Monthly Archives: February 2021

Remembering Maggie

Memories of our childhood companions fade into the background until something triggers a recollection. The recent heavy rains brought to mind our dear Maggie, a faithful and much loved playmate for my sister and me.

Maggie wasn’t just a playmate. She joined our family very early on a cold New Year’s morning. There was great excitement surrounding her arrival. Some of the family had anticipated she was coming but Suzanne and I were totally unaware of such a momentous change in our lives. At first I wasn’t sure how to welcome her since she was deaf and dumb. But Suzanne and I quickly learned how to communicate with her. Smiles, thumbs up or down, a shake of the head, and many dramatic gesticulations kept us on the same page most of the time. Any arguing was between Suzanne and me over what Maggie might be trying to tell us.

Maggie was beautiful with soft dark brown hair often braided into pigtails. She had rounded limbs, nearly always a sweet expression on her round little face as if she wanted more than anything to please us. She was only a little smaller than Suzanne. We mothered her a lot and she let us. She slept between us and never poked her elbows into us or kicked us, though we weren’t always that kind to her, I’m afraid.

One of us would carry Maggie when we took her to the woods. We didn’t want her to be lost or afraid. But she never seemed to fear anything even when we made her climb trees with us. I would go up first, then Maggie, and finally Suzanne, ready to catch her if she fell. Sometimes I’d be pulling her by one arm while Suzanne steadied her feet on a sturdy limb. Since she was dumb she couldn’t complain but we tried to be mindful of her expressions and often talked for her.

“Oh, that was too hard a climb, wasn’t it, Maggie?” one of us might say.

“No, it was all right, let’s go higher” the other would reply for Maggie.

Maggie was not blood kin but she became a full member of our family. Even with her disabilities she sometimes was the life of our playful dramas. And when we went in to supper Suzanne and I vied for having Maggie at our side. Usually brothers and sisters adjusted their seating so we could have Maggie between us. I couldn’t be sure Maggie cared where she sat. She seemed to love everybody. She was always neat, too, never spilling any food down her front. Suzanne and I argued sometimes about what food Maggie liked the best. Mamma would finally stop us and say we should let Maggie show us what she liked. With the use of sign language it really wasn’t hard to realize she liked best Mamma’s hot stovetop biscuit bread cooked on an iron griddle and loaded with butter.

There was a Maggie song circulating at that time. It became a favorite of ours because, even though it was about someone courting a Maggie, we thought it was quite appropriate for our playmate and big family. Here’s how it went: “There was her father, her mother, her sister and her brother–oh, I’ll never see Maggie alone.” Suzanne and I sang it at top volume as if Maggie might be able to hear us and enjoy the humor.

Though she couldn’t understand much of what we were studying, Maggie sat with us in our home school sessions. Maybe we were even guilty at times of blaming poor Maggie when we didn’t answer questions correctly. Maggie did something funny and made us forget. Or Maggie needed special help just then so we didn’t finish our assignment.

One day the three of us were playing in the backyard. We constructed a truly fantastic playhouse using tree branches, firewood, and cardboard boxes arranged over and around a huddle of great gray rocks. Maggie didn’t help a whole lot. But when we “moved in” our new house she was happy. She was so cute sitting with her back to a rock holding a mouthwash lid teacup in her lap. We all had “tea and crumpets” before Daddy called us to recite our daily spelling words. Maggie liked the house so much she didn’t want to leave so we left her there still enjoying her tea.

A sudden shower came up during our spelling lesson. Would our nice playhouse stay dry for Maggie? As soon as we could, we rushed out to see about her.

Maggie was soaking wet. No matter how hard we tried in the days afterward we couldn’t dry poor Maggie. Mamma put her in a chair near the stove and we all turned her this way and that. Then we set her in a sunny spot outdoors for hours on end but she remained soggy and heavy. You see, Maggie was a wonderful life-size rag doll our older sisters made for us. Her stuffing, consisting mostly of rags, got so wet that it soured before she ever could dry.

We were disconsolate over the loss of Maggie who didn’t get pneumonia, or bronchitis, or the flu. She just “died” from over soaking. We had sung so lustily about Maggie’s never being alone. But that day we did leave her alone.

The frequent rains recently triggered that recollection and reminded me of the diligence and love of those sisters who made our amazing doll. I’m also filled with gratitude for Mamma who played along with us in our imaginative conversations with Maggie and for her valiant attempts to dry our playmate. I’m thankful for brothers who used great self control and didn’t laugh (much, anyway) when Maggie “melted.”

Our playmates, even a rag doll, play a role in who we become.


Filed under Uncategorized

The Barren Heifer

Life with a veterinarian is always full of surprises. One of those was Red, a newborn heifer.

One of Charles’s farmer clients asked him who might want a sterile heifer. Her mama had birthed a male to weeks before this twin was born. In this case, a female twin born with a male, it was believed that the female would never breed. In addition to her unfortunate birth circumstances, Red, as we appropriately named her, was a runt. The farmer who was proud of his shorthorn herd, didn’t want this one sullying his reputation. More importantly, he wanted the male twin to have every bit of his mama’s nourishment.

When the farmer asked who might like to have the runty sterile heifer, Charles said he would take her. I think she may have been the first of a long line of animal gifts we received.

We raised her as a pet. At the time we didn’t own the pasture behind our house. Red, the small heifer, occupied a makeshift pen in our backyard. William, about five then, learned how to give her her bottle. She was an eager eater which, of course, made her grow fast. Even a runty heifer when grown is a cow.

It happened that by the time Red outgrew her pen we had been able to buy the adjoining pasture and barn so Red had plenty of room to frisk about. As she matured Charles began to wonder if she was indeed sterile. Never one to accept undocumented facts as truth, he decided to do an artificial insemination on her and just see. By and by it became obvious that Red was not sterile.

She was still a small heifer. She was still a red shorthorn, though actually she had no horns so was a polled shorthorn. And Red was definitely still our pet as much as our dogs in the yard and our cats in the house. She came to the fence when she saw any of us exit the back door, especially if it were Charles. She’d let us pet her and would follow us around like an overgrown dog as we picked up pecans. I was never afraid of her but I did get nervous when I was in a vulnerable pecan-picking position and she came up behind me. She never pushed me over, though she did nibble at my shirttail a time or two much to William’s delight.

Charles very seldom got sick. But that February he had a lingering case of the flu and was at home in the bed for several days. One of those days, a gloomy cold rainy day, I heard Red let out an unusually distressful bawl. When I looked toward the pasture and saw her at the fence looking mighty uncomfortable I knew. This was her time. Well, she’d better be able to take care of this herself because her veterinarian was in the bed.

Time went by and Red was still in trouble. She walked back and forth, bawling and stopping often to look at me with an expression that said, “Why don’t you do something?” All I could do was talk to her and assure her over and over that it would soon be over. I could see feet presenting. I’d watched Charles deliver calves many times but I knew I couldn’t do it.

It wasn’t soon over. Poor Red was still in labor. Finally, as you would suspect, Charles went out in the winter weather to check on his heifer. With his help, Red at last gave birth to a healthy male calf. “Doubled our herd,” Charles said with a grin.

William was overjoyed. Another baby to bottle feed! But no–this baby had a very good mama who would feed him and care for him.

Red was thought to be sterile and useless, a runt of bovine flesh. But Charles wasn’t convinced that she was no good. She became a favorite pet at our house and birthed two calves. She may have been no good commercially. But to us she was a treasure.

As I reflect on Red on this another cold gloomy winter day, I’m reminded of how God treasures each of his creations and gives us life though we in no way deserve it. Ephesians 2:4-5 says: But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.


Filed under Uncategorized

Wooded Ravine

We all have family stories that make us chuckle or weep. The following is one of ours that is a chuckling one. We need only say a few words and the picture comes back to us.

It was summer of 1985 and we were going to Washington, Charles and I and our two teenage children. William was an upcoming senior in high school and we knew this was probably the last big vacation we’d have with him. Julie was fourteen.

I bought a Mobil Travel Guide and we made plans. This was to be a really special trip. We’d go to Washington and to Williamsburg, Virginia. I found a bed-and-breakfast for us in Washington just a short walk from a Metro station. It was on Florida Street, an upstairs apartment. When we arrived we found milk, cereal, orange juice, coffee, bread and plenty of snacks in the refrigerator. Our host, a young single man, welcomed us as if we were family. He took us on a wonderful tour around the city, pointing out all the memorials, museums, the Capitol, the White House, the Mall. Some of us in the back seat turned pale with motion sickness because he drove very fast and turned corners like the Dukes of Hazard. But it really was a great bird’s eye view that prepared us for planning our week.

Though enjoying our nation’s capital, I was eagerly looking forward to our few days in Williamsburg. I couldn’t help mentioning every now and then the fun we could expect in that historic town. “The bed-and-breakfast there,” I elaborated, “is in walking distance of downtown Williamsburg where we can mingle with historic characters, eat in a pub, and even try our hand at weaving and things like that.” I described the bed-and-breakfast with romantic flair, always mentioning that it was “a cozy cottage nestled amongst beautiful trees and overlooking a wooded ravine.” Julie rolled her eyes thinking a wooded ravine didn’t sound like much fun.

We walked the Mall, went quiet in the presence of Abraham Lincoln, visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and tried to absorb quickly hundreds of years of life displayed in the museums. Charles and I could have spent all day in each museum. Our children were much more efficient. They could rush through a museum and be done in the time it took us to read our way through the first exhibit. We all, I think, agreed that our favorite of all the Smithsonian Museums was that of Natural History. Who was not to be amazed at that elephant!

We went to see a live performance of “The Count of Monte Cristo” at the Kennedy Center. We all enjoyed the awesome setting, the pageantry, the building itself. But William and I enjoyed the performance much more than did Charles and Julie who, tired from tramping through all those museums, went to sleep.

We went to Georgetown and ate in a fine restaurant where Charles and William ate their first escargot. Julie and I stuck with American dishes like spaghetti and chopped steak.

Every night as we convened around the kitchen table to talk about the day’s adventures and plan for the next day, I reminded them that when we got to Williamsburg we’d be staying in a cottage by a wooded ravine. William questioned me. “Just what do you expect in a wooded ravine?” It would be beautiful, I assured him, and the implication was that a little bubbling stream ran down the ravine.

We went by tour boat to Mount Vernon and became a part of the lives of George and Martha Washington. We waited in line to go up the Washington Monument and viewed the city with Charles pointing out historic sites. We visited our Georgia senator’s office and didn’t know that William would later serve as an intern for The Honorable Charles Hatcher.

We left our little apartment on Florida Street with a wistful goodby to a treasured time. But we were excited about heading to Williamsburg, at least I was. The cottage overlooking a wooded ravine!

Charles is very good at finding things, following directions. So when we pulled into the driveway of a square block building he was quite sure it was the right place. I was not. This didn’t look like a cottage at all, more like a closed-in carport. We unfolded ourselves from the car, verified the house number. No one came out to greet us from the house nearby.

In puzzlement, we turned to study our surroundings. Yes, there were a few non-significant trees. And, yes, there was a large ditch with a few scrappy trees growing in it. This couldn’t be the wooded ravine. Could it? The deep ditch was strewn liberally with disgusting trash. It was just plain ugly.

Both kids exclaimed in exasperation. “Mom! There’s not even a creek at all.”

Eventually, we found the key and let ourselves in. Charles, always the optimist, pointed out that it was a comfortable place, really quite all right for four people. We soon learned that the “short walk to downtown Colonial Williamsburg” was not really very short, especially for two tired teenagers who had already endured so much walking! But, in spite of misrepresentations, we really did enjoy Williamsburg, especially all the costumed folks who so readily responded to our questions in the blacksmith shop, the bakery and all the shops. And William greatly enjoyed having his picture made while in “the stocks” like a prisoner.

Ever since that vacation, if something sounds too good to be true, we look at each other and one says it: “Remember the wooded ravine.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized