Susan Blackwell Ramsey is the author of the book A Mind Like This (University of Nebraska Press, 2012), which won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
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Grandpa shrugged when the feds at the kitchen door said the pigpen weeds were marijuana, and they were there to cut them down and burn them. “Got lots more weeds—feel free to cut them, too.” Marijuana was in the news a lot when I first heard this story. Mom and I laughed at her father’s innocence, briefly united in patronizing parents. Years later when she told it, she paused and added, “But Dad did have terrible arthritis in his hands, and I wouldn’t bet he didn’t know what he had growing there.” And suddenly I saw the wooden box with the slotted roller in the top, cigarette rolling machine, the knob we’d turn to send a crayon down to the waiting tray. Of course everybody rolled their own in the Depression, nothing damning there. But I felt history cough, twist in my hand, watched my solid mother grow translucent, capable of recasting legend, fact. The last time I heard it, she concluded, “And you know, I wouldn’t care to bet it wasn’t my mother who called those agents in.”