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.