Sunday, February 4, 2018

Grandma Wood

When I first started to look for a horse soon after moving to Pennsyvania, I knew had to find a place to keep one. Down the road from our new home was an old non-working farm and a little house with three occupants. The barn behind the home was small, the lower section partly underground with one side and back being a stone wall. Over the lower part was a barn for hay and/or equipment. Often as we drove by or walked the dirt road we would see a couple of people working in the vegetable garden behind the home. There usually were a middle aged sturdy woman and the other a skinny older man. One day I introduced myself to them. The woman was Harriet and the fellow was Elmer. They lived there with the property owner, Lola. She was quite elderly and didn't get around very well. I became a bit bold and visited with her and asked her if I could rent her barn to keep a horse. I hadn't even viewed the inside of that structure. From that day on we all referred to her as Grandma Wood.

It was decided that for a monthly fee of $5.00 I could use the lower level, which had two cow stalls and a calf pen.  There was a manure drop at the entrance of each of the stalls and no gate at the box stall. A few boards were put up between the standing stalls and an old metal bed headboard was attached with leather belts to the box stall as a gate. There was a stream on the far side of the barn and I could walk down there to fetch water - except for the winter months. After a purchase of a feisty and pregnant grade Appaloosa-Arabian who I named Creme Puff, we moved in. Time went on. I learned to ride all over again. Finally a foal was born, A beautiful colt and I named him Jim Dandy. When I went to the barn one morning he was in the aisle and his mother was nickering behind the bed headboard gate that was the entrance to the box stall. Apparently, he was born right at the bottom opening space under that gate and slipped under and out of the stall into the aisle.

There was a grassy field behind the barn and at the back of the dam which I had gained permission to fence in. Jim Dandy ate green apples that had dropped onto that pasture when he was about two months old and colicked and died, even after a veterinarian had given him a shot to ease his pain. Everyone grieved over his loss, especially Grandma Wood. She was as excited as I to have new life in the barn.

As time went by, The old barn became home to two more residents - one a grade Standardbred named Barney and the other to a Chincoteague Painted Pony named Ginger. As time went by, I got to know Grandma Wood a lot better and loved her friendliness, way of life, and her welcoming of me and my activities. She had invited me to freely come into her home at any time during the winter months when the horse water buckets were frozen and the stream was frozen so I could thaw them out and draw fresh water from her kitchen sink. There was always time for a chat. She sat in her overstuffed chair by the wood stove in the living room. It was very cozy in there.

In the summer she and Harriet spent most of their time in the kitchen preparing garden vegetables for canning. One time, when I stopped in for a chat, they were cleaning up a big mess because the canned corn had exploded and was all over, even on the ceiling. I'll never forget that mess. They didn't want me to help with the cleanup and I just got out of their way. Another time Grandma Wood shared some of her horseradish root and told me how to prepare it. Never again! Burned my nose lining. I just didn't realize I should have stood back far away as it was being chopped in my blender. I, by then realized that Harriet was her daughter and Elmer was a man taken in to the household as a handyman because he was a homeless alcoholic. He had a bed and meals in exchange for work. Sometimes Harriet had to rout him out of the upper section of the barn when he hid there to drink his beer.

Years later, her grandson built a new barn for me right on our own land and it was much better than having to travel down the road twice a day, every day to care for the horses. I tried to keep up with visits with her but it never was the same. I kept three horses there and visited daily with her for over ten years through all kinds of weather and along with other life activities. At $5.00 a month. She would accept no more. I cried when she died.

Now as we pass the house, it is falling down and the barn had totally collapsed many years ago. The memories all return. So many memories....... Everything else is gone now, everyone of that time is gone except for the pictures in my mind. Have you ever thought, "Gee, if I knew then what I know now, I would have taken so many pictures to remember people and places and experiences" ?
please click on image to view larger

Lola M. (VanHousen) Wood 
b. January 1899 d. 1981


  1. This was indeed a very nice blog entries. I appreciate the time and creativity you put into your blog. You really write well, something I enjoy doing, though I'm not as good as you.
    Once again, nice work.