Monday, September 30, 2013

RAISING A BIG FAMILY; Part 3; by Maude Meredith, April 1912

Each boy, when he reached twenty-one, was given a two year old colt, one he had selected two years before, and petted and loved; a pair of two year old steers, and a heifer, and a pair of sheep. Quite a start, was it not? Often father kept the sheep and cows, saving the increase for the boy, and having the milk and fleece for the keeping, till the boy wanted to sell them, or needed them on his own place. Charlie had fifteen splendid sheep, I remember, when he married.

That mother of mine was very wise, in her day and generation. She would sit down to get baby asleep, and tell us the most wonderful fairy tales, while we sewed carpet rags. We picked out a good many carpets, but there was always a new one ready, besides we lengthened the lives of our carpets now and then, by putting together the best of two old carpets, and going over it, after it was stretched on the floor with a good bath of dark green dye. We softened our carpets, and added to the floor warmth, by using many thicknesses of paper beneath.

When Madeline was eighteen, the day she was eighteen, mamma had her go cut the web from the loom, that always stood in the toolhouse. Thirty yards, there was of it. I remember Mother turned to Phyliss and myself and said: “This gives me an idea, girls; we'll have a thirty yard web for each girl the day she is eighteen.” The “carpet-rag habit” as Madeline called it had been formed in those early days of fairy tales, so we always kept it up, and on particularly cold or rainy days, every now and then, we all sewed carpet rages in the kitchen, told stories, ate apples, and had oh, such good times. Phyliss had her web, at eighteen. So did I. So did all the girls. And each was given a heifer and a ewe lamb. If it had not been that we married, one after the other, I'm sure father's farm would have been eaten up bodily by the children's stock.

As soon as we girls could sew, we listened to more fairy tales while we made “quilt patches,” until we developed a habit of sewing quilt patches as a pick-up work. These tops we folded away, and as each girl was married they were brought out and quilted or tied.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

RAISING A BIG FAMILY; Part 2; by Maude Meredith; April 1912

A couple of years later Charlie had an opportunity to buy a shot gun, so he put his savings into it. How I used to peep through the pickets, my heart in my mouth, as my two big,--oh, very big brothers--so they looked to me, shouldered their guns, whistled up their coon dog, and went hunting. There was rabbit or squirrel stew sure to follow, and more pelts tacked on the back of the barn.

The girls were given the wee small pig, the "titman" out of every litter of pigs. As I remember it, they sold their pigs at about three dollars apiece, and their bank account grew apace.

The boys bought a few traps, and papa taught them to make "dreadfalls" and "figure fours," and our supply of fresh meat came largely from the fields and woods. We children were never forced to eat salt pork, or pork gravy. All the meat from the hunts went into the family commissary. The pelts were the boy's own property.

Father raised and sold a great many berries, and as each child became old enough we were turned into the berry fields. We were not driven out in the hot sun, and left to loiter, but were paid so much per box, just the same as the neighbors' children. There was a savings bank at the village, six miles away, and father seldom went to town that he did not have a little bank book and a small deposit for some one of us. Oh, the delight of that first bank book! I shall never forget it. I had picked berries all summer, for the twins were now old enough to amuse the baby, in that blissful side yard. You know babies don't need any amusing if they are allowed to be around with other children, and those twins were always a community to themselves.

I see now what a wise provision those bank books were. We children kept them all in one pigeon hole in father's desk, and counted over the amounts and compared accounts, and great was the rivalry between us. No one took our money away from us, and we were encouraged to make gifts, instead of buying them.

We were all taught to buy first class pocket knives, of papa's selection, and there was a tool box in the shed, and a carpenter's bench, where anything could be made.

We girls each had scissors, thimbles and work baskets of our own. Father said "poor tools make poor workman," so we had the best and how we did use them.

The boys bought fish hooks, and we girls helped them braid horsehair lines. In the tool shed, high up above the reach of the little ones, was our array of fishing tackle that would cheer the heart of any disciple of Issac Walton. Was there coming up a shower? Out went the boys and we had crisp brown fish for supper.

Those were jolly days, days full of work and fun, days full of tables, and thrifty gardens, and smiling fields. There were squabs for sale, and squabs for the table. Each girl was given six hens to care for, and was expected to raise, at least, fifty chickens each. I am sure mamma must have been a poultry expert because she kept an oversight over us all, and the poultry we did turn out amazed our neighbors. The boys helped also, particularly with the ducks and geese, of which we had very large flocks. Mamma took the care of turkeys, although we children did most of the seeing after them. If only you know how, and don't forget the little poults, turkey raising is very easy. We always had one turkey for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas, and had always from twenty to forty to market.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

RAISING A BIG FAMILY; Part 1; by Maude Meredith; April 1912

Part of it was done before I can remember, as I was the fifth in a family of ten, and at the time it did not seem a matter worth mention, but now, looking back, I realize what a big job it must have been, and how beautifully it was done.

First, in our family, were two sturdy good tempered boys, ambitious and energetic. Then two girls that father always called the "little housewives." Me, he called " Nursie," because I do think I was responsible for the bringing up of the twins. As I remember our household the two boys were bright little helpers on the farm, while my two older sisters saved mother a world of steps about the house. They set and cleared tables, washed all the dishes, the younger standing on a box in front of the sink, while I--"little old Nursie"--rocked the cradle, or trundled the twins in the little cart that father made for them, and that pleased them so much. We had a very nice level front yard, and a lovely side yard filled with trees and shrubs, and the babies and I lived in that from April till November. We did not know anything about "fresh air," or "sunshine cures," those babies and I, but we loved the flowers and the birds, and so, there we lived. When I was four, my sister next older had to desert us, as she was promoted to school age and by that time there was a tiny baby that mamma brought out to the little cart, to sleep in the shade.

I suppose I should explain that there was a strong, high picket fence all about that side yard, so when the gate was fastened we children could not get out of the yard, except we came through the kitchen. Oh, it was snug and safe, and no paradise of one's more mature imagination could ever be so wonderful and beautiful. From the first buds on the lilacs to the last late bloom on the althea, there was a succession of flowers. In this yard was a grand old apple tree, under which hung the hammock. Cost? Oh, it was made at home, papa made, first and last, a dozen of them, I would guess, from barrel staves, with a nice patchy old quilt over the boards to soften them, hung low, on purpose for its children. There were cherry trees, peach, pear and plum, a long grape arbor, cool and dense of shade on hot days, along the rails of which we children hung little bags, or nailed on little boxes, and seats for our rag dolls, and here we played at "keep house." In here we had little tables--ah, that good, nice father of ours who brought crackers in boxes, and the moment a box was empty, nailed in four legs, and forthwith had an individual table. We had stools for seats, always a stool apiece and one or two extra; these father made on winter nights, just as he made milking stools, just such, as later, people gilded and furbelowed with ribbons and set in their parlors. Ours were three legged, some short, some higher, all painted, and always handy.

Father had a way of making little carts, he would saw four circles from a thick board, fit in an "axle," nail a box across, and let us tie in a string. I think they must have been pretty clumsy, wide affairs, but there was always a cart apiece, so there was no bickering, and we were always happy.

When I was four years old, Hal, my oldest brother was twelve. Ah, what a wonder he was to me. He could do so much. He and Charlie, who was ten, weaned and raised all the calves, and "handied" all the colts. They began just as soon as the little colts could walk on their wabbly legs; they petted them till any colt would follow right into the kitchen for taste of sugar, if allowed. So papa never had to waste a minute "breaking" a colt. That was a great saving of time, he said, and how we children did love those colts. Colts were never wild or vicious, you know, if the mares are treated kindly, and the colts are tamed and petted while young. The boys could milk, which seemed very "grown up" to me, and were given the littlest calf each year. This they raised and sold, and the money belonged to them. It was Hal's first "calf money" that he spent for a double barreled shot gun. Then I was dumb with amazement, I heard mamma say, "Now, papa, you will take the boys out, yourself, and teach them to be careful, won't you? And I am sure he did, because we never had an accident. There were a good many woodchucks, some skunks, and coons on the farm; occasionally a mink, and lots of muskrats. Papa particularly wanted to rid the farm of woodchucks, so on rainy days he took the boys out hunting. I may as well add right here, that the yearly revenue from pelts was quite considerable. The gun, a good one, cost only ten dollars, as Widow Grangor had no use for it, and could not keep the rust out of it.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I AM RICH; Wisconsin; 1937

I am rich. I have a home and no one there who can say to me, "Get out. You haven't paid your rent." The house is old, but I have such pretty new linoleum on the dining room floor and the sun is warm through the double south windows in the living room.

I am rich. I have a family. Son who is going on seven and full of the excitement of learning and living; Little daughter, sweet and jolly and almost five. There are dandy hills for coasting in winter and in summer the shade of big trees to play under.

I am rich. My time is my own to plan as I wish, to budget so there are moments for reading and writing. There is no more being just a little cog in a big wheel as I was before I married. Here I am the hub, though the wheel be small.

I am rich. I am young enough to plan for the future, but old enough to have learned to take life's bumps with springs that "give." I am young enough and well enough to fly about my work with light-hearted energy, but old enough not to fret at the inhibitions imposed by responsibilities.

I am rich. I have faith in God, hope for the future, the love of children, husband and friends. I have the necessities of life and few pleasures. What more could one want.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

OUR SUMMER VACATION; by Milton O. Nelson; part 2 of 2; September 1912

It is a short look from our front door to the snow line above the Boy Camp: but it is fifty long, crooked, up-and-down miles by wagon. During that week we found ourselves looking up from our work much more often than usual to the great mountain wrapped in its mantel of purple and white: and often in the middle of things the boy's mother would say: "I wonder what he's doing now"--just as though everybody had been thinking of Little Boy and would know who the "he" was. We couldn't stand this for more than five days so in spite of the certainty that the way was long and rocky and steep, dusty and mosquito-infested, we hitched up the road mare to the little buggy and in the cool of the morning started for the mountain and the Boy Camp far up on its shoulder. To Sue the way to Boy Camp was an air line and easily flown.

It was in the dusk of the evening with just afterglow enough to show the dead-white blanket on the old, dead volcano, that two tired, bumped, and dusty parents and one tired little mare drew up in sight of a little tent far up the steep, and one great, big, long-legged, sunburned, little boy came bouncing down the crooked trail to meet us.

"And didn't you get homesick at all?" his mother asked after the wonders of the week had been rehearsed.

"If I did, I didn't show it," he said stoutly. "But my! The other boys are awfully homesick."

"Would you have had a better time if we had been here?" (this from his fond mother.)

"Great shucks, yes!" But say, I caught six brook trout yesterday, and I found, Oh, such a dandy waterfall! Can you come with me tomorrow and see it?"

We staid ("stayed" was spelled this was in 1912) and saw the waterfall and his ma caught trout under his tutelage and explored the canyon and found the waterfall and took a photo of it. Then we came home by easy stages, exploring as we came. This outing took nine of his days and three of ours right out of the middle of weeding time. Yet six months from now the weeds will be as dead as though we had staid at home, and sixty years from now, if Heaven lets him stay that long, Little Boy will still keep the memory of the bivouac by the roadside, the campfire under the fir trees, the roaring, twisting, ice-cold streams in the deep woods, the far view over mountain ranges from the snow fields of the old volcano, the trout under the log in the brook, and the waterfall in the canyon that he found himself and gave his own name.

Life is not all for work, for the killing of weeds, and the raising of cabbages. There are places in it made expressly for the pure squandering of hours, for strenuous idleness, and for memories. These mix in well with daily work. It glorifies daily work to drop it now and again and get the view from the top of the mountain.