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Happy Birthday, Gammy Rose

img034It is my grandmother’s birthday today. Rose Walker Cooper. She was born on July 25, 1895 and was quite as an unusual lady. She was a nurse who worked at Levi Hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas for many years, and was a private nurse for the private practice of one of the hospital doctors by the time I came along. You can’t tell from the photo, but her hair was so bright red it was nearly orange, and she had skin like alabaster. She was a gentle, quiet woman. Of course, she was so quiet because her husband was a complete and total bully.

I didn’t get to see gammy Rose a lot, the Crazy Bitch had me working from the time I was tiny, putting me on the wildest horses she could find – she came very close to getting her wish and having one of them kill me, but it just never quite worked out that well. Although I got all sorts of broken bones, concussions and once got my right arm torn nearly all the way off (over 600 stitches before the doc stopped counting) and the left side of my head ripped off as well. Glad they found my ear, LOL!!!

I think that is the longest I got to stay with my gammy, as she liked to be called, was after that incident. The yelling I heard was no doubt her trying to get the Crazy Bitch to leave me with her and Arch, but that didn’t happen. I did, however, get to stay a few weeks, which was awesome. She was a sweet woman. She was on duty one night when a Quapaw woman was brought into the hospital. The woman was pregnant with twins and died in childbirth. Gammy Rose decided she wanted those babies, a boy and a girl. The Crazy Bitch was the girl, of course. So her loving husband, Arch, bought them for her. Hey, they were just savages, right? Bought and paid for, and brought them home to her, handed them off, and then went back to work. As the Chief of Police he could do things like that. Especially since he also owned businesses with some of the various mafia bosses who called Hot Springs their home away from home.

I really wish that I had of had the opportunity to take down their stories before they died. They would have been fascinating, I have no doubt. His especially, of course, as he was Chief during the period when Scarface, Lucky Luciano, Al Capone, Bugs Moran and Frank Costello were known to vacation in The Spa City. And from my second-hand stories, gramps was quite happily involved with the whole thing. Well, that and burning down black people’s houses, hanging people under overpasses, and generally terrorizing the populace.

Of course, being a nurse at the ‘swanky’ Levi Hospital during the same time period, I have no doubt Rose had stories of her own to tell. I wonder how many shootouts, bar stabbings and other various and sundry Mafia related wounds she was involved in healing?

A nice woman named Constance Peck sent me information that she found on one of the genealogy websites a few years ago, and I was surprised to learn that gammy Rose was married before. I knew that she married Arch when she was 34 – quite a late marriage at that time. However, Ms. Peck pointed out in her documents that Rose was actually married at 17 to a man named Weekly. And she divorced him! Very scandalous!

Through it all, gammy Rose was the only person to ever show me kindness. And I miss her more than I can say. Happy Birthday, Gammy Rose. I miss you.

Review: Maddie’s Choice – Joyce Zeller Highly Recommended!

maddie
Loved the book. And that cover is beautiful!

What do I like the most about this book? Hummm. Maybe it is the setting, the hills of Arkansas, south of Fayetteville? It is gorgeous there. Maybe it is Maddie herself, a gifted New York romance author, suffering from burnout, writer’s block and a bad case of boring boyfriend – who suddenly finds herself half owner of an Arkansas cattle ranch? It could, of course, be the ensemble cast of characters, a mix of quirky, scary, funny, kind, and just plain insane that ramble around the property and it’s environs. Talk about an odd fit – a full on city girl, plopped down amongst the cattle, and trying desperately to understand not only the language (Fetvuhl is “southernese” for Fayetteville) but also the difference between ‘cows’ and ‘cattle’ (there really is a difference, of course!) and what in the world a “Wal-Mart’ could possibly be? I had giggle fits like mad when Ms. Zeller threw in a “language zinger” or two – though Maddie didn’t run across it as much after her first meeting with one of her most touching characters, Fayrene, which was sort of a shame. It is a character-driven novel, beautifully layered and widely ranging.

This is, overall, a gently comic contemporary romance, but I admire and respect Ms. Zeller for writing a book that is much more than a simplistic little novel. Those parts are good, many funny and sweet. The children are heart wrenching, having lost all their family except for a distant and deeply troubled uncle. And Maddie’s relationship with the big, scary Angus bull is hysterical. The part that is absolutely fantastic however, raising the book from a five star romance to a ten-plus star smash hit? The stories within the story – important, heart wrenching stories of poverty and brutality, drugs and ‘cook houses’ and the power of motorcycle gangs in a poverty stricken area. But most of all, what touched me the deepest – the horrors suffered by victims of PTSD, those men and women who return from the mindless, rampant cruelties of war broken and tortured in body, mind, and spirit. Ms. Zeller was in the Army herself, and speaks to the pain of the victims with a breadth of knowledge and a depth of compassion rarely seen in literature. My soul throbbed in sympathy for Gideon, breaking my heart as I watched his torment, his shame, the depth of his agony.  Not overdone, but certainly a strong enough theme to make this book much more than the sum of its parts.

Overall, even if you don’t like “romance” novels, if you are interested in solid writing with an eye to the craft, believable story line, and a variety of themes, this is a highly recommended read. I will absolutely be placing more of Ms. Zeller’s work onto my TBR pile (and somewhere near the top!)

 

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