John Neil Ider “Ida” (Owens) Oldham was better known as Grannie to my two brothers and me. Her daddy wanted a boy and he told his wife it did not matter if it was a boy or a girl. When the baby was born he was namin’ it John Neil. His wife told him she did not care what he named her, she was naming her Ider. Most folks understood her name should be pronounced Ida, of course. In later years, she would have trouble with her name when needing identification because her name did not match her gender.
One of the things I enjoyed most, in growing up in Louisiana, was going to her house during the summer time and spend a week; just the two of us. The summer of 1959, at nine years old, is one I have never forgotten. Pioneer, Louisiana was a small town with one wood frame country store and one gas pump. Because it was a farming community there was always danger on every corner if you did not stay fully aware of your surroundings.
Papa had died in 1954 leaving Grannie to tend the forty-acre farm alone. I was only four when he passed. She was lonely at times and enjoyed having company. TV was watched every night with the shows in black and white. Bedtime for me rolled around at 8:30PM. I was usually afraid to go to bed alone. A farm in the country is extremely dark in the middle of the night. One consolation was the .22 rifle standing next to the bed. I had used it several times looking for rabbit and squirrels. I knew if I needed to protect myself the rifle was there.
It was a privilege to sleep with Grannie each night, of course I never knew for sure she was there because, if she came to bed it was well after I was asleep and she was up before dawn. The thought that she slept with me offered some facsimile of security.
I discovered the truth about where she slept one night when all hell broke loose. Heavy breathing entered the room. I could hear it but not see it; the room was too dark and heavy clouds blocked the moonlight. At that instant the clouds dissipated and illuminated two large eyes staring right at me. I sat straight up in the bed. Grannie was not there!
I sat gripped with quiet anxiety while I fought off the dragons of fear. The breathing was only feet from me–then a snort. I screamed bloody murder. I could hear Grannie running down the hallway at the same time Bessie, her milk cow, pulled her head up, and bellowed like I’m the one who scared her. She jerked her head back out of that window as fast as she could, tearing out the glass and the wood frame that held it.
Grannie ran down the hall, entered the room and stuck her head out the widow yelling some words that I did not hear. Bessie skedaddled back toward the barn where she belonged. It was the first time I had seen Grannie with no teeth. Flapping her lower jaw against her upper, she turned to calm me down and found me aiming the .22 right at the window. She relaxed me into the reality that she was not there to hurt me. I dropped the gun and climbed under the covers where I burst into tears. Grannie climbed in beside me, wrapped her arms around me and slept the rest the night, or least until I woke up to find her cooking cathead biscuits, scrambled eggs and grits.
Made you smile!