“…and offered the world to me.”
Grandma and grandpa Turner started their lives in Missouri with a farm on the White River. After the completion of a dam, the White River turned into Table Rock Lake and covered most of their land. Since they were cattle farmers and not in the business of raising catfish, they moved to Cassville, Missouri. They’d both experienced the Great Depression and that shaped their behaviors for the rest of their lives. Grandma never threw away a perfectly good Cool Whip container. Any time I open a deep freezer, I still expect to see “Chili ‘94” in grandma's handwriting. Grandpa kept tractors running with garden hoses and bailing wire. Most of our farm machinery would best be described as kicking a dead horse, but they made it work.
Grandma's garden fed a few dozen folks in our family. She worked in that dirt from spring to fall and usually dawn to dusk. Dad and I would often stop on the road when going to town, just to remind grandma to go in and rest. We helped as much as dad’s teaching and coaching schedule allowed, but grandma ran the thing. The rocky clay dirt took its toll on her body. For as long as I can remember, she was stooped. Her back was hunched from decades of weeding beans and harvesting okra, cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash along with countless other vegetables.
They worked hard for very little, but at the end of the day, it was THEIR very little. They’d earned it. What they hadn’t accounted for in the balance book were the lessons I learned. Grandma taught me that even if you didn’t have much to offer, you helped anyone in need. Grandpa taught me that giving up is never an option. The Flood of 1993 caused hardship for everyone in the midwest. Our little corner of the world was no different. Fences within a quarter mile of the creek were obliterated. A trailer home drifted across our low water bridge. Cattle floated away and roads became holes. It was the kind of natural disaster that could have easily swept away our small farm. Everyone worked for weeks to help their neighbors and their own farms. Today, when someone says their task is “too hard,” I think of my grandparents. I have little patience for a weak spirit. I’ll blame grandpa for that one, and look to grandma for the grace side of life. They chose a very hard life because it made them happy and it was their purpose in life.
I’ve always had a vivid imagination. Those hundreds of farm acres quickly became Gettysburg or the European theater in World War II. The trees, creek, hills, and rocks morphed into whatever my mind desired. I can only assume that, upon first sight, grandpa started daydreaming about the cattle he could raise, the garden that could grow, and the living he could provide for his family. The trees fell to their knees and certainly offered the whole world to both of us.
-Jake Bradley Turner