Grandma Smith's magnolia tree

Many years ago in the mill village of Sargent Georgia if you needed any sort of doctoring, medicine, or poultices for injuries, you went to see "Aunt Becky" down by the railroad tracks.

Aunt Becky was my great grandmother Becky Smith. She was my grandmother Zeddie Perry's mother. To direct family she was Grandma, to others in the family she was Grandma Smith, to everybody else, she was Aunt Becky.


Grandma Smith ruled the family as a stern matriarch, she was known to be unforgiving in her rules for behavior, yet she was a fair woman. She planted all sorts of herbs, flowers, and trees to take care of people. A strong believer in the healing power of the body and mind, she was well versed in herbalism and knew exactly what plants to use for anything. She was also well known for being extremely superstitious... I can remember being in the car with my grandmother wondering where she got all of the little sayings she would toss out. I remember her sister spitting on her finger and making a cross on the wind shield when a black cat crossed the road in front of us...

Grandma Smith was also well known for her visions. She once woke up in a fit when she had a vision of a one armed soldier coming to her door to tell her that her son, Woodson, had been killed in the line of duty during World War Two. A few days after that the family was over at her place for Sunday dinner when a taxi cab pulled up... Out came a one armed driver, in uniform.... Grandma Smith began wailing and screaming that her son was dead. Once she was calmed down they delivered her a telegram from the government informing her that her son had been wounded on Omaha beach during the D-Day invasion and was recuperating in a hospital in England.

My Grandfather built her a house out here once he had completed his own. When the house was finished she, her son Woodson, and his wife Irene moved in. The rule stood that any time my grandparents went out they had to stop by to check on them to see if they needed anything and they had to stop in again on their return trip. She dictated everyone's comings and goings and approved or disapproved of anything that was done in the family. She held fast to her rules and you were expected to follow them.

My memories of Grandma Smith are extremely limited, she passed away when I was very young. I do remember going to see her, by that time she was bedridden and continually clutched a small doll for emotional support. I would stand by her bed and listen to her talk. I have no memory of what she said, I was probably two or three at the time and was scared to death of her. I grew up being afraid of that house, which is still there. The thing was full of dark hallways and spaces where untold evil took place... My niece and her family live there now and have renovated the house. Whenever I go in there I still get the strange feelings I did as a child, even though its been gone over and painted...

One of the trees that Grandma Smith planted was a magnolia that now sits in my brothers front yard. I was on my front porch and heard his chainsaw going... To me that means limbs just ripe for carving.. So I hopped on the kawasaki mule and drove over, saw in hand... Turns out he was moving a tree that had fallen during a storm and was too dry for carving. While there we were looking at different trees he was planning on cutting down. I began to crawl around the magnolia and discovered that several trees had sprung up under the main body of the tree. I asked him if he cared if I took one of the smaller magnolias to see how they carved. I returned on the mule a few days later and picked the one I wanted. James helped me by carrying limbs as I cut them. The piece I got will turn out three or four good hiking sticks...


The first of these hiking sticks was completed yesterday for a customer order in Illinois. She wanted a hiking stick for a kid with a raccoon on it.



I used James as a measuring tool and went from there... This is the finished piece and I want her to know where the wood came from... Her order consists of three pieces. One came from a poplar tree that was struck by lightning in my brothers yard and he took down several months ago. That tree had stood for many years and was the same size as the magnolia. The other is a piece of poplar that my father had in his shop for many years and told me to take and "see what you can do with it..." and the last one is from the fifty plus feet tall magnolia that my Great Grandmother planted down here many many years ago... I hope these pieces find a good home and get many years of use and enjoyment.

3 comments:

Widowwife said...

Wonderful story and great sticks!

Junebug said...

That racoon looks like it's going to jump out at you.
You really have a God given talent with your carvings Clay.

Rob Cole said...

I never knew that the "Aunt Becky" my grandfather mentioned when he was growing up in Sargent, was your great grandmother.

"Very small rocks...."