If you were born and raised in the South like me you’ve heard just about all of the redneck jokes regarding family members dating. Like; Where did you meet your wife? …At the family reunion. Please, notice I capitalized South because that’s the way it should be.

To be perfectly honest I’ll have to admit one of my first girl friends was my second cousin. In my defense I must say that we were in the first grade and we had no idea we were related. And, at that time I didn’t know what a cousin or a cussing was. Our relationship never went beyond holding hands while playing Red Rover on the playground. (You do remember playing Red Rover, don’t you?)

As soon as we were told we were cousins and what it meant we settled for best buddies and we have remained that way throughout the decades.

Now that I have that off my chest I must also mention that there were not too many folks in my county that were not connected by blood one way or another. I hardly ever had a class in school in which there wasn’t a distant cousin seated among the rows of desks.

As I grew older I felt like the girls in my class were more like sisters and I knew too much about most of them to dare ask them out. Somewhere in the back of my head I was always wondering if we were related in one way or another. I always hoped the prettiest ones were not. Unfortunately, I had an awful lot of pretty cousins.

Now that you have an idea of where I’m coming from I’ll get to the nitty-gritty. My mother’s maiden name was Foster. As family legend has it the Fosters came to Winston County, Mississippi from England via South Carolina. Like most families they probably wound their way southward through Georgia then to Alabama and finally they ended up in the county where I grew up.

Along the way they took wives of the Hyde, Eaves and other various family surnames. We’ve all heard of jumping on the bandwagon. Well, it appeared when one family got the itch to head west into the new Indian Territory they all got the itch. Not only did many of the families move to Winston County, they also settled in the same neck of the woods on the eastern edge of the county near the community of Skillet. (Skillet could be a whole ‘nother story.)

After a few years some of the Fosters started looking around and thinking something just wasn’t right. There were not very many folks in the area for their children to get hitched to. They didn’t want their kids courting or marrying cousins. It just wasn’t Bible. So, old John Wesley Foster had a little family caucus and they thought it best if they split up. He and some of his brothers decided to travel further south and see if there were not greener pastures in the great state of Louisiana.

They loaded up a starter kit wagon and began their trek toward the coast minus their wives and kids in search of good farm land. As luck would have it they found what they were looking for and bought it.

Evidently, it was a bargain because they had taken their gold with them to purchase the land and they had a lot left over. After clearing a little ground and putting up a cabin it was time to return to Winston County and reunite with their families before taking them South to the Promised Land. (Please, note South is always capitalized.)

I must mention one thing they left behind in Louisiana before heading back north was their gold. (Note: No capitalization necessary.) They were afraid there would be bandits lying in wait for them along the trail so they decided to hide their gold.

There was no Bank of America back then so they deposited their money in a hole at the foot of a very large oak tree on their property. I guess you could say they opened the very first branch bank in the South.

Upon returning to Winston County news spread among their cousins that they had found the Promised Land in Louisiana and that part of the Foster family would soon be loading up and heading South. (You should be catching on by now… Capitalized South.)

As the Foster brothers grew closer and closer to their newly acquired property they began to notice something different about the landscape than when they had left several weeks before.

The trees were all broken up and the land was in disarray. They had a hard time locating the property they had bought because everything had changed. Nothing… absolutely nothing looked the same. There had been a huge hurricane out in the Gulf and when it hit land it churned up several small tornadoes that wrecked havoc all across the southern part of the Country.

After a long search they located their property, but the huge Branch Bank of Oak & Oak was gone. Frantically, they searched for their lost gold. They needed it badly to buy more supplies so they could get their property in the shape they wanted it to be in. But, they never found the spot where the old oak tree had been before the tornadoes. All of their money was lost forever.

Somewhere down South in the Great State of Louisiana lies a small fortune buried among the rotting roots of Louisiana’s first failed branch bank. Folks may stumble upon it some day. It is still there and when it is found they may wonder where it came from.

Then again someone may have been hiding out in the woods and watched them bury it. When the Fosters left the bandits may have made an early withdrawal. Who knows?

But, in reflecting back on this bit of family history we may wonder if the plight to diversify the family bloodline was worth its weight in gold. It probably was to those young Foster boys and girls who discovered different and exciting members of the opposite sex that were eligible for courting.

Personally, I know it was worth it. That old family story has been worth its weight in gold to me.

Rick Algood
July 8, 2010


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