Old Angus Goes A’Courtin’ a poem by Nita Moore

by Jim Dittmann
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Nita Moore enjoys writing poetry, historical fiction and (now that she’s a grandmother), children’s stories.  Professionally, she is owner of Nita Moore Massage Therapy for more than 20 years. Originally from Horicon, daughter Don and Jeanez Miescke, she now lives in Fond du Lac.

Publisher’s note: We are delighted to present for you a poem Old Angus Goes A’Courtin’ a wonderful story by Nita Moore. We will publish weekly installments each Wednesday until complete. Today please enjoy part six …

Old Angus Goes A’Courtin’

© Nita Moore 2019

part 6

A harvest of vegetables marked the passage of time.

Tomatoes and string beans loaded the vines,

Below ground there were carrots, kohlrabis, and beets.

And above ground, zucchinis were as big as your feet.

Apples hung heavy and fell to the ground

And “peepers” tuned tirelessly the ripening sound.

Sweet sound filled the grasses and gardens and fields.

It signaled high summer and luscious high yields. 

To elders like Grace it meant turning to Fall;

It meant hot-kitchen canning to preserve it all.

Her family worked with her, and they labored for days,

The young ones were learning, deserving of praise.

It was happy times, working together like this.

The joy carried them through every task on the list.

It helped them endure the long hours on their feet,

The cutting and cooking in the stifling heat.

There was pride in the pantry at the end of each day,

As full jars stood cooling in colorful display:

The deep reddish-purple of sliced pickled beets,

The seed-speckled scarlet of the tomato-based fleet —

Ninety-eight quarts and fifty four pints

Boasted chunky spaghetti sauce, plain or with spice;

There were salsas with peppers in varying heats,

Her “Calico-Corn” was as mild as you please,

And infernal “Three Bells” could burn the warts off your feet!

There will always be guests who crow loud and act tough,

Who’ve been South of the Border and survived the “Real Stuff”,

Who wrinkle their noses at “Medium Hot”,

scoffing “Uff! Wimpy!  Is this the best that you’ve got?”

Grace smiled to herself, putting “Three Bells” away.

There’d be dragons to smite on some future day.

With the tomatoes “put by”, she began to relax.

Corn niblets were cooling in neat freezer packs.

Two days had been dilly beans, pickles, and kraut.

Nine crocks stood fermenting with cabbage and salt.

Grace’s dehydrator purred through the night

Drying wild herbs and berries at nutritional height.

The old country remedies strengthened their health,

Grace’s grandma had taught her about this kind of help.

Grace thought of her grandma and felt her close by.

In fact, the love was so strong that she wanted to cry.

Standing there in the pantry, she could sense her fatigue.

Since five thirty that morning she had been on her feet.

She sank to the step stool and attempted to rest.

To her grandmother’s presence she began to confess.

“As long as I’m busy I don’t think of Ted,

But as soon as I’m tired and ready for bed,

​Well, in creeps the loneliness, longing, and dread.”

“You’d think after four years I’d learn to move on.

The aching has lessened, but by no means is gone.

“What do I do, Gramma Ginny?  You were always so wise.”

Her voice caught in her throat, and she dabbed at her eyes.

It was dim in the pantry— it was well after dark—

and it looked like the hold of a stocked Noah’s ark.

A light from the kitchen threw shadows around,

And even the jarred pear halves appeared to be brown.

Grace leaned back to take in the effect of the room,

The evidence of her industry stacked in the gloom.

Sitting low on the step stool, the height of a child,

She spotted something written on one board’s underside.

The words ran across the fourth shelf from the bottom,

They were scrawled on the plank in bright orange and blue crayon.

Producing a flashlight, Grace hunched to see better.

And she gasped when she recognized the juvenile letters.

A nine year old girl and a torrent of tears …

The scene flooded back across fifty one years.

Grandpa was angry when her art was discovered,

“This board was for building Gramma’s new pantry cupboard!

“Now it’s ruined for paint—what do say about that?”

​“It’s Granny’s secret to happiness—I didn’t want to forget!”

Grandpa choked back a growl and stormed out the back door.

Grace trembled with shame and sank to the floor.

She covered her eyes and hung her head low.

When she heard Gramma’s voice, her tears overflowed.

“Gracie-Lu?  Oh, come here child. Let me give you a hug.”

And there they sat clinging on the braided rag rug.

Her grandma spoke softly as she rubbed Grace’s back,

“I can’t speak for your grandpa, but I can see he’s off-track.”

“Both you and your Grandpa’s intentions were good.

As it happened, you both needed the same piece of wood!

“Still, you being younger might have asked “may I please…?”

Before assuming that materials laying by were just free.

​Do you think you owe your grandpa an apology?”

Grace nodded her head into the curve of her neck.

“Good … now let’s look at this board before it goes back.”

​And she propped the plank up across both of their laps.

“Oh, how wonderful, Gracie!  You wrote it so nice.

And the colors, so cheery, around each letter twice!”

Grandma’s voice was like music, and the  words were sincere.

They sang through the hand that was stroking her hair.

“You told me this secret, Granny.  I was afraid I’d forget,

With all of the stuff running around in my head.”

“Well, it’s not really a secret. It’s more like a key

That frees us from suffering,” explained Grandma Ginny.

“And each time you practice, you write it here in your heart

If you do it enough, it becomes who you are.

​That’s what it means to learn something by heart.”

The little girl Grace and her grandmother Gin

Read the words out loud and in unison:

Stop and be thankful for the things that you’ve got.

“Yes, Grace, give thanks for all things, pleasant or not.”

“I love you, Granny Ginny.  And I love Grandpa, too.

And when I feel sad, I’ll know what to do.”

“You don’t have to be sad,” said a voice from the door.

“It works anytime; when you’re happy, it works more!”

Grandpa stepped in, no more the big bear.

He kindly appraised the two sitting there.

Grace reached for his hand, which was rough and so warm, 

And surrendered her board without feeling torn.

He planted a kiss on his granddaughter’s head,

Then winked at his wife and went back to the shed.

Granny watched him go and then to Grace she said,

“You honor me, child, and that touches my heart.

Now don’t let this kafuffle put a stop to your art.”

It was late in the pantry, jars beginning to cool …

No telling how long she’d been perched on that stool,

The back pantry door framed the orange harvest moon

As the first vacuum seals tinked a discordant tune.

An upwelling gratitude poured through her tears,

Life’s blessings outnumbered her worries and fears.

​You were right, Grandma Ginny; you were right all these years.

to be continued …

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