Wash Day and Other Memories of Martha Loretta Cranford Rawls

by Cyd Rawls


My Great Grandmother was Martha Loretta (Retta) Cranford Rawls. Her father was Wesley I. Cranford her mother Martha Jane Spiva (Spivey)Cranford. Retta's mother was a midwife and a "doctor" that is the term Retta used to describe her mother. I knew my great grandmother well, she died when I was 20 and pregnant with my first baby in 1979, My only regret is that she never got to see her gggrandson. I stayed with Retta a lot in her last year as she had broken her hip and was recovering. Up until this point she was still living alone and getting on fine. She was sharp whitted, proper and very religious. Even at the age of 98 she showed a lot of spunk and determination.
Every Morning she had me bring her an 12oz glass of hot water with 1/2 a squeezed lemon in it, skin and all. She would drink this 1 hour before eating and said it helped keep her kidney's and digestive track working and suggested I start doing it now to keep myself healthy. Next she would have plain oatmeal .. no sugar, no milk, no raisins...... (yuck). She though that people ate way to rich and a plain diet kept her healthy.. She did live to 98 so maybe there is something to that! But YUCK! Anyway, as the day would wind on she would reminisce of her childhood and the things her mother had taught her. She told me of the many uses for Mustard plasters, how to apply them, how they made yours and the patient's eyes water and took off layers of skin when removed, but it cured the fever and that was the most important thing. Willow bark and recipe tea was also used to reduce headache, fever and promote healing. Retta was a strong advocate on enemas. It seemed like that was the "cure all" for what ailed you (my personal opinion is that you would quit complaining so you didn't get one!) The one remedy that has always amazed me was her remedy for an untimely pregnancy. She counseled me not to take the advice lightly and to only use it when you thought something might be terribly wrong with the child or it would kill the mother to continue with the pregnancy.
You were supposed to crush up parsley and make a wad out of it and put it up on your cervex then drink a strog cup of rosehip tea every hour for 3 days. I later asked my doctor if that would have worked he said it might have.. seems the parley has an enzyme that thins the uterine wall and the rose hips are full of vitamin C that can deform the fetus and kill it. Amazing how they figured things out!

She told me of migrating from Hot Springs Arkansas in a covered wagon, how she had my grandpa on the way and didn't get her tearing repaired for 2 years, my grandfather was 14lbs.,until they reached Arizona. I'm still not sure exactly where my grandfather was born..... Somewhere along the way. It seems they stopped in Oklahoma for a year or so and grew a crop but found the land infertile and unforgiving so they moved on to Arizona.
The funniest story was of her wash day. "It seems that when you get the fire going for the laundry and stand over that scrub board and tub for hours at a time, you tend to work up a pretty big thirst. And it also seems that the coolest thing in the root seller to quench that mighty thirst were the kegs of homemade beer. There was one catch though, If your thirst is a little too strong...... you don't get all the laundry done! And that just won't do.....The solution ..... don't make any more beer. The men don't need it anyway. Just makes them lazy and nasty!"
I learned so much from this wonderful lady. Her strength of character and passion for life has helped me many times in my life. If not just to understand and know that if she could survive and remain inspired by life under the conditions she lived under... I most certainly could!


From My Cousin Jeanne,

This is your cousin Jeanne in the great northwest. I was just remembering some of the stories gramma told me.

She told me how when she was a little girl she had a terrible eye afliction that almost blinded her and that her Mom finally agreed to call a Dr. He gave her drops of some kind and eventually she recovered. Apparently she came close to being blind or nearly so. She told me about as a young girl she would gather the herbs her Mother used in her role as the local healer. One day as an early teen she was hunting herbs and she climbed over a fence and was bitten by a poisonous spider. She was very sick and lost a big hunk from her thigh. Her mother used some herbal poltice to help her. I think she said this was in Arkansas. I asked her what her mother was like and if she was nice to her. She said her mother was a slight women and had trouble with her lungs and that she worked to hard . Her husband apparently was not in the best of health and alot of the burden was left to her. So in other words no she wasn't very nice. She was worn out. She told me how she kept from getting
pregnant by filling a large geletin capsul with vasiline and salt. This is what she used for a few years until she became pregnant with your grandfather. I think this story was for my benifit because she thought my upbringing left a lot to be desired. LOL She was probably right but in reality I led a pretty tame lifestyle. Never drank, smoked or was much for parties. I did like the boys but hey who is perfect... Anyway back to gramma. She told me about coming out west with the covered wagon and a herd of horses. Grampa Al raised Morgan horses and it would have cost to much to rail them west so they went by wagon. She said she was three months pregnant and riding in the wagon was horrible so she rode thier morgan stallion "Montrose" most of the way out. I asked alot of dumb questions and she answered them all. I asked her what women did about periods when she was young and she laughed and told me. They used rags pinned to thier bloomers and laundered them in boiling water and used them over and over. She said they always put them in between the lines of drying laundry along with all thier underware so no one would see them. To this day when I line dry clothes I put my undies in the middle so noone will see them on the line.

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