This story is about the person who inspired the apron sculpture.
Never Helpless Ella by Leatha Benvie Koefler
Those size five shoes, peeking out from under the apron covered dress, obviously belonged to a small woman. Her bonnet, red hair, and freckles help paint a picture of a fragile, helpless, soft spoken, dependent woman. The only part of this impression that was remotely true was her soft spoken manor. She was too busy to talk much, but when she needed to be loud, she was. Grandma Ella was far from helpless.
A rancher's wife, Ella assumed typical female responsibilities - cooking, growing and preserving food, making clothing and aprons (I still have one) from feed sack fabric. Plumbing and electricity were luxuries Ella did without until she was in her seventies. No electricity, meant no refrigeration. I remember hearing the pop of a Ball Jar lid and smelling the chestnut like aroma that announced venison stew for dinner. If Grandma Ella's family of ten ate it; then in all probability she grew it, baked it, dried it, smoked it or canned it. Worried about keeping their heads, turkeys and chickens would scatter fast when she approached. I feared the turkeys would peck the face off my short body. With blinding fear, I would dash through their pen to the front door, chased by clawed feet, flailing wings, a cloud of feathers, and squawking sharp beaks. It was 70 miles to a real grocery store or doctor. I saw her stitch a farmhands cut in the time it took him to walk from the kitchen door to the midday dinner table.
Wild horses would smash into the corrals, stealing away the trained ranch horses. She handled those rustlers with a cast iron skillet; banging it on the side of the model T as she and Grandpa chased them across the prairie and off their land. When Grandpa wanted a new car she took the money out of her bra and paid cash. Widowed, she sold the ranch and its uranium mines. Moving to town required a new set of survival skills - social and financial. At seventy four when many grandmothers were knitting, mine learned how to invest in the stock market. She was as successful growing her money as she was growing her family, crops and livestock on the ranch.
Grandma enjoyed her new social opportunities. Attending performances, bingo games and teas, but living independently and alone was definitely her choice. She told us about an elderly acquaintance who arrived at her door with his suitcase, announcing he was moving in. She hit him with her cane, driving him off her porch and out of her life. Even though she was near the end of her eighty eight years she never waited for someone else to make her decisions or create her social life. She lived every aspect of her life deliberately and was decisively never helpless.
Barbara Ella Ford born November 6, 1893
Barbara Ella Dunsworth died August, 1981