Monday, May 31, 2010

WHEN AMBER CRIED ENOUGH; by Marguerite Mohler Hanson; part 5; 1932

"Well," sniffed Mrs. Flemming, walking back to the sink, "she seems to be a high-priced girl to hug. Henry, I hope you'll be discreet."

Henry frowned. There's a catch to this. I bet Drag'll wish he had jumped into the silo before she gets done with him. It'll serve him right."

"She'll send them back in a few days; after Drag has learned his lesson," Mrs. Flemming predicted. Drag smiled. He guessed he wouldn't go to the mule show after all.

In the days that followed Henry and Dolly spent most of their spare time with Amber.

"Why don't you come along, Drag?" Dolly asked him maliciously one evening. "She inquired about you last night. She wanted to know if you smoke a pipe."

Drag colored. So that old pipe had betrayed him. Several times he'd strolled up the hill after dark, when no one was about, to visit the twins. He hadn't supposed any one had seen him--or smelled his smoke.

The next Sunday Amber came down to the Flemmings for dinner. Her aunt stayed home with a slight headache.

"This will give Amber a chance to tell Drag to take home his heifers," planned Mrs. Flemming. She brought them together in her pleasant, old-fashioned living room.

Drag blushed as he acknowledged the introduction, though he had vowed to himself that he wouldn't.

"How do you do," said Amber, keeping her distance as if afraid to risk even a handshake.

Henry caught her arm and drew her into the dining room. Well, that was over.

Just before they left the table Amber said that since she and Mrs. Morris were alone in the house at night she thought that they ought to have something around that looked like a gun.

"And you have two guns," she hinted to Mrs. Flemming. She had seen them on a rack in the back hall.

The family laughed.

"That old double-barrel shotgun has the kick of a mule, Henry assured her, "and Drag's carbine has the action of a boomerang."

"That rifle of mine's a good gun," protested Drag.

Amber looked at him directly for the first time since their introduction. She held his gaze.

"Do you value it highly?" she asked.

"I do."

"You might send it up."

"C-certainly," he stammered.

Dolly stifled a yelp of delight. Mrs. Flemming compressed her lips. She didn't think she was going to like this girl. Trying to make a fool of Drag!

That evening Drag sent up the carbine by the hired man who had delivered the calves. Two days later he received a note through the mail. His mother handed it to him when he came home from a trip to town. Dolly and Henry crowded around.

"Gosh!" said Drag, "a guy's got no more privacy in this family than a gold fish." But it didn't do any good. They had recognized Amber's handwriting and were determined to know what she said.

"The gun is all Henry claims for it," she had written. "But of course this is not enough."

Friday, May 28, 2010

WHEN AMBER CRIED ENOUGH; by Marguerite Mohler Hanson; 1932; part 4

Drag told them, except about the kiss. "Now was I to know who she was? Not a yip out of her. She groaned a little when Dolly put that leverage on my elbows; that was all. I've read of ribs being cracked that way. I didn't know it was so easy.

"That's your trouble. There's a lot you don't know," raved Henry. Drag let him rave. He felt he had it coming, but he absolutely refused to go up and apologize.

"I can't do it," he declared miserably. "I'll do anything under the sun but that. I'm as sorry as all get out; but I can't tell her so. Anyhow, a fellow can't square himself for a thing like that by apologizing."

"At least it would help. You've go to do that or go jump into the silo. You're not fit to live if you don't do something."

"He might pay her doctor bill," Dolly offered hopefully. Henry moaned and even Drag smiled.

"Or he might give her the twin calves," she persisted defiantly. "Amber's crazy about those twins. She can't believe me when I tell her he will never sell them. She says those calves were born to be the start of the new Chapelle herd. She'd let Drag break her neck if he'd give her those two heifers."

"Give them; nonsense!" cried Mrs. Flemming, beginning to stack the dishes. "He might sell them to her, though."

"Watch me!" muttered the goaded owner of the calves, and flung out of the house. He wandered on down to the calf pen. Sell those babies! He'd as soon sell children of his own if he had any. He'd as soon sell the heart out of his body.

He leaned over the bars to scratch the little dished face of one of his darlings. Great of Amber to appreciate them, though. She sure was a wonderful girl. That kiss! How round and soft and supple she'd been! And he'd cracked a rib for her--two ribs! Dunce! Lout! Bum!

Early next morning Dolly rushed home from a before-breakfast visit up the hill. She caught the rest of the family still in the kitchen.

"Surely, Drag," Mrs. Flemming's exasperated voice was saying, "You weren't fool enough to give her those calves."

"I was," Drag admitted.

"It's an absolute insult," raved Henry. "Making a girl a present of two calves! Rough-housing her and sending her twin calves in payment! Great heavens!

"Listen folks," interrupted Dolly, "Amber's tickled to death about those heifers. She looked kind of funny at first, then she laughed till her ribs hurt, and then she cried. She's making Jason turn out old Spot to wet-nurse 'em. Old Spot's so big-hearted she'd wet-nurse a snake. Jason's scandalized. He thinks Drag's lost his mind to part with those calves.

"I know it," muttered Henry.

"Here's a note she sent to Drag."

The family peered eagerly over his shoulder as he opened it and read:

"Thanks for the calves. I love them dearly. But of course this is not enough.
Amber Chappelle

Monday, May 24, 2010

WHEN AMBER CRIED ENOUGH; by Marguerite Mohler Hanson; part 3; 1932

What next? he wondered. Men had been killed for less. He felt angry, and stirred, and cheap. Why hadn't she let him know? One little squeak--game of her, though, to play out the hand. That kiss! How round and soft and supple she'd been! He groaned. Could he ever look her in the face again? Would he ever get the chance?

"Thank God I didn't upend her!" he muttered grimly.

Perhaps by now she had left the house in mortal offense. He was hesitating between a clean-up in the bathroom and oblivion in the silo when he heard his mother's voice with an edge to it:

"Drag--Drag, are you about ready for supper?"

He didn't know how long he had been standing there. He picked up his razor and went out into the hall. In the morning he'd pack his bag and join the mule show where he belonged.

Presently, looking something like a tall, defiant, blond Chinese, he walked into the pleasant, old-fashioned living room, his gorgeous orange hair still wet from his bath.

The room was empty. He went to the doorway of the strangely silent dining room. There sat the family--alone, Henry chewing mechanically, a puzzled, far-away expression on his dark, good-looking face, Dolly absent-mindedly rocking a half glass of milk, Mother intent on her food.

She looked up to reprove him for being so late. Dolly avoided his eyes as he took his place opposite her. She hadn't betrayed him--evidently. Nor had Amber. But she was gone.

"Thought you were going to have company," he observed to the table at large, an incredibly innocent look on his face.

"The doctor took her home," explained his mother.

"The doctor! What was the matter with her?"

"She was a wreck," sighed Dolly.

"She fainted at the foot of the stairs," elucidated Mrs. Flemming.

"From the pain," supplemented Dolly as if she relished telling it.

"Why Drag, what are you so pale about?" cried his mother, putting a hand on his arm.

"I'm all right," he muttered, resting his head on his hand.

"But I don't see how stumbling on the stairs could make her break a couple of ribs," puzzled Henry.

"Break a couple of ribs!" croaked Drag.

"That's just what happened," declared Dolly crisply.

"On the stairs?"

She gave him a look. "What do you think?"

He knew very well that he must have done it. "Why didn't you tell the truth?" he wanted to know.

"Amber wouldn't let me," answered Dolly. "I told her that Mother and Henry would skin you alive when they found out you had done it. She said she'd skin me if I tattled, but now you've given it away."

"Given what away?" demanded Henry and his mother in one voice.

Friday, May 21, 2010

WHEN AMBER CRIED ENOUGH; by Marguerite Mohler Hanson; part 2; 1932

Though she recalled it, she didn't go on to tell him that Amber had pointed to him and his tractor in their retreating cloud of dust and asked, "Is that man with the dirty face one of my hired hands, by any chance?

"In a way," incorrigible Dolly had answered. "He's my oldest brother and he's awfully curious about you."

To ease the poor girl's embarrassment Mrs. Flemming had explained that this was Flemming land down here. The Chapelle ranch extended in the opposite direction.

"I want you to make a good impression tonight, Drag," Mrs. Flemming told him. "Amber's determined to run the ranch herself. That foreman, Jason, is no good. She should have the help of a husband,"

"Preferably one named Drag Flemming," he said grinning.

"It ought to be you. You're the oldest!" Mrs. Flemming had a medieval feeling for primogeniture. "But I suppose it will be Henry. You're always so wishy-washy with girls. You never try--"

"Watch my style this time," he bantered, running a hand over his dusty orange hair.

She watched until he disappeared through the back door. Fortunately she was unable to see what he did next. It probably saved her from a heart attack. She stood there for a while thinking, wondering how any girl could fail to be attracted by this elder son of hers. Henry was small and dark and good looking. Drag was the opposite; but there was a queer kind of mystery and glamour about him, in his slanting eyes, so oddly oriental when lidded, so piercingly blue when open. He had a way of handling his long graceful body, a stance, a stride, a sway that must be the envy of the gods themselves. She'd piously christened him George after the saint, though he looked, and at times acted, more like a dragon. Hence the nickname, "Drag" Flemming.

Drag found his razor gone from its usual place in the wash room. He suspected Dolly at once. He could hear Henry strumming the piano in the front part of the house. He guessed that the little visitor was beside Henry on the bench. Henry had a way with girls; but somehow, this girl had looked different.

His cap still on his head, Drag glanced into the kitchen. Dolly was not there. He stepped to the back stairs and cautiously called her name.

"What do you want?" she answered from her room, and not at all cautiously.

"I want my razor!" he informed her in a subdued rage. "Haven't I told you to leave my razor alone? Bring it down here at once!"

He could hear her giggle. "Say please, wild man."

"Will you return my razor?"

"Say please!"

He took the stairs three steps at a time. Dolly's door was open. His razor lay on her dressing table, and there on the stool before it sat the young hyena herself.

Drag lunged for her, not dreaming that Amber might be in the room, too. This was old stuff to Dolly. She gave the visor of his cap a powerful jerk down over his long nose, and broke away. Though blindfolded, he kept her from escaping through the door. She seemed to be dancing around him as if she were two or three people. By the time he had used both hands to wrench the cap from over his eyes she had disappeared.

He thought he saw the lid of the cedar chest quiver, then a dress in the closet dropped off its hanger as if someone had fanned past it. Dolly couldn't be in two places at once. Drag invaded the long, old-fashioned closet and found what he was looking for in its farthest and darkest corner.

It was a lively tussle. Dolly usually put up a good fight; but he had never known her to be so silent about it before. He finally got her where he could rub his stubbly chin against her cheek and throat.

"Use my razor again, will you?" he taunted, and then gave her a forgiving smack on lips unexpectedly open. She closed them hastily in a wet, baby kiss. This was not like Dolly, but before he had time to unlock his hold on her someone grabbed his elbows from the rear. Instead of loosening his grip the attack tightened it with a sudden force that brought a groan from the form in his arms.

"Watch out, you big bum; that's Amber!" cried Dolly from behind him.

"My Heavens!" whispered Drag and dropped the girl as if she'd been a hornet's nest. She pressed past him and he heard both young women scurry down the stairs and bang the door behind them. He staggered out of the closet.

Monday, May 17, 2010

WHEN AMBER CRIED ENOUGH; by Marguerite Mohler Hanson; part 1; 1932

Drag Flemming had been working summer fallow all day. He could see dust hanging on his eyelashes, he could smell it in his nostrils, taste it in his mouth, and he imagined he could hear it settling in his ears.

The rest of the family, his mother, Henry, and the "kid sister," Dolly, were waiting on the railroad flag-stop platform. Drag sat on his tractor in the field across the fence.

So it happened that he saw Amber first. She was peering out the window on his side of the car when the "gasoline goose" pulled up to the platform. Their eyes met and both blinked in surprise. He looked like man not yet quite emerged from the clod, and she--well, she looked like something out of love's young dream--brown-eyed, amber-haired, and with that heavy-lashed, sleepy, mischievous look of a healthy child. The brakeman spoke to her and she turned away.

A few minutes later Drag saw a pair of small, sandal-clad feet step down from the farther side of the car. They were followed by two, plain black, well-filled comfort shoes, undoubtedly the possessions of Mrs. Morris, the widowed aunt Amber was bringing to live with her. Other feet came forward to meet them, Drag observed; his mother's in low-heeled chocolate brown, Dolly's in sturdy collegiate gray and Henry's in shining black. Henry was the dude of the family.

Drag hastily started his engine and clanked away, neck and neck for the first few feet with the "gasoline goose." He didn't want his mother calling him over to meet the girl now. One look at him in his present state, he guessed, had been enough.

He glanced back and saw that they were still standing on the platform, talking and pointing out the Flemming and the Chapelle home buildings that could be seen so close together on the hill a half mile away.

Drag decided that he'd make this his last round. His mother had asked him to be ready early for supper tonight, and looking his best. It wouldn't be her fault if her own sons didn't have first chance at this girl and the broad rich acres of her recent inheritance. That is, Drag reminded himself wryly, if either could swing it. They could probably swing the acres easier than they could the girl, for somehow, she looked to him as if she were one of those irresistible girls used to the courtship of experts.

As he breasted the last rise in the long field, he saw the family car whiz down the new paved highway, past the home gate, and on up the few hundred yards beyond to the Chapelle ranch house.

Amber was undoubtedly anxious to see the old place again, the low, cool cobblestone bungalow, the big, empty stables and barns. She had written Mrs. Flemming that she intended these buildings should again be occupied and filled as she remembered them in her grandfather's time, when she was a girl before her mother had taken her East to live.

Drag glanced at his wrist watch as he drove the tractor into its shed. Two hours yet till supper. He'd change the oil and give that timer the once-over.

Presently he heard voices, Henry's and Dolly's and hers, going towards the calf pens. They were showing her all the rural sights. He wondered if she knew enough to appreciated those twin heifers of his--valuable purebreds.

His mother found him washing his hands at the garage water tap.

"Hurry, Drag," she said. "A tub and a razor for you. Why waste your time down here? Amber's first sight of you was awful. You must redeem yourself."

Friday, May 14, 2010

FOOD PRICES IN 1932 AMERICA

The following is a portion of a typical magazine advertisement dated April 1932."Listerine Tooth Paste at .25 has taught women everywhere the folly of paying .50 or more for a dentifrice. They are buying this new quality tooth paste, made by the makers of Listerine, and applying the $3 a year it saves to the purchase of things they need or want. Groceries, for example. Stockings. A toy for Junior. A tie for Father." At the end of the ad it states:

OTHER THINGS YOU CAN BUY WITH THE $3 YOU SAVE

7 lbs. steak (.43 #) (Note: I have added the conversions)
8 lbs. bacon (.38 #)
10 lbs. ham (.30 #)
8 lbs. lamb chops (.38 #)
2 chickens (1.50 ea.)
a large roast
12 jelly rolls, coffee rings, cheese cakes, or angel cakes (.25 ea.)
6 qts. olive oil (.50 qt.)
20 qts. milk (.60 gal.)
180 oranges (1 1/2 cents ea.)
20 lbs. lard (.15 #)
150 lbs. potatoes (.02 #)
147 lbs. flour (.02 #)
40 lbs. prunes (7 1/2 cents #)
60 lbs. sugar (.05 #)
36 pkgs. rice (.08 pkg.)
15 lbs. coffee (.50 #)
3 lbs. tea (1.00 #)
30 loaves of bread (.10 loaf)
6 doz. eggs (.50 dozen)
7 lbs. butter (.43 #)
6 lbs. cheese (.50 #)
60 pkgs. biscuits (.05 pkg.)
30 cans of soup or beans (.10 can)
30 large cans of evaporated milk (.10 can)
30 cans tomato juice (.10 can)
15 large cans peaches (.20 can)
12 large cans of pears or pineapple or fruit cocktail (.25 can)
20 large cans spinach or corn (.15 can)
30 cans spaghetti (.10 can)
20 cans cocoa (.15 can)
10 jars marmalade (.30 jar)
several lbs. of candy
15 qts. ginger ale (.20 qt.)

I was surprised by a few items, the very inexpensive prices of fruit, for example. Now if we could only combine the wages of 2010, with the prices of 1932, we would have it made! (I'm sorry that I didn't have time to do a metric conversion for those who would have preferred it that way.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

WHY GET WATER THIS WAY? by Ethel B. Beach, 1933

Many farm homes are without water in the house because of a general impression that the cost is beyond reach. I, too, labored under that mistaken idea for more years than I like to consider. Finally I determined, however, that at whatever cost I was going to have at least a handy pump and a nice white sink in my kitchen, even if it took all my poultry savings. As a result, the much desired equipment has just recently been installed. Imagine my astonishment when I discovered that the total cost, including every small item, was only $25! For only a little more a simple power pump can now be put in and of course is more desirable.

We had felt that we couldn't spare the cash of one of the more expensive water systems just now--worthwhile as they are--and therefore went without any sort of system from year to year, merely thinking about the future. Yet there was not a year when we could not have afforded the simple little system which we have recently installed, and which we would not even consider parting with now.

We could have brought water into the kitchen for less money than we did but would have got less service, too. For instance, we could have purchased a common pitcher pump for $1.50, but chose the more expensive force pump at $4.50 for several reasons. The pitcher pump would merely pump water, whereas with the force pump I can attach a small hose to the pump spout on wash day and pump the water right into the washing machine, saving steps and time. Or, I can run the hose through the window and water my flowers and garden. Best of all, I can force water to the water heater (which we later installed--the greatest blessing imaginable.) The few dollars extra expense have since seemed small as compared with these added conveniences.

There are several sizes of sinks, sold at a large range of prices, but we chose one 20x30 in size, at $10. We put the drainpipe from the trap to the wall instead of to the floor so it would be up out of the way. Later we purchased a cast iron, white enameled drain board 18x20, at $4.50. It fits up snugly to the sink, is strong and substantial, looks well, and will last a lifetime.

The installation of a system which includes only cold water is not much of an undertaking, and the expense, as already indicated, is little. The only items required are the sink, drain, pump, sufficient water pipe to reach from the sink to the bottom of the cistern or well, couplings, and a drain of pipe and tile...

These suggestions are not the whole story from the plumbing side, of course. Not being a plumber I won't try to go into all of them. But I can testify that the job is simple. Also, I can report that the few dollars a simple system costs bring big returns in health, comfort and satisfaction. Furthermore, when you want to add hot water facilities, and then a power system, you can build on to what you already have.

Friday, May 7, 2010

WASH DAY ECONOMIES, by Bess M. Rowe, 1933

77 year old laundry advice...

1) One clever farm woman has a laundry bag in each bedroom. This makes it easy for each member of the family to put his or her soiled clothes directly into the bags and it is a simple matter, at the end of the week, to collect the laundry. She says it makes for more orderly bedrooms and saves her a lot of picking up.

2) A special cupboard for laundry supplies is a convenience. It can be made easily from an apple box or orange crate.

3) You will find good laundry soaps on the market in bar, flake and powder forms. Whichever form you use, it is more economical to buy in quantity. Bar soap should be stored in a dry place, and should be shaved and melted into a soap jelly the day before wash day.

4) If sheets, pillow slips, towels and other flat household linens are folded carefully before they are put through the wringer and are hung straight, they can be folded as taken from the line, thus saving hours of ironing. And nothing can compare with the fresh, sweet fragrance of these sun-and-air dried clothes!

5) On cold winter days, handkerchiefs can be fastened together with a safety pin. They can then be hung up and taken down quickly and do not freeze on the line.

6) If you boil a new clothesline in soapy water for a few minutes, it will be softer and easier to handle and will last longer.

7) In the winter your hands will not get so cold if you heat the clothespins hot before hanging up the clothes.

8) Wiping the line with a cloth wrung out of vinegar will lessen clothes from sticking to the line in cold weather.

9) If you are in the market for a new power washer, you will find that there are now two types of wringer attachments. The roller wringer has been standard equipment for years, but today it is more efficient than ever and, on all reputable machines, is provided with a safety device to release the rollers in case of need.

10) The second type of drying attachment is what is known as the "spinner dryer." It is new as far as household washing machines are concerned, but it is based on the old, old principle of centrifugal force; that is, it "spins" or whirls out the water in the washed clothes instead of squeezing it out. Dealers in your community will no doubt be glad to let you try out each type of wringer or dryer at home.

Monday, May 3, 2010

LET'S IMPRESS THE HOMEFOLKS, by I.G.H. from Pennsylvaia; 1925

Dear Friends:

"Mr. Smythe will be here tonight, Kiddies, and we want to look real nice. Now please don't get your clothes soiled and don't get out your toys and you mustn't go outside to play."

Isn't that about what we say to the children when we are expecting company? Why? Because we wish to make a good impression on Mr. Smythe. We wish him to feel that ours is a well-managed home.

If it were Daddy who was coming in from the fields, it would not matter if he found the children with dirty faces and the kitchen with milk on the floor. Yet Daddy means immensely more to us than Mr. Smythe but somehow we don't think of trying to "impress" him!

If it is a new neighbor who is coming over, we want our house and selves to be immaculate; if it happens to be Mrs. Jones who has lived on the adjoining farm for six years, it doesn't matter if we do appear dowdy. Yet Mrs. Jones means more to us than our new neighbor and after we have sufficiently impressed Mrs. New Neighbor, she too has the privilige of visiting us while our hair is stringy, our clothes soiled and our house in a turmoil!

Why can't we treat the ones nearest to us with as much respect as we treat strangers?

Our homes can not always be spick and span. I am not finding fault; it is the deception we practice in trying to make strangers think we are something more than we are, while any old thing is good enough for the dearest folks on earth. Let us try to impress our friends a little more and strangers a little less. Let us be sure our sins (also our neighbors) will find us out.