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Nanny's Grubbing Hoe


Among the family heirlooms that we inherited from Joe's mother, Annie Lee (Babe) Richardson Schlatter, was "Nanny's Grubbing Hoe."

Nanny is Nini Anna Statia White Dudding (1872 - 1957).  She married Maurice Dudding (1869 - 1929) in East Feliciana Parish, LA, in 1893.  They had nine children, one of whom was Annie Lee Dudding (1899 - 1983) who married Clarence Richardson (1896 - 1972).  Annie Lee (Babe) Richardson was their daughter, Nanny's granddaughter.

When Maurice Dudding died in 1929, Nanny moved in with her daughter Annie Lee and her husband Clarence and their children.  She lived with them until her death in 1957.  When Annie Lee Dudding Richardson died in 1983, her daughter, Babe Richardson Schlatter, inherited a number of items from her parents' home and, after her death, her belongings were distributed to her two sons, Joe and John.

Among the items that Babe Richardson Schlatter passed on to her sons were two "grubbing hoes" -- one that had belonged to her grandmother, Nanny, and the other from her mother, Annie Lee Dudding Richardson.

First, let's explain the purpose of a "grubbing hoe."  In Southern parlance, "to grub" means to use a hoe to remove weeds or to lightly cultivate the soil in a flower bed or vegetable garden.  Most Southern ladies owned a grubbing hoe that they used for light garden work.  Heavy garden work was done by a hired hand -- in most every case a black man -- but ladies took pride in keeping their flower beds and kitchen gardens weed-free.  Because the yard man usually came only once or twice a week, the lady of the house had to keep the weeds out of the beds and garden between visits by the yard man.

Strictly speaking, a "grub hoe" is a heavy tool used for digging and heavy clearing.  The grubbing hoe used by a Southern lady was not a heavy tool.  Instead, it was a normal garden hoe that had been filed down to make the blade smaller and very sharp so it would cut off weeds at ground level.

Here are two photos of Nanny's Grubbing Hoe.  Photos were made at our home in Northumberland County, VA, in May 2011.



Note the head of the hoe -- it is much smaller than a normal garden hoe, is slightly curved, and is sharpened along it's edge.  According to Joe's mother, Nanny -- Joe's great-grandmother -- obtained this hoe sometime between 1903 and 1905 when she and "Mr. Dudding" moved into the village of Norwood, LA.  This is the original hoe - neither the handle nor the head have been replaced.  Twice a year Joe rubs the wooden handle with linseed oil to keep it from drying out.  After each use, Joe cleans and sharpens the head then gives the head a light coat of motor oil to keep it from rusting.  We are careful to use this hoe for only very light garden work, mainly lightly chopping weeds out of our flower beds and garden.

There is a Faulkner novel in which two of the characters -- a Southern lady and her yard man -- talk often about weeding the petunia bed.  At least one passage in this novel describes the lady's hoe.  I'll try to find that passage and add it to this page.


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