My Grandma passed away on New Years Eve. She was 97 years young and was a fireball right up until she wasn't. A full blooded Choctaw, she lived on land that had been a part of our family since the Reconstruction of the South, but had recently been placed into assisted care due to falling.
The care facility was nice and staffed with folks who knew Grandma (rural Mississippi is a small place) as well as all her surviving kin. Once in, however, Grandma never ventured out again. Except once.
The last time I saw her, not too long before her passing, we swung by enroute home from buying the new Airstream. As a kid, I remember my Grandpa pointing out Airstreams on the road and telling how they were the class of all trailers. They'd never have afforded one. He worked, literally, til the day he died. I kinda always knew one day I'd figure out a way to have one. But, I digress....
When Grandma heard we had an Airstream out front, for the one and only time she grabbed her walker and scooted out the front door of her home for a closer look. She couldn't climb up, but she peered into it for quite a while before declaring it was as beautiful as she thought it would be.
That was the last time I saw her.
On her land was a Black Walnut tree that, as best we could determine, was planted around 1890. It was the landmark that told you it was Grandma's driveway. I built forts in it as a kid and hauled buckets of walnuts by rope, while they were still green, to use as projectiles against my brother or anyone else who might storm the defenses. As Grandma got older, and the property got harder to maintain, the tree got blight and had to be taken down.
My uncle had the foresight to have the tree milled into planks rather than throwing it away or burning it. Last time I visited him, he gave me a couple of planks. I considered making shelves, or a table, or maybe an art piece. Then, I had an epiphany- why not honor the woman who taught me to fish, bought me my first cane pole, my first Zebco, and never discouraged my hours on the water, with a net? And there was only one person who came to mind- Greg Madrigal, owner of Sierra Nets, and a long time buddy. With a few texts and pics, we determined it could happen.
Soon after, Greg and I met up and talked about my Grandma and who she was. We decided the net needed to feature the walnut, and had to be interesting but not pompous. I left him the wood and gave him my complete trust.
When it came to to putting bling on it, I wanted it to have Grandma's name, "Miss Nona" on it. When Greg asked me to figure out a font and inlay, there was only one choice- Airstream font in aluminum. It couldn't have come out any finer....
With Greg's wonderful and respectful skills, Miss Nona is now a part of the family. The rich Black Walnut was supplemented with Cherry, Curly Maple, and Wenge. He even managed to use it in the magnetic lanyard.
I wish Grandma could see it. I think she'd be a bit embarrassed, but at the same time in awe that a thing as nice as that could come from that old Black Walnut. Only thing left to do now is put a fish in it.
180 Degrees South