Miss Oneia Gahr, was as close to being my substitute mom as anyone. My great-grandmother was her father’s sister. She was mother’s best friend, attended the same college–earned a teaching degree.
Their personalities were exact opposites. My mother was quiet and reserved, Oneia was outgoing and plain-spoken. Mom taught fourth-grade elementary, Oneia, high school mathematics. Miss Gahr was a strict disciplinarian at home, and no doubt, the same at school.
Several summers were spent working on Miss Gahr’s dairy farm. As an adolescent, it seemed like pure drudgery. Who knew dairy cows didn’t like their mornings interrupted? “Talk to them gently, in a low voice, or they might kick you.”
That didn’t mean to act goofy and crazy, “Hey girls what’s happening this morning?” But, rather to be gentle, not boisterous. It worked, and I never got kicked. It did nothing, however, to stop swats from muddy cow’s tails. To them, I was just another fly that needed swatting.
Whatever needed to be done–she worked as hard as any man around the farm. She cut me no slack when it came to cleaning the dairy barn. And, oh that cattle waste–tons of it, had to be hosed away.
Miss Oneia went at life full tilt. Driving was no exception. She liked flashy land yachts. Had a slew of Pontiac Bonneville convertibles in the sixties. Before that, she had a fifties-era, Ford hardtop convertible.
Riding with her in the old rattletrap Chevy pickup over farm roads was a neck-snapping thrill ride. Nothing topped the day the wiring in the Ford two-ton grain truck caught fire under the dashboard. Acrid smoke filled the cab as the insulation burned. Miss Oneia grabbed a hay bale hook, yanked out wires till the smoke subsided.
We always considered her part of the family, not just a distant relative. All three of us boys raised bottle calves that she donated. My sister raised a white pig. She tutored me in Math and Geometry. Happy Mom’s Day to both my mom, and my substitute mom!