Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Short Story: Goatheads and Yellow Roses, part 2

Thank you for all your kind comments about the first
half of this story. I hope you enjoy the conclusion as much.

Now Grandma was a different story altogether. She was always even-tempered, quiet and loving. Except when you did something where you might get hurt. Then look out Nellie!

Grandma was old when she married, thirty-one, and by the time she had six children she was pretty wore out. So, when I knew her she was already having trouble getting around. We’d been told to stay out of the road, so one day when my brother thought she wasn’t looking, where do you think he went? You got it, into the road. Jimmy heard the screen door slap closed and by the time he looked up all he saw was Grandma’s big tennis shoe coming off the front porch. And she was loaded for bear, with the fly swatter. That thing really gets your attention when you’re wearing shorts and shirtless like he was. From that day on we knew our sweet Grandma meant what she said.

Grandma was a good Christian woman, her kids called her a saint because she “put up with Papa,” but she had two vices. Well, she thought of them as vices. She dipped snuff and read those romance magazines. They sat in a tall stack at the end of the sofa. Every afternoon, after her work was done and before it was time to cook supper, she’d sit and read awhile. It was her one escape from a hard life.

Grandma and Grandpa got too old to manage the farm and moved into a white frame house in town. Town being a small community of about 100 people several miles from the farm. The yard was grass and though there were no rose bushes, honeysuckle covered a trellis on the front porch.

As a teenager I loved to visit, and when Grandpa passed, I went as often as possible. She was lonely. Mama was grateful I liked to go because she couldn’t get out often. I’d take her car, and feeling free as a breeze, drive too fast on the two-lane highway.

We’d sit at her kitchen table and eat tomato and macaroni soup from pink Depression glass bowls — the ones so collectable today. Some days I’d stop at a burger joint just outside town and pick up a couple of hamburgers, her favorite meal. According to her, it was perfect — it had all the food groups, you could eat it with your hands and there were no dishes to wash. While we ate, she listened to my teenage woes, never condemning or scolding. And I learned things about her. I knew she loved roses but not that yellow was her favorite.

I cherish the richness of my childhood. Playing in that dirt with brothers, sisters and cousins we learned give and take, fairness and loyalty. Grandma’s simple life, her love and wisdom taught me compassion, unconditional love, and joy in what I have. Her life was an example of what it means to live the life of a Christian. She truly walked with Jesus.

Only remnants of Grandma’s shrubs and flowers remain at the farm, most died off from lack of water, a valuable commodity in the 1950’s due to the seven-year drought. No wonder she didn’t have grass. A new log home stands a short distance from where Grandma’s small house stood. Scraps of tin from the roof and chips of green asbestos siding are all that remain. Stand there for just a minute and memories will make you smile. Close your eyes, breathe in the scent of roses and listen to the sound of children’s laughter on the breeze as they ride stick horses and hunt doodlebugs in Grandma’s dirt yard.

Each time I look at a rose and its fragrance teases my nostrils, I think of Grandma Riley. Every memory I have is like the flower, beautiful, sweet and lingering. Though I loved Grandpa too, his memory congers up reminders of those goatheads, sharp and prickly.


Thanks for reading!



  1. Thank you, Linda, for sharing a part of your life. Childhood was so easy back then, wasn't it? It was especially nice when the schools were closed for snow days! :-)

    A beautiful post!

  2. Thanks for sharing your memories. I can relate to so much of this! :)

  3. LINDA--a precious story. The only thing my grandmother read was the bible--my sister has that bible now, lovingly encased in an acid-free plastic bag--it's literally falling to pieces. The fly-swatter--we didn't get spanked growing up, but once I did get swatted with the fly-swatter on the back of my legs. I took my little sister a block away into a small neighborhood store--thought I'd buy something I guess--we were very little. Mother came after us, and she swatted the backs of my legs to get us home. It was my fault--so I got the swats.
    My blog Thursday--California Cousins.
    Thanks for all the memories. Celia

  4. Yes, it was, Sandra Kay. Things did seem so simple then.

    Thanks for stopping by, Miss Mae.

    Celia, we rarely got a spanking, but when it came to something dangerous, we did.

  5. Linda,

    What a great story. My grandpa seemed a bit prickly, too, but I liked to spend time with him talking about world events. I didn't always agree with him; he was a Republican. Smile.

    My grandmother, also, meant business when she told you to do something. She had a library at the top of the stairs, and I read every single book in it. Back then, you didn't have to worry about vices in a story.

    I remember picking berries, green beans, peas and all kinds of things at Gradma's house. She always had something for us to munch on and they had a black and white television, too, which we got to watch after school. We used to catch fireflies in the summer and blow bubbles, play cowboy and indians.

    I still miss my grandparents. I never got to know my father's parents. They died young.

    Thanks for the memories, Linda.

  6. So that's where the flyswatter idea of mother's came from.
    Thanks for sharing this again, Linda. It does bring back memories. My favorite memory of the farm is when I hear a breeze in the Fall and hear the branches creaking, it sounds like the post oak trees above where we spent so much time making mud pies and shooting marbles.

  7. Hi Sandy,
    My grandparents were very poor. I think the only book I saw in their house was the Bible and the magazines were given to her by my mother.

    You know, I dream about my grandmother alot--she's still alive and for years I didn't know it. Odd, huh?

  8. Yep, Anna, I guess that's where our mothers got the idea. Yes, that old post oak could probably tell a lot of tales.

  9. What a wonderful story!
    I love the bit about the flying shoe.
    If we didn't pick blueberries fast or clean enough, my grandma would give us the bucket. A bucket flying at our heads. We sure picked up the pace when she waved that bucket.

  10. What lovely memories, Linda. I'm always enchanted by these glimpses into your past. No wonder you do Time Travel so successfully!

    Thanks, once again, for a memorable tale.

    --Chiron O'Keefe
    The Write Soul:

  11. I love when people share these kind of memories. It make you who you are.
    My grandmother was from Poland and she was the only person who loved me unconditionally. She was the best.

  12. What a beautiful story, Linda. Thank you for sharing it. Nothing like this exists today. Those memories are just so precious.

  13. Kimber, several people have mentioned picking blueberries or blackberries. If we did, I don't remember that. Funny about the flying bucket.

  14. Thanks, Chiron. I guess some of my memories are close to the nineteenth century. I do love those time travels. I'm anxious to get started on another one.

  15. Mary, my grandmother didn't judge either. Isn't it wonderful to have had someone like that in our lives?

  16. Hi Mickey,
    Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed my memories.

  17. We loved the part about having your grandma reading romance magazines. It just all trickled down the line. Another great story, and you just have to adore the title. Sorry for the late response... we're in catch-up mode.

  18. Hi Linda! I finally got back to read part 2. How absolutely lovely are these memories and the way you have shared them! Thank you. It made me mindful to think back on my memories of grandparents and my mother who died too young.