in her first heaven is a collection of recordings, songs, and stories about women musicians from Kentucky
Blanche Coldiron -- 2. Childhood Mischief
Blanche was born in 1922 in Wolfe County, Kentucky, one of five children. Irene filled me in, stories of her sister as a child: “One thing,” she said, “she was a tomboy. She liked to get out and climb trees. And I couldn’t get to the first limb. But we lived on a farm, and… She’d always make me go with her, and I’d stand at the bottom of the tree and look up at her, as she went up.”
She was a spunky girl; “She would try anything,” said Irene. One particular instance of Blanche’s sense of adventure had crept into family lore, a story told by Irene, and then by Blanche’s children.
Blanche’s oldest brother, ten years her senior, was Ray; she loved and idolized him, constantly following him around and tugging at his shirt tails, earning herself the nickname Yankum. He would take her out for rides in his car. These were the trips that sparked her adventure.
“He never dreamed that she was sitting over here, riding with him and watching what he was doing,” Blanche’s son Jim recounted, Little Blanche, carefully noting how a car was driven. “So one day, he pulled up into the yard, and he parked it and went on in the house, and, directly, heard his car start.” Ray, said Irene, “probably left the key in it, and he heard it start up, and he looked up and Blanche was talking off with it… Course, it was just a country road, up to our house, no traffic on it or anything. And he took out after her.” Running through a shortcut, he caught up with the car. Little Blanche, small hands on the driver’s wheel, stopped. “He opened the door, and got in, and let her go on down the road. “ She drove home, neither saying a word.
Irene’s stories, like most the stories Blanche’s children told, were about a woman who had made them laugh. The Hurt-Coldirons were a merry bunch to begin with, but it seems that Blanche in particular got them smiling. Irene, chuckling, remembered that “my ma always raised a garden. The oldest girl, our sister, would do the housework, and we would go out to help mom make the garden.” One year, Irene remembered, laughing, it was their task to plant a row of onions. “She had a big sack of these little onion seeds… we had a time. When we got tired, we dug a hole and just dumped the whole bag, what was left, down it… Mom never said anything to us. She knew it, because all those onions came up in a bunch.”
Theirs was a homestead, a garden of vegetables, and livestock: Cows for milk, chickens for eggs. “We had this rooster,” Irene remembered. “And he got in trouble… you didn’t want to get Blanche’s temper raised. And that rooster would pass me up, and jump on her… she would throw rocks at it, she would do everything, and one day, we were, you know, dressed up going somewhere. That rooster saw us coming, and it passed me up, and it took after her... Well, I never saw anybody get as mad in my life as she did. She did everything… she threw everything she could get her hands on, that rooster… and she told me, she said, that rooster or me, is going… said I’ll leave if mom don’t get rid of that rooster.” In the end, Irene said, that rooster died, problem gone.