Getting to Know You: Shirley Atteberry

A column dedicated to the folks in the pews.

Written by Dale Buchanan

I was born at home in a rented house on a 160-acre tenant farm. Counting me, we were five children in that tenant family. Moving was a regular occurrence for us as were hand-me-down clothes and multiple chores. Besides the farm, we always had dairy cows which we children were required to help milk. As soon as I was able, Dad handed me a stool and a bucket and I learned how to milk. I hated it!  We children came along about three years apart with twelve years between the oldest and the youngest. There were always cows to milk and hands to do the milking. We took turns doing the morning milking which started at 5 a.m. seven days a week. And after school we all shared in the milking and the other daily chores that were a part of life on a tenant farm.

Because of our age difference we tended to not be terribly close as children. My oldest sister was married at age seventeen when I was only seven years old. I became close with my siblings after we grew up and then the ties of childhood and family provided strong bonds that have endured a lifetime.

My best friend in junior high and high school was Suzie. She still lives in Kansas and we are still friends. I guess she is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

While I am talking about best things, I will mention the 4-H. I was a true-blue Kansas girl and was a member of 4-H for eleven years. My Guernsey milk cow was grand champion at the Kansas State Fair for five years in a row. As a 4-H member I learned to sew. When I was a senior in high school, I won the Kansas state-wide contest for modeling the suit I made. Wow!  I also learned to cook and bake a cherry pie.

(Your scribe must butt into Shirley’s story here because when she related the bit about the cherry pie her husband Ron started laughing and said, “Dale, I have been married to Shirley for 25 years and I have never seen a cherry pie.”  Yours truly quickly changed the topic. Shirley, are there any trees in Kansas? That did it and she moved on with her narrative.)

I was just going to tell you about Flint Hills—the place that I love about my native Kansas. It is true that there are miles of flat corn patches and wheat fields, but there are also many beautiful places as well. The Flint Hills are composed of rolling hills and a pretty countryside intersected with lovely creeks and streams. We had no close neighbors and that landscape provided me with a healthy view of nature and the good things about country life.

Speaking of a balanced life, Dad and Mom provided a very even environment for us children to grow up in. Dad was a wise, gentle, and loving man. He served as an elder in our country church. Mother was a strong-willed parent—determined that we would succeed. She pushed us to do better, and I see now how this combination was just what I needed.

(Yours truly has been acquainted with Shirley for several years now. I first met her in a book club where we have engaged in spirited exchanges concerning the meaning of the books we read. I am inserting this paragraph because I have just about used up my quota of allotted words, and I have discovered so much I did not know about this woman from Kansas. I wish I could share in detail her achievements in education, her two Master degrees, her years in the classroom and in administration. There is much to her story. This will be my last insertion in Shirley’s story. We pick up again with Shirley’s voice in response to my prompts.)

Ron and I have been married 25 years and there are many wonderful memories. On our first date I had just turned 50 and my staff had given me a birthday party. Ron was insistent that I tell him my age. I hesitated but finally confessed my years. His response went a long way toward making me love him. His reply to my confession was, “Thank goodness!  I thought you were too young for me.” That’s my story and the rest is history. Ron and I have four sons—two from my first marriage and two from his.

Dale, you asked me what cement binds us together and what my dream for the future is. As to the first question, we share values, friends, relationships, and agree on politics. My lasting dream is that I might be a good influence on my grandchildren and that I never forget that it is more blessed to give than receive.

Dale Buchanan is a member of FCCF with a passion for stories and writing. In between penning his own memoirs, he is helping us get to know our members, one pew at a time.

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