Novel tells story of former Tampa family


Staff writer

"Lou's Dirty Dozen" is a novel in which Ranny Grady tells the fictionalized story of his grandmother Louise's life as seen through the eyes of his mother, Jessie.

It is a reflection of life in rural America from the late 1920s through 1950.

Reading a chapter in Grady's 376-page novel is like going to a counseling session. Throughout the book, Lou teaches her children truths to live by, often quoting from the Bible. She approaches every situation, no matter how difficult, as an opportunity to impart new lessons about life.

Jessie begins her story as a 10- year-old girl, the fifth of 12 children. The family is eking out an existence at Tampa in the mid-1920s, when they get an invitation to move to Missouri to start a better life.

Things go well for a while despite the violently dominating ways of Jessie's father, Ranti Crandall, but after "Poppa's" death the family finds its way back to Tampa.

In graphic detail, the author relates the many struggles the family goes through to survive during the economic depression that followed. The one thing in their favor is that Ranti left a life insurance policy which allowed Lou to buy a house, although it is small and has only two bedrooms.

Everyone, including "Momma," takes jobs wherever they can find them to make ends meet. Lou is a cobbler, care-giver, and newspaper writer, locally and as a "stringer" for the Topeka Journal. She also runs a popcorn machine at the local theater with help from two of her children.

She holds the family together with her wit and wisdom and encourages each one to attain to greatness.

The family experiences typical ups and downs. Rose, the oldest daughter, has a baby out of wedlock, which is kept secret from the community. She graduates as class valedictorian. Howard sets the state record for the mile run in high school. Charlie is a professional gambler until his conversion. Napoleon overcomes a stuttering problem.

Jessie has a close relationship with her mother, but the two become estranged when Jessie marries someone Lou doesn't approve of. It isn't until her deathbed that Lou confesses her wrong attitude and asks for Jessie's forgiveness.

This compelling story evokes laughter, tears, and cheers for a woman who faced life with courage and determination, doing whatever was required of her to support her children and raise a large family.

A few copies of "Lou's Dirty Dozen" are available locally at Marion Health Mart Pharmacy.

Excerpts from the book are available at Grady's website: www.ogradypublishing

It can be purchased in paperback or hard cover from the site or at To order by telephone, call 1-800-651-8022, or send an e-mail to