Chapter One: “Born Brave”

Born in the home of my great parents (Robert and Ada Hardaway) the day after Christmas in the rural Mississippi town on the outskirts of Byhalia in 1958, my life was melodramatic from the onset. With a population of a little over five hundred residents in the 1950’s, established in 1846, Byhalia was a small town that had a total ‘all land’ area of 2.9 square miles of farmland with beautiful rolling hills.

In the 1950’s, blacks were still disenfranchised in Byhalia, MS by legalized segregation and Jim Crow laws. However, widowed three times, my grandmother’s (Naomi Holloway) last husband, Mr. Holloway, somehow managed to own his own land which they farmed – grew their own vegetables, and raised hogs and chickens. I recall her saying often, “Chelle, I refused to be a sharecropper.”

Their farmhouse, situated on top of a steep hill overlooking the highway,  was old and rustic. She did not have running water, yes, you read it right. There was no indoor plumbing, but there was a pumping well to get drinking water, as well as water for cooking, cleaning, and bathing. You had to pump and carry water in buckets from the well to the house.

Grandmomma also had a wood burning stove for preparing meals and heating water for the old galvanized tub that was placed in the middle of the kitchen floor for bathing.  In the backyard, there was a smokehouse (near the house) and an outhouse (further back in the yard) – the smokehouse was for curing meat and the outhouse was the bathroom facilities.   The bathroom was a shed, a wooden house outside (outhouse) in the back with a hole dug in it and a plank laying across the top with an opening for you to use the toilet.  There was a nearby pond for fishing.

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Eula Bell Pegues

My biological mother, Eula Bell Pegues, was fifteen years old when she gave birth to me. My father’s name (according to my mother) was Monroe Richmond, whom I have never met. At birth, as tradition had it, I was given the name of Naomi Pegues – after my maternal grandmother. Fourteen months later in February 1960, Eula had a son named Henry, and the following year in April 1961, another son named Elliot – all having different fathers.

Eula was made to feel ashamed about getting pregnant and having children out of wedlock starting at such a young age – fifteen. According to her, she and Monroe were high school sweethearts when she got pregnant with me in March 1957, deeply in love with one another. She never doubted who my father was. Since Monroe’s death, I have reached out on several occasions to the Richmond family, and no one has been receptive of acknowledging me as his biological daughter.  I am unsure as to rather he fathered other children. (Chapter Two: Daughters’ Deceit)

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Eula Bell Pegues (Pictured with her brother, Richard Pegues)

About Yvonne’s Life, Chapter One: Born Brave ~~~ Yvonne James | https://www.yvonnejames.com

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