Mom's kids were happy campers (by Nancy Russell)

This will be the final "Granny's Notes." Boone County's Granny passed away on July 18, having lived an amazing 96 years. She shared her life through her writing, but I want to share a side of her that is unique: my experience as her daughter.

Granny was the major influence in my life. She was a teacher. She couldn't help herself. Mom was bright and interested in everything that the world had to offer. This love of life and learning led her to share her experiences whenever she could. As a teen, I would roll my eyes when the next life lesson was being given to me. But Mom ignored it; she knew I was listening. 

Mom's mantra, "Just leave the dishes," meant that my brother, Walt, and I lived at a perpetual summer camp. We learned to make plaster casts of animal tracks. We knew which tree was a walnut, and she taught us how to trim the lower branches so they would grow into good lumber trees. We could identify poison ivy, redbud trees, wild onions, edible mushrooms, the call of a red-winged blackbird and even how to smoke woodland grapevine! We knew how to tie knots in rope, swim a beautiful, effective stroke, fish with a safety pin as a hook, make a bag swing, tool leather, pull up wild mustard plants so they wouldn't "take over" a field, walk on homemade stilts and ride our old pony with no bridle or saddle. 

Every summer we took a family vacation, but first we had to work to make the trip money. Mom built -- yes, built -- a small in-ground pool in our side yard and asked her friends to come help her. These women, with the construction know-how of the Warren brothers, dug a hole, laid concrete blocks, sealed and painted the "pool." In exchange for their labor, Mom offered free swimming lessons to their kids. 

That pool was a great idea until the hot Missouri sun brought on the algae. She knew then that we had to have a more sophisticated system. So she got it! The pool was expanded, a filter was installed and the swimming lessons began in earnest. After six weeks of classes, we had money for each of our summer vacations, camping in most of the regions of our nation and Canada. We made biscuits on a stick, hamburger and potato packets, scrambled eggs and ashes, and even cooked the scallops we had helped "drag" off the ocean bottom in Newfoundland. 

My dad was a willing partner in Mom's wild ideas and adventures. Chub was the perfect mate. He loved doing the things she wanted to do, was a hard worker and knew when he had had enough. Then he'd sit in his favorite rocker and read. Sometimes Daddy would suggest the destination for our trips: usually a Civil War battlefield or fort. Mom would dive right in and get the plans made. We dubbed her our trip leader!

Mom's amazing life is impossible to put into 600 words, so I'll take my son Sam's suggestion and list some words that describe Granny: lifelong learner, writer, cyclist, potter and sculptor, traveler, fisherwoman, canoeist, 4-H leader, teacher, mentor, dairyman's daughter, swimmer, church choir alto, lifesaver, athlete, ship-in-a-bottle maker, gardener, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, loyal friend, whittler, collector, farmer, camper, arborist, photographer, bee keeper, freelance writer, author, fiddler, hiker, preservationist, historian and more. 

Most of all, Granny would want you to know that writing this column every week was a labor of love. She appreciated that you wanted to know what she had to say.

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