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When I first started writing these articles, I wasn’t and still am not sure how long until my creative well runs dry, but I often find my self wondering back to my youth and remembering the people and lessons I learned from them. Recently, I saw someone talking about how they wished they had taken advantage of more opportunities they had when their body was still able to go; something we have all been guilty of not doing from time to time. This brought me back to someone special from my childhood who wasn’t afraid to take opportunities when they arrived.
Sopha Evelyn Lay was born in the Creekmore Community of McCreary County on the 24th day of October 1924, the only daughter of three children born to Lewis Manuel Lay (1895-1951) and Essie Alice Baird (1903-1984). Note: although her name was Sopha after her paternal grandmother, she often used the name Evelyn Faye instead. Her oldest brother Hobert Ottis Lay (1921-1927) died as a child, but she never failed to decorate his grave every Memorial Day and tell me what she could remember of him. Her youngest brother, Homer Caradine Lay (1929-1977), was more than a brother but her friend and childhood partner in crime.
A Mischievous Old Crow
One story that was my favorite to hear from her childhood was one about a crow named Ol’Jim Bo. When Evelyn and Homer were young children, they each got a crow and had heard that if you split its tongue it would learn to talk. Homer split his crow’s tongue and Evelyn said she just couldn’t bear the thought of hurting her little crow she named Jim Bo. She told her brother she wasn’t going to split Jim Bo’s tongue because if he was going to talk he would do it anyway. Ironically, hers was the one that learned to talk, and her brothers never did. It was that kind of tender nature that I remember about her most. As the story goes and as best as I can remember it: One day Evelyn and Homer were walking back from Pleasant Run, and Jim Bo was flying along with them. The trio passed a field with a man working in it. The man heard someone say an explicit phrase and when he looked up, he saw the children and yelled over to them that he would be telling their father. When the evening came around, their father had heard about the cuss word that was said, and both children denied they were the culprit. So as he started to take each child out behind the woodshed and administer their punishment, Ol’Jim Bo flew up on the corner of the roof above them just in time and repeated the expletive the children were accused off saying. Their father was not pleased and attempted to scare the crow off, but he would find his way back. Eventually they were able to walk the bird far enough away that he never returned, but for her he was a fun old pet while he lasted. What I remember most about this story was how her face would light up with a big smile and a chuckle as she told it. You could see her wonder back in time to her youth.
On one visit with her I asked her about a helicopter ride she took with my dad many years earlier in Gatlinburg. She said yes, she held on real tight to his leg but enjoyed looking out the window at the view. Evelyn approached life with a sense of wonder we could all learn from. Often though, you would walk into her house and ask her how she was doing she would famously reply “Oh honey not to good!” but she was rarely unhappy and was always glad to welcome a visitor into her home. I know she was always the same age in my mind-never older, never younger. She was a timeless person with a joyful smile on her face which, I suppose, was one of her greatest gifts. She had an old floor model TV she would enjoy watching the classics on, like The Andy Griffith Show, and she always had a Bible near by and her cassettes of gospel music. She wouldn’t let me write this article without mentioning her faith in it. For someone born in an isolated area with limited education and means, she wasn’t afraid of the world around her, or to take a trip or adventure. I believe the one thing she taught me was to be happy in any situation and ready to go when opportunity arises. Watching her enjoy the small things like flowers and birds, coloring books for children because she thought the little pictures were pretty, or her collections of stuff really showed how much inner peace she had… we could all wish to be so lucky.
When I think back on my childhood, I can’t remember a time when Mrs. Privett wasn’t a part of it. She would often join our Taylor family dinners and gatherings. Thankfully to my Uncle Conley and Aunt Wanda, who often organized or aided in planning those events, we were able to be around her frequently. She always considered my grandparents, Arnold and Margie, her friends and all of us her family too. Evelyn was always a sweet, gentle-natured lady who loved to work with and plant flowers, and collect shelves of little figurines. Walking into her home to see her many unique collections and “what-nots” was always an adventure as a child and even as an adult. I recognize the level of work it must have been to decorate and clean all of those, but those simple things brought her joy. She had surrounded herself with beautiful things. I remember one visit with her she said, “I believe if I turned on every one of these pretties that sing at the same time, it would sound like the awfulest party ever was up here.” She grinned big, and her eyes lit up. It is a memory I won’t forget.
Evelyn married on the 20th day of July 1944 to Clifford Privett (1908-1974). They would have a family of four children: Bernard (1951), Gary, Wanda, and Charles. Their daughter, Wanda, married my uncle Conley. Evelyn made her home next to her daughter Wanda where she was able to have a front row seat in the lives of her grandchildren and eventually her great grandchildren. She loved to cook and care for them as long as she was able. When the time came that she had to slow down, Wanda cooked for her. I was blessed with many wonderful meals from these two women.
In Dedication of
Mrs. Privett left us on the 28th day of March 2018, having achieved the age of 93. She was buried beside her husband Clifford; a reunion I know she was looking forward to. I would like to dedicate this article to her and Wanda. She may not have been on the cover of TIME magazine but she left so many wonderful memories and lessons in so many of our hearts. Certainly, no life is small.