by Jeanette “Bobbye” Davis
He was a little boy barely five years old when my grandfather rode his horse across the cotton fields and found him hungry, wet and crying. With gentle hands my grandfather reached down and picked him up and set him on the horse, then asked, “Son, where’s your mama and daddy?” The tears rolled down the face of my grandfather, Bob Williams, that day because that little boy Buddy was his grandson.
Buddy replied, “They’re gone.”
The day my grandfather picked Buddy up, he carried him and his brother and sister home to my grandmother Leona. She was making biscuits. The children were so hungry they couldn’t wait for the biscuits to bake -- they ate them raw.
When my grandmother Leona died in Bolivar County near Cleveland in 1934, her son Jim borrowed money from the man he was working for to buy her casket and transport her back to Neshoba County, Mississippi, to be buried. As time passed and the note came due, Jim couldn’t pay.
Buddy was given to a family for enough money to pay the debt.
The family eventually moved away, and at the age of fifteen Buddy, who was being abused, ran away from home and began working on the barges of the Mississippi River. This was the best thing that could have happened to him. He worked his way up to Captain.
In the 1970’s, Buddy came through Cleveland, Mississippi, and found my dad about the same time he found his real mother and father. His mother was still living near the place where she abandoned him. We lost contact with him again and I did not know where he was even after my dad George died in 1995.
I promised my Uncle Robert I would find Buddy.
I searched for Buddy and found him about a year before Uncle Robert died. The two had a happy reunion. Buddy was looking for clues as to why this family abandonment happened to him. He’s semi-retired, still working some on the River. He’s had a full life, but I don’t think he has made peace with the sadness of his early years yet.
Recently I drove to Grenada, Mississippi, to meet one of Buddy’s sons. I stepped into the room where he was having lunch and spoke his name -- “Jim.” He looked and said, “Bobbye?”
I started to the end of the table as he arose. We fell into each other’s arms as tears spilled from my eyes. Buddy’s family was coming home today, back into the circle of those whom they had never met or known. But love survived the years of hardship because Buddy and his family are bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.
Jeanette “Bobbye” Williams Davis is a native of the Mississippi Delta and is an avid researcher of her family’s history. She is willing to advise readers who would like to learn more about genealogy. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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