musical lives, remembered in story & sound

Blanche Coldiron -- 6. The Young Family

Blanche returned to the family farm. Around the age of 19, married Earl Coldiron, an outgoing, confident man who’d grown up on a neighboring farm, right before he left to fight in WWII. After he’d left, she had their first daughter, Ann Carolyn.

Upon his safe return, from the war, she moved up to Heathen Ridge with him, in Grant County. It’s a hilly region, between Cincinnati and Lexington, where the young couple made their home, near Earl’s kin. Carolyn, at the age of two, was struck with a severe case of the measles, which worsened, to a rare case of encephalitis, a condition which left Carolyn incapacitated and comatose, needing around the clock care. The doctors didn’t expect her to live very long.
 
But she did, under Blanche’s tender care. It was a busy life for the young family, with Carolyn, and then two other children, Jim and Sandy. Earl sometimes worked three jobs at a time to support the family, while Blanche aided Carolyn, who needed almost constant care, a child who never was able to bathe, use the bathroom, eat, or move herself. But it was not a tragic life as her family described it.  It was what Blanche was meant to do.
 
Blanche’s sister Irene, noting that “Blanche always was gifted,” remembered a moment from Blanche’s childhood. ”We was coming from church. It was right down the ridge from where I live know, was where we lived at the time. And, uh, we had to duck through the woods, the way we came from church to our house, and she found this little red, this little bird, I guess it had fallen out of the nest. And, um, she brought that little tiny bird home… and raised it. And I don’t remember how she fed it, probably with a dropper, but, she raised it… it lived to make a big bird, and that bird would go out in the woods. We called it birdie, and we’d go outside, and call, birdie, and it would come and land on your shoulders. And if that had been me, it would have died the first week… but, I think she was just gifted for a purpose, because she had this daughter that was an invalid, and she took such good care [of her].”
 
One time, as a child, Jim remembered a moment, when he asked his mother about Carolyn, wondering why it was her lot to be that way, why it was his mother’s to take care of her. “I says, ‘Mom… I don’t understand… I had prayed every day… for Carolyn to be normal. Why won’t God answer my prayer, mom?’ And she got upset with me. She said, ‘Son, don’t you ever question… the Lord’s work, ever…. The Lord has everything planned… so we may never know it in this lifetime what the reason is.’”
 
A student of hers, Brandon Godman said that “Above all, Blanche was a family woman. Her family, next to her belief in God, came first in her life. She spent years caring for her handicapped daughter, father-in-law and eventually her husband. I never once heard an ounce of regret leave her lips.”
 
Carolyn lived to be 51, bathed, fed, cared for each day, by her mother.
 
She was a member of the Sherman Church of Christ, and raised her children with faith. “Mom had a lot of faith,” Sandy said. “She raised us both very strict, and to be religious,” Jim said. “And we said our little prayers at bedtime. You know, I didn’t kneel on the bed, or nothing like that, but I would lay down on the bed, and I would say my little solemn prayer, every night. And I would sing them during the day.” The other boys thought there was something wrong with him, cause he never swore. “Well,” responded Sandy, “It was the way our mother was raised.” It was the way she was raised, they said, too.
 
Jim and Sandy remembered a fearless, sharp-shooting mother. “She had grit, and she didn’t care to dive in, whatever had to be done,” said Jim.
 
She kept guns all her life, a high standard pistol, loaded, in the drawer next to her bed. She kept a knife by the door. Saying, nobody’s going to break the door down on her. “She thought, at 80 years old, with [just] that knife, she could keep a man from coming in on her… she was gritty,” Jim said. “She was Annie Oakley. You didn’t know that did ya,” Sandy said.
 
Her aim was sure. She killed a snake with a rock thrown from a long distance, she shot a squirrel out of a tree, her children told me. She went after a group of starlings with her shotgun; they had been after their fruit trees. Shot them right off a post they landed on. Same post her husband had been hanging a power cord, destroying the starlings and the cord. “We never did get to replace the cord,” said Jim, “but she got rid of that cherry thief, anyway.”
 
They raised hogs at their farm, at times. Jim, remembered: “The hogs would crowd you, some of them would even bite you. And dad said, ‘Blanche don’t let that hog run over you, don’t let it get by you.’ And she says, ‘Okay, what do you want me to do?’ He said, ‘hit it between the eyes.’ She had a little thin stick.” And, Jim remembered, she hit it. Hard. “Dad thought she killed the hog. Knocked that hog out with one lick, that’s how accurate she was. And speaking of accuracy, when she went to the fair, you had to have someone carry the teddy bears. She could take a softball, or any kind of throwing things—“
 
She’d go fishing with her children; they remembered, laughing, one incident, at the pond, with Jim’s wife, Pat, come along. Their fish were fluttering; a snake, it turns out, was eating at their tails, in the water. Blanche, Sandy remembered, “She says, ‘Now when I pull those fish up, she says, I’m gonna take this forked stick and I’m gonna catch that snake, on there,’ and she says, ‘you cut its head off.”
 
“And they did,” Jim chimed in.
 
Pat, Jim’s wife, afraid of snakes, took off running. “By the time they got the snake’s head cut off, Pat was out of sight.” The two siblings laughed.