Back in December Buffy and I visited her family in Minnesota. We always have a chance to visit her grandmother for a few hours to hear her tell her favorite stories. She's a dear woman. Intense, honest and quickly jubilant. She laughs loudly at every joke with a tickled Oh you rascal! Every time we visit she scurries over to the fridge to pull out her recycled Country Crock container filled with spritz cookies and crispy peanut butter bars. And our conversation is always at the little kitchen table where she offers Buffy a mug of delicious Folgers Crystals instant coffee while I get my fill of summer sausage with mild colby on a roll.
She's 82 years old. 80 of those years lived in MN. Every time when we remind her that Buffy's studying renaissance and comparative literature and I'm studying linguistics Grandmom makes the connection to her own studies. Ohh!? she exclaims You know spelling was my best subject.
During the last visit she saw me scribbling something on my hand. What are you writing there? she asked. Buffy knew immediately that I had heard her grandmother say something noteworthy. Of course I couldn't tell her that. She's dear but she's also a little sensitive. Oh I'm just writing down some ideas for how to teach my class I said. So here's what I was really writing down:
- She was speaking of having recently moved to a new house. Of the old house and its new tenant she said
"I won't go there after he once moves in."
Looks like a shuffled blend of after he moves in and once he moves in? It's almost like he splits up the slot that would normally be held by either after or once and the both sprouted up -- one on each side. Of course that's not an actual theory.
- Telling us that her husband forbade something (I can't remember what):
"Him told me I couldn't"
Buffy insists she does this knowingly in order to sound endearing and childlike. That may be. The context supports the possibility. I've heard her use it several times so I'm going to start listening for this accusative in a non-coordinated structure.
- While telling us a story about an event that tried her patience and confused her and made her feel like she was losing her mind:
"I was ready for the fox farm."
I found 3 Google™ hits for "ready for the fox farm."
One hit from Dan Small OUTDOORS for a story by George E Wamser who says he "has turned the corner towards fall in life, but is not ready for the fox farm yet!" He lives in Oconto, Wisconsin.
One Google™ Book Search result from Beyond the Freeway: Stories of Fascinating Times that Have Faded Away by Peter Benzoni who writes "The mules that pulled the cars out to the station were getting old. They were ready for the fox farm." Google™ provides a map of "places mentioned" for the book and there's a clear cluster of mentions in northern Wisconsin spreading into northeastern Minnesota and the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Benzoni attended high school in Hurley, Wis.
The third hit takes us to Bookreporter.com for an excerpt from a book by Margo Howard who collected letters from her mother Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer. On 21 October 1960 Esther wrote "The Jaguar in the meantime is ready for the fox-farm. Damned thing is the worst car mechanically we have ever owned. It is in the garage again . . . stopped dead on me."
Among the stories Esther tells her daughter are several anecdotes about her good friend Hubert H Humphrey. Humphrey was then senator from Minnesota and became a friend when they were living in Eau Claire Wisconsin. Margo writes:
Hubert Humphrey, from Minnesota, became a family friend when we lived in Wisconsin and Mother was a player in Democratic politics. They first met when she was in the Senate gallery listening to him deliver a speech and sent down a note asking to meet him.
When Margo was applying to colleges she found herself with fewer options than she had expected. Even her safety school didn't accept her. Of course it was Pennsylvania. Not a very safe net. Humphrey sent Margo's mother a note saying
Tell Margo that I have written a recommendation for her to Brandeis University. She will not only be permitted to enter as a result of that recommendation, but most likely become the Dean of Women or Campus Queen on the day of registration. When Humphrey recommends they are recommended.
Margo was of course accepted.
I'm sure several of you know Friedman Lederer's famous alias. The name of the book is Ann Landers in her own words: Personal Letters to Her Daughter.
Three hits are a thin example of a regional expression. But I'm not sure what else to think. Has anyone else heard this phrase? As Grandmom used it the phrase it was akin to "ready for the loony bin." But the other examples sound more like "ready to head out to pasture." Can anyone connect it (with these or any other meanings) to Wiscon-sota? Mr Verb?