I have already told you Big Grandma didn't get mad, she got even. So this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to you!
Apparently, Big Grandma found out that Grandpa had been helping 'that ole widder woman' (translation: that old widow woman) and she wasn't going to have it. Grandpa had been hauling wood for the woman with his mule. They used the mule and horses for just about everything, even well into the 1950's. [Side note: When my mother moved to Ohio in about 1959, her social studies teacher told them that "back in the old days, people used horses and plows to till the fields." Mom raised her hand and said, "My dad used a horse and plow just last year." The teacher accused her of lying!]
Anyway, Big Grandma told Grandpa that he had better stop helping that woman if he "knowed" what was good for him. He didn't. She caught him doing it again. I am sure she was jealous of the woman, but more importantly (as my mom speculates) she was upset that he was willing to help the woman but not willing to help her with all the work she had to do. I agree too. Sometimes, husbands are more apt to help another in need before helping us at home!
Back to the story: That evening, the mule was making awful noises. Hee-haw, hee-haw, hee-haw! Big Grandma went to the door and hollered out to the yard, "You can hee-haw all you want to 'cause tomorrow you hain't agonna be here!"
The next morning, Grandpa went out to the pen. The mule was dead as a door nail. He came back in the house. "Mammy, you know what happened to the mule? He's died." Grandpa called her "Mammy." Big Grandma denied having anything to do with it, but PAH-LEASE...he HAD to have known she did something!
Arsenic. That's what happened to the mule, my friends. Big Grandma loved that story so much that it even influenced one of her grandchildren years later. This person will remain unnamed as they are still living, but said person didn't like something her husband did. So said person-who-shall-not-be-named waited until the husband was out of town and while doing his laundry had a fantastic idea of revenge come over her. No doubt inspired by the ghost of Big Grandma, person-who-shall-not-be-named took some underwear out to the patch of poison sumac. Some days later, when the husband arrived home and just a day after that, he found himself quite uncomfortable and in the ER!!
Now, Big Grandma wasn't all bad. I will tell you some wonderful stories of her kindness, love, and work ethic that may soften your feelings toward her. My favorite memory of Big Grandma's love is when we were sick. She would baby us something crazy, make us our favorite salty, runny eggs, pet our heads when we had a fever, or hold us on her lap. She smelled like old tobacco...she dipped snuff. Did I already mention that? Ha, ha...yep, she loved her snuff.
One time when I was a kid, I had what she called "trench mouth." It was probably hand, foot, and mouth disease, but whatever it was, I had blisters all over the inside of my mouth. They were so painful that I couldn't eat. The doctor had given us medicine, but nothing was working. I was at her house spending the night and she hollered at me to come in the kitchen. "Let Grandma fix something for you to get rid of those blisters," she said. She reached into her white metal cabinets and pulled out a brown paper bag. Out of the bag, she pulled out a dirty old tree root...at least that is what it looked like to me. "Goldenroot," she said. She cut off a part of the root, washed it, and then wrapped it in a towel. Then, she took a hammer and pounded it into a fine powder. Putting a little warm water into a bowl, she mixed the powder in to make a wash of sorts. She used a clean white cloth and swabbed it all over the inside of my mouth and told me to spit out the excess and not to swallow it. I was thinking, "Does my mom know you are doing this?" But I was too afraid to say that I would not do it or that I didn't trust her! The wash was so bitter and it made me feel like I had cotton mouth. The next morning every blister was completely gone!
Prior to moving to Ohio, one of the ways Big Grandma made money for the family was to search the mountains for herbs and roots with medicinal properties and sell them. She may not have been the most educated in the way of schooling, but she was one of the smartest women I ever met!
Oh by the way, did you know that half chewed chewing tobacco stuffed into the ear canal will cure an ear ache?