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"I believe the love of one person can radiate and shine through the lives of many. Such was my mother's love. And, for me, it continues to shine in my life. To 'Mama' these pages are dedicated." Eda
She was born Emma Henrietta Henschel in 1875 in the wooded part of Wisconsin. She was one of fifteen living children and from the day the children could walk each had a chore to do. No one went to bed until the day's work was finished.
I want to tell you some of the stories Mama told me about her childhood in Wisconsin.
One day when Emma was about eight years old, a thunder storm came out of nowhere. Lightning danced across the sky and the rain came down in torrents. All the children ran into the house to take off their wet clothes. Mama stood by the tall big coal stove. When they heard the thunder roar again and the lightning flash, a streak of lightning seemed to come right into the house and Mama fell to the floor. Her mother came bending over her and put cold towels on her forehead. Mama kept muttering, "I love you, mother. I love you all." Her father seemed miles away but she heard him say, "It had to be the pick of the litter." Then she heard herself saying again, "I love you. I love you." Then her mother's voice seemed to be a little clearer. "She's coming to. She'll be all right." Emma slowly sat up and the whole family was standing around her. She said, "What happened?" In a low voice her mother responded, "You were struck by lightning, Emma, but you are all right now." The family gathered around the table and sat down. They talked about what they would do the following day and the subject of the lightning was never brought up again.
When mother was fourteen years old, she was tall, bony and very thin. The family doctor told her parents if she were to go to a warmer climate her health would be better. Mama knew it wasn't the climate but her sister Mary that was two years older than she was. Mary always made Emma carry her pail of water too. She would say, "You can do it, Emma. Two pails are just as easy to carry as one." They were carrying water to big barrels that stood, one by the back door and the other at the entrance to the cow barn. These barrels had to be filled with water. Each child had to wash his hands before coming into the house with homemade lye soap, then dried on a towel that hung on a nail. the one by the barn was used the same way before they milked the cows. If anyone did not follow the rules of washing their hands, a leather strap hung just inside the kitchen door and he or she got a taste of the sting from the strap. Maybe their faces weren't always clean, but you never found their hands dirty. The cause of this strictness was the fear of the plague that took may lives just a few years before when the early pioneers first came to Wisconsin. So, Emma would carry two pails of water to the barrels. Mary would say, "I'm the oldest and you should do as I say. Emma would come into the house so tired she could hardly wash her hands.
After dinner, their grandmother Henschel would take them into the woods, each one carrying a sack to be filled with leaves that had fallen from the trees. They would scatter in the forest and when the sacks were filled they would drag them to where Grandmother Henschel sat. These leaves were the cattle's bedding in the winter. Mary would climb a tree and look out into the vast land beyond, and Emma would drag in her filled sacks while Mary was still in the tree. Mary would quickly descend, give Emma her empty bag and drag Emma's full one to their grandma. Thus, Emma had another bag to fill. They didn't dare complain to their mother or both would be punished. That was the cure for tattling on one another.
In the early summer the family always had a big garden, and all the children had to work in it to prepare food for winter. There wasn't any kind of spray to kill bugs in those days so each child was given a jar and they were to hunt potato and tomato worms and put them in the jar. At night their father would count each bug or worm and give them one penny for each one. Mama worked hard and would have her jar half full and Mary would come over and trade jars with Mama. Her jar contained only a few bugs. Mama couldn't say anything or she would get a strapping. Mama's mother said it took two to make a fight, and she had too much to do to find out who was at fault. It was quicker to spank them both than to hear their arguments.
Three miles from the Henschel home was a little Lutheran church where the entire family attended. The children had to go to Sunday School and then when that was out, the church bell rang again, calling the older folks to prayer. This Sunday after Sunday School Emma ran all the way home to see if her folks were going to church. When she reached home she came running up to her father saying, "Daddy, you've got to go to church ." Then Emma started crying. Through her tears she sobbed, "I don't want you to burn in fire and brimstone." Her father put his arm around her and said, "That's all right, Emma, we must all go to church. But the Bible also says if the ox is in the well, even if it is Sunday, pull him out. You see, Emma, snow will soon be falling and all these potatoes have to be put into the cellar. If not, what will all you children eat come winter?" Emma wiped her tears and ran into the house saying, "I'll change my dress and come and help you, daddy."
The Bible was read every night after supper and then off to bed for all the younger children. The older girls were allowed to stay up to help their mother sew. All the sewing was done by hand in those days.
Now it was time for three of the girls to be confirmed. They were all working on the white dresses with yards and yards of lace. The girls not only had to know the Bible, but they had to display a piece of beauty for the home. Grandma Henschel had taught the girls to crochet and Mama had decided to make a big whirl out of carpet warp. Mary made a pillow with lovely colored flowers. Their mother was very proud of their work. When it came time to exhibit them, Mama's whirl had Mary's name on it and Mary's pillow had Mama's name on it. Mama called her sister over and said, "Look, Mary, they have gotten our names mixed up. I think I should change them." Mary said, "I changed them myself and that's the way they are going to stay." For the first time Emma fought back with words. "I know I made the whirl and I'll always make beautiful crochet things and I'll never, never give you one."
The end of he summer came and Minnie, one of Mama's older sisters came home to Wisconsin from California. She had brought her husband's body back to be buried in the family cemetery. He had died with tuberculosis and no cure was available. Minnie stayed at home several weeks and she saw Emma grow thinner and thinner. One day she said to her mother. "I'm all alone now and I have to go back to California on business. I'd like to take Emma with me." Her mother said she would have to talk it over with Herman, her husband. The day came for Minnie to leave and she asked her mother what their decision was about Emma coming with her. Her father spoke up and said, "We have decided to let Emma go with you if you promise that if she should pass away you will bring her body back here to be buried. Mother wants all her children in the same cemetery. Minnie promised and the girls were taken to catch the train to California. On the train she would leave her seat to get a drink of water and on the way back people stared at her. She became so self conscious and afraid that when she got back to her seat she covered her head with a pillow and cried. Minnie tried to comfort her, but she would only say, "Why did I have to be so ugly?"
Finally, the train stopped at Fresno, California. There was no one there to meet them and they had to carry their own suitcases and lunch basket. As they were walking down the street, a Chinaman with a que walked past them. Mama dropped her suitcase and basket and came running closer to Minnie. "Look,", she said, "What kind of man is that?" She began shaking all over. Minnie got her calmed down and they continued to the hotel. the next morning Minnie hired a horse and buggy and they drove outside Fresno where her husband had built a house, subdividing a piece of land for homes. This was Fresno's first subdivision. Minnie took mother to school after they got settled, but she was a tall girl for her grade and after a few months Mama begged Minnie to let her quit school and go to work. Each day it was harder for Mama to face the teacher and the children. So finally Minnie let her quit school.
Mama's first job was in a bakery selling bread at a nickel a loaf. Mama was happier now. She liked her job and there weren't any smarty children poking fun at her. A year later she was waiting on tables in a little restaurant next to the bakery and making twice the salary. Everyone that came in wanted Emma to wait on them and asked for her tables. One day a businessman asked her if she would like to come and keep house for him and his wife and three children. He said they would pay her more than she was getting in the restaurant. She said she would for she thought she would have more time for herself, but that didn't quite work out. the Gundelfingers lived in a big house. When she found the place, she thought to herself, I can never do all the work in this big house. But when the door opened and she met Mrs. Gundelfinger she liked her so much right from the very beginning that she decided to try it.
Now she was cook, chambermaid, and did all the washing and ironing and took care of the children in between times. Mother had learned to work and was always a good manager. Sometimes when she would be working she would hear the shrill whistle of the train coming into Fresno. She would stop whatever she was doing and her thoughts went back to her family in Wisconsin. She would take her apron and wipe a tear out of her eye, but she knew she had to go on with her work. No time to stop now, but someday she would return to all of them. Yes, she did go back to see her folks, but it was years later. She was married and had four children. When her folks met her at the depot in Wisconsin, she started crying. She had remembered her father and mother young and here they were white haired and stooped over. When she kissed her father, the love between them came back and she knew she was home again.
Mama stayed with the Gundelfingers until she was married. This marriage produced five children; three girls: Ruby, Delma and Eda and two boys: Irwin and Kermit. During all her married life I never heard her complain. She would always say, "Get in and do whatever has to be done. Worrying about it only makes it harder. That energy can be spent on something more profitable." I didn't begin to realize how wonderful this person was until after I was married. It was in the middle of the depression when we thought the hard times were almost over but it was really just beginning. My husband's brother, Arthur, was in the garage business and for a wedding present he gave us a stripped down Model T Ford. It had no fenders, four wheels, an engine you had to crank to start, a seat and a steering wheel, but good brakes. My husband was afraid to let me drive it. But he said, "If you can get it out of the barn, drive it."
It took me quite a while to crank it and when I got in to drive it, I didn't know one gear from another. I kept on trying and soon I had it out of the barn and on the road to mothers. I didn't know it then, but I found out later, I was pregnant. I only knew I was determined to go home. I drove into town and to mothers and I've been driving ever since. Mother's door was never locked and when I opened the door there was my sister Delma washing her baby's clothes in Mama's electric washer. I saw my sister Ruby sewing on mother's sewing machine. She was making clothes for her baby. After saying hello to both my sisters, I walked into the kitchen and there was Mama baking. Loaves of bread and coffee cake were on the kitchen table and a big kettle of stew with all kinds of fresh vegetables out of her garden with big hunks of meat made that odor of the kitchen an unforgettable thing. As I was leaving Mama came with a big pan of rolls to take to Ed.
This gift of baking carried on throughout her lifetime. She would bake and freeze it and when any of the grandchildren came to visit she would send home these goodies. After working each day, she would sit in her special chair and crochet. She made eighteen bedspreads. One for each of her children and one for each of her grandchildren. Her hands were never idle. Even on vacation or visiting she would carry her work with her. In her later years mother took up needlepoint and entered two pieces of her work in the County Fair. They took first and second prizes. Now these were her material accomplishments, but the biggest legacy she left us all were her spiritual beliefs. These didn't only come from the Bible, but from her everyday living. Mother was a generous person. When she saw anyone in need, she shared what she had. Remember, these were depression years when you never saw any money and couldn't work if you wanted to for no one, and I mean no one, had any money to pay you.
My father had several ranches and a number of rentals. They had hay to sell and were able to handle a few dollars now and then. If my mother thought we were really needing something she would get it for us or give us the money to get it. One day she came out to the ranch and gave me ten dollars. Did that ten dollars really look big to me! I started planning on what the family needed and how I would spend it. Then Irene, my husband's sister, came to see me with her little baby wrapped in a blanket. The baby didn't have a sweater or a coat. Irene's husband was a meat cutter and had been out of work for months. I watched her take the baby out of the blanket and pull a chair near the stove so they could get warm. Then somehow I stopped thinking of what I was going to do with that ten dollars, got up and gave it to her. At first she didn't want to take it. But she said if Lawrence had a new pair of shoes maybe he could get a job. She said he had been putting cardboard in his shoes to cover the holes, but each day it wore through and his feet got cold.
The next day Lawrence came over to thank me for the money. He had bought a pair of work shoes for one dollar and twenty-five cents, a pair of overalls for one dollar, and two shirts for fifty cents each. He had his new outfit on and was he ever proud. I saw the tears in his eyes and I couldn't say a word. He kissed me and left. That was one thing Mama taught us all. To share when it is needed and appreciated.
Mother's home was very simple but the flowers that surrounded it made it beautiful. She didn't need to belong to a garden club to know when to plant her bulbs or take her lovely plants inside for winter.
We had a cabin in the mountains and each year we would all journey up there and stay over the weekends or longer. Beside the cabin the folks would pitch a big umbrella tent and that would take care of the sleeping accommodations. All the grandchildren will always remember this place. The hikes we went on and the wonderful wild berry pies grandmother made from the mountain berries. At night we would sit in front of the fireplace. The fireplace was made from rocks we had collected along the stream. Uncle Paul built it up where we could have a real big fire that would light up the heavens on any dark night. We would all gather around the fireplace at night and here is where Mama would tell the grandchildren of her life in Wisconsin when she was growing up.
One thing her father was very strict about was that they never cross the Indians no matter what they did or said. He said that their life and happiness depended on their being friends with the Indians. One day a group of Indians on horses came and circled the haystack and let their horses start eating the hay that her father and brothers had put up for winter. Grandma Henschel had her washing on the line and the wind was blowing. One of the Indians came to the house and pointed to a red dress. He said he wanted to take it. Grandpa nodded his head and waved his hand toward the dress for him to take. Mama started to cry and ran upstairs. That was the dress her mother had said she could have after her sister outgrew it. When Grandpa Herman said be good to the Indians, he really meant it. Several times when her brothers were lost in the forest the Indians brought them home. One day when they were watching cattle in the forest they heard a shot. They all came running together and soon an Indian came carrying a rattlesnake on a stick. "I shot," he said, "save your life." Then he disappeared as quietly as he had come.
Mother loved the mountains and she and Dad would stay there all summer. My children went to 4-H camp each year during the summer. this camp was just above our cabin. One day the president of the 4-H camp came down to see mother and Dad. He introduced himself and went on to say he was glad to shake the hand of a woman who had taught her grandchildren so many wonderful things. Mama said, "I can't take all the credit, they have wonderful parents." He said, "I know, but last night your granddaughter, Celia, responded to a request for a story or a poem that would be appropriate to tell around the bonfire. Your granddaughter put up her hand and said she knew a prayer. I copied it down and here it is.
I thank the Lord for the night And for the blessed morning light. For rest and peace and loving care And all that makes this world so fair. Help me to do the things I should To be to others kind and good In all I do and all I say To grow more loving everyday.
"Any grandmother who teaches her grandchildren prayers like that is a wonderful woman," he said, " And I wish other grandmothers were more like you."
Mother was always the one to plan picnics for us all. She would work all day Saturday preparing the food so we could go to the river for an outing. The older children would bathe in the river and have a wonderful time. I remember we all got a big thrill when Evan Owen, Delma's husband, bought a little box camera and got pictures of us all in our bathing suits. He loved the outdoors and I have many beautiful pictures of the mountains that he took. Mother was always in the pictures holding the grandchil- dren.
Easter was another day when we always gathered at mother's home. None of us had to be asked, we all knew that at Christmas and Easter we would all be at mother's. At one of the Easter gatherings, she divided ten thousand dollars among her grandchildren. She said that they were our future and that she loved them all very much. That was my mother. She had a heart that grew and grew. After her eightieth birthday, we girls decided we would take over and we carried on the traditional Christmas and Easter.
When her will was read, we were not surprised at what it contained. She wrote, "Because I love each in-law as much as I love my own children I leave each one separately equal shares of my estate."
She not only lived a beautiful life, but her love for us all will always shine bright. Emma Henrietta didn't produce a President of the United States or even a Congresswoman, but, she did produce eleven school teachers from the first grade to high school. To all who knew her, her strength and understanding were admired and her love lights up the minds and hearts of her children and their children like rays of sunshine shining on us forever.
On my wall hangs a picture of a well-dressed man picking Shasta daisies and a beautiful young girl putting them in her hat. I grew up with this picture, for no matter where we moved Mama always found a place in her house to hang it. As I grew older I wondered about it and asked Mama the story of the picture. She would only say, "I could have been that girl."
Years went by and the picture continued to haunt me. It was only a print Mama had sent for with ten coupons from buying green tea. Then, one day when the girls were grown up she told of her love affair. She was only a housekeeper for a wealthy family in Fresno and he came from a prominent family in San Francisco. They went dancing together and he asked her to marry him. Mama said yes and they set the date. But, when he returned from breaking the news to his folks, the father forbade the marriage and that was the last time she saw him. Ruby listened and said, "Mama he was the loser, you have always been that beautiful woman to all of us. Someday I'm going to paint you, Mother, from this very print and show you just how beautiful you are." Ruby had never painted before, but at the age of sixty she took lessons and at sixty-five she painted the beautiful lady putting Shasta daisies in her hat and named it "My Beautiful Mother."
When Dad and mother were first married they lived in Hanford and Mama and Aunt Annie cooked for the hired men that worked on the ranch. Three meals a day, starting at sun up. the tables were long and very crude. The seats were benches. The food was divided into two parts and set at each end of the tables. With one leg over the bench, the men would pick up their forks and grab for the food they wanted. It always worried mother that some of the men would have their fingers amputated. The men received a dollar a day and board. You must remember this was the day of the horse and they slept in haystacks there on the ranch.
There were no pickups in those days. My father rode horseback from early morning until late at night to keep the ranch running smoothly and to get an hour's work from each man for an hour's pay. After leaving the ranch job he bought a lot in Hanford with a tank house on it with living quarters inside. Here is where he had his wood and hay business. Mama went into the dressmaking business, making a child's dress for twenty-five cents and a woman' dress for one dollar. I remember her telling us when she was teaching us to sew that a woman had bought beautiful material for a dress and brought it to her to make. She asked if mother was sure she could do it. Mother promised the woman if she spoiled it she would pay for the material and give her back her dollar. She took the lady's measurements and told her to come back the following day for a fitting. That night she stayed up all night cutting a pattern from the measurements on paper that would fit the woman perfectly. She made the dress and woman was so delighted she paid her a dollar and a quarter, and gave her the scraps that were left.
In the beginning of the summer the folks would go up to the mountains and cut the wood Dad would sell in the winter. Mother loved doing this because it reminded her of her home as a child. The wood was there for the taking and no questions asked. They could cut where they wanted to and take as much as they wanted. In the later part of the summer, Dad would leave and drive a twenty-horse team in the Tulare Lake bottom cutting, threshing and hauling out grain. This was in the hot sun and it was always hot, hard work. All the men were paid on Saturday and they would all leave for the gambling house after work. They gambled with gold in those days; five, ten and twenty dollar pieces. One night Dad was lucky and he took the money and dolled himself up, buying new shoes, shirt and suit. After the first winning he never missed trying to do it again. Each Saturday his paycheck would go on the gambling table. When he returned home, after working all summer all he had to show for it was a new suit which Mama said he had bought so tight for himself there wasn't enough material in it for a baby's coat. That next June I was born and Aunt Minnie was to come and help mother. Mother had written to her that it was time and Aunt Minnie and her husband, she was married now to Dudlef Schoenwandt, started out in the buckboard and team.
On leaving Fresno, they were told they would never make Hanford because the water was too high. They stopped and built a boat and made it through the lakes of water all the way into Hanford. Minnie arrived in plenty of time and I was a big healthy baby.
We all got sick the next year with malaria. The doctor said it came from stagnant water which the mosquitoes carried. I almost died and the doctor suggested we move to higher land.
While Dad was off in the grain fields, mother has made a down payment on a little house in Hanford. She had sewed all summer, night and day, and saved enough money to make a down payment on a four-room house. It was only board up and down, had no sink, outside toilet and no paper on the walls. Together, after mother had gotten over the disappointment of Dad's not saving any of his summer money, they fixed up the house and later sold it for three times what they paid for it. Aunt Annie, Dad's sister, and Uncle Jim came to visit us and Mama told them of a place she had dreamed about -- east and south from their place. Uncle Jim told Dad he had better go look at it, since he had to move the family out of Hanford anyway.
In a few days they rented a horse and buggy and started out from Hanford passing through Tulare which was the Tulare County seat at that time. When they arrived at Cairns' corner, mother said go to the next road and turn and go south. They did and after a few miles Mama said, "Look, Lou, that's the property I dreamed about."
They drove to a small house on the end of the road. They stopped and asked the man who lived there the name of the owner of the land they had just passed. He said a woman in Visalia and gave the owner's address. Mama said, "Let's go to the Tuttle's. It's too late to return home now."
They stayed all night at Uncle Jim and Aunt Annie's and early the next morning they left for Visalia, taking Uncle Jim with them. They got the woman out of bed and asked her if her property was for sale. She said it was, but asked my father what intended to do with it. He said he wanted to get his children onto a farm. Then he asked her what the price was and she said six hundred in cash for the sixty acres. She remarked, "It's not good land, the only thing it's fit for is to raise jack rabbits." She went into the bedroom and brought out a tin box with a deed to the place inside. She opened it up and signed it over to the folks, and Dad gave her the six hundred dollars. As they were leaving, the man that had given them the address of the owner arrived. He said he came to buy the place himself. My father laughed and said he was a little late, he now had the deed to the place.
Mama was so happy that they now owned land that she made Uncle Jim stop in Visalia and bought him an overcoat for helping them. Needless to say, he really needed it. They were clearing off oak trees on their sixty acres on the St. John's River and hoping to plant the land to apricot and peach trees that year.
The folks couldn't move to their land fast enough. They pitched a tent and started building the house. Uncle Jim came weekends and helped by showing Dad what to do. Winter set in before they could get it built, crude as it was. The wind blew off the foothills like mad. Mama was used to the wind and snow, coming from Wisconsin, but she never remembered it being so cold. She had a little sheet iron stove to cook on and it heated the tent real good most of the time. This one night, not only did the wind blow, but it started to rain. My father was late getting the materials needed for the house, so he decided to wait until morning to return. The wind blew and the rain came down in buckets. First one end of the tent would fly up and Mama would no more get it down until another stake would come loose and the tent would fly up and almost fly away. Mama heard horses coming and she thought, "If only I can keep it from blowing away until Louie gets here." She tried to see the road, but it was so dark she couldn't see a thing. She listened again. The horses were coming but from the wrong direction. Her heart started pounding harder than ever and she thought, "Please, God, please let it be Louie."
She heard the horses turn into the place but not where they were building he house. She heard a man call out in the dark, "Emma, are you there?" She knew the voice: it was Uncle Jim. All she could say was, "Thank you, God." Then to Jim, "Here I am holding down the tent, I couldn't find the tent stake." All night the wind kept blowing and the rain fell, but in the morning the sun came out and the children never knew what a struggle Uncle Jim and mother had holding down the tent.
In the beginning of the nineteen hundreds most women baked bread once a week. But mother baked bread every other day. Four large loaves at a time for eight healthy, hungry children. . Her process for making bread never varied. When the potatoes were done, before she mashed them, she poured off the water they were boiled in, setting it aside to start her yeast that night. Before she went to bed, she would add two dry yeast cakes to the pot of potato water, 1/2 cup of flour and a pinch of sugar. She never added any salt; she claimed that salt stopped the working of the yeast. Early the next morning she would add the salt to the yeast and then the flour, a little at a time, kneading it constantly. When the dough didn't stick to the side of the pan as she kneaded it, she would stop adding flour and she would divide it into half, one part to be made into bread. To the other part she would add sugar and butter, working it up and letting it rise again. This was the part for coffee cakes and bread doughnuts.
Mother still baked after all her children were married , but only on Saturday, turning her baking into a fun party for all the grandchildren, She would give each a helping of dough to be rolled out and allowed them to make anything out of the dough they pleased. Then it was baked. I had left Wanda and Richard there one Saturday afternoon and when I came for them and entered the house Wanda came running to show me all her goodies. Richard just stood there and I asked him where his baking was. Before he could answer, Wanda spoke out, "He hasn't any, Mother, he ate up all his dough."
We had very little sweets for our father was sick most of his early married life. The doctors claimed he had too much sugar in his blood and at that time there was no cure. As the years passed he became much better, and he said it was all because Emma knew how to cook. Instead of apple pie she would bake apples and we always has plenty of fresh fruit.
Mother's folks, the Henschel's were all very musical. Each child played something mostly violin or accordion. Her mother played the harp. Ruby, as a child, sang and made out she could play the piano. Where she was in grade school, mother saved and bought her a used piano. This piano is still in George Webb's home. Piano teachers were scarce, but mother heard of a neighbor who played the piano. Mother walked to see the neighbor one afternoon and asked her if she would give Ruby piano lessons. She said she had so much work to do on the ranch and she wasn't really a piano teacher but she thought she could give Ruby a start.
One Friday, after school, Ruby had to walk home. This particular day it was hot and she had walked so fast she was tired. When she got home, the music teacher was waiting for her. When she did her scales, she made one mistake after another and the teacher corrected her for it. Now Ruby always had a quick temper and she yelled out "If you wouldn't sit there picking the dough out from under your finger nails, maybe I could do better." Needless to say, she lost her music teacher.
But that didn't stop Ruby from practicing and teaching herself. Later that summer, mother hired a professor Personey that was a real teacher and he came to the house. The only thing is mother had to hive him dinner as he had other lessons to give later. We children weren't allowed to eat at the able with him and we thought he would never get through eating. When we cleared the table off after he had left we counted the prune seeds on his plate. Believe it or not, he had eaten twelve prunes.
When the folks moved to Lindsay, my father took Ruby to Visalia every Saturday afternoon to take her piano lesson. Everyone thought she was musically gifted. This Saturday they were to have her recital in Visalia. It had rained so much all the roads were flooded and they had to try three different ways before they got through. Instead of being first on the program, she was the last one to play. All the people stood up and clapped and clapped. Both the Nelson boys were in that recital. Their father owned the Star Laundry in Visalia. My father and their father came from Sweden together and their first jobs over here were working in the fields together. Another old friend of Dad's was Nick Lauson who had the liquor store.
Ruby worked her way through the University of California keeping house for an elderly couple. She graduated in music and composed several marches while she was at school.
Sister Delma was just the opposite of Ruby. When they left Hanford, Mama enrolled them in a little country school three miles from where they lived. They drove a horse and cart to school. Ruby would get restless and ask to leave the room to go to the toilet. It was a little wooden affair quite a way from the schoolhouse. As she came back into the schoolroom she would talk to a student and the teacher would set her in the corner with a dunce cap on her head. It seemed she was in the corner most of the time. And each time she was put in the corner, Delma would cry. When they were in the cart going home, Delma said, "I'm going to tell Mama on you." Ruby would just start singing and hurrying the cart and horse homeward.
One night Dad was late in getting home. Mother fed the children early. She had German dumplings for supper. Delma liked these and wanted more. Mother said they had to save some for Dad when he got home. Delma said, "Mama, daddy won't like them. He's Swede and these are German dumplings."
The house the folks were living in was four feet from the ground. Mother had put the children to bed and she seemed to feel the house move. She listened and there was a squeaking noise. She tried to look out the window but it was too dark. She yelled out, "Who's there?" She felt the house move again. She got her gun and opened the door a small way and she saw the neighbor's horse rubbing himself on the side of the house.
They lived exactly half way between Lindsay and Exeter. Another night the children were all in bed and mother was sewing next to the lighted oil lamp. She heard a buggy drive up in the driveway and a man got out and came to the door. He knocked, and mother asked what he wanted. He said he wanted to come in and spend the night as his horse was too tired to continue.
Mother told him Lindsay was only a few miles farther and he should go on. He kept saying he couldn't do that. And mother said, "If you don't go right away, I'll shoot through this door!" She heard him get into his buggy and move on.
Now, the house being high off the ground, mother would put her tubs and wash board under the house until washday. Dirty clothes were thrown into the tubs and when it came time to wash she would use the broom stick to shake each garment out because many times there would be rattlesnakes among the clothes.
One day mother found her washboard broken. Delma was about eight then and mother asked her to go across a forty acre field to Mrs. Wabble's to borrow hers. Delma go half way across the field and she saw a cow that had been staked in the field. She became frightened, turned around and ran home. Mother asked, "Where is the washboard, Delma?" Delma said Mrs. Wabble had broken hers too.
Mother taught us all to carry sticks and to put them in front of us before we stepped. The snakes would see the sticks and rattle and we would have time to get out of the way. Snakes only jump the length of their bodies.
Dad still owned his wood and hay yard in Hanford when the folks were living in Exeter. He would drive the big team of horses and his wagon home on Friday nights and return on Monday. Mother would set out on the front steps in the summer waiting for him. She could see only one little light in Lindsay and one light in Exeter. It was so clear and quiet she could hear Dad's horses coming down the roads miles before they got home. Then she would hurry into the kitchen, start the fire and prepare his supper. Now Dad didn't rest on the weekends. He had bought a plow and he would get up at sunrise each morning and put in a full day's work walking behind the plow. After plowing, he planted the land to barley. It was a very wet winter and the virgin land produced a beautiful crop.
There was only one train that went by the ranch each day and mother hadn't seen her folks since she left Wisconsin at fifteen and came to Fresno with her sister Minnie. As the train whistled by, Mama was so homesick at times she would cry. My brother Irwin was born there at the grain field ranch. He was a nine pound baby and they said if he had shoes he could have walked he was so large. One day a man came by and saw the beautiful grain waving in the wind and he asked if the place was for sale. The folks said yes and they sold the place for seven thousand dollars cash. The baby was only six months old but Mama begged Dad now that they had sold the place to let her go East to see her folks. He agreed and with the small baby and all the other children, they left for Wisconsin. They had to change trains in Chicago. After getting on the right train, Dad left the train and went looking around. The conductor called 'all aboard' and Delma started crying "Where is daddy?". The more mother tried to stop her from crying the louder she got. Soon the conductor said, "Here he comes!" and helped him on the train and picked up the step. Dad showed us what made him late. he bought himself a shirt and a gold watch. The watch was gold all right, but not worth fifty dollars. Mama said she had seen them in Sears' catalog for twenty dollars. Mama always sewed and knew material and she said the shirt was so thin it looked like spider web.
It was summertime in Wisconsin and the crops were all up and the land was beautiful. Trees and forests seemed to be everywhere. I was going on six years old, but I can remember going with grandmother Henschel to pick blackberries. They seemed to be growing everywhere. I remember picking some and putting them in my apron pocket. When we came into the house, I told grandpa to help himself to my berries. I told him I had plenty. When I was older, mother told me I only had three berries in my pocket. Our trip was cut short by a telegram telling us that Aunt Minnie had passed away during childbirth. I don't remember seeing Mama cry, she was too busy packing. Grandpa and grandma took us to the station in a surrey with two beautiful horses pulling it. Dad said we were lucky the train was just pulling into the depot. We quickly kissed grandma and grandpa goodbye not knowing that this would be the first and also the last time we would see them. As the train pulled out, I remember putting my face as close to the window as I could, and waving to them until the train passed another train and they were out of sight.
When we arrived in Fresno, Dad went to the stable and rented a horse and buggy. Mama put Ruby and Delma on a box in front of them near the dashboard. I was squeezed between them and mother had brother Irwin on her lap. All the suitcases were tied on the back of the buggy. We arrived at Aunt Minnie's, but the house was empty as they were all at the funeral. I remember Mama saying "What a mess!" as they walked into the house. It didn't take her long to change from her traveling clothes to her house dress and go to work. I really didn't know what was happening but she put me on a chair and told me to stay there. I did. Ruby and Delma were kept busy sweeping the porches and backyard. After Dad had fed and put the horse up, mother had him fill the woodbox with wood so she could have dinner ready when the family got home. He then carried the water from the back porch into the kitchen where mother had the boiler on the stove. He asked, "Where is all this water going?" She said, "I scrubbed all the floors and now I'm washing the dirty clothes." The clean clothes were on the line and dinner was ready when they returned from the funeral. That night after supper, Dudlef suggested that if Emma would look after the children, Lilly, Celia and Edna, he would help Dad build two houses in Lindsay. Dad would pay for the lot and the materials. One house would be for Lilly who was then about sixteen and he thought she could take care of the two younger children, Celia and Edna. The other house would be for our family. Mother wasn't for this from the start. She thought Lilly was too young for so much responsibility. But she went along with it.
Dad bought the two lots in Lindsay on Sweetbriar near the Southern Pacific tracks as they thought the town would grow in that direction. During the building of the homes, Uncle Jim would come over weekends from Visalia and set the work out for Dad and Dudlef to do during the week. Both families were living in two tents. Uncle Jim had helped Dad build the house in Exeter. He was a graduate from a college in Kentucky and had wandered West like the young men of his time to make his fortune. He came asking Dad for a job when Dad was foreman on the Kimble prune orchard. In those days they only asked for a job, not how much it paid or the hours. He proved to be a good worker and Dad and Uncle Jim became good friends. At night they would sit out on the porch and exchange stories about their lives. It was in this way Uncle Jim met Anna Larson, Dad's sister. Soon they were married and he became our Uncle Jim. A better man could never have trod the earth.
Finally the two houses on Sweetbriar were built and we moved from the tents into the houses. Each house had a porch across the entire front of the house. In summer we all sat out on the porch in the evenings, children playing in the street and Mama sewing. I can't remember a buggy every passing on the street in those days after dark. We never had a store-bought toy, but we made our own and what fun we had. We fixed up an old horse cart Ruby had used to ride to school in and the two neighbor boys would pull it down the street giving us girls rides, never thinking at the time that the son of one of these boys would one day marry my daughter, Wanda. Ralph English's father, Bill, was Lindsay's first constable and his father's family had their first home in Lindsay right across the street from ours. Bill's mother was a sweet, small woman and reminded us of a little, timid bird and she was married to a big six-foot Irishman who insisted that meals be on the table at a given time and if not we would hear him yelling clear across the road. Needless, to say, he had an Irish temper.
A man with a horse and buggy delivered our groceries to the house and Mama had told us if we were good she would give us bread and honey when the grocery man came. We were playing in the yard and we saw the buggy coming down the road. We all yelled, "Mama, here comes your honey." Mama became embarrassed and called us all into the house and said she would start fixing the treat. She always know what to say or do in any situation. It's funny how things develop. That delivery boy was young Burgess Moore and his father owned the only grocery store in town. His family was one of the oldest pioneer families and had settled in Lindsay long before we arrived. The years rolled by and other stores came to town, but we always traded with Moore's Grocery.
After our father bought the home place, we would always charge our groceries until the orange crop was harvested and Dad would settle up the bill and he was charged very little interest. I'm getting a little ahead of my story, but when we talk of Moore's Grocery I can't help but give thanks for such a wonderful family, not because they went to church every Sunday, but because they lived their religion. The had faith in people and in turn people worked to their utmost to be worthy of that faith.
Now the folks still had a little money after building their home and Dad kept telling Mama he wanted to go into business again. He had heard about this lot in town that had a livery stable on it and he thought it a good investment. The man that was renting the building as a livery stable wanted to sell half interest and it was already a going business. Mama finally agreed, but her heart was set on land. Dad was never happier than when he had his picture taken under the sign "Webb & Larson Livery Stable". Mama was right again as they had to keep replacing the horses from over work and so many came up "windbroke'. It turned out to be a losing game, not enough money left after expenses for two families to live on. Mama kept insisting Dad get a job on a ranch so they could have a steady income they could depend on.
They were still using coal oil lamps and cooking on a wood stove, but now instead of a little sheet iron stove she had a big range with a big oven that made her every other day baking a great deal easier.
All the children walked to the only school in Lindsay. The old red brick school. In a few years as the country grew, they would tear it down as they said it wasn't safe from earthquakes.
One morning Mama sent Delma down to the grocery store to get her 'big white mason fruit jar rubbers'. She had to pass the old jail and the jail had iron bars on the upper half of the door. As she passed, she heard a voice say, "Please, little girl, give this note to my wife so she will know where I am." Delma was always a scardy cat and she ran as fast as she could to the store. When she got there she had forgotten what Mama had sent her for. She had repeated it so many times she thought she would never forget, but she was so scared she couldn't think of a thing and she turned and ran home. Mama always canned boxes of peaches and apricots which were given to us by our Uncle Jim and Aunt Annie.
The time came when Mama had to find milk for the babies. A family moved to Lindsay and settled just outside the city limits not too far from our home. Mama heard they had a cow and she went over and told her story of having two small babies and no milk and the lady said she would be glad to sell her a bucket of milk each evening. Mama prepared her buckets that lard had come in, each with a tight fitting lid. We would leave one and ten take the full one. They had a long driveway from the main road to their house and I remember going down that long walk scared and running most of the way home. The place was known as the Hostetter place, and I can still feel the quivers going up and down my spine. One side of the grove was next to the railroad tracks and Mama always told us to look both ways and make sure no train was coming before we crossed. Just to the left of the track was the Redmond family home. They had two boys who attended our school.
In the schoolroom the teachers were very strict which they had to be, teaching two or more grades according to the enrollment. We were taught mostly reading, writing and arithmetic. This particular day my cousin, Celia, was asked to read. We always had to stand and the story was about food. She came to the word doughnuts and called it "dognuts". The whole room of students roared. The teacher had quite a job getting the students to calm down again. You wonder why that was so funny. Well, in those days we didn't dare say a bad word or even think anything out of the way.
We had a big dictionary on the front desk where we could look up words. Some of the older boys would go up and look up a four letter word, leave the dictionary open and then leave a note on someone's desk to go up and use the dictionary so they would see the word. Most of us knew the meaning of those words even in those days but weren't as bold and outspoken as children are today. Some people think it's better, but others say now they leave nothing to the imagination. Maybe Shakespeare was right when he said, "All pleasures are more chased than enjoyed."
Ruby was always in demand since she played the piano. You didn't have to be an artist in those days for people to enjoy your playing. They started a lodge in Lindsay, can't even remember the name now, something about woodcraft. They said if Ruby would play for the lodge they would give the family the right to attend free. Each woman who belonged would bring either a cake or homemade ice cream to each meeting. Sometimes they would have programs where all took part or all would dance after the meeting. Young Moore was a college student then and at one of these dances he danced two dances with mother. When we got home, Dad was so jealous he thought mother should have danced all the dances with him and he let her know it. After than Mama let us children go but she never attended again.
Lindsay had one doctor, lady who would drive her horse and buggy out to the ranch homes or in the town night or day wherever the sickness was. One day Mama sent one of the girls to get Dr. Bond because Irwin had crawled up on the dining room table and drunk all the dog medicine that was left in the bottle. When the doctor arrived, Mama had already tried to make him vomit. Dr. Bond came in very calm and after looking at the bottle and reading the label she said, "He will be all right if we don't let him got to sleep. We will have to stay up all night feeding him and jolting him for it he goes to sleep he will never wake up."
When we older children woke up and came into the kitchen the next morning, Dr. Bond was bathing brother Irwin and he was smiling. She said to mother, "Well, Emma, you can take over now and I'll drive home and see if anyone else is drunk or eaten too much". Dr. Bond was Lindsay's first doctor and served the community for over fifty years. She lived far into her nineties proving that hard work and loss of sleep really don't cut one's life short. When a hospital was built it was in her honor for all the years of service she had given to the Lindsay community.
Ben, Minnie's oldest child, had traveled with his step father buying cattle and selling them to slaughter houses. They had been gone about a year when he returned to see us. He said to mother, "Aunt Emma, I've done things I'm so ashamed of, I don't think I'm fit to come into your house." Mother replied, "Ben, you know what the Bible says, 'Go forth and sin no more and you will be forgiven'. But what I suggest is you find yourself a nice girl and settle down and forget about running around buying cattle." And this he did. Ben's father, Ben Zumkiller, had died before young Ben was born and his passing was one of the reasons Emma came to California.
After trying his hand at several occupations, Ben finally settled in Fresno as a commercial painter and had two sons. With their help he kept the painting business going. His mother would have been proud of him.
The Combs Ranch
I'm going to write about my years as a girl on the Combs ranch in Lindsay, California. I can remember them more vividly because I guess they were my most impressionable years -- from the beginning of my first day in school until I graduated from the eighth grade. The farm house was set about a quarter mile from the main county road. As you turned down the lane, there were two palms on either side of the driveway. Their arms swayed in the breeze telling you 'This is the place'. As you progressed down the lane there were green California pepper trees on either side. They were beautiful trees that stayed green the year round. When you came to the house, you stopped your horse and continued by a path to the front door. Most people continued on the road that wound around the outside of the house where there was another door. When opened, you entered into a den with an adjoining bedroom. These rooms were reserved for the owner, Mr. J. F. Combs when he visited the ranch. The road ended at the barns where there was a building for tools and several one room houses, called bunkhouses, for the hired help to stay in. Dad was the foreman on the ranch.
Mama worked very hard each day. Breakfast came first. After that she went to the barn and milked two cows, came into the house, strained the milk through a clean cloth and poured it into big pans. She then placed the pans in the cooler. Now the cooler was a big, tall cupboard with burlap all around it. It had about five shelves and a large tin pan five inches tall that covered the top. Mother would fill this pan with clean water and then soak pieces of the cloth and let them drip onto the sides of the burlap covered cupboard. the water would seep from the cloth into the burlap and keep the milk cool. Each morning she would take the cream from the milk from the night before and put it into a churn. The milk was poured into a big bucket and taken out to feed the calves. Mama always had a calf or cow to sell every year. Once outside mother would feed the chickens. She always had about two hundred laying hens. We always had chicken on Sundays and anytime during the week when we had company. We always loved to see company come because we not only had chicken but we would have canned corn or peas. The corn and peas were on the reserved shelf marked 'only for company'. Most of the time we ate vegetables straight from her garden.
In those days the baby chicks weren't sexed as they are today, and the roosters had to be eaten making chicken our main dish. One morning we were all awakened by Dad yelling, "Emma, come quick!" He was between the house and the barn. Mama went running toward him. "Someone has taken all your chickens!" Mama walked into the chicken house and only one old hen with most of her feathers pulled out was in the corner. She said, "Funny we didn't hear anything last night. We should have heard the noise. Lou, you go right into town and get the constable."
When Dad returned, Mama was waiting for him. She said, "Where is the constable?" Dad said, "He will ride his bicycle out a little later, he was busy." When he arrived, Mama showed him the chicken house and how she closed the door every night.
He looked around and all he said was, "Too bad, too bad."
Mama said, "What's too bad?"
"Too bad I can't find a clue that would lead me to anyone. Now, if you had caught them in the chicken house you could have shot them."
"Mr. Ryan, you surely can do something," Mama said.
He replied, "I'll keep it in mind and if some evidence turns up I'll let you know." With that as his last comment, he rode off.
This didn't stop mother from having her chickens. She soon had another flock, but this time she let them roost in the lemon trees as she said the thieves will get a few thorns with each chicken and at least it will slow them down. From that time on, we had to catch the chickens we wanted to eat with a long wire with a bend or hook in the end. We would call the chickens, throw grain on the ground and while they were eating we would slip the bent wire slowly on the ground until we came to the one we wanted and give it a quick jerk around its leg and we had our chicken. It never seemed to frighten the chickens, catching them that way, and we sometimes caught as many as three or four.
Only a few hens laid their eggs in the hen house now. Most of them hid their nests under the lemon trees and Mama said she didn't care because they would hatch their eggs and bring their little chicks into the barnyard. She said she wasn't raising chickens for people to steal anymore.
The barn was big and had many tons of hay stored in it. Here the pigeons would build their nests and once a year when they were big enough we would have squab pie. We couldn't let them get overstocked because they would dirty up the barnyard too much. During the summer when we thought it was about time for Dad to quit work, we would go down the lane between the orchards where he always unhitched his team. Here he would put us on a work horse's back and we would get a ride to the watering hole.
There he would take us off the horse and I don't think the horse even knew we had been there, they seemed so tired. After drinking, the horses would go into the barn. Each horse knew his own stall and would go directly there. Dad had put grain in their grain boxes while they were drinking. When they came into the barn he pulled the harness off, hung it up and started currying the horses down. He would climb up into the loft and throw each horse some hay. This completed his day's work and he headed for the house. Mama would have supper on the table and after he washed his hands and face and dried them on a long roller towel, he sat down at the head of the table and not a word was spoken until Mama sat down at the other end and Dad started passing the food.
I can remember my first day in school. I was bathed the night before and Ruby, my sister, combed and braided my long hair. Then she told me to put on my new apron that went over my dress so I wouldn't get it dirty. I was ready to start to school. Each of my sisters took one of my hands and they walked so fast I couldn't keep up as they pulled me along. Sometimes my feet didn't touch the ground. When we got to the palm trees at the end of the lane, I was already tired and wanted to rest, but they said we didn't have time. One sister took my lunch pail and said, "We won't take your hands anymore, you just keep beside us and run if you have to." A little later on we heard the school bell ring and shortly we were on the school grounds. I'll never forget how beautiful the sound of that school bell was. I was so tired I thought I couldn't go another step, but when my older sister said, "We're here now. You can take your lunch pail and I'll put you in the line with the first graders. You tell the teacher your name and if she wants to know where you live, you tell her your sister is Ruby Larson and she will register you." I stood in line in the sun, how long I don't know, but to me it seemed a century. My legs were hurting and I started to become afraid. Soon I was crying. A teacher came up to me and asked why I was crying. I told her I couldn't find my sister. She asked me her name and I told her. Soon Ruby was there and everything seemed all right again.
In the schoolroom everything seemed so big. The desk and seats seemed so tall. I got into the seat and could hardly reach the desk. I sat on my legs again; they started to hurt and I started to cry. Again, I was asked what was wrong. I didn't want to be a baby and tell them about my legs hurting so I told them I had to go to the bathroom. The teacher had an older girl take me outside quite a way from the school building and again I just barely reached the toilet seat. Lucky though I hadn't wet my pants. I started making a frown and the girl looked at me and asked what was the matter. I said I couldn't button my pants and she said she would do it for me and she did. Back in the school room the teacher took our names and I started to become calm.
Soon I heard the bell ring again and the teacher told us it was lunch time. She gave us instructions on how to march and keep in a straight line. She said to pick up our lunch pails as went out. The lunch pails were all put on a shelf in a row in the entry room where the coats were also hung in the winter. I picked up my lunch pail and when she dismissed us I just stood there wondering where my sisters were. Then the teacher came up beside me and said, "Wouldn't you like to eat lunch with Josephine? You could sit on that bench over there together." I followed Josephine over to the bench and from that day on we became good friends and I knew I'd never be afraid again.
Josephine asked me where I lived and I replied that my father was a foreman on the Combs Ranch. "Well, what do you know", she replied. I live on the next road and my father is a foreman too." I knew then we would be friends. She was outspoken and so was I. We understood each other. We all had to sit on the bench until a bell rang and then we could put our lunch pails away. Josephine said she had to go to the toilet and told me to come along. When we got inside, she said, "Aren't you going?" I told her if I did I wouldn't be able to button up my pants. She said, "You better tell your mother to make you bloomers with elastic around the legs and waist. Then, all you have to do is pull them up and down". I knew right then that Josephine knew more than I thought I would ever know.
So, my first day of school came to an end. Outside Mama was sitting in the horse and buggy waiting for me. As I climbed into the buggy, Josephine waved goodbye. Mama said, "I see you've made a friend. What is her name?" I said Josephine with a happy heart.
I was happy because I didn't have to walk home (my legs were still tired) and I could tell by my mother's voice that she liked Josephine.
I went to the Red Brick School for only two years, then they said it was unsafe and tore it down. They built a new school on the south side of town which was closer to the ranch and after that I didn't have to walk so far. I didn't like the new school since it had a lot of steps you had to climb before reaching the classrooms and we had to stand in line and march upstairs to our rooms. We had fun there, though. The schoolyard was bordered with pomegranate trees. Nail polish was just beginning to be advertised and Josephine always had the latest. After eating our lunch we would do our nails and put a little lipstick and rougeon our faces. One day I got too much on and the teacher made me go and wash my face. Somehow, she didn't mind the polish on our fingernails, only the rouge on our faces.
I still had to walk back and forth to school, but the town was getting larger and we had more boys and girls to walk with. Josephine had a bicycle and she would ride it alongside us and talk. If she thought the conversation was interesting of if there was a boy she liked, she would get off her bike and walk with us. She seemed to do as she pleased and I could never guess what she would do next. One morning she came riding her bike into the schoolyard fast. I said, "What's the rush?" She didn't answer but pointed to her mouth. Then she jumped off the bike, put her hand to her mouth and deposited a polliwog in it. She spit from her mouth and said, "I couldn't find anything to carry it in, so I used my mouth". It seemed she had promised the teacher she would bring one to school and she did.
We graduated from the sixth grade and then went to the Washington School for the seventh and eighth. In the summer we made our own parties every Saturday. There were about six of us girls from different ranches and we would gather on Saturday. We would all meet and take turns going to each other's homes. We always surprised the mothers but they didn't seem to mind. One Saturday the crowd had strawberries and another time we had blackberries and there was always plenty of cream. When they came to my house they had doughnuts because mother always baked on Saturdays. We went to the Robbin home and all the older girls and parents were out in the hay field working. When they saw us, the mother came in and baked a cake. I remember her saying to her younger daughter who was part of our crowd, "You had better get plates because you are going to have to eat this hot as I know you will all have to be home by six."
We all went barefoot through the fields all summer long and when school started we had to have new shoes since our feet had spread and we needed a larger size.
Each day we grew up a little more. One day Josephine said, "I think we should have a grown-up party with boys and girls, cake and ice cream and play games. I think I will give the first party. Mama just asked me if I wanted a party on my birthday. I told her I didn't know, but now I think I'll tell her yes." The next day Josephine handed out invitations to her party on Saturday afternoon. The cards read, "Come to my birthday party Saturday afternoon, cake and ice cream!" The boys said they didn't know if they could come or not, but when I arrived I saw that they were all there. I remember being afraid again when I saw them, but dear Josephine said when I handed her my present, "We're going to have fun. Look at all the boys. I'll get the party rolling."
She called us all into the house and said, "Now, you all know it's my birthday, so I'll go into the bedroom and lay across the bed and you can all take turns wishing me a happy birthday!" The boys started spanking her counting each year with a good slap on the behind. They over did it a bit when they came to the last one to grow on.
I left the bedroom since Mama always told the girls not to let the boys touch us and I thought this spanking was awful. Then Josephine's mother came and told us all to come to the table and sit down. She was bringing in the birthday cake with all the candles lit. Her father pulled down the shades and her mother sang Happy Birthday and we all joined in. "Make a wish, make a wish before you blow out the candles!" She blew all the candles out and we all wanted to know what she wished. She said it was a wonderful wish and she wished to have as many wonderful friends as she had right then.
We all finished our cake and ice cream and she was the first one up yelling, "Let's play drop the handkerchief." I think we had more fun with musical chairs because the boys became rough and the girls sort of liked that.
My first girl and boy party was over, and on the way home Mama said, "Eda, would you like to have a party like that?" I said, "Mama, I would love it." Mother said she would start saving her egg money for the party. "I think an Easter party would be fun." I agreed.
How happy I was when I saw the invitations for the party written out by my older sisters, and to think I would get to hand them out at school the next day like Josephine did. Yes, I was going to have boys and girls too, but I never told Mama how Josephine let the boys spank her on her birthday for I was afraid she wouldn't let the boys come to my party if she knew. Mama and my sisters had boiled eggs and colored them red, yellow and orange and even put faces on some. The driveway with the pepper trees on both sides of the lane made a wonderful place to hide the eggs. This my sisters did before the guests arrived. When they were all there, Mama gave them each a little paper bag and told them where to hunt for the eggs. And, if they found more than six, they had to share with those who hadn't found any. I saw Josephine helping the girls getting their quota, then I heard her yell, "Boys, I haven't got a single egg." All the boys came running in a stream to help her. Needless to say, she got more than her quota.
Mama had a long table that she had built with a beautiful white tablecloth on it. On the table she had plates of cookies cut out in the shapes of bunnies and chickens. Mama served big dishes of ice cream and the boys enjoyed it. The guests were happy with the colored eggs they could take home and we were thanked over and over again. The party was a success!
The next week I received an invitation in the mail from a girl who lived in town and who had been at Josephine's party. Her father wasn't a farmer, he was editor of our town paper, The Gazette. It's been so long ago I can't remember her name, but she was a very lovely girl with very good manners and only spoke when she was spoken to and always smiled and you knew she liked you.
Mama insisted I go. She said the change from farm folks to city folks would be good for me and I would have a good time since she had heard lots of Josephine's friends were also invited. Well, I went. Mama took me and as I got out of the buggy, I caught my stocking on the running board. I tore a little hole in it. Mama said that it would be all right, they would never notice that little hole. But I knew it was there and during all the games we played, I tried to stand with one leg in front of the other trying to cover it up. I was glad when that party was over and Mama was there to pick me up. She asked me if I had a good time and I said I did. But she knew I was fibbing. She said, "What happened?"
I told her no matter how I stood, I couldn't hide that hole in my stocking. She said, "Eda, you shouldn't let a little hole spoil the fun."
I said, "But, Mother, you always told us never to go with a hole in our stockings. A mend is far better, and I didn't have anything to mend it with."
It wasn't long after that mother called us all together and said, "I want to tell you children you are going to have a new brother or sister." We all started asking questions at the same time and she answered them the best she could and then she said, "I'm going to need help from all of you and the first thing you're going to have to do is keep your own rooms picked up." We all told mother we would help and we meant it. The thrill of a new baby made us all happy.
My brother Irwin, who was born between Lindsay and Exeter on the grain ranch was now five years old. All of the girls knew that he was Dad's pet and I said, "I hope it will be a boy. Dad seems to like them better." Mother just smiled and I knew she understood what I meant.
Dad's mother, Anna, was a practical nurse and she had brought all of us older children into the world. As Dad said Emma and all the children always got along fine. This time though, mother wanted a new doctor that had come to town called Dr. Turtlelot. She thought grandma Larson was getting rather old and she could go into Lindsay to see the doctor more often.
One day, the thirteenth of July, Dad got all dressed up like the times he went to Visalia to pay his taxes, and said to us, "I want you all to go to the barn and play in the shade until I come for you. Don't come to the house until I call you." He climbed into the buggy and rode off. Mama said we had better do what Dad said. We all hesitated but walked toward the barn. The sun was setting, but it was still daylight when Dad came to the barn and said, "Children, you have a new brother and Emma wants you to come and see him. We all ran so fast that we were breathless when we got to the house. Dad said, "You can't all get into the front bedroom at the same time." We decided to go by age. When we saw him he was so red and small and had such tiny hands and toes he looked like our dolls.
Mama seemed so proud of him and she said, "You must all start thinking of a name for him. Lou and I like Herman after my father, but it seems so old fashioned. That night in bed we all went over dozens of names. At the breakfast table the next morning Dad asked us if we had found a name. Herman can be his second name he said and we finally all decided on Kermit and he was named Kermit Herman.
Mama seemed strong enough now to bathe the baby, but she was having trouble getting her strength back. Aunt Annie and Uncle Jim came over from Visalia and brought Grandma Larson. They all wanted to see the new baby. As soon as grandma got into the bedroom, she sent my sister right out to get Dad who was working in the field. When Dad arrived she spoke in a low demanding voice. "Lou, you go get the doctor right away, the quicker the better, and I'll have boiling water and towels when you get back. When the doctor came in she said, "You didn't do your job, doctor." The doctor said he was sorry and went into the bedroom, rolled up his sleeves and got to work. He hadn't gotten all the after-birth out and in another day or so mother could have passed on from the poison in her body.
I think a good midwife like grandma with experience can be better than a new doctor. That night the folks and Aunt Annie and Uncle Jim visited way into the night. They didn't go home until the next day as grandma Larson wanted to be sure Mama was all right. Before I went off to sleep I heard grandma telling Dad how she had pulled off the veil, as she called it, when Irwin was born or he would have suffocated.
I was ten years old when I stood on a box to reach the washboard to wash the baby's diapers. Mother put them all in a tub with water and I had to soak them and wash them on the washboard. Then she would put them into a boiler and boil them for ten minutes, pull them out with a broom stick and put them into a bucket. Then, I rinsed them in clear water twice. One day a neighbor, Mr. Hill, came by and saw me on the box washing the clothes and said he had never seen anything like it before -- a baby washing the baby's clothes. Mama said, "She wanted to do it and I thoughts then was the time to teach her." Mama had so much work and the days were hot and the baby cross. She complained to Dad, "I have to do something. You better get me that coal oil stove. It will be much cooler than the wood stove and when my baking's done, I can turn it off."
After she bathed the baby she would put him in his baby buggy and Celia and I would wheel him up and down the lane until he fell asleep. Then, we put netting over the buggy to keep out the flies. We were happy when he slept because, then, we could go and play. It was fun at first, but some days he decided not to go to sleep and we had to walk him up and down the lane until we got tired. Sometimes we went over bumps thinking that would tire him and he would go to sleep. Like with all young children the novelty of caring for a baby soon wore off.
The new stove was much cooler and Mama was right, it didn't heat up the whole house like the wood stove did. But, one day after Mama had baked for about five hours, they refilled the tank on the side of the stove. She had no more than put the tank in till the stove was aflame. Mama yelled and one of the girls came running. They grabbed the stove and carried it out the back door. My sister had to roll on the ground to put out the flames on her dress. When she got up and the flames were out, mother said, "I'm so glad you didn't get burned. We saved the house." But there she stood with both hands blistered and never made a peep about them.
For several weeks the older girls had to take over all the chores and Celia and I had to do the dishes. Neither one of us liked to wash the big milk pans and I remember one night Mama skimmed all the cream off the milk and there were twice as many pans to clean as usual. I told Celia I would dry and she said, "No you won't, I'll dry." We just sat there I guess it must have been for an hour, but we knew in the end we would have to do them. Finally Celia said, "I know what we'll do, we'll divide all the dishes. I'll wash and dry half and then you can do your half." I stood and watched until she finished and then I did the other half. We were finally finished when Mama walked in and said, "It seems to me it took you girls an awful long time to do the dishes tonight. Now maybe after I make butter, you can wash and scald the churn for me." We just stood there looking at Mama's bandaged hands and said, "Yes, Mama."
Now, mother had another dream. She saw a beautiful piece of land in her dream between Visalia and Lindsay and was certain it was for sale. She wanted Lou to go see what terms he could get on it. Dad laughed when she asked and said, "Where will I go to find it. You said it was only a dream."
"We will start driving, and when we come to it, I'll know it," mother replied.
Sure enough, Mama saw an old house that looked like it was going to fall down and the land had never been leveled and had little hills all over it -- virgin land that had never seen the plow. "Lou, that's exactly what I saw in my dream. Let's go across the road and talk to the people there."
The neighbor said they were right the property was for sale and they invited us in to have dinner with them. At that time Dad didn't know that the neighbor was a car salesman. Before we left, Dad had bought a White Streak Buick from him. His name was Mr. Pollard and he was from San Francisco. He said the country folks weren't ready yet for cars and if Dad would take this on off his hands, he would make him a good deal. Well, Mama got the address of the person to contact about buying the land and we drove home in Mr. Pollard's Buick. That was our last trip in a horse and buggy.
The next day the folks contacted the owner of the land and Mama and Dad owned twenty acres of land again.
The folks owned a big team of horses and Uncle Jim had a cousin out from Kentucky who was looking for work. Dad got him busy leveling the twenty acres. Every weekend the folks would drive over to see how he was getting along. While Dad was talking to George, Mama would have all of us kids pumping water from the hand pump and carrying buckets of water to all the plants around the house. The house soon looked cared for and the land at the end of the summer was smooth. It wasn't very long before they were offered a price for the land they couldn't refuse and sold it, doubling their money.
The new car was wonderful, and we were so proud to ride in it. But, there were so many of us what we couldn't all go at the same time. It was generally Celia and I that were left home most of the time. On one of these occasions we decided to play in the front yard. We built play rivers and lakes, planted twigs for trees, and then decided we should have water in our rivers and lakes. Now there was a big valve in the middle of the lawn that would open to flood the lawn and bushes. I said, "Celia, let's open it up so our trees have water." Celia wasn't sure, but with growing uncertainty said, "Dad won't like it, Eda, I know he won't." I was already pounding and pounding on the valve and then it opened and the water started pouring out like a fountain. I tried to put the valve back in but the pressure was too great. Celia started to cry and I ran down the driveway to see if the folks were anywhere in sight. They weren't. I ran back to where Celia stood crying and said with a trembling voice, "Get ready to run in case the house should float away." We both went out to the main road under a palm tree and waited for the folks to return not realizing the water had stopped long before they returned.
Dad was remarkably understanding when he returned. He took a piece of leather and fixed the valve I had broken. I said, "I was afraid the house would float away."
"There wasn't any danger of that," Dad replied. When the tank empties, that stops the water. But don't try to water again!"
Dad had his auto now which we were all proud of, but the payments kept coming every month. Eight hundred dollars was a lot of money in 1909.
I heard the folks talking about where they would get the money for the next payment on the car. "I think you should go down and see Lou Keeley. They tell me he has money to loan," mother said.
So Dad went to see Lou Keeley and when he got home, mother asked him if he got the loan. Dad said Lou had gone to his bedroom and got out a shoe box from under his bed and counted out $100. "We shook hands," Dad said, "And I promised to return the money the following month and left."
Now, it wasn't only the payments on the car that was bothering Dad, the engine began missing and poor Dad didn't know a thing about cars and how to fix them. There was a small building away from the others called a tool shed and Dad drove the car in there and took the engine apart. Dad had only gone to the fourth grade in school, but he knew the Swedish language so he started labeling all the parts in Swedish. Making a long story short, he couldn't get all the parts back together again and, of course, didn't know how to grind the valves which turned out to be the problem.
Mama was disgusted and told him to go to town and get the Redmond brothers who had just started a machine shop in town to put the thing together again. Dad did just that and the two young men came out and when they went into the shed and saw the parts all over the floor, they threw up their hands and said, "What a mess!" By trial and error they finally were able to get the engine running again.
Dad was always spending more money than he and mother could earn. But, I'll give him credit, he was always in there trying. One day a salesman came to the ranch and talked him into buying Sampson Rubber Company stock. This investment was to return him thousands of dollars. He asked Mama for the money and at first she said no. Then, she reconsidered as she hated to embarrass him in front of a salesman. Dad was to become a salesman of the company and sell tires in his spare time. We all waited anxious- ly for the new tires to come. When they did, Dad put them on the car. He asked Mama if she would like to go to Visalia. "I really want to see how these tires ride," he said. "I bet they will revolutionize the tire industry. They're solid tires, you know, Em, and we are in on the ground floor. If they prove out, we will be in the money."
Mama had all us children ready to go when Dad came up the driveway from the barn. We started out and it was over one hundred degrees in the shade that day. We had driven about seven miles when mother said she smelled something. Dad thought it was only the newness of the rubber tires. When we were almost in Visalia, Mama said, "Lou, you better stop and see what's burning." Dad pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. We all got out and looked back. We could see our tire tracks made from the rubber for miles and miles. the tires had melted. Mama got out and went to the nearest farmhouse and called Aunt Annie and Uncle Jim on the phone. We spent the night at their home. Poor Dad had to buy new tires and tubes for all four wheels. Needless to say, the tire company went broke a few years later and we never did get rich from the Sampson Tire Company.
Mama never did learn to drive a car. Dad always told her it was a man's job and never really encouraged her. Her health still wasn't good. She had not really recovered from the birth of Kermit. Mama heard about a new Chinese doctor in Hanford. She decided to take the train to see him. He took her into his office that smelled of herbs and asked her what she thought her trouble was. He said, "You look run down and need a rest. I'll get your medicine together and deliver it tomorrow."
Dad met her at the station and asked her what the doctor said. Mother answered in a few words. "Lou, my body is run down and I need a rest."
"I can't go now, Em," Lou replied. "But, I'll take you and the children to the mountains if you think that will help. I've got a lot of work here, but I'll take you up and back."
Mama thought that would be a good idea and she told all of us we were going to the mountains and we started getting ready fast. The next day there was a knock on our front door. We all rushed to see who it was. The Chinese doctor bowed and said, "Would you get your mother, please?"
Mama came to the door. "I didn't hear you drive up," she said.
"No drive. I ride my bike", he answered with lots of smiles.
He had come over twenty miles on a bicycle to deliver Mama's medicine. Uncle Jim and Aunt Annie came over and Mama told them of our plans. Jim said he could leave his ranch the next week and they would come up and see how mother was getting along. He told Dad to rent them a cabin next to ours for a week.
Mama boiled the herbs and drank her new brew that the Chinese doctor had prepared for her and started felling better. Dad came with the horses hitched to the wagon and we all piled in and were off. We got as far as Porterville when Dad stopped the horses in the shade of the trees while we ate the lunch mother had packed for us. Soon we were all in the wagon again and Dad took the feed bags off the horses and said, " We'll go until we come to the first stream and then we'll make camp for the night and give the horses water."
Dad loved horses and always thought of them as very special animals. It was in the middle of the afternoon when we began climbing up the mountain road and Dad suggested some of us children walk behind the wagon to make it easier on the horses as they pulled the wagon up the hills. We loved walking because the horses went so slow we could pick wild flowers along the way. Soon we got to a camping place near a river and Mama said, "This is halfway. We'll stop here."
Dad unhitched the horses, watered them and tied them on the wagon wheel and gave them hay. We made a campfire and Mama made coffee. I can still hear Dad say, "Emma, that's the best coffee I've ever tasted."
Soon the dark of night began to fall and Mama said, "Come, girls, we'll make the bed under this tree by the fire." We slept on a quilt and had one over us. We could hear the river running over the rocks and an owl hooting in the trees and then, it became
quiet. I was falling asleep and Dad said, "There isn't another family around here for miles. This is really wide open spaces."
I was awakened the next morning hearing a cow bell. As I set up, a cow was grazing not far from us. That cow bell made one of the sweetest sounds I have ever heard. As she moved, it seemed to ring over and over like an echo. Dad called to us, "Rise and shine, the sun will beat you up!" We were all on our feet at the same time. Mother thought it was best for us to sleep with our clothes on and so we were instantly ready to travel. We had breakfast and soon were walking behind the wagon again.
Soon we heard a horn blow. It was the stage wanting to pass. We all ran to one side of the road and Dad drove the team close to the edge of a cliff. We were scared the horses would go over the edge, but Dad was a good driver. The stage made it past leaving us in a cloud of dust.
About noon we came to our destination, California Hot Springs. There before us was one of the most beautiful big hotels I had ever seen. It was nestled there against the mountains with a stream running beside it. I had never dreamed it would be so beautiful. And we were to stay a whole month. California Hot Springs was where people came to bathe in the hot water that came right out of the ground. Dad got us two tents, each with a wood floor and canvas door, roof and sides. These were our sleeping tents. Mama put her little sheet iron stove up on the rocks under a tree. The man that owned the campground gave us a long table with benches that would seat us all. Everything was wonderful. I was so excited I couldn't sleep the first few nights.
Every Saturday night the people of the campground would get together and put on a live talent show. This weekend the older girls were going to perform and I wanted to, too. A lady next to our camp said, "If she wants to, why don't you let her." And she gave me a little poem to recite that I remember still. It went like this:
A little robin sat upon
He looked at me and I looked at him
I picked up a stone and hit him in the chin
And he said, "Eda Larson, don't you do that again.
I guess I must have recited it all right because those few lines brought down the house.
The next week Aunt Annie and Uncle Jim came up. Dad had gotten them a tent next to ours and they stayed a week. Each day Uncle Jim would take us for a long walk. One day we even went up to Pine Flat and were very tired when we got back. Uncle Jim had taken gum from the pine trees and we all chewed it. Then, when he saw a branch that curved just right, he would cut it off and make us canes. They were beautiful canes made out of Manzanita and a dark, brownish red.
The children were having a wonderful time, but it was Mama who had come for the rest and she wasn't getting any. She had to bake bread every day. She said the children had lost their appetites and gained wolves.
As Aunt Annie and Uncle Jim were leaving Mama asked them to stop at a farm and call for Dad to come for us. She could have more rest at home where she had more conveniences.
Going home was as much fun as coming. It didn't get hot until we were out of the mountains. We stayed all night at the same campground, now known as Coffee Camp. The next morning I was again awakened by the cow bell. How beautiful it sounded. And the smell of the boiling coffee! I have never forgotten and in later years have thought many times about the hills I learned to love as a child.
The Home Place
Mama often walked to town when Dad was using all the horses, especially at harvest time. She would shorten her walk by going through an orchard bordered by palm trees. This was Captain Hutchinson's orange grove, the first one planted in Lindsay. Lindsay was Captain Hutchison's wife's maiden name.
One night at dinner after one of these trips to town she said to Dad, "Lou, I would give anything just to have one of those beautiful palm tress." Dad laughed, "Why don't you buy his ten acres. It's for sale. The real estate man told me about it today in town."
I never saw Mama talk so fast in her life. "Lou, we must try to get that ten acres. We'll trade in the livery stable on it and make crop payments each year."
The deal was made at the bank and after the papers were signed the Captain said he wanted to be near their boy who was going to college. "I hope when our oldest girl is ready for college we will be able to send her too." Captain Hutchison replied, "I wouldn't count on it, Mrs. Larson. I'll probably have the orange grove back by that time." With that, he was handed his papers and he left. As Dad and Mama started walking out of the bank, Mr. Reed, the banker, said, "Louis, if I can help you at any time, just let me know."
When word got around that Dad had bought the Cap Hutchinson place, other real estate men kept coming around trying to sell him a house since there was no house on the ten acres. One day when Dad and Mama were walking over their newly acquired proper- ty, a woman came walking down the palm drive and introduced herself to them. She said she owned a new two-bedroom house in the Hutchinson addition. She said she must sell it right away since her husband had died and his folks were trying to get half of his estate because they had no children. She said if Dad and Mama would take it over, she would ask for nothing down and ask for payment only once a year when the crop was harvested. They went with her and looked at the house and soon the deal was made and we moved into town saying goodbye forever to the Combs Ranch.
I can still remember hearing Dad saying to Uncle Jim in the bathroom, "Look at the toilet and the bathtub. Did you ever see anything like that? Not only running water but hot water too." All this was nice but at that time poor Dad didn't know how much these new conveniences would cost him.
We still had to walk to school, but it was only half the distance and we still carried our lunch. At least we didn't have to get up so early in the morning.
One day we came home from school and found mother exhausted lying down on the sofa with black soot over her face and hands. We wanted to know what had happened and she said that the Miller's two-story house burned down and she had tried to save some of their belongings. Now the Miller home was part of Captain Hutchinson's orange grove that adjoined Dad's ten acres. The Millers found a house and moved what was left of their furniture to town. Shortly after the fire Mr. Miller came to Dad and asked him if we would like to buy his ten acres. He told Dad he could make a living for his family, but he couldn't support the orange grove too. Now, if Dad wanted to take it on crop payments he would be glad to turn it over to him.
Mama jumped at the idea and told Dad to go sign up for it right away. Dad said he had more debts than he could handle, but Mama won out again and they bought the Miller orange grove. Then they found out they not only bought an orange grove but a water company too. The Hutchinson subdivision supplied the water for all the homes on two streets. Dad would be waking behind a team in the field and Mama would come running calling to him, "We're out of water." Dad would have to go and start the pump and fill the tank that supplied the homes. Dad said it was impossible for him to take care of the orange groves and run a water company as well. So, later that year he turned the water company over to the city and it supplied the water to the subdivision. The city moved the tower to town and put the fire signal on top of it and it is still used in the town of Lindsay.
When the orange crop was ready Dad hired a number of Japanese to pick the oranges. They were housed in the little rooms in the barn area. One day the foreman of the orange picking crew came to the house and asked if one of the girls would teach them to read the English language. Dad said yes and asked my sister, Ruby, to help them. In those days the folks had to buy all the books for the children and Mama had saved all the beginning school books so there was no problem to start them reading. It was surprising how fast they all learned to read. When the picking of the oranges started and the lessons had to stop, all the students could read. At Christmas Ruby was rewarded with beautiful dishes that came from Japan from her Japanese students.
All the oranges were picked, in those days, in wooden boxes which when filled, weighed about fifty pounds. These boxes were loaded on a tall wagon by the men and hauled to the packing house. Here they were unloaded and put on moving conveyor belts into the packing house and there they were stacked on dollies and moved to a storage area.
One afternoon when Dad was hauling a load of oranges to the packing house and he passed us walking home from school. We saw Dad and yelled, "Throw us an orange!" His reply was quick and strong. "These aren't my oranges and the owner has paid for the picking and hauling. Wait until you get home and you can have all you want." I never forgot that. To me it was strange, but to Dad it was principle. Don't give away something that doesn't belong to you!
Mama started working again s she had plenty of room for her cows, chickens and garden. Kermit was five years old now and he could count up to ten. Mama always believed children should learn to work at an early age so she gave Kermit half of the eggs if he would gather them and bring her half to her. There was a driveway from the barn on the Miller place to our house. Kermit would stop in the middle of the street with his eggs and divide them. He would put one on the ground for Mama and one on the other side for himself. Then, he would put Mama's in her basket and his in a box. Each day he would take his to town and sell them. When he started school, he had enough egg money to buy his bicycle.
Irwin was twelve years old now and no matter how Dad tried to teach him farming he couldn't. Irwin wouldn't milk the cows dry and they dried up way before their time. But Irwin grew up fast and was as tall as a man at twelve years old. He called Kermit a shrimp because he was small and growing slowly. One day a call came from the school. They wanted to know if Irwin was sick because he hadn't been to school in over a week. Mama told the principal she was really surprised because he left with his lunch each morning and came home each night. When Dad asked him where he had been, he said he rode on the trucks each day wherever they were going. Dad told him there was to be no more riding with the truck drivers. He would see to that. The next morning Irwin didn't come for breakfast. When they looked in his room, his bed had not been slept in. Mama looked in the sideboard in the dining room where Dad kept his pearl-handled pistol, but it was gone. The folks notified the police and it was only a day later the police found him in jail in Mexico. The police got him out and brought him home when they found out he was only twelve years old. Still, he wouldn't help Dad on the ranch and three years later he left again, this time with a man who had been working for Dad. The police found him again and they brought him back. This time the folks put him in Harvard Military School in Los Angeles.
The folks were head over heels in debt but Mama said since Irwin couldn't handle himself, someone else must do so. He graduated from the school and without telling the folks married and brought his wife home. They had one boy named Jimmy Larson. Mother wanted to keep him when Irwin and Alice divorced but Alice said she wanted to adopt him out to a younger family. His new father was a teacher with a very lovely wife.
It wasn't long before Irwin was married again to a young school teacher, Letitia Wilson. They had two boys and Irwin said he could make a better living for them all if he joined the Army. He did and made the Army his career. I always loved my brother, Irwin, and I know in his heart he loved and respected the folks. He retired from the service with honors as a Captain after fight- ing in three wars.
The banker, Mr. Reed, was a man of his word. He had said he would help Dad out with money and he did. Dad borrowed and got further in debt all the time. One reason for this was that oranges year after year only brought expenses. One day the banker called Dad in and said, "Lou, I can't lend you any more money. The board is getting on my back. You better look someplace else to make the next payment to Hutchinson."
Dad was worried as he went to the post office to get the mail. Mama was working in her garden and when she looked up she saw Dad coming across the ballpark that adjoined the home place. Dad was waving a letter and Mama thought, "How can he be so happy when we are so worried." When he got into talking range he said, "Emma, we got it." He handed the letter to Mama. It was from her folks in Wisconsin. It had a check in it, enough to cover the payment and the interest.
Mama never seemed to be satisfied. As each house in the subdivision came up for sale, Mama had to buy it one way or another until the folks had acquired all the property that Captain Hutchinson had owned.
After the folks moved to town I didn't get to see Josephine as often as before. I still lived in the country with a family called Barricks, across the road from where Dad had been foreman. Mrs. Barrick had an operation for what I don't remember. She had been on the operating table for five hours and I can remember Mama saying it was a wonder she came out alive. Well, it was my job to wait on her. They had a hired girl to do the work and after a few months when Mrs. Barrick was able to get on her feet again, the girl left. She said it was too lonely in a small town. So I was housekeeper and nurse. It wasn't so bad in the summer, but when school started I had to hurry home and do the work Mr. Barrick hadn't done. I was busy all the time, but I didn't mind it since I didn't have to do the cooking. Mr. Barrick did that, thank Goodness! But what dishes! The sink was always full when I got home from school and the ironing was always waiting to be done. I lived with the Barricks until my third year in high school. That final summer the doctor thought Mrs. Barrick would get well quicker if she went to the coast where it was cooler. We had no cooling systems in those days.
While the Barrick's were gone they asked me to take care of their dog and chickens and keep the leaves swept up from the trees so strangers wouldn't know they were gone. I did this for three months. When they returned, they gave me a five dollar gold piece. This was the first money I had ever earned. The three years I had stayed with them they had bought my clothes and I was happy. Mrs. Barrick bought me my first corset and my first high- heeled shoes.
The Barricks were Methodists and strict ones. Each Sunday they would have the preacher and his wife for dinner and I had to serve them and eat later. I didn't mind too much. Josephine was a Methodist and I was in her Sunday school class. One Sunday morning before class began we were all sitting in a circle waiting for the teacher. I happened to look down and see Josephine had a new pair of shining patent leather shoes. "Josephine," I burst out, "What beautiful shoes, but why did you get them so big?" In a flash she replied, "You darn fool, I have big feet." Just then the teacher entered and the class began.
That was the last time I saw Josephine until years later. We were both married and our children grown. I was sitting in the car waiting for my husband when I say Josephine coming toward the car. I yelled out to her and she came and stood by the car and we talked. "Josephine," I asked, "how come you look so young for your age?" It didn't take her long to reply, "You darn fool, I work at it."
Ed came and we left. On the way home I told my husband what she had said and he mumbled, "Same old Josephine. We played doubles tennis together all over the county. She was some player! But she was too much for me." I felt better after talking to Ed, but I didn't ask why she was too much for him. I thought after twenty years, better leave good enough alone.
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