Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Own Personal Time Machine

I have my very own private time machine. It really isn't like Dr. Brown's DeLorean in Back to the Future. Rather, growing up I knew four of my great grand parents; Fred, Ola, Bert and Roberta. That is right, these were my mother's grandparents. They were all born just before or just after the turn of the 20th century. Their world in the rural Missouri Ozarks started as one without cars, without electricity, or even in door plumbing. Theirs was a world where people were named things like Tink or Suttie. Come visit a little while with me as I introduce you to Gramp, Granny, Grandpa Bert and Granny Bert, who are my connections to a distant past. Perhaps this will help you in developing your own personal time machine.

The first component of a time machine is stories. Stories in the Ozarks are all about telling experiences that one has. The story need not be spectacular, just tell it plane and with earnestness. Granny told me how she came to be raised by her grandma Johnson. When Granny was five years old her mother, Caroline, came down with the flu. Her mother was bed ridden. Granny was outside when she saw four people with white clothes on. They were walking by, each one a little shorter than the previous, as stair steps. Granny went in to tell her mother this. Her mother told her they were the angels coming to get her. The next day her mother died. Her father could not care for his daughters so he asked for the grandparents to do so. He sold his mule and saddle for forty dollars to buy his wife a grave stone. It reads, “She fell by the way side and the angels carried her home”. He traveled to Kansas and hoed corn for 50 cents a day. While this story may sound sad, I think of the photo in my Granny's bedroom of my great, great, grandma Caroline is something, really special. It's still there.

This leads me to the second part of a time machine, which is possessions. My grandpa Fred, who we all called Gramp, survived by farming and always buying more land to farm. He wore overalls with a gold pocket-watch that never stopped. He refused to set it to daylights savings time thinking that to be the invention of politicians in Washington D.C. He was punctual to get up early to milk the cows. He ate breakfast from a great glass chalice. He came in from the fields to eat punctually at noon. He drank ice tea at noon from the great glass chalice. After he milked the cows in the evening, then he ate cornbread and milk every evening from that great glass chalice. He was a man of routine, but a routine that I think he really enjoyed.

That leads me to the last component of our time machine, that is their habits. Not their daily habits, but the annual ones. They grew, harvested and preserved much of their own food. In the spring, my Gramp would dig new potatoes each spring. This was fixed with spring peas. Since this was one of the first harvests from the vegetable garden it was a significant event. My Granny Ola would make gooseberry pie each spring. As I remember it, someone would find the gooseberry and pick them for Granny to make into a pie. Gooseberries are an extremely tart berry that grows wild in the Ozarks. My Granny Bert made hominy each year in the Fall. Hominy is made from dry corn which is processed by soaking it in lye water. Sounds weird, tastes good.

Harvesting and preserving garden vegetables was time spent with my great grandparents. We would work with our hands, breaking beans in the dining room or shucking corn out underneath the shade tree, which would take us back to story telling. We might hear the same story we had heard the year before, or maybe we would hear a new one. We might learn something new about Tink or Suttie. We might just fix roasting ears and Gramp would wash it down with some ice tea from his great glass chalice.
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