I’m again sharing with you another painting and story about Catherine Yeates, my baby nurse. I captured Catherine slowly strolling along Greensboro Street on the very last day of Aug. 31, 1984. Glance quickly at the entire painting, and feel the humid, sweltering and almost unbearable heat in the hottest month of the entire year in Mississippi.
See the wonderful old tree with its trunk and limbs bending, twisting and turning, and the shades of green leaves with a hint of a few leaves beginning to “think” about turning to a yellow or red color for autumn. See the fabulous, old house on the end of Gillespie Street.
Let’s look at the wonderful little red topped house when you pass by going and coming by First United Methodist Church. The old house is nestled almost like it is inside a bird’s nest surrounded by the grown up grass and tree. It is quaint and precious as it too sits quietly pondering the memories of its past life. Look at the red, tin roof and see the character of all the red, dark purples, light blues, oranges of the aging weathered tin roof. It is just charming. See the brown and golden sides of the house. It too is just delightful and almost inviting and we can almost hear the words of the past saying, ”Y’all come on in now.” The light blue sky above mixed in with the lime green, turquoise and yellow on this hot, August day.
You’ll spot a large navy blue opened umbrella on the right hand side of the house which balances and give height to the left chimney and almost looks like another chimney to the right hand side. This gives us a hint that a lady is walking underneath this raised umbrella. Who is this mystery lady?
This little red ‘house belongs to Mr. Archer Auston who is in his 90s, and now lives in Virginia in a nursing home. I love Archer, and he was a playmate of my Uncle Marvin Pearson Lewis (known as Uncle Sonny to me).
Archer Auston owns the house and his own family home on Greensboro Street on the opposite side of this street. The old walk is now curvy and bumpy, and you can see that the house is almost just “holding on” and “existing in” a hole. There is a real lady who lives, breathes, walks and strolls along the sidewalk on this hot last day of August right by the blue-violet street at the very bottom of the painting. The Greensboro Street itself ties into the same blue-violet colors of the sky above. This whole painting is flowing together as a pleasing composition. Look at the entire painting as a complete palette of many colors were used which makes it vibrant and very colorful.
I grew up right here in Starkville and went up and down Louisville, Greensboro and Lampkin streets my whole life. I’ve passed this old house millions and trillions of times. If my memory serves me correctly, there was a lady named Bertha who was a fortune teller who told fortunes by reading the palm of your hand. She was very mysterious, and I was fascinated asking myself if she really had unusual powers to read your future life for you. Secretly, I always wanted to pop in to have her read my fortune and let her tell me about my future life.
Later when she died, this same house became a machine repair shop to fix and rewind old machine parts as well as worn out lawn mowers that were on their last leg in life. This little house is abandoned now, and grown up with weeds. I personally would wish one day that it would be placed on the National Historical Sites of America so that we could cherish it forever. I remember Archer Auston desired this as well.
Who is the mysterious lady underneath the umbrella? She became my baby nurse, Catherine Yeates on the day I was born March 4, 1942. As I stood underneath the only shade that was tied onto my artist easel to hold it up, Catherine held her own own dark blue umbrella in her hand which is visible in my painting. Both of us were seeking protection from the blazing hot sunshine above us. We both should have been home under our air conditioners inside or shade trees outside in our yards.
Within my pencil marks and brush stokes, I had so much fun catching and capturing forever that one split second moment within my watercolor portrait of Catherine and the house as well. It’s a delightful landscape and a portrait rolled into one painting. Catherine was shuffling along on her journey in her life that day. Look at her 84-year old body which is bent, and her shoulders are slumped downward at her age. See her neat and very pretty thinning salt and pepper white hair pulled back in a bun the back of her head. Her green 100 percent cotton dress looks stunning, and the color of green matched the leaves on the big old tree and the tall, swaying grass in the grown up cabin/house yard itself. Look at the little white platform heeled shoes she has on her feet.
I know that her destination was to turn at the 4-way red stop sign at the corner crossing on the side of Welch Funeral Home to Yeates Street and then she would make one more turn on McKinley Street to her cool comfortable home with her left on air-conditioner blasting out cool air when she unlocked her front door. I use to go visit Catherine many, many times, and I loved just sitting and chatting with her, and she was so much fun. I loved her with my whole heart and soul. She was a part of our family,and she was a member of our family too. Oh, the stories she told me about all of he new born babies in town. I could have written a best selling novel.
Catherine Yeates was caught forever on my canvas in one split second of a lasting moment within paint on a paint brush. She was the human touch that almost gave a real breath of new life into an old abandoned red-roofed house, and it too lived once again. I can only imagine and almost see old Bertha telling her same old fortunes to folks who would come to have the opened palm of their hands read, the old mechanic fixing, repairing and rewinding old broken down engines and lawn mowers. Look back again at the old house and spot a few of the old mechanic’s things still lingering by hanging on the walls and things scattered around the front window and near the front doorway. These are bits and pieces of the things he left behind.
This house is a symbol for all of us to think about the question, “Do we enjoy living life each day or are we waiting for time to just pass us by?” Do we instead get up, get dressed each morning, head out to make contributions to others? Then we live life to its fullest each day by not allowing or letting life just pass us by. We go out there and joyfully live life by being ourselves and using our talents to show others how beautiful, colorful, and fascinating this old world truly is.
This was a hot, sweltering last day on Aug.31, 1984 , and I had the honor and pleasure of capturing forever as an artist a red-roofed brown house and my old baby nurse, Catherine Yeates. With my watercolor paints and using my brushes, my finished painting will live and breathe forever for all of us to appreciate and enjoy.
I end my story with a sweet poem that was in the Second Baptist Church’s Bulletin for Catherine’s funeral on March 29, 1999.
After the snow of winter,
Spring will surely come
Bringing warmth and beauty
Of blossoms and birdsong.
After the rain,
The swallows will soar again on high,
And a rainbow will
Follow in a sunlite sky.
After the tears of sorrow,
Spirits will renew,
And a bright tomorrow
With God’s help see you through.”
Carole McReynolds Davis is a local artist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .