Linden Tree Leaves

Genealogy and Ancestry Explorations

Nona’s Stories: Geese and Little Ladies

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Grandma Burns had about a dozen geese—I believe “gaggle” is correct—but Aunt Em called them a “flock” – and “that was that.”

Early every Spring, before they moulted, the feathers on their breasts were plucked—these were used to make feather beds, feather and “down” comforters, and big, fluffy pillows.

All Grandma Burns’ beds had “feather beds” on them. She sold the feathers and down she didn’t need.

In those days of cold, unheated bedrooms—few homes had more than a fireplace and iron cookstove—as was the case at Grandma’s house and ours—a very few had an extra iron heater. Of course, no one had gas heaters or electric ones—they hadn’t been invented!

So, the feather beds were almost a necessity to keep warm at night during those severely cold winters. And they were wonderfully warm—the feathers retained body heat—when a person sank down into one of those feather beds—it was like a fluffy cloud—and was covered by several quilts, they were warm and comfortable as could be.

At our house, late in the afternoon, the “sad” irons were set on the hearth of the fireplace to heat. At bedtime they were wrapped in pieces of old soft blankets, and one placed in each bed to warm ourfeet—the irons stayed warm most of the night. Once our feet got warm, they stayed warm, thanks to the feather beds.

I spent a lot of nights at Grandma Burns house before I started to school. I loved the feather bed on which I slept. She left it to me in her will, along with the pillows on “my” bed, and hers. I still have them.

Once, when the geese were being plucked I was at Grandma Burns house, and took great interest in the proceedings.

First the geese’ feet were tied together, and they were placed on the ground to await their “turn.’ Grandma and Aunt Em would pick one up and neatly tuck it’s head under their left arm—to keep the goose from biting—and they do bite—they don’t peck as chickens do—but really bite– and twist the bite—they can almost take a piece out of a person—as I found out to my sorrow—and edification.

Grandma and Aunt Em went into the house to get another sack to put the feathers in. I was tempted to try my hand at plucking a goose—as they were too heavy for me to lift—I wasn’t yet six years old—I sat down beside an angry goose—she “hissed” a warning at me that I failed to heed—I tucked her head under my arm and she promptly just about bit a piece out of my arm. Aunt Em and Grandma Burns came running – it had looked so easy—but, as with most things—the “easiness” was a matter of “knowing how.”

Aunt Em said “Child—that scrawny little arm of yourn can’t hold that old goose’ head—she so mad, she’ll eat you alive!” I was inclined to agree with her. They “doctored” my arm and bandaged it, but it took some time for the soreness to fade.

Grandma Burns was really my great-grandmother. She adopted and raised by grandmother, Betty Thompson Falls, and when she died when my mother was two years old ,she adopted her and raised her.

So I was her first great granddaughter.

Grandma Burns deplored my addiction to playing with mud and thought it “unseemly” for “little ladies” to soil their hands so. Her favorite admonishment was “What will people think?!”

Aunt Em would promptly supply the answer—”Folks will think you is po’ white trash!” She was unshakably of the opinion that the worst thing that could happen to anyone was to be “poor white trash” – tatamount to being excluded from heaven, and she would remind me—lest I forget- “Us is quality folks!” including herself in the “us” and with emphasis on the “quality.”

Admittably, quite often no amount of washing my hands removed the evidence of a session with the black, gooey mud.

I was three generations—and a far cry from the customs of a “genteel Southern” family of Tenn. When Grandma Burns was a little girl. In those days little girls were “little ladies.”

I’m sure I was a great trial to her, for try as she did—she just couldn’t fit me into that “little lady” mold and I was forever falling from grace.

I wasn’t a rebel—I tried to be a “little lady” but really couldn’t see anything wring with good, clean, black mud! What interested me was all the things I could model with it! I never made mud pies—just birds and animals and flowers.

According to Grandma Burns, little girls should have milk-white complexions, and avoid the sun like the plague. I was forever going outside without my bonnet and mittens—or taking them off once I was outside, until Aunt Em hit on the idea of sewing my bonnet to my hair.


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