Sunday, February 10, 2013

This is Home, Part 5 - Uncle Doc chopping wood, baby animals, the baby pig and its mother, trying to put the calf in the wagon, washing clothes, making soap, making cracklins, the lamb in the kitchen, baby chicks, Frankie and the cattle

This is part 5 of my mother's book about her life, written in 2004.

Uncle Doc chopping wood

Since we burned wood in the stoves and the cooking stove was used three times a day, Uncle Doc chopped a lot of wood. He used to tell me to stay back at the fence because I could get hit by a flying chip. I wanted to see what he was doing and I kept getting closer. He kept stopping to tell me to move back. He was really pretty patient.

When I offered to chop some because it looked like fun, he chuckled. He was using an axe with a sharp blade on each side of the handle.

I also remember that he cut his foot with the axe one time -- probably thanks to me.

Mom came out and took a picture of us once, but she had both of us move back to the fence.

Baby animals

There are so many fun things to do on a farm. Every spring the bushes and trees burst into bloom. Everything looks like a fairyland. Wild flowers grow along the side of rural roads.

There are baby lambs, baby colts, baby pigs and baby calves. Mom used to take Jean and me to see the baby lambs go in a ring -- one after the other -- around the pond bank. They would run around the pond and every once in awhile several of them would jump to the side with their back feet. They were expressing the joy of being young.

The colt with his long spindly legs, short curly tail, and big eyes could be petted sometimes. After they were a little older, the colt or colts would run around the pasture, kick their heels high and pretend to nip at each other. They would also roll in the grass.

The baby pigs were cute, too, with curly tails like corkscrews, and I always wanted to play with them, but I listened when I was told that the mother pig would get me.

The baby pig and its mother

After asking repeatedly every time I saw the pigs being fed, I finally talked Uncle Doc into letting me hold a baby pig. He had just fed the adult ones and they were all eating. He looked at the mother pig, then grabbed one that was by the fence. He gave it to me to hold. The stupid little pig started screaming the minute he picked it up and didn't stop. No up or down, just one note. The mother pig left the food and came at a dead run towards the fence. Uncle Doc held out his hands and said "Quick, Maudie, give me the pig." He got it back inside the fence and on the ground just in time to stop the mother pig from going through the fence. They are large and very heavy. The fence was wood.

Trying to put the calf in the wagon

One of the milk cows had a cute little calf one time. It was a few days old when I asked Daddy if he would put it in the red wagon I had with me so I could take it to the house and play with it. He told me no, it had to stay with its mother. I was determined, so I asked Charley after he left. Charley said no and left, too. So I decided to do it myself. Unfortunately, I found that I wasn't even strong enough to lift one of its legs into the wagon, no matter how hard I tried, and I did try.

I sat in the wagon myself trying to figure out how to get it there and finally gave up.

Washing clothes

Mom washed clothes once a week. We had a building in the chicken yard that had a washing machine and tubs. When Jean was a baby someone named Bessie came and did the washing.

We used to have three big black caldrons. Bessie used to make a fire under a couple of them and put the white clothes and sheets in boiling water with lye soap in it. She took them out with a stick and put them in the second tub to rinse them. I remember Mom washing small things in the kitchen with a washboard.

There was an interesting thing about Bessie, she didn't want Mom to pay her with money. Bessie said her husband would just take it and get drunk. She wanted food, so Mom fixed a container with a lot of meat and vegetables for her. She wanted "fat back," she told Mom, to cook with beans. Bessie was black and a grandmother. She wore a kerchief over her hair like "Aunt Jemima" on the syrup bottle.

I remember when we got a new gas washer. It had a pull cord like a lawn mower to start it. Mom had a lot of trouble getting it to start. She had a washer with movable rollers that she put the clothes through into the first rinse water, then into the second. Bluing was put in the wash or rinse water, I can't remember which. The bluing made the clothes, sheets, whatever, whiter.

The way she ironed was interesting. She had two or three irons made of iron that she heated by placing them on the stove. Even the handles were iron. She used to use one iron until it started to cool, then put it on the stove and get another one. She sprinkled all the clothes with water and rolled them up tightly before ironing. She let them set awhile. Sometimes, she starched some of the washing. Starch had to be mixed and cooked and the items dipped in it, then wrung out by hand.

She washed a certain day of the week, hung the clothes on the line, then brought them in and ironed and folded them. Then she put them away. Washing took up most of her time that day. It was a big deal. She even ironed sheets and pillow cases. Mom loved the smell of clothes that had been dried outside in the sun and wind. They smell fresh.

Making soap

Mom heated one of the cauldrons to make soap when we needed it. It was lye soap made with lard, wood ashes, lye and I don't know what else. She was proud of how white and mild it was. She cut it into rectangular cakes. It was a lot like ivory.

Aunt Opal and her children were visiting one time and she helped Mom make soap. We had a big, old, black and white dog (Pete) that looked somewhat like a St. Bernard. He slowly followed Aunt Opal around that day and died that night.

Making cracklins

Mom used to also make cracklins. She cooked small, fat pieces of meat until the grease was gone and only a crispy shell was left.

The lamb in the kitchen

It used to snow into the spring sometimes, and the wind was very cold. Sometimes the lambs started coming earlier than they were supposed to and at least two or three had mothers who wouldn't have anything to do with them. They would wind up in a big tub in the kitchen by the fire. Daddy put straw in the bottom of the tub. We usually only had one at a time. The little lamb stumbled around the tub and never stopped going Ba-a-a. I liked being able to pet it but by the middle of the afternoon, Mom was ready to throw it out. She had listened to it almost all day.

The lamb was fed milk in a large round bottle. The bottle was washed by shaking buckshot around in the water. The bottle neck was too long and narrow for any type of brush.

I don't remember how long the lamb had to stay or how we got it to be quiet if it was overnight. Seems to me Jean and I were delighted to find it still there a day or two afterwards.

Baby chicks

Every spring Mom bought five hundred baby chicks. They were cute, soft, yellow and fluffy. She had to make the corners of their brooder house round to keep them from all crowding into a corner and killing themselves. They had a round heater with an extended roof around it so they would be warm under it. Every night at 2:00 or 2:30 a.m. she had to go check them to see if they were okay.

One time Uncle Doc went to town and came back with one hundred pound sacks of feed for the chickens. After carrying them, he had to see the doctor because he had injured his back. He had his back taped up for weeks afterwards. The doctor tried to tell him that sacks weighing a hundred pounds were too much for him, since he only weighed a hundred and thirty pounds himself.

Frankie and the cattle

Daddy's cousin Frank Rice and his wife Valere gave me a little fox terrier when I was a baby. He was born on my birthday. He was small, and white with tan spots and ears. We named him Frankie. When I got him, I was too little to play with him, and later when I tried, he happily went to work with Daddy. Daddy loved dogs and horses. I think he just liked animals. Frankie stood on the wagon looking pleased as Daddy left.

In the winter back home, the cattle have to be fed as they no longer have grass. Daddy and Uncle Doc had a herd of unfriendly Aberdine-Angus (or black Angus as they were called at home). Daddy and Charley were pushing feed for them off the wagon, when Frankie managed to get off on the ground. One of the cattle was ready to go after Frankie when Charley leaped off the wagon to get him and Daddy threatened the cow with a pitchfork.

The herd was started with registered black Aberdine-Angus.

When I was a teenager and used to walk down the road to the mailbox, every time I passed by the pasture where these cattle were, some were always standing under the trees along the road. At least one of them would back up, lower its head, and paw the ground. I used to wonder if they could come through the barbed wire fence. I wasn't even threatened by a bull; they were cows. The bull just ignored me.

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This is Home, Part 4 - Fixing the walk, the gardens, getting lost in the corn, the fruit trees, puppies and kittens, the mouse

This is part 4 of my mother's book about her life, written in 2004.

Fixing the walk

Uncle Doc and Daddy could do almost anything except mechanical work. When I was little, I remember watching them cut down a tree in the front yard near the sidewalk and front porch. I think it was a peach tree but I'm not sure.

It was a large tree and the roots had got into the ground under the concrete walk and the walk had broken.

After they got it down and removed it, they removed the broken walk, Then they came back and got out one or two rectangular-shaped wooden containers. They were possibly 6 ft. by 4 ft. and flat with short sides. They then got out a couple of sacks about the size of a burlap sack, only these sacks were paper. Inside was a gray powder. They dumped one sack out in each box and got water to add. Then they each started mixing with a hoe. They kept mixing with up and down strokes. I don't remember if they added anything else.

Finally, they put it in something like a wheelbarrow and started replacing the walk. It seems to me that they also put wood along the sides so it would dry with straight edges.

When they drew a line between it and the slab in front and back, I asked why. They said it was because in the winter the ground would freeze and thaw and the concrete might break otherwise.

Funny thing, when it dried, the whole walk fit together as though it had been made at the same time.

I think Daddy and Uncle Doc made all the walks to begin with and, of course, the steps and the platform-type step by the South bedroom, between the porch and the walk, with the date of 1800 something on it.

I used to sit there on the concrete platform on Sunday afternoon with books and papers spread out around me, writing the theme we had to write every weekend one of the years I was in high school.

The gardens

Anyway, I found lots of interesting things to do while Jean was a baby and too little to do anything.

I watched Uncle Doc carry water to water the tomato plants in the garden by the yard and the garage. They were small and he covered them with newspaper pages again after watering them. I helped him put clods on the paper corners so they wouldn't blow away. Then I watched him hoe and got to ask lots of questions. It was interesting to find that potatoes grow under the ground instead of on top like tomatoes.

Preparing the potatoes to plant was interesting, too. Plants or seeds are not planted. Daddy and Uncle Doc brought up a tub of potatoes from the cellar. Then they cut each one into three or four pieces. Each piece had to have an eye -- a place on the potato that is trying to sprout. From each of the pieces a potato plant with new potatoes grows.

Getting lost in the corn

We had four large gardens. One garden was behind the barn lot, next to the pasture where the horses were. One quarter to one third of this garden was planted in corn for the table. This corn had tassels, or corn silk, that could be used for mustaches and hair. The corn itself felt cool and it was soft, not hard like corn for animals.

I used to play like I was lost in a jungle while I walked around in the rows of corn. One day I was really kind of worried for a while.

The fruit trees

The garden behind the garage and past the end of the front yard had several rows of fruit trees that extended the length of the garden. In the spring, they looked so beautiful with pink and white blossoms. It also had a small grape arbor, plus the usual garden produce.

Puppies and kittens

This garden had another special thing. It had a small shed for animals just inside the gate that had a mother dog and puppies in it one year. The pups were tan and so cute. They were clumsy, fell over each other and had big feet they had to grow into. I used to get left over gravy from Mom and give it to them when they were little.

We had baby kittens sometimes, too, but if we found them and brought them to the house to play with, the mother cat carried them away again and hid them until they got older. Then she came to the house with the kittens following her.

We had a lot of cats. Some were at the house (not in the house) and some were at the barn. When Charley milked the cows, he gave the first bucket to the barn cats. He poured it into a big metal pan and they came running from all directions.

The mouse

I used to love mice when I was little. They looked so soft and cute with their pretty gray fur, tiny feet, black nose and black eyes that looked like they were pasted on the outside of their faces.

Every once in awhile we would get one or two in the house. We would hear them running inside the kitchen walls. They would gnaw a little hole in one of the corners and we would see one sneaking across the kitchen floor searching for food after the house was quiet and almost everyone had gone to bed.

I wanted to play with him. But Mom promptly set a trap upstairs and baited it with cheese. I told her that I didn't want her to kill him because she might catch Mickey Mouse. Anyway, I liked him.

Mom said. "Oh, you don't want to do that. He will eat your clothes. If we just leave them, we will have a lot of mice in the house."

One day, I found one just barely moving in Charley's room. I was about to pick him up and play with him when Mom came into the room. She said, "Don't touch him. He is sick or he wouldn't let you pick him up." She took him outside somewhere.

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Saturday, February 02, 2013

This is Home, Part 3 - Gypsies, hobos and tramps, the new doll, starting the day, the back porch and the carpenter and the bananas

This is part 3 of my mother's book about her life, written in 2004.


We had traveling bands of gypsies going through for several years. If they saw a chicken that had escaped from the chicken yard, they had it for supper. They actually traveled in covered wagons with tubs and pans on the sides. Little barefoot children with dark hair and dark eyes ran along behind the wagons with their dogs. Mom hid and told us to stay hidden and not talk, but I peeked.

I wanted her to answer the door. I thought it would be fun to be a gypsy and sit around a campfire at night like Mom said they did. Also, I thought it would be fun to sleep in the covered wagon. Mom said I wouldn't like it if I had to do it.

I think she was right.

Hobos and tramps

We also had tramps going through. Most of them were young men, but some were older. They weren't bad people, just people who had no job or money because of the Depression. They were going to other cities to try to find work.

The tramps didn't want a handout. They asked for food and water, but they wanted to work for it. Sometimes, they asked if they could rest under the tree by the garage. Mom gave the tramps a heaped-up plate of food and coffee or water. I think she was afraid because she was alone with us. Anyway, she rushed outside and put their food on something close to the porch. Then she hurried back in and locked the door. The tramps stayed under the tree by the garage until she went back in, and then they got their food and ate it under the tree. When Daddy and Uncle Doc came home, the tramps offered to chop wood or do any other chore that was needed. Daddy and Uncle Doc let them help, then gave them supper and told them they could sleep in the hay in the barn loft if they wanted to do so. They did if the nights were cool, otherwise they slept under the tree.

Only one tramp came by at a time. We had quite a few stop. I read somewhere years later that if a tramp was given food and allowed to stay and rest, he made a mark on a tree or something so others would know to stop there.

During that time we never had anything stolen or any problems with them. Imagine handing a stranger an axe today!

The new doll

When I was little, Daddy used to bring me home little dresses with matching purse and underpants when he went to Moberly after something. Jean was a baby.

One time when we all went, Daddy told me he would buy me a doll. He took me into the basement of Montgomery Wards. There were so many dolls and toys. I picked one that was almost as big as I could carry. Daddy tried to talk me into a small one. He said the large one was too big for me, but I insisted and kept picking it back up, so he smiled and I went home with "The Big Brand New," as I called it.

I had a lot of toys -- plush bears, dogs, a cat I called a skunk and others. I also had a lot of dolls. I had two doll buggies and at least three or four rocking chairs. We had green metal cook stoves, metal pans and several sets of dishes -- breakable ones. When Jean was a baby but old enough to walk, I came in as she stood breaking one of my dishes by dropping it. She was laughing at the noise it made as it joined one or two others on the floor.

I loved shoes, so I had several. I had a maroon colored coat with a curly gray fur collar, matching cuffs, a matching muff of maroon with gray fur, and a matching cap also.

We were luckier than a lot of people were because Daddy and Uncle Doc never bought things they couldn't pay for at the time of purchase, so they didn't owe on anything. The farm, the house, other buildings, animals, machinery, and crops were all theirs. Of course, farmers need to sell some of the animals and crops they raise in order to have an income. They also need to buy seed.

Daddy and Uncle Doc owned the farm together. Daddy owned more of it because while Uncle Doc was off teaching school for 18 years he bought more land. They got along surprisingly well. They never argued. In fact, no one argued or raised their voices at home. Sometimes, I heard someone grumbling to himself or herself about something someone had done, but it was unusual. They didn't complain to each other. The farm was large enough for everyone to be at peace.

Starting the day

Mom and Daddy both had happy, upbeat personalities. I used to wake up to the smell of coffee and breakfast. I loved the early morning. The sunlight through the living room window looked so pretty on the ivory wall behind the console radio. If I happened to wake up before Mom was through fixing breakfast, I went out in the front yard and admired the drops of dew on the grass and flowers. I got to swing awhile under the Mulberry tree. Everyone got up at 4:00 or 4:30 a.m. during the summer. Before breakfast, Daddy, Charley and Uncle Doc had already done all the chores at the barn. Mom always made biscuits, fried meat, cooked eggs and had some kind of cereal. There was always home made butter plus several kinds of preserves that Mom had canned. Usually molasses and/or honey, also. I almost forgot the gravy.

Everyone at the table used to laugh and talk. Daddy put about four teaspoons of sugar in his coffee. One time he wanted to put some in Mom's. I remember her laughing and saying "Ernest" while she moved her cup. She only put milk in hers. Uncle Doc drank tea instead. It was a happy start to the day.

Daddy had a unique way of fixing his cereal. If it was a dry cereal like Wheaties, he put a few teaspoons of his sweetened coffee on it. If it was something like oats, he just put sugar. I followed his example with only a few teaspoons of his sweetened coffee or only sugar on oats.

The back porch, the carpenter and the bananas

The house had no back porch to begin with. A carpenter came and added it on when I was very young. He screened it in. In spite of Mom trying to keep me away, I followed him around and talked to him about what he was doing. He told her it didn't bother him. He found out I liked bananas, so every day he brought me a banana. A really nice man. I think his name was Vanskike. I just realized -- do you suppose he was trying to shut me up for a while?

The small porch and the hall door faced the road. There was a concrete walk to the road and two or three steps down from the porch to the walk. More steps on the end by the road.

The hall had an unusual and pretty thing hanging on the wall. It was a large, thick gathering of Peacock feathers. It was fastened around the base. The feathers were beautiful and soft.

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This is Home, Part 2 - Uncle Doc, Charley, the farm house, the log cabin

This is part 2 of my mother's book about her life, written in 2004.

Uncle Doc

Uncle Doc (John D. Rice) was Daddy's older brother. He was born May 3, 1870. He quit teaching and came home to take care of his parents when they got old. He had taught school for 18 years. He was single. He told me that the girl he loved and planned to marry died.

When he came home, his mother had cataracts, and was slowly going blind. He took her to a specialist in St. Louis who said nothing could be done.


Charley Roe (Charles Albert Roe) came to work and live on the farm sometime before I went to school. I might have been around four or five. Charley's birthday was July 31, 1884. He was younger than Daddy and Uncle Doc. He was also single.

The farm house

The farm house was two story, but it wasn't completely finished upstairs. The lumber was stacked there to finish the room over the living room. The room had about two thirds of the flooring down. The room over the kitchen had flooring down. I wonder if I came along about that time and caused them to stop.

Anyway, there were four bedrooms downstairs. Charley got the one off the living room. It had a double bed and a dresser with a partly marble top and a tall mirror. I think it was oak, Charley's trunk was put across from his bed. There was a rocking chair, too.

One room opened into another. His room had six doors -- one opened into the living room, one onto the screened-in front porch, one into the South bedroom, one into the hall, one into the North bedroom, one into Uncle Doc's bedroom. He also had a window that faced the front porch

The back of the house had taller ceilings and huge rooms. Even the hallway was wide enough to have heavy furniture, like a wardrobe and large dresser, on opposite sides of the room. It also had a rocking chair and other things. Later, it had my cedar chest, which we called a hope chest back then. It had furniture on each side. It also had a door that opened onto a small porch with a large honeysuckle bush across the end. I think it was a climber. The humming birds liked it.

The South bedroom had three doors; one opened onto the screened-in front porch, one into Charley's room and one into the hall. It also had two windows; one faced the front yard and the other had a view of the road. I used to sit in front of the one with a view of the front yard and write to Edgar on the little table with the single drawer that Sharon has.

I also used to watch from that window for his car to come over the hill when we had a date. Sometimes I walked around the front yard.

The North bedroom had a door that opened into the hall and one that opened into Charley's room. It had two windows -- one facing the back yard and one facing the road.

Uncle Doc picked the smallest bedroom on both farms. He had one door that opened into Charley's room and two windows. One window was beside his bed and faced the back yard. I used to like to lay across his bed when it was raining and look through his catalog of books. It had descriptions of the books as well as names and authors. This is the one he ordered "Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshall" from for me. His room also had a window that came down fairly close to the floor. Jean and I used to climb through it onto the screened-in back porch that Vanskike built.

Jean and I used to run through the house chasing each other. We climbed through the window in Uncle Doc's room onto the back porch and through the window from the living room onto the front porch. Whoever was home would be telling us not to run in the house because we would fall and get hurt. One of us usually did either bump into something or fall. It was fun, though. We didn't do it often. This was in early-to-mid grade school.

Walking with Uncle Doc

When I was small, I was interested in everything Daddy and Uncle Doc were doing. I wanted to go to the fields with them. I held onto Uncle Doc's hand and walked with him to the end of the concrete walk, then I wanted him to walk back to the house with me. Mom said he did it a few times, then he called "Lola, come and get this child so I can go to work."

The log cabin

There was a two-story log cabin in our back yard when I was little. I loved to play in it and watch the sunlight through the openings. There was a stairway going upstairs. They told me not to climb it and I didn't, because I was afraid I would fall. They tried to keep me away from the log cabin, but I kept going out there. Finally, they tore it down.

No electricity or running water

There was no electricity on the farm in those days and no running water. We had a good supply of lamps which burned Cole Oil (or coal oil) and the house was surrounded by three wells. The wells had pumps. We usually used the one with a higher concrete top for drinking. There was always a bucket with water and a dipper in it on a table on the screened-in back porch. The water didn't have the minerals or the horrible taste water out here has. It tasted cool and fresh.

The stoves

Mom cooked on an iron stove with a warmer across the top to keep food warm. It also had a large oven and a deep reservoir on the side that kept water warm for washing. The stove had trim that looked like chrome but could have been nickel. The heating stoves were banked at night. We only had two heating stoves -- one in the living room and one in the South bedroom Jean and I used.

Emergency Bell

I remember Daddy installed a big bell on a post close to the front door in case Mom needed him, when Jean was a baby. Jean is two years and four months younger than I am. She is also completely different in the things she likes. I was plain disgusted when she was a baby because she couldn't play or do anything.

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