There were Shepherds Living in the Same Country Luke 2:8
Claude E. Shepherd had been called Pud (rhymes with good) for as long as anyone can remember. It’s a mystery where this nickname came from. He was called Pud by those who knew him, daddy Pud by his children, uncle Pud, cousin Pud, etc.
Claude married Carra E Garman on December 1, 1923. Both were from Catawba, Virginia as were their parents. Claude was born on November 7, 1904, to John and Mollie Shepherd. There were seven boys and two girls in the Shepherd family. Carra was the ninth child of 17 children born on September 4, 1900, to William and Luemma Garman. That family had nine boys and eight girls.
After Claude and Carra married, they lived with Claude’s parents in Catawba Valley. Their first child, Rachel was born there on September 18, 1924. Not long after Rachel was born Claude and Carra moved to a large home on Catawba Creek road on the Andrews Farm where Claude would work as the manager for many years.
The family would grow quickly with the next births being the arrival of twin girls, Christine, followed 10 minutes later by Claudine on February 7, 1927. Twin girls was a historic event. Out of 66 children born to 14 families of William & Luemma Garman, there would only be one set of twins. In time, Claudine and Christine would be referred to as the “Catawba Twins.”
Two years later on February 9, 1929, Betty would be born. They would have one more child, and Claude would assume I am sure that it would be a boy. Wrong. In March of 1933 a redheaded baby girl, Helen, would arrive to complete the family of five girls. All five were born at home delivered by the Catawba midwife, Ms. Lawson. Rachel and Helen were redheads like their dad, while the twins would be brunettes and Betty would have jet black hair as daddy Pud would say.
Over the next quarter century, this family of five would journey through hardships, the Depression and World War Two. Not that they were alone in that respect because all the families living in Catawba Valley, Virginia would do the same. Travel with me now as we go back in time to see how this family reflects on their lives.
STRAW TICK MATTRESS, LANTERNS & THE OUTHOUSE
The Shepherd’s house on Andrews Farm Artist: Helen Shepherd
After marriage and starting a family, Pud became manager of the Andrew’s farm and moved the family of seven into the large farmhouse that was on the Andrew’s property. Back in that period, most folks lived on farms and had large families to do the work, being it was quite helpful to have a good mixture of boys and girls. The Shepherd family was complete with Daddy Pud, the only man in a home with six ladies. Have mercy!
Most all families in that day had similar living conditions. No indoor plumbing, no electricity, minimal heating, and no grocery store are things that most all people, today, find unimaginable. But those of us raised in those harsh times know how it was and are better today because of it. The Shepherd family had one advantage that others did not. Water was piped into their home from a nearby spring, and that water was as cold as could be and the sweetest tasting water this side of heaven. Other families had to carry water to their homes, sometimes for long distances and at times uphill.
The Shepherd’s house had large rooms and was very spacious. It was a beautiful farmhouse with a porch that had a nice view of Catawba all around you—– there really is no such thing as a bad Catawba view. The girls slept on straw tick mattresses. A straw tick is a large cloth bag stuffed with straw and sometimes corn shucks or leaves. That was your bed. No frame, forget having a box spring, just a bag stuffed with straw lying on the floor. No problem getting out of bed. The girls would get excited when once a year Daddy Pud would put fresh straw into their mattresses. On occasion, parents might have a feather bed but not so the children. Not enough feathers to go around, I suppose. The only heat at night in the winter would come from a fireplace or cook stove. Mostly at bedtime one would put on heavy clothes and pile on quilts to stay warm.
Without electricity, there were no lights although electricity would come years later, and when it did, there was just a light bulb in the ceiling with a pull cord. Oil lamps were used sparingly, and they were a source that one had to handle carefully. Oil lanterns were all school-age children had to read and study by after dark. Things that we take for granted were nonexistent in the Valley.
Crank telephones and party lines would come in time, but long distance would have to go through a central location. They were called party lines because six or more homes would be linked together. People listened in on others conversations. When too many “eavesdroppers” got on the line the signal dropped which made conversations difficult to hear.
It’s called an outhouse, johnny house (my choice), privy, etc. But by any name, it was an outdoor toilet——with a path. You don’t want it close to the main house and having it downwind is very beneficial. Most of you readers know what I am talking about, but there might be others who do not. The closest comparison I can think of is today’s portable toilet or port-a-john which is smaller and slimmer. The outhouse was larger and not portable. If I had to choose, I would take an outhouse over a port-a-john every time. Regardless of the weather conditions, rain, sleet, snow, when you had to go, you had to go.
Back then, I don’t think the girls ever fought over the bathroom. They told me that they had no complaints mainly because their friends and other families lived the same way.
CHURCH, FAMILY GATHERINGS AND FUN TIMES
True to the nature of practically all Catawbians, the Shepherds were a God-fearing family that worshipped faithfully on the Lord’s Day. Their home church was Shiloh which was part of the Catawba Charge of four churches serviced by one preacher who alternated churches each Sunday. Shiloh had preaching on the first Sunday morning and third Sunday night. On the way to church, Helen would sit up front between mom and dad and the other sisters would be in the back. Mom and dad would sing all the way to church in the prettiest voices.
On the Sunday mornings and Sunday nights when there was no worship service at Shiloh, the Shepherd family would attend Johnsville church. When Vacation Bible School at Catawba Methodist Church was in session, Helen would attend and stay at the Carroll home across the road from the church. She, Nancy and Barbara slept in the same bed. It was probably crowded but more comfortable than the straw tick mattress. It was common for cousins to visit one another after church, staying at each other’s houses.
To this day, the four women continue to attend church when possible.
Often family would gather at Grandad and Grandma Garmans where the cousins would play and have a big time. Christine and Claudine were playing in the mud one day, and grandma sent their Ant Elizabeth down to call them in for the meal. Elizabeth put a black sheet over her face and started chasing after the girls, scaring the daylights out of them. After having a good laugh, grandad called all of the “chaps” to gather around the large dinner table that would hold about 10-12 people. The kids, or chaps as granddad called them sat on one side on a bench and the adults in chairs on the other side.
Cousins. Back: Christine Shepherd, Kathleen Taylor, Helen Shepherd, Hilda Taylor, Jo Taylor, Harold Taylor, Willis Taylor Front: Eloise Taylor, Fred Taylor, Lola Taylor, Peggy Taylor and Melvin Taylor
Helen recalls the times she and cousin Nancy would go to the Catawba Sanatorium dairy farm and skate on the concrete floor. Nancy had a pair of skates so she would skate with one and Helen would skate with the other.
On a visit one time to the Shepherd home, Carra’s sister Earl asked Pud if she could have a piece of Betty’s unusually black hair. He obliged and carefully snipped off a small lock and put it in an envelope. Before Earl left to go back to Possum Holler Pud had stepped out of the room and snipped off a piece of his own red hair. He switched it with Betty’s lock meaning Earl went home with a souvenir of Pud’s red hair, instead. I asked Betty why Earl wanted a lock of her hair? Betty told me that she probably wanted to show it to her husband Dorsey.
Typically, the clothes you wore in the Valley at that time were sometimes purchased but mostly made. Just not enough money to buy clothes and shoes. Momma Carra would make clothes for the girls out of cotton feed sacks that feed and seed came in. Making clothes from feed sacks was a common practice in those times, even I had a shirt that my mother made from a feed sack. When feed companies realized that the fabric of the feed/ seed bags were being used for clothing, they began to put patterns on them. Usually, the dresses that girls wore were made from such material. Betty told me that no one made fun of you for wearing feed sack clothing to school because most all children wore them, too. The twins Christine and Claudine dressed alike as twins always do. Shoes were purchased, but when the soles got worn, they would be fixed by Daddy Pud with an old inner tube or a piece of scrap leather.
As the five children became school age and started school, not all of them would finish. This would not be unusual in the early 1900s. Helen would be the only one to graduate from high school. Growing up she and cousin Billy Garman [Billy is the son of Claude Garman & Dot Custer Garman and younger brother to Jimmy] would become best friends. I think Billy was possibly the brother Helen never had, and for Billy, Helen was the sister he never had. The two were playmates and inseparable.
Nancy Carroll, Billy Garman and Helen Shepherd
In November 1932, Billy was ready to start the first grade at Catawba school that year. Helen, who was born four months later in March 1933 wasn’t old enough to start school yet, which meant the two would be separated. Their bond would be tested and may even be broken. But not so fast my friend. Billy dug in his heels and said no! He refused to start the first grade without Helen. The school at first said that allowing Helen to start school early would be against the rules, but Billy would not budge. In the end, the school agreed to let Helen enter first grade with Billy. It was made clear that if Helen fell behind she would have to repeat the first grade the following year. Billy’s act of chivalry would be rewarded as the two buddies would go through school together and both graduated from Andrew Lewis High School in 1950. Now some of you may feel that this would be a preview of the two best friends marrying and living happily ever after. Well, there was a wedding of sorts, but not what you think.
A Tom Thumb Wedding and Courting
In school, the children would participate in school programs and singings. Back in 1863 Barnum & Bailey circus which traveled the world had an act that featured two dwarfs (little people). One little man was named Tom Thumb, and he traveled with the show. He fell in love with a little woman, and they wanted to get married. Barnum & Bailey decided to have a grand and extravagant wedding (to promote their show of course) which all the world heard about it. Afterward, Tom Thumb weddings swept the Nation for years. Schools and churches would perform children’s Tom Thumb weddings for fundraising and sometimes just entertainment. Catawba did such a thing and guess who played the parts of the bride and groom? Yes, little Helen Shepherd and Billy Garman.
Helen and Billy. Jimmy Garman, carrying the gown train
After high school, Helen and Billy would go their separate ways, succeed in life and marry fine spouses. They have kept in touch ever since.
You could imagine that Daddy Pud and Carra may have been a little strict when it came to boys and courting with five girls in the house. When the girls were teenagers, boys would come to visit on their bicycles, and Pud kept an eye on them. When the girls got older, the boys would come and pick them up in cars and take them to Blacksburg to the skating rink. Pud gave them a 9 pm curfew, the boys did not want to cross Pud Shepherd, so they would watch the clock the entire date. Pud was strict, but apparently not as strict as uncle Dorsey. Often times, cousins Kathleen and Hilda would come over to the Shepherd house so they could go out with the boys and their cousins and have a good time.
MAKING ENDS MEET
Pud would often say that Christine and Claudine could outwork most men and I believe it. Betty and Helen both spoke of the twin’s role in keeping the farm going. They were paid 10 cents an hour, but they would have worked for nothing.
Each of the sister’s had responsibilities when they got old enough. Christine and Claudine helped Daddy Pud on the farm doing the never-ending and tiring work that farming demands. The others would assist in helping on the farm particularly during haymaking times, but also in gardening, canning time and assisting Momma Carra in the house.
Helen recalled peeling peaches with her mother for canning. There were fruit trees on the farm that would need harvesting as all sources of food were utilized.
While caring for the livestock was part of the girl’s responsibility, Batty came up with a way to feed three lambs at one time. Holding one bottle in each hand and holding one bottle between her knees.
Betty feeding 3 lambs at the same time.
Daddy Pud or a Diploma?
It was a beautiful day in late winter when the twins Christine and Claudine arrived home from Andrew Lewis High School with their report cards from their junior year, only two months away from becoming seniors. They were good students as reflected in their report cards. Christine handed hers to Daddy Pud with all “A’s” and one “B”. Daddy Pud looked at her and said, “If you two quit school and work for me on the farm I will give you all “A’s”. Picture that moment of the emotions felt by the father and the daughters. Imagine how difficult that was for Daddy Pud to ask them to forgo the last two months of their junior year and their senior year? They had to choose between Daddy Pud or a diploma. There would be no diplomas for Christine and Claudine. The cold hard facts were that male farmhands were scarce during that period because it was wartime and other farms could not spare their sons whom they needed. The girls agreed and at that moment their humility and character would forever define them. Only in Catawba Valley, I truly believe this could happen. Some would label them as “dropouts” but I label them angels. They would go on and work hard which allowed the farm to function so that it would support their entire family. Later in life, both Christine and Claudine received their GED.
The Catawba Cattle Drive
Taking care of the cattle was a big job on the farm. I have heard of the cattle drives out West in the past, including the famous Goodnight-Loving cattle drive. And the cattle drive in one of my favorite movie/TV series of Lonesome Dove. Cattle were driven over a long distance before the railroads came about. But a cattle drive in Catawba? That was news to me which is exciting because whenever I set down with folks to do interviews and research, I never know what I will learn for the first time.
The Andrews Farm that Pud managed had a good-sized number of beef cattle, and they needed adequate pasture to graze. The cattle were kept in a large field that Mr. Andrews owned down the Creek road just short of Rt. 311 adjacent to the Morgan farmland. As a point of reference, the Bowman house was on that property and it sat close to the road. It was seven miles going west from the Bowman house to the Andrew’s Farm where the Shepherds lived and the barns and other fields were located.
Once a week Pud would drive down to the field by the Bowman house and park alongside the road. He would go to the fence and call the cows. They would all come up to the fence where Pud would count them to make sure all were present and healthy. By doing this, he developed a “shepherd’s relationship” with the herd that would help when the cattle drive happened.
Time for the cattle drive arrived, the gate was opened and out poured the cattle into the road, headed to the farm seven miles away. They would follow that exact road that is there today although it probably was not paved. At times, the Custer boys would help with the cattle drive. Someone would go in front to keep the cattle from going into an open field along the way, and someone would be behind and drive them slowly. I can visualize sitting on the porch at the house and seeing the herd of about 20 cattle come into view. Keep them doggies rollin—-.
Everyone pulled their weight when it came to chores and as they all said when their parents spoke they listened and obeyed. No one ever was spanked. I believe this was out of great respect that they showed for their parents.
Betty would eventually find school not to her liking and decided to leave and go to work. As she shared with me, times were hard, money was scarce and she felt that the best choice was to try to find work. At age 16 she would be hired to work for the Keffer family, not in the store they owned, but to take care of Wayne, the first-born child of Minor and June. So for the next three and one-half years she would live at the Keffer’s home (the apartment over the store) and take care of young Wayne. She would also do other tasks including cooking and ironing. She was paid $1 per day plus room & board. Betty also stayed at the Carroll house at times to watch over the children while our mother, Elizabeth spent the day at the Catawba Sanatorium with our sick daddy. Betty had a strong work ethic for sure.
A DETERMINED AND DEDICATED MOTHER
Soon after the twins were born, Momma Carra fell ill. Dr. Farmer would make house visits and tried everything and it seemed nothing they could do would help her. On occasion, she would have to go to Charlottesville, Virginia for treatment. Every morning Carra got up, fixed breakfast and never complained about being sick. She was officially diagnosed with lupus in the 1950’s passing away a several years later in 1965 at age 64.
As Christine and Claudine mostly worked on the farm and Betty and Rachel working outside the home, Helen spent a lot of time taking care of her mother and helping with the household chores.
Carra’s health made getting necessary groceries from the store difficult. Through the love of her neighbors and friends, she could call Keffer’s store and give Minor a list of things she needed. Minor, or someone in the store would fill the order and give the items to mail carrier, Ross Fringer. He would, in turn, drop them off at the Shepherd house when he delivered their mail. This is just another act of kindness and caring of the people of Catawba Valley in general; and Minor Keffer and Ross Fringer in particular.
Before Carra passed away in 1965, Daddy Pud moved from the Andrews Farm in Catawba into a house in Salem that Mr. Andrews owned to be closer to doctors. He continued to work for Mr. Andrews and died in 1996 at the age of 92.
Where are the Sisters now?
Rachel, the firstborn died on May 29, 2015, so obviously, I did not have the joy of talking with her in person during the writing of this. However, from her sister’s input and the legacy she left through others, I offer this tribute.
Rachel was the first born and would be an integral part of the family for 90 years. Her relationship with her sisters was a lifelong closeness that is recognized by all her family and others that knew her. The five girls grew up through very hard times and that lifestyle would create a bond that death could not break. During the writing of the Shepherd family, Rachel was present as if she was still alive. Actually, I believe she was with us the whole time.
Rachel would get married but after the birth of two children, her husband would desert her. She was left to raise her son Jim and daughter Betty Louise alone. The sister of Rachel’s former husband would come to her aid. The sister-in-law and her husband would take Rachel and the children into their home in Maryland. Rachel would remain living in Maryland for the remainder of her life. Her children likewise would make their home in the same area as they became adults. Jim and Betty Louise embraced their mother’s family and to this day are very close to Christine, Claudine, Betty, and Helen. They try to visit each year in September with a reunion in Salem, Virginia.
Helen would go to Maryland in May of 2015 to visit her ailing sister, Rachel. Just recently, Rachel had decided against further treatment for a cancer issue. The three-day visit turned into three weeks. At the time of this visit, Rachel was staying with her son Jim. On the third day of Helen’s anticipated three-day visit, Rachel would have what appeared to be a stroke. Helen would remain there for another 18 days during which time her oldest sister would pass away. Helen’s hurting heart was comforted in being there with Rachel when she died. Helen was told, later, that prior to her visit Rachel had talked about the joy of seeing her baby sister. A family member would say that Rachel had willed herself to fight hard for the life that was fading fast in order to see Helen one last time. Rachel had been close to family all her life and still is today.
Christine and Claudine
Writing about ‘where are they now’ I could not resist putting these twins together. After all, they were just 10 minutes apart at birth. Unfortunately, Claudine has had to deal with the onset of MS and resides at Snyder Nursing Home in Salem, Virginia. On two occasions Tina and I had the pleasure of visiting with her and talking about growing up a Shepherd. She was consistent with her sisters in describing life in Catawba which I have covered extensively in this writing. She talked about it being a good life and that she had no regrets. She has great support from family, cousins and other kinfolks each week. Claudine has two sons and five grandsons. She was so gracious to us on one particular visit and we just felt so uplifted the rest of the day. We just love this sweet lady 91 years young.
Christine, in spite of falling and breaking her hip and wrist a few years ago, is at 91 a lady who makes her age look like a typo! She has a routine most every day of what she calls her 4000 steps program. Back and forth in front of her Salem, Virginia home, she has an area that she walks 10 times which translates to 4000 steps. I would say that is a mile plus. Her sisters look up to her and call her special. No argument from me on that. She credits her longevity to remaining active and working hard growing up. She continues an active lifestyle today, with her church, volunteering with Eastern Star, visiting Claudine, and keeping in touch on the phone with other family members.
Christine has two daughters. The first born, Vicky wanted a sister so she started saving her pennies for one. When her younger sister was born, she was given the name Penny. Penny has twin daughters, Anna and Ellen. Spending time with Christine was a joy. She has a razor-sharp mind and recall that just amazed me.
Betty lives in Kentucky with her daughter Missy. She had four girls and a boy, although one daughter is deceased. Betty spent much of her early years living with her grandmother Shepherd but also had chores to do growing up at the homeplace. She also stated that they were taught to honor their parents and cannot ever remember anyone getting a spanking. She had one particular thing she remembered. Getting new straw for their straw mattress was in Betty’s own words “the best thing ever was”. Betty talked about her mother and father playing music and singing. She stated that none of the five sisters played musical instruments. She feels that if boys in this day and time had to work hard like the Shepherd girls did back then, there would be less trouble. In our society today, to work boys that hard would probably be labeled as child abuse. She told me that her life growing up was a good life and she wished she could live it over again. My last question to her was what she did to pass the time? Her reply was sitting on the porch there at her daughter’s house watching the deer and squirrels. You have got to love Betty Bennett!
Helen lives in Georgia close to her daughter Karen and son Bill. Bill has two children. Helen was a great source of information and input to this blog post. She was a joy to interview sharing so many stories of her growing up years. Her friends that she spent time with included, amongst others, Kathleen Taylor Peery, Hilda Taylor Wright, and Jo Taylor Clark. They were all about the same age and according to Helen, had some great times together. Helen obviously has a gift of taking caring of others. Helen spent a lot of time early on with her mother who was not well since after the birth of the twins years earlier. I have already documented that Carra had Lupus at an early age but not officially diagnosed until many years later. So Helen would be to an extent her mother’s caretaker of sorts. I mention this because years later Helen would be at her mother’s bedside when Carra was in a coma and unresponsive for a week. Just before she passed Carra squeezed Helen’s hand, smiled the sweetest smile and left this earth. She would be with her Maker in a land that had no more tears and no more disease. Many years after that, Helen would be with sister Rachel at her passing. Helen would be with her husband Dude Willis and cared for him for over 10 years as he dealt with Alzheimers. He needed care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and Helen saw to that he received it prior to his death. When Chris fell and suffered from a broken hip and wrist, Helen would be there to care for her for several weeks.
I could have written much more than I have shared with you based on the results of mine and Tina ’s wonderful experience in gathering information on this Shepherd Family. Our lives have been enriched and we look forward to the continued journey of life with Chris, Claudine, Betty, and Helen. What a joy to walk in another’s shoes down memory lane of Catawba Valley.
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