Stories



MAMA'S INTUITION


     Mama's intuition was something to be reckoned with. She (Susan Roberts Swift) had developed it through the years spent in isolated places with her lumber mill husband (Charles A. Swift). In Bon Secour she was twenty miles from the railroad and the telegraph, and there were no telephones. News came by the mail boat and newspapers arrived in batches, for the boat only made the trip to Mobile twice a week. Thus she had nothing but her intuition to rely on in the nerve wracking business of rearing eleven children, and even Papa knew that it was formidable and paid such intuition the respect that it deserved. This is a story of how this intuition functioned in 1906, and how fortunate it was that Papa had the proper respect for it.

     Each year as a special treat Papa loaned the mill tug to the children. Mama and Miss Augusta Martin, the school teacher who boarded with the family, took all the children old enough, each child accompanied by at least one friend, to the Gulf to stay for a couple of days. They took food and tents and landed at Shell Banks, then crossed Mobile Point at its narrowest to camp on the magnificent Gulf Beach. They always picked a moonlit night when the turtles came in and before school began again in October. It was the last outing of the summer and all, even the chaperones, enjoyed it immensely. From these trips they brought back turtle eggs and often turtle steaks, which the tugboat cook could prepare.

     This particular year Mama could not go because Meme was too little and there was another younger baby, so Miss Augusta set off alone with sixteen or seventeen children and the tug boat cook. However, it was not the responsibility you might think, because some of the children were large and all were wise in the ways of boats and water and Gulf beaches and, therefore, no problem.

     The tug had returned to Bon Secour at dusk, and the captain had reported that the children seemed to be having the time of their lives on the broad, white moonlit beaches. Later Mama awakened in the middle of the night and knew that they must come home. Papa reasoned with her until daylight, but it did no good; Mama was adamant. Something threatened her beloved children she said firmly, and they must be brought back at once. So he surrendered and sent the tug off that morning to bring them back to Bon Secour and safety from what he testily called "Mama's imaginary danger."

     Mama, however, had reckoned without Miss Augusta Martin; she was a strong-minded woman, too. She told the tugboat captain that the weather was divine, the turtles plentiful, the boys and girls were having a glorious time, and she saw no reason to cut their camping trip short. The children begged and cajoled and she sided with the children. Unless he forcibly carried them aboard there was nothing the captain of the tugboat could do but return to Bon Secour. He arrived at dusk without the children. Mama was so upset that she managed to communicate her sense of impending horror not only to papa but also to several of the other children's parents, and at daylight he and Mama boarded the tug as the patient captain put out once more across Bon Secour Bay to Shell Banks.

     When she reached them. Mama dealt in short order with Miss Augusta Martin, the sixteen children, and the tugboat cook. Like a sibyl, she managed to infect them also with her sense of hovering tragedy, and they hurried to break camp. By two o'clock they were en route home. Then the wind began to rise and they barely made the mouth of Bon Secour River. When they tied up at Swift's Landing the barometer was falling so rapidly that everybody went frenziedly to work to secure boats and houses, and by midnight a hundred mile an hour wind was blowing. The 1906 hurricane had arrived, and when they went back a week later the path that they had followed across Mobile Point was swept clean by water which must have run across it four or five feet deep at its deepest point, and ten feet must have covered their camp site at the height of the storm. That was one time that even the captain of the tug thanked God for Mama's Intuition, and the parents of Bon Secour as well as Papa, blessed her name for her hard-headedness.

     Written in 1965 by Amelia Swift Wakeford for her book “Food, Fun, and Fable.”