Granny's Rain
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Granny's Rain Water

Raining on the Havard Farm in Huffman, Texas

Few if any of you reading this will know about or remember the rain barrel sitting under the valley of Grandma Ida Havard's tin roof in Huffman Texas.

How I used to enjoy the rain out on the farm!  I can see myself sitting in the living room where grandpa had his rocker with the rawhide leather seat. The rain would start its menacing tattoo on the tin roof and it resounded throughout the house. I do not remember a normal drop-ceiling in the house, but I can't imagine why there would not be one to keep out the frigid air of the occasional November "Blue Norther". From the sound of the rain on the roof, it seemed to me that the tin was sitting right above my head. And I was amazed that I somehow never got wet sitting just under that tin roof, the rain was that ominous.

Before long the rain bore down thunderously on the corrugated tin, spewing torrents onto the thirsty earth, and especially into that rain barrel.


The Rain Barrel

I clearly remember going out to look at the barrel after the summer rain stopped. I reached my finger into it and watched the little ringlet waves ripple across the surface, and then I bravely brought my finger to my lips to sample a drop. I was surprised that it tasted soft and sweet, not like the squeaky-clean well-water we drew out by hand from the cast-iron pump.

I thought then how brave I was to reach into that barrel because I was not tall enough to see into its depths, and God only knew what creatures lurked there. I had once seen a big bullfrog poking its eyes and nose out of the water and could not imagine why Grandma allowed him in there. The frog liked it, so it must have been a pretty good hangout for living things.

And, there was, after all, that perpetual green slimy algae around the rim, and the water was touching it. I felt brave to risk tasting whatever poison might have leeched into the water from that slime, and later I thought several times about when or whether I would get creepy stomach sickness from it. But that never happened, so I guess the water was okay. And I also remember envying that frog and how at home he must have felt with the velveteen green algae made by God just to grace the entrance to his domain, and the soft rainwater depths to seek when a danger like Grandma came around.

I never knew what happened to the big green bullfrog, but I thought about his slippery green bigness sometimes when I was alone in the darkness of my bed at home in Houston, and how Grandma probably never knew he was lurking in there out of her reach at the bottom of the rain barrel. He might still be there if Grandpa hadn't died, and if Grandma hadn't sold the farm and left to live with my aunts and uncles, and if the old farmhouse hadn't been torn down and its roof carted off to some junk heap in the pine and oak forest around the farm. What good was a rain barrel without the valley of a tin roof to keep it full from the summer rain?


Grandma Washing Her Silver Hair

But before all that, luck was with me on the day I watched grandma dip her porcelain pitcher into the barrel, carry a slog of that dangerously delicious rain water over to the gallery (the porch), and pour it into a wash basin. She sloshed some onto her hair and built up a lather with pure soap she had made herself, and scrubbed her long gray hair silky clean. I can picture her stooped forward, gathering her hair over her head as though it were a rope, and pulling her hands down that silver rope to squeeze all the suds out of it and onto the ground in front of her. I can see her pick up the pitcher and gasp slightly as she poured the cold rain barrel water onto her hair to flood the remaining suds away.

I was a little in awe of her silver hair, and it even seemed magical to me. Grandma was, in fact VERY magical in the kitchen, making the most delicious food. And she had always been gentle with me. I thought that I would like to pour that rinse water on her head myself, and feel the wetness of her silver hair with my own hands, and maybe somehow become imbued her magic. But I was not bold enough to approach her with the question.

I remember seeing her reach for a towel and roughing her hair up a little as she dried it, then swack the screen door as she went back inside to fetch her comb. When she returned, I watched in fascination as she ran the comb through that sliver, and letting it dry in the sun as she did so. After half an hour of that ritual, her hair shone with a radiance in the sunshine that really did make me think it might be made of some special kind of silver. I remember her picking me up and hugging me so that my face was buried in her hair right at her shoulder, and oh, that smell! Clear, clean, full, and sumptuous it was, and made me want to take hold of it. But I didn't dare.


Rewarding Memory for Being Alive

She put me down and wound her hair into some kind of bun, then pinned it in place on the back of her head. I felt lucky and special to have seen Grandma's hair, freshly washed in rain water, dried in the hot Texas sun, and kissed to an earthy fragrance by a gentle summer breeze on that Huffman farm 30 miles north of Houston. I only witnessed it one time, and the years gone by have muddled my recollection some. But the feeling of it was unforgettable, and a reward in and of itself for my being alive.