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My grandmother's kerchief

Lead Summary

HCP columnist

I had been putting it off for several weeks, well, perhaps not exactly putting it off. I just could not quite find enough time to get around to actually doing it. But finally the day and the time were right. Four hours stretched out ahead of me. The rain had stopped and the ground was not too wet. It was time to get going.

Greg hauled several square bales of straw up the hill from the barn and set one beside the chicken coop. I hitched the small farm cart to the back of the Ford tractor, threw my pitchfork into the cart and drove up the hill to finally get this job done.

But as I passed by the front of the cabin, something occurred to me. I stopped the tractor right by the cabin’s front steps and with the clutch pushed in, set the shifter to second gear, stepped down hard on the brake pedals until I could feel the emergency brakes set, backed off on the throttle, and turned off the key. I bounded up the steps, opened the front door, and went right over to the side table drawer where, for years, I have kept all of my grandmother’s brightly colored kerchiefs.


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I smiled as I picked up the carefully stored stack of brightly colored cotton squares. It has been over 20 years since she passed away, but the air around me was filled with her being. As I looked into the drawer, I thought it odd that it had never occurred to me to use her kerchiefs until this particular day. 

Certainly, over the past 20 years, I would occasionally open the drawer, and sort through the bright colors and bold patterns, but I would always carefully fold them back up and put them away until another day, but not this time.

I sorted through the familiar pile and finally chose a bright blue kerchief with a white border. I folded the kerchief in half on the angle, so that I had a perfect triangle. As I walked back outside, I tied the long corners at the nape of my neck and pulled the triangle up over my nose.

My grandmother was with me as I parked the tractor so that the wagon was right in front of the pigeon coop door and then, pitchfork in hand, I stepped into the coop. The birds flurried and flapped and flew up to the very top of the coop, and I set to pitching their deep bedding out the coop door and into the wagon. The dust flew and I happily worked as 20 pairs of
eyes looked curiously down, my nose perfectly covered with my grandmother’s kerchief. 

Now my grandmother was always a very proper woman, with the highest fashion sense. I do not ever recall even seeing her in a pair of slacks, but I knew that she was nothing short of proud to see her granddaughter in the midst of flying feathers and pigeon dropping filled hay, breathing safely behind her bright blue kerchief.

I shoveled out the last of the old bedding and then spread out a layer of sweet smelling new straw. I pulled the kerchief down from my nose and went about the business of unloading the wagon and stowing everything back in its proper place in the barn.

Coop cleaning chore finally done, I returned to the cabin and went inside to give my face and hands a good scrubbing.

As I stood at the sink I looked into the mirror and was surprised to see my grandmother looking back at me. The blue kerchief at my neck perfectly complimented the denim cap on my head, and perfectly set off the small turquoise earrings that hung from my ears. It looks as though I am my grandmother’s granddaughter after all.

Christine Tailer is an attorney who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at

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