Annie Pearl

Annie Pearl Patterson was born in Tishomingo County, Mississippi in 1879. She entered this world just a stones throw from the Tishomingo Creek Battle site where her father, Captain A.W. Patterson of Company H of Moreland’s Cavalry led his men in battle in extraordinary valor. Her Papa was a denizen of Franklin County, bitpapa Alabama when Pearl was just a gleam in his gray eyes. He only joined the Confederate cause in 1863 when Mr. Lincoln’s troops threatened his home with their “War of Northern Aggression.”

Her Papa was captured by the enemy near Huntsville, Alabama on December 23, 1864, and he was imprisoned at Fort Delaware until June 10, 1865, well after the cessation of hostilities. He moved to Mississippi in 1870 and there Pearl, the apple of his eye, moreover the shiny snow white pearl of his heart was born. A year after her birth, he moved to Lee County, near Tupelo.

Annie Pearl Patterson, who inherited her father’s gray eyes, was a pretty young girl and a formidable softball player. When she came up to bat, the opposing pitcher would yell, “Back up for Annie Pearl.” It was there that a young Eula Temple, a farmer from a long line of farmers, inrealtor ministers and warriors, saw and fell in love with the girl who was to be his wife. They were married on January 12, 1905 and made a home and a good life in what became known as Temple Grove.

Since she was a girl, Pearl had suffered from an infection in her leg. They told her it was “dew poisoning” that entered a scratch. Whatever it was, it was never cured and lingered on. Pearl didn’t complain because folks were made of more resilient stuff in those days. She gave Eula four boys and a girl, but then tragically, Eula was taken from her on May 30, 1937, lost to what they called “consumption.” She became mother and father to the children and the one they all looked to for comfort.

When I came along, Grandma Pearl lived with my parents and became my best friend and confidante. Long days of hunting and fishing in Temple Grove ended in games of Pollyanna with Pearl who swore me to secrecy, never to tell my friends that my Grandma “rolled dice.” It was there that this kind and loving woman made the old days come alive, and spoke of her Papa and a time when cotton, courage, and confederates still lived. It didn’t take too much coaxing to get her to tell endless stories of her Papa and his courage, and countless retellings of the time he was on recon and spotted an approaching Union force and survived a rifle ball through his coat to crawl through the grass on his hands and knees to warn the main body of Rebs that the “Yankees are coming” like a modern day Paul Revere. “Yes,” Pearl would say, “His boys loved him. General Wheeler did, furzly too. Papa was so tall, over six feet with eyes as gray as his uniform.” My little feisty dog Brownie and I sat for hours listening as the lady with the floral apron and the blue bonnet entertained us with history dressed up as adventure.

Whenever I was in distress or just needed a bit of love, she would open her prized tin of prime King Leo peppermint sticks, and we would sit together and share our secrets and she would dispense her wonderful medicine that no doctor could prescribe. She told me that one day she would have to leave me, but I protested “No, no, Grandma.” Death was an uncomfortable abstract to the young, and I so loved Grandma Pearl who offered unconditional love as an example of Christ. When I was a child and a sleepwalker, I would instinctively go to her room when I walked in my sleep and was afraid. “Yes,” said the lady, who sat and shelled butter beans and black-eyed peas with, “I will have to leave you in the by and by, but promise you’ll never forget me.” There was no chance that would ever happen.

The day she warned me of finally came. When I heard the news, pg79th a big noisy wind blew in from the northeast whistling under my door and blowing away any illusion of order in the world and the innocence of angels. God gave me new eyes to see the unseen, but they were overflowing with tears that marred my cheeks and tracked down my face in rivulets. A sob crept up my throat, pressed against my cheeks and wrinkled my forehead as my opaque thoughts burst against a silent and empty copper shroud of good-bye where they placed a gray grave slab over my dying heart.

The early morning dew still lay heavily on the orange day lilies outside her window. Their blooms were just about to open to the morning sun. In a room where she recited lessons in lost causes, entertained challengers in games of chance, igaming marketing and awarded love and peppermint which to her were one and the same, Pearl heard the call that we all must heed one day from the eternal conductor calling all who have tickets beyond the reef.

She pursed her dry lips for moisture and a nurse placed a moist swab to her mouth and rubbed a bit of Vaseline on her chapped skin. Though she had not spoken for days, she began to sing in a low slow whisper of a voice. “I…wish…I…was…in the…land…of cotton.” Then she opened her vital gray eyes wide, smiled a little girl’s smile and said, “Is that you, Papa?”

A look came over her face as if she could see something that those of us trapped here below could not see and knew something we could not know, but one day would.


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