#TwoForTuesday: Two of my Unsung Female Heroes

Many unsung female heroes have crossed my path. I haven’t known any famous people, so all the heroes in my life – male and female – are unsung.

I’m going to break the “Two-For” rule today and write about just one of my unsung female heroes, my great-great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Morrison. I know her only through names and dates on the written page and a plain rock that marks her grave in Spears Graveyard, but she is my hero.

Mary Morrison (17??-1781)

I know few details of this Mary Morrison’s life. I don’t know if she had a bubbly personality or was a negative person. I only know her from the circumstances of her life.

She was born in Scotland, probably on the Kintyre Peninsula in 1732. She married John Morrison from the same place. They came to America, lived in Pennsylvania for a while, then moved to North Carolina in the 1760s.

Mary and John had nine children. John died in 1777. Tradition tells us that he was ambushed by Tories not far from his and Mary’s home. Knowing that he would soon die, he wrote his will in August of 1777 and died less than a week later. From John’s will, we know that Mary was expecting their last child at the time because he made provisions for the unborn child.

Sadly, Mary died early in 1781, leaving her minor children in the care of relatives. We also know that when Mary was sick and writing her will that one of her daughters was very ill and it was uncertain if the daughter would survive that illness.

What a hard life Mary must have had! I hope she had joy in her life.

I marvel at how she left Scotland for the great unknown American frontier. She left a place on the sea for a new life 200 miles inland in the backcountry of North Carolina where the woods and meadows were filled with all sorts of wild animals about which she knew little or nothing. She must have feared every day for disease or injury to herself and her family.

I live on land today that has been passed down from generation to generation from John and Mary. I came to feel a real kinship with Mary a few years ago as I worked in our vegetable and flower garden.

Summer Squash
Dragonfly in our garden

I practiced organic gardening, much as Mary would have in the 1770s. I imagined Mary growing some of the same vegetables and varieties of flowers on this same land. I enjoyed the butterflies, writing spiders, hoppy toads, dragonflies, birds, and box turtles that visited the garden, and I liked to think that Mary did, too.

As I was always on the lookout for copperhead snakes while in my garden, I can’t help but think Mary kept an eye open for them, too. One of the earliest things my parents taught me was how to distinguish between a copperhead and a non-poisonous snake. I feel sure that was an early lesson Mary and John taught their children. Also, how to identify and avoid poison oak.

I can imagine Mary showing her children how to pluck a honeysuckle blossom, bite the end of the stem off, and suck in the sweetness of the flower.

Passion Flower

When wild passion flowers sprouted in her garden, I hope she left them to grow, bloom, and produce lollypops.

When the wild orange butterfly weed bloomed in sunny spots in the yard, I hope Mary showed her children the black, yellow, and white-striped caterpillars munching on the green leaves, and I hope she knew to tell them that those caterpillars would one day be transformed into brilliant Monarch butterflies.

Wild Butterfly Weed and Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars

Mary did not have benefit of a tractor to till her garden, comfortable 21st century clothing to wear in the summer sun, or an air-conditioned house to retreat to when the heat and humidity got the best of her or when her back ached or blisters rose on the palms of her hands.

Raccoon in our yard on April 28, 2014.

I gardened because I wanted to. Mary gardened because she had to. If deer trampled her corn or raccoons raided her apple trees, it could be a matter of life or death for her family. When it happened to me, I just got mad and bought corn and apples at the supermarket.

When the deer and raccoons decided to eat all the plants in my garden, I raised the white flag of surrender and stopped gardening. Mary didn’t have the luxury of stopping. In fact, she probably didn’t have the luxury of stopping for a single day of her life. She could never stop working hard or worrying about her family.

My heart breaks to think of her on her death bed in March of 1781, writing her will, and wondering what would become of her orphaned children.

When I get to Heaven, I will sit down with Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother Mary Morrison and hear all about her life and her garden.

Grandmother, you’re my hero!

Until my next blog post

Thank you, Rae, of “Rae’s Reads and Reviews Blog” for this month’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts. I learned about her prompts in her January 8, 2019 blog post:  https://educatednegra.blog/2019/01/08/two-for-tuesday-prompts/comment-page-1/#comment-1646.

I look forward to seeing what Rae has in store for us in April. If you’d like to participate, visit her blog and tell her you’re interested.

Let’s continue the conversation

In the comments section below, tell me about one or two of your unsung female heroes.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today.

Janet

Things I Miss and Things I Don’t

I am fortunate to once again live where I grew up. Literally. I live in the house that my parents built when I was six years old. The site is not as rural as it was in 1959, but it’s still considered “country.” I can see two other houses from my house, but I don’t exactly live in a neighborhood as most people define that today. The local landscape is rapidly changing, and there are things from my growing up years that I miss.

I invite you to come with me as I take a walk down memory lane. All the photographs in today’s blog post were taken by me.

Cars

I used to know almost everyone who passed by the house. There was less traffic then, and each make and model of car was more distinctive than today. It was easy to tell a Ford from a Chevrolet.

Bobwhites

For a good part of my life, a covey of quail (also known as Bobwhites because that was their wonderfully-distinctive call:  Bob-White!) nested on the ground near a bed of daffodils and a pale pink rose bush in the front yard. I haven’t seen or heard a quail in probably 10 years. Those daffodils still bloom around the first week in February. The climbing rose bush is no longer there, but my brain can still call up the delicious scent of those roses!

Woodpeckers and Flying Squirrels

I haven’t seen a Red-Headed Woodpecker since I was a teenager. We have Downy Woodpeckers but no Red-Headed ones. I miss them.

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Male Downy Woodpecker on a suet feeder

We’ve seen flying squirrels in the huge old red cedar tree at the south end of the house some years, but not in a long time. I’m afraid they are no longer in our area. One summer our nightly entertainment was sitting on the porch and watching the flying squirrels fly in and out of the feeder in the cedar tree where we put dried ears of corn.

Eastern Bluebirds

Eastern Bluebirds almost became extinct due to chemicals that were being used for agricultural purposes. After the problem was figured out and stopped, the bluebirds made a comeback. They nest in bluebird boxes in our yard every spring and are a joy to see!

Crimson Clover, Daisies, and Queen Anne’s Lace

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Wild Daisy on May 9, 2015.

My uncle used to plant red clover in the field across the road from our house to enrich the soil for other crops planted other years. I loved the way a breeze would gently blow through the crimson clover blossoms in waves. That memory calls to mind “amber waves of grain” from the song, “America the Beautiful.” That field is beautiful today with wild daisies and Queen Anne’s Lace. No doubt, someday, the wild flowers will be replaced with houses.

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Queen Anne’s Lace blossom

Tractors and Cattle

There are several farmers on the road I live on who still grow crops such as winter wheat. They raise beef cattle and goats. Some of the cattle have won blue ribbons at the North Caroline State Fair. These are serious farmers. I like that their tractors pulling various farm implements pass my house daily. I dread the day that I will have to add farm tractors to the list of things I miss.

Air-Conditioning

Lest I become too nostalgic about the 1950s and 1960s, I will also admit that I do not miss the days before air-conditioning. I do not miss those nights when it was so hot, humid, and still that I just lay in bed watching the clock because it was too hot to sleep.

Hoppy Toads and Mollypops

 

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Passion Flower in our garden

I enjoyed having a vegetable garden for many years. Along with a lot of hard (and hot!) work, came brown and bumpy toads we called “hoppy toads,” box turtles, writing spiders, gossamer-winged dragonflies, and wild passion flowers that produced a fruit we call “mollypops.”

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A “Hoppy Toad”

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Eastern Box Turtle in our yard

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A writing spider in our garden

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Dragonfly in our garden

Not having a garden any more means I rarely see a toad, a box turtle, or a writing spider. I haven’t seen a passion flower since the last year I had a garden, but now we’re overrun with white-tailed deer, raccoons, skunks, gray squirrels, and rabbits. As their habitats get bulldozed down to make way for more and more houses, animals such as deer are being pushed into our yard.

A raccoon in our yard April 28, 2014.
Raccoon in our yard

Hungry White-Tailed Deer

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Gray Squirrel (with a slightly red tail)

 

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White-Tailed Deer Fawn

One interesting bit of information is that I never saw a deer in our area until I was an adult. Now it’s common to see several grazing in the yard. The deer were the reason we stopped planting a vegetable garden a few years ago. We planted tomatoes, green beans, summer squash, corn, bell peppers, okra, and radishes. The deer ate everything. Well, almost everything. We did get six radishes for all our hard work! Needless to say, that was the last year we tried to have a vegetable garden.

I have truly been blessed to have lived here as a child and now again as an adult. I can’t imagine growing up in a better place! A part of me bemoans the fact that this area’s population is growing so fast, but I’d rather live in a vibrant, growing area than in one that is losing people and becoming a ghost town.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Midnight Cool, by Lydia Peelle and Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.

I’m still working my way through Barbara Kyle’s “Your Path to a Page-Turner Program.” I’ve learned a lot about the art and craft of writing from the first 16 videos and look forward to the remaining seven lessons.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have lots of productive writing time.

Janet