Grandmother's 6th Grade Education
My grandmother, Ora, only had a 6th grade education. But that wasn’t uncommon in her time and place. She was born in 1910 in the Boston Mountains of Northwest Arkansas where she spent most of her life and was the youngest of 13 siblings.
Her parents, my great grandparents, had also been born there. Great granddad died before I was born in 1947, But, I vaguely remember my great grandmother who died in 1957. Their ancestors originally came from Kentucky and settled in Crawford County during the early 1840’s. They’re all gone now and buried at a small family cemetery in Mountainburg, AR.
Ora was an artistic person and loved arts and crafts. Some of her quilts, knitting, painted table cloths and other creations are now family heirlooms.
Professionally Ora was an LPN but was a dedicated homemaker as well. She lived on a 40 acre tract of land atop a mountain she had inherited from her parents. My grandmother was married three times beginning at 16 before finding Mr. Right.
The first was an alcoholic who died in a fire; the second was a con man only after her property. Then she married a James Sharpe who hailed from Calhoun, Mo. This was the man who was to become my grandfather.
Me on the Right
My earliest memories of my grandparents begin at around age 4 when my mother’s first marriage failed. With nowhere else to go at the time mom and her 4 children ended up on my grandmother’s small farm.
At that time grandmother was living in an authentic pioneer log cabin without running water or electricity on a mountaintop overlooking a beautiful valley and creek. The cabin located on her property had been abandoned for many years. It had become an unofficial historical local landmark in the area. Who built the cabin or when isn’t known, but according to the oldest residents in the community it had been there as long as they could remember.
Ora and James were happy living the rustic country life. He was a retired welder with the well known MKT, or KT Railroad before he married my grandmother. He maintained their property while grandmother busied herself with gardening, tending to chickens and goats, cooking and other domestic chores. I well remember the mile trek down the mountainside to the creek where she took us and our pet dog “Tippy” to swim while she did our laundry. It was during these days I remember “helping” granddad build us a new cinderblock house across the yard from the cabin.
What I remember most about grandmother was she was deathly afraid of thunderstorms. So, the fact she lived in “Tornado Alley” wasn’t much comfort to her. Whenever there was a bad storm, which was often, she would grab me and the other grandkids and head down the mountainside to a small cave she used as storm shelter. The caves’ entrance was covered with an old canvas Army tent to keep the rain out. Inside she kept an old coal oil lantern to see by.
The last time I recall going to that cave with her was during an approaching tornado. Tom, my older brother, entered the cave first and lit the coil oil lamp. He moved towards the rear of the cave to allow us room to enter. That’s where he found the caves’ other resident, a rattlesnake. Apparently, grandmother was more afraid of the tornado than the snake because she wouldn’t budge outside the cave. However, we didn’t share her sentiments.
Grandfather never accompanied us on these excursions to the cave. Storms didn’t frighten him in the least. He preferred to sit in his reclining chair and watch TV while the storms passed.
Grandmother may only have had a 6th grade education but she wasn’t dumb. However, there were times her informal upbringing did cause me some public embarrassment. But I didn’t care. She was my grandmother and she taught me many things you can’t learn in books. Grandmother had a wisdom few city people will ever have.
She passed away in 1980 never realizing her rich family heritage. Not long ago I spent a year building our family tree. I think she would have liked to know her ancestors included 5 United States Presidents and a link to the infamous Scottish brigand Rob Roy.