A Hardworking Grandma


I ‘ve told you many stories about the history of my family, partly because of Mama’s book — there are lots of stories to tell.  But, I guess, the main reason is mostly because it is my family! 

But there are also some great stories I’d like to tell about Hubby’s family.  And today I’m remembering his Grandma Martha.

Dad H as baby2   This is a picture of Hubby’s grandparents, Martin and Martha, with their young family around 1912.  Hubby’s dad, Arthur, is the baby (here is a post I wrote last year about his life).

Of course, they are all dressed in their Sunday best, because I’m sure it was a big event when they had a formal picture taken.  But, don’t be fooled into thinking these were people of leisure.  They were hardworking farmers who worked from sun up to sundown to farm their land and raise their family.

And here is a favorite family story about Grandma Martha that shows that she had already developed her hardworking ways as a young girl. 

This story happened one year at harvest time when Martha was a very young teen. 

If I understand correctly, this is the way they picked the corn.  Each worker strapped a tool, something like the ones pictured below, to the palm of one hand.  In essence, it was a knife that you didn’t have to keep picking up or worry about dropping.

cornhusking tool

Then they walked down the line of corn stalks in teams of two, with each working the stalks on their side, removing each ear by using this tool to cut back the dry husks and silks (to minimize the contact their bare hands had with the sharp husks) so that they could then grip the ear of corn with the other hand and snap it off the stalk. 

I know there were wagons to put the corn in, but I can’t envision where they would have been, without knocking down the corn, so I’m picturing that maybe each worker wore some sort of bag that they would take to a wagon at the edge of the field and dump when it was full. 

Four workers were hired to help do the picking.  But, one day during the harvest one of the workers didn’t show up and Martha volunteered to fill in.  This wasn’t a job that girls and women normally did. 

I’m guessing that the three “pros” (strong young men who made good money during this time of year, hiring out to whatever neighbor needed help with his harvest) were all hoping they wouldn’t have to team up with the girl, but someone had to and it ended up being a young neighbor, Jim. 

Then the other two young men, suddenly enjoying what they saw as their friend’s disadvantage for having to be teamed with a very young girl, suggested a contest.  The two teams would start picking at opposite ends of the field, and they would see who could get to the middle first.  Jim agreed, but I imagine without much expectation of winning.

But, I’m sure you can guess what happened … Martha and Jim won!   And for the rest of their lives (they always lived in the same area, so knew lots of people in common) Jim loved to tell people the story about Martha and him beating those other two.  And he would always elaborate on how strong and fast Martha was and how hard she worked.  My guess is, that all three of those guys learned that day, “Don’t bet against Martha!”

When Hubby’s parents, Art and Vera, married, it was agreed that Art would begin purchasing the farm and he and Vera would live in the big family farmhouse with Martin and Martha.  I don’t know if there was ever any discussion about Martin and Martha moving to a smaller house in town, as Martin’s parents had done when Martin and Martha married and purchased the farm from them, but, for whatever reason, it never happened.  Both Martin and Martha lived out their lives sharing a home with their son, daughter-in-law and their children.  And, by the way, several generations living in the same house wasn’t at all unusual back then.

Actually, Grandpa Martin only lived long enough to know two of Art and Vera’s children, Hubby and his older sister.  The story goes that Martha and Martin were hosting a family get-together and there was a spirited Euchre game going on around the kitchen table (a favorite card game in this area).  Someone had just said something funny and Martin threw back his head and laughed, tipping his chair back on its back legs, but then he and the chair just continued to fall back.  He was dead from a heart attack before he hit the floor.  Hubby was 9 months old at the time.

But, Grandma Martha lived 16 years longer.  In fact, when I started dating Hubby, she was still alive.  I only remember meeting her a couple times.  What I remember most about her is that she called everyone by their given name — she called me Sandra, even though everyone else at that time called me Sandy.

Grandma H middle age   This is the only other picture of Grandma Martha I could find.  I would guess this was when she was in her 40’s. 

Apparently Grandma Martha’s demeanor was always one of  hard work and perpetual motion, going from one task to the next, without any down time.  My mother-in-law, Vera, a wonderful person who I’m sure would never have said this to Grandma, did tell me one time that there were times during the many years she lived with her hardworking mother-in-law, when she would have liked to just be able to sit down for a little while.  But, she said she never felt like she could do that when Grandma herself never “just sat down”!  No matter how wonderful her mother-in-law was, I’m sure there were times when Hubby’s mom, and I’m guessing Grandma too, wished she didn’t have to share a house with another woman.  But, overall, they had a good relationship.  

I’m told that when everyone sat down in the evening to relax, even then, Grandma liked to sit in a straight-back chair at the end of the sofa with her sewing basket and a stack of clothes that needed to be mended next to her so that she could do mending!  But, and this is a very big but, Hubby says he remembers that any time he or one of his siblings would take a book to her and ask her to read to them, she would stop what she was doing, and read.

Hubby says it wasn’t always fun to have a third adult supervising you, especially when you were a high-energy little boy, but he now looks back fondly on their live-in grandma who, even though a hard worker, still always had time for her grandchildren, and he recognizes the ways she added to all their lives, not the least of which was as an example of the value of hard work!

18 Responses to A Hardworking Grandma

  1. cathy says:

    Great stories! What hit me when I looked at the pic was how much your hubby resembles his grandpa – I think it’s the eyes.
    Also the smile on his grandma’s face – in those old pictures, I think they used to see who could keep the straightest face!

  2. Sandra says:

    Cathy — You’ve hit on the similiarity exactly. Martin’s eyes are prevalent in Hubby and his siblings and cousins and even one of our granddaughters has inherited them.

    I liked the little smile on Martha’s face too. I think she was fun-loving as well as hardworking, so very appropriate.

  3. carlahoag says:

    What great stories! And I love the photos, too. Whether I know the people or not, I’ve always enjoyed looking at old family photos.

    What a blessing to die while having a good time.

  4. Sandra says:

    Carla — I always enjoy old pictures too. And, yes, it would be a blessing to die as Grandpa did.

  5. Hilary says:

    You’re a wonderful story-teller, Sandra. And you have such fine subjects. Family photos and stories are always interesting but you bring them back to life.

  6. Sandra says:

    Thank you so much, Hilary. For you to say that means alot to me. As I look back over my life, I realize now that I have always enjoyed telling stories, but with blogging I have, I think, found what my writing professor would call “my voice”.

    I so appreciate what an encouraging and supportive reader and friend you are, Hilary. Thank you.

  7. Vicki says:

    I love this story! Reaching back across the years to bring forth memories of family to be shared with the next generation is rich. Isn’t this a wonderful way to preserve family history to pass on to children and grandchildren. You are so right that different generations often resided in the same home. Widowed women didn’t really have much choice but to live with their grown children. V.

  8. C says:

    These stories are not just entertaining, Sandra, they are important. Please keep telling them! We must preserve our stories of previous generations. I think one reason that all of us are riveted by stories of past families who are not even related to us is an innate realization that knowing about our past in some ways helps us cope with today and the future. I love thinking about the changes in society: for example, the fact that generations lived together in the same house when today it would seem an oddity. What does that say about where we have come? Now I must stop because I feel pontification getting a heat of steam! Need to remind myself: “This is a COMMENT, C, not a post!”

    See how you make me think?! Please keep these stories coming. C.

  9. Sandra says:

    Vicki — I agree totally with the idea that we are preserving history with our old stories. I feel really good about doing these stories that generations who follow will be able to read.

    C — I know lots of things are much better today, but I agree with you that there are lessons to be learned by how previous generations lived that DO give us invaluable insights and thought processes to help us cope with our lives now.

  10. saz aka FFF says:

    The memorable people, love that phrase….

    great post and memories.
    Congrats on POTW!!

  11. JarieLyn says:

    This was a wonderful story. It reminded me of stories my grandma used to tell. I love your family photos. It’s so wonderful to put a face to the story. What a way to die…..laughing so hard and boom! Gone, before any pain is felt.

  12. Sandra says:

    Thank you, saz! I appreciate you visiting. 🙂

    JarieLyn — I love it when my memories remind someone of ones of their own! And, yes, Hubby’s Grandpa’s death was a perfect way to go. Thank you for stopping by.

  13. Lori says:

    What a wonderful story! I grew up on a farm and we had to work very hard. Hearing about the work and seeing the tools that they used to harvest the corn makes me realize how much easier our work was.

    It was fun to read of them playing Eurchre since I grew up playing that game and still play today when I get together with family.

    Growing up, my grandparents lived on our farm and in our house until our family grew too big and they built a bigger house that we moved into.

    I came here from Hilary’s POTW…Congrats! I sure am glad I did. I hope to visit back here again soon! Lori

  14. Kevin says:

    What a great story and tribute. You’re a talented writer, keep up the good work! Congrats on POTW!

  15. Sandra says:

    Lori — It sounds like you can relate to this post alot more than I can, because I was raised a city girl! So I’ve never harvested corn or plucked a chicken, but I do play a mean game of Euchre! 🙂

    Kevin — Thank you for your kind words. They touch my heart.

  16. gaelikaa says:

    My husband and I live with his parents. And his brother and sister in law. This is not unusual here in India where we live.

    I enjoyed your post. It was so interesting.

  17. moannie says:

    These stories are the best, stories that keep alive the memories of family history.

    Beautifully told and so worthy of yur POTW mention.

  18. Sandra says:

    gaelikaa — I’m glad you enjoyed my post but I am really intrigued by your multi-generational living arrangement and that it’s in India! I’ll be visiting your site very soon! Thanks for stopping by.

    Moannie — Thank you so much for your kind words.

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