One of the things that makes a cast iron woman into a cast iron woman is the often harsh and abrasive circumstances she goes through to become a cast iron woman. For the women of pioneer trails, those circumstances may have been the difficulties of the trail — sickness and death and poverty and exhaustion and broken-down wagons. But for other women of other places and times, we each have our own harsh and abrasive circumstances that make us into a different variety of Cast Iron Woman.
My Aunt Ina was a Cast Iron Woman. Aunt Ina was born in 1905 on the coast of North Carolina. Aunt Ina’s Daddy, Harry, was the mailboat captain. Now, on the mainland, mail may have been delivered on foot or on horseback or eventually by motor vehicle. But when my Aunt Ina was a girl on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, mail was delivered by boat. There weren’t bridges then, or ferries. And so Uncle Harry loaded his boat with mail each morning — and sometimes, Little Ina — and headed out among the islands to deliver the mail — and sometimes medicines or supplies that were needed by the isolated islanders.
On those days that Little Ina (who really was LITTLE Ina — she never even reached five feet tall) accompanied her Daddy on his rounds, he would tell her stories about the islands. And he would also answer her questions about the world around her. Why is the water blue? Why does it rain? Where do the hermit crabs go when they disappear into the sand? And Daddy, why are the trees so twisted and bent over? That day, Little Ina learned an important lesson — inland, oak trees grow tall and straight, with limbs reaching up towards the sky. But out on the islands, where salty sea winds and storms and hurricanes dominate, oak trees have to fight for their survival. They bend with the wind. They twist and they turn. And so while they will never be straight or tall as the oaks inland, they are strong. They are statues which stand as living testimonies of how very strong and beautiful one becomes when they face harsh, abrasive circumstances — and storms — and survive.
The particular oaks trees in the picture above were photographed by me (Chief Storyteller, Sassy) at Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, NC. Aunt Ina never saw these trees — she was further north and east on the Outer Banks. But I am certain she would agree with me that these strong, but twisted trees, are mighty beautiful.