A New Look at Old Memories
Rising at the crack of dawn I raced down the stairs into the kitchen to find my grandmother cooking donuts! That remains one of my fondest memories of the many summers spent at grandmother’s. The smell of the freshly cooked sugar or glazed donuts was enough to drive anyone out of their deep sleep. The recently made eggs and bacon, along with fresh squeezed orange juice, gave us the needed energy to go out and start our daily routine of chores. As I remained the youngest of the many of my cousins at the farm that summer, my tasks included feeding the cats, helping with dishes, and pretty much trying to stay out of as much trouble as I possibly could. My grandmother taught me many valuable lessons those summers about life, including humanity, laughter, strength, and most importantly the importance of family.
Looking back at the all too short of a time I got to spend with my grandmother, she taught me some of the most valuable morals that I carry with me still today. One of the toughest lessons that I had to deal with was the death of some of my most loved animals. When lambing season came around, there were some very difficult decisions that had to be made. Sometimes, throughout the process of lambing, things go wrong. I remember losing my favorite ewe Breeze to a breach birth during lambing season. Through her death we did come out with two beautiful lambs; which we named after her in her memory. Decisions were tough but they had to be made in order to save the life of either the ewe or the lamb. At the time they were not decisions that I believed were acceptable. Now looking back, they are decisions I would never want to make.
Don’t get me wrong, I cope with death fine when it comes to animals that are raised for meat, such as cattle or chicken. In fact, one of my favorite meals is chicken. My grandma raised chickens and butchered them herself whenever a dish called for the delectable birds. I remember specifically her walking to the chicken coop and grabbing one of the unlucky chickens by the feet. She then walked over to the worn beat up shed were she would sit down on a dirty old stool next to a huge stump of what used to be a tree. Quietly and swiftly, she’d place the helpless chicken across the stump placing the neck outstretched. Then, with one quick movement of a hatchet, the head of the chicken would roll to the ground. She would stand up and set the body of the chicken on the ground and watch, as we kids would scramble to catch a headless chicken. The chicken would run every which way, providing us with a brief moment of chaos as we scrambled to catch it. My grandmother would laugh for hours recalling all the different techniques that we tried to catch this headless chicken. It was one moment in the summer that really brought every one together.
My grandmother wasn’t all laughs; she’d had her set backs, too. She lost her husband, my grandpa, when my dad was a senior in college. My grandpa died of a heart attack on Christmas Day, which ironically is my dad’s birthday. My dad and mom, who were engaged at the time, rushed him to the Madison emergency room. The distance ended up being too great, as my grandpa died in the car. My grandmother went on running the farm by herself another ten years before her death. It took every inch of her soul to keep going after the death of her husband, but during that time she helped raise all thirty-two of her grandchildren by keeping us on the farm whenever we weren’t in school. Her example, back in my earlier years, remains the source of most of my strength that I have today.
Her strength was not the most important thing to my grandmother. The most valuable possession that she had was her family. She loved her family more than anything and spent every waking moment with them. She’d send for her grandchildren whenever there was