My great grandmother, Vera Bernice, was born in 1907 before women were considered equal enough to vote in 1920. By the time she was 18, the first waves of women had cast their ballots in multiple elections. Her mother wouldn’t let her and her sisters go near the voting station, however, because every voter got a shot of liquor and rough-housing ensued. She didn’t cast her first vote until she was around 60, but growing up, I always remember her making it a priority.
By the time I was around, Grandma BeeCee had stopped doing much homesteading. Still, I’ve learned so much from stories about her life from her daughter, my grandmother, and from listening to her stories as a child as we baked pies and washed dishes on the back porch.
She could kill a mischievous snake or a Sunday-dinner chicken with the whip of her wrist, and kept a family fed before refrigeration and electricity. She hated that my great-grandfather had her plant the green beans all the way down in the corn field instead of in the vegetable garden by the house, and she went behind him to secretly plant extra potatoes because she thought he was spacing them too far apart.
They made it through the depression better than most as my grandfather was one of the few electricians in rural Missouri. Grandma BeeCee would skim all the cream off the raw milk to sell for extra money at the nearby general store along with excess eggs from the hens. They smoked their own farm-raised meat and canned bounty from the farm for winter.
She lived through being struck by lightening, experienced the shift from horse-drawn wagons as transportation to the rise of the automobile, moved to California and back more than once, and helped found a church in our small town that still exists today. Her brothers fought in WWI and her future son-in-law just survived making it back from WWII.
I would give so much to get to speak to her again and ask her more specific homesteading questions, but I am grateful every day having had her so long. We’re all slowly but surely gathering the tidbits of wisdom woven in our collective memories to rebuild the foundations of community and economy human history has revolved around, so that each of us is recognized for our important, respected place in the family of things.
This paradox of being at once so small and finite, while holding a most miraculous, meaningful being is the big lesson of being a small farmer. And it’s the motivation for keeping on with our messy experiment of democracy–each individual matters and is part of making up the whole.
May we remember to learn from and honor those before us as we collectively cast our votes tomorrow,
Lovely Tatsoi abundance.
Using up canned tomatoes and frozen pesto for pizza.