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Just dropping by ... A tribute to my mom: A woman of faith

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Dairy Published on 07 February 2020

Last October, my mother, Charlotte Ann Despain Crandell, passed away after a prolonged bout of dementia. I have been gathering her history and have found treasures upon treasures of love and faith from this woman.

Her funeral was magnificent. We lined the pews with her handmade quilts – and they spilled over into the church’s fellowship hall, she had so many. The church would not have held them if everyone had displayed her handiwork that she had given them over the years.

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Charlotte married her childhood sweetheart, Harold Jay Crandell. Shortly after they were married, Jay joined the Army to serve in World War II, feeling a duty to his country. Charlotte was pregnant with their first child. Charlotte waited faithfully and patiently back home, keeping herself busy earning enough money to buy a small home.

When Jay returned, they moved into the home she had worked for and purchased by doing laundry for a ranch. That was not an easy task. She had to use the scrub board, wind and solar for drying, and a stove iron to press not only the white shirts but sheets and pillowcases as well.

Jay and Charlotte started their family and the adventures of faith and service that became the hallmark of their lives that lasted 75 years. They had six children: Margaret Ann, Chester, Claudia, me, Bobby and Mary Jane. She never tired of telling stories of their births and the episodes of faith that accompanied them.

We have many memories of coming home to the smell of fresh-baked bread and the taste of the butter and homemade jam on that bread. The jars of peaches, pears and apricots that lined the shelves in the basement. We were in heaven living on beans, hot bread, stews and bottled fruit.

Charlotte was a woman of faith, and prayer was always her answer to every problem. Chester had a wild horse that resembled a range-grown stallion. We called him Little Bay. Little Bay would kick and fight every time anyone got in the corral with him. Chester worked for months training him. Finally, he was able to saddle and ride him a little.

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Later, a friend came to visit. The young man wouldn’t take no for an answer. He wanted to ride Little Bay, so Chester let him. Within minutes, Little Bay had jumped the fence with no rider. With the first buck, the rider sailed over Little Bay’s head and landed face down in the dirt. Little Bay kept bucking; he was determined to lose the saddle as well. Tragically, he ran into a piece of tin and cut a gash along his shoulder and withers about a foot long. The wound lay open exposing muscle and flesh 3 or 4 inches deep and was bleeding profusely.

Chester came to Mom with the emergency. She didn’t know what to do, but she knew where to get the answer. She prayed. She was inspired to put white flour in the open wound. It stopped the bleeding. It took months for the wound to heal, but it did. I don’t know if it was the flour or the faith that healed the horse.

In 1967, there was a snowstorm of snowstorms. The whole cattle range was covered with 3 to 5 feet of snow. We had to take feed to the stranded cattle on a car hood made into a sled pulled behind a snowmobile.

One day, Charlotte records: “I made my run to Red Lake. It was late, and it took longer than usual. I still had to go to Sacatone, a lake on the other side of the pasture. It was cold, and the sun was going fast. When I loaded my car hood and took off, I had gone about halfway to Sacatone when suddenly the motor fell right out into my lap. What a mess of spring screws and bolts! How to put it back? I had no idea, as we always took it to the shop. Here I was, miles from nowhere and the sun sinking fast. No way to walk, the snow was too deep.

“I put the bolts from my lap in a pile, got off the snowmobile and looked in the toolbox. I only found a big wrench and an oversized screwdriver. I didn’t know what to do. The sun was getting low now. I hadn’t left anything to show which way I had gone. I usually put a fork stick pointing the way I had went, but I hadn’t done that. I knew Lynn, my brother, would come for me if I wasn’t home by 7 p.m., but he would have to get another snowmobile, and that would take time. I would probably freeze before he found me.

I decided the only thing I could do was try to fix it. As I was trying to put the bolts and screws where I figured they would fit, I dropped a bolt down in the round thing in the motor, and I couldn’t get it out no matter how I tried. I turned it every which way, shook it and turned it upside down, but it just wouldn’t come out.

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“I started to pray as hard as I could. I knew I had to have help. My big hands and fingers just wouldn’t go down in the little holes where I figured the springs, bolts and screws should go. I had to get the bolt out. Do you know, just as I turned the thing up, the bolt fell out? I started working as fast as I could putting springs and bolts and screws where I thought they went. I could only put them in just a little way because my fingers were too big. At last, they were all in, and I decided to try it. It started right up. I figured I still had time, if I hurried, to get to Sacatone. I only went the length of the snowmobile, and it fell apart again. I put it back together. Faster this time, making sure not to drop the bolt in the hole. I fixed it again, but I only went two lengths of the snowmobile, and it fell out again.

“I began to worry. The sun was almost down. My hands were so cold I could hardly hold the bolts. I figured if I unloaded the car hood and turned around, then I could go as far as two lengths of the snowmobile at a time, and I would make it before dark. So, this is what I did. I took off the car hood, turned around, then put the thing back together. By now, I almost knew where everything went. I made good time even though my hands were stiff and cold. It started right up, and I started for home. That snowmobile didn’t fall apart all the way back to the pickup. I had it loaded in the truck bed before it fell apart again.

“Lynn took it to the shop. The service man at the repair shop said, ‘She couldn’t have made this run, let alone run it 2 or 3 miles. All these bolts and screws must be put in with a special wrench.’ Lynn said, ‘All I know is she put it together and it ran that far.’

“I knew who made it run. I know who helped me put the bolts in and make them stay. I am grateful to Heavenly Father. I know I could never have made it on my own.”

Charlotte had a special connection with heaven because of her faith and prayers. She was also a woman of gratitude.

In her last days, she never let her caregivers leave without her saying, “Thank you.” She made you feel like you had changed the world for her even if you only stayed a few hours and didn’t do anything.

One evening before she passed away, she had a hard day. Annette and Brittany, her caretakers, helped her to the toilet, and she said, “Thank you so much. I don’t know who you are, but thank you.” She kissed their hands and hugged them. That was so indicative of her. She gave such courage to life. When she lost her eyesight and her hearing, she lost touch with the world, but she never forgot to give gratitude. She had a testimony of Jesus as her Savior and of His gospel. Her journey was difficult and lonely, but she ran a good race and fought a good fight and left a legacy of love that will never be forgotten.  end mark

Yevet Crandell Tenney is a Christian columnist who loves American values and traditions. She writes about faith, family and freedom.

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