Love, memories of Tomahawk

Sue Cannady Barefoot Guest columnist

When thinking back to my youth, my fondest memories are of Tomahawk. Tomahawk you asked? My answer is Yes, Tomahawk.

Tomahawk was a small community (notice I said was), south of Clinton about 20 some miles from where I was raised at Butler’s Crossroads. Tomahawk was in the middle of rattlesnake country but to us it was pure heaven. Since all the cousins had lost grandparents much earlier and with my family losing our father when I was only 5 years old, our mom needed all the help she could get raising four children ages 17 down to 5 while she worked in Clinton. Aunt Eva Lee Brown Canady (mom’s sister) and Uncle Odius (O.W. Canady) (daddy’s cousin), who lived in Tomahawk, were our stand in grandparents.

Cousins on my mother’s Brown side of the family there in Tomahawk as well as cousins from the Cannady side from as far away as Virginia, Pennsylvania, all over Sampson County and nearby towns in North Carolina managed to find their way to the Canady/Cannady house in Tomahawk each summer. All the children far and wide loved Aunt Eva Lee and Uncle Odius and they loved all of us children too.

Over the years we all wondered why Aunt Eva Lee and Uncle Odius spelled Canady with one N. We asked but got the usual answer that “there were two Cannady men working for the Post Office so to keep them straight for payroll purposes, Uncle Odius started spelling his with one N.” However, after their death, when their tombstone was placed in the Ingold Cemetery, their names were spelled with two Ns. It was then learned Aunt Eva Lee just wanted their spelling to be different so they adopted the one N spelling. I’m sure Aunt Eva Lee has rolled over many times in her grave now knowing their tombstone is spelled with two Ns. I must say after researching my family lineage and viewing numerous records including birth, marriage and death, I can relate many of our family members names was spelled all different ways. Birth records show one N and their death record show two Ns and vice versa. I found many times the spelling was at the writers discretion.

While Aunt Eva Lee and Uncle Odius only had one daughter who was 13 years my senior, they cared for all of us at one time or the other. They taught us a lot of life’s lessons there from working in the fields, learning to cook, especially cooking a 3 minute egg in 3 minutes with timer set, how to get along with each other, to sew, work in the country store or the post office. He taught us how to stamp, sort and hand out the mail which I requested to be my job. I learned how to make change in that country store. Customers would purchase a drink and nab with a $20 bill while I stood on a drink box to reach the cash register. They did that just to watch me get ‘flustered’ as the saying goes but Uncle Odius always came and saved the day. We all had a job and were eager to do those jobs assigned because they always made it fun. They were funny, they told jokes, stories about cousin this and cousin that. They listened to us as we rattled off our thoughts and aspirations and they always told us “I Love You”. I remember one cousin from Pennsylvania had never seen a tractor in person before only pictures. He was amazed when Uncle Odius sat him up in the seat. I can still see his smiles and pearly whites shinning. His highlight that year was riding on the tractor which he shared to all that would listen.

These gatherings at Tomahawk happened for years and were like a summer camp for all of us young folks. Since I was the youngest of all the cousins, I was the last child to spend time there and stayed more than most ever did. Uncle Odius always introduced me as his “other daughter” to everyone. He farmed tobacco, had Black Angus cows, was a country store owner and postmaster of Tomahawk. Aunt Eva Lee ran the household and was chief cook and bottle washer. All the law enforcement officers knew her because she never observed the speed limit signs. I remember her saying many times “I can turn this car around on a dime and come up with 10-cent change.” At times there were as many as eight or ten cousins at the dinner table at one time. Aunt Eva Lee (I called her Annalee because it was hard for me to say Aunt Eva Lee at 5 years old) was a wonderful cook, a great healer of scrapes, broken hearts, and bruises and was a wonderful referee when arguments were in a full heat.

One main memory stands out to this day. Aunt Eva Lee always had each child pray at the table before we ate. No matter if there was one child or 10; each child prayed before Amen was said. I remember one particular day however, each child was starving and was eager to eat as we had had a busy day. We saw the big banana pudding sitting off to one side and that big platter of fried chicken setting before us. Each child looked at the other and quickly all said the blessing together so we could eat quicker. I still chuckle remembering that famous Amen meal. Another memory that stands out was when our Virginia cousin decided she did not want to be in Tomahawk after having a disagreement with Aunt Eva Lee so she packed her bags and started walking home to Virginia. She was all of about 10 years old then with a very strong will of having her way. Aunt Eva Lee let her pack, walk out the door and watched her as she walked down the road. When she got as far as the tobacco barns down the road, where she couldn’t see the house, she turned around and walked back toward the house mumbling all the way. This went on for several laps to the tobacco barn and back toward the house before Aunt Eva Lee had a “come to Jesus meeting” with her outside. Never again did she pack her bags and threaten to leave.

Today, Tomahawk is no more, but the love in my heart is still there. The post office and his country store are gone but the building still stands but is unsightly to look at. The farm house we spent wonderful memories in is in shambles. We can no longer slid down the banister of that old farm house, swing in the swings on the front porch, make mud pies in drive way, cut through the cow pasture to get to the store with the bull running after us or picking black berries from the side of the road so Aunt Eva Lee can make us a yummy pie. We no longer can smell her home made yeast rolls baking or those family Thanksgiving Dinners with ham, turkey and dressing cooling on the table. Their house at Tomahawk was THE place to be at Thanksgiving. After the meal we would pick up pecans and try to pick up more than anyone else. All these are sweet memories. Today, Aunt Eva Lee and Uncle Odius are in heaven along with our parents waiting for all their “other youngins” to join them there. Most of the older “youngins” are already there so the last few of us still remaining remember all those good times and look forward to our Tomahawk homecoming with them one day.

In Mac McPhail’s article a few days back, he asks “What Happened to Tomahawk.” A lot has to do with the many jobs drying up, just like he said. The older ones have passed on and most of their children too with some moving to larger towns where job opportunities were greater. They did not want to stay in Tomahawk and work the fields and too, there was not enough going on in Tomahawk to keep them there. They wanted to spread their wings and fly to the big cities where new adventures were around every corner. Some descendants of the McPhail family, DeVane family, Brown family and others remained for a time but now, most of them are rejoicing in heaven.

As stated in Mr. MacPhail’s article he asked “in 50 years, will people be asking whatever happened to Clinton, Roseboro, Garland, etc.?” Maybe so, but I would not bet on it.

Folks are learning the big city life isn’t for them anymore. They don’t want to hassle with traffic, all the crime and lack of housing. All seem to want to look out the window and see open fields not another house or business in their sights. They want the simpler life much like what Clinton, Roseboro and Garland has to offer to raise their families in slower times. These towns are growing with new businesses new ideas for investing for the future.

Tomahawk relied of timber and all the byproducts it offered. They put all their apples in one basket. They did not diversify into other businesses to keep people grounded in Tomahawk. Clinton, Roseboro and Garland have a broader outlook for the future and from what I have been able to see, they are going in the right direction. A lesson learned from our forefather’s lack of foresight and the heart of any town is family and the love of God the Father. Clinton, Roseboro and Garland have all those attributes to grow and prosper in.

People will remember back one day of the precious days they lived in Clinton, Roseboro and Garland, just like I remember the sweet precious memories of Tomahawk. May those memories live on in our hearts forever.