Woman's Work is Never Done series
"Teamwork: Aurelia, Buck, Barry, & Billy."
This is a work portrait of my Great-Aunt Aurelia working on the farm with her Uncle Billy Elliott and the family's team of oxen, Buck and Barry. Aurelia pitched in to help with the "men's chores" when her father (my great-grandfather) Howard Elliott recovered from severe burns sustained when the steam tractor he was driving fell through the deck of a wooden bridge c1925. He was scalded by the steam when the boiler exploded and spent months in agony while his burns slowly healed. Life was never prosperous for the small farmers in the hills of southeastern Ohio. But an accident like this that laid up a farmer during planting and harvest -- before the days of medical or disability insurance -- was a disaster!
Always a bit of a "tomboy," teenaged Aurelia pitched right in to help weather this family storm. From the looks of her "ensemble" in the family photos, she apparerently borrowed her brothers' pants and shirts and cinched them up to fit.
This photo from our family album captures a moment when Aurelia returns from the fields with a full wagon of hay. I've always loved this photo showing the literal teamwork farming took in that era and the relationship between people and their animals. Aurelia and her Uncle Billy (whose stick indicates that he is the driver) each have reached out to touch the shoulders of their workmates, Buck and Barry, the family's oxen team. I suspect the four of them worked equally hard that day, cutting hay and pitching it into the wagon for the oxen to pull into the barn.
Likely she had to pitch in on the "women's work" and returned from the fields to bake, wash, iron, and can the produce she helped harvest.
Around the time this photo was taken, my grandfather Emery Garlock and his twin brother Emmett, arrived in Hammondsville as teenagers looking for work in town brickyards. They were so inseparable that the Elliott's (soon to be Emery's in-laws) started calling them "Buck" and "Barry" after the oxen. "Buck" stuck as my grandfather's nickname until he died in the 1970s!
This is the fourth painting in the series, "Woman's Work is Never Done," which started as portraits of a few relatives as gifts for my mother.
Aurelia Elliott Johns
Aurelia Elliott Johns, my grandmother's sister, was better known in my mother's family by her nickname "Teen." No one knows the origin of her nickname, but it stuck with her for life. Teen stayed on the farm longer than her sisters and worked right alongside the men. After my great-grandfather's burns, Teen's help was critical in keeping the farm going. In the first painting of this series, I painted "Teen" riding the tractor presumably bought to replace the wrecked steam engine.
Aurelia later worked as a telephone operator at Copperweld Steel in Warren, Ohio and finished up her working life as a switchboard operator at the NASA Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. She went from driving oxen to helping to "drive" the first humans to the moon! What a time to be alive!