Helen lives in Memphis now
and is owner of a health food store called the "Good
Life". Eating healthily is a trend followed by
Dixie as well as her aunt; however, Dixie's father,
Hal, has another word for it: nuts. "Dixie's a
health nut; she's got an aunt down in Memphis who
has a health food store and she's a health nut," he
said. "My breakfast is strictly healthy."
In California, that is. He
then described the way the family's cook in
Tennessee prepares his breakfast, making "good
country sausage, bacon just as crisp as it can be,
ham, soft scrambled eggs, strawberry jam and
"That's prime eating," he
said with his characteristically happy smile. "Her
name is Louella and she can cook!"
He recalled that, when he
was growing up on the farm, the family killed three
hogs per year to keep the family in ham, sausage and
sidemeat (bacon). "Grandpa's barn was down there,"
he said, gesturing. "They lived in this yard."
He remembered getting a room
upstairs when he was 12 years old. "I loved that
room," he said. One thing he didn't love was school,
although he did enjoy running track. "School bored
me to death," he said, "I passed though! I knew I
had to or Daddy would have cleaned my plow!" After
some thought, he remembered that his Uncle Harrell
was a teacher at the school as were two of his
cousins and other relatives. "That's what it was,"
he exclaimed, "I think I had too many kinfolks
The Carter name was well
known in Carroll County, Tennessee long before the
name "Dixie Carter" became synonymous with southern
culture in homes across the United States and
abroad. Conversations with those who are among older
generations in the county often contain a story or
two about the Carter general stores that Hal and his
father, Horace, before him, established in
Huntingdon, McLemoresville and McKenzie; shops that,
with their wide variety of merchandise, were
mainstays for every home in the then mostly rural,
Mr. Carter appreciates his
daughter, especially since his wife passed away in
1987 at the age of 77 and he moved to Los Angeles to
be with her.
He related the conversation
with Dixie that took place after they lost his
wife/her mother: "Dixie said, 'Daddy, I want you to
live with me, I need you,'" he said earnestly,
recalling the words his daughter had said in
convincing him to move to California. "I've been
with her ever since."
"Los Angeles is the meanest
town I've ever seen in my life," he said
exaggeratedly, "but the weather is good and Dixie's
got me a nice room."
Mr. Carter is himself a
singer, crooning out small ballads of admiration for
his daughter and grandchildren. "Stay sweet as you
are and as you are tell me that you'll always stay;
night and day I pray that you'll always stay sweet
as you are," he sang. According to Mr. Carter,
"There's a song for everything."
He recollected that when he
went off to war he taught his wife how to use a gun.
"Here's what else you did," Dixie said animatedly,
drawing her arms up in a big rectangle, "You wrote
the instructions on a bulletin board and it stayed
there for nearly three years."
The gazebo became crowded as
other family members arrived. Margo, the widow of
Dixie's late brother, Hal, arrived cradling her
newest grandbaby, Hal, who is six months old. Also
arriving were Margo's three sons: John, James and
Horace, along with their families.
John and Unshu Carter reside
in Huntingdon with their daughter, Margaret, who at
15 years of age is the oldest of Halbert's
James and Amelia Carter live
in Jackson and are the parents of Adeline, age two,
and baby Hal.
Horace and Missy Carter and
their two-year-old son Joe, live in Memphis.
Naming children after kin
folks is a special tradition in the Carter family:
James was named James Reddick Carter after Tom's
father, James Reddick Hillsman. Little Hal is
actually named James Halbert Carter with his names
being a combination of his father and grandfather's
names. Horace, who is the youngest son of Margo and
her husband (Dixie's brother) Hal, is named Horace
Leroy Carter, which, Dixie says, is "Papa's name
The original Horace Leroy
Carter (Dixie's grandfather) was not fond of his
name. He wanted to name his son with his same
initials, however, and after searching high and low
he came up with Dixie's father's name, "Halbert", a
fact that remains baffling to Hal after all these
Margo is the consummate
mother and grandmother, relishing that "all the kids
are smart, intelligent, athletic." Just as she
asserts, every one of the children are definitely,
undeniably beautiful and more importantly, all are
loved with the intensity that a strong family unit
The gazebo the family
visited in that evening will soon be history when it
is torn down as major renovations take place to
strengthen the structures as well as change the face
of the estate.
One thing that won't change
is the reason the family came together on this
evening. "We are crazy about each other," Dixie says
happily, putting into words the family's obvious
enjoyment in each other in a scene that has been
repeated throughout the generations of the Carter