This photo was taken in 1942 – it’s my great grandmother assessing hail damage in the cotton fields after a big storm. It was just three years after the Great Depression and our country was still struggling to recover from a more than 25 percent rise in unemployment. Farming and rural areas had been hit hard and were hanging on by hope as their crop prices that had dropped by nearly 60 percent.
My great grandmother was a tough-love kind of gal. Widowed twice and known for her penny-pinching, she was a woman of contradictions. In a time when women didn’t call the shots, she rolled up her sleeves and fought her way through to keep the farm alive, kicking and screaming. She was a devout Christian woman who cursed freely and loudly in the front yard of the church after the sermon. She was the type of woman I always imaged slinging a shotgun in her right arm while balancing a baby on her left.
She had a houseful of help – a cook, two maids and a caretaker for her second husband, all in freshly pressed black and white uniform dresses (that I would pretty much give my crooked right pinkie to have and be able to wear on Halloween nowadays). I used to sit on the countertop and watch the staff cook up a storm. Maybe my mom wasn’t a short-order cook, but great grandmother sure had one, and I liked to take full advantage of mid-day snack requests. In her pantry she had a never-ending supply of the most delicious homemade crisp, yet chewy, chocolate chip cookies that I have, to this day, ever tasted. She kept them in a stained plastic container on a shelf next to three-years-expired peas and canned peaches, and stacks of nicely folded empty Rainbow Bread bags that she saved and reused. And reused. And reused.
She’s in one of my favorite memories of growing up on the farm, and also in one of my worst…