Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Okies, part 8

Much like Grandpa Guier, Grandma Harris was a gifted story teller. However, her stories were much more interactive and always spoke to some aspect of her family life. I could sit and listen to Grandma tell stories endlessly. It always seemed to me that she had lived such an interesting life.

Grandma Harris grew up the daughter of a dirt-poor hillbilly family in eastern Oklahoma. She had five siblings, all with very hillbilly sounding names. Her sisters included Eula, Bill (yes, Bill was a girl), Elina, and herself, Venita. Her brothers were Wayne and Henry.

Grandma, as long as I knew her, was always nearly invalid with an acute case of hypochondria. She definitely had bad knees, which had both been replaced a number of times because of her "Author-it is.” But the rest of her illness, in my opinion was mostly weight related and mental.

She was a heavy-set woman, and that made it difficult for her to get around on her bad legs. It also contributed to her bad back and diabetes. Yet, it seemed to me that if she'd get out more, get more exercise, she'd feel better.

Instead, she usually just took an alarming number of pills that the quack doctors of Ponca would endlessly prescribe.

In contrast, her stories of her own youth were always of a girl vital with energy and the joy of life.

Grandma's back, she claimed, had become bad after she had fallen from a vine she was swinging on while camping as a kid. Indeed, when I first heard this story, I found it incredible that this recliner-bound woman should ever mount a vine and swing through the air like Tarzan. For one, it sounded like great fun, and for two, I didn't think Grandma's were supposed to do that.

My favorite story was another camping story. Grandma and Grandpa Harris had gone camping and fishing with Uncle Dale and Aunt Linda, who had been recently married and were still without kids.

The sleeping arrangements had been set: Grandma and Aunt Linda were to sleep in one tent, while Grandpa and Uncle Dale were to sleep in the other.

It was past dusk, and everyone was in the quiet conversation that precedes their drifting off for the night. Their bellies were blissfully full of the fish caught that the day.

Grandma and Aunt Linda had their tents canvas flaps open, with the screen shut, allowing the cool night air into the tent.

She began to focus on a fleck outside her tent. Realizing what she was about to ask was sounded silly, she very quietly whispered, "Linda, is that a bug or a cow?"

Sounds travels well at night in tents.

"HARRR, HARR, HARRR!!" Uncle Dale let loose with a rowdy uproar of laughter.

Unable to control his amusement, he mocked back, "A bug or a cow? A bug or a cow?! How do you confuse a bug and a cow?"

Grandma, embarrassed by the comment, would very logically explain how she could not tell in the twilight whether it was a bug on the screen or a cow on the horizon.

She'd again express her dissatisfaction with Dale, that he should not be listening to her private conversation with Linda.

This story always brought laughter to our family, whenever it was told. Soon, it would be incorporated into family legend and would be told proudly by most of the other members of the family.

Even at Grandma's funeral, when she had finally succumbed to cancer, the preacher told the tale by simply saying, "I'll only have to say this one thing, and most of y'all will know what I mean, 'Is that a bug or a cow?"'

It would bring a smile to all our faces that day.

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