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 shared: https://joyful2beeblogs.com/2021/10/22/grandmother-farm-to-mill/ But her last years were some of her happiest. Her first husband, William Henry Youngblood died I think in his late fifties, of kidney failure after suffering from diabetes and a stroke, which changed his personality and his ability to reason.
During twelve years after his death she made a good life for herself by continuing working in the mill. She bought pretty things for her home; traveled with friends and family; and worked hard.
One day she noticed that her front porch needed some carpentry repairs. After a friend recommended him, Nina hired a widowed farmer/carpenter, Eugene King. During the repairs they learned that they both loved to laugh, loved people, nature, farm life, animals and didn’t mind hard work.
They began “courting.” Papa King’s farm had twenty acres on which he grew corn and strawberries. Papa 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 first wife’s death four or five years before he met grandmother. 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 marrying Grandmother!
Papa King’s life was never the same. Changes began even before they married. Nina made Gene promise that before they got married he would have the fireplace chimney fixed, which he dutifully did. And 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 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 pioneer style bonnet and apron picking strawberries, gathering chicken eggs out of the nests, or finding pecans and filling the fullness of her apron with them.
Everyday around 2 o’clock Grandmother 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 braying her request for 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.
After Maude’s death Papa King got a little Mediterranean donkey, named Bobo. He, like Maude, developed a love for Grandmother’s cornbread.
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. She had a “century plant” that I was told only blooms once a century. I remember going out that night to see the only bloom((?s) it would make for 100 years. (I just looked it up and they actually only bloom every ten to twenty years! I was a teenager. what can I say.) But it was a lovely exotic sight. I wish someone had taken a picture of it!
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.
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! I’m not sure if he was a confused peacock or she was a persuasive grandmother
She had a way with birds, dogs, and cats (as well as Papa King). Grandmother always had a parakeet or canary long before she married Papa King. The canaries 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 under her tongue. One day she had plans to clean the small 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.
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 remember her doing that even before she married Papa King, when I was a child.
She must have had a major impact on my life. I have always loved people, animals and nature. I also had two cats until I had to euthanize one. The other cat is a one black cat, Norie. 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 and hope she sees the impact she had on my life.