The old white frame dog run house sat atop a bluff over looking the paved road. Its tin roof was topped with two lightning rods which were grounded by a large twisted cable. Each rod tip looked like a spear head pointing skyward. About midway down the shaft was a clear glass ball. The house had a porch which ran all the way across the front. On the porch was a rocking chair, and in this chair on almost any given day sat Loutisha. She was my great grandmother. We called her Granny Tish.
The dog run was open and split the living quarters of the house in half. Granny Tish dressed in a long skirt and long sleeved blouse even on the hottest summer day. A cotton bonnet hung over one of the rocking chair’s back posts. She wore gold wire rim glasses that didn’t seem to help her eyesight much. She would squint at your approach and make a guess at which one of the grandchildren’s offspring you were. Her once dark hair was mostly gray now and she wore it in a bun at the back of her head. The skin on her face was wrinkled except on her high cheek bones. She had a pleasant earthy aroma. It was a mixture of Calgon bath soap, cooked bacon, wood smoke and coffee. Her old Collie dog was always nearby. The porch was adorned with a few pot plants in tin buckets, a broom made of broom sage, and a water pail with a dipper for drinking. A metal basin was also on the shelf with the drinking water.
She had a well out in back of her house with a wooden windlass. A long metal bucket hung over the tile curbing attached to a long cotton rope. I still can hear her saying, “Don’t you kids turn a loose of that windlass, you will break my curbin’” The water from her well was sweet and cold. She had a big wood stove that could be stoked from the front or top. A metal cabinet over the cook top was designed to keep food warm. In the morning she kept a pot of coffee warm on the stove. Her breakfast usually consisted of buttered “cat head” biscuits and slab bacon. I liked to watch her eat.
If the weather got stormy she would leave the porch and go inside. She didn’t like lightning.
She would say “It’s a comin’ up of a blowout.”
I was young and I found almost everything she did fascinating. Several long cane poles leaned against the front porch and she always had a coffee can of worms at the ready. She loved to fish. I can picture her ambling down the gravel lane toward the creek with her cane pole in one hand and her worm can in the other. Her old dog went along to keep the snakes away. He occasionally showed up with his head swollen from an encounter with a water moccasin. She would never allow you to fish with her if you were wearing light colored clothing. It scared the fish. She carried a folding knife to repair her line, and stab turtles who were stealing her bait.
“I neigh stobbed me a turkle” she’d say.
Sometimes she asked me to stay the night with her, but I was afraid. My cousins said the house was haunted because my great grandpa Jack had died there. I always went back to my grandmother’s house, which was just down the lane, when the sun went down. Granny Tish was from a large family, and when she was fifteen, Jack (my great grandfather) was courting her older sister, Mandy. When he came to ask Mandy to marry him, she turned him down. Tish knew she would and had climbed a tree near the walk leading to their house. As Jack walked dejectedly away from the house, Tish dropped down onto the walk in front of him and said, “If Mandy won’t have you I will.”
I was in grammar school and learning to read and write. Granny Tish did not have much formal education. She would labor over the grocery list before the delivery man came. I was comforted that someone had as much trouble writing as I did. She died when I was fairly young, but I’ve always had fond memories of my visits with her.