Alice O. Howell   




            "Old Granny Larkin had age by the toe

        and hollering for help.

                She just shriveled up a little

    every year with them boiling-downs.

        Her watery grey eyes

            went on and off like a light

     depending on the kind o' day it was

                         for her.

             Her white hair kind of exploded

     off her head - like it had a life all its own

         and I mind, as a little girl

                 watching it raise up and move

         this way and that

             with her thinkin'.

                 She was so old not a body 'round

     knew about her young times.

         She must o' been born old

                     like a owl.

     Anyways, some do recollect

         about the sayings.

                 Story is that Abe Larkin

     got hisself killed in the war

         and left Granny with nary a hen

             nor a chick.

     Seems she took off in her sorrows

                 to the hills nigh on twelve days.

     Then one morning sun-up

         she come down, her clothes ripped

                 her face streaked

             and her feets all swolled up.

     She fainted over by the stream yonder.

         They carried her into her house, my ma told

                 and washed her good and gave her food.

     then they set her on a milking stool

         in the kitchen with her feets in a tub

                 o' potioned hot water.

             That very time it began.

     She took a fit, they say, and started swayin'

         and croonin', and her eyes

             they rolled right back to the beginning o' time.

     She sang and talked in foreign tongues.

         The preacher done come

     and said it was the devil talking in Egyptian

             but they got another

     and he said it was the finger of God

        on her soul and she was talkin' Greek.

                 You know, both o' them men

             went to their graves long since

     in disagreement.

         After a while, she got to talkin'

                 so's we could hear, and she'd say:

     ( Ma used to repeat it over and over)

         she'd say: I have seen the dark faces

                 of death and trouble, but the egg is yet

         full of light, and the generations

     will harvest the tears of men

             and call them seed - and stuff like that.

     They got a body to write them down

         after she took the habit

                 but it was hard, don't you know

             to tell when the spells would take her.

    Mostly it was every time

        she soaked her poor feets

                and she had plenty foot trouble.

     Sometimes folks on hard times

             would go to her in the night

         and they'd set in the kitchen

     cozy as you please

            and she'd put them parboiled feets

         o' hers in the basin o' hot potions

     and the sayin's would come.

             Some o' them was mighty good sense

         about cows' calving

     or when not to plant the corn,

                 but others was

     plumb crazy - sounded like black holes

         openin' in the earth's memory.

     Fair gave folks the willies.

             They'd leave her a pie, mind you, or mebbe two bits.

     On reg'lar days, Granny Larkin

         fussed around the house puttin' up pre-serves,

             or she'd take her stick and walk real slow

     down the hill to Sam's grocery, same as anybody

         carrying an old string bag.

                 She was real kindly-like.  Not even kids

             made any fun of her.

     She only spoke to me once directly.

         My ma had thought I was ailin'.

                 Granny sat there on a summer's night

             starin' into space

     her old dress up over her skinny

         knotted white and blue legs, and her purple feets

                 in the basin.  She said: 

     Orpheus is looking for yet another voice.

             Well, I don't rightly know the feller

         but I reckon he'll have to keep lookin'

     cos I don't know nothin' about singin'.

                 'Course when Granny Larkin passed on

             it was all over.

     but, you know, lately the kids goes up

         where her house use' to stand

     and they gathers old mallow hemp

             and chaws it

         and puts their feets in the stream

                 they  calls it Granny Larkin's Basin

     My own Billy says it makes you

         feel real good.

                 I figure they's no harm

     though, I tell you, I ain't exactly sure

             about the Chandler girl.

         Twelve years old, and she took a fit

     jest the other day

             drinkin' sars'parilla

         with her feets in the stream.

     Just a act, prob'ly.  though it don't

             sound a bit like Sybil Chandler

         to say:

     Under the stars of the morning

             with a holding of hands,

         stranger with stranger,

     the dances of wisdom

         and the laughter of peace

                 will rejoice the day !

     No Chandler never talked like that

             leastways not since I been around."