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Appalachian Child: The Chronicles of an Abused Child and Her Journey to Survival

Appalachian Child: The Chronicles of an Abused Child and Her Journey to Survival

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Appalachian Child: The Chronicles of an Abused Child and Her Journey to Survival

282 Seiten
7 Stunden
Oct 31, 2011


Bea grows up dirt poor among the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in central West Virginia. Theres lots of work to do, and amenities such as indoor plumbing and central heating are nonexistent.

While others in Nicholas County had it tough, no one else had to suffer the type of abuse she did at home. Beas father runs his household like a dictator, and hes never hesitant to abuse his daughter whenever she does anything not to his liking. Bea gets slapped, kicked, and beaten even at five years old.

While Beas spirit sometimes wavers as a result of being unable to please her father, her story is ultimately one of survival. By never giving up and trusting in God, she overcomes years of abuse, proving that fate and faith can lead to dreams that victims of abuse often think are unattainable.

Become immersed in a story that defines the true meaning of determination as Bea recounts a journey that will inspire anyone who has ever suffered or felt like giving up in Appalachian Child.

Oct 31, 2011

Über den Autor

Bea B. Todd grew up in a poor family in Nicholas County, West Virginia. She now lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband of thirty-six years, Joe. The couple plans on retiring to a home they built in North Carolina in the next few years.

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Appalachian Child - Bea B. Todd


Copyright © 2010 by Bea B. Todd

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by

any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying,

recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system

without the written permission of the publisher except in the case

of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

iUniverse books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting:


1663 Liberty Drive

Bloomington, IN 47403

1-800-Authors (1-800-288-4677)

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any Web addresses or links

contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be

valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not

necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims

any responsibility for them.

ISBN: 978-1-4502-0148-3 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4502-0149-0 (ebook)

ISBN: 978-1-4502-0150-6 (dj)

iUniverse rev. date: 7/21/2011

Cover design by Bea B. Todd




Part One

My Birth, Family, and Neighbors

Chapter 1


Chapter 2

Grandma and Granddad Brown

Chapter 3

Grandma and Granddad Miller

Chapter 4


Chapter 5


Chapter 6

Mary Rose and Lou Lin McCray

Part Two

Memories and Events of My Childhood

Chapter 7


Chapter 8


Chapter 9


Chapter 10


Chapter 11


Part Three

How Does One Become a Survivor?

Chapter 12

Writing This Book

Chapter 13

What Can You Do to Help Yourself?

Chapter 14


Chapter 15

A New Beginning—A New Life

Part Four

I Am Blessed

Chapter 16


Chapter 17


Chapter 18


Chapter 19

My Country


Momma Jean’s

Appalachian Recipes

This book is dedicated to

my mother, Jean,

my husband, Joe,

my son and daughter-in-law,

Mack and Kathy Todd,

my daughter and son-in-law,

Geneva and Sam Cass,

precious and charming Maddi and Brooks,


my dear, sweet friends.

Appalachian Child

Where has the innocence of childhood gone?

carried away with the stars at dawn,

gone one by one with each stinging blow?

Appalachian child,

where will you turn,

where will you go?

Your cries are echoed by the panther’s scream,

your tears reaped by the brown grass turned green.

Who is your friend? Who is your foe?

Appalachian child,

when will you turn,

when will you go?

On into life with memories bittersweet

as the songs of the night winds ask, what will I be,

What will I reap? Who’s to help me know?

Appalachian child,

how will I turn,

how will I go?

Bea B. Todd, January 2008


The Declaration of Independence reminds us that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. As we know all too well, this does not always apply to everyone, and, sadly, sometimes not to children. Like it or not, children are born into families quite by chance, with the luck of the draw very much influencing the world they will face. Over the years, scientists have argued the issue of how we become what we become. Is it nature? Or is it nurture? In Appalachian Child, we get to see how a child having a well-developed nature can, on occasion, face up to, and ultimately overcome, a less-than-nurturing environment.

I have often thought that God made all babies beautiful so that parents would not want to throw them away! They’re always so cute, so cuddly. How could anyone mistreat such a bundle of joy? It is the sad truth, and society’s eternal shame, that we sometimes do just this—throw them away. We all know that parents, like newborns, come in a wide range of flavors. The vast majority, to varying degrees, are instantly transformed upon the new arrival into loving, caring, giving parents. Their newborn is cherished, protected, nurtured, cared for, loved, educated, and raised to have a strong self-image, and the skills they will need to succeed in the world.

Then there are the few parents who never seem to experience that neonatal change at all. For them, consciously or otherwise, children seem to be things: things to be dealt with; things to be mistreated; things to be dominated, punished, abused or neglected. Such parents probably never should have had children. When their children do come (probably because of some misguided idea of social acceptance), these parents simply do not have any of the tools essential to coping with the inevitable changes the new arrival engenders. One can easily imagine the logical endpoint of the environment this lack of skill and awareness creates: poverty, crime, and disease, followed by the ill-treatment of their own children in the next generation.

Between these two extremes are the homes with both kinds of parents: one who is loving and caring, devoted to the children, and only interested in doing what’s best for them; and the other, filled with self-gratification, an ego-first character, so wrapped up in him or herself that there’s just no room left for anyone else. The internecine war that results in such families would be expected to play out in a variety of ways, with one side or the other dominating from time to time as the children grow. I suspect that neither side ever fully dominates. Rather, one would expect small victories for one side or the other over the years, mini-victories for good or bad that fundamentally shape the characters of those affected. Even within a single family, each child might be expected to cope differently with this irreconcilable environment, some becoming hateful, some forbearing, and some rebellious.

Amazingly, the adult who emerges from these tempests often is made stronger from the experience. Children are so resilient. Somehow, perhaps by faith (or magic), some children seem to learn to appreciate and incorporate into themselves the caring and loving side, and rationalize away and discount the unfeeling and hurtful side. In so doing, they ultimately succeed, both in their personal lives, and in perpetuating these quality traits in their own families and beyond.

Bea was just such a child. Raised in a family with a loving, caring mother and an abusive, unfeeling father, she diligently recorded in her mind the successes and frustrations of growing up, vowing to share these experiences when she could. Now, as an adult, she finally has been able to recount the story that follows, cathartically taking you through her life, painting a picture of hope for so many children who find themselves the victim of such circumstances. Appalachian Child is an inspiring story of continual effort to achieve self-improvement, enhanced awareness, and identification of opportunities for growth. Bea shares many of her joyful experiences with us, especially when she recounts stories of her siblings and adoring mother.

In 1914, James Joyce published his now-famous short story Counterparts, in which a father, abused by his boss, subsequently abuses his son, never realizing that what he did was entirely wrong. In the story, the boss might just as well have been the man’s father. The story was a wake-up call. Joyce clearly hoped to give us insight into what can happen when an abused child fails to understand, and then overcome, the powerful motivations that underlie abuse he or she has suffered. I, therefore, am amazed to find that so many children actually are able to overcome this burden. Such victories should not be underestimated, for they may be some of the most difficult to achieve.

In Appalachian Child, Bea helps us understand that all people, no matter how disadvantaged they might have been, no matter how depressing life growing up was, still have within themselves the power to change, to affect their own destinies. They only need to search for and develop their innate ability to succeed, to overcome what at times must seem like insurmountable obstacles, to become the kind of adult they might only imagine.

Appalachian Child is clearly a success story. Although Bea grew up in a poor area of West Virginia, her story is universal, not unique to any one area. There is no doubt that environments such as the one she ultimately weathered so successfully are experienced by children all over the world. It is an object lesson for us all.

Emil Regelman

Burke, Virginia

November, 2008


Victim: One who experiences misfortune and feels helpless to remedy it; one who falls prey to another to be affected, harmed or deceived; an injured party; sufferer; wounded.

Survivor: One who remains alive despite exposure to life-threatening danger; one who shows a great will to live or a great determination to overcome difficulties and carry on.

—Webster’s Dictionary, Composed from several editions

As a child, I was a victim of abuse. As an adult, I have chosen to be a survivor. It is my hope that my story will help those of you who have suffered as I have. If you experienced child abuse, you must understand that only you can determine how the events of your childhood will control your life. You must realize and accept this before you can pull yourself up and away from it. You make the choice as to how the negative events of your childhood and life dictate the type of person you are and will be in the future.

Child abuse scars your very soul. These scars remain with you for life, but with the passing of time they fade somewhat, leaving only shadows of the original pain. The choice is yours as to how you deal with them; you can choose to remain a victim or choose to become a survivor.

Most people who knew our family liked my father and had no idea how abusive he was to his wife and children. These things always seemed to be well-hidden outside the immediate family. As I grew older and became more aware, I stood up to Dad on behalf of my siblings and my mother. If I had kept quiet and accepted his actions without comment, I would have suffered much less of his abuse; but silence was not an option for me. I could not endure his abuse without letting him know that I knew he was wrong.

I knew other children with dads who were more abusive than mine. In those cases, their mothers did not stand up for them, whereas Momma stood up for us when she was there, each time taking the brunt of his cruelty. Most of Dad’s abuse, however, took place when Momma was not around to shield us.

During the 1940s and 1950s in the poor, underprivileged areas of the Appalachian Mountains where we lived, there were no government programs available to assist abused spouses and children. There was not a 9-1-1 emergency assistance number to call. If you contacted the local law authorities, they would tell you, This is just a domestic disagreement, and we don’t interfere. No laws have yet been broken; settle it yourselves.

* * *

As I was growing up, my family lived in three different houses. The first house—where I was born—was always referred to as down on the road. Memories from those years were the best of my childhood. That house was over fifty years old and not built well to begin with; after Momma sold it, it was not maintained well and simply fell apart from age and lack of care. It is sad to drive by and see the empty space that seems so much smaller than the house did. I was four years old when we moved, and up to that point, I knew Dad was mean, but he had not yet started to seriously abuse his children. That may have been because our mother was always with us and was not yet working outside the home.

The second house was referred to as up on the hill. We lived there for nine years, and I loved that house; I will forever remember it as my childhood home. The house sat on a sixty-acre farm with animals that required a lot of hard work. My father demanded nearly impossible tasks of his children, and we tried to do all that was expected. My siblings and I were not fully aware of the difficulty involved in accomplishing what was demanded of us, nor did we realize these demands were far too great for children of our age. When we couldn’t do something right, we believed that it was because we were, as our father repeatedly said, no good, stupid, and worthless. When our mother went to work outside the home, his abuse became more frequent and more severe as his demands of us became much greater.

The last house we lived in was referred to as on up the road. This is the house I lived in during my high-school years. (My siblings and I attended Richwood High School in Richwood, West Virginia.) This house had running water, an electric cookstove, a kitchen sink, and a bathroom, but it was never as dear to me as our old house up on the hill. During our years in the house on up the road, Dad made it perfectly clear that he did not like me and didn’t care if I was there or not.

* * *

I have felt an overwhelming need to write this book for some time. I have prayed and asked God to do one of two things: first, if it is not his desire for me to write the book, I asked him to please take the need I feel from me; or second, to please help me to write what needs to be written, because he knows I am not a writer. After my prayers, I felt an even greater need to write this book.

I have changed the names of everyone in this book to ensure the privacy of my family and friends. The events of this book represent my memories and perception of my childhood years and the actions of my father. These may or may not be the way my siblings recall their childhood years and the actions of our father; we are all entitled to our own feelings and points of view. All of us have handled our adversities in different ways, but we all love and respect each other, and I am delighted that each of us has achieved so much.

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

Psalm 91:1–2

Part One

My Birth, Family, and Neighbors

Chapter 1


I was born in the fall of 1948 in the small house down on the road that sat on the banks of Big Beaver Creek, just past the junction of Robinwood and Tioga Roads in rural West Virginia. There was no indoor plumbing or central heating in the house. The well with its pump on top was near the back porch at the foot of a set of long, steep stairs. The house had two bedrooms, a living room with a potbellied coal stove, a kitchen with a wood-burning cookstove, and covered porches in front and back. The roof was black tar paper, and the siding was clapboard in a deep red brick pattern. It was always hot in the summer and cold in the winter. On the opposite side from the well, there was an outhouse with a leaky roof and last year’s Sears, Roebuck, and Co. catalog, which was used for toilet paper. This was typical for most houses in Nicholas County in the 1940s. We did, however, have electricity, which was not always the case; many people did not have the money to install it or to pay a monthly electric bill.

We were poor—dirt poor some might say—by today’s standards, but there were others far less fortunate than our family. Momma always kept a clean house. She also kept her children clean and well-fed. She was never happy to see dirty, hungry little children. She said many times, Just because you are poor does not give you an excuse to be dirty and lazy!

As Momma tells the story, during the last few months before my birth, she was on extreme bed rest, nearly losing me several times. But she said my birth was the easiest part. We were also very lucky, since I was safely delivered at home in Momma’s bedroom by a doctor who had had one too many shots of whiskey and was feeling no pain. He managed to misspell my name on the birth certificate and guessed my weight and length. But, thanks to God, Momma and I came through it all in perfect order.

To understand what my childhood was like, you must first get to know the people who were present during my upbringing as I knew them.

Chapter 2

Grandma and Granddad Brown

Hugh and May Brown, Dad’s parents, lived about five miles farther up Tioga Road in a rented house. They never owned a car or truck, but had two horses and a flatbed buggy that was their only means of transportation. When Granddad came to our house by himself, he rode one of the horses bareback; when Grandma came with him, they rode in the buggy.

Grandma Brown was six years older than Granddad and was a very religious woman. She attended the Delphi Methodist Church on Delphi Road in Delphi, West Virginia, and always made sure that her children were in church on Sunday. She read the Bible just about every day, worked hard, kept a clean house, and was a very good cook. She made great fried chicken with gravy and freshly baked biscuits.

About a year after she and Granddad were married, she gave birth to twins. They were premature and only lived for three days. She then had Aunt Jean, Vince (my father), Aunt Rita, Aunt Amy, and Uncle Jim. Grandma was very strict with her children. She did not spare the rod on most of her kids; Vince, her favorite, was the only exception. She doted on him, believing he could do no wrong. Uncle Jim, whom I loved dearly, once told me, May Brown was one mean woman. She beat the hell out of me just about every day! Aunt Rita said, I don’t know why Mommy was so hard on all of us but Vince. It seems like Mommy thought he could do no wrong. My mother does not remember things the same way that Aunt Rita does; Momma says that, for the most part, Grandma Brown was not as good to Dad as Aunt Rita remembers. From what I remember, Grandma preferred Dad to any of her other children and was always delighted to see him.

Grandma did not believe in dancing, playing cards, going to the movies, or drinking liquor (by which she meant anything with alcohol in it). Nor did she agree with women cutting their hair, wearing makeup, shorts or pants, getting their ears (or anything else) pierced, etc. She didn’t like to visit or travel, the only exceptions being traveling to church and visiting with her children from time to time. She believed that Idle hands are the devil’s workshop! That translated to Kids need to be busy working from daylight till dark. She didn’t believe in giving children compliments, no matter how outstanding they were. Once again, the only exception seemed to be her favorite son. This caused problems between Dad and Granddad, who did not share her views of Dad’s conduct.

Grandma was kinder to her grandchildren than she was to her children. Maybe by the time we came along, she had mellowed somewhat, because she never spanked any of us that I recall. When we spent the night at her house, she sometimes read us bedtime stories. Her chair sat between the fireplace and a small table on which she kept a kerosene lamp to read by, a Bible, and her glasses. There was no electricity in her house. Grandma enjoyed reading and liked to play word games and work crossword puzzles. Sometimes she read the Bible to us; at other times, she read stories. I am not sure how much education Grandma had, but she sure was an avid reader and good with math.

During those times when Grandma seemed happy to see my siblings and me, she would sit and tell us stories about her life: when she first married Granddad, how she picked berries, grew her vegetables, and made her own yarn from sheep’s wool. She still had her spinning wheel, and I remember watching her spin yarn on it. She taught Carry, my older sister, and me to knit as she made hats, gloves, mittens, house shoes, and sweaters.

Near Grandma’s house was a small springhouse over a very densely shaded area of a cold stream. The springhouse was built of wood and wire, with a wooden door in front and a wire bottom inside that extended down into the cold water. In the summer months, she used the cool running water of the stream to keep her milk, eggs, and butter cool.

For the most part, Granddad let Grandma be in charge of things, but she was never in charge of him. He did as he pleased. Sometimes she was okay with that, and sometimes she wasn’t. If Grandma started to take issue with Granddad, he would quietly get up, put a chew of tobacco in his cheek, put on his hat, and walk out the door to his tool shed where he would do things like sharpen tools, oil leather harnesses, or brush down the horses. I never once heard him raise his voice at Grandma.

Granddad Brown was a quiet, strong man, with long arms and legs. He wore glasses and was thin and wiry. He always had on a hat when he was outdoors, and regularly wore suspenders out over his work shirt to hold up his denim work pants, the legs of which always hung over the outside of his old high-topped, lace-up, black work boots. Granddad was very organized and kept the lawn

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