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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