The log cabin of my paternal grandmother, Jewel Brown, was nothing special to me as a child. It was just Granny Brown’s house. As children, we view the world in a totally different way from the adults around us. What I saw as happy play and work times, the adults in my life saw as times of doing without and making do.
Granny Brown was a short, round, loving woman, who was on the quite side. She married my PaPaw Brown after his first wife died. He had two girls, she had one girl, and together they had two girls and a boy. She, like many poor, country women of that day, had a hard life and yet had a large heart that loved much. She was a true Jewel. Her mother, Grandma Ellzey, named me. I only have these few pictures of her and her home.
Their log home is now on display in the Village of Florien, LA. It’s only 12 miles or so from me, but I don’t go there. It has been altered inside and out so that it no longer resembles Granny’s house. I was grown with children of my own before I learned Granny Brown’s home was property they had rented all of their married life. It’s funny what we take for granted when we’re young.
The log cabin had one large room on the bottom level. The living area and two bedroom areas made up the bottom floor with no partition of any kind between them. The walls were covered in brown paper, like a brown paper bag. A pot bellied stove was used to heat the room in the winter and she never had air conditioning.
When you stepped in, there was a set of narrow stairs to the left which led to the attic. I remember being frightened to open the hatch that led to the attic because I was afraid I’d fall from the stairs. It was a large open space with a wooden plank door on each end.
There were no key locks. The front door had a wooden latch like the one Laura Ingalls Wilder describes in her books: a wooden peg that let down into a wooden slot on the inside. At night you pulled in the latch string and if you were gone, you left it out. Usually, the front door was just left open to allow air to circulate.
There was one pull string light in the big room and one in the kitchen. There was no other light source in the house. Long before I was born, they added two lean-to type rooms off the back of the house. One room was her kitchen, the other was a porch room where she had a refrigerator. She also kept the chamber pot there for use in the middle of the night or inclement weather.
In the back corner of the yard was an outhouse, but I don’t remember ever using it. Instead, we used an outdoor bathroom which consisted of a log thrown over two support sticks. There was one of these on either side of the road. One month we would use the one across the road from the house, and the next month we would switch to the one on the same side of the road as the house. There were well-worn trails to each “bathroom” located deep in the woods.
At the end of her porch was the deep well from which she drew water to cook, drink, and bathe. When we spent the night with her, she would boil us a pan of water and set it on the table in the kitchen. I can still her say, “Girls, did you wash all your importants?” While she was grinning and checking us. We brushed our teeth on the front porch where the water bucket and wash basin were kept on a wooden shelf. Of course we rinsed and spit on the ground.
One of the best parts about spending the night with her was sitting on the front porch with her in the dark night as she told us old ghost stories while the whippoorwills sang. I can still tell my favorite of her stories and told it to my boys many times, “I Told Ya Not to Tell.” She dipped her snuff at night and no one was supposed to know about that. We never told. Often we would awaken to find her standing at the side of our bed watching us sleep.
I’m not sure how old I was, I would guess 8-9 when she got a pump on the well. That allowed for indoor kitchen plumbing, at least for cold water. When I was 13-14, somewhere in there, her children put a bathtub and a toilet in her porch room. She used the toilet, but would never get in the tub. There was something about it she didn’t like. As far as I know, she never used it.
When I was 13, she gave me her Bible. It is among my most cherished possessions. I enjoy opening it, seeing her handwriting, and gaining small insights into her thoughts.
Life was so different then. There was a simplicity of living on less, being content, and an abiding thankfulness. Getting back to these basics of life is part of why we live the way we do, why we make daily decisions which enable us to build this kind of life on the farm, and what we feel is important to work for.
I hope to be a blessing to my children and grandchildren the way God used my grandparents to be a blessing to me. Reminisce more with me here.
Please feel free to share your experience, leave your comments below, or Contact Me personally.
Be sure not to miss Countryside and Small Stock Journal print magazine. In preparation for their 100th Birthday, they’ve redone their website and added a blog. Be sure to check it out to find this and other inspiring articles.
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack