"Now I lay me down to sleep,|
I pray the Lord,
My Soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord,
My Soul to take."
There are several versions of this simple prayer but I learned this one from my Great-grandmother, Granny Owens before I started school. Lying in bed, just after the coal oil lamp had been extinguished, we would repeat the prayer aloud and then go on to the "God Blesses" as she called them. "God Bless Mother and Daddy, Mary Gail and Rexie, (My younger sisters.) all the aunts and uncles, my maternal grandmother Mama Willie but never my Granddad. When I questioned Granny about him, she said "You can bless him if you want." Although she lived with my paternal grandparents for many years, she and my Granddad seldom spoke.
My father was her favorite grandson and as his only male heir, I inherited this honor. In her eyes, I could do no wrong and believe me I tried. One of my favorite memories was the arrival of her "Old age pension check." Hot on the heels of the check would be the Watkins Man with his samples of patent medicine and a special pint bottle of medicinal whiskey for Granny. Every night before retiring, she had a cup of sassafras tea laced with one teaspoon of whiskey and two tablespoons of sugar. The mixture was almost as thick as the cane syrup served with every meal. On special occasions, I was allowed one sip.
The Watkins man usually carried enough money to cash the meager check she received. After settling her account for the whiskey, she would listen as he extolled the virtues of the latest cure-all. Meanwhile, I would be going through the rest of the bottles and anything else of interest in the sample case. He never said anything to me as this would have ended the visit. No one chastised me in her presence.
I would listen for hours of her account of life as a young girl on the frontier. Tales of how she ran a band of marauding Indians off the family farm when she was fourteen. I found it had to believe that The Lone Ranger's faithful Indian companion, Tonto, could be guilty of the crimes she described. Wish I had written them down but who would know I would someday be sitting in front of a computer trying to recall the things she had told me. I barely knew what a typewriter was in those days, much less a computer.
One of the chores I performed for Granny was selecting snuff brushes. These were small sticks, twigs actually, with the end chewed until it was frayed. The frayed end would be dipped in her can of snuff. This provided just the right amount for an after dinner "dip" and I received a shiny penny for every stick. The snuff had other benefits. She dipped the brand that came in a small brown bottle with a cork stopper. I coveted those corks and saved them to use as floats for my home made fishing gear. With a hatchet, I would select a slender mesquite limb for a pole. Twine from flour sacks provided line which was threaded through the cork and attached to a store bought hook. Weight was usually a small bolt or nut. Bait, in the form of grasshoppers and worms was used to catch perch and once in a while, a small catfish from the creek that ran through the farm. I don't know if I would have the patience my granddad showed when he helped me clean my catch. Most of the perch would better serve as bait for big catfish but we cleaned them all and my grandmother would roll them in meal and fry them in pure hog lard. Carbs? What's that?
When Granny was 91, she suffered a "spell" and word went out to all the family. I was in seventh grade in Floydada, Texas so my memory is pretty good here. We arrived late in the evening and my dad and I were ushered in to her bedroom. She was awake but only acknowledged our presence with a weak wave of her hand. At that time, Uncle Summie, her only son and the man my dad was named for appeared in the doorway. He said, "Ma, it's me. Summie." Granny sat right up in bed, yelled "Summie" and lived for two more years. When she died at 93, she still had most of the red hair she was born with. A few streaks of gray here and there but there wasn't any doubt that she was a red head.
Granny saved all of her coins in a large glass pickle jar. The jar was in the bottom of her huge steamer trunk and she always told me when she died, the jar and all the coins would be mine. I don't know what the face value amounted to but it was sizable and to a collector there were surely some pretty valuable coins. I waited until a decent interval after the funeral to ask about the jar and was told by my Uncle C. they had used the money for the funeral. It wasn't until years later I found out my Uncle Summie had paid the cost of internment and that Uncle C. had kept the coins for himself. I still love him but I don't like him and he is not in my "God Blesses" every night.
So "God Bless each and every one of you. I don't know if this will be the last chapter or not. I plan to attend the Floydada High School Reunion the 24th and 25th of September. Hope to renew some old acquaintances and John Perry has promised to buy me a bowl of old time chili! I can taste it now.