Contributed by Julie Schossow and produced by Susan Stafford and Jude Glad.

Cora Pickering Cordell

by Julie Schossow

Cora Pickering Cordell     My grandmother Cora. A tall woman, strong in mind, body and spirit. A widow for almost 30 years. She roofed her house by herself when she was in her 60's. She had a very green thumb and could grow anything she stuck in the ground. She was raised as a Quaker, on a Woodson County, Kansas farm with many brothers and sisters. As a child, she was quite a tomboy, and she was always getting into trouble for spoiling her dresses as she climbed the fruit trees. Not a very lady-like thing or a young girl of that time! She was always very hospitable and was very giving although she did not have a lot herself. She taught in many Woodson County, Kansas schools and as she grew old she always had a story to share.

     I spent many weekends with Cora growing up, and lived next door to her after I was first married. My interest in genealogy stems from those beautiful stories she told of days gone by and I found out later that she had shared some secrets that she never shared with any one else before. I was always eager to hear more of her stories, asking questions about her family and life on the farm. Even as a child, I yearned to live during those times and feel that my love for antiques, and the history behind them, reflects this.

     When I was growing up, Cora could make anything for me. She made the most wonderful doll houses for me to play with from small match boxes, including handkerchief babies and paper dolls she had cut for me. I loved to go fishing with her in the birdbath that was in the backyard. I caught the most glorious aluminum fish with my bamboo fishing pole and paper-clip fishhook. My sisters and I would often dress up in her old hats and shoes and go shopping in a wonderful old country store (her garage). The shelves were always full of the most amazing old books of all kinds, lots of canned fruits, and empty canned goods. I particularly liked the gooseberries, and minced meat was my favourite. An old railroad lantern hung from above and there were several wooden kegs, and washboards as well. I had always longed for a horse and my Cora of course would make that dream come true the best she could: she made me a horse from her prize peach tree in the backyard. It had the most beautiful particle board face, with a rope mane, a blue satin saddle only made for a proper lady, and a very long tail that was made from knotted nylons. I sat on that horse on every visit and would ride for hours off into the sunset shooting a toy gun that my father had carved from wood when he was a boy.

     My grandmother Cora would make me the best Bisquick cupcakes with chocolate frosting and would pop popcorn with bacon grease. Quite a different taste! I had to stand on top of the railroad stool to reach the top of the counter. I often would pick up red and white fallen mulberries from the grass and we would wash them and sprinkle them with sugar. Yum, they were so good, and milk toast always made a sick tummy feel better!

     She seemed to always keep me busy and we spent many hours putting together jigsaw puzzles of square dancers, quilting bees, and ice cream socials. She also taught me how to play Gin Rummy. My hands were so small I couldn't hold all of my cards, so I would run back and forth between hands to check my cards laying on the kitchen table, and she was always so patient. She also taught me how to crochet a chain that I would unravel only to start it again. I loved to watch her piece a quilt together, and sew on her treadle sewing machine. She also enjoyed making braided rugs. Another of my favorite pastimes was to string button necklaces and bracelets from the many brightly colored buttons she kept in a large old cookie tin.

     I would always wake in the morning just at sunrise hearing Indians shouting loudly and cowboys shooting their guns from the television. I don't know if it was loud because my grandmother was hard of hearing or because she was ready for company to start off her day. Breakfast was always a treat, eating along with the fairies that were always having tea in her avocado tree right outside the back door. Funny how the fairies' light was always shining from the top of the tree at the same time the kitchen light was on!

     My grandmother Cora passed away after a very long life of 92 years, and she never lost her sense of humor. Not a day goes by that I do not miss her, and she will never be forgotten.

Cora Cordell's Photographs

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