Many people with rural roots or upbringings are intimately familiar with a barter economy. When cash is scarce or unavailable, transactions of products or services suffice. Dolly Parton fans who remember Dr. Baker on Little House on the Prairie or episodes of The Waltons may recall repeated images of one family surrendering what they had in exchange for something important to life, frequently from a doctor.
When the time came for Dolly Parton’s birth, Robert Lee Parton had no money to pay the doctor. Avie Lee was paid a bag of oatmeal for the doctor’s obstetric services. The grain present most likely lasted all winter. Every birthday since then, Dolly Parton has been a gift to humanity and culture. Without the singer, the world would be a much darker place.
Dolly Parton has frequently stated that she and her siblings were wealthy in “treasures that money cannot buy,” such as “love, generosity, and understanding.”
Dolly Parton chuckles about this when she buys her childhood home many years later. “It cost a couple million dollars to make it look like I spent $50,” she says.
Everything her mother touched was “wonderful,” according to Dolly Parton. “She could say anything and make it sound good, cook anything and make it taste good, and sew anything and make it look good,”
Despite her circumstances, Avie Lee Parton was an extraordinarily cheerful and resourceful woman. Dolly Parton shared another reminiscence in 2017 about a simple staple at the family cabin: cornmeal. Her mother reattached her toes with the same needle and thread she used for “quilts and whatnot,” she explained. Dolly Parton’s toes were sliced after she climbed a fence and landed on broken glass. Cornmeal absorbed the blood, and kerosene acted as an antiseptic. Dolly states, “they mended and I’m still walking on them today,” despite her lack of a medical degree and superior mother qualities.
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