There’s only one Granny Grunt. I do not remember exactly when I began calling my grandmother “Granny Grunt,” but that is what I called her until she died. I was the first grandchild and we moved next to my grandparents and two sets of great-grandparents, which created confusion as to what I would call each of my grandmothers. Mom’s brother thought it would be a funny joke for me to call my grandmother, his mother, Granny Grunt. The name didn’t bother her at all. She became Granny Grunt to all of us. My children called her Granny Grunt and then began calling my mother Granny Grunt after my grandmother died. In turn, my grandchildren also called my mother Granny Grunt.
Mom was a great mother, but she was not Granny Grunt. Mom taught me many things but she was more serious-minded than Granny Grunt. If Mom had housework to do, she did not have time to play. Granny Grunt always took time to play with me and the other grandchildren as they came along. It did not matter if there was housework to be done; she would just do housework later.
Even when my own children were little, Granny Grunt would get down on the floor and play with them. I don’t remember Mom getting down on the floor to play with me or my children.
My grandfather built their house on the outskirts of a small town in Texas. Granny’s parents built a house just south of them and Granddad’s parents built a house just north of them. In 1937, Granddad built a small house for us just south of these houses. Two windmills supplied water to water tanks providing running water to the kitchen for these four houses. None of the houses had indoor bathrooms, they all had outhouses.
When I was young, women did not speak out or shout in church. Some of the men in church always spoke out or shouted Amen or Hallelujah. Granny Grunt ignored protocol and shouted when she felt like shouting. She was quick to stand up and testify about her Lord, much to the chagrin of some of the old men in the church.
If women had been allowed to preach in our church, Granny Grunt would have been a preacher. She was the daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of Baptist preachers. One of her brothers was a preacher and one of her sons, a grandson, and a son-in-law, my father, were preachers. As far back as we know in history, many of her family were preachers. Mom helped instill a faith in me, but Granny Grunt taught me how to enjoy that faith.
Granny's family included Baptist ministers as far back as we know. Family lore was that John Bunyon, author of “Pilgrims’ Progress”, was a relative, but I have never found any evidence to confirm that relationship. Granny always thought I should be a preacher. Even when I was very little, she said that I would stand up on a box and try to imitate the preachers I had seen. I did go through times in growing up when I seriously thought I was called to the ministry. I finally realized that was not my calling, although I have worked with children throughout most of my life.
Right after we moved in the house near Granny Grunt, Dad got me a little dog. When they asked me what I wanted to call him, I said “Moses.” Serious-minded Mom immediately suggested that Moses was not an appropriate name for a dog, but Granny Grunt said, “Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and took care of them, why not let Moses take care of Jerry when he is out playing?” Sure enough, Moses and I became inseparable.
Early one morning, before daylight, Mom sent me to Granny Grunt’s for a bowl of sugar. Granny Grunt came to the door, looked at me and said, “Jerry, who came with you?” “Just me and my Moses,” I replied.
Granny Grunt gathered eggs each evening and would carry the eggs in her apron by holding the corners together. One evening I was helping Granny gather eggs and wanted to carry some eggs. Granny put one egg in my little hands and said, “Hold the egg tight and don’t drop it or it will break.”
Walking from the hen house to the kitchen, I squeezed my hands tight, making sure not to drop the egg. Suddenly, I saw the yellow oozing through my fingers. I had squeezed so tightly that I had broken the egg. I began crying.
Granny Grunt looked to see what was wrong and knelt down beside me. She calmly said, “That’s okay, throw that egg down.” She carefully put another egg in my hands and showed me how to hold my hands tight without crushing the egg. That night, she cooked my egg for my supper.
Mom’s brothers milked the cows every evening. After milking, Granny poured the milk through a separator to separate the cream from the milk. Cream was used for churning butter or baking and separated milk was cooled in a chiller for drinking. Granny Grunt gave me a cup to take to the cow lot where my uncles were milking and they would fill the cup with milk directly from the cow. I then drank the whole milk before the cream was separated from it. I preferred the whole milk to the skim milk.
I do not remember this incident, but Granny Grunt told me about it many times. She said I asked her to sew a monkey’s tale onto my overalls. I had apparently seen some pictures of monkeys swinging in trees and wanted to be like a monkey. She sewed a piece of rope as a tail onto the seat of my overalls. She then watched me go out in the backyard and climb onto a tree limb that was not very high and try to wrap the monkey’s tail around the limb. I wasn’t able to swing by my monkey’s tail after all. I cannot imagine Mom sewing a tail on my overalls; she would have told me how foolish that was and suggested that I play with something else.
Granny Grunt said that one time we were looking through a catalog. I was pointing out everything that I wanted. She told me that we were not rich so could not get all those things. She went on to tell me that Jesus was not rich, but he was happy. That is when I told her, “I think I would rather be a little bit richer and not quite so happy.” Granny just thought it was funny.
I had a bad habit of playing with fire when I was very little, even though I had been burned as a two year old when I fell against a pot-belly stove. I do not remember an incident when I was probably between three and four, but have been told of it many times. I was at Granny's and playing fire engine. I had an eye dropper bottle and would run fill it full of water and then back into another room making a sound like a fire engine siren. Later that day, after I was gone, they found many matches and the eye dropper bottle on the floor behind a chair and the wall paper was burned as high as I could reach. I had apparently struck a match, set the paper on fire, and put it out by squirting water with the eye dropper on it. Thank goodness, the good Lord looks out for fools like me. At another time Mom found me playing with matches and my overalls were smoldering. As the smoldering part would touch me, it burned and I would gasp. She put out the fire and probably spanked me for playing with fire.
I can't remember much about Granny's house, but do remember the garden on the north side. There was a fish pond in the garden with some gold fish in it. I remember that they were very large goldfish. There was a water storage tank on a platform about six feet above the ground with a windmill feeding the tank. The tank gave them running water by gravity feed.
Granny and her 17-year old son, Jimmy, used cans to make an underground irrigation system to water the garden. They dug a small trench through the area they wanted to water and placed cans end to end with the bottoms cut out. They buried the trench with a can sticking out of the ground at one end. They could run water in at one end and it would run down the cans and seep out to water the plants. They had created an irrigation system to keep Granny’s beautiful flowers and vegetable garden watered.
There was a garage and a barn behind the house, which was to the west. It was near that old barn that Uncle Jack told me I could catch a bird by putting salt on its tail. I went in the house and got some salt and spent a long time sitting there waiting to put salt on a bird's tail.
Granny and Granddad took us to San Antonio on a trip during the summer of 1941. That was the longest trip that I ever took until I joined the service at age 17. We saw the Alamo and the flower gardens at San Antonio. On the return trip, Granny had to stop and use the bathroom. We stopped on the road and she went under a bridge. She came back and squirmed around on the car seat all the way back. She had accidentally squatted on a stinging nettle under the bridge.
Granddad worked at the Post Office as long as I can remember until he retired. When I stayed with them during the summer we would fishing on some Saturday mornings. He would tell me on Friday night that we would get up at 4:30 to go fishing. I never did understand how he could wake up at precisely 4:30, but he always did. They ever owned an alarm clock, but had an 8-day windup clock that chimed the hour. I realize now that he could hear that chiming clock and his mind would know what time it was.
Granny and Granddad sold their old house and moved about two blocks closer to downtown. They owned one quarter of a city block on the corner. The house was five rooms plus a screened porch. The screened porch had coated-screens that kept out the wind, so it was almost like a room of the house. When I visited during the summer, the screened porch was my bedroom. The main house had beautiful hardwood floors that Granny kept waxed real nice and slick. I loved to skate in my socks on her floors.
The house did have an indoor bath instead of an outhouse, although there was not any hot water. They heated water on the stove. The large lot between the house and the alley was Granny's garden, which was always loaded with pretty flowers and vegetables. Granny could grow anything. She always had several Porter tomato plants. I loved to eat the little Porter tomatoes. I still think the Porter has a better flavor than any other tomato.
At the far side of the lot between the house and the alley was a chicken house and pen. Granny always had a flock of chickens for eggs and the occasional chicken for a meal.
Granddad built a garage building that was separate from the house with a gravel driveway. I remember playing in that garage many times, because Granddad had some fine tools to play with. Every tool had a place. He was very particular that I always put them back in the right place. I think I did.
Granny had a jigsaw puzzle that was a United States map. Each piece was a state. Every time I went there, I would sit down and put that map together. I think that helped me learn a little about our geography.
Granny had Zane Grey and other author’s books and a cheap set of encyclopedias. I spent hours reading those books and looking things up in the encyclopedias. I still love to sit down with a set of World Books or other encyclopedia and just browse. By the way, Zane Grey wrote a few books about baseball. I also read Louisa May Alcott’s books, Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys at Granny’s.
Granny and Granddad fell in love with my wife, just as I had. They came to the wedding of their oldest grandson. Granny told my wife, "The man is the head of the family, but the woman is the neck. The man can't make a move without the woman.” Neither of us has forgotten that statement.
A few months after our oldest son was born, we visited Granny’s house. Granny was 68 years old, but was down on the floor crawling around with her oldest great-grandson just as she had with her grandchildren. My children called her Granny Grunt until she died at age 83. Granny always seemed to love seeing my children until Alzheimer ’s disease took her mind away.
Since my children were not around Granny Grunt much, my mother allowed them to call her Granny Grunt. Even my grandchildren called my mother Granny Grunt, but she was never the comforter, friend, and playmate to my children and grandchildren that my Granny Grunt was to me when I was little. I loved my one and only Granny Grunt. She knew how to enjoy life. I can still hear her laughter as she played with me and later with my children.
Copyright © Jerry Blackerby 2005, 2006, 2009