Monday, October 29, 2012

GRANNY KILGORE...Bridges, Storms, Dogs, Cooking, & Singing

Memories may be recalled, but many times they veil themselves as if in an early morning fog, which shifts and disappears as the sun appears.  Some memories are capsules of a single occurrence, locked in the storage of one’s mind.  Such is the case with three distinct memories I have of Granny Kilgore.  Each memory is fuzzy at best, but at the same time; clear enough to have a still -shot colored photograph of it in my mind’s memory chip. 

But before I share my three Granny Kilgore still- shots, my first cousin, Ronald J. McKeever, recently sent me some memories he has of Granny Kilgore, which he wanted to share with everyone:

Our Granny Kilgore feared bridges and crossing water.  Many times when they would travel by mule and wagon to Nauvoo, they had to cross Blackwater Creek, over a one-lane metal structure bridge, laced with wooden boards.  Oftentimes, the mule would balked about crossing and Granny Kilgore always insisted on getting off the wagon and walking across the bridge after the wagon had crossed.

When we McKeevers moved back from West Virginia in 1951, it became my duty to travel with Granny when she would go somewhere to spend a night or two.  On one occasion, we were going to visit Ruth and Ted, who had recently moved to Guntersville, where Ted had become Forest Ranger for Marshall County.  This trip involved catching the bus in Double Springs and going through Cullman, Arab and into Gunetersville.  Guntersville is on an island and from Arab, you cross the causeway, which is about two miles and crosses a couple of bridges.  Granny insisted that I instruct the bus driver that she wanted to walk across, rather than ride the bus two miles to the shoreline.  I assured her that the driver had done this many times and he would not let her off that far away from the bus station.  I am not sure but I think she held her breath and prayed for the two miles until we reached the other side.  We did make it safely both ways.

I appreciate Ronnie capturing a part of Granny’s personality that we may not have known, or may have forgotten.  I also remember Granny Kilgore being extremely fearful of storms.  Many people are, but she was to the point of having an anxiety attack any time a storm hit.  I often wondered what might have occurred in her younger days that made her so fearful. 

I can also recall Granny Kilgore being so fearful of a family pet dog we owned when I was a young child.  It was a beautiful, English bulldog.  One day Granny was baby sitting us in our home while mother and daddy went somewhere.   For some reason, Granny had to go outside to the backyard, where she encountered the bulldog, which could sense her fear, resulting in the dog attacking her.  She got away, but not without having some flesh taken from her legs.  When Daddy got home and saw his mother hurt from the dog attack, with angry justification, he grabbed his shotgun and went out the back door.  Not long after, we heard the loud blast of the gun. As mother explained the reason for Daddy's actions, he was outside burying the dog.  It was such a sad time because Granny was hurt and our pet was dead.

Now I begin the stories of my three still- shot memories of Granny Kilgore.  The first one is the fuzziest memory, but it involves a summer revival at the church our family attended in Nauvoo, Alabama.  New Oak Grove always had a two-week summer revival in June with services both in the morning and the evening.  It was a special time when people could host the guest evangelist for lunch.  Granny Kilgore was doing just that.  She had the preacher, the guest evangelist, and my family there to enjoy her cooking. Granny had cooked quite a spread on her wood-burning stove.    The round table holding all the food was in the same room where she had prepared the food.  (As a side note, that table is presently our main table in my home. I had it restored when I lived in Wetumpka, Alabama more than thirty years ago.  The chairs that went with the table have never been restored.   They are still in Granny Kilgore’s house, and I hope to restore them someday.)  

Now back to my story.  Granny Kilgore had been cooking all morning.  There was so much food that there was little room to sit around the table, but all the adults did just that.  The adults ate first.  I  can recall going into the kitchen, seeing all that food, and wishing for the pulley bone.    I was told that I could get what was left over after the adults had eaten.  We had to eat in shifts, and when it was time for the children, there was no pulley bone there to enjoy.  In fact, there was no chicken left at all except for the wings.  Needless to say, I was a disappointed kid.

My second still-shot memory is also in a kitchen, but it was in Granny Kilgore’s newer kitchen, the one off her bedroom and living space.    The newer kitchen was originally an enclosed back porch that was converted into a modern kitchen with a big white sink connected to running water, an electric Frigidaire stove and refrigerator, and a rectangular red table off to one end. 

The small kitchen was narrow with a slanted ceiling, but at the same time, very long. The slanted ceiling had Celotex tiles and the wall was painted with  two colors, white on top and a bright off- green on bottom.  It was very modern in contrast to the rest of the house.  In that room, I recall, in living color, having Granny Kilgore’s cat head biscuits.  The are called “cat head” biscuits because they are as big as a cat’s head.  Granny’s Kilgore’s biscuits may have been even bigger than a cat’s head because they were enormous.  They were also good! Oh, so good, especially with Golden Eagle syrup.

Granny Kilgore also took great pride in making what she considered a good hot chocolate drink.  Although I drank it, I had to pretend to enjoy it so I would not hurt her feelings.  The drink was made with a large amount of water, very little milk or no milk at all, and some cocoa with sugar.  It was very watered down, and not creamy and rich at all.  She never knew I didn’t care for it. At the same time, I so appreciated the love she displayed by taking time to make her hot chocolate for me.

The third picture memory of Granny Kilgore is of her sitting in her big rocker in the corner of her bedroom near the fireplace, while I sat on a stool next to her.  In her hand was a songbook of church hymns.  She opened the book to one of her favorite hymns and sang      “Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee!  E’en though it be a cross That raiseth me!  Still all my song shall be, Nearer, my God, to Thee!   Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee!” 
(Words by Sarah F. Adams and Music by Lowell Mason)  
She would tilt the songbook closer to me as she had me to sing along with her.

Now, many years later, I’m still singing those old hymns, and I know Granny is doing the same up in Heaven.  While writing this post, I’m actually singing, “Precious Memories.”  Granny is singing near to God in Heaven!  And for her, there is no more fear…. of narrow bridges, crossing water, facing storms, and certainly no fear of aggressive dogs.

I sign off now as Granny Kilgore's grandson, Johnny Kilgore.


  1. That's funny about the only remaining pieces of chickens being wings. Now when I see restaurants advertising wings, specializing in wings of all flavors, touting a plate of wings and fixings for only $6.99, I can hardly contain my amusement. For many years the wings were left and if I ate chicken, that's what I got. No way am I going into an eating place and deliberately ordering wings.

  2. Carolyn, I agree with you about the wings. I just don't get it! My mother would always say that she liked the wings but I believe she did that so that her family could have the better pieces. That's just how she was.

    Mother also shared Granny's fear of bridges and storms. She especially didn't like when Daddy had to turn the car around on that narrow road going down to Clear Creek. She was always afraid we would go over the side and end up in the creek.

    Johnny, I never knew what became of your pet bulldog. But I do remember him. And the old table looks wonderful now.

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