Saturday, May 9, 2009

Woman of the Century

Today May 9, marks the 101 birthday of my grandma. To sum it up briefly...she rocks, she's my hero, and I totally want to be like her when I grow up.

Last year I wrote an article about her. I haven't submitted it for publication yet, as I'm not really sure where to submit it to. I've looked through the listing of magazines that accept articles from new freelance writers. So instead, I publish it here. I wasn't really writing it to seek payment, I wrote it because she is truly amazing, unique, and I feel inspiring.

So, here is my article on my grandmother.


By Bonnie Bley

Everyone gathered around Gracie Carlson as she climbed off the back of a motorcycle after a twenty-minute ride. Cameras flashed while she took off her helmet and revealed her smiling face. Her smile showed the lines of time, one hundred years to be exact.

“How was the ride?” shouted an onlooker.

“It was fabulous!” she exclaimed grinning widely.

Every one was amazed she was celebrating her one-hundredth birthday.

Wyoming had only been a state for eighteen years when she was born and through out her life Gracie experienced many life-changing events. Band-Aids, Kool Aid, and X-rays were all invented when she was a child. A postman on a horse who traveled through town once or twice a week, less if the weather was bad delivered mail. Packages were delivered by stagecoach. These were the only forms of communications between towns.

The hospital was a half-day's travel by horse carriage. Gracie was born in her home, just like her older brother and sister. Giving birth in 1908 was not easy. Each birth was a life or death situation for both mother and child. Gracie’s birth was no different. Her mother received no medication for comfort. She did not have a medical staff on stand by in the event of any complication and there was no option for a C-section in case the baby could not be born normally. Gracie’s birth was a success as she and her mother both survived.

Gracie was about five years old when she learned to swim. Some of the older kids in town tried to teach her in the only place available. The Greybull River had a current strong enough to sweep her away. She was small and courageous, but tried her best. The river currents were too strong for her tiny frame. The event was much like teaching a house cat to swim. The river pulled her under and she swallowed a lot of the water. She dragged herself out soaking wet from head to toe, shook herself off, and decided that moment to never swim again.

Instead of attending school in a one-room country schoolhouse, Gracie and her siblings were sent to private Catholic boarding schools. Her mother couldn't help manage the ranch with three kids underfoot at home. Gracie was ten years old, when her parents put her on a train to join her sister at the boarding school where she would live with other girls and the nuns who ran it. Her brother did not attend the same school as his sister’s; he attended a boy’s school in another state that was run by priests.

Gracie had her tonsils removed during school at around age eleven. The procedure was done in a chair in the school infirmary. She did not receive any pain medicine or anesthesia. The doctor told her to open her mouth wide and hold very still. Doing as she was told, he stuck a long, cold, steel instrument with a wire loop down her throat and yanked out her tonsils. She received no sympathy, and was sent right back to class with instructions not to cry. The school placed her on a soup diet for one week.

Her school years were spent at boarding school, and she was allowed home during summer months to see her parents and reunite with her brother, cousins, and friends at the ranch. She continued this life style until she graduated in the 1926.

Gracie had three career choices; to become a teacher, a housewife, or a nun. Her career was chosen for her, and she was sent to college, which was called “Normal School” to become a teacher, but she wanted to go back to the ranch and be a housewife and be near her parents.

Gracie graduated from “Normal School” in 1928, and moved home to help tend to her father. Her mother passed away and her father needed Gracie’s help at the ranch. In 1930, she settled down, became a wife, and soon a mother. She was married the same year that Breck Shampoo and chocolate chips were invented. Her children were born during of the Great Depression. She and her husband ranched close to both their families to make it through the turbulent era.

When her children were grown Gracie broke the mold of the typical jobs a woman held and owned her own business. Her little business thrived along with other businesses that were owned by men. Later she dissolved her business and went to work as a check station game warden. Her duty was to make sure the hunters and fishermen obeyed the laws and counted their bounty. She was not afraid to give tickets to law-breakers, and was very good at her job.

Gracie has been a large voice in her community. To this day, she is still an active member of St. Therese Catholic Church. One of her greatest accomplishments was obtaining funding to open a museum in the late 1970s. The Lions Club, Economic Development Alliance, and Friends of the Library are just a few of the clubs she played a key role in. She has organized several group events ranging from cowboys to motorcyclists. The organized events over the decades have brought many new tourists to town. The motorcyclist group even named a shoot out after her.

Gracie’s life has been like no other. She is an inspiration to women of all ages and is admired and respected by all who meet her. One month before her one-hundreth birthday, her driver’s license was renewed. She still owns her own home and travels the states with her seventy-two old daughter. The mother-daughter duo plans at least one big trip a year, including visits to family from Oregon, California, and Minnesota.

“Live life to the fullest and enjoy chocolate,” Gracie Carlson says, “you just neverknow how long you will live in this world.”

Sidenote: She also has a cocktail almost every day at 5 pm. Cheers Grandma! I'll definitely be drinking a cocktail at 5:00 in your honor!
Hoping you have a great birthday and many more to come. Hoping you have some nice days to enjoy a motorcycle ride or two as well. Happy, Happy, Happy 101 birthday.

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