Their names aren’t important since both are long deceased. But their true story is worth retelling in these days of fear and distrust, even among neighbors.
It was at least 80 years ago and times were hard in the little community in the hills of East Kentucky.
Work was scarce, mainly day labor at the local factory. Many of the families were living in rough, unpainted company houses.
They bought food and other necessities from the company store, often paying with scrip when cash was in short supply on payday.
This is the story of two of those families in that community.
A healthy baby boy was born to one of the families but their joy was brief because the mother died shortly after giving birth.
The heartbroken, grieving father was overwhelmed. He had other small children and could not afford to buy canned milk to feed the new infant. What could he do? How would he keep his baby alive?
Next door, another young mother had a baby who was a few months old. As was the custom, she was nursing her baby.
The frantic man with the motherless child carried his hungry, crying baby to the home next door. Even before he could speak, the nursing mother reached for the child and began to share her mother’s milk.
That baby and that family needed help and she was there to do what she could because, in her heart, she knew the dead mother would have done the same for her baby.
She later confided in friends and family that her supply of mother’s milk somehow increased to allow her to adequately nourish both babies.
This “wet nurse” arrangement went on for a year or so until the little boy was weaned to solid food.
He had grown strong and healthy on the milk and the motherly love of the kindly neighbor.
The boy grew into manhood and became a successful businessman. He eventually learned the details of how the woman next door had literally saved his life.
She lived a few miles away and he began visiting her to express his thanks and to make sure she never lacked for anything.
He had a stepmother but this other woman was important to him in a different way. He couldn’t easily explain the connection he felt with her.
Those regular visits lasted the rest of her life, the result of an unbreakable bond sealed with motherly love and gratitude.
Keith Kappes is a columnist for The Morehead (Ky.) News. Contact him at email@example.com.