Miss Ada

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When I went to my aunt and uncle’s estate sale recently, I purchased (for a mere $10) a wonderful painting my Uncle Jerry completed in 1967. I can’t wait to hang it in our kitchen, but first it needs a frame. I plan to show it to you when I get it framed. This past Saturday I took it to a frame shop I had not tried before.

As we say in the South, the framer and I “hit it off.” She won my heart by also thinking Uncle Jerry’s painting is wonderful. The framer’s husband is an artist. One of his paintings was on display on the counter. I am so drawn to it. The subject is a sturdy elderly woman with a wrinkled face. She has pulled her hair straight back into a bun on the back of her head. She stands on a front porch in front of a shelf. A metal water bucket sits on the shelf. Her strong arm and hand have raised a red-trimmed white enamel dipper to her lips. The dipper covers half her face as she takes a drink of water.

This woman could have been my Aunt Lizzie or her unmarried daughter Cousin Cora or my own Granny, but she was actually Ivy Stephens. I know because, as we talked about the painting, the framer started showing me the photographs her husband used to create this wonderful piece. Pretty soon I had permission to take photos of those photos so I could share them with you.

The framer and her husband visited Miss Ivy one day about 15 years ago at the home of Miss Ivy’s friend Ada Green. First the painting drew me in and then the story of Miss Ada, called Miss Ader in those Fentress County, Tennessee, hills drew me in, too.

Miss Ada Green was born in this house.

Here’s another view.

And here she talks with visitors on her front porch.

This is Miss Ada’s bed. I wonder if she was born on it. If you look closely under the bed, you can see her chamber pot. Outside was a path to her outdoor privy.

This is Miss Ada.  She never married. Eventually Miss Ada lived alone in this house without plumbing, electricity, or running water. She lived there until she was 99 years old.

This is Miss Ada’s gate. Notice its twine latch and the corn growing in the field behind it.

This is Miss Ada’s corn crib.

Miss Ada was a friend, a resourceful woman, and an inventor of sorts. She designed this device she appropriately called a “windlass” to bring water to her house. Here Miss Ada cranks its handle.

Here we see the windlass from the other side. A bicycle handle bar equipped with gliding wheels holds the water bucket as it speeds down a piece of twine headed to the water source. Parts from an old plow weigh the bucket down as gravity pulls it to its destination. When Miss Ada wanted water, she turned the crank to pull the water to her front porch.

Miss Ada was born around the beginning of the 20th century. She died around the beginning of the 21st century. She inspires me. I hope she inspires you, too. Until she was 99 years old, she got up every morning and she figured it out.

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
But the soul of the diligent is made fat.
Proverbs 13:4



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