Granny Profiles of Mountain People

Spring of the Year When Granny was a Girl



The other evening I asked Granny what she remembered about Spring of the year when she was a girl.

When the state built the four-lane highway that runs through Cherokee County it went right through Granny’s family’s garden so Granny didn’t have a whole lot of memories about gardening in the spring. Although, she did share one funny garden memory from the days before the four-lane.

She was just a little bitty girl and they sent her out to the garden to pull up onions for supper. Not knowing the difference, Granny pulled up a bunch of garlic and took it inside. She said her family got a good laugh out of that mistake.

Granny said every spring her mother, Gazzie, would get out and hunt poke salad to fix. Being a picky eater, Granny never cared for it, but she said her sister Fay and her husband Woodrow just loved it. She said they’d cook it with eggs and eat it like it was the best thing around.

There was one thing Granny dreaded every spring.

Gazzie’s annual spring tonic for all the kids was a spoonful of castor oil. Granny said “I couldn’t take it with nobody looking at me so I’d have to take mine around the side of the house where no one could see me.”

I asked Granny why she didn’t just pour the castor oil out when she went around the side of the house. Granny said “I knew better than to try that trick.” 🙂


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  • Reply
    May 2, 2019 at 11:38 am

    That was a cute picture of her. Thanks for sharing that. As fir Castor Oil i had my share of that aa a kid. I wouldn’t do that to my girls atall. Yuck!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 30, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    I can fully understand how a child could mistake garlic for onions. Young garlic and spring onions are nearly indistinguishable to most adults and many avid gardeners. Even mature garlic and some varieties of onions look almost the same.
    I don’t understand how “adults” can laugh at children for making any mistake. Children don’t make mistakes, they just haven’t learned yet. If they make “mistakes” it is the fault of those who are charged with teaching them.
    I suppose it is too late to scourge those who laughed at Granny but it’s never too late to give her a hug and say “Im sorry they made fun of you. Maybe they just didn’t know any better!”
    This is as close as I can come to a hug. ( ) Please pass it on to her for me! ( ) One more for good measure!

  • Reply
    April 30, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    ….oooooh Castor oil, whew! …. though not ever taking it as a tonic, when us young marrieds began to have babies, we all were advised that Castor oil would start labor, so many tried it, especially those who were way overdue ……..(one try is enough ). I’m pretty sure it didn’t always work . 🙂

  • Reply
    Ronnie Seals
    April 30, 2019 at 10:21 am

    While I have lived all my life in Michigan, as a boy in my early teens I would spend my summers in Middlesboro, Ky, and the surrounding area. One summer, what I thought would be a summer of fun turned into the hardest work of my young life. I was at my grandmother’s when the beans came in. Me and my cousin Kay spent weeks, or so it seemed, picking and canning and shucking and cooking and sewing them together to hang from the porch ceiling. Needless to say, I caught a ride with the first relative who stopped by.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    April 30, 2019 at 10:08 am

    I don’t recon any of us ever took any Caster Oil and there was 6 of us boys. They’re all gone now, except me. I guess you could say “I’m the last of the Mohicians.” …Ken

  • Reply
    aw griff
    April 30, 2019 at 9:58 am

    Instead of writing about what I remember about spring I asked my good wife what was one of her favorite memories of spring. She picked wild greens with her Mamaw. Her Mamaw { born 1883 } would show her only one type of green and only allow her to pick that while she picked many different ones and later would show my Wife another type to pick.
    Sounded like a good education plan to me.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    April 30, 2019 at 9:54 am

    We took Castor Oil when we were children. I don’t think it was a spring tonic…just when things didn’t move along the tracks, so to speak! I would cry and scream and upchuck..etc. pitching one more fit, even with threats of holding me down. Mom would put it in orange juice to try and disguise the oily, nastiness of the stuff…Never helped. She told us to hold our nose and swallow..etc..Never helped! One year, Dad brought in some Castoria! He said, the “drugstore doc” told him kids would take this stuff better…It was better, not oily, and had an unusual sweet taste…However, we still didn’t like to take the stuff…Finally, as we got older and off winter carbs and started eating more fiber and green vegetables from the garden, we outgrew all of that old timey medicine!…Nowadays, at seventy eight, I sometimes have to revert back to that similar medicine…to contradict the daily meds I have to take…LOL
    I love Poke Sallet…Especially, with boiled eggs sliced up in the cooked greens. I haven’t had any Polk in a few years. My Mother in law could cook the best. Seems she boiled them and then poured off the first water boiling, adding water back and continued cooking…To me Polk Sallet tastes like a strong spinach…I know a good Spring serving of Polk leaves don’t hurt a ‘body. In fact my neighbor not only picks the early sprouting greens, she would even pick some of the upper stems and peel them and chop up the inside into the leaves…good for what ails ya…
    I am sure Granny remembers all the little woodland flowers as this picture seems to have a variety of spring clover and other little flowers. At least Granny picked garlic…My brother was told when he was little to go pull up all that Johnson grass in the garden…Yep, he pulled up all of Dads newly sprouting corn…After the initial shock, Dad admitted he should have shown him the difference in the sprouting plants and we all laughed about that for years…
    Thanks for this post…about Spring and Granny…
    Who taught Granny to crochet…My Granny taught me…just pondering!

    • Reply
      April 30, 2019 at 11:23 am

      B. Ruth-thank you for the great comment! Gazzie taught Granny to crochet. I never learned, but Granny made sure Chatter and Chitter learned to crochet 🙂

  • Reply
    April 30, 2019 at 9:22 am

    Oh how well I remember the castor oil treatment. I got my dose when they finally caught me. I read a true crime book where a victim was being poisoned by his wife as she added crushed castor beans to his food. If the beans are anything like the oil, I can surely understand how they could kill anyone who consumed them.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 30, 2019 at 8:04 am

    The garlic story reminds me of the story of some child in my family who chopped the corn and hoed the weeds. A different kind of garden hazard.

    Somehow my siblings and I escaped spring tonic. My Grandma though would have a quart jar of mayapple root and water in the fridge and we would take a drink of that. And she told us a plant we called ‘rat’s vein’ (also called pipsissewa) was good for the kidneys. It is very bitter.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    April 30, 2019 at 7:45 am

    Wonder what happened to those spring tonics? I remember getting something as a child but I don’t remember what it was. I also do not remember when they stopped. After about 10 all we had was the sassafras tea. I loved that and a pitcher in our house did not last long.

  • Reply
    April 30, 2019 at 7:29 am

    Oh the memory of that castor oil. The Spring greens every year were such a treat after the long Winter. It always amazes me how similar Appalachian life could be even in another state and another time. There were many gentle times when you know you were loved, but it amazes me sometimes to look back and see how much reality we faced. Nobody seemed to worry or hover. As a matter of fact, my mother seemed to worry more that we would get a fish bone hung than anything else. This was before fish sticks, and we just were never allowed to eat those pan fried fish We would run across snakes, get literally eaten alive by chiggers, slap at moquitos, and with nary a warning. Those were some interesting days when Granny grew up, and would love to hear more. Thanks Tipper for letting my mind wander back to yesteryear. I suspect my days were spent much like Granny’s even though I was raised on a mountaintop many miles away.

    • Reply
      aw griff
      April 30, 2019 at 9:39 am

      Gigging season for fish was and still is open in the spring. I ate many fish meals at my Mamaw’s and it was usually suckers. Anyone who has ate a sucker fish knows they are full of small bones. I was warned over and over about getting a bone caught in my throat.

    • Reply
      Wanda Devers
      April 30, 2019 at 9:47 am

      Mama was also terrified of us chocking on a fish bone. She would mash up bites of fish with her fingers before we could eat any.

      • Reply
        April 30, 2019 at 12:10 pm

        My Mama did the same thing 🙂

  • Reply
    Marshall Reagan
    April 30, 2019 at 6:57 am

    if you poured it out & everyone else were taking turns in the outhouse but you ,it would prove what you had done & you probable would have gotten a dogwood switch used on you & would have gotten a bigger dose.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 30, 2019 at 5:47 am

    Granny was a lovely child and maybe a little mischievous!

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