Some of the favorite memories of my 80-year-old mother, Catherine Lyons Carrico Hill McIlvoy, are of the farm where she grew up – the first twenty-one years of her life! She and my aunt, Mary Alice, her baby sister, roamed their fifty-one acres and experienced it all. It was nothing for them to climb to the top of tall sycamore trees, and stand on the topmost limb, just to enjoy the view. From this advantage they were privy to more than one conversation that was not meant for their ears!
The two would swing on grapevines over deep ravines. Although this seemed like great fun for them at the time, Mom now admits it could have been very dangerous. Her favorite line when telling one of her stories usually begins with, “If mother only knew what we did back then!” My very proper grandmother, Mary Alice Montgomery Carrico, worked hard to bring up the perfect little ladies, but at the ages of 16 and 14 respectively, Mom and Mary Alice were nothing but tomboys!
The greatest adventures for these two were racing the two old mules they are pictured with. Mom and Mary Alice would start off, piles of brush along the way they had to jump over, each determined to finish the course first! And this is despite the stern warning from their father never to race the mules – much less make them jump! Even though Mom’s mount had the feisty name of ‘Rowdy’, he would be much more suited to something like, well, Old Mike! Evidently Mike was the spirited one! Mom admits that Mary Alice could get Old Mike to do anything – she had a way with him! Perhaps she was just the better horsewoman! Mulewoman?
Aunt Mary Alice died last October. We took Mom to the nursing home to see her once more just before she died. It was a treat just to sit and watch and listen! They were no longer the two old ladies of today, but young girls who were back on the farm talking about their adventures, claiming their version of the story was the correct one – giggling, conspiring again.
Mom clasped Mary Alice’s hand tightly during the entire visit and would bend close to pat her cheek – all the while saying, “Now you know that’s not the way it really happened – let me tell you the real story!” Mary Alice’s, “Now, Catherine!” in a very exasperated tone of voice, and an exaggerated roll of her eyes towards me said it all! What a pair!