So Far Away

By Betsy Cross Thorpe

“You are the fairy tales told by your ancestors.” Toba Beta

Account of the tragic death of a long remembered nineteen year old boy. He perished in an airplane crash, on Sunday, August 11, 1929, near my grandmother’s home, in a cotton field, outside Holly Bluff, Mississippi.


He was a tall, handsome and adventurous boy. The only son of a well to do merchant. He captured my grandmother’s attention when she was a young girl and she fondly recalled his memory up through her old age.  Her stories of him were vague, and the actual role he played in her life remains unclear.

 My mother, my aunt and I, were all privy to her reminiscences of him. However, we don’t all recall her stories the same.  I’m convinced that the boy’s name was Albert Thomas Firth Junior, but my mother is certain that his last name was Butts. My aunt disagrees with her. According to my aunt, the Butts family that befriended my grandmother were from Missouri, where my grandmother spent some years before her father moved his wife and children South to Mississippi.

 I had the notion that the young pilot was in love with my grandmother, that he wanted to marry her, but that she chose my grandfather instead.  My aunt remembers the story in a different way. She doesn’t think their friendship was ever that serious, but she does recall hearing that for some time  my grandfather was quite jealous of my grandmother’s memory of the young pilot and that he would often tell her that she should have married that boy.

Until recently, when I did my research into the plane crash that killed Albert, I was sure that that he had taken my grandmother up in the air for a ride in his plane.  But that can’t be true.  My grandmother married my grandfather at least a year before he learned to fly and was the mother of a young son by the time he owned his own plane. Additionally, anyone who knew my grandfather would agree that he would never have allowed my grandmother to do such a thing.

More than forty years had passed from the time that he died, till the time that my grandmother told me about him. Of all the stories she told of her youth, the story of the daring young pilot was one of my favorites.

I just wish I had thought to ask her for more details. How did she learn that his plane went down?  I wonder today if she was among the “large crowd” that witnessed the tragedy. Was she somewhere nearby?  Did she hear the crash?  His plane nosedived into a cottonfield. Was he flying over the cottonfield where she lived?  I wish I knew.

But the big question I could have asked, one that is common to all, is this; Why did the memory of someone removed so far away by space and time, remain so near and dear to her heart?  I could have asked her, but there really was no need.

I am a hopeless romantic and I always knew the answer.

For 52 ancestors in 52 weeks. From prompt “So Far Away.”

#52Ancestors #52ancestorssofaraway

9 thoughts on “So Far Away

    1. Thank you for reading this post. For some reason it was important to my grandmother that the memory of this boy not be forgotton. I honored her wishes by writing this piece. Im very glad that you read it.


  1. As a early aviation buff I was very interested to read the newspaper article you used in this post. I have never heard of that particular accident, and found the article about to be extremely interesting with all the aviation history and trivia included in it. There were more accidents of this sort taking place during that era than one might know or believe. If you find more articles about early aviation crashes please let me know.
    yours truly,
    James Morgan


  2. Oh Sis I wish I could remember more to add to your lovely remembrance of your grandmother’s story of her young years in the Mississippi Delta.


  3. I used to live about 20 minutes from Holly Bluff. My daddy had an old uncle who lived in Holly Bluff. Could be he was there that day too. His name was Clarence C. Forbes. He was a bachelor, never married, but he was good to my daddy and paid for him to go to trucking school.


    1. Hello again Molly Lynn I am wondering if you recall a country store in Holly Bluff where a lady named Lurlene Screws worked. She must have worked there for many years because in 1971 my family along with my mother Ruby Roe visited the south for the first time after leaving in 1946. We went to Holly Bluff and I remember how emotional my mother got because we could not find the shack we lived in all those years ago and then we saw the country store and my mother remembered it and we all went in and my mother was so delighted to see Miss Lurlene Screws was still working there. I have a picture of my mother with her! That was so amazing to me that my mother knew someone from so long ago!


      1. No Mam, I don’t know anything about that store or r the lady worked there. I have a cousin that still lives down there. I will ask her if she knows her next time we talk. Did you really live in a shack? That’s what my parents called the littles houses they grew up in. They were really poor growing up same as most other people they knew.


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