Finding roots in sweet potatoes

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 9, 2010

My grandmother Minnie was an Adams.

Her daddy, Asa, had two sets of children. Mugi was in the older set. Her mother died when she was young and her daddy remarried and had a second family.

Honestly, I don’t know much about those folks.

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Mama wasn’t into genealogy. She’d laugh and say that she didn’t have many relatives that she cared to claim. So, it was not until Mama was “up in age” that she surprise me by saying that she wanted to go the Adams family reunion at Lakepoint Resort in Eufaula.

It was a banquet affair and folks that we had never seen before in our lives took the floor and held it. At some point, the Adams association president asked the new members of the board of directors to stand up.

Mama stood up.

I motioned for her to sit down. She didn’t. Again I motion and she kept standing. I tugged on her arm. She resisted. Finally, I pulled her down in her chair. On the way home I asked her why she stood up when they asked for the new members of the board of directors to stand.

“I didn’t know they said anything about a board of directors,” she said. “I just heard them say ‘Stand up’ and I was ready to go so I stood up.”

That was the last gathering of the Adams clan that I have attended – until New Year’s Day.

Charles Adams invited me to the family cabin in Texasville. “A lot of your kinfolks will be there.”

Well, I wouldn’t know if they were kinfolks or not.

Mugi and Sam, Charles’ daddy, were related. I’m not sure how. But they were a lot alike.

Both could be a bit ornery and seemed to find great joy in that state of being.

One year at Christmas, I was doing some shopping at Adams Store. I picked out a bonnet for Mugi.

“Minnie ain’t gonna wear that bonnet,” Sam told me.

“Oh, I think she will. She likes to work in the yard and it’s got this flap that will keep the sun off her neck.”

Sam said again, “Minnie ain’t gonna wear that bonnet.”

On Christmas day, Mugi opened her gift, wadded the paper around the bonnet and put it back in the box.

The next day, I was back at the store. “Minnie wouldn’t wear the bonnet.”

Sam just shook his head and accepted the returen.

Other than Sam, Uncle John, Uncle Ben, Earl, Florene and Iama were about the only Adams relatives that I could put a face to.

Earl operated a store in Texasville and during the summer Aunt Eleanor and Mugi would come to Brundidge to get us to go stay a few days with them in Eufaula.

Of course, it was hot and back then nobody other than, maybe, the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers, had air conditioners in their cars. We were packed in Olds like sardines so by the time we got all the way to Clio, we had to stop for a few minutes to “fan about” and get something cold to drink. Aunt Eleanor and I would sit under the big oak tree and eat crackers, hoop cheese and dill pickles. Mugi and Bubba always got an RC Cola and a Moon Pie. Mama sat in the car and drank a co-cola. She did like to “eat out.”

By the time we got to Texasville, we had make another sweat stop and Bubba would start hollering, “Don’t stop at Earl’s! Don’t stop at Earl’s!”

I don’t know why he was afraid of Earl. Mama said he wasn’t. I was just the Adams coming out in him.

So, it was with this limited knowledge of my Adams’ lineage that I headed over to the Adams family cabin near Texasville. Of course, Charles and his family are like family but outside of that, I have to be introduced to my Adams relatives.

The introductions were informal and the children provided enough background distraction that I didn’t catch all the names.

“Now, did they say that you are Aunt Minnie’s granddaughter?” Well, Lord have mercy. We did love Aunt Minnie.”

The three ladies – relatives I think they are – remembered my grandmother and how she nursed this one and that one.

Now, Mugi was a self-appointed and self-proclaimed nurse. She had never been to nursing school. I don’t even think that she finished “school.” But she wore a starched white uniform with white shoes and a nurse’s cap. The tools of her trade were a thermometer and rubber enema bag and she went from place to place nursing people back to health.

She even nursed the mother of the Little Fighting Judge George C. Wallace.

If anybody died from her mal-practice, it was laid off on something else.

And, if the ladies were right, nobody would have cared because “Minnie could fry the best chicken I have ever tasted,” a kinslady said.

“I think it was in the way she turned it in the frying pan.”

As I stood there on the porch kitchen listening to unfamiliar relatives talk about someone who had been so special in my life, Charles was busy at the wood stove. He eased open the oven door and pulled out a pan of sweet potatoes. Their baked skins were crispy brown – actually black. The ladies ooohed and ahhhed at the sight of them.

That was all that I needed to confirm my sisterhood into the Adams family.

There’s nothing in the world that I’d rather have than a sweet potato baked in a wood stove.

“Where’s the butter?” someone asked. “Gotta have butter.”

I was right a home and among my folks.

Jaine Treadwell is the features editor for The Messenger. She can be reached at