Of my two grandmothers, my country grandmother was the one I knew the best. There was something about my mother’s mother which was charming and endearing. Her life had many hard times at the beginning, the middle and the end (which I will share in other posts someday soon). But her last years were some of her happiest. Her first husband, William Henry Youngblood died of kidney failure after suffering from diabetes and a stroke, with residual affects on his personality and brain function. She was widowed for about twelve years. During that time she bought pretty things for her home, traveled with friends and family, and worked hard.
Courtship and New Love
Ten years or so later she noticed that her front porch needed some carpentry work done and a friend recommended a widowed farmer, Eugene King, who did home repairs on the side. Nina hired him and he fixed the porch.
I feel sure that they found they liked each other as soon as they met. They both loved to laugh, loved people, nature, animals, and never minded hard work.
They began “courting.” Papa King’s farm had twenty acres on which he grew corn and strawberries. Papa “Gene” King had been widowed for 4 years when they met. He was tall and skinny because he had lost a lot of weight since his wife’s death. I was told that many times he would plow the fields with Maude, his mule, (half donkey/half horse/, come home and just sit alone in the dark. Well he never did that again after courting Grandmother!
Major Life Changes
Papa King’s life was never the same and happily so. Changes began even before they married. Nina made Gene promise that before they got married he would have the chimney fixed, which he dutifully did.
But there was one habit she could not abide. He chewed tobacco which was not even the problem. She made him promise to spit his tobacco “juice” in a spit can by his recliner instead of on the fireplace hearth. He seemed more than happy to comply.
Grandmother must have missed her childhood life in the country. because she flourished living with Papa King. She helped him pick the strawberries, fixed up things around the house, and brought back joy and light to his life, not to mention good country meals!
I imagine she could not have been happier than when she was wearing her bonnet and apron picking strawberries or finding pecans and filling the fullness of her apron with them while thinking of the pecan pies she would make.
Two Skillets of Cornbread
Everyday around 1 o’clock she made two skillets of cornbread: one for Papa King and one for Maude. It seems “someone” gave Maude a sample of that cornbread and she was hooked on it.
She would start vociferously braying her request for her cornbread every day about 2 in the afternoon until grandmother brought out two cooled skillets of cornbread: one for Papa King and one for Maude.
Maude was a hard working mule and loved those two people. Later after Maude died Papa King got a little Mediterranean donkey, named Bobo. He, like Maude, developed a love for Grandmother’s cornbread.
Papa King’s Teaching
As a result of Grandmother’s good cooking Papa King developed a pot belly. He was full of humor and loved to kid around.
He taught my siblings and I how to smack an earthworm between cupped palms to stun it so it would lie still as we put a hook through it to use as bait. But the grossness dawned on me when I ended up squishing the worm because my hands were smaller than his. He laughed so hard at my expression and fixed the hook for me.
A Whole Lot of Living Going On
Grandmother was finally in her element. She loved the pecans from the trees in their yard; the cherries from the tree on the side of the house; the wide open spaces and calm beauty of growing things around her. Of course she had to have flowers planted in front of the house.
Although her dog, Trixie, died of old age after she moved to the farm there was a long line of other dogs, some of which got killed out on the road. But they all loved and followed Papa King around. There were also outdoor cats who kept the mice away from the corn stalks used to feed the mule. I remember she had a black cat named Inky too.
A Confused Peacock or a Persuasive Grandmother
One other fascinating experience about our visits to the farm was the male peacock and his peahens. Grandmother could talk to the male peacock, “Pretty Boy,” and coax him to strut around with his tail feathers opened up as if she were a peahen!
She had a way with birds, dogs, and cats (as well as Papa King). Grandmother always had a canary long before she married Papa King. They always sang as if their little hearts would burst, and just for her.
Grandmother also had a way with Papa King. As she got older, she would have angina, or heart pain and found relief with Nitroglycerin tablets tucked under her tongue. One day she had plans to mop the kitchen floor, but her plans were thwarted by the chest pains.
She asked Gene if he would do the job for her. He willingly got down on his hands and knees and cleaned the floor for her. I don’t know if he just loved her or was so thankful that she loved him or a combination of the two, but his life was turned around after they married.
Amazing Table Full for Holidays
I still remember the spread she cooked for Thanksgiving and Christmas. There were turkey and dressing, ham, four or five vegetables, three or four different pies, sweet rolls and of course sweet Southern tea for all. She could cook anything from scratch and of course never had to measure any ingredients!
Something I failed to mention is her habit of never letting anyone leave empty handed after a visit. I wonder if that was her way of sharing the plenty and joy that she had finally found since marrying Papa King.
She must have had a major impact on my life. I have always loved people, animals and nature. I also have one black cat and another cat. I love to give people something when they come see me.
Oddly my husband, also named Henry, had a stroke and diabetes which affected his personality. He died at the age of 58. After his death I enjoyed decorating my home, traveling, and living my life. I loved my Grandmother King.