January 31, 1934
Barlow Bend, Clarke County, Alabama
The water was like glass. The winter chill had finally settled into lower Alabama, and the sun hadn’t burned off the frost yet. It was still too early for that. Dawn had broken over the horizon, providing just enough light to see the opposite bank.
Hubbard glanced at the bottom of the boat as he rowed across the river. He was surprised by the amount of blood that began to fill the seams between the planks despite his hope that the wool blanket would soak up most of it or at least keep it contained. Instead, the thick, dark liquid mixed with the dirt and debris on the bottom of the boat, forming a gruesome paste. He tried to focus on his rowing, to keep the tiny vessel as still and steady as possible. Finally, he reached the opposite shore and pulled the bow up on the beach.
Hubbard lifted the soaked bundle out of the boat, careful not to expose any of Addie’s 100 lb. frame, especially not her face. He didn’t want to see her face again, not like that. Even in the shadows, he had seen the light leave her eyes instantly. She was looking right at him when the gun fired. One single shot was all it took. She was gone before her body hit the ground. He closed his eyes for a moment to let the feeling of it pass.
Hubbard laid Addie on the riverbank. He had to rinse out the boat. The small skiff was used by anyone needing to cross the river at Barlow Bend, so he couldn’t leave it in its present condition. The next hunter, or whoever might come along, would wonder what on Earth had left so much blood. Luckily for Hubbard, the next traveler would probably think that someone had scored a large buck or a prize turkey, but was too lazy to clean up after himself. A few buckets of water washed out most of the blood, leaving the boat in an acceptable condition. He couldn’t linger on the riverbank any longer. He had to get moving.
Hubbard put on his pack which contained the sparse supplies his wife, Addie, had packed for the morning, and the two guns they had brought safely tied to either side of the canvas. With Addie’s body still wrapped inside the blanket, he gently lifted her again into his arms and set out for the two-mile hike to the car. Addie always insisted upon hiking deep into the woods on their hunting excursions. She felt it was more of a sport that way: go deep into the prey’s territory undetected so that the prize was even more deserved. He regretted letting in to her as he realized the considerable distance ahead of him. Two miles through the thick pine and underbrush while carrying such a load would take considerable time, but he quickly realized that time didn’t matter to his Addie anymore.
As Hubbard walked, he was struck by the stillness surrounding him. The only sounds he heard were the crunching of pine needles beneath his
boots and his own breath. His load was getting heavier with each step, and his arms were beginning to burn. He wondered for a second about how many other hunters had taken the same path, and if he might run into any of them. It was the last day of rifle season, so he feared the woods would be teeming with hunters hopeful for one last, great morning in the woods. He hoped he could avoid them. Hubbard didn’t need the distraction of having to tell the story of what happened or the waste of time to ask for help. Addie was beyond help.
“Stop it,” he said aloud, and pressed forward.
Hubbard mapped out a plan in his head. He would hike to the car and drive the approximate 30 miles from Barlow Bend to Jackson, where he hoped his cousin, Stephen, would be on duty at the Jackson police station. The upstanding Andrews name was synonymous with law enforcement in Clarke and Monroe counties, at least, until Hubbard came along. Hubbard would tell Stephen the story, and hopefully, he wouldn’t have to use too many details.
Stephen would know what to do with Addie’s body. Once that was taken care of, Hubbard would then drive the sixty miles back to Frisco City and try to wash up before the children saw him. They didn’t need to see him like this, frozen from the chill in the air, sweating at the same time, and covered in their mother’s blood. He would tell Hattie first, she was the oldest. Then, the two of them together would tell Meg, Billy and Albert. For a moment, Hubbard's thoughts went to the children.
Where would life take them with no mother as guide? Hattie would help the younger ones cope, Hubbard reassured himself. He knew Hattie and Meg were old enough to remember, but maybe the boys were young enough to forget.
Hubbard finally reached the car, Addie’s ragtop 1930 Model T Ford, and laid her carefully on the back seat. The blanket had shifted during the hike so a glimpse of her hair fell into view. Hubbard touched it, sticky and cold, the deep, coffee-colored brunette now streaked and matted with her blood. Suddenly, he was struck by the thought that he would never stroke her hair again, never hold her face in his hands, never hear her infectious laugh, never feel her heat. Suddenly, he became numb.
August 8, 1933
Frisco City, Alabama
“I poured it out in the yard. If you want the whiskey so bad, go out back and lap it up like a dog.” Momma stared right into John’s eyes as she said this. Momma wasn’t a teetotaler by any means, but she didn’t like how drunk Uncle John got during these family get-togethers, so she took matters into her own hands. Rather, she took Uncle John’s whiskey into her own hands, and watered the azaleas.
It was the night of my thirteenth birthday. The house was full with friends and family, ready for music and dancing. Meg, my younger sister, played the piano while Momma, Daddy, and the others danced in the living room, but Uncle John became handsy when drunk. Daddy got irritated when Uncle John got handsy.
“Nothin’s gonna ruin your party, Hattie.” Momma, as usual, fixed the situation to her liking.
Momma stared at Uncle John’s heavy eyelids and scruffy complexion for a moment, probably wondering for the millionth time why her older sister, Audrey, married such a worthless man. Not even really a man, but a pitiful being ready to beg for scraps.
Momma knew how proud Uncle John was of his whiskey. “A family secret passed down from my papa,” Uncle John would proudly announce, as if we all hadn’t heard that statement over a hundred times.
Pouring out the whiskey was a little mean, but I think Momma enjoyed angering Uncle John, and I loved her fearlessness.
“Audrey was pretty before John. She could have done much better for herself,” Momma told me earlier that day when we were making the cake for my party. I loved being in the kitchen with Momma. Even if it was to help make my own birthday cake, an afternoon alone with Momma was a gift. Each story she told was like a secret shared just between us. And Momma had plenty of stories about Uncle John, his whiskey, and the way he treated Aunt Audrey. Momma also thought that a real man would at least attempt to argue with her when insulted or tricked. When John’s only argument manifested as incoherent and pathetic huffing and puffing, she couldn’t help but laugh.
Uncle John stormed out the back door of the kitchen with Aunt Audrey chasing behind him.
“Jesus, Addie, why do have to be so hateful?” Audrey squeaked at Momma as the screen door slapped the frame. “John, Honey, come back to the party!”
I wondered for a second how these two completely different women could be sisters. Aunt Audrey’s face was weathered and splotchy, probably from long hours spent in the fields trying to salvage the meager profit Uncle John had promised during the spring planting. Momma, on the other hand, had a perfect porcelain complexion that would glow a beautiful bronze in the summer, but always returned to a smooth, soft cream by mid-fall. I had also never seen my mother chase after Daddy when he stormed out of a room.
“Hattie, Honey,” Momma said as she turned toward me, “Promise me you’ll never waste your time on a man like that.”
“I promise, Momma,” I said.
“That’s my girl.” Momma kissed my forehead, shook her shiny, wavy hair, trimmed smartly just above her shoulders, and turned to walk down the hallway into the living room with a pitcher of sweet tea and glasses balanced on her favorite serving tray. Daddy stopped her in the doorway and shook his head. He didn’t care for John Howard too much either, but he did like the man’s liquor. It was the smoothest in the county. Momma knew Daddy would be disappointed, but she also knew how to be forgiven—tilted chin, coy laugh, piercing blue eyes staring straight into his.
Addie and Hubbard Andrews were each better looking than the other. Who could say whose blue eyes were more powerful: Daddy’s clear, ice blue, or Momma’s nearly cobalt, like beach glass washed on the shore, smooth and shiny? I was witness to Momma’s subtle, yet mesmerizing ways of winning on several occasions. She knew exactly how to be forgiven for every impulsive action.
“Sorry, Hub, but John’s barely tolerable sober, much less lit up like the Fourth of July.”
Then, Momma made the move that made Daddy forget the whiskey. Momma gently, but intentionally brushed her body against his as she passed him through the kitchen door. Her hair brushed his chin and she dragged her fingertips along his waist. Daddy stared at her, fixated by her every move as she exited the kitchen and disappeared into the parlor without spilling a drop of tea. The room always seemed a little darker after she left.
Frisco City, Alabama
I heard them as they stepped on the front porch. The front door swung open so hard that it hit the wall and bounced back. Momma and Daddy had gone to an adult social at the Methodist Church that night and were home earlier than I thought they would be. I had just crawled into my bed when I heard Momma’s voice on the porch. They were fighting again. Meg, of course, was already fast asleep and engaged in her heavy, rhythmic breathing.
“It’s bad enough that I have to hear the hens whisper about you, but to watch you! And right next to me! You’d think you would’ve finally learned a little self-control after what you did, but no!” The hurt caused by whatever Daddy had done echoed in every word Momma spoke.
“Addie, Honey, I…” Daddy tried to explain that he was just being friendly, but Momma kept at him.
“They’re never going to stop!” Momma was in the mood for a good fight and determined to have one. “Do you know what they say about you? About me?”
“And there it is!” Daddy raised his voice loud enough to silence Momma. “You’re not worried about what I’m off doin’ or not doin’. You’re not worried about what I did. You’re only worried about precious Addie Izora Andrews and how you look to all of them! Well, to hell with them and with you!”
The door slammed again, and then silence. I knew Daddy had left. Momma would stand her ground and stake her claim on a room, a piece of land, or an argument until it was reduced to ashes, but Daddy would retreat. He couldn’t stand being next to Momma when she was in one of her moods. The flashes of heat coming off her could suck the oxygen right out of a room and force Daddy to search for fresh air so he could breathe, or at least seek cover until she grew bored with arguing, which was usually the only reason one of their arguments came to an end. That summer and fall, the arguments came more frequently than in years past.
According to Momma, I came from very strong-minded and strong-willed stock. Momma claimed that as soon as she and Daddy first laid eyes on each other, the battle for control began. I think that was probably what attracted the two to each other to begin with—the need to rule their own small piece of the world. Neither of them wanted to rule over someone weak. The weak offered no challenge, and, therefore, no reward. Momma and Daddy met at the First Methodist Church in Luverne, Alabama, 90 miles east of our home in Frisco City. Both claimed to have picked each other and that once his or her mind was made up, the other had no choice but to go along with the match. Of course, I always privately believed Momma’s version of the story more than Daddy’s.
Momma claimed that for weeks every Sunday morning, she stood in the choir box and looked out onto the humble congregation, heads bowed in prayer. Every head bowed except one. Throughout the service, Daddy would stare at her with his delicious blue eyes, then linger by the door afterward. Enjoying the game of chicken far too much to end it so soon, Momma would walk coolly past him and down the street with her sisters in tow, not even giving Daddy quick glance.
Momma’s four sisters; the Lowman Girls as they were known across the county, would beg her to speak to the dashing Andrews boy; youngest of the eight children born to General Jackson Andrews. General—no military affiliation, just a name—Andrews owned a large plantation on the north side of Luverne and seemed to have his hands in all county business: from farming, to politics, to which moonshiners were allowed to prosper in Crenshaw County. The Lowman Girls considered an Andrews boy a great catch.
Momma would smile and tell her sisters, “Maybe next week,” knowing that Daddy would be back in the middle pew the next week, and their game would continue until she was sure he was completely hooked. After a few weeks of the game, Momma finally paused on the steps and spoke to Daddy. She accepted an invitation to accompany him to a dance the following weekend. Two short months after their first conversation on the front steps of the modest wooden chapel, the two stood there together again as husband and wife.
By that evening in October of 1933, Momma and Daddy had played their game of chicken, trying to find out who was in control of whom, for fourteen years. Lying still in my bed, I held my breath so I could hear Momma. Whenever they fought, I waited to hear if she would cry afterward. If she did cry, I never heard her. What I did hear, was Momma’s pacing, fast and hard on the wooden floor, and then a kitchen cupboard creak, a glass on the counter, the thud of a thick, glass bottle. I knew Momma was still fuming because all of her movements sounded more deliberate and animated than usual. I decided to stay in my bed. Momma was a force when angry, and I didn’t want to get caught in her path or end up a casualty in tonight’s match. Sleep would give way to a calmer morning for both of them.
As I lay in bed, my heart pounding too hard to fall asleep, I fantasized about my future life. I hoped to marry a simple man, a local shopkeeper or a man who worked for the town, not one who traveled all over selling his wares and who owned a hotel in the next county that required him to be away for several nights at a time.
“I go there to check on the hotel, Addie. That’s all!” Daddy’s constant explanation rang in my ears.
In the stillness, I heard Marion Harris singing I’m Just Wild About Harry. The tune bounced from the radio set in Mrs. Williams’s front parlor across the street, and through my open window, “He’s sweet just like chocolate candy and just like honey from a bee. Oh, I’m just wild about Harry and he’s just wild about me.”
I swore right then that I would marry someone like Harry from that song, someone that’s sweet like chocolate and wild about only me. And I would be wild about him. We’ll live quietly without worrying about who’s winning or losing the game of chicken that I will refuse to play.
The next morning, I woke to the smell of coffee and my mother’s lilting, sparkling laughter. She was teasing Daddy about sleeping in the barn like a dog, too scared of his “tiny, little ol’ wife” to come back inside. Luckily for Daddy, October was still a warm month in Alabama. Not all the nights he spent in the barn were too comfortable. At least, when I heard the front door slam night after night, I always assumed he went to the barn.
But on that morning, I had no idea what was ahead of me. On that morning, I was just a teenager who wanted her parents to stop fighting. I softly padded down the hallway and to the kitchen as Momma and Daddy continued to flirt and tease each other.
“Wicked woman, I should have drowned you last summer when I had the chance,” I heard Daddy say as Momma howled with laughter, and I paused in the hallway.
Daddy had taught all us kids to swim over the years, but Momma was content to float on her empty Karo Syrup cans, one neatly tucked under each arm.
“If the Good Lord intended me to swim like a fish, he’d have given me gills!” she would playfully snap at Daddy as she gracefully floated on her cans. Daddy would beg her to at least try to swim, tickling her until she threw her arms around him for support when her cans floated away. When Momma and Daddy were good, they were fantastic.
“Hubbard, you worship every hair on my pretty little head.” Momma playfully lunged at Daddy who was leaning against the kitchen sink.
Maybe to prove how much stronger he was than her, Daddy picked Momma up and spun her around as if he was holding a small child. He kissed her neck, and she laughed even louder. He held her there for a moment longer. Her feet dangled nearly a foot off the floor, and her blue eyes danced with his.
As I watched my parents from the doorway of the tiny kitchen, the song from the night before came back to me but the lyric changed. Addie’s just wild about Hubbard, and he’s just wild about her.