Note: The author of this story is my new friend, Clyde J. Hady of Brooksville, Florida. His business Facebook is Hometown Electric. Check out his latest invention on You Tube.
Grandma was a big woman, at least that’s how I remember her. She was as tall as most of the men I saw, and more rotund. I don’t think she was really oversized, but she did a lot of what was termed as men’s work at that time. Her stern ways fit well with her build, and her disposition fit easily into the hard routine of everyday life. When Grandma whispered she was as gentle as any person I have ever known, but when Grandma spoke, I swear the whole town could hear, and the smart ones listened. She had a reputation that demanded respect from most men, and fear for most women. But she was gentle, honest, and fair. Unfortunately the only thing Grandma could ever bank on was her word, she never had anything else.
Life wasn’t easy for a woman on her own, and to this day I’m amazed at how well she did.
By the time I showed up, Grandma was working on her second set of children. There was me, I don’t remember where my parents were, and a whole passel of cousins. There were three cousins whose parents had died in a car accident, and two whose Momma went crazy after their Daddy had died in the war. We were there all the time, but there were others too, who would show up for days or weeks at a time. I never did know why, but I suspect Grandma was helping to ease the burden of unwanted responsibility. I never did hear Grandma say anything about the missing parents who weren’t dead, but she was always saying that we had to learn to be responsible, because she wouldn’t be around to help us. In retrospect, I feel a terrible shame for not fully understanding how much she was helping us at the time, but as children we just understood that others were not going to be responsible for us.
Grandma didn’t have real running water, just a pump in the front yard and the only hot water she had was the water she put over the fire. She had this kind of fire pit with a wall of stones around it, just the right size to set her tomato tub on. She called it a tomato tub because when tomatoes were in season she used it to can tomatoes with, but most of the time it was used for washing and cleaning. Once each week everyone took their turn in the tub, whether you needed it or not, no talking back either.
I remember when Tommy came to visit, it was during canning season and Grandma had been canning all week. But when Saturday came round she readied it for baths. We had a heck of a time finding Tommy. Seems someone had told him that Grandma liked canning things at some point during the week and he was bound and determined that Grandma was not going to can him. He didn’t care how fresh it would make him feel, he was not going to be canned.
When she finally got him into the tub and finished getting him cleaned up, she asked him, “Now that wasn’t so bad was it?”
His only retort was “I don’t like being canned!”
Grandma just smiled, but that was the last time Tommy spent the whole week with us, so I guess you could say he was only canned one time.