The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild
Published 9:40 am Thursday, February 3, 2022
By Gaye Hoots
A few days ago, our community lost a beautiful, smiling face of a gracious 94-year-old, Mrs. Minnie Riddle Cornatzer. She was the wife of Ab Cornatzer and mother to Billy and Stacey. This family had been a part of our lives since we were kids. Mrs. Della, the family’s matriarch, lived on a farm on Baltimore Road. My dad had a business arrangement with her sons Ab and Seabon. We grew tobacco together, and they raised dairy and beef cows and did a little horse-trading.
Mrs. Della had four sons and two daughters. Betty and Seabon lived with her when I first remember them. The others were married and lived on Baltimore Rd. near her. Guy, the oldest, had daughters close to our age, and Patti Chaffin had kids close to our age. Billy and Stacey were younger but still a part of the gang. They were a loud, lively, fun-loving family, and I enjoyed all the time we spent together working in tobacco and other farm activities.
Minnie is the last of her generation. She always had a smile for everyone, and I never saw her display any temper. One memory that I have is of her bringing my mama home and starting a fit of giggling that she could not curb. Mama said Minnie had spotted Dad’s boxer shorts hanging on the clothesline. Dad was a large man, and the sight of those boxers flapping in the breeze was too much for Minnie. Mama folded his shorts in half when she hung them to dry from that day forward.
The last I saw Minnie and Ab together was shortly before Ab died. I visited, and Minnie took me out to a heated shed where Ab was in his recliner. We talked about old times and shared a few favorite stories. I remember seeing Ab, Seabon, and my dad wrestle like kids playing, and they often played jokes or told stories about each other.
The Cornatzers had a roping ring on their farm by the time I was a teenager, and they held horse shows and roping events free to the community. When I was 16, Dad bought a new family car, and the day it arrived with two sets of keys, I put them both in my purse and drove Mom, Faye, and Charles Markland to one of the shows. A cowboy there offered to let me ride his beautiful Palomino horse, so I threw my purse on the hood of a car and mounted. When I brought the horse back, the car and my purse were gone, along with the keys. No one ever let me forget that.
Reynolds Tobacco bought a large part of the Cornatzer farm and built a plant there. The property now belongs to Ashley Furniture. I remember the excitement of the negotiations and the final sale the family made. Mrs. Della and Betty built a new home on Baltimore, and so did Seabon. He later built a larger one when he married, but all the family stayed on Baltimore Rd.
The last time I saw Minnie, she was about 90 and still as pretty as ever with her friendly smile. I sat beside her at a bridal shower for Judy Howard’s granddaughter Kloi. I promised to come to see her and thought of her many times as I drove by her home, but I always had a time frame I had committed to and thought next time.
Minnie’s niece Patricia posted a picture on Facebook of Minnie with her signature smile when she died. I believe she is the last of the set of friends from my parent’s generation. Mrs. Della’s grandchildren have the same friendly, loving traits their parents had, which is a blessing.
By Julie Terry Cartner
Arms flung out wide, the little girl danced in a circle, the melody only in her head, but just as real as if it were being played across speakers. Laughing in sheer joy, she threw her head back, mouth opened wide and felt the gentle brush of snowflakes on her cheeks, brushing against her eyelashes, and, wonder of wonder, melting tantalizingly on her tongue. Snow! As whisper soft and yet as fierce as she had imagined – no, far beyond her wildest imaginings. She danced, she swirled, she played as the crystalline flakes descended on her hair, her head, her shoulders until she looked more like a snow fairy than a flesh and blood girl. Her joy so great, the world blotted away, her sometimes paralyzing shyness only a distant memory.
Living in South Florida for the first nine winters of her life, snow was something she had only read and dreamed about. Then they’d moved back home to their farm on eastern Long Island. Her first winter in the North. She’d waited anxiously for the magic to happen. Dad had said October was possible, but November was more likely, and definitely in December and into the early months of the next year. She would have snow – so much he suggested that she may even tire of it. Not likely, she scoffed mentally, this was a dream come true.
Just yesterday, the teacher had called her from her desk and pointed to the clouds outside the windows. “See there,” he’d said, pointing to the clouds still fairly low on the horizon. Those are snow clouds. They’re not ready yet, but tomorrow, we’ll have snow. Excitement had warred with embarrassment. She hated being the center of attention, the new kid, the one who’d never seen snow. She wanted to act nonchalant, but the fiery burn of her fair, freckled skin blushing made that impossible. She mumbled a thank you and scurried back to her desk, hoping nobody had seen the interaction.
She didn’t know her mother had written a note to the teacher, explaining that she’d never seen snow and hoping he’d let her go outside when the first flakes fell, so the next day, when tiny white flakes began falling from the sky, the teacher had invited her to put on her coat and go outside, to experience this phenomenon for the first time. Shyness warred with desire, and desire won. She’d thanked the teacher, quietly grabbed her coat, and gone outside. She marveled at the wonder even as she shrank back against an alcove in the building, hoping she was hidden from the prying eyes of other students, and hoping against hope that the teacher hadn’t told them where she was.
Slipping back into her classroom soon after, she hung her coat, and with cheeks burning, head down, she slid back into her seat and resumed her work. Inside she was reveling in the memory of the flakes, but outwardly she was fervently praying nobody would laugh at her for her naivety. The day passed, agonizingly slowly, but finally the school day was over, and she could walk home. Snow continued to fall around her, and the ground, once covered in brown grass, was now sparking white. Brutally keeping her emotions locked down, she walked home in the snow like she’d done it for years. Finally entering her kitchen and her waiting mother who truly understood, she exclaimed, “It’s snowing!” Running to her room, she donned play clothes in record time. Pulling her boots and coat on, she ran back outside, finally releasing the iron control over her emotions.
She sang, she danced, she twirled in the snow, humming tunes that only she knew. She caught snowflakes on her tongue, dropped to the ground to make a snow angel, then just lay there, snow falling all around and over her, her joy complete. The almost paralyzing shyness drifted away like the snow on her jacket, and for the first time all day, she could just be in the moment. The snow. Sheer magic. She blocked out the world and let herself relax, let go and experience the delight of her first snow.