Dolly Parton and Her Siblings’ Antics ‘Horrified’ Their Mom: ‘We Could Get Killed’

Dolly Parton grew up in a two-room home with 11 siblings. She often talks about how much she loved and respected her parents when she was growing up. However, the Parton children still got into some trouble. The “9 to 5” singer shared the ways she and her siblings used to have fun growing up. She said much of what they did horrified her mother.

Dolly Parton, who has 11 siblings, wears a yellow dress and holds a microphone.
Dolly Parton | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Life with 11 siblings ‘seemed just natural’ to Dolly Parton

Parton was the fourth of 12 children born to her parents, Avie Lee and Robert Parton. They lived in a one-bedroom home without running water or electricity. 

“We were poor but I never felt poor,” she told The Guardian in 2016. “We always had food, a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. It wasn’t exactly what we wanted but Mama and Daddy were always quick to point out the families that suffered far more than we ever did. It all seemed just natural to me.”

She said that she was grateful to grow up with a big family.

“It was crowded!” she said. “With that many brothers and sisters there was plenty of teasing and fighting but we were all in it together.”

The Parton siblings were often looking for ways to get into trouble

Parton said when the kids were bored, they would deliberately behave in a way that would get them into trouble. 

“We had chickens and things and out of boredom we would do things we knew we’d get beat to death for,” she told Newsday in 1979. “Daddy had setting hens. We hatched our own chickens. The hens would sit on the eggs until they hatched. Sometimes, we knew when the eggs were just good and rotten, before they had formed the chickens, and it was real fun to get rotten eggs and have a contest throwing them against the barn. And you did not do that, because that was food. But sometimes we’d take that chance.” 

She said they also loved dangerous activities.

“We were always doing meanness like that,” she said of the egg throwing. “Or swinging from the grapevine in areas where we knew we could get killed, but we didn’t care. Momma was horrified. We had these trees with these big grapevines, so we would swing like Tarzan from one side of the mountain to the other. If we fell down into the gully it would have been too bad. Then we’d hand-walk the tobacco rafters in the barn, which was another thing you could get killed for.” 

When the Parton children wanted a more low-key activity, they would fight or dry out tobacco and smoke it out of a paper bag.

Parton says many of her brothers and sisters are also talented musicians 

One thing the Parton siblings have in common is their musical talent. While Parton is the most famous, she doesn’t believe she is the most talented.

“I have – there’s 12 of us kids, six girls and six boys, and we all sing and write and play,” she told NPR in 2010. “It’s just that I think I’ve taken it farther. I don’t know that I’m near as good as some of the others, but I’ve been more willing to sacrifice and work a little harder than some of the others might have been willing, you know, to do just because they wanted to have a family and do other things. But there’s a lot of talent in this family.”

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