Today I’m pleased to offer a guest post by Rachel Ratliff, a reader from Tennessee who has an interesting story to tell about her great-great grandmother, a woman known affectionately as “Ma Grooms”.
Victoria Scott was born at the turn of the century – the summer of 1900 – in Cocke County, Tennessee. Grassy Fork could hardly even be called a community at the time. It wasn’t until the 2000 Census the population broke eight hundred souls. At the age of fourteen, she was married to Ruldolph Grooms, fourteen years her senior, and they moved by horse and wagon over the Great Smoky Mountains into Cataloochee, North Carolina. Five generations later, Victoria was known to most simply as Ma Grooms or Mom Mom. She was my Great-Great-Grandmother.
Ma Grooms lived her entire life tucked back in the mountains. I’ve been told a year or more would pass at a time that Ma Grooms didn’t come down off The Mountain. Rudolph saw to it that they had what he thought they needed, and saw no need for her to leave. I never knew where the Old House was, just that it was on The Mountain – and a far piece from any neighbors or the store. Ma Grooms differentiated the timeline of her life by that Mountain – when we lived on The Mountain, and after we moved off The Mountain.
Ma Grooms enjoyed a simple life. She cooked and heated with an old wood stove, and refused to have indoor plumbing until she was almost ninety. She used electricity only for the necessities. When Rudolph brought home an old television, Ma Grooms refused to watch it. While he watched television, she would sit in her rocking chair with her back to the television and read her Bible. Ma Grooms kept a close walk with the Lord all her life. She read her Bible every day, went to church when she could get there. Her faith was so strong God allowed her to cure sick babies.
My grandmother says that people from miles around would bring their sick babies to Ma Grooms. They carried them through the woods, rain or shine, even hiking through the snow in freezing weather because they knew she had a gift. Whatever the ailment, Ma Grooms would bring the child close to her, and taking their tiny hands in her calloused and wrinkled ones, she would cup their hands over their mouth, recite a scripture, and breath through their cupped hands into the child’s mouth. Whatever the scripture, whatever the prayer, it was between Ma Grooms, the Lord, and the child in front of her. She never told anyone what she said. It wasn’t about the words – the words alone were powerless. It was about her faith and God’s power.
In 1952, Ma Grooms and Rudolph moved down off The Mountain on doctor’s orders for Rudolph’s health. By that time, Rudolph was having heart problems, and their house on The Mountain had no phone, and was too far away from any hospital to make it in time if there were an emergency. The last house she lived in was little more than a wood shack that sat with its back against the side of a mountain and the Little East Fork River in the front yard. Crossing a rickety wooden footbridge over the river was the only way to access the house. If the river was up, there was no getting out.
Six years after moving off the mountain, Rudolph passed away. Til the day she died, Ma Grooms said the Lord told her it was going to happen. One day, when Rudolph was out digging a new outhouse, Ma Grooms went out to call him in for lunch. Standing down in the hole he was digging, Rudolph reached his hand up and asked Ma to help him out. In the instant she clasped his hand, Ma Grooms said the Lord spoke to her very clearly and said, “You can pull him out of the ground today, but this time tomorrow you won’t be able to.” Still pondering the Lord’s words in her mind and heart, the two went inside and sat down to lunch. Rudolph died sitting at the table that very meal.
Even with Rudolph gone, Ma Grooms stayed in the little house by the river. She never came to trust electricity or indoor plumbing. She valued her independence so highly she refused any help from her children and grandchildren to improve the house or move somewhere better. She owned her little house free and clear, meager as it was. Eventually the local community held a fundraiser to get running water and plumbing for her, but Ma Grooms still went down to the river every day and filled old milk jugs with the cold clear water. There were never less than two dozen jugs of water stored on her porch ready to use.
The house still had no telephone, and never would. The day she was bitten by a copperhead snake while working outside, Ma Grooms did the only thing she could – she crawled across the yard, over the old footbridge, and over to the main road where she waited until help came in the form of a passing car. Still, she valued her independence far above any comforts a new home could offer.
As far back as anyone can remember, Ma Grooms refused to say “goodbye” to anyone. If anyone told her ‘bye, she would say, “No, it’s not goodbye, it’s just so long. It’s never goodbye with the Lord, just see you later.” For almost a century, through five generations of children and grandchildren… and great grandchildren… and great-great grandchildren, and finally a great-great-great-grandchild, Ma Grooms was steadfast in her faith, and in her simple life, until at the age of ninety-seven, the Lord took her to the only better home she would have ever moved for – the one He prepared for her.