Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Beloved Granny

My mother always told me that she really didn't learn to cook from her mother...Grandma Cappy didn't really enjoy cooking - it was just something she had to do.  Although, I must say - she made fabulous pies.  Mom really learned to cook from her step grandmother.  My mother's father died when she was barely six years old from a hunting accident.  A little over a year later, my grandmother remarried - to Gwen Shearer.  Richard Tannahill (Mom's father) and Gwen Shearer were best friends and business partners.  So...with the addition of Gwen as a step father, Mom also gained another grandmother.  This grandmother was quite different from the one she was used to...but quite wonderful as well.  There is no doubt that Granny and Mom struck up a loving and close relationship almost immediately.  Granny was delighted to gain grandchildren and especially a granddaughter who she bonded with so completely.

Granny spent much of her summers cooking for her son's logging camp up on McCormick Ridge, which is  in the Waha area near Lewiston, ID.  Mom got to spend a few weeks with her during the summers.  She loved to spend time playing with the frogs in the creek or exploring the forest surrounding the camp.  However, what she loved doing the most was spending time with Granny - since Granny was cooking in the cook cabin...that was where Mom was.  She started out learning how to do some of the grunt work like peeling potatoes.  Then she graduated to learning how to bake biscuits, bread and caramel rolls...and later cooking the entire meal for the crew under the tutelage of Granny.  Did I mention that she was only 8 years old and had to stand on a stool to do most of those things?  Granny was a fabulous cook...and she loved having someone to teach.

Granny's real name was Nettie Pearl Moody Shearer.  She was the daughter of Henry M. Moody and Lily Bell Long and was born 7 Dec 1890 in Jefferson City, Bates Co., MO.  Her family moved west when she was very young and she spent her childhood down on the Salmon River, where her father operated a ferry.  As a child, she knew Polly Beamis...because they lived in the same area.  (Polly Beamis was a Chinese immigrant who is quite well known in central Idaho.  There was a book and movie made many years back called "A Thousand Pieces of Gold" that about her life.)  Nettie married Floyd David Shearer in 1910 and had three sons - Buford, Gwen and Aaron.  It was never an easy life nor a particularly happy marriage and Nettie decided to leave Floyd in the 1950's and took up a job as a cook in a nursing home and worked there until retirement.  I only remember Granny as a very old woman in her late 80's.  Even then, she was quite a wonderful granny!

Granny always loved a little Christmas Tree to decorate at Christmas time.  It was  a tradition for our family to go out and get our tree from the woods.  So...we would begin our drive up to the snowy forest with four kids and dog and old lady in the back.  By the time we arrived - Granny and I would stay behind with Henry (our Pekingnese dog) because Henry and I both had problems with short legs and Granny didn't really want to walk in thigh deep snow.  We made little snow men and had quite the delightful time - I can't imagine many of her age having the patience or wanting to make a trek like that out in the woods.

One of the last significant times I spent with Granny was the Thanksgiving when I was 12 years old.  My grandmother insisted that Granny needed to lay down before dinner so she wouldn't get too tired.  Granny insisted that I needed to go with her.  We lay on that bed and she held my hand and told me stories....like riding down Rattlesnake grade in a wagon - it shifted and she lost her grip on her doll and watched it break into pieces as it tumbled down the mountain.  How heartbreaking that had to be for a little girl with probably her only doll.  She also called me her little "Betty!"  I recognized even at that age, that Granny was giving me a wonderful compliment...she was telling me that I reminded her of my mother and of all of the wonderful times they spent together.

Granny died the very next year of stomach cancer.  She knew that she had cancer before the doctors told her.  After all the years working in a nursing home, she said that you could smell it.  Granny was almost 90 years old and while her life was not easy she was certainly well beloved by her family.  Hopefully we can all say that!