01 December 2011

A Passel of Passels

My dad had a passel of aunts and uncles on his mother's side, the Nobles.

Back Row:  Hattie, Nettie (my Grandma), Raymond, Ollee (/OH-lee/, I think her real name was Olea),
Freeman, Emmy (Aunt Emmy was always a hell-raiser. Note dress.)
Front Row:  Ernest, Andy, their father (my Great-Grandpa), their mother (my Great-Grandma), William, Arthur

This post is about my Aunt Hattie, far left in the back row. Next in line is my Grandma Nettie... which I guess means... Aunt Hattie is my Great-Aunt Hattie, officially.

Typical of Appalachians, I have so many relatives of all generations and connections, that we have to wear name tags at our family reunion. Even then, you can't put it all on a name tag: Daughter Hattie, Sister Hattie, Aunt Hattie, Great-Aunt Hattie, et al. We effectively get it wrong because we call a person by whatever our parents' generation calls them. We don't go, Huh, Dad calls her Aunt Hattie so I guess me and my first cousins should say Great-Aunt Hattie. Despite how it may sound right now, we usually don't think about it this much.

Beefsteak when I'm hungry
Whiskey when I'm dry
Comp'ny when I'm all alone
And heaven when I die!
When I was little, Aunt Hattie would often come to our house for a spell.  She was a fun-lovin', whiskey-drinkin', story-tellin' ole' broad. She was so funny, with her off-color remarks and her raspy voice, that she'd have us kids giggling when we didn't even know what she meant.

Aunt Hattie had a daughter named Joanne who was my first cousin once-removed. Me and my first and second cousins just called her Cousin Joanne, or sometimes Aunt Joanne. (You take my point about this naming thing? Google "double cousins" if you want more.)

Aunt Hattie'd play the piano and really belt out all the ole' mountain songs. You never hear those songs anymore....

Practically every night, the grown-ups would get to dancin' and drinkin' and smokin'. Us kids'd all be dancin' too. Some of us drinkin'. It was a righteous good time. Seemed like the whole Noble family was big on dancin'. We was a passel of dancers, you might say.


In the late 1970s, Aunt Hattie was living in Florida with Daughter Joanne. For a few years, they weren't able to make it to the Noble Family Reunion, held each year at—get this—the Noble County Fairgrounds. One of those years, at the reunion, some somber but necessary decisions were made during the "business meeting" about arrangements for when Hattie died.

The next year, Joanne got herself and Hattie up to Noble County for the reunion. Aunt Hattie was failing but hung on for the trip. The business meeting started with the reading of the minutes from the year before:

It was decided that when Aunt Hattie dies, her body will be shipped from Florida to the Noble County Funeral Home and be shown there. As Joanne and Hattie are destitute, the body will be interred in a pine coffin....

The secretary's voice sputtered out. Aunt Hattie could be heard crying. Joanne was weeping and walked away from the tent. Oh, yeah. This happened. Awkward family moment. Deftly, the secretary picked up the next item of business and the meeting progressed.


Pretty darn lucky though that we'd gone over the arrangements—sure enough Aunt Hattie died and we had to ship her before the next summer. I wish I could remember if I went to the funeral. The Nobles have a passel of 'em every year.

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