What to say about a person that you’ve grown up with most of your life, Mamie Sue Bradley Best? Deep down you know this day will come, it’s inevitable. Growing up with what we think, err, know is a legend and perfect example of a person could or should be. My mamaw wasn’t anything “short” of a legend to me (no pun intended). She told me stories of growing up and how hard life was. See, for her, she thought they had it made. Her father conducted the train that went from Alcoa, thru the Carpenters Campground area (on our/her property), and on to Ballplay in Monroe county. Later on, it eventually went on up to the other dams in North Carolina. This train was used/owned by Babcock Lumber Company that was used to not only transport logs but goods to the logging communities.
One story, in particular, is that she and her siblings could draw and color on the walls of their little one-room house which was a set-off. Her daddy would bring the old shay engine around and hook up a large hose to steam-clean the inside of the house. It would kill off all the bugs, and make the walls brand new again. She thought this was extra special because others that lived the same way would pay her daddy to steam clean their houses too.
Growing up next door to her in my younger life proved exciting as well. I was hardly ever at home and was always at mamaw and papaw’s house. I would run the woods, play in the bottoms, and even fished in the creek. Speaking of fishing in the creek, two stories come to mind.
The first one was when mamaw and I had decided to go fishing down at the creek. We went out and dug up some worms, grabbed a small baggy of corn, and down to the creek we went. I was no more than maybe 6-7 years old and just loved going fishing with them. When we got down to the “fishin’ hole” she got her hook ready and so did I. She threw my bait in and told me, “When you see that bobber go down, give it a hard jerk.”. Apparently, I was a little hard of hearing because she told me at least 3-4 times. After losing my worm and corn several times and her telling me to “Jerk it, jerk it!”, the next time I was gonna let that pesky fish have it. So, I sat there staring at that bobber, wiggle, wiggle, down it went. With all I had in me I grabbed that pole and jerked as hard as I could. Out of the water came the fish flying thru the air. It smacked mamaw right on the side of her face and she let out a squeal and flopped right down on her hind end. I thought I had hurt her for sure, but she sat into laughing and we went back to the house. I don’t know whatever happened to that fish and now that I think about it, she never fished that day either.
Another time we decided to walk the ditch line in the bottoms. I really don’t know why other than maybe looking for arrowheads. When all of a sudden we came upon the largest snapping turtle I believe I had ever seen. She got so giddy with excitement she RAN all the way back up to the house, yelling to me as she went, “Don’t you let that turtle go anywhere! I’ll be right back!”. She grabbed two hoes and RAN all the way back to the turtle where I stood making sure it didn’t go anywhere. (As I’m writing this now I’m thinking, what would I have done if it decided to venture off while she was gone.) She handed me one and she had the other hoe and we together pulled and tugged, dragged, and maneuvered this huge thing all the way back to the house. Now at this time, I was thinking, I have no idea why she was so excited. But, with her excitement and thrill, I didn’t really care, we just had to get this thing to the house. Once we got there we shoved it into a large barrel with a cinderblock with papaw’s help, of course. Well, the rest is history including the turtle. All I can say afterward is that it was a mighty tasty turtle. She apparently loved turtle meat.
If you knew my mamaw then you knew a precious jewel in my eyes. I’ve heard stories from others that make me say, “that’s my mamaw”. Working in her garden taking pride in her tomatoes. Working hard in the tobacco fields day in and night. Tobacco reminds me of another short story of when bumblebees chased her from the old barn, which sat where Brenda’s house is now, all the way up to the wash house. They trapped her in there while they were banging on the pane-glass just trying to get in.
Her life was not easy but, it wasn’t hard either. She often told me that she was proud of her upbringing and never considered herself poor by any means. They had things that no one else did. Her child-like demeanor and innocence were loved and cherished by me. Her stories about her childhood, family, and growing up. Our adventures together while I was a child and once an adult, our fish-eating days usually for her birthday will be missed but only for a little while. I know we will be together again, and knowing that makes all the difference in the world.
Mamie Sue Bradley Best went to be with her Lord and Savior Friday, March 8, 2019, just 3 days after turning 95. She was one of the oldest if not the oldest in Carpenter’s Campground Community.
Survivors include sons, Ben (Elizabeth) Best and Roger (Joyce) Best; seven grandchildren and several great-grandchildren; sister, Zula Michaud and brother Luke Bradley.
Mamie Sue loved being outside in the summer working in her garden and mowing her yard. Farm life was hard but she enjoyed it.
The family will receive friends 2:00-3:00 PM Monday at McCammon-Ammons-Click Funeral Home with services to follow at 3:00 PM with James Abbott officiating. The interment will be in Carpenter’s United Methodist Church Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be made to Carpenter’s United Methodist Church Cemetery Fund, 3538 Best Rd, Maryville, TN 37803 or to New Providence Primitive Baptist Church media fund, c/o Brenda Self, 2210 Tipton Loop Road, Maryville, TN 37803.
The family would like to thank the caregivers of Morning View Transitional Care and for the concern and support shown by Megan and all the other therapists, and also the staff of Concordia Transitional Care.