Preserving the Heritage - Promoting the Future (Uplifting Stories from Yesterday and Today)

Faith, Family and Farming: Growing up in Samantha

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

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

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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If you enjoyed this article please let Brooke know by leaving comments below.

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  1. Lois Ann

    This is great! I knew your family as I grew up in 4H showing sheep and steers too! Your dad and brother were older than me but a little closer to my sister’s age. (I think Robin was the same age as Amy). Great job with your imagery. It took me back to a place I haven’t been in a long time and for that I am appreciative! Best wishes with your writing and living the dream in Samantha!
    – Lois Ann (Billings) Murphree

  2. Elaine Kilgore

    I really enjoyed reading your story about growing up in Samantha! I taught at Walker Elem. for 15 years and thoroughly enjoyed my time working with kids, parents and grandparents who lived in Samantha. I always told people that the kids in Samantha were different because they were taught to be respectful and for the most part I never saw bullying of fellow students taking play. Samantha was a wonderful place to work and I always enjoyed my ride to work especially in the Spring and Fall time because it was so beautiful. I, too, enjoyed seeing the beautiful cotton fields and farm land in Samantha.
    Many wonderful people lived in Samantha and I am sure many still live there.
    Again, I enjoyed so much reading your story this morning. It brought back a lot of good memories.

  3. Patrick Champion

    I just want to say. ……Go Rams! The Champions are intertwined with the Hughes and many other families in Northside. I like you Brooke am very proud of my growing up in Samantha! We had great teachers, friends and fun!! I don’t know if you remember, but my dad and I and the guys that worked with us(mostly Northside fellas)built the house you grew up in. Your description of everything that you grew up doing with Mr. Floyd and the rest of your Grandparents is amazing. When I broke both bones in my ankle in 2006, I was going to church with my family at New Hope Baptist Church with your Grandpa Floyd and a lot of your family not to mention many of the Samantha community. Not only did the church take up a love offering for us, but our neighborhood in Wenwood,and individuals as well. All of it was supplied by God through everyone. I was off of work for 7 weeks without my 2 incomes coming in, but we never missed a payment. I love my hometown of Samantha because there a lot of great people in it that seek the Lord and how they can step up and help those in need. Great article and thank you for sharing your memories. Keep up the Great work. God Bless you guys!

  4. Samantha Living

    Thank you Brooke for taking time to share these thoughts and memories. Thank you to all who have taken time to respond. We are responsible to each other and it is the hope and intent of Samantha Living to uplift others and to inspire us to love our neighbors. Even if we have not done that in the past, it is never too late to start esteeming others higher than ourselves. In a world of self-indulgence and entitlement, we need to “practice the pause” more often. When we uplift others it ALWAYS boomerangs and comes back to us.

  5. Janice Irvin

    Everyone always enjoys seeing your Granddad at the Palmetto Reunion in April over in Pickens County.

  6. Ricky Williamson

    The Hughes have been a big part of my life. Dad bought the little White House next to them around 1967 which he added on to about 3 times. I fell n love with a Gilliam girl and married her before I finished high school. My senior year I only had a couple of classes and would get out of school and go and work for my dad if he was logging close and if not I would go and work on the Hughes farm. I would drive those John deer tractors, pack cotton in the trailers, slop the hogs or whatever needed to be done. Being Johnny Williamson’s son I knew a lot about working. U didn’t sit around on your rearend I can assure u. We also went to church which was New Hope. That was the good old days so to speak. I wish we could all go back to those days and be familes like we were then. But I have been so blessed and very thankful for my roots. Great article u wrote Brooke.

  7. Mary Shirley


    Your story was amazing and brought back such good memories for me. I remember sitting in paw paw Bill Gray’s truck at age 10 driving around letting the boys load hay, I remember shelling peas until my nails were sore and thinking it was wasting my time. I look back on those days and wish that my daughter didn’t have iPhones, wifi, and all this technology because they are missing out on such wonderful things. Bill Gray taught me how to fly when everyone else told me I couldn’t. He taught me true compassion as he drove by your great grandfathers house and would stop and talk about their gardens and how we might need it that winter. I have a lot more I could add about lessons learned and I have traveled near and far but nothing nothing comes as close to being home than Samantha and those who occupy it! Great job!

  8. Janice (Jane) Ray Wright

    Wonderful article! You are very blessed to have such wonderful parents and grandparents who taught you the importance of faith, family and farming. Love your family! They are very special!

  9. Jana Hughes Brown

    Country living at its best! Very proud of the lovely young woman you’ve become and so glad you appreciate who you are and where you come from. Uncle Junior and Aunt Faye have impacted many lives, including my own . May we have many more years of hunting stories and good cooking!

  10. Emily Arrowood

    I love this! I agree with you 100%. I wouldn’t trade this place for anywhere in the world. This is my home, and this is where I’m going to stay. 🙂 You did an awesome job!

  11. Brooke Hughes Snipes

    Thank you all for the nice comments! I enjoyed writing this article and it was an honor to be featured on the site!

  12. Nichole Tilley

    This is awesome, Brookie! Love you!! 😘😘

  13. Melissa Parson

    I really enjoyed ready this. Thanks for sharing!😊

    • Pearl Long McArthur

      Brooke, that was a great article. I know you don’t know me, I’m much much older than you but, wanted to tell you that your great grandmother Eloise and I are first cousins. Your grandmother Faye will know me. I grew up in Fayette and Tuscaloosa county also and you speaking of the cotton fields brought back a lot of fund memories for me. I’m now 89 yrs old and have been gone from there many years but, I still love going back down there because it is still home to me.i really enjoyed reading this.

  14. Becky Williamson-Martin

    Brooke, you have captured exactly what I had hoped for this website. Memories that prompt conversation from others. I love sharing it and recording it for generations to come. Thank you. I hope to have more articles like this. I have a long list of community leaders and patriarchs that I want to engage who are as you said walking books of knowledge.

    Always keep “The Son” in your eyes!

  15. Gary Mims

    I really enjoyed the article. The Hughes family has and continues to make a tremendous impact on the Samantha community.

  16. Merrill donald

    Thank you so much young lady for your article on life in Samantha Alabama. I am much older than you but I too have fond memories of growing up in the country. I lived on Highway 171 near Coker ( I went to TCHS in Northport). I have been gone from there for forty-six years and live outside Birmingham now. Have a blessed life in Jesus! P.S. My sister in law graduated from Northside High also:)

  17. David Oswalt

    Nice article.

    Remember afternoon spent riding around with Floyd surveying the crops, how high the water was in the creek, and the locations of almost lost cemeteries.

    Nice afternoon.

  18. Teresa Guin

    Great job! I know your granddaddy loved reading it!

  19. Tina Powell

    Brooke, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this!!! This is how I grew up and I almost felt like I was walking in that cotton with you. Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories of growing up with a great work ethic and a respect and love for those who raised you.

  20. Rhonda Burnett Boatman

    I remember that Chevy, and you do look just like your mom. I love the article, and it really puts things into perspective. In life we often fail to see the beauty of a field of cotton, a dirt road, or a cold creek in the woods. We are constantly wishing our lives away, competing with our neighbors, or engrossed in the latest technical gadget. Your article not only put me in a place that I miss, it showed me that there are still young people who value those traditional things that make life great.

    Good job, Brooke!

  21. Benny Martin

    I’ve only known Mr. Hughes for about eight years. He has been my next door neighbor for about three of those years. I count him among my dearest friends. He is a role model for me and as I am writing this he is waiting on me at his pond to fish with him a little while. Thank you Brooke for sharing your memories. I didn’t grow up in Samantha but it is my home now where I will retire and spend my golden years. I look forward to making memories here in years to come.
    Benny Martin

  22. Michael Shults

    Nice article.

    • Janet and John Lee

      My Husband grew up in Samantha went to Northside school

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