Before I start this entry, I have to give a little backstory to those who know only that I "ain't from 'round here", but aren't really sure where I am from 'round. I grew up in rural northeastern North Carolina. In a little town. So little, that in order to dispel any doubt about how little our town was, the town even decided have the word "little" in the name. I was raised, like four generations before me, in Littleton, NC. The little town with the big heart, or some other saccharine nugget on the sign on Highway 158. Mayberry looked like a bustling metropolis, compared to Littleton. We had one stoplight and four churches. And lots of little old ladies (again with the little). At the time, I didn't know any different as my whole life had been lived in Littleton and little and odd were the norm. Things that passed for routine take a very different light, now that I grown up and gotten physical and mental distance from Littleton.
Having said that my hometown has more eccentric citizens than Northern Exposure and Twin Peaks combined, I still worry about my family down east during hurricane season. My parents live there, as do my great aunt & her family & my aunt & uncle. And my fiesty, 85 year old grandmother, Ma. Last Saturday as Hurricane Irene pounded down on the little town, I posted to ask that my family take good care of my Ma. Here is what my great-aunt Mary replied:
I was so worried about my family that this post vaguely registered. I scanned to see the "we are all ready" and given that my aunt Mary lives practically in Ma's backyard, I was relieved to hear that the hatches had been battened down. It was only the next day that something was nagging me about her post and I had to go back to reread it to find out what. How on earth did I miss the casual "walked her cow around while winds were 85 miles an hour". A cow?? Is this some sort of animal husbandry that I've never heard of? I went to school with lots of 4H'ers. I know cows & this was no ordinary cow! Was the cow getting ready to calf? A cow on a leash in the midst of one the worst hurricanes North Carolina ever experienced? We lived in city limits, for crying out loud. This wasn't some little house on the prairie. It was a little house in Littleton! We were supposed to be civilized!
My mom and Ma came to visit last week, after Irene blew through, and as we sat at our favorite breakfast place, the topic of Hurricane Hazel came up. I couldn't let this golden opportunity pass by. I got Ma to talking about her recollections (my Ma is about as sharp as they come--she doesn't forget anything, except for where she left her eyeglasses). After Ma told me how the anntena for the tv set for which she had saved for weeks and weeks and which she had purchased a mere two weeks earlier came crashing through the window, I had to get clarification about the cow.
"Ma, I heard from Mary last week and she told me the story of your neighbor walking her cow during the big winds of Hazel," I said.
"You know how Mary is--it wasn't during the actual storm, it was during the eye of the storm. Not like she was out there walking her during the bad stuff," she replied, never looking up from her eggs.
I couldn't believe it. My poor grandmother had become so used to the small town oddity that to her, walking a cow in the eye of a hurricane was an absolutely normal occurance. She didn't even bat an eye when I questioned her further, "Eye of a hurricane of not, what on earth was a woman doing walking her cow? A cow isn't like a dog. A cow doesn't need walking. Hurricane, spring showers, sun or snow, a cow isn't a house pet. WHY WAS SHE WALKING HER COW???".
Ma never looked up from her plate. "Well, she was always a little bit off".