/ Abernethy genealogy, wrote that she saw him only once and that was in l937 and I quote "he was still a handsome man in his seventies, tall and dignified—my idea of how a Southern gentleman would look". I suppose I could say these words describe the way I saw and knew him to be. How blessed I was to have a live-in grandfather like Larkin Monroe Talbot.