Once there was a woman who always cut her ham in half before she put it in the oven to bake. When her husband asked her why, she replied, “Because my mom did.”
The son-in-law asked, “Why did you cut the ham in half?” She replied, “Because my mom did.”
By now he was intrigued. Was it a procedure that produced a better tasting ham?
At the next family gathering, he got his chance to ask Grandma the big question. “Why did you cut the ham in half?”
She responded, “Because I didn’t have a big enough pan!”
As did the ladies in this anecdote, my mom taught by example. One of the first things I learned was compassion and caring. A woman named Lulu lived half way between our house and town. She had no car so she’d set out walking if she needed something and invariably we, or someone else, would come by and give her a ride to town. There was one big drawback — her terrible odor! She raised goats and milked them, I can’t remember but maybe they lived in her house. She didn’t have running water so she wasn’t a habitual bather. All in all, picking up the “Goat Lady,” always seemed high on my little girl’s list of being compassionate.
Farm and ranch wives know they are created equal and that even a good wife can be independent. When my dad kept telling her he would do a home remodeling project but he just never got around to it, Mom showed me that she could knock out a wall with a sledgehammer as well as any man. She could cut the head off a Sunday dinner chicken, clean it, cook it, and still arrive at the table looking like a lady.
Although I was 4-years-old, she gently explained to me that a neighbor was a little ‘funny’ and that I should never, ever be alone in room with him. I didn’t know what she meant, but I knew she meant what she said.
Hoeing a garden, canning produce, making jelly — all of these were lessons learned. Humor was part of the process as well. Once when we were picking tomatoes in a muddy field, Mom tried to pick a perfect, round red tomato ... it just wouldn’t come off the vine. Then she realized what she had — the round toe of her very red garden boot! We all laughed with her, not at her.
Persistence could have been her middle name. When the young farmers (men and women) decided they needed to purchase a school bus, Mom headed up the fundraising detail. In a young community full of people with no extra money, she somehow got the funds together to accomplish the mission. Once she decided to do something, she found a way.
The last thing she taught me was not to commit suicide.
Peggy Sanders writes from the family ranch in southwestern South Dakota. She can be contacted through Peggy@PeggySanders.com. ❖