I was in a Native American Art gallery when I came across an interesting carving. I turned to the elderly and dignified looking American Indian gentleman behind the counter and asked, “What’s the story behind this?” He took it reverently in his hands. His voice was deep and calm… soothing. “This… is in honor of a great woman.” The music in the store played quietly as he told his story. “She was married to the chief of our Cherokee tribe. When her husband was killed in battle she picked up his weapon and led the Cherokee charge against the Creek. From that day forward she was known as the “Warwoman.” He gently set the piece back in its place. “Later in life she became a “Beloved Woman”, and a member of the Cherokee council. She was a woman of great courage and wisdom.”
After I returned home, I came across a picture of my grandmother, Martha Nelson, standing proudly and pregnant with my father; his three older brothers huddled at her side. She was a “Warwoman” as well. When her husband died, she was left alone on their homestead in the wilds of Lee County with four young boys. Shortly thereafter rustlers came to steal their cattle. My father, at 12 years old, and his older brother Charlie confronted the lead “Cracker” that was in charge of the rustlers. “Where’s you’re Pa… Boy!” the Cracker growled from his horse. My dad looked down at the ground, “He died two months ago.” The drover took his hat off and wiped the sweat from his brow. His voice softened. “That so? What was his name?” “Chris Nelson,” my Dad said, arms crossed tightly against his chest, still looking down sadly. Then he grinned a bit, looked up and said, “So I guess you’re gonna’ need to talk to my Ma about this.” “Well boy” the cowboy said as he put his hat back on, “I knew your dad and I know one thing about your mom… she’s a good shot and she won’t take kindly to me cuttin’ her fence and tryin’ to run off with her cows. She’d shoot me before I got outta this saddle. I want no part of that.” He spun his horse around, gathered his men and left. Her husband had fallen in life’s battle, but my grandmother had picked up his weapon and raised their sons.
My grandmother on my mother’s side was a petite 4’ 10” tall woman named Margret. When the depression forced her husband away from their home to find work, she picked up his tools and took care of their farm in the mountains of Idaho, raising 5 children. After he passed away, she remained the steady rock in her family, a “Beloved Woman.”
“Beloved Women” of great courage and wisdom surround us all. Their love and support for family, community and friends is powerful and unwavering. We can rest assured that when we fall, they will have the strength to carry on.
Happy Mother’s Day to our Beloved Women.