Selected Stories from
The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration 2011/2012
— Stories dated 1872–1939 —

Who Tricked Whom?

Defiance, Ohio, USA; 1872

This story is about my great-great-great-great-grandfather Gorman Siler and his encounter with four Native Americans. The story was told to Wesley Sheets (Gorman’s grandson) and passed through the generations to my grandmother Jackie Instone. As it is told, sometime in the winter four Native Americans walked up to Gorman’s two-story log cabin. The family farm was located in Tiffin Township, near Defiance, Ohio. The year this story took place was 1872.

The Native Americans wanted to take some of Gorman’s hard cider* from the barrel that he kept filled in his barn. Since it was so cold out, the men had a hard time finding food so that they could feed their families. Gorman didn’t want to give up all of his cider, because he needed it for his family. He also didn’t want to see the men get sick from drinking too much. So he said he would make a deal with them.

Gorman decided to hand them an old wicker basket. He said that they could take any of the hard cider that they could carry in the basket. He was absolutely sure that they couldn’t do this, and indeed the Native Americans shook their heads, took the basket, and walked away.

While the Native Americans were gone, they came up with a plan. Gorman was very surprised when they came back. They had dipped the basket into the water of a nearby creek a number of times. When they did this, water froze, filling in all the gaps in the basket. They now had a basket that would hold liquid!

Gorman was a man of his word, so he had to keep his end of the deal. The men filled the basket and walked away with all the hard cider that the basket could hold, happy that they were able to get some at all.

* Hard cider is an alcoholic drink made from fermented apples.

Blaine Instone; Ohio, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)


Cooking for Jesse James

Laramie, Wyoming, USA; c.1875

My Jewish great-great-grandmother Fannie G. Bauman was a wonderful cook who would cook for anyone. She made amazing meals for her family every night. Fannie would also cook for friends. Once, she even cooked for the most famous outlaw in United States history—Jesse James.

One windy day in Laramie, Wyoming, Fannie was helping her two children get ready for school. “Go on, Harry, or you’ll be late. Here, Helene, take your coat,” said Fannie.

She smiled to herself as she watched out the kitchen window as her two young children hurried down the street to school. Suddenly the door opened behind her. “Did Harry or Helene leave something?” Fannie wondered. But when Fannie turned around, it wasn’t her children. It was the famous outlaw Jesse James.

She was going to be robbed, and she knew it. But Fannie couldn’t let Jesse James have her husband Abe’s valuable gold watch, which he had left in the kitchen. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like she had much of a choice. Jesse James had brought a gun.

“Give me all your money!” yelled Jesse James.

Fannie snatched the money they kept in their house and dashed back to the kitchen.

“Bring me all your valuables!” he said. She gathered the silver and ran back, hoping desperately he wouldn’t notice the watch. He took the silver and glanced around for anything else, about to take off like a dirty cat that saw a bathtub. Then Jesse James spotted the watch. Jogging over, he picked it up and examined it for cracks or scratches. Fannie prayed he would find a blemish and leave the watch alone.

As he was about to take it, all the anger at the injustice boiled up in Fannie. How dare he barge in with a gun and demand their valuables!

In one sentence that could easily have cost Fannie her life, she burst out, “I demand you give me that watch back!” Surprised at herself, Fannie retreated.

Then Jesse James began to chuckle. “Maybe you’re right! I’ve taken enough. Have your watch back,” he said.

“Oh! Thank you!” said Fannie, a little surprised that her demand had actually worked.

“You’re welcome!” Jesse James said, still laughing.

Fannie offered him a pot of coffee. When she handed Jesse James a cup, he refused to drink it. What if Fannie was trying to poison him? He made her drink first, and when nothing happened, he cautiously sipped. He enjoyed the coffee. Fannie really was an amazing cook. Finally, he ran off down the street, and Fannie was left to reflect.

She decided that everybody—even the most evil, hard-hearted criminal—has some good inside. That is still true today, and it’s something I try to live by. If you can remember something positive about the person you’re angry at, it diffuses your anger a little bit.

Though Fannie Bauman is no longer with us, her lessons, kindness, and cooking are things that will be remembered for a long time.

Molly Berenbaum; Colorado, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)


No Objections

Merxheim, Germany; 1886

One day in 1886, my great-great-grandfather Gustav Fried awoke to the cock-a-doodle-doo of a rooster and the smell of oatmeal wafting into his room. He peered out the window, where cows were roaming the flat German countryside. Gustav was usually supposed to take care of the cows, but he was tired of the pasture. He wanted to fulfill his dream to become a young businessman in America.

Instead of putting on his rubber boots and heading outside, Gustav went downstairs, where his mother and father were eating breakfast. Awkwardly, he eased into the conversation. Finally, Gustav worked up his nerve and blurted out, “I want to move to America.”

Gustav’s parents were shocked; he was to inherit the farm and continue in his father’s footsteps. After a huge argument, Gustav convinced them that he should at least ask Uncle Otto, the family patriarch. He packed a tin of water and set off down the road.

A few hours later, Gustav still hadn’t arrived. His legs were aching, and the sun was frying his back like a strip of bacon. Gustav was so drained that he stretched out on the ground to nap. When he awoke, the sun had set and the sky was streaked with navy and gold. He paced back and forth, debating what to do. Quickly, he turned around and ran home.

When Gustav’s parents asked him what Uncle Otto had said, he simply replied, “He posed no objections.” So his reluctant parents bought him a cheap boat ticket to New York.

Gustav’s friends and family went to see him off, and Uncle Otto was there, too. Gustav’s parents greeted Uncle Otto, and they struck up a conversation. Uncle Otto said, “I think that you are stupid to let your kid go on a boat to America when he could stay home and take care of you.”

Gustav’s parents’ jaws dropped. But Gustav’s bags had already been packed, his ticket had been bought, and he had boarded the ship. The only thing his parents could do was make snide comments in future letters.

Gustav made his uncomfortable trip to America, where he had a relative in Fairmont, Minnesota. He had scraped together enough money to buy a train ticket and a meal. As he was walking around the city, waiting for his train, he saw a fruit vendor selling apples. Gustav had never seen apples before, so he bought an entire bushel. He considered it a wise investment, because he thought he could resell them for a profit. That was until he realized that apples were common in America and that his money was gone.

So the bushel of apples became Gustav’s food. He lived with his Minnesota relative a few years, until he made enough money to move to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and fulfill his dream of becoming a businessman. In Milwaukee, he met his wife and started a family. He ran a successful factory until he retired and passed away.

Maddy Scannell; Missouri, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)


My Grandma’s Moccasins

Randolph County, North Carolina, USA; c. 1890–1895

Today people in North Carolina usually own at least ten pairs of shoes. They can go to the store and buy a pair whenever they want. Today the shoes that we buy could have been made in China, Italy, South America, or Japan. But that wasn’t the case when my great-grandma Evelyn Cleveland Moffit was a child.

Evelyn was born in 1885, twenty years after the Civil War. She was named after Grover Cleveland, because he was the president of the United States at the time. She grew up in Randolph County, North Carolina, before there were any cars, and before houses had electricity or running water. She was raised in a farm family and spent most of her time at home feeding the chickens and harvesting corn, peas, and potatoes. She and her sister, Blanche, were the only children.

My grandma Evelyn told my dad a lot of stories about the way things were when she was a child. He has told many of those stories to me, and one of my favorite ones is about an old Indian man who would come around every spring and make shoes for my grandma Evelyn’s whole family. The old Indian had long grey braids and wore a beaded necklace, and he would come riding up to her house on a white mule. He carried a lot of leather and tools on the back of his mule.

The Indian cobbler would stay with them for the night. As they sat by the fire, eagerly watching him do his work, he would tell them the latest news from the other farms and neighbors he had visited.

To begin the task of making their shoes, he would first go out to the woodpile and choose a piece of wood that he would use to carve into a form called a “shoe last.” He would always start by carving the last into a perfect match for the foot of the person who had the biggest feet. After that, he would cover the last with the leather he had brought. He used a special type of leather to make the shoelaces that he would use to pull the leather tight around the wood.

When he had finished making the first pair, he would remove the last and whittle it down to make it match the foot of the person that had the second-biggest feet. He kept doing this until he had carved it down to match the foot of the person that had the smallest feet, which was Evelyn.

The next morning he would eat breakfast with the family. Then they would pay him for the shoes he had made. After that, he would get his tools and his leather, put them on the back of his mule, and go to the next house. Evelyn’s family wouldn’t see him again until the next spring. The shoes had to last her the whole year. Even though she had other shoes, she said that the Indian moccasins were her favorite.

Camryn E. Baldwin; North Carolina, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)


The Whistling Doctor

Warsaw and Edenton, North Carolina, USA; 1890s–1920s

He was known by his walk and his whistle.

This is a story about my great-grandfather on my mother’s side of the family who overcame polio to become a doctor. Can you imagine becoming really sick at age two—your legs so weakened that you couldn’t hold your weight to walk—and then not being able to get any real help until age eleven?

My great-grandfather’s name was Leonidas Polk Williams. He was born in 1892 on a small farm outside Warsaw in North Carolina to a family that had a lot of love but not a lot of money. My mom tells the story that after her grandfather got so sick, his parents saved and saved for years so they could take him, their oldest son, to The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where he was finally able to get fitted for braces so that he could begin to learn to walk.

My great-aunt Ruth, who lived to be 101 years old, described her brother, whom she called “Lonnie,” pulling himself around their family farm, grabbing onto whatever he could find to get around—weeds, tree trunks, even at times his brothers’ and sisters’ legs. He would not give up, and he kept his spirits high. There was so much to do on the farm that he wanted to be involved.

He became the first one in that family to go to college and go to medical school. In his good heart and with his thankfulness to his family, he also sent his brothers and sisters to college before he even considered getting married after medical school. He felt that his sisters and brothers had done more than he had been able to do on the farm, and he wanted to do something for them.

After my great-grandfather finished college and medical school, he became a doctor in Edenton, North Carolina. That is where he met my great-grandmother and where my grandmother Peggy grew up. One of my great-grandfather’s patients remembers that when he was sick as a little boy—his house just one block away from Dr. Williams’s office—he would always know when the doctor would arrive, because he could hear him walk with his limp down the hallway, and he was always whistling.

My great-grandfather was an inspirational person who felt as if he had been given a second chance. He never ever complained and always had a smile on his face. He was just a happy person, and everybody knew that. I think his determination and happiness on the inside made my grandmother special, and the way she raised my mom has continued my great-grandfather’s type of strength. He didn’t have a strong body, but his mind and kind heart made up for it. I think he has our family all inspired to always have a smile on our faces and to keep our spirits high. Even though he died a long time ago, I think I can imagine him whistling.

Evie Sugg; North Carolina, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)


Hardly Horses

Rockingham, North Carolina, USA; c. early 1900s

My great-grandmother’s name was Lucy Mae Grice Rainwater. For a great deal of time she lived on the Cannonball Plantation on Sandhills Road in Rockingham, North Carolina, across the street from where the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church now stands. She died at age ninety-one in 2010. She will always be loved and missed. She knew her time to pass on was coming, but she was not afraid. She embraced it with a smiling face and a happy demeanor that gave joy to us all until the very end.

Great-Grandma’s lively memory was always bursting with stories waiting to be told. I never knew my great-grandmother to tell a lie, and she told this story since she was a child. This story—which is completely true, might I add—was passed down to my grandmother, who passed it down to my mother, who in turn told it to me. And I am here to tell it to you.

It was dusk one day in the early 1900s. My great-grandmother was lying in the dirt road, something she did a great deal, after a long day of playing with her younger brother (great-uncle William) and her younger sister (great-aunt Elmare). It was very quiet—quiet enough to hear a pin drop. Instead of hearing such, my three great-relatives heard hoof beats.

Moments later, a herd of wild horses barreled up the road toward them, snorting and neighing in a frightening fashion. My grandmother jumped up on her strong ten-year-old legs, taking her siblings with her. A flash of strong muscles beneath a flaxen coat, a whine slicing through the quiet night, and strong hoof beats vibrating the ground—they were going to be trampled.

But the moment never came. Just as Great-Grandma Rainwater thought the end would come, the horses disappeared right before her stunned eyes. It was as if they had never been there. One thought rang clear through her mind: Impossible! For a moment, she stared at the space where the horses had been, at the cloud of dust they had never kicked up, the hoofprints they had never made. Then, still holding on to her brother’s arm, she raced into her house, already planning what to say to her parents.

After she claimed her story, with William and Elmare as witnesses, her parents—my great-great-grandparents—believed her story. Their belief in the true claim stemmed from the fact that other people had reported seeing the “horses.” Everyone in the small town had a story to tell about the horses, and some still remember it. Were the horses real? I believe so. What do you think?

Stoney Taylor; North Carolina, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)


Washed Away

Hancock County, Ohio; c. 1908

It had been raining hard for three days straight, and in the country that means no work, or at least no farming. Since they couldn’t work in the fields, my great-great-grandpa Will and his son, my great-great-uncle Charles, decided to repair the barn. They pretty much did this to be out of the way of the women of the house, who wanted nothing to do with them. So the two men fixed holes in the walls, cleaned the tools, and did anything else that needed to be done. After about two hours, they were finished, but they still weren’t welcome back in the house.

Surprisingly, the rain suddenly stopped; the sun came out and warmed the earth. Will had heard there was going to be a barn sale in the area, so he and Charles agreed to go to the sale. The men happily hitched up the buggy and headed that way.

The sun made the raindrops that had fallen glisten, but there wasn’t a rainbow in the sky. In those days, the roads in Hancock County met at ninety-degree angles every mile, so they formed perfect squares. The one-horse buggy with the two men in it lumbered along. They passed a church, turned a corner, went over a bridge, and then finally they were there.

There was everything you could want for a barn at the sale—except a barn! The men talked among themselves and purchased their items while the boys chatted, played in the grass, and ate fresh apples. For whatever reason, Will hadn’t taken along a wagon, so he couldn’t buy anything. Perhaps he had intended only to “window shop.”

After a while the sale began to wind down. Will motioned to Charles that it was time to head home, so they headed home, going the long way around the other side of the square. Soon they were at the bridge, but Will couldn’t see it, because the water had risen from all the rain. The horse stopped, perplexed as to what to do. Now Will loved horses, so he didn’t use a whip to make the horse cross the bridge. He got out of the buggy to help guide the horse along—only to discover there was no longer a bridge there! This bridge had been a fairly primitive bridge—not too fancy—but Will never would have guessed that it would wash away in just a rainstorm. But it had happened nevertheless.

In those times, looking out for one another was commonplace and expected. So Will and Charles turned around to go back to the sale and warn the other men. Then they journeyed home the other way.

At the house they were finally allowed back in for supper. My great-grandma Ruth was upset that there was nothing for her from the barn sale, but she was pleased that there was a good story to tell over a lantern-lit supper.

Hayden T. Evans; Ohio, USA


A Mystical Blessing

Velyatyn, Czechoslovakia*; c. 1919

This story is about my great-grandfather and his brother. In 1919 my great-grandfather Nandor was a really little kid. Father and uncles of Nandor and VolfHe lived in Czechoslovakia with his family, and he had a lot of brothers and sisters. In those days they didn’t have medicine like they have today, so people got sick more often from infection and viruses. Nandor and his brother Volf got sick, and the doctors were not able to help them. Their parents were very concerned and worried, because they didn’t know if their sons were going to live or die.

The boys’ parents became desperate and were searching for answers. They heard about a rabbi who seemed very mystical. This rabbi studied Kabbalah,** and people believed that his blessings were very powerful. The boys’ parents hoped to find this rabbi, because they wanted a special blessing from him. Eventually, they did find him, and they took their two sick boys to see him. The rabbi looked at the boys as if he had known them all his life.

In order to heal the boys, he gave them each an extra name. These names were special because they meant “longevity.” My great-grandfather was named “Zayde,” which means “grandfather,” and his brother Volf was given the name “Alter,” which means “older.” Over the next few weeks and months the boys’ health got significantly better each day. Everybody considered it a tremendous miracle, and the parents were very grateful to the rabbi.

But the story does not end here. Both Nandor and Volf grew up and moved to America. They each got married and had a family. Nandor worked as a furrier and then became a rabbi. Volf worked in a restaurant and lived in New York. Interestingly, Nandor had four daughters and would have twelve grandchildren today, but after the first grandchild was born, Nandor died. We believe that the rabbi’s blessing—the extra name, meaning “grandfather,” given to him when he was a young boy—allowed him to live just long enough to become a grandfather. Volf, who was given the extra name that meant “older,” lived until he was in his nineties. He was among the oldest in his generation.

Never underestimate the power of rabbis and doctors, because they can help you.

* Velyatyn is now within the boundaries of Ukraine.

** Kabbalah is an ancient set of Jewish teachings that explain the mysteries of the universe.

Emuna Shiller; Maryland, USA

(Photo courtesy of the Shiller family: The three Marton brothers; Nandor and Volf's father is on the right. This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)


A Success Story Driven by Ambition to Learn

Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India; c. 1920s–1930s

This is a very interesting, yet confusing, story about my great-grandfather. It took place around the 1920s or 1930s in Thanjavur, India. My great-grandfather’s name, Rajagopal Kandiyar, is very hard for many to pronounce. My great-grandfather died as a very successful doctor. He went to Malaysia eleven times and Sri Lanka two times. However, he used to be a cop. This story is about how he changed his career from a police officer to a doctor.

There was once a man who was suffering—suffering from an unknown disease. The patient was lying on his bed in his house. The man had swellings all over his body. They had to call a doctor; hence, they called a Siddhar.* Siddha is one of the oldest ways of practicing medicine in the world. Back then, that was the medicine practiced in the Indian villages.

The doctor needed three police officers: one to protect the patient, one to protect the doctor, and one to be the messenger. My great-grandfather was the messenger. He would go from the patient’s house to the doctor to convey whether the swelling was going down. The doctor was on the side of a river.

The doctor started chanting prayers. He made a figure using wheat dough and water. He took the doll and dipped the doll’s leg into the water. The leg of the doll washed away into the river. The doctor took out the figure and asked my great-grandfather to check on the patient at his house. When he got there, my great-grandfather noticed that the patient’s swelling on his legs had disappeared.

My great-grandfather went back to the river to tell the doctor what he had found. The doctor continued with the same process to the other parts of the body for one hour. My great-grandfather went back and forth, and witnessed the process. He was amazed to see that the patient was cured. He learned that this was not black magic—it was the enlightenment of the doctor that gave him the power of healing.

My great-grandfather quit his job as a police officer and became a doctor. Though he never achieved the same level of maturity in Siddha, he was a successful Siddha doctor. He followed his passion and succeeded at it, in the midst of all his elders trying to persuade him to not quit his job. This story inspired me to identify an ambition, work hard at it, and stay committed to it.

* A Siddhar is a Hindu saint who uses supernatural powers, yoga, and herbs to help and heal people.

Raghuram Selvaraj; New Jersey, USA


The Scary Airplane Ride

Jefferson City, Missouri; c. 1923

My grandma’s ninety-two-year-old cousin, Camille Gay, had a unique experience. In the 1920s Camille Gay grew up on a farm near Jefferson City, Missouri. Her best friend, my grandma, was fifteen years old, and Camille Gay was nine. My grandma didn’t have a driver’s license, but you didn’t really have to have one to drive back then.

My grandma and Camille Gay were driving down the road when suddenly there was a small low-flying plane that landed in a field that was private property. The pilot leaped out and put down a sign that said Airplane Rides for $5.00.

That was a whole lot of money back then, but my grandma fetched $5.00 from her pocket and said, “I have been on an airplane before, so you should go, Camille Gay.”

The plane was an open-cockpit biplane,* so Camille Gay just jumped in. The pilot had to spin the propeller to start the engine. Many people hadn’t seen airplanes in person before, so they all gathered around and watched with mouths slightly open.

The plane took off. All that was holding Camille Gay was a small metal bar, like the one on a Ferris wheel. Camille Gay was scared to death! She closed her eyes and prayed that she wouldn’t die. When the plane finally landed, Camille Gay was so petrified that she needed help to get out of the plane, because her legs were shaking so much.

Ever since that day, Camille Gay hasn’t really enjoyed flying in airplanes that much. This story couldn’t happen these days for two reasons: First, there are now too many regulations, and second, planes can’t just land on private property. So Camille Gay’s unique experience was quite rare indeed!

* This plane had two sets of wings, one above the other, and an open area for the pilot.

Thomas Francis; Missouri, USA


Two Pockets Too Many

Sanford, North Carolina, USA; c. 1927

When my great-grandfather Willie was about twelve years old, the Great Depression was just beginning. Clothes cost too much for his family to buy, so his mother (my great-great-grandmother) made all of his and the family’s clothes. One time, when she made him a shirt, she had two extra scraps of cloth. It doesn’t sound like much, but with barely any money to live off of, they had to take what they could get. So instead of saving those two scraps for a quilt, she sewed them on the front of the shirt to make two pockets. Willie was so excited about those two pockets! He thought he was so grown-up with not one, but two, pockets.

So the next day, Willie went to the henhouse and got two eggs. He put one in each pocket. Then he walked to the general store, about four miles away, and traded the eggs for a pouch of tobacco. He took one egg out from each pocket and put the small pouch of tobacco into one of them. Willie figured that if he was grown-up enough to have two front pockets, he was grown-up enough to chew tobacco.

When he got home, he found his mother waiting at the door. First she asked him if he knew that two eggs were missing from the henhouse. He said that he did. Next she asked him if he knew what happened to them. He said that he did. Willie said that he went to the general store to trade them for something. She asked what he traded them for, and he proudly pulled out the pouch of tobacco from one of his front pockets.

His mother calmly put the tobacco back in his shirt pocket and walked him back to the store four miles away. When the two of them got to the store, she calmly asked the store worker to trade the tobacco back for the eggs. They traded. Then Willie and his mother walked the four miles back home.

When they arrived back home, Willie’s mother asked for his shirt. He gave it to her, and she took off both pockets from the front of his shirt! Willie was so disappointed, but he knew he deserved it. He knew better than to try to chew tobacco when he was just twelve years old. However, he learned a lesson from all of this: Don’t abuse privileges!

Elizabeth Moore; North Carolina, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)


El Polvo*

Fowler, Kansas, USA; May 23, 1932

Here, in a house on the outskirts of the quaint little town of Fowler, Kansas, lived my grandmother Viola’s family of five. Viola lived with her parents, Marvin and Callie Weber, and her two siblings. Her papa was a quiet and unassuming man. On May 23, 1932, her papa became one of the greatest unknown heroes ever. He was not one to show off and flash his badge of honor.

On that fateful day, far in the distance they saw it coming. My grandmother’s family had never seen any storms like this before. Instead of rain, there was dust; instead of wet, there was dry. The dust storm was burying everything in its path, bearing down on the small defenseless town. They watched the Kremblins’ farmhouse, just about 100 yards away, become a victim of the storm. During this fiasco, all you could hear was the howling of the wind.

There was something disrupting the sound of the wind though. Far away in the distance there was a smudge of a figure yelling out for help as it was getting consumed by the dust. Upon seeing this sight, Viola’s papa sprinted to the victim in hopes of saving him. Her mama begged for him to come back, but he was long gone. In seconds after he had run to help, he was obscured by the dust. The darkness and the roar of the wind consumed all. Where did the storm come from? They didn’t know. How did it come? This was just another unanswered question. Why did it come? Only God knew.

“Papa! Papa!” the children hollered. “Please come back!” But there was no response, and all they could do was wait. As quickly as her mama could, she yanked all her children into her bedroom and covered each of their mouths with a thin rag. After getting all of them situated, their mama left to go search for her husband.

While my grandmother and her siblings were waiting for their parents to come back, their papa finally reached the figure screaming in the dust. It was not just any figure; it was their young neighbor Joseph Kremblin. He had gotten lost on his way across his family’s farm once the storm came. After he had gotten swallowed up by the dust, he did not know where to go, so he yelled for help, hoping someone would come to save him. His wish came true once my grandmother’s papa arrived. He scooped up little Joseph and ran to his house in the distance.

By then, my grandmother’s mama was yelling at the top of her lungs for her husband to come back, so he just followed her voice home. Once he arrived, he took everyone back into the bedroom and waited for the storm to cease.

As the storm lifted, they began to dig out of the muck. If my grandmother’s papa had not saved little Joseph, his descendants would not be here today. He was a true hero that day.

* El polvo is Spanish for “dust.”

Megan Ewy; North Carolina, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)


Finding Grandpa

Enid, Oklahoma, USA; 1935–1955

“When the dust comes, you run. You get to the closest shelter and stay until the dust goes away. Then you get home as quick as possible,” said my seventy-seven-year-old grandpa as I heated up his coffee in the microwave. “Growing up in Enid, Oklahoma, in the 1930s wasn’t exactly a field of clover. The Dust Bowl was people versus dust, but in my own life there were other struggles as well.”

“Grandpa, I know adults were grave and grim, but what about children? Did children find a way to have fun?” I asked.

“Yes and no,” he said. “I know I did. Me and my buddies had a bet going once. We wondered who could climb highest on this picket fence. I always watched from the sidelines, but walking home one day I decided I’d try my luck. That fence never seemed so tall in my life!

“Well, I started out all right. My fingers found all the right grips and little footholds. I hoisted myself up farther and farther. Above me I saw no one. I was winning!” Grandpa said. “The sweat ran into my eyes as I reached for what seemed to be the top of Everest, and, surprisingly, there was only air. I was at the peak of the picket!” He paused and took another sip of his midnight-colored coffee. I heard Grandma banging around in the kitchen, making dinner.

Grandpa looked out the window and continued, “As a kid, I always wanted to be Superman. I’ll never forget my tenth Halloween. At school we were allowed to wear our costume, so I requested a Superman costume from Mother. She consented, and I wore it to school.”

“Really, Grandpa?”

“Really,” he said before rolling his eyes, “ . . . on the wrong day.”

I giggled.

“All the kids were making fun of me, so I ran to Grandpa’s house—”

I interrupted, “My great-great-grandpa?!”

“Yep. We were always together, like husk and corn. With cape flying out behind me, I ran to his house for refuge. He allowed me to stay there all day. My parents never found out. Boy, if they had, I wouldn’t be here today. Well, at least my bottom wouldn’t be,” he chuckled, setting his coffee cup down. Coming into the room, Grandma presented a pot roast like a first-place trophy. I licked my lips.

Grandpa smiled. “My father, well, he didn’t really want me to go to school. He thought it was a waste of time, thought I should work on the farm instead. ‘School’s no place for a boy. . . . That’s a woman’s place.’ I always told him, ‘Maybe so, but I’m going to get a good education.’ I was always pretending to be something I wasn’t. I pretended to be a mountain climber that day on the fence, or Superman on Halloween. But when I said I was going to college, I meant it. I was going to find myself there,” he said. “And I did.”

Anna Matherne; Georgia, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)


The First Snow

Tianbashan, Changning, Baoshan, Yunnan, China; 1939

Do you take snow for granted? How would you feel if you didn’t see it for decades at a time? It all started in 1939, when my grandpa was five years old. He was in his hometown, Tianbashan. It was a fairly cool place, but very dry. It was in the high mountains; the altitude was about 2,300 meters.

It was Chinese New Year’s Eve. My grandpa was playing with his siblings and friends in a straw house, under a cloudy sky. The whole family was there, adults still talking and laughing after eating a satisfying dinner. There was a warm fire in the middle of the room, while the kids streamed in eating sweet rice cake. After they were done, my grandpa went to bed early, along with his friends.

Right when they got into bed, there was a loud crack of thunder and almost immediately, lightning. The rest of the night was filled with flashes of lightning and cracks of thunder. My grandpa finally gave up trying to stay awake and let sleep wash over him.

A loud noise woke him up. It felt like he had slept only for seconds. The other kids were already up and dressed. They, too, were wondering what all the noise was. “What do you think that noise was?” he heard someone ask.

“No idea,” said another. He hurried to the room where the kids were sitting. “Maybe fireworks?” He saw their faces light up. “Cool!” they all chorused.

“Then let’s go and see!” he said.

They hastily put on their coats and went outside. A tremendous gush of cold wind washed over them, and with stupendous effort they opened their eyes. Everything was pure white as mouths dropped open in surprise. “What do you think that is?” my grandpa asked his mystified friends. Then another loud crack rattled their ears. It turned out to be bamboo cracking and falling from the weight of the snow.

Seconds later, the adults came out, talking and laughing. They abruptly stopped as they saw the snow.

“Snow . . .” one of the adults whispered.

“Snow?” one of my grandpa’s friends asked loudly. “What kind of word is that?”

They all turned toward the farming field. My grandpa finally asked the obvious question: “Can we play in the snow?”

The adults sighed. “Fine, but don’t take too long.” The kids spent the rest of the day in the snow. With over two feet of snow, they had snow fights, went sledding, buried themselves in the snow, and more. The next day their hands were starting to crack and bleed because they had forgotten to put on lotion before they started playing in the snow the previous day. My grandpa wondered what it would look like to actually see snow falling from the sky.

In 2007, he was seventy-three. He went back to his hometown, where he actually saw snow falling. It snowed for twenty hours straight that day. My grandpa still remembers clearly the two times he saw snow.

Yifu Zhu; Missouri, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)



Read additional stories from the 2011/2012 celebration:

View the illustrations in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7

Sneak a peek at Grannie Annie, Vol. 7




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Student illustration of snow falling on mountains and a cottage
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Individual authors
retain the copyrights to
their works, which are
published here with

The setting of each story is
noted below its title. In
cases where the exact year
is not known, “c.” (circa)
indicates that the year given
is approximate.


Stories on this page:

1. Who Tricked Whom?
Blaine Instone
Ohio, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

2. Cooking for Jesse
James (c. 1875)
Molly Berenbaum
Colorado, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

3. No Objections
Maddy Scannell
Missouri, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

4. My Grandma’s
(c. 1890–1895)
Camryn E. Baldwin
North Carolina, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

5. The Whistling Doctor
Evie Sugg
North Carolina, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

6. Hardly Horses
(c. early 1900s)
Stoney Taylor
North Carolina, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

7. Washed Away
(c. 1908)
Hayden T. Evans
Ohio, USA

8. A Mystical Blessing
(c. 1919)
Emuna Shiller
Maryland, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

9. A Success Story Driven
by Ambition to Learn
(c. 1920s–1930s)
Raghuram Selvaraj
New Jersey, USA

10. The Scary Airplane
(c. 1923)
Thomas Francis
Missouri, USA

11. Two Pockets Too
Many (c. 1927)
Elizabeth Moore
North Carolina, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

12. El Polvo
(May 23, 1932)
Megan Ewy
North Carolina, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

13. Finding Grandpa
Anna Matherne
Georgia, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

14. The First Snow
Yifu Zhu
Missouri, USA
(also in Vol. 7)



Click here to read additional
stories from the 2011/2012
celebration as well as stories
from previous years.

Looking for stories on a
particular topic or theme?
Consult our Index of
. (This year's stories
will be added to the
index in the summer.)









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