Tuesday, August 07, 2007
More on Grandma
My thoughts have been on Grandma and her stories since yesterday. For whatever reason, I can't get her stories about ol' Bill out of my head, so I'm going to share them with you.

Please keep in mind that mine is a pioneering family from the Great Plains as you read this.

Grandma and Pompa started out in a small house that, before it was torn down, was known as The Steven's Place. I don't know why we called it that, we just did. Anyway, it was the sort of small place on the prairie that you could imagine blowing away in the wind. It was tiny - two rooms I think - and that is where my uncle was born. As their prospects improved, so did their living arrangements. But, during the Dust Bowl, grandma used to have to get very creative because the dirt would literally sift through even minuscule cracks. Anyway, at some point in time my grandparents became aware of a neighbor whose name was something like Bill McCreary - I could be mistaken on his name. They called him Ol' Bill.

Bill lived in a sod dugout in what can only be considered very rough circumstances. And, though nobody knows the full story, it is believed that Bill was treated shabbily by a woman because he was not fond of the fairer sex. He hated women. Had nothing good to say about them.

That is, except for my grandmother.

Now, the thing about ol' Bill is he was actually rougher than his circumstances. His idea of personal hygiene - from the stories I've heard he didn't know the meaning of the word. Ol' Bill wore the same overalls everyday over the same pair of long johns. From all accounts, he never took them off. Moreover, ol' Bill didn't see the need for a napkin and developed the habit of wiping his hands on the front of his overalls in the general region of his particulars - if you catch my drift.

However, living in a sod dugout often meant that you had all sorts of non-paying live-in guests of the rodent sort. Rodents who, after a time, became brazen enough to begin chewing on the crusty front of ol' Bill's trousers. Bill, it is certain, knew what was going on but didn't care. Because, you see, when those rats got down to the long johns (or deeper), he'd simply get himself a new pair of overalls and put them on over his old pair. Swear. To. God.

So, he was a slovenly, irascible, ornery ol' cuss of a woman hater.

My grandfather worried about ol' Bill, living alone as he did and getting on in years, so on occasion my grandmother would take him a meal or check on him. And, when Bill got sick near the end, Grandma took care of him for a while. And, I believe, if memory serves, that ol' Bill left all of his earthly possessions to Grandma when he passed on. (Gee, thanks!)

But, my grandmother did put herself out, looked past the odious beast that ol' Bill was, and did the decent thing.

I'm sure that this speaks to her character, but it also says quite a lot about the way things were during that time. People checked on each other and looked after their neighbors.

There was something else that my grandparents did that was a really wonderful thing too.

Back when my father was in middle school or high school, there was a local family that had six or seven kids. Two of them were high school age and the rest were much younger. My grandmother was casually acquainted with the family in the way that people are in that size of a community.

Out of the blue, the parents of this family loaded up four of their children and disappeared, leaving 2 of their children behind. The kids came home from school and found that their parents and all of the household goods were gone. One of these two kids was a girl by the name of Kay Greene. My grandparents took her in and she lived with them for about 2 years while she finished school. Both of my grandparents were school teachers and thought that Kay Greene's parents were wretched, but that's the way things were. My grandparents even took in their nephew for a number of years and he spent time on the farm as well.

It seems odd to me that all of these things happened before I was alive. Not odd exactly. I realize that there were people on the earth before I got here. It is just odd that I have bits and pieces of family lore that I can't completely knit together.

For example, for the longest time - before I heard the story of Kay Greene - I thought she was the long-lost black-sheep aunt I never knew because she had died or been disowned due to some scandal (I was a fanciful child).


posted by Phoenix | 10:07 AM


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