In memory of Don’s dad, John Raymond Hemperley
It was a typical Sunday afternoon on the farm at the home of Raymond and Sybol Hemperley. He was sitting in a straight chair beneath the large pecan trees in the back yard, which the family referred to his “office”, when I came out the screen door with a large glass of ice water in hand. I guided Steve down the doorsteps and was met by Buck, the collie, who greeted and escorted us across the lawn to the “office”.
“Here you are, Pop,” I said as I handed him the glass and joined him in the other chair beneath the tree.
“Sure is hot today,” he said and drank the whole glass of water in one long gulp.
It seemed particularly hot to me too. What breeze that was blowing was warm and dry that August day and we were trying to escape the hot house as it had no air conditioning and I was eight months pregnant with Kelly.
He took out his Bull Durham pouch and began rolling a cigarette. It always mystified me how he could pour the tobacco; fill; roll and lick the tobacco stuffed paper; crimp the end; pull the pouch string with his teeth and drop the pouch back into his shirt pocket in one fluid motion. As he lit up, he brushed the spilled tobacco off his khaki pants and it drifted in the breeze into his unlaced shoes.
His blue eyes smiled as he helped Steve crawl into his lap. Steve dug into his pockets pulling out cigarette papers and ballpoint pins. Pop (a name only Steve could call him as he required the other grandkids to refer to him as Pop Paw) looked high into the pecan trees and said, “Beauzook, what we need is a monkey for our tree.”
Steve smiled and I laughed. Who could imagine a monkey running freely in a pecan tree on a farm in Caddo Parish, Louisiana?
“Pop, why on earth would you want a monkey?” I asked.
With a gleam in his eyes and bouncing Steve on his knee, he said, “I’ve always wanted a monkey. Can’t you see one running from limb to limb, swinging in the tree for all the grandkids to enjoy? “Sides that, red-butted monkeys are so funny.”
Through the next few years, the red-butted monkey became a joke between us. Many times he told Steve and Kelly they needed a monkey and someday he’d get them one.
In August 1969 Don and I bought a house near Vivian which sat on a 3 ½ acre tree studded tract of land and we invited Pop and Me Maw over for the grand tour. After they had viewed each room we finally made it out to the backyard where he pulled Kelly aside and said, “All you need is a monkey for your trees.”
Raymond died the following summer but not before he and I shared many special moments. We had a closeness few fathers-in-law and daughters-in-law share. He told me of his heritage, his growing up, living on a farm all his life, and about the earlier Hemperley’s that had moved from South Carolina to Georgia and then to the area in Arkansas known as Erie (near Doddridge). While it was interesting at the time, it would not be until a few years later, that I realized his grandchildren and the generations that followed them, should also know of the life and times of the Hemperley’s. Suddenly I was bitten by the genealogy bug. Suddenly I was running from place to place in search of documents, clues, photos, anyone who had known the family; anyone that was willing to share what they knew. It was then I recognized that I had become the monkey, not in a living tree, but rather his family tree. Hopefully some grandchild generations down will enjoy his story as much as he wanted a monkey for his grandchildren to enjoy!
Here are a few more pictures of Raymond Hemperley: