Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Moist clay from Onondaga Cave suggested a new lifetime project

I remembered that Ella Victoria Dobbs, university art instructor and author of books on arts and crafts, found beautiful white clay on our farm. She tested it and found its "firing time." I located a big book with a half-page about cleaning and firing natural clay. Soon I was forming little clay figures with the lovely white clay that was exposed when the highway department changed our driveway entrance.

When family and friends quit laughing at my first attempts, I began a series of people trying to revive people brought out of water, apparently drowned. I gave one to my ex-lifesaving instructor, and she was thrilled to display it on her desk. Her enthusiasm was the boost I needed. Local historians told of the Boone brothers, who blazed a trail west through this area, so I began to call my clay people "The Little People of the Boone’s Lick Trail." Someone advised, "Name each one and number it so you’ll know which ones your customers liked best."

Now, many years later, I have a list of many names and numbers of Little People of the Boone’s Lick Trail of the past. "Joe" was a beekeeper; his father was a professor in related subjects. Hattie made soup in a big iron kettle in the backyard. Lillian helped Mom learn to make soap with scraps of pork fat and Mary War Lye. We had to walk to visit Bess, and she met us at her spring and gave us cool drinking water from that place, where a small green frog lived. Phoebe gathered goose eggs from the weeds while the goose watched. I represented many more friends and relatives and numbered and sold them.

In about 1918, Mom was the volunteer pianist at Olivet Church, and I went along to every event. There was no other person to play the pump organ or piano. Years later, I made Mom in clay and a large sculpture of men dragging huge logs through mud to build Olivet Church.

A story of Columbia’s hospitality to newcomer pioneer families was frequently repeated in the spring. When word reached the business section that wagons were approaching Columbia, residents harnessed their teams and went to help newcomers get up the East Broadway hill. "Springs" of water made the hill a "loblolly," and wagons had to be partially unloaded to be pulled to the top. My 50-inch sculpture of that is in Boone Hospital Center’s main lobby. A similar piece is displayed at the Boone County Historical Society.

Pottery on the wheel required more workspace and a larger kiln. It also imitated various ways pottery was made in early days. My husband, son and son-in-law built a potter’s wheel and cleared a garage to make space. Much later, they and professional masons built a big outdoor wood-burning kiln and helped a crew of friends fire many of my wheel-thrown pots. Then time marched on!

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