Aaron Smith grew up in a large, rural family in Southern Arkansas and East Texas. Like other boys, he was both physically and socially active. As one newspaper reported, “When a boy at school he often engaged in the sports of his companions, such as ball, croquet, etc., and at one time became quite proficient as a chess player.
“He can play the guitar and piano very well with his toes, and might have been an accomplished musician had it not been for his aversion to making an exhibition of himself.”
Indeed, his talents in the face of his physical limitations drew early attention and could have changed the course of both his childhood and life. As another paper reported, “Since he was 10 years old showmen have tried to go on the road and have offered him large salaries to exhibit himself as an ‘armless wonder,’ but the idea was so repulsive that he never seriously considered the proposals although some of them came at a time when he and his family needed money badly.”
Smith grew up on a family farm, where his father also operated a little shop in which he made and repaired plows, wagons, some household furniture and even made coffins for the burial of the neighborhood dead. One of Smith’s early recollections was hearing his father called out of bed early in the morning to make a coffin for a neighbor who had just died.
He also recalled his mother sitting at an old fashioned hand loom weaving the cloth from which she made their clothes, a loom his father had built by hand in his shop. She always sang at her work. One of his earliest and sweetest memories was of her singing an old song, “There’ll Be No Sorrow There,” which he later realized spoke so well of her hope in the Lord’s grace when her own need for a coffin arrived.
There’ll be no night in heaven,
In that blest world above;
No anxious toil, no weary hours;
For labor there is love.
There’ll be no sorrow there,
There’ll be no sorrow there;
In heaven above, where all is love,
There’ll be no sorrow there.
There’ll be no grief in heaven;
For life is one glad day,
And tears are those of former things
Which all have passed away.
There’ll be no sin in heaven;
Behold that blessed throng,
All holy in there spotless robes,
All holy in their song.
Words: Frederick D. Huntington, Music Charles W. Dunbar, 1858