Faith, Granny’s Cookies and the Peanut Patch
by Kitty Chappell
Guided by the barely visible trail, Granny let it lead us through the woods as a shortcut to the peanut patch. She walked slowly, not due to age, but so my young skinny legs could keep up with her. The morning sun warmed the tips of the tall mountain pines as wild rose vines, mingled with possum grapes, scrambled through the branches of an old elderberry tree.
Hand in hand, we walked in silence. Granny’s frosted auburn hair was twisted and pinned into a broad knot on the back of her head. Her faded flour-sack dress hung low, covering the tops of thick cotton stockings twisted and tied below her knees. The front of her dress was covered with a bibbed apron, a permanent part of her apparel except for trips into town to the country store or to Sunday church meetings at the old Gann community building where she taught Sunday school. The bottom half of her apron was a pocket, separated into two compartments by a middle seam—a storehouse for treasures that magically appeared when tiny tears threatened to spill. Her favorite hoe, edge shiny from its recent encounter with a whetstone, rested lightly on her shoulder.
Gently I released Granny’s callused hand as I stopped to admire a striped Tiger Lily leaning into our path. Grasping the lowest lily, I pulled it down, ran a finger over its smooth orange petals while studying its ebony streaks. I smiled as its pollen cascaded downward onto a patch of buttercups huddled together by an old log. Bending down, I buried my nose into their pink softness. Shaking my blonde curls in delight, I recaptured Granny’s hand.
“Granny, did God make these flowers?”
Looking down, she smiled at the butter dust on my nose.
“Yes, honey, God made everything.”
Again, there was silence. Finally, I asked, “Where is God?”
Granny looked up. Through the clearing ahead, she could see the peanut patch nestled between the woods and the rocky hills. In the distance was the outline of the blue Ozarks Mountains.
I waited patiently for her answer.
A mockingbird shattered the morning stillness from a nearby tree, warning us away from her nest. Further on, just beyond the bend in the trail, we heard the gurgling waters of the crystal clear creek we would soon cross.
Stepping carefully on large partially-submerged stones, our eyes caught the shadowy movement of crawdads scurrying to anonymity.
Just when I began to think Granny had forgotten my question, she answered. “God is everywhere.”
I was too young to realize it then, but life for my grandmother had been as rugged as the soil on which she lived. She was accustomed to hard work. A childhood injury had left Grandpa’s right arm almost useless. The family’s very existence depended upon a few scraggly cattle and what little food they could coax from the rocky earth. However, just as the sturdy oak in their meadow had been strengthened by the onslaught of winds and storms, she too had grown stronger through life’s difficulties. Later, I would recall her conversations with others when she spoke of the time she caught typhoid fever and almost died while caring for friends during an epidemic. She declared it was because of prayer and the loving care of others that she recovered.
“How do we know God is everywhere, Granny?” I asked.
The inevitable question followed, “What is faith?”
Granny stopped, knelt down and cupped my face tenderly in her hands.
“Honey, I know you can’t understand it yet, but the Good Book says that faith is the strong assurance that what we hope and pray for will happen even when we can’t yet see it. It means that those who trust God believe that He loves them, watches over them and hears their prayers—no matter what happens in life.”
She noted my brow, wrinkled in concentration.
“It’s like the wind. You can’t see it, but you can feel it, see what it does and you know it is there.”
Wanting desperately for me to understand, and fearing she had gone beyond my youthful comprehension, she hugged me, whispering “Honey, someday you’ll understand.”
Gazing into her face, I replied with all of my five-year-old wisdom, “But I understand now, Granny.”
The sun was hot and Granny had one row left to hoe. She sat on a large rock and fanned herself with the bottom of her apron as she watched me trying to pull weeds from the unyielding earth. Though her back always ached following the strenuous hoeing, she didn’t mind. She knew the peanuts would be the center of attraction on long and chilly winter evenings during the grandchildren’s Christmas vacation visits. How we all delighted in crowding around the pot-bellied stove, the older children trading ghost stories, while the eyes of us younger ones grew wide with suspense. The peanuts, roasting in flat black pans, permeated the air with their mouth-watering aroma.
As much as we loved the fresh-roasted peanuts, however, our favorite was Granny’s homemade vanilla cookies. She baked batch after batch in her wood cook stove’s oven in preparation for our visits. Once they cooled, Granny packed them into a large dishpan. She then covered them with a hemmed feed-sack cloth that we pulled to the side so we could fill our eager hands when it was time for a cookie break. After stuffing our tummies with Granny’s cookies and roasted peanuts, we washed down the last bite with fresh cow’s milk kept cool in the springhouse.
Spying the idle hoe, I asked, “Granny, can I hoe?”
“Sweetheart, the hoe is too big for you—you might hurt yourself.”
“P-l-e-a-s-e, I’ll be careful,” I begged, grabbing the handle midways and dragging it to the nearest row.
“All right, but be sure to hoe only on the ground between the plants or you might cut them.”
Taking careful aim, with one swift plunge to the earth, I promptly severed a large plant just above its roots.
“Uh oh!—I’ll fix it, Granny,” I said, falling to my knees.
With great effort, I dug a small hole in the hard earth and crammed the quickly-wilting severed plant into its center, patting the dirt in around it.
“Honey, it won’t live,” warned Granny.
Down through the years, countless were the times that Granny spoke of how my eyes glowed with excitement as I looked up and exclaimed, “M-a-y-b-e it will, Granny. I have faith.”
Several weeks later, Granny returned to the peanut patch, recalling with relish our “faith” conversation during the last trip. While inspecting the plants, she glanced in the direction of the severed stem I had carefully planted. Her eyes widened, then softened as she noted the tiny, green shoots struggling upward through the stiff brown leaves of the dead foliage.
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Author’s note: This was my Granny Hunt-Watson-McAllister-Niell’s favorite story about me as a child. Through the years Granny, who outlived three wonderful husbands, never tired of repeating it until her death at the age of 86. Below is Granny’s cookie recipe in her own handwriting:
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Published in Family Ties – Memories, Poetry and Good Food; compiled by Kimberly Elizabeth Sherman Grove; released by Hidden Book Press in 2015. (p 167)