Have you ever looked through a raggedy old family photo album that’s been dragged from pillar to post and wondered if you are descended from the Tribe of People with Huge Teeth? It took me a few minutes to figure out why my handsome Daddy’s smile looks so strange in some of the pictures. It’s the false teeth. He had to have been young when he got them. I see the same thing in some of the smeary black and white snapshots of his brothers.
My Daddy grew up near Jay, Florida, on a farm in a wide spot in the road known as Dixonville — so close to the state line that a crooked crayon line of overzealous gerrymandering would create new Alabama voters. W. T. had nine brothers and one poor girl sister.
In 1991, a year after selling Aladdin Communications, I registered at the University of West Florida in Pensacola and finished the degree in psychology that I had started 24 years earlier and left a third incomplete. What a blast. I was an “old lady” of 40, hanging out with a bunch of 18-25 year old kids. The learning was one hundred percent mind candy. I loved walking the rangy campus, using my library card, buying supplies, sitting in the cafeteria with my stack of books, drinking coffee, writing and immersing myself in the buzz of life finding itself.
There was a blind girl from Jay in one of my classes. It was an organizational development class. We formed small groups to work on a project. That gave us a chance to get to know one another. When this young woman found out I came from the Jones family in Jay, she wanted to know “which” Joneses. When she found out, she said, “Your Uncle Gordon was the sweetest man in the world. He came over all the time to cut my mama’s grass.” She went on to tell me what “everybody” said: “Those Jones boys were sweet as sugar, but they sure were a wild bunch.”
I think of that when I see those faded photos of those good men, holding up a line of fresh caught shellcrackers , or dressed up for Easter church and striking a pose, smiling big to show off their store bought teeth.
W. T. and Nettie Jones, Miami Springs, Florida 1954