Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: Grandma is Always Right
My Grandma Heintz was a true matriarch, and we all knew better than to ever challenge her will, even in her declining years. The love, respect and reverence her children and grandchildren shared for her was on display this last weekend as we convened for the Heintz Cousins Reunion at the beautiful Oahe Wings and Walleyes Hunting Lodge just north of Akaska. We cousins, ranging from ages 52 to mid-70s, gathered to share memories of being a Heintz, of sitting at the feet of our parents many years ago, listening to them tell and retell stories of growing up in Harrold in hard times, of people and places that became part of Heintz lore. The few days together accomplished what we had hoped it would, namely to remind us of those special people who shaped our lives in a special little town on the prairie of South Dakota in a special time that we wish we could have back. Danny and Mike Heintz had not seen each other for almost 60 years, but the connection of family could not have been stronger than what they shared for two days.
The conversation led to Grandma many times as we gathered to share memories. Born in 1892 in Clear Lake, she married young, raised nine children and was widowed young, struggled through the Depression and the War, living to the age of 90 before peacefully passing away. She was born in the horse and buggy days and lived to see a man walk on the moon, saw five of her children serve their country during WWII, and made some great dandelion wine. Going to Grandma’s house was always special. Family gathered in her small house, and we cousins sensed early on the importance of family and the love that binds families together by watching our parents care for their mother.
Her later years were spent in Custer, in an apartment close to Aunt Beverly and her family. They checked on her several times a day, and allowed her to remain independent to a great degree. Grandma was not one to accept help easily, especially for day-to-day chores such as dusting and cleaning, so Bev and Herm would find reasons to take Grandma on a short trip and have the apartment and carpets cleaned while they were gone, having everything back in place by the time they returned home, and Grandma would be none the wiser. The plan had always worked smoothly, and Grandma’s sense of independence stayed intact. Except for one time.
A trip to Marion was planned, the carpet cleaners were scheduled, and Grandma was at Bev’s, staying for the night so they could get an early start in the morning. Herm had even gone to Grandma’s apartment and moved the furniture out of the way for the cleaners. That night, Grandma kept insisting she had to go back to her apartment in the morning before they left, and Bev couldn’t talk her out of it. Finally, she told Herm he would have to go back to the apartment in the morning and put all the furniture back in place before they could take Grandma there.
Herm put everything back in place early the following morning, all the while chuckling about how much they were doing to appease and, yes, deceive Grandma. He returned home after manhandling all the furniture back into place, only to be met at the door by Grandma. “Where did you go so early this morning?” she asked. Herm, trying to be casual, said, “ I just went by your apartment.” “Oh, you checked on it? Well, then, I don’t need to go back and do it. Let’s go to Marion.” What could Herm do but shake his head and chuckle, after all Grandma was always right.
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Dad used to tell of his first job when they moved from Marion to Harrold in 1928. He was ten years old, big for his age, and needed to help the family earn some money.…