Friday, March 21, 2014

Granny’s Pantry # 15: Aunt Ruthie

Every family should have an Aunt Ruthie--unique, creative, eccentric, and a bit out of the box. She was one of the two High Rock aunts that helped make visits there “events.” (The other was Aunt Lorene—and that’s another story.)

She--was a companion on our “safaris” into the woods on Sunday afternoons—made the best “Sissy rolls”—filled the special bowl with stuffed dates at Christmas—rambled through thrift stores with us-- and gave us pastel chalks hoping to bring out our inner artists. 

She was a collector, and her gifts of art, furniture, jewelry and other treasures grace all of our family homes today.   


Ruth Elizabeth Cole was born in 1919 and spent most of her young life at the High Rock house with her parents, Granny and Granddaddy Cole.  
She was educated at "WC" (Women’s College--now UNC-G) and taught  elementary school in NC for about 40 years.

She may have been and educator by vocation, but she was an artist at heart.

According to Aunt Ruthie, one of her earliest memories was of looking at a bush of beautiful red roses in Granny’s yard. She remembers pulling off some of the petals, immersing them in water, and trying to “paint” the outside of the white clapboard house with them so that the home would be the same vibrant red as the roses.    

While that early artistic endeavor wasn’t successful, her lifelong pursuit of creating beauty through her paintings has been. The virtually unspoiled rural landscapes around the High Rock farm, including the Yadkin River, the foothills of the Flat Swamp Mountains, and the flowers in Granny’s gardens (which she and Aunt Ruthie cut to decorate the house) served to inspire many of her paintings. 

Her versatility as an artist is surprising as I look now through the vast number of works she produced. Using a variety of media--oil, acrylics and watercolor--and she painted in a range of styles, from na├»ve to abstract. She was probably most fond of and  comfortable with a soothing impressionism, which allowed the viewer to use her art as a doorway for his or her own mental or creative wanderings.

 In her own words, in an Artist’s Statement produced some years ago, she wrote:        
I have always been interested in the Visual Arts. This interest was nurtured for many years by working with children and fostering their creative activities.
I determined that when I stopped teaching, I would pursue this wonderful area   of human enrichment. The time from 1975 through 1985 was filled with a series of classes, workshops, teachers and art groups. Now I work alone, submitting my work to juried shows and galleries in Charlotte, NC [and beyond]. To me, the greatest teacher of art is nature, and the greatest quality of art is honesty. To be true to nature (not to be confused with copying nature) and to your own originality is no mean task.  The journey has been rewarding but never ending. The vista is always broadening.

Ruth Cole, artist,
was featured in a solo exhibition in 1996 at the Arts Center Gallery in Lexington, and received numerous awards in juried shows for her still life and landscape paintings. Her art serves as a preservation of the beauty of rural Piedmont North Carolina and a reminder of the loveliness that surrounds us if we take the time to notice.  


 At age 94 she is no longer able to pursue her art or the many other interests that made always made her so unique.  Alzheimer's has claimed her, making it hard for her to remember us.  

She's still “Aunt Ruthie” to our family, and we love to mix and mingle around her.

We need look no further than our memories and the wealth of beauty she created to know why being around her enriched, and enriches, us all.



 And never for a moment think that
 she is not still..."Aunt Ruthie."


He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  (Ecclesiastes 3:11)




Saturday, March 1, 2014

Granny's Pantry # 14--The Cow Palace

Granny loved a good political convention. She couldn’t attend, but she could read the newspaper or watch TV and incorporate the festivities into her world with her own brand of political spin. The 1956 Republican Convention held at the Cow Palace near San Francisco was no exception.      

After Granny’s mother died in 1954, Granddaddy and Uncle Brooks bought her Morgan home place, across the river from the Cole Farm. After the Convention, the Morgan Farm quickly was re-named (and remains) The Cow Palace.

While the land was farmed, the house sat on a hill above the rural road in Rowan County,
unpainted and abandoned. It and some of the outbuildings fell into serious disrepair.    

The two story structure was a dark and spooky place with its missing floors, bird nest in the pantry and raccoons in the attic. There may even have been a ghost. Granny told about hearing a strange wailing noise on the steps to the upstairs that has never been explained.      

 At times, the house served short stints as a temporary dwelling for itinerant tree planters or a refuge for a distant relative with a heartbreaking story and an even more heartbreaking end. There was even a brief attempt at restoration that stopped in demo and divorce. There the house sat lost in time for many years.

 Then, under the ownership of Aunt Ruthie, the old house began to take on new life.

 Her floors and windows were replaced; she was painted a quirky mauvey pink.

With lights and water, curtains and furniture, and Aunt Ruthie’s paintings on her walls…the fine old lady came back to life.                           




She welcomes our family gatherings…


 an Easter party in the yard...

   fishing at the pond…                                



a birthday party on the front lawn...

                                               my sister's memorial celebration... 

 and finally….Christmas at the Cow Palace! 

The transformation was remarkable…a tree decorated with peacock feathers, wood stove to keep us warm, food fitting a holiday feast, presents of Granny’s amber glass and feed sacks for the ladies and…of course…hunting sox for the men.       

We were together, the entire Cole family, from 7 months to 94 years old, all of us.

Granny…you can go home again. We did it for you! 







                                 Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it; (Psalm 127:1)