Billy’s Memoir about Jess — Part Four

CHAPTER TWO of the memoir about Jess Cartwright begins with Billy telling the story of the “hard years” of the depression. In 1935, “Jessie’s family increased to five children with the birth of twins – Billy and Betty. These were hard years as he struggled to provided food and basic needs for his family.”

“His small farm became a family affair in the years of the [19]30s. Even the children, small but useful, were sometimes forced to pick cotton and harvest corn….” (25)

“Again, Jessie enlarged his farm for his sixth child was born, whom they named Bobby. Jessie was now a fully grown man with a family of six children, 3 sons and 3 daughters. He moved across the valley to the north side of the Petit Jean River to a rich bottom farm. . . . He was at a crossroads in his life . . . He and his family began to attend Boothe Baptist Church.” (26)

According to Billy, during 1940 and 1941, Jess “live a miserable life” because “fate changed the circumstances of his surroundings. His oldest daughter, Virginia developed an illness [goiter on her neck from what I understand] which claimed most of his cattle and what little money they had. This, with a bad crop year, left Jessie in a situation which required a serious decision. He spent hours in search of an answer to his many problems. Influenced by a national war and rumors of fortunes to be made in the West, Jessie went to California” where “he began working in the shipyards.” (26)

Billy’s narrative about Jess’s time in California is rather sparse:

“ He worked long hours for a small wage in order to send money home to a family of seven in severe need, and to save money so that one day he could return to his family and farm.”
“His oldest son, M.C., maintained the family farm of which there was very little left. Again, the hand of fate struck a blow to Jessie. He was inflicted with an illness for which there was no cure. Finally, he made his way back to the Petit Jean Valley, a man who was dying physically with an illness called diabetes.” (26)

“The money he had made during this 16 months at the shipyards was spent in hospitals and clinics. Jessie had to adjust to two facts: One, he had an incurable disease; and two he could live several years if he maintained a certain set of procedures. He retreated to the farm life and back to nature. With the aid of friends and his older children Jessie again began to farm. . .” (26)

According to Billy, at this point Jess also resolved his long struggle with God’s call in his life “when he was ordained a Baptist minister at the Boothe Missionary Baptist Church. Jessie was a man of wisdom. He had studied the Holy Bible for 13 years and could quote much of it from memory. He had finally found an inward peace.” (26)

The last line of CHAPTER TWO conveys “Life in the valley took on new meaning for Jessie. He entered the ‘gentle life,’ of which only one man called by God knew.” (26)

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About mcartwright1957

I am a member of the senior administrative team at the University of Indianapolis where I have served since 1996. I am married to Mary Wilder Cartwright. We are the parents of four children: Hannah, Erin, James, and Bethany. I currently live in Nashville, IN.
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