"I'm Proud of My Country Roots"

Wayne Haston

About 1951 - Left to right: My Dad (Boyd Haston), sister Marilyn, me (Wayne), cousin Mickey McWilliams, and of course - the mule.

In the photo above, you are looking west toward the “Mitchell [or Dodson] Bridge” and Fraizer’s Chapel Methodist Church in a Caney Fork River bottom area known as “Big Bottom” in southeastern Hickory Valley of White County, TN.

My daughters requested that Sharon and I would each create a book about our earlier life experiences. This is one chapter I wrote for them but thought I'd share it with you, my great big Haston FAMILY. Please indulge me the pleasure of telling you about my country roots. It's one of the reasons I'm proud to be a Haston.

I have been blessed by God, in so many ways.  My dad, Boyd Haston, graduated from the 8th grade (actually, he skipped the final tests so technically he never graduated).  But he was better at math and handwriting than I ever was or will be.  He became an Alderman in Sparta, TN, and served in that role for 10 years.  My mother’s (Mary Ruth Davis Haston’s) father was a country school teacher, so he insisted that she finish high school, which she did. 

In elementary school, I was always at or near the top of my class.  But in high school, I chose the partying route and limped along until graduation in 1965.  I had no intentions of EVER going to college–NONE.  Then God reached into my life on March 14, 1965, while I was a senior in high school and radically changed me–my desires, my lifestyle, and my goals.  Totally.  

Long story short: I spent 16 years in college and graduate schools and received degrees and awards I prefer not to mention.  And this boy from the little town of Sparta, who never planned to leave White County, Tennessee, ended up traveling to and teaching in about 35 countries around the world.  There are other accomplishments I won’t mention because they would sound boastful.  Even what I’ve said here is probably too much, but I’m saying it because I want to give God and my parents the credit.  I sincerely do.  I love and am proud of my country roots.  They have kept me “grounded” and ever-aware of what is really important in life.  

Our House - About 1950-1953

When I started school, we lived in this rented house, the same house my mother grew up in.  There was no (zero!) insulation on the one-board-thick walls and cracks between the boards kept the rooms fresh and breezy.  On cold nights any water in my bedroom froze solid.  The house was later converted into a pig house, so it was painted, a new roof was added, and the front porch was framed in to give the pigs more space.  

This is the backside of the house (obviously 40+ years after we lived there).  The unpainted room with the two windows was the kitchen and dining room, equipped with a wood-fired kitchen stove, and in our last year there, a kerosene-cooled refrigerator that caught fire once and created quite a panic.  And the kitchen was where Mom set up the galvanized washtub on Saturday nights where we all, one-by-one, would take a bath in water heated on the kitchen stove.  After all, “cleanliness is next to godliness, right?” 

The covered extension was our back porch.  That’s where the cistern was.  It was filled with water that ran off the roof–a rustier roof than you see here.  And before the kerosene refrigerator, we had an icebox on the back porch.  My Dad would catch a ride to town with a neighbor (he didn’t own a car most of the time) and bring back a large block of ice (from the “Ice House” in Sparta) to put in the icebox for our refrigeration.  

Here’s another angle–from the East side of the house.  Our “outhouse” (toilet) was located near the bottom-left side of the image, probably less than 10 yards from the cistern.  Hmmm…think about that.  The building on the left side (probably a newer building) was the chicken house and smokehouse (where the hogs my Dad killed in late fall were salted and hanged to cure).  The now-closed-in window (near where the front porch was) was the window to the living room, which was also my parents’ bedroom.  In side that window is where the old battery-powered radio sat.  Our only (from the outside) entertainment was from radio dramas, such as Amos and Andy, the Great Gildersleeve, the Lone Ranger, Ozzie and Harriet, Jack Benny, etc.  But we only had those when the battery wasn’t dead.  What a thrill it was when Dad would come home from Sparta with a new battery for the radio!

My mother was an excellent housekeeper.  Our house was always clean and neat, even though we didn’t have “running water” and didn’t have electricity until a few months before we moved to Sparta.  We went (walked) to church, about a mile away, regularly.  My parents were God-fearing folks, who loved the Lord and treated everyone with love and respect.

By the way, the field this picture was taken from was “filled” (well, not filled, but you know what I mean) with arrowheads.  I used to follow my Dad as he plowed this field and picked up dozens of arrowheads every time.  As a six-year-old boy, they were just little stone “Christmas trees” to me.  I remember the day we moved away, I left a jar of arrowheads sitting on a shelf on the front porch–vivid memory, big regret now.  

This is the barn, out back.  The Caney Fork River flows just beyond those trees.  Of course, we didn’t have the silo-feeder when we lived there.  But we did have a haystack in front of the long-sloped side of the barn.  And the barn was not painted, for sure.  I have memories of taking a kerosene lantern to the barn–age 5 or 6–to get something for my Dad (at night).  Growing up in similar situations, he never thought anything about sending me to the barn alone at night.  And I remember the big copperhead a friend (J.T. Davis)  killed in one of the hay troughs and I’ll never forget the rats in the corn crib where I was shucking and shelling corn to take to the mill to be ground into cornmeal.  One day a big rat was in a 55-gallon drum (barrel) and couldn’t get out, so I threw a cat in the barrel.  But the cat came out faster than I threw it in.  

Growing up, I learned to slop the hawgs (hogs, for you city slickers), feed the cattle, turn the mules out to drink in the pond in the barnyard, and milk a couple of milk cows.  Mom pretty much took care of the chickens–feeding them and gathering eggs–including ringing their necks, plucking the feathers, and frying chicken two or three times a week–a staple in our family.  Keeping weasles or foxes out of the chicken house was also a challenge.  A couple times a week a “rolling store” (groceries packed into an old repurposed school bus) came by.  Mom would barter eggs or live chickens for cooking necessities such as flour, salt, sugar, etc.  And that’s where we got the kerosene for our kerosene lamps. 

The little field in the foreground was the garden spot, which was essentially our backyard.

My Dad's Heart Attack

When I was about five years old, my Dad had a heart attack, at about the age of 34.  He had been turned down from going into the military during World War II because of a heart murmur.  As was common in those days, the doctor (Doctor Roberts) drove out to care for Dad—about 12 miles out of town.  The doctor told my Dad he had to give up farming because of his heart issues, so he became a co-owner (with his nephew, Arnold Moss) of a Shell Service Station in Sparta and worked 14 or more hours a day, six days a week (seven days per week for the first several years).  By the way–doctor bills mounted up during Dad’s recovery, but he committed to pay every cent of the doctor bill.  It took a long time, but he paid every penny he owed.  

Because of the distance into town, Dad moved us off the farm into Sparta where he would be closer to the Moss and Haston Shell Service Station..

Lester Flatt - Coutry Music Hall of Fame Member

About the time we needed to move to Sparta, Lester Flatt was planning to move to Nashville to be closer to the Grand Ole Opera and the recording studios–Music City, USA.  Dad rented Lester’s house and we moved in.  Lester would come by every month, collect the rent, sit on the porch and talk with Dad.  They would sit in the front porch swing, with Lester’s cowboy hat on his knee as he smoked his cigar.


I didn’t think much about it at the time, but now I wonder what they talked about.

There’s much more to the story, but that’s the gist of my life as a young boy in White County and Sparta, Tennessee.

All of the Above to Say This

If someone wants to make me angry (and quickly!)–they can just bad-mouth country folks, or make fun of Tennessee hillbillies, ’cause I am one–and proud of it.

But here is the main point of this story:  My parents grew up poor, but they were taught traditional Christian values–respect God, love Jesus, believe the Bible and follow its teachings, love America even with its imperfections, respect and salute the flag, be a good neighbor, and do all that you can (even sacrificially) to meet the needs of your family and others who were less-fortunate than you.  I have been so blessed!

My parents worked hard to see that my sister (Marilyn), brother (Ron), and I were dressed suitably.  Yes, we even had shoes…believe it or not!  They saw to it that we were well fed.  They worked hard to improve our living conditions, moving from one rented house to another, several times, until they could afford to buy a modest but very comfortable house.  And all the while, they taught me to work hard and treat people with kindness and respect.

And when I told Dad that I wanted to go to college, he set aside other expenditures to be sure that I could follow my dreams. Humanly speaking, Mom and Dad deserve the credit for anything good I’ve accomplished in life.  Their examples, their teaching, the discipline and encouragement they gave me as a kid, a teenager, and as an adult have made me whatever I’ve become.

"I'm Just a Country Boy at Heart" Says It All For Me

By the way–did you know Ricky Skaggs is our Haston-related cousin (by marriage).  Daniel Haston, Jr. (our Daniel’s son) married Chloe Skaggs in Kentucky – from the same Skaggs family as Ricky Skaggs.  

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11 thoughts on “Proud of My Country Roots – Wayne Haston

  1. Thanks for sharing. A lot of us grew up the same, poor but we didn’t know it as everyone else was I the same shape.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this story of your growing up years, and can relate to some of it. I grew up in SW Oklahoma. Also enjoyed the part and clip of Ricky Scaggs. We’ve known he was kin to us by marriage for awhile. Our cousin Jane Ritter has done a lot of genealogy on Haston family as you may know. Thanks again.

  3. Loved your story. I worked at the bank in Sparta and always enjoyed waiting on your dad. He was a kind gentle soul. My family owned S& W Electric and your mom and dad were good customers over the years and dad bought gas from your dad. Good memories!

  4. I graduated from WCHS in 1966, and have fond memories of Mr. Boyd and Mr. Arnold. I bought my gas there, and they did my service and mechanic work for me. When I would go to town on Saturday morning, that was always my first stop and I would have a Coke and peanuts and hang out for a while. Thank you for stirring some great memories of two wonderful men from the “good ole days”!

  5. When I looked at the pictures of Boyd and Mary Ruth it confirmed she is ageless. I too am very proud of out seemingly poor but very rich ancestry. Roots run deep in that neck of the woods making any of us what we are today.

  6. I saw the photo of your parents, and I am sure that they were very proud of you and all that you have done for the Lord. The many lives you influenced and changed, including mine, are all because of their instilling in you the godly character and scholarship that you lived out before us. Thank you for sharing their photo!

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