Lloyd Waters: Jimmy Dean, his mama and those IOUs

May 12, 2013|By LLOYD WATERS

Jimmy Dean shared his life story in his autobiography “Thirty Years of Sausage, Fifty Years of Ham.” Born in 1928 in the midst of the great depression, Dean would soon be introduced to the many hardships of life in a little Texas town called simply Plainview.

During his youth he wore bib overalls, sugar sack shirts made by his mom, and as he shares his humble story he wrote of an early thought: “And I dreamed of indoor plumbing and eating a bologna sandwich anytime I wanted.” 

After his dad deserted the family, his mother Ruth assumed the role of single parent. They lived on a farm and life was difficult. His mother cut hair to support her family.

Jimmy described his mom as the “toughest and sweetest lady” there ever was.

Ruth taught Jimmy how to play the piano and later on he mastered the accordion, harmonica and guitar.

He also sang in the choir of the Seth Ward Baptist Church.

Jimmy went on to join the Air Force, began singing in bars and later was seen on national TV on “The Jimmy Dean Show.”

Back in the 1960s as a teenager, I remember singing those words of Dean’s “Big Bad John.” He received a Grammy award for that song.   

As he became more and more successful and famous, he would always give credit for his upbringing to his mother, Ruth Taylor Dean.

In 1976, just before Mother’s Day, he recorded another song which was written for his mom and all mothers titled “I.O.U.”

When I think about Mother’s Day and those moms across the world and the care and love most of them share for their children, I appreciate many of those lyrics used by Dean to express all the things we owe to a mom for our lives.

“Mom, IOU for so many things…….

 For lyin’ awake nights listenin’ for coughs, cries and creakin’ floorboards; and me comin’ in too late.

 “IOU for services as a short order cook, chef, baker, for makin sirloin outta hamburger, turkey outta tuna fish and big old strappin’ boys outta leftovers.

 “IOU for cleaning services; for the daily scrubbin of face and ears, for washin’ and ironing.

 “IOU for services as a bodyguard; for protectin’ me.

 “IOU for all the medical attention you gave me.

 “IOU for all that good advice — ‘if you don’t quit scratchin’ that ain’t never going get well” and if ya cross your eyes, they’re gonna stick like that.’

 “IOU for entertainment that kept the household going through some pretty tough times.

 “IOU for construction work; for building kites and confidence, and hopes and dreams; and for cementin’ together a family that could stand the worse kinds of shocks and blows.

 “And one thing Mom, I will never ever forget when there were only two pieces of apple pie and three hungry people, I noticed that you were always the one that suddenly decided that you really weren’t hungry anyhow.

 “These are just a few of the things for which payment is long overdue. The person I owe’ em to worked very, very cheap and did without a whole lotta things that she needed herself.

 “My IOUs add up to much more than I could ever hope to repay.  But you know the nicest thing about it all is that I know that she’ll mark the whole bill “paid in full” for just one kiss, and four little words:

“Ma, I love you.”

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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