"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hominy, Horseradish, and Buffalo Bill

Summer Squash and Black Currants

Here I am with my Grandpa Lindsey,
ready to ride the train to Kansas City
to visit his sister, my Great Aunt Mabel
These were the old days, when you could actually go places on trains in this country, and we -- just the two of us-- were taking a day trip from Grandpa's little town in Kansas up to see his older sister in Kansas City. Even though we would not be spending the night, I insisted on taking my little suitcase, just barely visible in the corner of the photograph. To this day, I can tell you exactly what was in there: my little white Easter gloves (remember when we wore those?) and a six - pack of Butterfinger candy bars!

Without knowing this photograph or the story behind it, my dear friend Lisa sent me the following birthday card a few years ago:
When I read the caption -- "in their purses were candy bars" -- I knew it was true! You can see why I was reminded of myself at age 9, holding hands with my grand-dad at the train station.
Our Train Schedule
See -- my grandfather has written: "Mabel's Phone"


In 1976, seven years before he died, my Grandpa Paul Lindsey, wrote an autobiographical essay entitled “A Look at Caney, Kansas: What I Saw From the Wagon Seat as a Child.” He begins with a description of his mother’s perseverance:

My mother, like all those dear old souls who settled this country, could have lived on a rock. I mean, you could not have starved them. They believed they were citizens of a free country and were determined to live and stay free.

“My mother started a good-sized patch of horseradish and prepared to make hominy. She established a line of customers, including several hotels and boarding houses. By the time I was five, she would take me along to hold the team—old Dolly and Lucy—while she delivered hominy and horseradish, ready to serve, at twenty-five cents per quart.”

The Lindsey farm wagons were a familiar sight on Caney streets, marketing—in addition to Sally’s farm fresh hominy and horseradish—water from the bubbling hillside springs, melons and sweet potatoes grown in the loose sandy soil, and potted plants or bouquets of flowers in season. As my grandfather grew older, the area covered by the delivery trips widened to include nearby towns and cities. On one of these trips, he and his father were privileged to eat lunch at the private table of Buffalo Bill Cody when the Lindseys delivered sweet potatoes to the exhibition’s commissary while the Wild West Show was performing in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

When I was little, how I loved to hear my grandfather tell this story! In vivid detail, he would recall how Buffalo Bill regaled the assembled diners with tales of adventure and wore on his finger a diamond “the size of egg.” Even now, whenever I see an image of Buffalo Bill on a postage stamp or on my cowgirl dress -- or read the ironic "Portrait" by e.e. cummings -- I am reminded of my Grandpa Lindsey’s brush with greatness and that incredible diamond ring!

Buffalo Bill's
who used to
ride a water-smooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
he was a handsome man
and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death

(poem by e. e. cummings)

No comments:

Post a Comment