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Just dropping by ... Confessions of a grateful daughter

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Dairyman Published on 05 May 2017

On March 12, 2017, we celebrated my parents’ 75th wedding anniversary. Many people don’t even live that long, let alone be married to someone for that long. Jay and Charlotte Crandell attended the same school in Heber, Arizona, where they met and fell in love.

Charlotte was 13, and Jay was 16. That sounds young, but Jay owned his own logging truck when he was 12 years old and worked in the woods. Most of their courting was done in this old logging truck. Jay took Charlotte to her eighth-grade graduation.

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Charlotte says, “Jay and I had been going together off and on for three years. Then one night, on April Fool’s Day 1939, we were setting in his truck out in front of the church under a big pine tree; he asked me if I would like to go steady.

I said that I would. He gave me a beautiful black, petrified wood heart-shaped bracelet and ring.” That was the beginning of a wonderful romance that lasted for seven-and-a-half decades.

Charlotte was only 15 when they were married in Mesa, Arizona. A few days later, they spent their honeymoon on a cattle drive from Dry Lake to Holbrook. At the train station in Holbrook, Jay and Charlotte made their bed on the ground.

Charlotte’s father said, “You might not want to sleep there. If those Mexicos get restless, you might have trouble.” Suddenly, they realized they were down-trail of a corralled herd of wild long-horned steers waiting to be put in train cars. Jay and Charlotte moved their bed – and were glad they did.

In the middle of the night, a train whistle blew and those steers rumbled over the fence in a roaring flood. The main herd left a trail right where Jay and Charlotte would have been sleeping.

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Shortly after they were married, Jay, feeling his duty to his country, joined the Army and served his country for two years. At the time, Charlotte was pregnant with their first child.

During World War II, Jay served in England loading bombs on planes. His fellow soldiers called him Deacon because he kept such high standards of conduct. He received a commendation for saving the military base from an explosion.

One of the soldiers pulled a pin from a bomb. He stared at the bomb and said, “Listen to it tick.” Jay, without concern for personal injury, put the pin back in the bomb. It could have been a great tragedy. The bomb was big enough to destroy the entire base and miles around.

Charlotte waited faithfully and patiently back home keeping herself busy doing laundry for a boys’ ranch to earn enough money to buy a small home in Heber.

After the war, Jay drove school bus while he finished his education at Snowflake High School. In summers, he worked on Gentry Fire Tower. He went to work for South West Forest Industries working at the paper mill wood yard after 20 years. He retired from his full-time job in 1988, but he never stopped working.

Charlotte is famous for her quilts. For many years, Charlotte and her sisters made a handmade satin quilt for every couple who married in Heber and the surrounding area. She has lost her eyesight to macular degeneration now, but she still oversees the making of a satin baby quilt for each of the great-grandbabies, which number in the hundreds.

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The yearly ritual of planting and harvesting a garden has a 75-year record. The rows are still as straight as the first garden. Jay and Charlotte are not able to do as much in the garden now, but their children come to help.

The garden has always been a family project. Every year, they preserve upward of 1,000 jars of produce. They give most of it away to family members and neighbors. Jay and Charlotte never had much of worldly goods, but what they had, they generously shared.

Cattle ranching has been a big part of their lives. They have always had a small herd of prize cattle which they have pastured through drought and flood. They have cared for them as if they were their own children.

Jay and Charlotte had six children, who have all married and have children of their own. They have 200 in their posterity to date. Though Jay only finished high school and Charlotte eighth grade, they have teachers, college professors, law enforcement, doctors, tradesmen, truckers, military personnel and a state senator to their credit.

Jay and Charlotte always made reading and self-education a priority.

When asked what the secret to living so long was, Jay answered, “I just keep on living.” Certainly, there is more to that secret than meets the eye. Jay and Charlotte never quit working and dreaming. Because of health constraints, today the easy chair is the prominent position in their lives; they still find time to share experience and know-how with others.

I have the unique privilege of reading my mother’s journals to her. She began writing in 1977 and wrote faithfully until 2005, when she lost her eyesight. What a tragedy for her. What is worse, Charlotte cannot hear the conversations around her. She can’t watch television or read but, happily, she can hear my voice because of my theatre background.

I get to read to her. I am amazed at the life she led and the things she accomplished in a day. We have cried many tears together as we have read about her joys and heartaches.

I have gotten to know her not only as my mother but as a dear friend. I can see how we are alike as she wrote about the time in her life when her aging parents needed her. She was there to give them support and love. What a marvelous blessing she has given her posterity in writing a journal.

Her journals are not places to complain or whine about the adversity of life, but a place to be grateful. At the end of every journal, she sums up her year with pages of gratitude for those who have helped her and for the blessings she has received from the Lord.

Jay memorized a poem when he was in grade school that exemplifies how he and Charlotte live their lives. “The House by the Side of the Road” by Sam Walter Foss:

House by the Side of the Road

There are hermit souls
that live withdrawn
In the place of their self-content;
There are souls like stars,
that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls
that blaze the paths
Where highways never ran –
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
Let me live in a house
by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by –
The men who are good
and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat
Nor hurl the cynic’s ban –
Let me live in a house
by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
I see from my house
by the side of the road
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press
with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife,
But I turn not away
from their smiles and tears,
Both parts of an infinite plan –
Let me live in a house
by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead,
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on
through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
And still I rejoice
when the travelers rejoice
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house
by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.
Let me live in my house
by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by –
They are good, they are bad,
they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish - so am I.
Then why should I sit
in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?
Let me live in my house
by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.  end mark

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