Sunday, January 6, 2013

HER SECRET OF HAPPINESS; North Dakota; 1933

Last fall we roamed the woods for wild grapes.

It was good to be alive; it was fun scrambling through the underbrush. The woods were full of the mysterious sounds of the forest. Then we heard something quite alien to all this--the cry of an infant. Curious to find the source, we made a search and discovered modern cave dwellers! There was a dugout in the hillside in which lived a family of seven, father, mother and five children from six weeks to six years of age.

The man-of-the-house talked with us a while; he had fish to sell. Presently the mother came out. She was young, astonishingly pretty, exceedingly plump, and surprisingly cheerful. On her invitation to "come in and see our house" we entered the one dark room with its table, stove, two beds, one chair, and keg of dill pickles.

The woman was not a bit apologetic, either. They couldn't afford anything better at the time. Here they had a warm place, "hole-in-the-ground" though it was. The surrounding woods supplied them with berries for jelly and sauce, dead wood for fuel, and rabbits for meat. The river gave them fish and water. Their garden patch furnished most of the other foodstuff. And the father had part-time employment on a neighboring truck garden.

The pity I first felt for the mother was soon replaced by admiration. I can see her yet as she looked when we were leaving, the baby in her arms, other little ones clinging to her, a smile on her lips and contentment,--not merely resignation,--in her eyes.

"I envy nobody, no not I.
And nobody envies me,"

she seemed to say. Since then I have often thought of her, wondering what was her secret of happiness. It's a wonderful secret that enables people who have but little, to carry on without fear or loneliness, while others who have more, are miserable, dissatisfied, fearful.