Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones

The Face of Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones

I’d like to introduce you to an imaginary childhood friend, Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones. Perched just over Stadium Boulevard, a bit north of College Park in Columbia, Mo., her hard, stone stare watched the ground below for perhaps hundreds of years, maybe longer. No one, not even my grandmother Dee Dee who created the character, knew how long she sat there but Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones channeled the stories of my grandmother’s youth on the family farm.
A group of local citizens tried to save the
formation known to others simply as
"The Rock Face."
My paternal grandmother, Edna Baskett Rogers, was born in the small rural community of McFall located in northwest Missouri. Her family farm, now just an open field with a highway passing through, sat on the east edge of an almost extinct town (population now 93). The nature-chiseled face of stone met a similar fate as the farm when the Missouri Department of Transportation blasted the rock to expand Stadium Boulevard in 1989. Mom alerted me in college about the construction that destroyed the rock face from Columbia’s landscape. Even from Kentucky-land, my home at the time and also where Dee Dee’s ancestors migrated from to settle in Missouri, I grieved a piece of my childhood that I would never see again.
Only Dee Dee herself would know how she discovered Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones or where the whimsical name derived. My guess is one day when she picked up her grandchildren in her little green Maverick she glanced at the rock face and questioned “do you know about Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones?” My grandmother was the kind of storyteller that invented names and tales as she talked. Dee Dee told stories that begged repeating, many that made my green eyes brim as round as my little blonde head.
Edna Baskett Rogers (1901-1986)
Dee Dee, like her granddaughter, was an outdoors girl--playful, imaginative, sometimes mischievous, and always full of stories. Through the eyes of the imaginary Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones I learned about my grandmother’s childhood in the frank manner that matched her personality. Without these tales, I would have never known to ask about what it meant to have the first indoor privy in the area or how a young woman handled menstruation prior to paper products. Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones recalled with sadness when her brother, known as “Little Dick” was scalded to death by a bucket of boiling water along with other hardships of early twentieth century farm life such as fire and an ill-tempered father. Florence also created a lot of fun--picking berries, pulling outrageous pranks on her siblings, wading in the creeks, and recounting the tales of the generations before her. Florence even helped a child move through the underground railroad system during the Civil War. Of course, the line between family history and pure storytelling was blurry but that is part of the magic and legacy of Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones.
The Next Incarnation of Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones
For my 40th birthday in May 2006 and the first birthday after my father died, Mom gave me a stone statue for my garden. When I saw it, without hesitation, I blurted out “that’s Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones!” Since then, she has guarded the flower bed in front of my home as the purple coneflower, my favorite of Missouri’s many native flowers, has multiplied by the year and now surrounds her with a natural beauty that befits her namesake. 
Dee Dee is surrounded by four of her twelve grandchildren on her birthday
in the early 1980s. From left to right, John Rogers, Hartley Rogers, Annie
Rogers, and Jim Rogers. Not pictured are Mary Gordon, Donna
Vokish, Laurie Fausnaugh, Jimmy Rogers, Rusty Patton, Judy Patton,
Trudis Ann Patton, and Mark Patton. We all loved her very much.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful memory--told so well--you have a gift, dear Annie--Carolyn C