Hattie McCoy

Hatie’s story is a departure from those you see here. She entered heaven decades ago. Grandma Hatie was an intriguing lady. She and Grandpa lived with us during his illness, and she lived with us much of her widowed life, which was probably 30 years. During the years I knew her, I listened to stories about her life in rural Kentucky, her thoughts on the Hatfields, her suiters, as she called them, and how she taught herself Algebra and Geometry. We never really talked of her widowhood. I was a young mother when she died, and probably consumed with parenting my little brood rather than considering how her life changed when she lost Grandpa.

Her greatest gift for me (and the rest of us) was not discovered until after her death at age 97. She left a sturdy suitcase packed with a few cotton dresses and talcum powder. These words were crowded efficiently onto three small sheets of paper.


The Abundant Life of Hatie McCoy

Some things I have done and helped to do:
All kinds of farm work, including plowing, hoeing, ditching, grubbing, mowing, binding, and cutting grain by hand; stacking wheat, oats, and hay; threshing by hand with a flail made of hickory bushes, breaking and training young horses and mules, feeding and taking care of farm animals, blacksmithing and shoeing horses and mules’ clearing new ground and burning off same, sawing down trees and helping split them into rails, posts, boards, and shingles, making spokes and ax handles, hauling rails and building miles of rail, and other kinds of fences including stone fence; digging post holes, making gates, bars, doors, swing, splitting, and hauling wood; making barrels, wagons and wagon beds; building dry kilns of stone, and drying pears, apples, and peaches on same; laying foundations, erecting and moving buildings; painting, digging cellars, carpentering, making maple sugar and syrup, also sorghum, stripping, cutting, and hauling the cane to the mill.

Taking wool to the carder and spinning the rolls into yarn, weaving, filling quills and shuttles, winding and reeling the yarn into hanks and skeins; cutting carpet rags and helping to warp and put the carpet chain through the sleys’ braiding and knitting rugs, stockings, socks, and mittens; crocheting, embroidering, tailoring, knitting lace, and doing all kinds of sewing including millinery; mending shoes. Taking wheat and corn to mill on horseback, making soap and lye hominy, butchering, rendering lard, curing and canning meat and making sausage, smoking the mat after curing, with hickory chips and corncobs.

Grafting and setting out trees, general orchard work, making cider and vinegar, apple and peach butter, jams, preserves canning, making jellies, all kinds of pickles, relishes, sauces;gathered wild fruits, berries, ginseng, wintergreen, yellow root, and herbs. Raising poultry;beekeeping, assistant P.M. clerk in a department store, housework, nursing the sick and washing and dressing the dead. Hunted and trapped wild animals and game birds.

Gathered nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, butternuts, chestnuts, chinquapins, hickory nuts, and beechnuts. Market gardened and taken many ribbons and prizes at “fairs” and “farmer’s institutes’ on fresh and canned fruits and vegetables, pickles, jams, butters, and relishes. Made comforts, pieced and quilted quilts, picked ducks and geese and made a featherbed and eight pillows.

I have cooked with hot coals on the hearthstone with skillet and lid, on woodstove, coals stove, gas and electricity. Made and studied by the light of tallow candles, oil lamps, and electric lights. Rode on horses, mules, and steers;in sleds, wagons, buggies, carts, sleights, carriages, buses, street cars, trackless trolleys, autos, areo trolley cars and railroad trains (locals, freights, and passenger) drawn by coal, oil, and diesel engines; in rowboats, a ship on Lake Michigan and an ocean liner on the Atlantic.


stacks_image_161What continues to impress me is not the scope of her life experiences, or her willingness for adventure in order to ‘live this list,’ but rather that she called it, ‘The Abundant Life of Hatie McCoy.’

Much in her list we would simply say was grueling labor–she saw it differently.

One senses she was as fully alive on that horse carrying grain to market as on an ocean liner. And I don’t know how she managed that as she rarely had extra dollars. We saw a widow living frugally. Her perspective was full out adventure.

I sense that Grandma Hatie was much more than met the eye. And that, no doubt, sustained her through her life which was often hard, her marriage, and her years of widowhood as well.

Psalm 49 reminds us to not be overawed when folks grow rich with splendid houses, because none of us take anything with us when we die. Indeed Grandma Hatie gave us an amazing gift: an example that abundance is not in our collection of stuff, whether riches or titles. But rather in taking on the tasks of life seeing them all as worth our investment. Abundant living indeed.