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Texas | Columns | They Shoe Horses, Don't They?

A TOKEN FOR THE GUEST
Gram and Daffodils

by Robert Cowser

When I was eight and my brother three years younger, an elderly woman from Kansas came to visit her grandson, John Ott, and his new wife. John was an employee at the small airport at Saltillo, in Hopkins County. Mary, the bride, was my sister's best friend. They spent twelve years with each other in a small class as it progressed toward graduation from our rural school. Mary stayed overnight at our house several times before she married John.

One afternoon in the early spring shortly after my younger brother and I had arrived home from school, Mary brought Gram, as John called his grandmother, to visit my family. Mary wanted Gram to meet our family. She also wanted Gram to see the daffodils in bloom in the pasture across the road from our house. Though two houses had once stood in the pasture, before I was born they fell to ruin, and the debris was hauled away. Each spring the daffodils blossomed in abundance at the sites where the houses had once stood. They were the first harbingers of spring, blooming even before the Indian paintbrushes. When I was young, however, I took the daffodils for granted, hardly noting the beauty of their blossoms.

That afternoon the two visitors and my mother stood in our front yard for a short while admiring the daffodils in the pasture. The sun was bright, but there was a damp chill in the air. It must have been even cooler four hundred miles north in Kansas. Gram was surprised to see daffodils blooming so early.

Mamma asked my brother and me to pick a bouquet of the daffodils for our visitor from Kansas. Both our grandmothers were dead; my brother and I hardly knew how to respond to this tiny woman wearing her gray hair pulled to a bun at the nape of her neck. We took our cue from Mary, who seemed to hold her husband's grandmother in awe. Taking our mission seriously, my brother and I climbed through the strands of barb wire as carefully as we could so as not to tear our clothing or snag our hands.

When we reached the site, we began to break the brittle stalks holding the largest blossoms. We felt immediately the sticky liquid that was released from each stalk. The nearer to the ground I stooped, the more the smell of the damp soil penetrated my nostrils. We felt a chill when we inadvertently touched the water in the shallow puddles beside the rows of daffodils. Soon each of us had gathered a bouquet, which we took across the pasture. I noticed that my brother broke the stalks at a point that made each approximately the same length. We placed our bouquets temporarily on the grass as we made our way cautiously through the strands of wire once again. Then each of us picked up his small bundle of daffodils. With pride we handed the bouquets to Mamma, too shy to offer them to the stranger from Kansas.

Gram smiled appreciatively when my mother handed her the flowers. She was a woman of few words, but we could tell that she was grateful for this gesture of hospitality. Soon Gram and Mary left in the black Ford coupe I had seen Mary's husband drive often. I like to think that Gram kept the daffodils in a vase on a night stand beside the bed where she slept the few nights she stayed at John and Mary's house. And I like to think that the next winter in Kansas, perhaps during one of the snowstorms, she thought more than once of the daffodils we gave her when she visited our farm.

Robert Cowser
"They shoe horses, don't they?" February 1, 2007 Column

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