Jeannette Swyers was born and grew up on a ranch on Salero Rd. near Patagonia. Her father, Sy Swyers, was a rancher and her mother, Gladys, was an elementary school teacher who taught in the Alto School at the silver mine on Salero Rd., the Washington Camp School, and the San Rafael Valley School, before she taught in Patagonia. Jeannette was four years older than her brother, Harold, who lives in Patagonia with his wife Nancy. Jeannette, “Granny,” as she liked to be called, often shared her memories of riding horses through the hills on their ranch with her father.
Granny was known for her generosity and helping people in need. She always let them know how to sign up for the County Food Bank. She was prepared during the Christmas holidays with an entire refrigerator of candy for children.
She had strong opinions and did not hold back expressing them. To her, Blue Haven Rd., along Sonoita Creek to Patagonia, was for ranchers and she resented the road becoming a walking place for visitors of the Nature Conservancy and birdwatchers. But she had a sense of humor. She convinced two linemen to place an artificial bird high in the branches of a tree. She had a good laugh while driving by a group of birders with binoculars and cameras with telephoto lenses, all trying to identify a red fake bird.
Granny was very patriotic, always participating in Veterans Day celebrations. She was a member of the Women’s Auxiliary of the VFW in Sierra Vista, as both her father and brother were submarine sailors. The Fourth of July was her favorite holiday. She rode a horse in the parade, and in later years sat in a horse-drawn buggy. One year, Lars Marshall, who organized the parade for many years, was advised by Granny of the proper placement of some of the parade participants. She made it clear to him that he needed to consult her before planning any parades in the future. And he did! The next year, a week before the parade, he was seen hurrying to the entrance of the Wagon Wheel. When stopped by friends outside, he nervously exclaimed, “I can’t talk now! I have to meet Granny!”
She talked often about her “kids.” She had no children, but for a time taught catechism to children at the Catholic Church. When they were older and she encountered them in town, they were mutually delighted to see each other. A few people who knew her well were amused that she had taught catechism, as she was well known for her colorful language. She knew swear words in both English and Spanish and could use many in one sentence! She sat almost every afternoon at the Wagon Wheel. On a cold day, when a few people entered, a voice was heard, exclaiming, “Shut the x!#% door! Were you born in a x!#% barn?” Looking around to see who was yelling, they saw a small woman wearing a large cowboy hat sitting in her favorite spot.
Jon Larsen recalled how he met Granny at the Big Steer bar in 1996. “One day Granny told me to move my travel trailer to her place, which I eventually did. As time passed, I became her caregiver, driving her to town.”
“Granny’s housekeeping was ‘beyond casual.’ I maintained paths through her collection of newspapers, clothing and assorted things, which became the home of mice and often rattlesnakes. One night Granny said she killed a rattlesnake with a baseball bat in her bedroom and said another one was under her bed. I knew that I could not remove it safely with my pole and bucket. So, with a flashlight in one hand and a shotgun in the other, I looked under the bed and saw three pairs of eyes looking at me – a rat, a rattlesnake and a mouse. I shot the pair of eyes in the middle and pulled out a five-foot long rattler.”
Eccentric people can have a role to play in a small town, where everyday contact with people often seems to be predictable. Granny could stir things up. Like a child, she expressed her emotions, but she could be entertaining. There are people here who will always remember her.