Sunday, February 13, 2011

Grandma Phoebe

Grandma Phoebe was my Grandpa Jones' last wife. I'm not real sure how many wives he had altogether, more than two I know. One was my father's mother, Minnie, who herself had several marriages; and the last was Phoebe Petty Kinkade. There was at least one wife before Minnie, and he had other children -- aunts and uncles I've never known.

Jim and Phoebe married on November 13, 1947 and stayed together until Grandpa Jones passed away in Cedaredge, Colorado on December 7, 1963 at the age of 76. This was no easy feat. The stories about my grandfather and his temper are legendary. He worked hard, played hard, and drank hard; and he left behind stories of headlights smashed out of cars, ears bitten off of horses, and children wounded by abuse. There was even a shushed mention of a possible homicide in his past.

There were also hundreds of horses broken for riding, multiple "All Around Cowboy" awards, and the mystical trick horse Teddy, his most prized possession. His tombstone reads "His Interest Was Horses," and it was what he was most known for; he was also a cowboy poet who wrote lyrics worthy of Marty Robbins.

His lifestyle and age finally began catching up with him in the early 50s. He was after all nearly 60 by this time. Grandma Phoebe was the lucky recipient of a beat up old cowboy, and she was as good as gold to him. I don't remember much about their time in Mosca, because I was only about two when we got there and little more than three when we left for California. But I do have memories of her in Cedaredge, where they owned a ranch southwest of the center of town and on the side of a mesa, part of the Grand Mesa area.

Phoebe was a typical hardworking rancher's wife, and women like her could be found all over Colorado in those days. She kept the garden, minded the subsistence animals, harvested supper or butchered it, and cooked some grand meals complete with fresh baked bread. She fished and hunted and cleaned her own kill. She opened her heart to the little Jones girls, and was just as much a grandma to us as Grandma Minnie.

In late 1949 or early 1950, Grandpa Jones wrote the following note to my mother, thanking her for addressing her letter to them "Mom and Dad."

Dear kids Don't feel like writing but must Thank You Virginia for starting your letter Dear Mom and Dad and don't know which one of us appreciated it the most. God bless you and I do hope the both of you understand what she means to me especialy(sic) the things she does for me when I cant help myself. Love and best wishes to you both. As ever Dad

My mom used to tell me that in those days Phoebe used the flour bin for time-outs for a mischievous toddler. She told me I used to act up so much that I would just get in the flour bin without being told. I don't remember this. I do remember visiting them in Cedaredge in the late 50s or early 60s when I was 9 or 10. I remember her deftly wringing the neck of a chicken that moments before had been contemplating the gravel in the yard, and tying its legs to the clothesline before she slit its throat.

The last time I heard from Grandma Phoebe was in 1968. I was visiting relatives in the San Luis Valley and couldn't get to Cedaredge to see Phoebe, so I called and talked with her briefly over the phone. It had been many years since we'd had contact; so it was a little strange. Not long after that I got a package in the mail with some books written by Millie Jones Porter who had chronicled the Jones family pioneers of the Texas Panhandle, and dozens of Grandpa's cowboy poems (since lost to another family member), along with a wonderfully sweet note reflecting on their life together. She counted being included in the extended Jones family as one of the richest gifts in her life overall. Me, too.


Laura said...

Very well told Sharon, I am enjoying the stories. I bet getting married and divorced back then, especially running off with someone's spouse was a big thing, which is common now. Of course people are people, it may have been more common than I realize.

Sharon G. Frizzell said...

Laura, it actually wasn't very common in those days, and not even mentioned in polite conversation. For women, especially, getting divorced was scandalous. They became pariahs, and had a tough time finding a place to live or getting a job to support themselves. I can remember, even as late as the 50s, the change in tone of voice and body language when someone would mention that "that woman is a divorcee." There was no hiding the disdain. For my Grandma Minnie, my Dad's mother, it was compounded because his father was somewhat of a rogue and philanderer (until he settled down with Phoebe). As I posted elsewhere, his marriage to dad's mother was a community-wide scandal. She was married with two little boys and teaching Sunday school in Shamrock TX and he was married with children and a prominent church member when the two of them ran off together in the late 20s to settle in Colorado. Dad was born in Aspen in 1930.