Area resident records decades of prose
Tracy L. Brady, Hartselle Enquirer
Oh Dear Mother how we miss you
Since you left your earthly home
But we have some comfort Mother
When we think of where you've gone.
For we know up yonder
There's a perfect peace
Where earthly troubles are all over
And pains forever cease.
Now that you are with Jesus
Won't you tell Him, Mother Dear,
To have mercy on all your
Who are left down here.
Tell Him since you've gone away
There's no one to read the Bible and pray with us
At the close of day.
Ask Him to send your spirit
To guard us while we sleep
And to fill our hearts with
So in Heaven we can meet.
Mary Ella Nix
Faith and free verse
Mary Ella Nix, 77, spends more time these days recording poetry in black and white than composing new verse in her mind.
With her front door opened wide and recliner facing the passing Main Street traffic, Nix waits patiently to share the dozens of poems kept until only recently in her memory's artistic warehouse.
Her first poem, written over half a century ago, is simply titled "Grandpa."
"My grandpa died in 1947," Nix recalled. "I held his hand as he passed away and asked God, then and there, to help me live a Christian life so I could see my grandpa again."
Since that day, Nix said God has put many a verse into her heart.
All she has had to do is put a pen in her hand.
"Sometimes, after working hard all day, God would speak to my heart," Nix said. "I would say, 'Lord, I'm too tired to write,' but He knew better."
Nix seldom actually wrote down what she composed. Instead, she would store most of her poetry solely in her mind, reciting it on occasion to family and friends.
"It's just a gift God gave me," Nix said. "I can't remember what I ate for supper last night, but I can remember poems I wrote years and years ago."
Even though her mind is sharp and recitation is just as easy to her now as it was decades ago, Meals-On-Wheels volunteers are helping Nix to compile a written record of her religious renderings.
Once recorded and compiled, Nix said she would like the give copies of her life's work to her two children.
She will dedicate it to her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. John R. Stephenson.
"Grandma taught me to read Bible stories before I started grade school," Nix said. "Grandpa was the most wonderful person I ever knew. That's why I want to dedicate my poems to them."
The knuckles so old on the blessed old hand
That gripped the stick as over the land
He trodded with feet slown down by the years
And some time it seemed that his only fears
Was that the crops wouldn't turnout as they should
But the next time you'd see him they'd be very good.
Now who knows but what it was, the prayers he said
As over the land his old feet would tread
That made the cotton and corn grow high
And made the potatoes and hay so fine
And the wonderful old sun from Heaven shine?
Aw now! Don't laugh at me!
I'm not half as dumb as you take me to be
Of course I know it was not for
That rain fell and the sun shone
But I just want you to know I have faith in his prayer
And I trust now that he is up there.
His left his old stick with us here below
For now Grandpa's feet don't go so slow
His shoulders, I'm sure, are broad and straight
For God fixed that as he came in the gate.
He lightened his step, put strength in his voice
Then gave him his own free choice
As to who he would first go out to meet:
His mother and father on the golden street?
Or Dear Blessed Jesus, who died for our sins?
And Grandpa said, "Just take me to Him."
For it was Jesus, Dear God, you know
Who died for my sins on earth below
That awful sin of drink, you see,
Almost had the best of me
When Jesus looked down from Heaven
And saw in me, as He did the eleven,
A disciple who would tell
Of the Holy Spirit that comes to dwell
And out of it wipe all sin,
Making it clean and pure within
Oh yes, take me to Him
After that, I'll never have time for them.
Mary Ella Nix
Bit of a bard
The rosy glow of a red checkered housedress reflecting against her porcelain cheeks, Nix needlessly apologizes for grammar mistakes in the written version of her poetry.
"I only finished eleventh grade, you know," Nix reminded a Meal-On-Wheels volunteer who rushed in with a hot plate of food and a new stack a freshly typed verse.
"Mrs. Nix, an artist is allowed to use punctuation or not," the volunteer reminded her. "Just look through those and let me know if we typed them up right."
Within seconds, the lady was off to her next stop and Nix was onto her next poem.
"This one was written after me and a lady I worked with at the hospital found lumps in our breasts," Nix said. "It's called 'Knots in 0ur Boobies,' but I don't think we can put that one in the paper."
Surviving the Depression and living through the turmoil of southern segregation isn't always a recipe for modern political correctness.
However, Nix said God prophesied to her regarding the white man's mistreatment of African Americans and American Indians at a time when speaking on behalf of minorities wasn't mainstream.
"I hope to see those poems presented to Jesse Owens Park and at the Indian Mounds in Oakville someday," Nix said. "The way these two groups have been mistreated, all the meanness they've suffered because of the white man-that's what inspired me to write these poems."
Since her stroke, Nix has a hard time getting around. Her friend Ronald Ire and his chow Spunky see that she gets her meals and medicine each day.
But limited mobility isn't the only change Nix has noticed since her stroke and the onset of multiple health problems.
"Now, I cry when I recite my poems about the crucifixion of Jesus," Nix said. "I miss my parents and grandparents more."
Her eyes were peaceful and calm as she expressed her final wishes-cremation and covered-dish supper at her house.
"A family reunion," Nix said. "No need for a funeral home."
Looking backward instead of forward now, she recited another original poem, the one to be read at her passing.
"That's the one I want," Nix said as she finished. "I guess I'll have to write that one down, too."