Making a Living: A Memoir of a Rural Kentucky Girl
When Marilyn Gidcumb Konstanty decided to put her memories of growing up in Butler County on the written page, she waivered between making it a work of fiction or a straight-forward memoir. Luckily for her readers, she went with memoir. Her book MAKING A LIVING: A MEMOIR OF A RURAL KENTUCKY GIRL, tracks her life in rural Butler County from 1950 (her birth) to 1968 (her graduation from high school), with revisits from 2014 to 2018. It is an honest look at the daily struggles farm families of that time faced. Like any life, looking back and telling the tale involves others who might not see things as the writer does, but Marilyn finds a way to handle the difficult events of that time with truth, understanding and compassion.
The accidental drowning of her father, Spurgeon Gidcumb, when Marilyn was just seven years old, serves as the backdrop of the years that followed, years of loss, hard work and barely scraping by. When her mother, Mary Paschal Gidcumb, married Moody Gidcumb (Spurgeon’s brother) things became even more difficult for Marilyn and her four siblings, due to her uncle’s love of drink.
Tobacco served as the family’s cash crop, and the chapter on the year-long process—from burning plant beds to hauling the finished product to market—is one of the most accurate accounts you’ll find anywhere. It was that kind of back-breaking work that inspired Marilyn to swear she would not make farming her life’s ambition.
Church, school and community served as respite for Marilyn and her siblings, and she credits people like her teachers, her bus driver and her neighbors with helping the family survive.
Marilyn followed through with her plans to get as far away from farming as possible, graduating from college, and obtaining a degree in special education. She taught for 26 years and continues to substitute when needed.
These days Marilyn Konstanty and husband, Tony, live in Crittenden County, Kentucky, near the Ohio River. Tony reconstructs log cabins (13 under his belt, to date) and Marilyn grows medicinal plants and herbs for tinctures, as well as organic vegetables, which is as close to farming as she wants to get. Revisiting the home place in 2018 was a stark reminder of the very real struggle her family endured. The tobacco barn still stands, but the house is gone, although there remain reminders of her dad, her mom, her stepfather and her siblings in the now-vacant spot.
Many years passed before she could make peace with her father’s death. “I came to terms with injustice when I abandoned the idea of pre-destination,” she said. As a child and young adult, she had been told by those around her that her father’s drowning was “God’s will” and “It was meant to be.” There are no more “what ifs” for her. “I still feel my father’s spirit and guidance,” Marilyn says, “We keep people we love inside us, just like God.”
MAKING A LIVING is a viable reflection of a Kentucky farm family. Oscar Wilde observed: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” So it is with this family and all families.
(To obtain a copy of this memoir, contact Marilyn Konstanty on her Facebook page or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org $20 is the initial cost of the book. $24 covers the cost of book and includes postage and handling.)
(Interview and review by Cheryl Hughes)