YEARS AGO I set out to trace the family. It took me across the whole U.S.A. looking for clues, for ours was a pioneer one.
Worse still was the every time I thought I had found an ancestor I'd find there were several in the lines of the same name.
I found many records at courthouses, in old census books and even on grave markers, and in the National Archives.
Finally I was able to piece a line back for five generations. I well knew we had ancestors in the American Revolution, because some of my line had helped turn the tide of it at King's Mountain.
I was told a possible ancestor was buried at the edge of a chicken lot. There was no marker, only a rock headstone.
There was someone on the family tree I could learn about. She didnt carve her initials anywhere and her face wasn't on the barroom floor, but she was well remembered because she didn't die in childhood.
It was Great God Annie!
I had never heard of her.
Now Annie wasn't a midwife or anything like that but she did tote the news. She went around gathering it in the neighborhood so she could be the first to tell it and when she heard something awful she made that one remark. "Great God!" So she got the name of Great God Annie.
Someone who knew of her told me that Annie had more history than her by-word.
It came such a cold spell in the hills one time that all the creeks froze over and the millpond was no exception because the only way across was a hand bridge and you couldn't get over that when the weather was icy. Then, most everybody stayed at home except Annie. She had to know how everybody was making out so, shawled, she set out to see. When she couldn't make it over the footbridge she took to skating across the millpond and made it that way, through the worst bizzard many had seen. The ice held her up.
There was so much snow you couldn't see the pine trees for it.
One was near the house and when the wind blowed down a huge clump of snow and in that snow was a frozen rooster. He wouldn't sleep in the henhouse because he wanted to be out there to crow first and have all the other roosters answer him and there was everybody trying to dig out the rooster and Annie came up, took one look at him and said "Great God!" She went to work doctoring that rooster.He came alive on the hearth, but he was so frozen his legs came off. Never mind, Annie helped to doctor that rooster and she became known as a rooster doctor, too.
"Well, how come I never heard of her!" I asked. "You came along too late to doctor roosters" I was told.
I always said I would accept whoever was on the family tree and I've never denied Great Aunt Annie the several greats back that she was.
I could see some likeness to her because I guess it's where I get my urge to write, tell of what I hear and know and it has led pretty close to being a reporter. That wasn't a good setting name in the hills because if you went around telling things that was none of your business you might not have lived as long as Great God Annie.
She knew when to keep silent on things, but I have admired her for one thing, trying to doctor a rooster. She saved the alarm clock.
The rooster did live, walked around on his stubs and never gave up trying to get back upin that pine tree. I always think of that when I don't seem to be getting very far. It you don't give up you can never know defeat. I never tried to skate on a mill pond, run a race or pick up all the gossip but back then you didn't have newspapers to tell everything that happened nor radio or TV to hear the news, so Annie served a purpose, too. She made her own living and she knitted her own shawls, and she lived and died among the hollows at a ripe old age. I was told where she was buried, because I should rightfully , but I'm proud of Annie whether anybody else was or not. Kindess is the greatest quality anybody can have today and it's pity you can't legislate it.
When you get to know who is on your family tree it might help you, too, because if you know enough about some of the older generations you can understand why you are who you are. I'm proud I grew up in the days of roosters, at least, for then one, could crow without somebody wanting to ring its neck because it is up in a pine tree.
In the city today nobody wants to hear a dog bark and one might well be telling you something is wrong. They don't have a wrist watch, but a dog can know, too, when you should get up. But only the hounds had any prestige in our families. They were kept around to scare the hides out of varmints. I can guess Annie had one as well as a rooster. She never got to carry me across the creek to keep me from catching thrash, or put me through a knot hole in a tree, but I'm betting Annie knew some good formulas that weren't passed on.
Generations are sprouts from older trees just as seedlings come up from pines, but nobody today has ever traced the genealogy of a rooster although it has been said birds derived from snakes. It's too complicated in genealogy but htere are some things that hust come down to us naturally and it's like walking across the same creek on a rickety footlog, slipping and nearly falling and looking down and seeing what could have happened to you and then you say just what Annie did and that is "Great God!" and all the generations haven't invented anymore by-words more apporpriate.
She shucked corn, took it to the mill and she hoed in the bamboo briars and tasted groundhog and I guess she hunted a little, too, but she made it in the trek of life without welfare except what few tree meals she got visiting and I never heard of anybody objecting to Annie's gossip. It was just that by-word she had calling on the Lord now and then, and it's my guess, too, she was remarking to somebody that knew her pretty well when she left in a pine box. Annie lived close to nature and something guarded her over the ice on that mill pond or she would never have made it.
There are times I wish Annie could have lived to my generation and given me a few pointers on living.