Family Stories/Family History

I’m not sure many people other than my relatives and friends of my family will be interested in this page. It contains stories of my family members, my home town of Arkadelphia, Arkansas and an essay about my interest in my family’s history.

Interested in my Ancestors

Why Am I Interested in My Ancestors?
By David W. McMillan, Ph.D.

I was the son of a perfect mother. I was the little brother of a perfect, dead at nineteen, frozen in his perfection at nineteen, Bill. And I was not and am not close to perfect.
My father wasn’t perfect either, nor was my brother Toney nor my sister Betsy. But from where I sit at my family’s table, we were all supposed to be. My father was strong and powerful. To me, Yul Brenner in the King and I personified him. My brother Toney was movie star handsome, 6 foot 2 inches, tanned, blonde and graceful in every movement that he made. My sister was born with Down syndrome and she had an excuse.
Me, I was born a mess. I played I’ll show you mine, if you’ll show me yours with Kay Epperson and Jean Ellen Hankins. I always went first and then the girls ran away. I knew it was wrong but that never seemed to have much influence on me. The abstract idea of “wrong” or “bad” to me were only words adults used for their convenience to keep me within earshot or to stop me from taking apart mother’s precious antique Ethan Allen clock. These words “good” and “bad” were used to get me to take naps I didn’t want to take or take a bath or go to the bathroom when I didn’t want to.

Arkadelphia, Arkansas: Home

Arkadelphia, Arkansas: Home
By David W. McMillan

To me Arkadelphia is the family’s home. This is the place where most of Poppa Taylor and Mary Francis’ children lived. Though I don’t know, it appears to me that Horace took over things in Sparkman after Poppa Taylor’s death and prospects in Sparkman were not the best for the Taylor women. Perhaps someone who knew Sparkman can tell the story of that place and how it was dear to them.

Betsy McMillan

Betsy McMillan, The Remarkable Girl
By David W. McMillan

ONCE UPON A TIME IN A LAND WHERE PEOPLE NEVER WALKED LIVED A FAMILY OF TREES. THIS FAMILY WAS A FOREST. LIKE ALL SPIRITUAL FAMILIES, THEY WORSHIPPED GOD. TO THE TREES, GOD HAD THREE PARTS: THE EARTH, IN WHOM THEY LIVED AND WORKED AND HAD THEIR BEING; THE LIGHT THAT SHINED ON THEM AND MADE THEIR LEAVES GREEN; THE WIND, THAT BECAME THE LANGUAGE THEY USED TO SPEAK TO ONE ANOTHER. IT RUSTLED THEIR LEAVES, MAKING NOISE THE TREES USED FOR WORDS. IT BLEW THEIR BRANCHES, CREATING POSES THAT SHOWED THEIR FEELINGS FOR ONE ANOTHER.

Jane Cole Dedication

A Dedication to Jane Cole
By David W. McMillan

Jane Daniel Cole had one special talent that I clearly recognized. That talent was discernment. She had a sense of beauty, symmetry and balance. She knew how to define appropriate. In her day she was an expert on the finest furniture, which for her was antique furniture. Perhaps she inherited interest in antique furniture from her mother. From her mother she also inherited a sense of refinement and loyalty to family.

Aunt Selma

AUNT SELMA
By David W. McMillan

             Her smile was as wide as her face. They all had false teeth, but when Aunt Selma smiled, she would risk her teeth falling out because she loved joy more than discretion. I loved Aunt Selma and her humor – but I loved her most because she loved me so. Each time I was with her she would tell me a story about something I said or did. When I was three years old, I can remember her telling stories about David. Of course, I loved her creating such a legend and keeping it alive.
            Aunt Selma was widowed as a young woman (or what seems young to me now). Mother told me that Hipop & Bobobbie invited Aunt Selma to join them in whatever social occasions Arkadelphia offered. Aunt Selma was always at Aunt Margie’s. Mother said that Hipop enjoyed Aunt Selma and was eager to have her accompany them. Knowing Aunt Selma, this is not surprising. It is a tribute to her good nature and sensitivity that she was welcome everywhere.
            Aunt Selma represents many miracles. How did she raise two boys alone in the depression? How did she have such “joie de vivre” with her crippled leg and the constant pain that often put her flat on her back? What was the source of the deep well of laughter that was always wherever she was? Where did those Angel food cakes come from for everybody’s birthday and for all family occasions? And dammit, where are they now?

My Brother Bill

Black Titlest 7
By David W. McMillan

             It was Saturday, 8 A.M., August 14, 1960. As I was waking I could hear the rumble of voices downstairs and the opening and closing of the front door. These were the same sounds of my parents having a large party, but it was eight in the morning. These sounds were exceptionally loud because I could hear them over the drone of my window air-conditioning unit.

Memories of Bill Vestal

Memories of Bill Vestal (1920 to 1976)
By David W. McMillan

            Roland Pattillo asked Jerry Vestal, Bill’s son, to write a page or so about his father. Jerry felt he couldn’t reduce his experience with his father to a page or two. He asked me if I would share my impressions of his father.
It was 8:30 in the morning. I was ten years old. It was July. I was just waking, waking much later than usual. Most summer mornings Aunt Margie’s black Plymouth honked in front of my house at 7:30; mother would shout, “David go out to Aunt Margie’s car and bring in the black-eyed peas and butter beans.” And I woke up.
            It was always one or both of those, black-eyed peas or butter beans, with greens, okra or figs sometimes mixed in, vegetables from Aunt Margie’s farm garden. But on this morning there was no honk, no black Plymouth, no black-eyed peas and no Aunt Margie rocking with mother on the front porch shelling peas. And I slept late.

Elizabeth D. McMillan

THE TREE THAT DIDN’T UNDERSTAND
By David W. McMillan

DEDICATED TO ELIZABETH D. MCMILLAN,

 

 

(APRIL 6, 1911 – OCTOBER 8, 1992)

 

AND TO HER OTHER CHILDREN

 

TONEY, BETSY, JILL, MARIETTA, KEVIN AND CARTER

 

AND HER ADOPTED DAUGHTERS

 

KENNY BURTON, KATHY ULRICH AND MARY WHIPPLE

 

ESPECIALLY MARY ELIZABETH WHIPPLE WHO SHARED HER NAME

 

AND EMILY WHIPPLE WHO CAME TO SEE HER

 

TWO DAYS BEFORE HER DEATH.

 

 

     ONCE UPON A TIME IN A LAND WHERE PEOPLE NEVER WALKED, LIVED A FAMILY OF TREES.  THIS FAMILY WAS A FOREST.  LIKE ALL SPIRITUAL FAMILIES, THEY WORSHIPPED GOD.  TO THE TREES, GOD HAD THREE PARTS:  THE EARTH, IN WHOM THEY LIVED AND WORKED AND HAD THEIR BEING; THE LIGHT THAT SHINED ON THEM AND MADE THEIR LEAVES GREEN; THE WIND, IT BECAME THE LANGUAGE THEY USED TO SPEAK TO ONE ANOTHER.  IT RUSTLED THEIR LEAVES, MAKING NOISE THE TREES USED FOR WORDS.  IT BLEW THEIR BRANCHES, CREATING POSES THAT SHOWED THEIR FEELINGS FOR ONE ANOTHER.

 

THE TREES SPENT THEIR DAYS GROWING DEEP ROOTS INTO THE GROUND AND STANDING TALL.  THEIR BRANCHES PROVIDED HOMES FOR BIRDS AND SQUIRRELS, THEIR ROOTS, HOMES TO CHIPMUNKS AND RABBITS, THEIR LIMBS, NUTS AND FRUIT FOR THE ANIMALS.  THEY LOVED THEIR ROLE OF PROVIDING SHELTER AND FOOD FOR THE FOREST COMMUNITY.

The Ravine

The Ravine

            It is pronounced Raa’veen, not Ruh veen’.
            The Ravine was behind my Grandmother’s house. It’s five acre woods seemed to be a jungle to me at ten years old. A small creek bubbled through its gorge. The creek was full of tadpoles and the underbrush contained a few harmless snakes and rabbits. But to me the Ravine contained dangerous tigers, bobcats, wolves and fox. The snakes I saw were all rattlesnakes and the rabbits were wolves.   When I told my tales to adults they never seemed very concerned. In the Ravine the reddish clay mound rose fifteen feet above the creek below to form what seemed to me to be a cliff. The trees were mostly pine trees with a few cherry bark oak mixed in. The trees were so straight that they looked like giant strings flowing down from the limbs that were somehow caught in the clouds. In the summer the cool breezes blew up to Grandmother’s house from the Ravine were always smelling of pine tar.
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