My Grandma The Story Teller



artha Jane (Jennie) Benton was the greatest story teller I ever knew.  She was my grandmother and she was born August 28, 1866, in or near Rose Bud in White County, Arkansas.   Jennie was the daughter of Manerva Elizabeth McKinney and Jeremiah (Jerry) Rompas Cooper.   She married Willis (Wid) Reason Benton February 13, 1887.


I have many fond memories of visits to my grandparents’ farm.  You could always count on Grandma Benton to grab you and give you a big hug, even with the aroma of her snuff, which I didn’t like much.  She was always happy and full of fun.  When she laughed, she shook all over. 


Another thing I remember about her is that she was really a good cook, which meant a lot to a growing boy.  She also had the best-smelling pie safe and always had something sweet in it, like teacakes, pies and cakes.


When we would visit, there would be a lot of us – 10 kids in our family – and we slept on pallets on the floor.  Or, in the summertime we slept in the dog run, between the kitchen and the living room. 


After supper we would sit and listen to the grownups talk.  Pretty soon Grandma would start telling one of her stories or rhymes.  I don’t know where she got them, only that I loved hearing them.  Some night, she would tell an old spooky story and we kids would go to bed scared.  We’d be noisy and not sleepy.  She would say, “If you kids don’t be quiet and go to sleep, ol’ Rawhide And Bloody Bones is going to come down those stairs and get you!”  Well, I guess you know we covered up our heads and tried to go to sleep real fast.


I memorized my favorite rhyme that Grandma recited and still remember it today.  I kept asking my Mom, who knew it also, to repeat it until I learned it all, and that took a lot of repeating.  Here it is:


            Last Monday mornin’, as the creek was wide and deep,

            I hopped on the old gray goose and galloped across.

            Got on the other side, news popped into my mind,

            Seventeen partridges pullin’ a plow and the foremost one behind.

            Ol’ Molly Cottontail sittin’ in the wheat patch,

            She winked at me; I bowed at her,

            Ax in her hand, hammer on her shoulder.

            Away to the gum stump, count one, two, three,

            And my ol’ Mom is kind and willin’ to the sake.

            Every time ______________ passed the door,

            She’d twist him/her off a cake.

            The plum she put in that cake was bigger than my two thumbs.

            Great bowl of buttermilk, great bowl of cheese,

            And that’s what cured ________________’s oldest disease.

(Whoever you are telling this rhyme to, put his or her name in the blanks.)  Here’s another short one that she told around the dinner table:

            This family was sitting around the table, just having finished supper.

            There was an old woman visiting them who was hard of hearing.

            The man of the house pushed his chair back and said, “I’ve et sufficient.”

            The old woman said (holding her hand behind her ear), “Say you went fishin’?”

            The man answered, “No, I said, ‘I’ve had plenty.’”

            Old woman: “Say you caught 20?”

            The man said, under his breath, “Poor ol’ soul.”

            Old woman:  “Say you broke your pole?”

I’m sure my Grandma could go on and on with this one but that’s all I remember.  All the stories and rhymes she told were said in front of the children as well as the grownups, like the following:



            I was traveling on the train here a while back and as it happened, I was sitting across from this man who was sitting between his two children.  He would reach over and slap one and then slap the other.  This went on for some time and the children were upset and crying.  Finally, I had stood it as long as I could and said, “Mister, would you mind telling me why you are so cruel to your children?”  After a short pause he said, “Well, lady, I’ll tell you.  My daughter is in yonder coach, giving birth to an illegitimate baby, and this one here has chewed up his ticket, and this one has soiled his britches, and I’m on the wrong train!”


Every year Grandma raised turkeys to sell at Thanksgiving.  This was the source of her Christmas money.  She would let us kids help her feed them, which was a big treat.  They roosted in a big tree in the side yard, where the pen was located.  


Grandma died in 1948 and Grandpa in 1952. They rest in Hart Cemetery in White County.  I wish I could remember more of her stories but I guess I was too busy playing and having fun.  Those were great times for the young and young at heart.  There was always plenty to eat, as Grandpa was a good farmer and always had a big garden and milk cows, pigs and chickens.  And Grandma made it memorable for me.       

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