Yearly Trek: Grandma and Grandpa's Family Farm

Arizona woman recalls road trips to her grandma and grandpa's family farm in Missouri during the Dust Bowl

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The yearly trek to Grandpa's family farm in Missouri from the Colorado dust bowl plains in the late 1920s and early '30s was always something for me to look forward to. It was a straight-line journey through the state of Kansas, where the grasshoppers would land on the car's hood emblem and I would want my dad to go faster and get ahead of them-I can still hear him laugh! There was no air conditioner in the car, but I do remember stopping and getting drinks of water at windmills along the way. We all drank from the long-handled dipper that was attached to the windmill's frame-I don't remember my mother ever worrying about us getting any disease by drinking from the public dipper. There weren't any rest stops or bathrooms either.

Grandpa's barking dog announced our arrival. Grandpa would amble out and ask my dad how much he paid for his new car before we ever got out. I don't remember Grandmother coming out; she was always standing with open arms inside the kitchen.

She was short and fat, always wearing a long dress, her hair pulled up in a knot and standing firm in her lady "somebody" shoes. Her face was creased with wrinkles, her hands worn by many years of hard work, but as she pressed you to her bosom you only felt love and comfort and contentment.

The old black cookstove had the coffeepot on, and the massive buffet held Grandpa's cookies and bread. Daddy used to get Mother to wash the inside of the coffeepot really good as he said the coffee was so strong (they never threw out the grounds-just added more along with some eggshells), and Grandpa would swear up and down that the coffee wasn't fit to drink.

I really don't remember what we had to eat while we were there. I do remember when Grandpa would lather the old white oleo (before it had the yellow capsule you mixed in) on a piece of bread about an inch thick-it made me think of someone plastering a house. The spoon holder with the grape design that sat on the table graces my table now.

West of the farm a tiny little brook ran through a grove of persimmon trees. We played in the grass and the little pebbles in the brook while the many birds serenaded my brother and me. We built boats out of leaves and scraps of tree bark and played many make-believe games. What a contrast that little grove of trees, the singing brook and the grass were to where we lived in Colorado. Sixty years later I went looking for that oasis. It was no longer there-and neither were my grandparents.

Sometimes we were there when they were cutting feed, and I remember the oat bugs being terrible one time. As you perspired there were no air conditioners or fans then-those tiny bugs attached themselves to you; they got in your ears, eyes and nose and made you miserable. I can still see Grandmother taking two of the dining chairs, spreading them about six feet apart with backs toward each other and tying a sheet across, making me a "house where the bugs won't find you." What a great Grandmother she was to a tiny girl.

I used to love to gather the eggs, much to the consternation of my grandfather. Whenever I would bring in a soft-shelled egg he would go into a complete tizzy. He was so positive that I was "scaring the eggs out of. the hens and not letting them take their time in laying them," never realizing that he wasn't feeding them a balanced diet!

Probably at about the age of 6 I decided that I wanted to ride bareback on a young colt Grandpa had. I had no fear of anything at that age-still don't-and I took off down the lane at a leisurely pace. What I didn't know was that when I turned that colt around that it was going to go home like a speeding bullet! I hung on for dear life and the colt was running so close to a barbed wire fence that I thought for sure my leg was going to be gone. My dad was watching my "trip" and immediately closed the barn door so the colt wouldn't knock me off when it went in. I was "saved by the bel1." That little trip earned me the nickname of "Stormy," as the colt had been born on a stormy night and that was its name.

Sixty-seven years of marriage were celebrated in that house before Grandfather died and Grandmother went to live in town. The grove of trees and my brook are gone but the memories are not. Now when I go to Missouri, I go to the cemetery, clean their stones, leave flowers and silently thank them for what I have. I still see Grandmother in the kitchen, tears running down her cheeks and her ample bosom, shaking from laughter because I had latched the screen door and Grandpa couldn't get in-he could sure holler loud!

Jean L. Robinson
Mesa, Arizona


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.