Monday, August 30, 2010

I GLORY IN MY JOB!; "Happy in Texas;" part 3; 1932

There's a heap of preparation and excitement when the bees are robbed. Daddy dons his bee bonnet and gloves, and the babies are carefully corralled on the porch until it is over. How good the honey tastes when it is fresh--that means hot biscuits for breakfast. It is strained and put away in stone crocks, along with gallons of molasses, freshly-boiled from the ribbon cane that grows on our own brown acres. And part of my duty seems to me to be crisp molasses cookies and taffy.

There are strutting turkeys and garrulous White Leghorns in the barnyard, for a farm wife must often play poulterer, too. That means fresh eggs in abundance, and the tender flesh of cock and hen, but at times it means nursing senseless baby chicks through their period of babyhood, and they can be annoying though interesting. A small turkey is the most brainless thing that ever had the gift of life, but when it has attained twenty-seven pounds and a parsley trimming, it becomes worth while.

I do not milk, but I could in a pinch, and often do in the summer evenings so that we may all join in the evening swim. I do, however, attend to the milk, wash and scald all the utensils, make the butter and cheese, and put away the heavy golden cream that will add so much to tomorrow's plain pudding.

Twice a week I bake in my temperamental wood range. How a stove as pesky as that one can turn out such crispy, crusty loaves, I don't know, but it usually does. Often on baking day there are cinnamon rolls or coffee cake, which are really just bread dough all dressed up. Why I even make my own yeast cakes! Common everyday things like cornmeal and buttermilk are converted into that mysterious something that makes the bread rise.

Butcher? Just another sideline. Sometime before Christmas every year, hogs are changed into tender hams, spareribs, bacon, sausage, headcheese, and buckets of white lard, not to mention homemade soap. That soap is more magic. I am proud of it, for it is snowy white, faintly fragrant, and it floats--and I made it! Drudgery? No achievement!

Friday, August 27, 2010

I GLORY IN MY JOB!; "Happy in Texas;" part 2; 1932

No danger of unemployment for the farm woman. There is work of one kind or another always waiting for her, but it is certainly varied enough, and busy persons are usually happy ones. It seems to me that caring for your loved ones is a God-given privilege. It is not in the least degrading to preform every task connected with making a home, rather it lends a certain dignity to life.

The farm wife over her wash tub! How our novelists have harped on that plaintive theme,--a bent figure slaving away at endless piles of dirty clothes. Quite naturally there are days when it seems hard, when you wake up out of sorts and everything seems hard, but there are many more wash days that are fun! Yes, kind sir, I do all of the washing for my own house and family, and as yet have no washing machine. I do it in tubs with the help of a washboard and I get as much satisfaction out of changing a heap of soiled, wrinkled clothing into fresh-smelling, orderly piles as I ever got out of eighteen holes of golf, and I am sure that I get as much exercise. Hanging snowy sheets and shirts against a cloud-hung blue sky with fresh-clipped green grass under foot, and a vagabond breeze in the air, is fun!

Please do not gather from this that I am a low-brow drudge who knows nothing else. I play McDowell and Tschaikowsky because I love them, and I enjoy Sinclair Lewis and Edna Ferber and Thackeray and Wells. Washing just happens to be one of my sidelines.

Another sideline is being my own butcher and baker and candlestick maker. It is a good thing to learn complete independence, especially when there are no shops just around the corner, and no money to spend. At first this seemed a hardship, but I have learned my job so thoroughly that I can now serve a complete and well-balanced meal from soup to nuts without counting on anyone.

From my cellar I can bring tomatoes, corn, cured meats (venison in season), fruit, jellies, preserves, relishes, pickles, vegetables--all of them raised on our own farm. Of course all this is work, but there is only one difference in working for money with which to buy food, and working directly for the food itself, and that, of course, is the immense pride that you take in your own products.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I GLORY IN MY JOB!; "Happy in Texas"; part 1; 1932

When the census-taking man called at our home, I parked the babies in the sandpile and sat for half an hour answering his questions. When he came to my occupation, he looked from under his brows in all solemnity and asked, "You don't do anything, do you?" Without even awaiting a reply, he wrote, "Occupation--Housewife."

I protest! I refuse to be draply set aside. I demand the title of Homemaker and defy the world to say that homemaking is doing nothing. It is a profession, and those of us so listed labor at it. It is a labor of love. There is no monthly salary. The pay is merely the little sweetnesses of everyday family life, and I must sift them out of their attendant pains and sacrifices. The business of making a home--an honest-to-goodness home, with cookies and pillow fights and firelit hours and books and beds and joys and tears--that is a job--a great, grand task.

I happen to be not only a Homemaker but a Farm Homemaker. I glory in it.

That I am only one among thousands of others is a point to be stressed. I am representative of my class, and I am decidedly not stooped nor wrinkled. I am sun-tanned and straight two pounds underweight from a summer of strenuous hours in Ye Olde Swimming Hole (I do a rather nice crawl stroke, too.) My hair has a natural wave, and doesn't string, and I never wear sunbonnets. Instead of drab calico, I make my own house frocks of gay, fast-colored prints with fresh white collars, and I wear happy-looking aprons over them.

While we are getting acquainted, I might add that I have been at my present job for five years, and am still in my twenties. I earned my own living for five years before I married, and at present have two sons--husky young lads of two and three.

From a honeymoon of care free happiness, I came to our Old Homestead, a rambling farmhouse built half a century ago, and typical of the times--high ceilings, plastered walls, no closets, wood heaters, not enough windows, coal-oil lamps. There is a big zinc sink without a drain. Running water has been installed, but drinking water is still drawn from a well with a rope and bucket and pulley. There is a temperamental wood range for cooking, and you raise a door and go down a flight of steps into the dim, dirt-floored cellar.

To be continued...

Friday, August 20, 2010

WHERE WE CAN REALLY LIVE; Mrs. M.B., Nebraska; December 1929

My grandparents, on both sides, were farmers. Some of my happiest days were those summers I spent as a child at "dampers,"--a baby name for "grandpa" that has stuck.

My parents have always lived in town, and it has been one long grind of deeping up with the demands of city life. Never enough money, no matter how much! Always noise, confusion, and restlessness.

My husband was raised on a farm. And now the children love to sit in the evening and hear him tell of the days when he was a little boy. Fishing and swimming, climbing the huge, gnarled apple trees, walking barefoot down the road, kicking up the hot dust between his toes, riding the high loads of hay, going after the cows. It's like a fairy story to them. They don't know that such things are real happenings!

It makes me fairly sick to think that all the things that go to make up ideal childhood are denied them. I look at their surroundings with a scornful and rebellious heart. A tiny little two by four year and beyond that, the asphalt street, always roaring with traffic. Now, I ask you, is that any way for children to live and play? No wonder they're so tired and cross in hot weather. And I, too.

It's our dream to be able some day soon, to get a little place out somewhere, where we can really live. Where my husband doesn't have to leave in early morning and be gone until dark. We'll have a hard time, of course. But, oh, the compensations! We're used to the hard time. How we pinch and scrape! But so far we haven't had any compensations.

Monday, August 16, 2010

EARNING EXTRA DOLLARS; June 1929

"A STRAWBERRY PATCH OR BUST"

I took a notion last year that I'd set out a strawberry patch or bust. It was one-half acre exactly. When I finished the harvest, I had taken in $367.47. Expense for pickers was $47, at the rate of three cents a quart. I had to market the berries all myself as Hubby was too busy in the fields. Sometimes I made two trips a day to town, a distance of 14 miles. My little girl helped carry them in from the patch.

Oh, yes, of course I had to neglect my housework, but now after it is all over I'm going to make everything clean and pretty and will have a nice little roll in the bank besides.

Does it pay for a farmer's wife to have a business of her own? I'll let the rest of you argue about the question. But I will say that I think that there are some females who need responsibility to make them real women.--Mrs. W.G., Ohio

"THE COOKIE STILL GOES TO MARKET"

My cookies looked very nice with their two raisins shining through the thin wrapping paper. They were taken to our curb market with other farm produce and my husband soon became known as "the cookie man." I sold for twenty-five cents a dozen, but if I lived where eggs were always high, I would get thirty cents. Soon the demand exceeded the supply. They were bought to be mailed as gifts, eaten at curb and even carried home by near neighbors. I also baked shredded-wheat bread in one and one-quarter pound loaves, selling at fifteen cents. One daughter and sometimes two, helped me.

My first venture was only two dozen. These "old-fashioned sugar cookies" can not be bought in shops and I am greatly indebted to The Farmer's Wife (for giving me the idea.)--Another Cookie Lady, New York.

Friday, August 13, 2010

DREAMS; by Mary E. Willits; 1931

She used to have a dream,
Of songs that she would sing,
Of silks and diamonds she would wear,
Of all the pleasures wealth would bring.

She used to have a dream
To climb a snow-capped mountain high,
To write a poem of sighing winds,
To paint a sun-splashed western sky.

But all those dreams of yesterday
Have changed, and have become more fair;
The songs she sings are lullabies,
Her wealth--her baby's golden hair.

She has not climbed the mountain's peak,
Nor has the things that wealth can give.
But still she has this great dream left--
To teach her baby how to live.

She used to dream--
Of wealth and power and fame.
And though no crowds will call her great,
God surely knows her name.

Friday, August 6, 2010

BOXES; 1929

So many girls have "boxes" for their friends,--specially cut "boxes" made of firm, rigid materials that never stretch or bend. Have you sometimes heard them trying to fit into them their different acquaintances?

"What makes Amy wear such awful clothes?"

"Jim can't talk about anything except those smelly chemistry experiments of his. Why, he doesn't even like basketball games."

"Why doesn't Hildreth cut off those braid? Nobody wears their hair like that nowadays!"

"Oh, Robert is good at school but he can't dance or anything and he's always talking about books."

So each of us brings forth a "box" of special prejudices and tries to push others into it. How hard it is to make them fit! Clothes here, manners there, won't be squeezed into our box at all! Out must go the misfits, for if they won't fit into our special "box," what's the use of trying to be friends with them?

Other girls have another kind of "box"; one which seems to have room for the most amazing sort of things.

There is Mary, for instance. She can't do anything especially well; but she is always asked to parties and to serve on committees. At meetings it's always Mary who thinks of something to keep different factions from hurling sharp words at each other because of the new pins or what play to give or whether Grant's Grove or Silver Lake would be the nicest place for the annual picnic.

Sometimes Mary's friends chide her about the acquaintances she makes. Perhaps it's their funny clothes or their nationality or their manners. But Mary is loyal. Haven't you heard her?

"Why, Bob isn't funny even if his clothes are shabby and a little queer. He is generous and clever and you know there wasn't anybody at school last year who knew as much about literature as he."

"Oh, don't you think that Hildreth's hair is lovely? At camp last summer she looked like a Nordic princess in that dance costume. Don't you remember?"

It is a happy sort of "box" which Mary keeps and to what interesting shapes it must bend and stretch to hold all of the widely varying sorts of friends that she gathers to herself.

Monday, August 2, 2010

GOD IS LOVE; Anna in Nebraska; December 1929

Guess I'll just write a line and give you a peep into the life of another busy farmer's wife. Married at fifteen, I became the mother of five rosy, chubby babies in less than eight years. When the third babe arrived we decided town was no place for a "poor man," so we rented a farm.

Well, the first year our hogs died with cholera; the second, all the kiddies, including Daddy, were very sick with scarlet fever; and the third, our four work horses broke the gate and got into the seed wheat and died. Such has been our luck, but have we given up? Not much!

It's true I've shed a good many tears, and it isn't so funny to wear a winter coat ten years. Yet a person can't afford to think of these trivial matters where others are concerned. And when at meal time our baby Ken bows his curly head and says "God is Love," I can truly say I'm not sorry for the sacrifice.