Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Genealogy-"Have You Ever Dipped Snuff?"

Grandma Verdi   about 1970

     Verdi Coleman Harper, was my Grandpa Harper's second wife.  His first wife was Manila Hilley Harper. When they were young women, Manila and Verdi were good friends and both had a crush on Grandpa.  But Grandpa asked Manila to be his wife and they were married and had eight children with one dying, Bertha the youngest. It was sixteen years after Grandma Manila died that he decided to marry again, and this time he chose Verdi Coleman who had never married nor had any children. I've often wondered if she felt Grandpa was her soul mate and since she couldn't marry him she decided never to marry.
     I'm not sure when I found out that Grandma Verdi was a second wife. Not that it mattered. She was the only grandmother I ever knew on my Dad's side. Usually you called your grandparents grandma and grandpa, but for some reason, Grandma Verdi was always known as Grandma Verdi, maybe that's what she told us to call her, I really don't know.
     One thing about Grandma Verdi was that she loved to dip snuff. She had it down as an art, cutting herself sassafras brushes, then cutting them to the correct length, about five inches the length of an eye shadow brush.  Then she'd take one and chew on the end for a while, then take it out of her mouth and twirl it in her hand until the end was the perfect brush. When it reached this stage, she'd put it in her mouth while she opened her small tin can of American snuff or maybe it was W. E. Garrett & Sons. Then she'd take her brush and twirl it in the can. Building up the snuff ball on the end, once she had it at the perfect size, she'd pop it into her mouth. Let me tell you, when she needed to spit, she'd place her index and middle finger in a "v" over her mouth and spit. She'd aim and it would go four yards or more!
     In the summers, my brother and I would leave the big city of Rossville, Georgia to stay with Grandpa and Grandma Verdi and get to reacquaint ourselves with our cousins on Sand Mountain. I have such fond memories of those times, except for this one hot summer.  I guess I was between ten and twelve.  It was mid afternoon. Grandma Verdi was sitting on the porch dipping her snuff and several of us kids were watching.  Over the years we'd asked to dip some of her snuff and she'd tell us no, but I guess she got tired of us pestering her. 
     We had to go find our own brushes and go through her ritual of preparing them.  Being novices, getting the brush ready almost made us regret asking.  The green cover breaking off in our mouths, the texture of the twig.  Finally, they were ready.  She held her can out for each of us, telling us to really load that brush up, then stick it in our mouths.  Now, remember, it's a July day in the South, Alabama to be exact. Our hair was wet from sweating, the sun was glaring down, no breeze, just us, the snuff and our stomachs. After a few minutes, the expression, "You look kinda green", fit all of us. Another few minutes and we were sick to our stomachs.  Needless to say, none of us ever pestered her again to dip her snuff. As a matter of fact, it was a while before I could watch her go through her dipping routine.
  In Genealogy, I think it's so important to write down as much family history as possible.  This includes your childhood memories, especially these memories.  Have you started your own family storybook? When you get together with your cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, do you listen to their stories? For your information, write them down. You will treasure them!
Grandpa Harper and Grandma Verdi 1960's
Grandpa, Grandma Verdi, my Aunt Mavis Harper and my 
second cousin Ann Hilley. A picture of when they were younger, 1950's.


A said...

It's nice to think that she'd decided never to marry if she couldn't marry her soulmate :-)

Judy Harper said...

I think so too! Once they married, they went everywhere together! And when he became ill with cancer, she took care of him.

Vicki Valenta said...

I don't think I've ever met anyone else with a grandmother who dipped snuff. Your Grandma Verdi sounds a whole lot like my "Ma."