Saturday, April 06, 2013

This is Home, Part 11 - Sheep shearers, harvest hands, summer nights, the wolf, Rowdy and Buster, a dog with a broken leg, hanging in there, yellow tomatoes and an apple tree

This is part 11 of my mother's book about her life, written in 2004.

Sheep shearers

There were quite a few extra men eating at our house sometimes. In the spring when the weather was finally warm, we had sheep shearers who came and removed the sheep's wool so they would be comfortable in the summer. The wool was then rolled into bundles, tied with binder twine, and sold.

I took hold of Daddy or Uncle Doc's hand and went in to see how they did it. The sheep looked so silly sitting meekly on its tail while it had wool all around it. They were shearing evenly down the sheep. When they got through, the sheep looked very white where the wool had been.

While it is still weather for jackets or coats in the spring, the lambs have to have their tails cut off so they only have a short little tail left. It is done for sanitary reasons. Uncle Doc was cutting them off with a sharp knife while Daddy or Charley held the lamb. One held and one dipped.

I told Uncle Doc that I didn't want him to do this, because it would hurt the lamb. He said no, it really doesn't. Then he took my hand and said "Feel here. It is a joint; I'm not cutting the bone. It separates here."

I could feel that the bone was missing at that particular place and it felt like just skin. The lamb didn't even bleed that I saw. It's tail -- what was left of it -- was immediately dipped into a fairly thick substance that smelled really awful. Then the lamb rushed away to its mother.

Harvest hands

In the fall, harvest hands came to cut the hay with a combine. It was hot still, so they rested at noon sometimes and worked late at night. Daddy had two hay fields that I know about. The smell of newly cut hay is wonderful.

When the harvest hands came to dinner at noon, they had taken off their shirts because the shirts were sweaty and had hay dust on them. Mom asked Daddy to ask them to wear their shirts because of us. They shook them out and put them back on.

In the summer, we always ate on the long front porch near the kitchen door. Mom had a table with sides that folded down to about eight or nine inches from the floor. It had an extra leg on each side that was attached to the middle. They would swing out in the middle and hold up the folded down side. Mom put an oil cloth on this table instead of a table cloth.

I think it was called a gate leg table.

Mom always fixed a huge dinner. There were pitchers of ice tea and lemonade setting on the table. She made pie for desert.

Summer nights

It was cooler eating on the porch than in the kitchen. When we ate out there at night we had some determined flying insects who wanted to come in and join us. However, they couldn't get through the screen. The lamp was setting on the table and the light attracted them.

We had the most beautiful moonlight nights back home. There was a breeze most of the time. I remember when I was dating Edgar later that the weeping willow branches made lovely shadows on the porch when they blew in the wind. I always silently admired them when he brought me home.

We used to have moonlight almost as bright as day.

The family used to sit out in the yard on summer nights. The stars were so bright. Charley used to show me the little dipper, big dipper and other configurations in the sky.

Missouri had beautiful rolling green hills. The farm house was built on high ground. We could sit in the yard and see the light of Moberly and Huntsville in the distance. Those were good times. Moberly was twenty miles away by the road and Huntsville was fourteen miles away. Of course, they were closer "as the crow flies."

No matter what the season, Daddy always went to bed at 8 o'clock. He would let Frankie in and wind the clock. Then off to bed.

However, he slept poorly. He had injured his knee when a log rolled and pinched it, and it still ached. Besides, I think his legs may have cramped. Anyway, he slept in short naps. He walked around for awhile between naps and then tried a different bed, such as the living room couch, or the cot on the porch, or even the hammock between two of the cedar trees in the yard.

Uncle Doc had rheumatism and arthritis when he got older, so he was up with his hands and legs cramping. Night was a busy time at our house.

Every night at 4 a.m., I would hear the train whistle as it came around the bend before the crossing in Jacksonville. It was a lonesome sound, but a comforting one too, because it was dependable. I always heard it.

The wolf

Sometimes, we heard a wolf howl. Sometimes another one answered, but we usually just heard one. Daddy said he was talking to or looking for a mate. When some of the livestock such as lambs were taken, the neighbors got upset and stopped by on their horses to see if Daddy wanted to help hunt the wolf and kill it. Daddy was about twenty years older than they were. He just wanted to sleep. Besides, I think he hated to kill it. It looked like a dog.

One time they actually did kill a wolf. One of the neighbors (I think it was Roscoe) stopped to show it to Uncle Doc. He had it tied to the bumper of his car. It was so thin and small, I felt sorry for it. The wolves had a bounty on them at that time and the neighbor was taking it somewhere to collect.

We still heard a wolf howling. I told Daddy it was killing lambs and chickens because it was hungry. I said, lets get it meat from the meat house and put it close to where it is so it won't be hungry.

Daddy said wolves were too smart to eat anything touched by a person. There was no way to feed him.

Rowdy and Buster

We didn't get to keep Rowdy and Buster. When they were about half grown, Irvin Williams, who owned the farm directly up the road from us, came and told Daddy that one of his animals was missing and that he had seen the two pups running across his land. He said he couldn't afford to lose any livestock, and if he saw the pups on his land again he would shoot them.

Daddy asked if he had seen them chasing or trying to kill his livestock. Irvin said no. Daddy told him the pups were not hungry -- that they were fed a lot of food. He said pups run and play. Daddy reminded him that there was a wolf or wolves around. Irvin didn't care -- he wasn't taking any chances. He told Daddy to do something with the pups.

Daddy did something all right. He had a new barn for the sheep so he could put early lambs and their mother inside, instead of covering the snowy pasture with straw again like he did last time. He put straw on the floor of the new barn, a bucket of water inside and some food. Then he gave the barn to the pups. They could get sunshine in and see out, because spaces had been left between the boards so the sheep wouldn't be too hot. At least I think that was why. Maybe it wasn't finished.

Daddy and Charley fed, watered, and petted them. Jean and I petted their noses though the boards. Sometimes they could be heard running and playing inside. Jean and I were afraid to open the door. We thought they might run out and get shot.

Finally, after quite a period of time, Daddy said it wasn't much of a life for them staying in the barn. He asked if we would care if he could find a good home in town for them. We agreed. So away went Rowdy and Buster.

A dog with a broken leg

Rowdy and Buster's mother managed to break her leg. Daddy made a sling for her. It fit underneath her with four holes for her legs. Then he fastened it to a limb of the mulberry tree in the yard. She could just barely touch the yard with her feet.

She stayed that way until her leg healed. He also put a splint on her leg.

She got lots of petting and attention. She managed to get around a little on three legs while waiting for the other one to heal.

Hanging in there

One embarrassing incident I remember is when Aunt Opal and her kids came from Colorado for a visit one time. I had been told repeatedly not to step in between the wood supports for the unfinished floor on the right of the staircase upstairs. I knew better than to step on it, but I just didn't believe it wouldn't support me. I wanted to see what would happen. I found out immediately when I stepped there. Suddenly, I could see into Charley's room. I had gone through his ceiling and would have fallen if I hadn't doubled my arms and put each arm straight out so it would rested on one of the supports. The supports were close together.

Aunt Opal heard something and came in to find me suspended through the ceiling with my legs dangling down into space. She yelled for Mom and the two of them took hold of me and got me down. It was most embarrassing!

What was really bad -- the ceiling always had a place there that looked different even when it was repaired and papered. Every time I looked at it, I felt guilty.

Yellow tomatoes and an apple tree

Jean and I found something to do that was fun. The fourth garden was just off the chicken yard by a pond. There was a large, old, yellow apple tree there in the corner by the wood fence that separated the garden from the sheep pasture. This was inside the garden.

The tree had a trunk that separated into two parts that went outward. If the tree didn't touch the fence, it almost did.

We would get a play bucket or basket of little yellow tomatoes from the garden, climb up on the fence and sit in the tree to eat them.

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This is Home, Part 10 - Willow whistles and cat's cradles, the switch, my swing, helping Mom, Jean and I ride Tony, canning, Daddy and summer heat, churning the butter, ice cream, lettuce inspection

This is part 10 of my mother's book about her life, written in 2004.

Willow whistles and cat's cradles

In the spring, when Jean and I were small, Mom would cut a little branch off the willow tree and cut a piece about 3 or 4 inches off, cut a little hole in the top and cut a path in the inside (I think), also she slipped the bark off and made us each a whistle. Charley did it too, sometimes. They each could make us a cat's cradle with string and also make other things. I never could remember how to do any of it, although they tried to tell me. They could make a blade of grass sound like a whistle.

The switch

Mom also found other uses for little branches -- probably willow. Jean and I kept arguing and were driving her crazy. She cut off a branch and made a little switch which she laid on top of the warmer on the stove. She said if we kept going, she would switch us. She used it as a threat several times after that until Jean took it down and broke it in two. She didn't bother replacing it.

My swing

I was telling Daddy one time that I wished the swing under the mulberry tree would go really high. Sometime later, he and Charley came with two horses and a wagon to a tall tree at the edge of the woods with really high branches. I went along as they tied a rope over a straight branch and Daddy fitted on the board seat he had made for it. I had my swing and this one did go really high. I felt like I could see everything. Just like a poem I liked.

Summertime was a really nice time on the farm for me. Days that were not too hot, filtered sunlight and puffy white clouds of different shapes. I spent a lot of time laying on my stomach on the floor of the South room reading, after I got old enough to read. I had the Nancy Drew books, Kay Tracey books, and lots of westerns. Uncle Doc used to read them and discuss them with me. He bought me my first Wyatt Earp book, "Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal."

Uncle Doc told me that when he was growing up there wasn't a lot of information that wasn't local. He said that the information received about happenings at other places was reported by people going through.

He also said that when he was young, he remembered hearing about Wyatt Earp. We used to talk about the O.K. Corral. If he had still been around, Uncle Doc would have enjoyed seeing it when I finally went there years later with my children and husband. I thought about him, and missed him.

Helping Mom

Sometimes, I helped snap beans or shelled peas. As I got older, I made different kinds of salads. But I really didn't help Mom the way I should have. I did things sometimes.

Daddy used to tell me to help Mom, but she really didn't encourage it. For one thing, she had an enormous amount of work to do and she was very fast while I was so slow I don't think she had time to wait for me. Maybe she wanted us to grow up carefree because she was working hard when she was just a little girl. Anyway, I feel guilty.

She used to tell me to talk to Jean. Jean was afraid of all the animals, except the dogs and cats. She really didn't pay a lot of attention to them, either. Later, she especially liked cats.

Jean and I had the same background, but you would never know it. I loved the farm and all the animals, except the ones that tried to get me.

Jean and I ride Tony

One time when we were small, I took Jean with me and followed Daddy as he watered Tony. When he started to lead him into the barn lot, I wanted to ride. He put us on Tony. Jean was behind me. We were going up the little incline from the road into the barnyard when Jean moved a little farther back.

She said, "I'm falling, I'm falling." I told Daddy. He stopped Tony, checked where she was sitting, and said, "No, you're all right." Jean slid off of Tony and held on to his tail all the way down. Tony just stopped and stood there. Maybe this is one reason she didn't like animals, but she was afraid to begin with. Daddy and Uncle Doc had a little brother who died when a horse kicked him in the head. Daddy was careful with Jean. She just didn't -- maybe couldn't -- hold on to me except very lightly.

Jean hated the farm. She didn't care about all the things I thought were interesting. By the time she was in late grade school, she wanted to live in a big city with lots of things to do and especially lots of dresses to buy. She wanted to do things with people her own age. I was so bored talking to her about clothes and styles. She has lived in Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles and Phoenix since she grew up. She has had a lot of beautiful clothes. I guess she knew what she wanted.


Anyway, back to the summer. Mom carried vegetables from each of the gardens and canned them. It was really hot in the kitchen when she was canning. Mom was proud of her canning. Daddy made, or had someone make, a lot of shelves in the cellar for her and she canned until they were all full and nothing left to can.

We had an apple tree with yellow apples, pear trees, several kinds of cherry trees, an apricot tree, two mulberry trees, a tree with damsons. She made preserves from some of these and canned them. We had little tiny yellow tomatoes in the garden. She made preserves of them. She said we could have some in the winter that way. Daddy and Uncle Doc also bought a basket of red apples, which she turned into apple sauce and other types of canned apples.

She made dill pickles and bread and butter pickles.

All this time, she was cooking three meals a day. I don't know how she did it.

When I was little, I remember Daddy or Uncle Doc sweeping the front porch for Mom. Then entertaining me so she could get dinner on the table.

Daddy used to come home for dinner, wash his face, neck, and hands. And also comb his hair. His hair was still dark, with threads of gray, and had a wave. He was in his sixties.

Daddy and summer heat

Daddy had trouble standing the heat of summer, more so as he got older. After eating, he went down to the cellar where he rested on the cot for awhile. As he got older, he stayed in the cellar for a longer time at noon and worked later at night.

The cellar was as cold as refrigeration. There were two ways to enter. The kitchen had a door in the floor which one could raise and then climb down the stairs, which is what Daddy did. There was also a slanted outside door laying at an angle on the framework. The head was higher. This door was never locked and could be raised so one could walk down the concrete steps to the cellar. Of course, if anyone opened the outside door, the warm outside air came in. The kitchen door was later blocked off, so only the outside door was used then.

I used to follow Daddy down into the cellar and talk to him. There was an old chair down there, so I could sit beside him.

Churning the butter

There was a churn in the cellar, also. Mom used to churn butter sometimes during the weekend. Charley also came and did part of the churning. I can't remember what the churn looked like, except that it was like a large wooden bucket with a lid and a paddle in the middle. I hope what I have described is correct. The handle of the paddle stuck out the top of the middle of the lid.

I think Mom used to skim a heavy amount of cream off the milk and use it to make butter. I don't know if it had anything else put in it or around it. It may have had table salt in it.

When the butter was finished, there was thin milk left with flecks of butter in it. This was called buttermilk. Mom and Charley liked to drink it. Jean and I didn't like milk of any kind. Maybe chocolate.

Daddy and Uncle Doc wouldn't touch milk if you paid them -- not since Uncle Doc was in college and saw it under a microscope.

The butter was put into a large cereal bowl or small vegetable bowl, and set on the ice in the ice box. When it was placed on the table, it looked like half of a yellow ball.

Ice cream

Sometimes on Sunday, during the summer, they made ice cream. There was a wooden ice cream maker in the cellar with a smaller metal container in it. The cream, sugar and flavoring such as vanilla were put in the metal container. If there was anything else, I don't remember. The ice cream maker outside the metal had ice and coarse salt put in it. A handle had to be turned until the ice cream was frozen. Jean and I thought it would never be ice cream. Just before it was finished, sometimes Mom would add small slices of peaches. We also must have had a peach tree, but I can't think where.

Everyone was given a bowl of it. There was a lot left for later.

Every time Daddy ate ice cream, he rubbed his forehead in the middle and complained that ice cream froze his forehead.

Lettuce inspection

Stephen insisted that I write this down.

When Mom made a salad with lettuce, I used to carefully inspect each piece of lettuce before I ate it. They grew leaf lettuce on the farm.

I think I irritated Mom. She would say, "Maudie, I put that lettuce through several rinse waters. There is nothing on it."

I still inspected it. It was the only thing that bothered me. I was just sure it must have a little bug somewhere. I don't know what age I was. Probably grade school.

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Friday, April 05, 2013

This is Home, Part 9 - Missouri spring, spring rains, a Rainy Day, lightning makes a call, tornados, when the wind is green

This is part 9 of my mother's book about her life, written in 2004.

In the section on tornados, she refers to one that hit Moberly. The actual date for the tornado strike was July 4, 1995 (which matches what she said, a year or two before 1997, on the 4th of July).

Missouri spring

The whole year was interesting back home because there was always something to look forward to with each season. In spring everything was new and growing. The grass, the flowers, the baby animals. The spring showers really did make the grass and flowers grow, just like the song says. The lilacs bloomed and the next month the roses. The bridal wreath bloomed. It looked like a big snowball with all the white blossoms all over the branches and the fact that the branches all drooped.

Mom had made two flower beds -- one large rectangular one and one large round one. They were near to the honeysuckle on the end of the little porch, but nearer the three cedar trees. They could be seen from the road. She planted different kinds of flowers so they always looked beautiful.

Mom had a knack with flowers and with everything else she tried. She had different kinds of house plants inside. My favorite was the Boston fern.

I loved the old washing machine that she had taken everything off of and painted red. It was made of wood. She planted different kinds of moss in it. Some of the flowers were double. It set in the front yard near the well and between two cement walks.

You haven't lived until you have experienced a Missouri thunderstorm. The crack of the thunder is so loud it sounds like a tree trunk is being split in two right beside you.

I used to be afraid of it when I was little. The North bedroom felt very far away from the kitchen where Mom was working. I ran and jumped in Charley's bed and pulled the covers over my head.

But afterwards, there was a wonderful smell of freshness outside and a beautiful rainbow. Mom said the rainbow showed that God remembered his promise to never again destroy the Earth with water.

She looked forward to the birds coming back again. The wren, the blue bird, the robin, and the cardinal. She thought they made things cheerful. They didn't really stay around the yard much. Sometimes, one would sit on the fence in the back yard for a few minutes.

The wren seemed to get busy building her nest. We would see her fly by with something in her bill for the nest.

Anyway, we had the woods just above the Missouri henhouse.

Mom used to take us to the woods sometimes. We had picnics there and Mom used to make sounds like the different birds. They would answer and fly to a nearby tree. She could even sound like the whippoorwills and bob-o-links. They would also answer and fly to a tree near us.

One time when we were there, we watched a beaver (maybe two) build a dam across a little body of water. About the size of an ordinary ditch, only wider (Stephen said it sounded like a ravine).

Sometimes we found wildflowers. Mom knew the name of each flower.

Across the road in the hogs' upper pasture just inside the fence were berries to pick at the proper time. What I really found interesting there was the mimosa, or shame briar as it was called. It had long leaves similar to a fern. If you ran a finger along the middle of the leaf, the sides of it folded together.

I loved the dandelions when they came out. When I was small, I was sure I would find an elf sitting on one someday. After all, they are the color of gold.

I looked for four leaf clovers, too.

I also used to try to dig to China. I was just sure I would find their upside down feet on the other side of the world.

Spring rains

Often, spring rains caused the East Fork to flood and we couldn't go to school. Jean and I were just delighted if we woke up and found it had been raining all night. We knew we probably were staying home. Unfortunately, the teacher made us make up any work that we missed.

A Rainy Day

Charley used to tease me in grade school and it made me so mad. He used to say, "Well, tomorrow is Thursday," then he would grin, "unless it rains. Then it is a rainy day."

I used to argue, "You can't do that -- what happens to Thursday?" but he just grinned and repeated that it would be a rainy day if it rained. This wasn't only Thursday; it could be any day.

One time when high school got out for the year, it immediately started raining and rained steadily for a week. Martha Riley (my best friend) and I had really been looking forward to all the things we would have fun doing. Instead, we were stuck in the house writing each other complaining letters.

If Daddy had put any of the crops out when there was a rain like this, he worried that it would be ruined or washed away. If he hadn't put the crop out yet, he worried that it was getting late in the season.

Lightning makes a call

The fiercest storms at home are in the spring. I don't know if the following happened in the spring or not, but it sounds like it.

I used to like to explore upstairs in the house. I found interesting things. One time I showed Mom an old fashioned telephone I found. She said there used to be a party phone line through the neighborhood.

She said when Daddy came home from work in the evening, he used to call a neighbor and all the other neighbors would answer also, and everyone would laugh and talk to each other.

Then they had a really bad storm. The lightning ran in on the phone lines and tore our phone off the wall and slammed it across the room. After that, Daddy didn't get his phone and lines fixed and no one else wanted a phone either. If anyone wanted to make a call, they went to the switchboard at Darksville.

When I was pretty small, Daddy had someone add several lightning rods to the house.


In all the time we lived on the farms, there were no tornados. But the grade school gave instructions each year about what to do in case of one. They said stay away from trees, lie in a ditch if there is no water (fat chance!) or lie flat on the ground face down. Always protect the head. If home, get in the middle of the house in a doorway or in a cellar or basement, if there is one.

Charley said he had seen a tornado. He said it drove a piece of straw into a tree.

A tornado finally struck the area. The second farm that Mom sold in November 1966 when she moved out here was three miles east of Moberly where I went to college. About a year or two before David and I went back in 1997, a tornado came in from the east, demolished Mom's used-to-be farm house and tore up a lot of the town of Moberly. This was on the 4th of July.

When the wind is green

We had a very strong wind one time. I haven't seen anything like it since. I looked at the horizon out front and there was a pale green color all along just above it. I pointed it out to Mom and asked why the sky was that color. Mom said it was wind.

Then she said "Help me open the doors and windows." We propped the doors open and raised the windows.

We weren't quite through when the wind started blowing through the house. Mom said to stay out of it and against the wall. It was over in a short time.

At this time, I was probably close to high school age.

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