Alabama Trash

When she was twenty-four, Beater suggested she apply for a job at the hospital. She thought this was ridiculous. Hospitals didn’t hire “poor white trash.”

Some fool called her, “trash.” And that’s when she made up her mind. She wanted to better herself, and her family. So, that’s what she did.

“That GED test,” she said, while she checked my blood pressure. “That ain’t no joke, now. It’s tough.”

Her accent is so Alabamian it hurts. She’s missing a few teeth, but it doesn’t look bad on her. She’s old, wiry, but strong.

Where she grew up, country folks didn’t go past the eighth grade—some still don’t. And according to her daddy, “Once a young’un can read, it’s time to work.”

Saying this made her laugh.

All six of her brothers dropped out, so did she. She met a man who worked in a lumber mill, they had two children before she was twenty. She’s still with him. She calls him Beater. I don’t know why.

When she was twenty-four, Beater suggested she apply for a job at the hospital. She thought this was ridiculous. Hospitals didn’t hire “poor white trash.”

“Which is exactly what I am,” she tells me.

Even so, she inquired. They told her, she needed college. So she called a college. They said she needed a high-school diploma. So she called the high school. They said she needed a GED.

For six years, she attended night classes. Beater took over cooking, and putting kids to bed.

“He believed in me,” she said. “He’d always say, ‘Wish I could do what you’re doing, but I’m too stupid.’ But he ain’t dumb, he paid for every bit of my school.”

If only there were more Beaters in the world.

She got her GED. Then, she zipped through college, clinicals, and even taught a little.

“Been a nurse since the seventies,” she said. “I work ER shifts too. Shoulda retired long ago. Shoot, my kids’re grown.”

Beater is pushing for retirement. He even bought an RV. He wants to visit the Everglades, the Grand Canyon, and above all, Las Vegas. She’s not ready.

“Ain’t about money,” she said. “I like to help people. If I didn’t, I reckon I’d die. Just last week, little girl came in the ER, they amputated her foot. I needed to be there for that. Just how I am.”

Life is funny. She went to school to better her life. Instead she betters everyone else’s. And all she asks, is that you don’t use her name when you write about her.

“Okay,” I said. “How about Beater’s name?”

“He won’t care,” she said. “But, maybe you can write in there how I used to think I was trash, but now I ain’t. Might help someone.”

It just did, ma’am.


  1. Gale Smith - August 19, 2018 7:05 am

    Nobody is trash, everyone has worth. This lady is worth more than her weight in gold. You cannot put a price on caring. And her husband is equally priceless for making it possible for her to be able to be in a position to care for others. I hope she will consider retiring and traveling with Beater. He deserves it and so does she. There will always be people to care about along the way

  2. Sherrie - August 19, 2018 9:24 am

    Wow, just wow! Thank you for sharing her story and thank you for making our days brighter.

  3. Betty Foster - August 19, 2018 9:28 am

    Tell her Yay! From me. She is an inspiration. And thank beater for believing in her

  4. GaryD - August 19, 2018 10:04 am

    We need more people like Beater’s wife in this world. And more men like Beater who believes in his wife. Yall have a safe trip when when yall start on your journey to Las Vegas.

  5. Barbara Pope - August 19, 2018 10:29 am

    Great story–great lady!

  6. Nancy Thomaston Rogers - August 19, 2018 11:17 am

    She was never trash. No one is…

  7. Peggy Savage - August 19, 2018 11:21 am

    ” God don’t make no trash”…..perfect example.

  8. Ellouise Pennington - August 19, 2018 11:40 am

    She is truly where God wants her. When she goes to Heaven, there’ll be so many there happy to see her sweet face

  9. Michael Guilday - August 19, 2018 11:57 am

    God comes to us through good people like “Beater’s” wonderful wife.

  10. Grace Murdock - August 19, 2018 12:03 pm

    Great one!!

  11. Heidi - August 19, 2018 12:15 pm

    Nobody is trash. My dad would say, “that little lady has gumption.” That goes a loooong way. We need a lot more of her & Beater in this world than “fancy” people. Btw…..take the trip….life is short & you & Beater deserve it.

  12. Johnnie B - August 19, 2018 12:34 pm

    Great story. I work with Adult distance learners at The University of Alabama and we hear these stories daily. So glad you wrote this wonderful lady’s story. Maybe it will inspire more people to just believe in themselves! Roll Tide!

  13. Joy - August 19, 2018 12:35 pm

    We are all created in God’s image…so how can anybody be trash. Once heard this in a VBS year: I’m just me and that’s okay, cause God don’t make no junk!” The grammar is not good, but the message is as we were trying to get the boys and girls see that they were created in God’s image.

    Just want to thank the lady for giving you her story…also to thank Beater for being the person he is! We need a lot more of them in this world. I hope they will take all those trips that Beater wants to take…God will supply people along the way that needs a personal, loving and caring person to help them.

    Thank you Sean for another great story. You bless my life and others!

  14. Peg - August 19, 2018 12:36 pm

    You make my day and so does your heroine and her husband, Beater.

  15. Jack Darnell - August 19, 2018 1:10 pm

    My dad went to the 3rd grade and was successful. I made the mistake of thinking if he didn’t need it to make it, I don’t either. Although he stressed I needed an education, I dropped out to become a marine. Then I realized I did need something and got the GED! I did make it. We got the RV and live in it.

  16. Jones - August 19, 2018 1:22 pm

    Your writing should be required reading. A lot of folks could benefit from it. I do. Thanks.

  17. Pecos Kate - August 19, 2018 1:27 pm

    If a person loves what they’re doing why retire? Vacations are great but getting back to your work afterwards is a great feeling as well.

  18. Sandra Smith - August 19, 2018 2:03 pm

    Except for the fact that I grew up in Mississippi, and quit school in my junior year, when my Mom was dying from breast cancer, this is MY story too, Got my GED, and went to work in daycare. My boss’s son was killed in an ambush (he was a deputy sheriff) and she closed the daycare. Unemployment said I could go to school, rather than draw my pennies, and I jumped on it. My husband paid the bills, while I got my LPN. After my firstborn, I went back for my RN. Finished in 81. Worked until 2008, when a work injury (darn near broke my neck) required 3 surgeries and almost two yrs of therapy. That kicked my MS into high gear, so it was time to stop. I miss Nursing like oxygen. It not only fed my family, it fed my soul.
    Bravo, Beater’s wife. I’ve known hundreds like her. I am her too. ❤

  19. Edna B. - August 19, 2018 4:46 pm

    They are right. There is no “trash”! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a world full of folks like this lovely woman and her hubby Beater? I agree, she should take the trip with Beater. Tomorrow is not guarantee. Live today and enjoy each other. Sean, thank you for this beautiful story. You have a great day, hugs, Edna B.

  20. Shelton Armour - August 19, 2018 4:54 pm

    Thanks be to God for people like her. Trash is a state of mind, not being. We are all His children and God doesn’t make trash.

  21. Susan Swiderski - August 19, 2018 5:05 pm

    One of the tragedies of society is the way it devalues the worth of some people, and one of its successes is the way some of those devalued people rise above the preconceptions and allow their true beauty to shine.

  22. Wayne - August 19, 2018 5:43 pm

    A real “good-un.”

  23. Vaudy - August 19, 2018 6:58 pm

    I would rather eat a ham sandwich with and Beater in ditch than be around the people that said she was trash. They are Children of GOD

  24. Carolyn Allen - August 19, 2018 7:08 pm

    congratulations to ma’am and Beater on lives well lived!

  25. Pat - August 19, 2018 7:36 pm

    Good for Ms. Lady…a real self made lady in spite of the odds!

  26. Minnie Tate Bourque - August 19, 2018 11:59 pm

    Love this one so much, Sean. What an inspiration she is! And no, the GED tests are not easy. I tutored students in it and it was a true struggle for many. I admired them so much as they came in weekly after work, after caring for their families, etc. Great determination.
    Keep up the good work…so enjoy reading your entries!

  27. anne trawick - August 20, 2018 1:42 am

    Sometimes, dahling, you bring a tear to my eye. This was one of those times.

  28. Jack Quanstrum - August 20, 2018 1:49 am

    Love that story. What a Lady!

  29. jstephenw - August 20, 2018 2:07 am

    Great piece Sean. Thank you. I come from a “redneck” family. My daddy used to say that whatever you were you were, getting an education just made you an educated whatever you were. A redneck with education is still a redneck, but an educated redneck. He was wrong. Education and a desire to help others can transform a person. A college and law degree later, I embrace my redneck heritage, but I am not defined by it.

    Thank you and bless Beater for believeing.

  30. Brenda - August 20, 2018 11:43 am

    Going through cancer, it was a nurse who gave me her cell number, called me when I was having panic attacks. Thank you, Bernell and all nurses who are there to hold your hand.

  31. Phyllis Hamilton - August 20, 2018 2:21 pm

    Jjust goes to show we can be whatever we choose if we stay determined. She’s a far cry from trash. She’s an angel.

  32. Maria - October 15, 2018 12:26 pm

    I always told my son snd daughter..there’s the life you are given and the life you choose..

  33. Donna McPherson - October 15, 2018 9:33 pm

    There will always be someone who thinks you’re trash just because they got farther in life than you. They think their education, their house, their politics, their friends, all make them better. I think what makes a better person is when none of those thing matter to you.

    • Steve Winfield - October 27, 2018 7:02 am

      Amen Donna! Where we grew up has no bearing on where we’ll go. Becoming & remaining a kind, caring & helpful generous person is as close to God as we’ll ever get in this life. Godspeed to those who overcame the odds, yet remained humble & loving. Can’t wait to meet you one day!


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