Jennie A Dobbs

Jennie A Dobbs


A Mother's Day Story

A Lifetime of Commitment to Others

  • Texas, USA

This is a Mother’s Day Story about a woman who never had any children of her own.  A wonderful woman, who, for some reason, has been on my mind today.  A woman who left no lineal descendants, and who I’m afraid might be forgotten entirely after my generation passes away.          Jennie A. Dobbs (no idea what the A stands for), better known as Aunty to her family and friends, was born August 6, 1892 in the community of Valley Mills, Texas to George Washington Dobbs and Mary Jane “Mollie” Chancy.  I have seen pictures of her when she was younger, and she was a beautiful lady.  It is said she had one boyfriend one time, actually a fiancé, but no one knows just when, nor where it was, or even who he was.  And no one can imagine why it didn’t work out between them.          When her mother died, in about 1914, one of her brothers pretty much forced her and her Dad out of their house.  She went to live with her sister, Lether, and Lether’s husband, Lee Stem.  Little did she know that she was making a move that would eventually become her life’s work.  See, just 4 years later, her sister Lether died too.  Lether left, not only a husband, but 4 small children behind.  The youngest child was only 3 months old at the time.  The worst of it was that Lee had been sick for quite a while with pneumonia, the same illness that took Lether’s life, and was still so weak that Lether’s funeral had to take place at their house because Lee was in no shape to attend it elsewhere.            I can only imagine how bleak life must have seemed at that moment to the young lady we call Aunty.  If you think people today live paycheck to paycheck, try living back then on a lumber company hand’s wages!  I’m not sure just how long Lee had been out of work, but it had been too long, of that I’m sure!  All Aunty could do was the best she could.  Taking care of her brother-in-law, trying to keep a nursing baby alive, and helping the other three children adjust to the change in their life.  They had already been eating only because of the generosity of their neighbors --- how they needed that support and help now!          Finally, Lee was able to return to work, and one would expect life to return to some sort of normalcy.  Not yet.  One of the children came down with the measles just as the family was having to move to another house.  Can you imagine trying to move, sit up with a sick child with what, at that time, was often a fatal illness, grieving over your sister, and just doing your best to keep everyone together and safe?  The child lived I am glad to report (she was my grandmother, so I’m really glad she survived).  But now, Lee loses his job!          He found another job with another lumber company in another town, so it was time to move again!  It was about this time Aunty had her one and only boyfriend.  Her father moved in with them.  Another someone to take care of!          Within a year or so, Lee lost his job again.  He got another job, but again, it required a move.  At this place, they almost lost the baby Lether had left them.  The baby came down with Cholera, and it was a long hard fight to keep him alive.  He survived, but it was close.          Lee’s job ended, and he hit the road looking for work.  Aunty and the kiddos moved to Carmona with her father, where they were literally living off the land.  Shortly afterward, one of Jennie’s brothers arrived with his wife and 4 kids turned up on the doorstep.  Now there were thirteen mouths to feed, and the garden was playing out – winter was coming.  Finally, out of desperation, the men turned to making and selling pine top liquor.  It was the only way available right then to keep them all alive.  Fortunately though, Lee finally found work in another lumber camp, so Aunty and the kids moved yet again.          The next move though, was quite different.  The lumber company had come up with, what they thought was a good idea.  Since they were constantly moving their camps, they were having to go into new areas and build new housing for all their employees.  They now decided that, instead of doing that, they would build portable housing.  Each room of a house could be disconnected from the rest of the structure.  Then, the individual rooms could be loaded on the flat car of a train, and moved, the idea being to reassemble the homes at the new location.  Well, it didn’t work so well.  When people packed up to move, they packed all their belongings in the rooms of their homes, including their livestock.  Once the homes were loaded on the train, no one thought about the confusion that would ensue from the rearranging of the cars by the switching of cars on the trains.  Once they got to where they were going, all the ‘pieces to the houses were scrambled!  There was no way for the crew who was supposed to put the houses back together to know which rooms went together!  All they could do was put them together the best they could.  Can you imagine arriving at your home to find that you had your bedroom, but a neighbors kitchen, and yet another neighbors third room that, when you opened the door, you discovered had been used to pen up and move a cow and a couple of dozen chicken?  Talk about chaos!          They survived the chaos, and life returned to normal --- for a while.          The children began growing up.  One at a time they all left the nest, getting married and beginning families of their own.          While at a rather advanced age, Aunty was diagnosed with cancer.  Because of her age, the doctors said it was inoperable.  They gave her a very short life expectancy from that time.  They were wrong!!!  My sister and I were pretty young when this diagnosis and bleak prognosis was given.  We were both parents in our own rights before she died.            She lived many years in constant pain, but never showed it.  She was always happy and joking around.  She was also an accomplished carpenter, specializing in finish carpentry.  As a matter of fact, when her niece, Lorene, built her home, Aunty did all of the finish carpentry inside of it.          Aunty and Lee both ended up living with one of the daughters until their final days.            Though having no children of her own, this lady, through her complete lack of selfishness, dedicated her life to taking care of these four children, and their children, and theirs.  She has left an indelible mark on those of us who were lucky enough to know, love, and be loved by her.  She has proved beyond all shadow of a doubt, that, sometimes the greatest mothers of all time can be simply an Aunty who cares so deeply.

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