Chapter 9 - The Harvest
After the big rain, our garden grew like crazy. Soon we were starting to can, the weather was hot
and the house was hot. It was very hard to try to can on an open fireplace. We canned some sliced
beets and a few jars of pickled beets. We fixed a whole barrel of dill pickles.
Bert and I would go to the garden and pick a water pail full of beans, we canned green beans and wax beans till soon our jars were getting full. Mother bought every jar crock, cask, keg and barrel that she could find in our little town. Paw build some more shelves in the cave, to put all our jars. Then all the jars were full, we started shelling beans- we had white beans, soup beans, lima beans and pinto beans.
I had to sit and shell beans, hour after hour, day after day. My hands got so sore that I could hardly work, I told Mother, "I never want to see another bean!" I was sure that I would never eat another bean. Mother just laughed and said, "Wait till the snow flies and the wolves howl; those beans will look and taste mighty good." So we kept on shelling beans.
The next thing was to get the potatoes in, Bert would dig some potatoes and we would fill our water pails the spuds were so heavy, Bert and I could only carry one pail at a time, we had to make many trips from the garden to the cave, to get the potatoes in.
The next really hard job for me was the cabbage. I stood by tie table hour after hour, cutting cabbage for sauerkraut, Mother, and I didn't stop till we had a full barrel of kraut.
Bert dug onions, carrots, turnips and other root vegetables. Paw fixed wood boxes, with white sand in the bottoms to rut the vegetables in. We had a hard time getting in the corn, pumpkin and squash. Now our cave was full, but there was still some things in the garden.
Mother told Bert that he could sell the rest of the garden vegetables. He went from house to house, telling the folks that he had beans, turnips cucumbers, corn and pumpkins and squash to sell, but they would have to come to our house and bring their own buckets or sacks to put it in to carry it home. Nearly everybody around came to get something. We had lots of cabbage, pumpkins and squash that we didn't have room to store. We had the only garden for miles around and people were glad to get whatever they could. Mother sold everything very cheap, she said that she would rather give it away than to see it wasted.
Now that the garden work was done, I wanted to just rest for awhile. I was just awfully tired. Uncle Tom and his oldest boy and Paw were working together on the wood for winter. Every night after work they would cut logs till dark. Beside our big fireplace there was a place just large enough to stack fireplace logs. The logs were stacked three deep from the floor nearly to the roof. Paw roped them together so they wouldn't slide or roll, then more logs were placed in front of them till the space was full. Paw came home early one night and said, "The wood is cut and piled for both houses, so now it is time to start school.
We were starting our second winter in Wickes, at this time there was no railroad, no school house and no church, Mother and Paw were the only teachers. Children today would think our school, Very strange indeed. We didn't have a tablet of paper or a pencil to write with. We didn't have a slate and Paw didn't have a school book or a chart or even a blackboard to show us what he was talking about. Sometimes he would draw pictures or write words or numbers, with his finger in the ashes on the hearth, but mostly he just talked to us. We sat on the logs beside the fireplace. Even four year old May wanted to go to school.
First we learned our ABC'S, then Paw taught us the sounds each letter had. Next he told us which letters were vowels. I said, "Every word has at least one vowel in it." Bert said, "I already know all of this." Paw answered, "It never hurts to review, sometimes you are a bit surprised, how much you have forgotten." Bert and I could both read and write, Paw was trying to make things so simple that even the little girls could understand. Paw would work with the little girls for about half an hour, then when they got tired., he would tell them they could go to bed. Paw would spend hours with Bert and me. We would listen to his every word, till Mother would get tired, and say, "You can't teach them everything in one night. Let those children go to bed." Night after night, Paw would teach us history, spelling, geography and arithmetic, as we sat on the logs by the fireplace, listening to the many wonderful stories Paw told.
It was a hard winter, the snow got very deep, most people were snowed in. Paw made himself some snowshoes so that he could get to work. As the winter snows began to melt, everyone was short of food. People kept coming to our house asking for food. Mother would give them a little deer meat and a cup of rice and a big lecture about how hard our family worked to have a garden and to can the food, we would need for the winter. She advised people to look ahead and try to prepare for the bad winters.. Paw shot another deer and we gave most of the meat away, Mother said, "If I started giving away beans, the whole town would be here. They would clean me out in one day. There wouldn't even be seeds left, to plant more in the springtime, so I am not going to start that." She gave them rice until the rice barrel was empty.
Night after night Paw was late coming home, Mother would say, "Paw, you have been out drinking with men from the works again! "Why do you do it? You know how I hate drinking!" Paw wouldn't answer her, he would just go on like he didn't even hear her. Then one night there was a wagon came up to our house, Uncle Tom and Paw carried in a beautiful table. Paw had made it, he had stained it and varnished it and hand rubbed it til it shone like a mirror. You could open it in the middle and it had three boards, to make it larger. Paw said, "Maggie, I have been working on this table every night after work, for a long time, I hope you like it." About two months later, Paw brought home four chairs that matched the table, Paw said, "Next I will make a high chair for Clyde, then some more chairs."
The high chair was a real blessing. Clyde was walking now and always heading for the creek, someone always right behind him chasing him. The high chair had a tray that fastened on in front of him, when he was in the highchair with the tray fastened, Clyde couldn't get down, so now we knew where he was for a few minutes at a time.
The March winds were strong and cold but they helped melt the snow. March 30th was Clyde's second birthday. Mother made cornbread and I made a pan of candy. Clyde didn't understand much about birthdays but we all had a good time. The snows melted fast and the creek rose up very high and slowly spread out over our garden place. When it dried up enough, we all began to work in the garden. Paw got some barbed wire and he put a good strong barbed wire fence around our garden, we wanted t o keep the deer out this year. The garden work and planting, didn't seem to be nearly as hard this year. We knew better, what we were doing. We planted more beans and potatoes this year and cut down on the pumpkins and squash. Bert dug a ditch from the spring to the edge of our garden, now when we had to water, Bert could open the ditch gate and we didn't have to carry water nearly as far. Everything in the garden grew just fine. We had gotten our seed in early and we didn't have any big problems with the garden.
When harvest time came around we made our barrel of pickles and our barrel of sauerkraut. We canned vegetables til we ran out of jars, then we shelled beans, lots and lots of beans. Soon our cave was full and Paw said, "Its time to start school again.'' How I loved those wonderful evenings of school, with Paw as our teacher.
It was November and we were trying to plan something special for Thanksgiving. My Mother wasn't very well, one of her legs was swollen, much of the time. She got tired easily and had to stay off of her feet. I was asked to do more and more things, to keep the home going.
One day Mother said, We have chairs, for which I am thankful, but there is not a real comfortable chair in the place, I hurt and ache all over. I just don't know what I am going- to do!" That very night, when Paw came home, he brought in a wonderful rocking chair. This chair had a high back and wide flat arms, on the left side the flat arm was on a hinge, it could be pushed out of the way to reveal a small sewing basket divided into two parts, the front part held six spools of different color thread, a small pin cushion for pins and needles and a pair of scissors, the back part was large enough to hold a large ball of yarn. Mother could sit and knit or crochet and her yarn wouldn't drop on the floor and get dirty. Aunt Molly had a lady make a pad for the chair back and a thick cushion for the seat, these were tied in place with pretty ribbons. Paw had made a foot stool to go with the chair. Mother was very surprised and very pleased with her rocking chair. She said it was the nicest thing Paw had ever given her.
On Thanksgiving morning, Uncle Tom came, he had six bright red apples, one for each of us. These were the first apples we had seen since we left Iowa. Seeing the apples made me think of Gramma Nichol's place and all the apple butter we made before we started to Montana. I was sorry all the apple butter was gone.
Now Paw and Uncle Tom were talking about the many changes they expected to see during the coming year. There was a rich gold strike not far from Wickes. A new mine would be opening in the Spring. The men who owned the smelter were working on plans for a new wing and a new fire pit, at the works. This was to begin in the Spring and then also, the railroad was coming-. Paw said, it- With new jobs at the mine, and new jobs at the smelter and on the railroad, our little town of Wickes would double in size overnight. With so many new people, they would want a store and a school and church. They would have to build houses for the people to live in. Winter came but it was not nearly as cold or snowy as the year before, there was a lot more sunshine. People talked about how mild the weather was. Paw was putting in long hours at the works, getting- everything he could, ready for the building that was to start in the Spring.
We still had school every night, but some nights Paw was so late getting home, that school was rather short.
Mother was expecting another baby and she wasn't getting along very well. One leg was swollen much of the time and she couldn't stand up very long or walk very far. When April came and it was time to plant our garden, Bert and I tried to do it without Mother's help. We worked real hard on the garden all of the month of April, then Mother said, "Maud, you will have to stay in the house and help me." She told Paw we just had to have help. On Sunday Paw went to every house in town trying to find someone, who would come help us with the house work and help to care for Mother.
Now my Mother had helped nearly every family in town, when they had sickness or broken bones, but now when she needed help, noone would come. It was the seventh of May, Mother had a fever and she was suffering so much that she was crying with the pain. Paw stayed home from work, he said he couldn't leave her. He kept washing her face with cold water, but it didn't seem to help her. Paw told Bert to take the children and show them the spring and to try to dig some Sago-lily bulbs, to keep them away from the house as long as he could so Mother could rest. Three year old Clyde got upset, from hearing Mother cry. He was frightened and he began to scream and kick, he didn't want to go with Bert. Finally Bert picked him up and carried him from the house,,
Mother didn't get any better, in fact she got worse, she was screaming with the pains she was having, I was terrible scared, I had never seem anyone suffer so much before. When I thought that I couldn't stand it any more, Paw told me, "Go get Aunt Molly." I ran all the way to Aunt Molly's house. Now Aunt Molly had a baby younger than Clyde and she was expecting another baby in about three months. Aunt Molly said, "I will come for a little while but I can't stay. When we got to our house, I said, "Aunt Molly, the house is quiet." We opened the door and there stood Paw, holding a new baby. Paw said, "Maud, help me wash this baby and dress him. Molly, please clean up Maggie's bed." Paw said the baby's name was John Roy, it was May 7th 1882. Aunt Molly said, "Simp, you have got to break Maggie's fever or you are going to lose her!" Paw got Maggie's black bag and studied all the labels on the little bottles, until he found something he thought might work. Paw tried all day to give Mother something to break the fever but nothing helped, Mother didn't see us or hear us, she couldn't speak, the only sound she made was a soft moan or a groan. Mother's breasts were red and full of fever but she didn't have any milk for the baby. There wasn't any milk in town and no one had..a cow. Our new baby was hungry and I didn't know what to feed him.
Paw went out and got a Chinaman to come help us. This Chinaman had come to town to get a job on the rail road, but the railroad jobs were all taken. The Chinaman didn't speak any English, so we had a hard time getting him to understand what we wanted him to do.
He came early every morning to fix our breakfast and do up the dishes and then wash all the dirty clothes and then fix lunch. Now this was fine, except for one thing, this Chinaman didn't seem to know how to cook anything but rice, we were not used to having rice three times a day, every day. We soon got awfully tired of rice.
The baby was three days old and was fussing, I knew he was hungry but I didn't know what to feed him. Mother still had a fever and she hadn't talked to any one since the baby was born. It was my little Sister Sade, who saved the day, she said, "Maud, I am going to make Mother some potato soup." I said, "Oh Sade, make a big pot, so we can all have some. We are so tired of rice." Sade was only eight years old, but I think she had a special gift for knowing how to cook. She browned some bacon then cut it into very small pieces, then she cut onions real fine and browned them in the bacon fat. Then she took the potatoes that she had diced before she started the bacon and cooked it all together until the potatoes were about ready to mush. It was very good soup.
Just as Sade was taking Mother some soup, Paw came in, Sade put a spoonful of soup in Mother's mouth. Mother opened her eyes and said, "That is good. If Paw was there, he quickly pulled Mother up and propped some pillows behind her back, Paw fed Mother about a half cup of soup. Mother said, "I'm tired, but strain some and feed it to the baby." Paw lowered Mother down, but he stayed close and watched her for a while. When he came to help me, he said, "I think she is starting to get better, she is not so hot and her sleep is more natural now. We will let her rest now, then we will feed her some more soup.
Paw helped me strain some soup for the baby. The baby ate the soup and then he had a stomachache and I was up half the night rocking him. The next day Sade and I cooked some barley and potatoes and a little oat meal, we strained the water off this and fed it to the baby. Somehow I managed to keep our baby alive, the three months that Mother was sick. I was either waiting on Mother or taking care of the baby all summer, the year that I was eleven years old.
Chapter 10 - The Railroad and Changes
Now it was August, the summer had been hot and dry. Bert had to work the garden alone, a very
big job for a ten year old boy. We still had the Chinaman come every day to do the washing and
dishes. Mother had been in bed with the fever for weeks, now the fever was gone, but she was
still very weak. I had all the care of the baby, day and night. My sister Sade had helped so very
much with the cooking. We girls had to be so careful, cooking on the open fire, not to get too
close and catch our dresses on fire.
We had lived in Wickes, Jefferson County, Montana for three years and my baby was three months old, of course he was Mother's baby and my little brother, but I had held him hour after hour, when he had fussed and cried, which was most of the time, since he was born. I loved this little one dearly. I felt so guilty because I did not know what to feed my darling, to make him a strong healthy baby. barley water, rice water, potato water and thin oatmeal strained thin enough to drink was all we had to give him. it didn't seem to have the nourishment that he needed to grow. Oh how I wished there was some milk we could get in our little town. Mother was sitting up in her rocking chair. I brought John Roy and put him in her lap. I told Mother, "I'm worried about the baby, he isn't growing right. Mother, please tell me. What can I feed him?" Mother said,
"I know the baby is sick and hungry, but Maud, you must not blame yourself, I know that you have done your very best, to take care of him. Now we can't give up, we'll have to try a little harder." Just then there was a loud whistle. Mother jumped and said, ''"What was that?" Before I could tell her, there was another long whistle blast followed by two short ones. "Oh, it is the train! The train!" I yelled.
For weeks, crews of men had been working on the roadbed and laying shiny new rails. Today the train was to start running through our little town. I wondered if it would stop, or just go on to the larger towns. It must have stopped, because I could hear the bell clanging,.
I put John Roy down, in the lovely cradle that Paw had made for him. Mother asked, "Where are the girls? I want them in the house." I went to the door and called my three sisters. The girls didn't want to come in, they wanted to go see the train. Just then the train began to whistle, so I told them it was to late, the train was gone. They would have to see the train another day.
In just a little while, my brother Bert came running in, he was very excited. He had been down to the train track, he told us that when the train stopped, the supply wagon drove right up beside the train. When they opened a door in the middle of the baggage car and the wagon was right beside that door. The men lifted crates and boxes out of the baggage car onto the supply wagon. There was a lot of heavy stuff, it took three or four men to move some of the crates. Paw was there, he told me to go right home, that he would need me to help, when he got home. Just then the supply wagon drove up outside. Bert opened the door and there was Paw, Uncle Tom 45
Bert started for a large package leaning against the wall, Paw said, "No Bert, don't touch that one." Bert looked very surprised and said, "Oh. what is it?" Paw said, "Glass, and it is easy to break,. so don't go near it." Paw told me to take everything off of the dining room table and then to cover the table with a quilt.
When Paw built the house it was impossible to Set glass for a window pane. So the four large windows were covered with oiled skins, this let in the light but we could not see through them. Now Paw was opening the big package very carefully on the table. It was four windows. He said, "Now if I measured right this should fit." He set the window, into one of the holes in the wall, "Well, that is perfect and I am glad." We didn't know if Paw was talking to us, or to himself.
Paw said, "Your Mother and the baby are both asleep, so we will have to be very quiet. I want you three girls to take Clyde outside and play in the sandpile. Now I have to fit the other three windows in place, then I will put two hinges on the top of each window and a lock and chain on the bottoms. I want to get them all in while your Mother is sleeping, I think it will be a nice surprise for her, so please, don't wake her up. The younger children went outside to play, and I sat down in Mother.',s-rocking chair and went sound asleep.
When I woke up something seemed different, at first I didn't know what it was, then I saw the light and the sunshine streaming in the west window. I got up and looked at all of the new windows, all that light and sunshine made the house seem so different. It seemed more pleasant and cheerful. I looked at the baby, he was still asleep. Paw and Bert were busy fitting a black stovepipe from the stove over to the chimney.
Soon the younger children came into the house. Paw said, "There is one more box." Bert said, "I'll open it." Paw Said, "No Bert, you have opened some, let Sade open this one." The quilt was still on the table, so Paw put the box on the table. We all crowded around to see what Sade would take out of the box. When the top was off of the box Sade said, "Oh a new kettle." Then she started to take little spice cans out of the kettle. There was black pepper, red pepper, cinnamon, allspice and sage. Bert spoke up and said, "What do we need sage for, its growing all around." Sade answered, "The sage that is growing outside is not the kind of sage that you put in turkey dressing!" There was also a bottle of Vanilla flavoring and a bottle of peppermint, and a jar of tea for Mother.
There was another kettle, and Sade took two books out of it, the first book was a cookbook. Sade was real happy to get that, but a week later she told Paw, "It was no good, because everything called for milk or eggs or both, and we didn't have milk or eggs." The other book was the one we all looked at hour after hour, it was our wish book. Marshall Fields Mercantile Company, Chicago, Illinois, 1882 - i883 Catalog. Now in the bottom of the box, Sade found two new frying pans and four lids.
Next Paw built a fire in the new stove, then he had we four older children watch while he showed us over and over again, how to control,.the fire and save the heat, by the correct use of the stove dampers and the one damper in the stovepipe. "Open the dampers to get the fire going, then gradually close them part way to slow the burning, but don't close them all the way or the smoke will come out in the house." Paw told us. Paw said that he hoped he could Set some coal soon. Bert cut up the wood from the crates and filled the wood box." Sade fried a pan of potatoes in one of the new frying pans, on the new stove. Paw brought in water and strained it through a cloth and filled the teakettle and the stove reservoir. I changed the baby and fixed him a bottle of the new formula.
I woke up in the middle of the night,'I was sure that it was past midnight, I listened for the baby. I lay awake thinking of all the things that had happened in one day, then I thought, the baby never has slept this long before! Is he alright? I hurried down the ladder and over to his cradle, I felt his head and held his little hand and listened ' to his breathing. I decided he was alright, just asleep, so I climbed up into the loft again. Then I got on my knees and I thanked my Heavenly Father for the stove, the sewing machine, the water pails, the teakettle, the two cooking kettles and the two frying pans and above all I especially thanked Him for the baby's formula, I asked Him to bless our baby that he would grow strong and be a healthy, happy baby. Then I went sound asleep.
In the morning when I woke up, I knew that I had overslept, I hurried to get dressed and down the ladder. All the other children had eaten breakfast, and Paw had gone to work. Sade was mixing bread dough, Bert told me, Paw Gave the baby a bottle about four o'clock this morning. He told us, "Let you sleep as long,, as the baby slept, you had. been up a lot of nights and you needed rest." Just then Mother called me, I went over to the bed to see what she wanted. Mother asked, "Maud, are you in a dream" I said, "What do you mean, in a dream?" Mother said, "I have been dreaming the same dream, over and over. I'm in a nice light room, with sunshine coming in large windows, and there is a stove. I keep seeing a stove, it is just like my Mother's stove. It says HOME COMFORT on the oven door, and on the stove is a lovely copper teakettle. There is a new sewing machine, and the house is quiet, the baby isn't crying-. I know any minute I will wake up from my dream and I will be back in my dingy house with the oilskins on the windows and hearing the baby crying that pitiful little wail." I said, Mother, you are not dreaming. Come, let me show you." I put slippers on her feet and helped her put on her old robe. We walked to the window, I told her, Paw took down the oilskins and put in the new windows. Mother said, "My they are pretty, we will have to get some nice lace curtains for these windows." We went over to the sewing machine, Mother ran her hand over it. Then I saw tears in her eyes, that ran down her cheeks. I asked, "Mother what is the matter? Why are you crying?" Mother said, "How can I treadle this new sewing machine, with my bad leg?" I said, "Mother, your leg is going to get well and be just as good as the other one is, but right now, I can treadle this sewing machine." Mother said, "You have the baby to care for." I said, "Mother, we have a new baby food, he is going to be all right! He is going to grow big and strong, right now the baby is sleeping. While the baby sleeps, I can sew."
I had Mother sit down in her rocking chair and I made her a snack of toast with honey and a cup of hot tea. She said, "My this is good, but where did you get the tea?" I said, "Mother do you remember the story about the men who sailed their ship off to a foreign land, to make their fortunes, and all the people said, Wait till my ship comes in! Well now, this family can say, all our wishes will come true, when our train comes through town."
From that day on, my Mother's health improved very rapidly. It wasn't long before she was up and around again.