by Jan Sikes

She stood in a line her head bowed low

There was nowhere to run, no place to go

With clothes that were ragged

And shoes that were worn

There were millions just like her

She wasn’t alone

America’s Great Depression had stolen their homes

Took its toll on their bodies

Tried to squash their souls

But she squared her shoulders, raised her eyes

Fierce determination replaced her sighs

She’d fight to survive, that much was true

Although many times, she’d be sad and blue

Someday there would be plenty

But for now, she was caught in a loop

She held out her bowl

For another serving

Of Depression Soup

Born in Missouri in 1917, my mom, Marian Edith Clark, learned about hardships at a young age.

Her mother, my grandmother, Sarah Jane, was sickly. The household chores fell on my mom’s shoulders when she was still a child. She shared memories of having to stand on a box so she could reach the stove to cook their meals.

My mom blue eyes sparkled, and her smile could light up a midnight sky. She started school in Treece, Kansas. Her family were migrant workers. Anytime they found an abandoned house, even if it was spooky, they moved in. Eventually, they landed in Pitcher, Oklahoma, where her father found a job in the iron and ore mines. She was in the ninth grade when he had an accident in the mines, and she had to quit school to help make a living for the family.

Her father became a bootlegger in Oklahoma. He would often get caught and wind up in jail for six months at a time, leaving the family to fend for themselves.

They eventually moved to Arkansas, where they had kinfolk who were sharecroppers. They picked cotton, and in Mom’s words, “Nearly starved to death.”

When she was around fourteen, her dad took the family to the Texas cotton fields. The whole family could pick, and they would make twenty-five cents for every hundred pounds of cotton.

We found this story written in a journal after Mom passed away.

“My last school was in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, population around 2,000. We lived two miles out in the country. I went to a two-room school. A man and his wife were both teachers. He taught in one room and her in the other. The man teacher went crazy and tried to kill his wife. When she got away, she came to our house. I’ll never forget how bloody her head was. When the police found him, he had crawled up under their house. So, they put him in a mental hospital.”

The Great Depression hit America in 1929, wiping out any semblance of a prospering economy. It was during that catastrophic era that my mom and dad met in Sayre, Oklahoma. At the time, she was babysitting for one of Dad’s sisters, and living in a government migrant camp with her family.

She was only seventeen, but they fell head-over-heels in love and decided to marry.

Mom had no shoes to wear for the ceremony, and a woman next to them in the camp loaned her a pair of shoes.

On April 14, 1934, they said their wedding vows in a preacher’s living room and began life together.

There were no pictures, no fanfare, no parties, and no honeymoon.

They spent their first night as newlyweds, sharing a bed with some of my dad’s younger brothers and sisters.

Their first home was an old farmhouse with nothing in it but a wood stove, a bed, and a table. Mom had no broom to sweep the floors, and when snakes crawled across, they left trails in the dirt.

Through the years, she shared many harrowing stories of how they survived as transients. They stayed within their family group and moved from the strawberry fields in Missouri, to potato fields in Kansas, to cotton fields in Texas. Often, they had no shelter from the elements, sleeping outdoors under a shade tree. Other times, they managed to have a tent or share a tent with other family members.

Mom and Dad’s life together, began under this umbrella of hopeless poverty.

Hunger was a constant companion. My mom had an older brother who often would go out at night and steal a chicken or watermelon.

Enmeshed in daily survival, they could see no future.

Sometime around late 1934, they moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas not knowing it was in the middle of an epidemic. They were lucky enough to find housing in a WPA camp. My dad got a job digging graves for fifty cents a week, plus a small amount of food. A man working with him warned him to stay clear of the hospital; that no one came out alive.

However, the hospital laundry was the only place Mom found work. Automation wasn’t yet widespread, and especially not in Arkansas, so all of the washing had to be done by hand on rub boards.

A large scowling woman marched up and down behind the workers with a blackjack in hand. If she thought they weren’t working hard enough or fast enough, she’d whack them across the shoulders.

During this time, my mom fell ill with Scarlet Fever and they quarantined her. They kept her in a room under lock and key. My worried dad climbed to her window with food. It became apparent that they had to get out of there, or Mom would die. One night when all was quiet, she tied bedsheets together and lowered herself from the two-story window to the ground, where Dad waited.

They caught a ride to Oklahoma on the back of a flatbed truck, and Mom eventually recovered. They never went back to Fort Smith, Arkansas.

As the years passed, much of my dad’s family migrated to California, the land of milk and honey. But Mom and Dad didn’t go with them due to my grandmother’s failing health, and a younger sister who was inseparable from my mom. They all stuck together. My grandmother passed away in 1942 in Roswell, New Mexico. Pictures show a large goiter on her throat. She died long before I was born.

Mom gave birth to my siblings with help from family and friends. I was the only one to arrive in a hospital setting.

By 1951, the year I was born, Mom and Dad had settled in Hobbs, New Mexico, and purchased a lot on Avenue A. They stretched their tent and immediately started building a house. They put down roots and said goodbye to the transient life they’d known.

Like everything else in their lives, they built our house themselves. A place not too far from Hobbs, The Caprock, had an abundance of large flat rocks. Every day Dad wasn’t working, he’d head up and bring back a load of rocks to cover the sides of the house. That house withstood many storms, and still stands today.

When I was around twelve, I distinctly remember watching Mom climb up and down a ladder with bundles of shingles to roof the house. And she did this alone.

I believe I can declare with all certainty that no two people worked harder than my mom and dad.

Mom was a fantastic cook, having learned from necessity at a young age. She had a sweet tooth and loved to bake. Her specialty was pies. She could make a peach cobbler that would melt in your mouth.

She never measured anything. She’d throw in a handful of this and a pinch of that, and it turned out perfectly every time.

Mom was not a worrier. Her philosophy was, “If I can’t fix it, there’s no need to waste time worrying about it.”

I’ve strived to adopt that same philosophy.

She lived by these seven wisdoms:

  1. Count your blessings every day.
  2. Don’t whine or throw a fit if things don’t go your way.
  3. Take whatever trials God sees fit to give you and make the best of it. Never sit down and give up.
  4. Believe in yourself and your dreams, and they’ll come true.
  5. Love life and live for God.
  6. Hard work never killed anyone. Try your best and don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t turn out the way you first thought.
  7. Treat everyone with dignity and respect.

I didn’t always see eye-to-eye with my mom, as you know if you’ve read my books. But I never forgot her teachings, her strength, and her determination. And for the last thirty years of her life, we were close.

She was the best grandmother my two little girls ever could have hoped for. She adored them as much as they loved her.

I watch my daughters now and see them practice some of Mom’s ways with their own children, and it makes me happy.

So, here’s to my mom – the strongest woman I ever knew.

“Thanks for supporting me!”



Thank you for supporting today’s RWISA author along the RWISA “RISE-UP” Blog Tour!  To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the main RWISA “RISE-UP” Blog Tour page on the RWISA site.  For a chance to win a bundle of 15 e-books along with a $5 Amazon gift card, please leave a comment below and on the main RWISA “RISE-UP” Blog Tour   page!  Thank you and good luck!  



Add yours →

  1. This story rings very familiar, Jan. I have read it somewhere before but it still reads fresh. Thank you.


  2. Jan, I’m just getting around to read your piece in its entirety, and WOW, just beautiful. I loved the poem (of course). Thank you for sharing so much of your life with us. I enjoyed every bit of it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a beautiful tribute to your mom! I am in tears for many reasons, but that is okay. Your story is fantastic. Keep sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You’ve written a beautiful tribute to your mom, Jan. The greatest is that you live your life according to the rules she taught you.
    Nicely done.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I smiled through my tears as I read this, Jan. How wonderful to have had such a strong moral compass handed down to you. How proud your mother would be to read this. Much love, my friend.❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Soooz, I am so glad you enjoyed the post. Mom was such an amazing strong woman and it was an honor to write a tribute to her! Thank you for leaving a comment!


  6. I left a comment on Roberta’s blog, Jan. I wish I could share this story with my mom, who just passed away. She lived through the depression, but not in such dire straits as your family. However, my grandfather (my mom’s dad) and his family were considered “wealthy’ before the depression, and they lost it all, ending up renting all of their rooms in their large NJ house. I’m not sure he ever recovered from that loss.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Pamela. Thank you for leaving a comment here and on Robbie’s blog site. I’m happy you enjoyed the story and yes, I wish you could have shared it with your mom. My deepest sympathy for your loss. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Jan – This is a beautiful tribute to your mother. She was born two years before my dad, and they lived very different lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment, Heather. A big part of the scenario at that time came from where you were living and, as always, the south got hit the hardest. Also, thank you for sharing the post on your blog!


  8. An amazing tribute to your mom, Jan!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jan, this was a beautiful tribute to your mother. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing, and I hope you are enjoying your day. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on Rhani DChae and commented:
    Please take a look at this wonderful post from #RWISA author, Jan Sikes. I think you will enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. peggyhattendorfcom May 8, 2020 — 9:37 pm

    Those “7 Wisdoms” were principles, that governed my household too growing up. They are still very relevant today.
    Jan, thanks for sharing this moving and intimate slice of your mother’s life.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. D.L. Finn, Author May 8, 2020 — 7:38 pm

    This is such a beautiful tribute to your mom. Her strength and love shine through. Such a testament to never giving up no matter what life throws at you. It reminds me of the stories my grandmother used to tell me about the depression and a lesson we all need for our current situation.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. A wonderful story, Jan.
    A different perspective certainly changes it all when we think we are going through a rough patch.
    Have a super tour day, today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Bernard! Thank you for taking the time to read my story. You are so right in that our perspective can certainly change. I’m enjoying my day! I appreciate your support!


  14. Well done Jan for capturing your mum’s tribute in such a vivid way.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Reblogged this on PTL Perrin Writes… and commented:
    …and we think we have it rough! Jan Sikes writes about her amazing Mom who lived through unthinkable hardship, teaching her daughter how to live and love.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I too believe in the seven wisdoms you have shared here Jan. Thanks for sharing the poignant story of your mom’s life, she was indeed an epitome of strength.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I found your poem and what you told us about your mother very moving. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  18. What a story, Jan! An inspiring tale about meeting adversity with grit and courage. Thanks for sharing this memory of your Mom.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Such a wonderful tribute to your mom, Jan. I can feel the love. 🙂 Hugs and blessings to you across the miles. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thank you, Gwen, for visiting so many of the blogs hosting me today! Hugs!


  21. This was beautiful! What a wonderful tribute to your mom, Jan! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Beautifully written, this brings back memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. An amazing story of strength, Jan. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. What a great Mother story.Jan! Your mother was an exceptional woman!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Jan, this puts life into perspective!

    Liked by 1 person

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