Billy Graham and my Grandma Mildred, side by side, illustrate a conundrum of mine; why do some folks talk non-stop and others hardly at all? Billy Graham was one with the gift of gab, my Grandma Mildred Davis went the way of minimal expression. The soft-spoken and the vocal are both gifted. But I relate more closely to Grandma who could write her entire life story on a single page. One day, Mildred, coerced I’m sure, by family historians, did just that. I’ve included her life summary letter in this post.
Grant Wacker writing about our modern tendency to over-articulate, includes a wonderful quote from Senator Everett Dirksen to his son-in-law, Howard Baker and a commentary about our culture of constant self-expression, as he writes about Billy Graham, who perhaps was a leader in the field of Evangelical self-expression before the advent of the internet, when constant self-expression was done the old-fashioned way, books, speeches, sermons, and conversations with Presidents and ordinary people.
“He (Billy Graham) simply could not keep silent when he could speak or write, whether he had thought through his opinion or not–and in that sense, too, he is the quintessence of the sociological stratum with which he is most closely associated. American evangelicals have cultivated a culture of instantaneous and constant self-expression: They do not think without writing those thoughts in controversial articles or Facebook posts. Evangelical athletes must overtly give God credit for touchdowns and home runs (although, curiously, not fumbles and strikeouts), and evangelical authors must write books on successful child-rearing principles while their children are still in diapers. One wants to give them the advice Sen. Everett Dirksen supposedly offered to his son-in-law Howard Baker after the latter’s windy maiden speech: “Perhaps you should occasionally allow yourself the luxury of an unexpressed thought.” WSJ 12-20-14 Grant Wacker “America’s Pastor” Spirit of the Evangelical Age
Grandma daily allowed herself the luxury of an unexpressed thought, but when she did express her thoughts, they were unadorned and to the point. Here is what she wrote about here life which began in 1911 and spanned a century.
Excerpts from a letter written by Mildred Davis
Some of you already know parts of what I am writing, however, it may be best to put it all down on paper. In February of 1907 my parents married. Their first house was a half dugout (part underground). In the winter of 1915-1916 Dad with the help of others built a two story house that still stands. As I was four years old, I do not remember much-only playing on the floor joists before the floor was laid. Our mode of travel was wagon so we seldom went anywhere. My sister Ida and I walked two miles to a 3 room building with eight grades and three teachers. Mother, in later years, often told me I started out crying and came home crying. The winters were very cold. We also had to help milk cows before we left for school and again at night. As we girls had no older brothers, we worked alongside our Dad doing chores, field work and gardening. Dad always raised hogs and cattle. He would work in the fields until dark and then chores had to be done. I was eighteen years old and going to high school at a state school in Goodwell, Oklahoma when I met my husband to be. My mother’s mother developed cancer in February 1930 and as Mother was her only daughter, she needed to go care for her. My sister Ida was married so as next eldest, I was brought home from school to take Mother’s place caring for Georgie, Essie and Wesley, besides chores, cooking, etc. Grandmother passed away in May. Because of this time out of school, I did not get to graduate from high school. Doctors in those days were not readily available and their knowledge was limited. I suppose they learned a lot of what they knew from reading medical books. Dr. Buckmaster, one of our neighbors, delivered the babies in the community and was also a farmer. When my babies were born, they were delivered by Dr. Smith, who was also a vet and a dentist.
One of the things that kept our faith strong was that we were so poor and had lots of work to do so about the only place we went was to church. And we had Bible study at home. We moved to California in 1957 and lived and worshipped in Tracy. In 1965 we came back to Oklahoma and Bartlesville has been our home ever since. During the time after Jesse’s death and other times of trial-I guess I never stopped to question those things happening. Every day that you live, if you don’t go backward, then you go forward. Today we have workshops, seminars, etc. to help faith grow stronger, but back when our children were small we didn’t have TV to distract us. We had two week meetings and everyone attended, we had ladies Bible class and would have luncheons (even if all six of us did bring potato salad).
Thinking of some of the times I have been most afraid, I think of Becky having polio, Bud getting kicked in the head by a horse and the time Jesse and I drove to California…without brakes. We got to the top of a mountain in a town with stone walls and then had to go down the other side and Jesse used the motor to slow the car down.
I love all of you Grandmother Davis