By: Brooke Hughes Snipes
Naomi Judd once said, “In life you have to have roots and wings.” Growing up in Samantha, Alabama, I was given both of those things. I was shown how to use my wings to fly and make my own way in the world. I also had roots that taught me that sometimes going home is the only cure for your problems. My name is Brooke Hughes Snipes, and I was born and raised in the Samantha community. My family has been living here for three generations and has made a living farming cotton, corn, and soybeans. My granddad is Floyd Hughes Jr., who has made a huge impact on the community and in my life. He has always instilled in me the three f’s in life: faith, family and farming. These three things have had a huge impact on my life and shaped me into the person I am today.
My Granddad, Floyd Hughes, Jr. And I at my wedding November 2013
I grew up in a way that would be foreign to today’s generation of young people. My summers were spent playing outside in the clubhouse built for my sister, cousins and me. We would spend hours building onto our club, where many tears, fights, and laughs took place. In the afternoons, we would gather underneath Granddaddy and Grandmother Faye (Momma’s) tree to shell peas or shuck corn. At the time, I thought it was boring and a waste of time, but now I understand that we were learning much more than how to prepare food. That’s the thing about grandparents; every task always comes with a free life lesson. On hot summer days we would go to my Mama Charlotte and Papa Norman’s pool for a swim. They too are longtime residents of Samantha. My Mama Charlotte was born and raised in Berry, Alabama but she will be the first to tell you that she is a Ram fan.
In the fall my grandmother Faye would load us up in their Dodge Ram (that they still drive to this day) and take us to the cotton field to watch my granddad Floyd, my dad Barry and Uncle Bryan pick the cotton fields.
My Granddad, Floyd Hughes, Jr. In his cotton field in Samantha, Alabama
We would spend hours picking cotton by hand, riding in the cotton pickers, running the packing machine, and jumping into big piles of freshly-picked cotton. It felt as though we were jumping on clouds. As a child, I thought nothing was more beautiful than a cotton field, and at twenty eight I still feel the same way. Weekends were always filled with cheering for Toybowl football, showing sheep for 4-H, playing softball, or spending time playing on the farm. The I-phone and social media generation of today will never understand the fulfillment that comes from fishing in a pond, playing in a creek, or spending time around animals.
Sundays were all about church. My whole entire family (which was 15 people at the time) would sit on the same group of church pews Sunday after Sunday. We would sing songs together from the Baptist Hymnal. Even today with the Contemporary music that is popular in most churches, I prefer the classic gospel. After church we would all go to my grandparents and eat lunch, and on special occasions we would enjoy homemade ice-cream. Easter was something that we looked forward to for months because my grandmother would take my sister and me to town and buy us matching dresses. Today in our twenties, my sister and I still coordinate our Easter outfits.
Throughout high school, cheerleading filled up most of my time. Now as an adult when I watch my younger brother, Mason, play for the Rams, I still remember the feeling I had on Friday nights when I stepped on that field. Football at Northside is about much more than playing a game. At Northside football is what brings people together. I remember looking up in the stands on Friday nights and thinking how blessed I was to be a part of this community, one that was really more like a huge family. Some of my friends growing up hated that small town feeling of everyone knowing everyone else. I, however, loved that feeling. I loved the fact that complete strangers would run into me and tell me that I looked just like my mother, or that people I met could still remember my dad’s first truck: a 1981 red and white Chevrolet that he still owns to this day.
I did most of the normal things that girls do growing up like sports, beauty pageants, and school clubs, but the hobby that affected my life the most was hunting. My granddad Floyd put a gun in my hand for the first time and taught me how hunting is about time, patience, and respect just like life. My granddad is the only person I have ever seen who can read the newspaper, crunch on an apple, and unwrap candy in the shooting house and still kill a deer. I, however, sit completely quiet and see nothing but squirrels; that’s just how it goes. I wouldn’t trade the days I have spent hunting with my granddad for anything in the world though. My grandparent’s generation is a walking book of knowledge that I love to explore. There is something amazing about hearing about how my grandparents first met, that my granddad broke down on the way to a date and stood my grandmother up, or that they share the same love for Johnny Cash’s music as I do. Looking back on my almost thirty years of life, I feel very blessed not only to have my family, but the family that is made up within my community.
If I am ever blessed with children these are the main things I would teach them: 1. to get outside and enjoy nature; it’s hard to beat a snow white cotton field or autumn in the South, 2. to always count your blessings, because there is always something to be thankful for, and 3. To spend as much time as you can with your family, especially your grandparents. They are the best teachers, motivators, and friends. As far as my roots and wings go, they have both made an impact on my life. I’m glad that I learned to fly. I left my hometown, graduated from the University of Alabama, got married and on my honeymoon even swam in the clear blue waters of the Caribbean. But as the saying goes, “There is no place like home.” It turns out that my roots were stronger than my wings, and my husband and I are getting ready to build a house on a hill overlooking quiet, simple Samantha. And if I ever do have kids and grandkids of my own, I will I pass along what my granddad told me that it takes to build a successful life in the country: a little faith, a little family and a little farming.
Brooke Hughes Snipes –Samantha Living, Guest Contributor
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