MawMaw Chatted, I Listened

I initially wrote this as an assignment for a class. We were to pick a decade between 1910 and 1940 and imagine we lived at that time. The focus of the paper (and of the class, for that matter) was the technologies of the era; it was History of Technology, after all. Never one to think inside the box, I was inspired to have a conversation as my grandmother with someone she knew slightly–someone you’d run into at the Post Office or the general store, for instance–the cousin of a neighbor, perhaps.

Mind, my grandmother was born ’round the turn of the 20th Century in very rural Southwest Mississippi. She inhabited a far different world than that which we currently comprehend. She also passed away when I was about six and so my memories of her are nothing like the representation I created. But, perhaps I got it right? Perhaps not.

It was a fun, entertaining bit of writing. So, I’m sharing it with teh interwoobies. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed authoring it.

1927

Oh, our place? Well, we’re a few miles west of McComb, Mississippi. Yes, Smithdale, yes. It’s a pretty nice place we have here. There’s our dairy, we have a dozen Guernseys that we milk twice a day, two 5-acre cornfields and sixty acres of pasture. And pine trees. Lord, but do we have some pine trees!

No, no, we don’t mind being so far from town. Why, we have everything we need right in Smithdale. A general store, a post office with a telephone, even a railroad spur. Two churches and family to spare, and some we’d just love to spare, bless their hearts!

Conveniences? Oh, I don’t know. Daddy, that’s Mr. Quincy, my husband, bought us a brand new cookstove just this summer. Oh, my, yes. It’s taken a bit to get used to it, you know. Cookstoves are a lot like folks, they each have their own peculiarities. But it makes things much easier, what with all the children. It’s so much larger than our old three-burner, and we can cook up a mess of baked goods like you wouldn’t believe! But it took Mr. Quincy and his brother three whole days to get a new wall up in the back kitchen once we moved that stove in. It heats quite a lot more than our old stove and, well, you know how steamy our summers are here.

Well, Daddy works over the hill at Mr. Pink’s sawmill. I suppose he’ll inherit it, eventually. He’s already thinking as if he has—silly man, talking about improvements and electric motors and all. I mean! I hear folks talking about how everyone will have electric out here in just a few years. Lord, the times we live in. Those new diesel locomotives about frightened me out of my wits when we went to Gloster a few months ago. I’ve never seen such a thing! But Daddy is determined to convince Mr. Pink that a diesel engine for the sawmill is just the thing to improve business. But we’ll see. Personally I try to not hear any of that ol’ business talk; it’s just so dull and all the boys get to disagreeing. My, but it just ruins Sunday dinner!

Oh, yes! Every Sunday. We take turns hosting, of course. One week Ms. Letha, that’s Mr. Pink’s wife, my mother-in-law, will host. The next week I will, and then Mr. Quincy’s sister-in-laws. Well, just the two, since they’re close. Lordy, but it’d be a hassle to have to go all the way into McComb to have Sunday dinner with his sisters. Why, that’s almost twenty miles! But they do treat us to some wonderful suppers when we are able to make it into town. And they have radios! Oh, my, but it is nice to set and listen to the Gospel Hour. It’s hard to believe that it’s possible; though I suppose we all thought the same thing back when we could first cable the Continent.

No, no, Mr. Pink has the only truck in Smithdale. Goodness, we aren’t millionaires out here. That’s the Major and his folk over in Gloster. He owns the railroad and ‘bout half the state, they say. But, he seems to be fair in his dealings with Mr. Pink. Those two are birds of feather—almost as bad as Daddy. They get together and discuss “progress” and “business models” and the “future”. Well, you know how women folk are supposed to be ignorant of such things, but I’ve often suspected that if they’d just be quiet for five minutes and listened to how well a handful of women run a kitchen, not to mention bossing all the children and the colored help, well, they just might learn a thing a two about “organization”.

Lordy, when I was a girl I recall how excited everyone was that there’d be a railroad spur coming right here, to Smithdale! But, really, it was just for the lumber! Takes it right to the Major’s depot in Gloster. We kids were so disappointed. Though my brothers, to tell on them a little bit, were known to hop the train and ride around all day instead of working when they thought Mother wouldn’t notice. I always wanted to do that! But I know Mother and Poppa, both, would tan my hide! These days I worry about my boy Sonny doing the same thing. Isn’t that funny?

Now that the new spur goes through Liberty, Smithdale, and McComb, why, our little community is all kinds of growing. So much work for the men, what with the sawmill and the railroads—I suspect Mr. Quincy is going to want to expand the dairy. But I told him, Quincy Leon Adams, there is no way on earth I’d stand for more milk cows. It’s enough work as it is, milking those cows before the break of dawn and at the end of the day, and farming our feed plots. I told him, Quincy, a dozen cows is enough! Not unless you hire on some help! Well, he claimed that we should just make more hired help. So help me, I wanted to smack that man!

Five children already, but only two boys, that’s right. They’re good, helpful boys. And our girls, oh my! They’re out in the mud and the dirt and chasing the chickens every bit as much as Sonny. Lord knows I shudder to see them chop stove wood, and lug water in from the pump, but goodness knows I can’t right now, not in my condition. Most days it’s about all I can do to get Daddy his breakfast in the morning and remember to put the cornbread in his lunchpail.

Well, it’s been quite pleasant speaking with you, too! Be sure and tell your folks I say hello and we hope to see you back soon! Don’t be away so long!

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