Grandma’s Farm in Mayday, Ga

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As published in “The Valdosta Magazine”  in the Summer 2010 issue. 

Do you remember Grandma’s farm?  My Grandma’s farm was in Echols County, Georgia in an area known as Mayday, and it was a wonder.  Watching a black-widow in the burn barrel out in the back field.  Picking up snake skins out of the tall golden grass, counting the rattles and then checking all over because he might still be around.  Memories of the farm.

She would show us a plant and give us five names for it. “Mmm, well this is a Pokeweed.  Phytolacca Americana.  Also known as a Pokeberry, Poke, Inkberry, or Pidgeonberry.”  Since we were kids she had to say, “Don’t eat the berries, they’ll make you sick.”

“Hear that bird?”  Grandma knew its name too.  She could tell you where it nested and what it ate.  If you were smart and paid attention, you could learn the world from her.  She had books on birds, gardening, travel, as well as a fantastic collection of every Reader’s Digest ever printed.  Many subjects were included, but the Bible was her favorite.

Grandma had a lifelong interest in all things outdoors except for killing.  No hunting was allowed on her land.  If a snake crossed the dirt road, you waited until it passed before driving on.  Fishing was the only killing I saw around her house; you didn’t even swat spiders!  She believed that every creature has its job, including those that fed us.  We painted numbers on the backs of the turtles we came across, so we would know them the next time we saw them.  They were not fans of this activity.  Some were pretty big and lurched away as you were  painting, so they ended up with weird graffiti on their backs.

Organic gardening.  Tying up string beans.  Wearing the overalls that Grandpa bought for me from Southern Salvage on Ashley Street in Valdosta.  Picking and shelling black-eyed peas in the hot shade.  Walking down the logging road and making necklaces out of long blades of grass and yellow jasmine blossoms.  The Alapaha River ran dark brown, painting the sand golden along its edges.  Minnows nibbled at your toes.  Grandma knew a lot of poems and sayings, “Dark brown is the river, golden is the sand.”  That was from Robert Louis Stephenson.   “‘To each his own’ said the old lady as she kissed the cow.”  That was from Grandma.

I learned how to sew on her old singer sewing machine with the foot pedals.  I broke the bobbin once, she didn’t even get mad at me.  It was easily fixed once they had ordered and gotten the part.  I loved her old typewriter.  I wrote stories and poems and then submitted them for her approval.  She liked the poems.  Grandma must have cringed at the amount of paper I went through; nothing she did was wasteful.  I always got more paper if I asked for it.

Sunday was an event.  Grandma would cook lots of wonderful smelling food to take to church.  We’d iron our dresses and curl our hair and put it up.  I remember people always came to visit after church and even stayed the night.  It was funny to see the preacher in jeans, even funnier to see him out in the garden digging for worms.  The adults would sit around the table after supper and talk about composting.

She could teach you a lot about the Lord too, if you’d listen.  Everything she said and did reflected His influence in her life.  Grandma truly loved the Lord; spirituality was very personal for her.  As a child I just nodded and said yes ma’am when she talked about God.  As an adult I can understand and am thankful for my own relationship with Him.

Best of all was sitting under the pines in the woods behind the house all by myself  in the late afternoon.  A soft cushion of pine straw under me.  Smells like sap.  Even now, I can hear the wind sighing its way through the treetops.  In the distance, the Alapaha eddies and swirls.  A mockingbird scolds a crow.  The roaring silence fills my ears.  I breathe in until it feels  like my chest might burst with love for this place.  I feel so little looking up at the lacy tree tops.  I don’t want to get up and leave but there’s the dinner bell.  Grandma might take a switch to you if you’re late for supper.

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15 responses »

  1. A little under the weather this week, cold and aches. Ugh. Didn’t do any writing so I thought I would post this instead.
    This is not fiction. It is an essay about when I was 13 and spent the summer at my Grandma’s farm in Georgia. I welcome your comments!

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  2. This post made me wistful for Summer days of old and made me wish i had talked to my grandparents more. Very nice. Thanks.

    Aloha,

    Doug

    I know it Doug, I wish I had spent more time with both of my grandparents in their later years, when I was old enough to do so. It’s good to have memories.

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  3. Hi,

    I really do enjoy your writing, Neeks. I look forward to finding you in my email-box!

    Susan

    Thank you Susan! Actually, this is the first article I ever had published. I had written it for my daughter and stored it away on my computer, so that she would one day know what life back on the farm was like for a kid. My Dad and a wonderful woman who I now count as a good friend were the two who convinced me to send it in. It had never occurred to me previously to do so.

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  4. Your last line gave me good chuckle. The description you gave of your grandmother makes it sound as if she were a gentle, quaint, and soft-spoken woman. But don’t you dare be late for supper! Switches hurt! My mother often made us go fetch one, and if it were too scrawny she’d make us go after another one.

    Wow TC, I think your mother and my grandmother must have known each other…. we had to go get switches too, once. After that I never had to be switched again! No sir!

    It’s funny the memories we have – you know, Grandma used to answer the phone “Mmm Hello.” I realized a few years ago that I do the same thing!”

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    • And then there are those memories of “little granny” that seem kinda nightmarish, like the time I saw her wring the neck of a chicken and all she had left in her hand was its head. It’s a wonder I still love fried chicken!

      I was spared those, thank heavens. Although she did have chickens, mostly just for eggs by then. I remember one rooster they had, she named it “Ichabod.” When he crowed he just couldn’t hit that high note. It was rrr rrr rrr rrr oooooooo, the last bit wobbly and going steadily down in volume. He was hilarious.

      Hey, I saw your facebook page and was going to send a ‘friend’ request but your page doesn’t allow it. Oh well, funny pic though, with the ice cream. 🙂

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      • Hmmm, didn’t realize you couldn’t send a friend request. I’ll check into that and hopefully correct it, and hopefully you can try again. 🙂

        I’ll try again 🙂

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  5. I always wished for a grandmother like yours. Both of mine had darker sides that outweighed their brighter sides, one in particular. Oh well, someone has to have good Grandma memories. I’m glad you’re one of the lucky ones! 🙂

    I’m so sorry to hear that Lorna, Grandma had her moments I’m sure, but I didn’t live here for very long while she was alive…and so missed all of that. I just remember this sweet Godly woman who knew more about plants and their histories than anyone on earth I used to think (still might). I actually got closer to Grandpa before his passing years later than I did to her, but I helped with his caretaking when he was unable.

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  6. Your Grandma reminds me of my Nana Lucy. There was killing on her farm, but only for food and always with humanity and prayer. I stayed at her house during Vacation Bible School and learned a lot about love and family. She was a tough lady, but so kind. When my Mum spoke of the fallacy of religion and the intelligence of atheism, Grandma Lucy would smile in a way that you knew she didn’t agree but would never ever insult anyone’s relationship with God. I miss her like crazy, sometimes. Lovely post, Neeks.

    Well said, with humanity and prayer. That’s the way I remember Grandma, mostly. She would have definitely said something about the atheism, though as compassionately as possible.

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  7. What a lovely picture you have painted! I love this. Grandmas like that are wonderful – and are to be cherished – even if just in memories. And it’s so great that she was a wonderful example of the Lord before you – I know she’d be thrilled to hear you write about your relationship with Him. 🙂

    She wrote some wonderful poetry and essays herself. I could only hope to make her proud of me. Thank you.

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  8. The best essays read like a story and the best fiction is often closely connected to the realm of reality. Great, insightful writing, this one spoke of a time, place and a person -your grandmother who taught you the art of living. Shedding light on how all three meld together to be of importance to you the person -now and then. It is the fond memories and moments, even the kind of laying pine needles, which define us in life. At least for moi and upon reading this it appears am not alone.

    I hardly remember either sets of grandparents all that well. No memories of my mother’s mum and father. A tiny bit of my dad’s father and just slightly more of his mother. Yet my connection is great I believe. They live onward through the eyes of their children, my parents. And my parents will live onward in my eyes. Pretty cool!

    Black widow spiders, rattling snakes, meandering rivers, whispering pines and grand beings; is what make this a wickedly wonderful world despite all that is not wondrous -its obvious your grandmother rubbed off on you.

    Ahh Hudson, that kind of compliment makes me sniffle. 🙂 Our ancestors live on in our thoughts, mannerisms and characters, as well as in our looks. Grandma could grow anything. Yes, ANYthing. Her knowledge and connection to the earth and things that walked on it and grew in it were unparalleled for our small area. My mother now shares that incredible green thumb. I find myself answering the phone like Grandma did, and washing my hands like Poppa did. It’s a joy to watch pieces of me mature in my daughter too. You’re right, pretty cool!

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  9. absolutely wonderful, you are so expressive about all the things we all did on the farms we were privilidged to be a part of. Laying on the grass seeing all sort of beauty in the clouds and giving them a funny name, rolling an old bicycle tire down the dirt lane. what wonderful memories we have.

    Hi Sister Carolyn! Thank you, I’m so glad you liked it. I remember laying on the grass up in NH, it was cool and so soft. Not like centipede grass down here…and the ants don’t bite. 🙂 I would love to hear some stories on what Christmas might have been like for Sister Grace when she was young and for you when you were little. I need to do an article for Christmas and I want to do it on an old-fashioned Christmas in Echols County.

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  10. Neeks, this reminded me of trips to the midwest when I was young. My grandparents farmed in Bon Homme County in South Dakota. My best childhood memories are visits to the farm. I just got home from a trip to that area, but your post still sent my mind spinning back to wonderful childhood memories. Thanks for the reminder.

    Funny the abstract things we remember from those trips too, the way the sawdust smelled on the floor in the wood shop, hearing Poppa say a cuss word (!) when the tractor/mower broke down. The gross ‘squish’ the caterpillar made when Grandma pulled it off her pepper plant and killed it ( I know, I know – but it’s Halloween weekend so I can be gross) and 40 years later I remember this stuff.

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  11. Oh yes, and grandpa pulling out his pocket watch, looking more like he was checking to see if it was right, than checking the time. Or Grandmpa shaking her butcher knife in the kitchen and telling my brothers to move back or they would lose their noses and chicken running around minus their heads….

    Thanks for stopping by Mary, and for commenting. My grandfather had two old wind up clocks. I remember he would get the key each evening before bed and wind the clocks up. We still have them, but they haven’t been wound in years.

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