The log cabin my paternal grandmother, Jewel Brown, lived in was nothing special to me as a child. It was just Granny Brown’s house. As children, we view the world in a totally different way from the adults around us. What I experienced as happy play and work, I now know were times of doing without and making do for the adults.
Granny Brown was a short, round, loving woman, who was on the quite side. She married my PaPaw Brown after his first wife died. He had three girls, she had one girl, and together they had a girl and a boy.
She, like many poor, country women of that day, had a hard life. Yet, she had a large heart that loved much. She was a true Jewel. I only have a few treasured pictures of her and her home.
Her mother, my great-grandmother, Grandma Ellzey, named me. My only memory of her is that she always had my favorite cake when we went to visit. A German Chocolate Cake.
Their log home was removed from the place it sat for almost 100 years and is now on display on the town square in the Village of Florien, LA.
I went once to see the dedication and to walk through it. It was much smaller than I remembered, isn’t that funny how we all say that about childhood things?
I won’t visit there again. It has been altered inside and out so that it no longer resembles Granny’s house. I was grown with children of my own before I learned Granny Brown’s home was property they had rented all of their married life. It’s funny what we take for granted when we’re young.
The log cabin had one large room on the bottom level. The living area and two bedroom areas made up the bottom floor with no partition of any kind between them.
The walls were covered in brown paper, like a brown paper bag. A pot bellied stove was used to heat the room in the winter and she never had air conditioning.
When you stepped in, there was a set of narrow stairs to the left which led to the attic. I remember being frightened to open the hatch that led to the attic because I was afraid I’d fall from the stairs. It was a large open space with a wooden plank door on each end.
There were no key locks. The front door had a wooden latch like the one Laura Ingalls Wilder describes in her books: a wooden peg that let down into a wooden slot on the inside.
At night you pulled in the latch string and if you were gone, you left it out. Usually, the front door was just left open to allow air to circulate.
There was one pendulum light bulb with a pull string hanging from the ceiling in the big room. There was another just like it in the kitchen. No globes covered the bulbs. There was no other light source in the house.
Long before I was born, they added two lean-to type rooms off the back of the house. One room was her kitchen, the other was a porch room where she had a refrigerator. She also kept the chamber pot there for use in the middle of the night or inclement weather.
In the back corner of the yard was an outhouse, but I don’t remember ever using it. Instead, we used an outdoor bathroom which consisted of a log thrown over two support sticks.
There was one of these on either side of the road. One month we would use the one across the road from the house, and the next month we would switch to the one on the same side of the road as the house.
There were well-worn trails to each “bathroom” located deep in the woods.
At the end of her porch was the deep well from which she drew water to cook, drink, and bathe. When we spent the night with her, she would boil a dishpan of water and set it on the table in the kitchen.
I can still her say, “Girls, did you wash all your importants?” While she was grinning and checking us. We brushed our teeth on the front porch where the water bucket and wash basin were kept on a wooden shelf. Of course we rinsed and spit on the ground.
One of the best parts about spending the night with her was sitting on the front porch in the dark starry night undisturbed by any security lights. She would tell us old ghost stories while the whippoorwills sang.
I can still tell my favorite of her stories and told it to my boys many times, “I Told Ya Not to Tell.”
She dipped her snuff at night and no one was supposed to know about that. We never told. Often we would awaken to find her standing at the side of our bed watching us sleep and checking to see if we were covered.
I’m not sure how old I was, I would guess 8-9 when she got a pump on the well. That allowed for indoor kitchen plumbing, at least for cold water.
When I was 13-14 somewhere in there, her children put a bathtub and a toilet in her porch room. She used the toilet, but would never get in the tub. There was something about it she didn’t like. As far as I know, she never used it.
When I was 13, she gave me her Bible. It was among my most cherished possessions. I enjoyed opening it, seeing her handwriting, and gaining small insights into her thoughts.
When had to downsize for tiny house living and begin a few years of nomad travel for my husband’s work, I passed it on to my favorite cousin. She and her children enjoy it and it’s in safe keeping as a family treasure.
Life was so different then. There was a simplicity of living on less, being content, and an abiding thankfulness. Getting back to these basics of life is part of why we live the way we do, why we make daily decisions which enable us to build this kind of life on the farm, and what we feel is important to work for.
I hope to be a blessing to my children and grandchildren the way God used my grandparents to be a blessing to me.