Volume II, No. 2, Winter 1974
My Pa was too busy mule and hoss trading to do much manual labor on our farm. Thus he employed "hard men" to do his farming and these were mostly married men. He furnished them a house to live in, a garden spot and meager wages. It seemed they barely met necessary obligations, so few could afford a doctor bill. In fact, the idea of babies being born in a hospital was far fetched, indeed. I guess our community was very fortunate, for we had an able and willing granny woman. When accidents happened or illness hit, Minta was the first thing that came to mind. I doubt she could have counted all the babies she had slapped on the back-side to bring on that first cry! My Pa always told the men he hired that they could depend upon Minta for their medical help. It seemed the whole area took her services for granted.
Few women kept their work caught up as Minta did, for she seemed ever ready to take off for a bedside vigil. Usually, she had an inkling of when she was expected to bring a new baby into this world. The expectant father came by and informed Minta's man...in hushed tone, that his woman was in the "family way". Pregnant women didn't flaunt their swollen bodies for all to see. They properly concealed their fattening figures beneath a mother hubbard dress, plus a loose fitting wrap around apron. Too, ladies in this "way" stayed close to home; often only a few knew about the coming offspring, others just guessed about the confinement.
As time drew near for Minta's help, she was busy keeping her bread box filled with big loaves of homemade bread. It seemed her pie safe was never barren, but the odor of a big homemade cobbler or layer cake filled the kitchen. I loved to stand in front of its tin doors and inhale the delectable smells. The doors were perforated, letting the aroma out for small fry to drool over. I remember her big black cook stove, with its caps all shining, being polished regularily with newspapers...after the dishes were done. The back of the stove held a cast iron pot, often filled with beans or chicken and dumplings. Above the stove was a warming closet, a place to keep meat or left over bread warm for the next meal. Her milk and homemade butter were kept cool in the depths of their dug well. She lowered these in the big wooden bucket and let them hang until needed. It was evident Minta didn't wait until someone came for her to begin planning to be away from home. She was mindful of her family, and their needs, and made preparations to leave them well taken care of. Her husband seemed to take for granted that the community needed his woman, and he felt assured he and their children would fare well in her absence.
The buggy mare was kept in a small pasture near the house, and Minta asked no one to catch ole Bess or hitch her to the buggy. Minta was not one to sit around waiting for someone to throw the harness over the mare. She was restless for a quick take off. It was a familiar sight to see her passing, riding on the edge of the buggy seat, seemingly anxious to serve as nurse. I usually wondered who was getting a new baby when her buggy passed, for these subjects were not discussed for little ears to hear! One sure thing...when Minta arrived on the scene, she put everyone to work. If there were not really that many jobs to be done, she made up errands. She could not tolerate someone pacing the floor or chewing fingernails.
If the maternity bed wasn't ready, not even Florence Nightingale herself could have done better. Her efficient manner was well known, making her presence a big comfort to the ill. She was called "granny woman"..."midwife"...and WONDERFUL!
I feel certain Minta never saw the inside of a real hospital, but her big heart and willing, skillful hands put her in the category of a nurse. Her pay? Most often just a warm "thank you" or "much obliged" and words of praise. Knowing that folk depended upon her know--ledge, she felt beholden to lend her time. If there had been an award for outstanding woman of the year, surely Minta would have been elected...unanimously!
Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.
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