“In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It Goes On.”
Robert Frost

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A True Pioneer Woman

My Grandmother astride a horse circa. 1920's.

My Grandmother was a true pioneer woman.  She was born in 1900 to a blacksmith and his wife on the great plains of the Midwest.  She graduated High School but had higher aspirations and went on to College.  She became a school teacher and taught for six years before marrying her true love and becoming a farm wife.  They were together for over 50 years until parted by the death of my Grandfather.  She died at age 90 and without a doubt, rejoined the love of her life.

She was a spirited woman who was a devout Christian and enjoyed a good political debate.  She loved gardening and animals.  Her garden was an oasis in the almost treeless, rolling hills of the plains.  The two story house was surrounded by a fenced yard encircled with trees and all sorts of growing things. She grew roses, trumpet vine, herbs and hundreds of other lovely plants and flowers.  It has been so long ago, over thirty years since I was at her home on the farm.... I scarcely remember all of the plants she had there.  Outside the formal yard near the stream was a huge garden, where sweet corn and beans, peas and berries grew in abundance.

She had beautiful cats which she loved and I remember a couple of times over the years after begging my Mom (also a cat lover), we brought one home with us.  Apparently my love of cats (and animals in general) is a genetic thing!

One of the most precious gifts my grandmother ever gave me was something she made with her own hands.  It is a teddy bear.  I'm not sure if he was from a kit or if she made up the pattern for him herself.

He is a little moth eaten but still in remarkable shape for being at least fifty years old. He still sits with me today in my office, a reminder of years gone by. I always loved him and his velvet ears, paws and nose. I never gave him another name other than "Teddy", not very original, but I couldn't have loved him any more. My grandmother made quilts and crocheted throws and assorted clothing for me and the other grand-kids, but they never held up in comparison to this bear. He was one of a kind and she never made one for any of her other grandchildren. I wish I could ask her why.

My grandmother was an extraordinarily good cook and baker.  For years, she cooked on a wood cook stove in the kitchen which remained long after the electric range was installed.  She always loved to cook for us and we had wonderful family meals at the holidays or pretty much any time we visited.  Her famous dessert for Christmas was a Lane cake, which has many layers and a custard filling with raisins and cherries.  Her chocolate meringue topped pie was incredible and her fried chicken delectable. 

The food was wonderful because most of it was grown right there on the farm. The milk, butter, eggs, chickens the vegetables and fruits were all produced right there.  The relatives and neighbors all shared and exchanged their produce and other farm products.  She was not a fragile creature, she was a stout farm woman and loved to cook and eat.  Butter was a favorite of hers and she never went in for that new fangled margarine when it came on the market. Did I mention she lived to be 90!

No one ever left her table or house hungry. When I was a teenager,  I remember her saying to me, "You're too thin, you need to eat!" She was a kind hearted soul and believed in helping others. During the depression in the 30's, drifters (hobos) would come by looking for work and a meal and she always gave them something to eat. Usually there was work to do around the farm and my Grandfather would help them find work on his farm or on one of his many brothers farms.

The picture below was taken after her graduation from college.  I think it is such a contrast to how I remember her in a plain house dress and apron working in her kitchen. She told my Mother and I one day towards the end of her life, that when she was younger she was engaged to a preacher, but she just didn't love him enough. She broke off the engagement and soon met my Grandfather a simple farmer. She told us she never regretted her decision and was quite happy with the way her life turned out.

Here are a few things I learned from her. 
She taught me about kindness towards humans and animals. She taught me about nature and being gentle to the earth and how its abundance will bring joy to your life through food or flowers. She taught me to love cats and how to make a rhubarb pie.

But the most important thing I learned from her, is to be true to yourself 
and only do what feels right in your heart.

Thank you for indulging me in this memory of my Grandmother as we approach Mother's Day.
I hope all of you enjoy a special day of your own.  ~~ Diane


  1. What a great post, and beautiful tribute to your grandmother! She sounds like a wonderful and inspirational woman, and very much a free spirit. You are so fortunate to have had such a great relationship with her. The two images of her are very touching. I love old photographs. They have stories to tell.

    That teddy bear is adorable, and a lovely reminder of her. I can't believe that after so many years he's in such great shape!

    Your grandma taught you so many good things. She is probably very proud of you...wherever her spirit may be...

    Thank you for sharing such wonderful memories.

  2. wonderful tribute to your grandmother, always cherish the family history you know. My paternal grandfather passed away long before I was born. To this day I still haven't seen a photo of him.

  3. I loved reading this post and learning more about your Grandmother! She sounds like a wonderful woman -- strong, loving and self-sufficient, like many prairie pioneer women. And how special for you to have those beautiful memories and the handmade teddy bear to remember her by!

  4. What a sweet post! She sounds remarkable. In many ways, they don't make them like they used to. And I love the bear.

  5. I love this post about your grandmother and the pictures and info you shared! So wonderful to have the bear she made.

  6. Dear Diane - your post brought a lump to my throat...your grandma sounds quite a bit like mine...I miss her so. Memories of those we loved in this life never should be kept to ourselves...they definitely need to be shared and I am glad you did this with this beautiful woman...your Grandmother. I love the music too that you have on your blog...it goes so well with your words. Have a wonderful Mother's Day.

  7. She sounds like a fabulous lady and Grandmother too!
    Seems like it would be a treat to get to tip toe thru her garden oasis on a perfect summers day....
    Absolutely DELIGHTFUL story ~ so glad you shared!

  8. Diane, what a special post! I truly loved reading all your beautiful memories of your grandmother! What a great person! I was hungry after reading about the custard cake and fried chicken! I love the teddy she made you! A treasure! Happy Mother's Day and big hugs ;o)

  9. Dear Diane, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading about your grandmother. What a remarkable woman! Thank you so much for sharing these lovely memories. Happy Mothers Day.

  10. Wow Diane - what a remarkable story and what a beautiful person your grandmother was in every sense of the word. She must have been a wonderful inspiration to everyone who met her - and her legacy will never die as it lives on in you and you will pass it on in turn. I loved reading this tribute to her. We have Mother's Day in March so I forget the rest of the world have it now (in S Africa it was also in May like yours) - Hope yours is a very happy one! x

  11. ~ This is a beautiful tribute to your dear Grandma...I loved dancing though your words...A belated happy Mothering Sunday...To you and yours...~ Thank you for sharing...from my little corner to yours...Maria x


Thank you for leaving a comment! I do read them all and will try to respond if I'm able. Please know that all comments are appreciated, I love to hear your thoughts on my posts! ~ Diane