by Anna Carson
All of us have relatives to whom we look for inspiration and about whom tales are woven. Whether as near as our parents or siblings or grandparents and great-grandparents; they are the heroes of our family stories and the fabric of our history. I did not know either my paternal or maternal grandfather for they died before or shortly after I was born. But both grandmothers were living while I was a teenager.
I have written about Minnie Worley many times as I explain how I came to write the poem, “Minnie Remembers”, but ‘Mama Carson’ was as much an inspiration as her counterpart in our family.
Anna Carson was the widow of a Civil War veteran twenty years older than she. This made my mother the last living daughter of the Civil War in Indiana before she passed away. But that was Mother’s story.
Anna Carson raised six children including those left by the death of Grandpa Carson’s first wife. When I knew her she was living in a tiny house in W. Lebanon with her disabled son. She was a diminutive woman, bedfast from a fall down the cellar steps and a stroke.
But in her earlier years she was an artist. Working with ordinary string she crocheted beautiful doilies and scarves – many of her own design. Because she was living on only a small pension left by her husband, she could not afford real crochet thread so she would unravel a doily and reuse the string for another. She would also piece beautiful quilts; Texas star or double wedding ring, etc.
At one time she asked her neighbors and others in the small town for their old felt hats. From these she made a ‘penny rug’. I still have that on the wall of my living room and it is a prized possession.
Around the age of seventy, she fell down the basement stair and, along with suffering a stroke, became bedfast. Mother visited her every day, caring for her needs and keeping her house clean. Mama Carson passed away at the age of 92, a character in her own right. She was feisty and opinionated and her kids loved her. I remember her best in the little house as she lay in her single bed covered with one of her handmade quilts. There were flowers planted in tin cans on every windowsill and an occasional potted fern or philodendron brought by one of her daughters.
We all carry within us echoes of our family history and characteristics. Thinking about those things which made each one unique can help us understand our place in the world. Rest in peace, Anna, perhaps you now crochet with golden needles!
Did you know we live on the edge of the Great Prairie? We were driving home from Danville last week and the empty fields stretched out on either side with their crops harvested. Trees were almost non-existent except for those around a house or farmstead.
I got to thinking about the stories told by my dad and other farmers his age. They’re all gone now but their stories linger. When Dad, who was born in 1800, began farming he and his brothers began to “break the prairie”. That meant plowing the waist high grasslands and planting crops. This was all done with horse drawn equipment and the farms were necessarily small. But plow they did.
By the thirties the prairie was reduced to farmland and then the great drought brought devastation to those farms as the soil was literally scrubbed from the land. There have been documentaries made of those years and it is sad to see the old photos of the people affected.
But from that time on as the farmers returned to the land they began planting trees. Every farm house had its stand of trees. Every fence row was lined with sturdy hedge trees where fencing strung between them made cattle-proof barriers for pastures. I remember my father planting pine trees on a patch of land he bought just south of West Lebanon, and the Chinese elms he planted around our house north of Judyville.
Now the barriers that separated farms and fields with strips of trees and brush are gone once again. Pheasants, quail and rabbits are no longer as plentiful with their homes bulldozed away to make bigger fields where bigger machines can work. No-till farming has become common place as the men work to keep the soil where it’s supposed to be.
But if you are driving west of WarrenCounty, out through Illinois and further, you can’t help but be amazed at the miles of flat land in sight, unimpeded by trees. We have been in a climate cycle favorable to farming for many years now; but one has to wonder what another two or three years of drought might produce.
That day as we drew closer to our home on Pine Creek, the trees reappeared. And even without leaves they welcomed us home.
I give to you the child in me
but innocently given to wonder
I give to you my fondest dreams
you will hold them safe from scorn
and dream them back to me.
I give to you the sum of all
I have become,
knowing the best is yet to be.
I give to you my heart and soul
pledging all I am
and, in the will of God,
all I may become.
Receive me as I receive you,
in wonder and delight.