Next first experience I remember right now was the Telephone. About time Pa
died in 1901, there were a few telephones being installed out in the country. Two
in our immediate neighborhood.
On our way home from schoolone P.M., the two girls whose people had
telephones were trying to explain it to me. I had told them I never had even seen
one, let alone talking on them. Iwould soon be passing both their houses, so one
girl said, "I'll go into myhouse and wait for you to call me from Mabel's, and you
can try it". SoMabel and I walked on from Ada's house·, and s topped in at
Mable's home. Herewas this scary looking box that talked to you, hanging on a
wall. Mabel told mewhat Ada's ring was and said you just turn this little crank so
many times, then put this receiver to your ear and listen. When she says, "Hello"
you say, "Hello" back to her. I reached for the crank and then losing my nerve
told Mabel I was scared I wouldn't do it right and asked her to crank it for me. She
did, then put the receiver to my ear. Ada answered but I was so frightened that I
dropped the receiver. Mabel handed it back to me but I was so shaky. I can't
remember whether I said anything or not but now I knew it really was true. It
worked! Phones were a "far cry" those days from the sophisticated things of
today. These give you a recording that talks to you even when there's no one at
the other end of the wire. I am about as scared of these sometimes as I was at the
very first one I ever used. A whole neighborhood, maybe ten or twelve families
would be on the same line. Could call each other without calling Central as
operators were named then. If you wanted someone not on your line you rang
just one ring for Central. If you needed someone on your own line, you rang the
number of times that it called for in your book. Sometimes 2 or 3 rings or else 1
long and 1 short or maybe some other combination like 2 long 1 short, or maybe
2 long and 2 short. When the telephone started ringing you paid strict attention to
distinguish your own ring. There weren't many secrets in the neighborhoods
those days. People listened in on the lines, sometimes just for entertainment. I
miss the old fashioned type that required an operator. Have been helped so many
times by them, then, too, you could have a nice little chat with an operator while
you waited for your party to answer. Myrtle, Ray's sister, worked here a good
many years and was very efficient. She also had worked in Lake Odessa, and
Grand Rapids before coming here.
When Johnnie died, we wouldn't have known about it in time to get out there
before it happened, if the operator hadn't called us. She knew from the calls
coming into the office what was happening and so called Ray immediately. We
were so grateful to her.
Another time when Lois lived on Grandma Bishop's place, she was alone with
Danny in his high chair. Lois fainted away and when she came to her senses,
crawled (couldn't stand up) to the telephone, rang the operator and just said,
"Please call my mother, I'm sick", and hung up the receiver. The operator
recognized Lois' voice and called me at the store telling me I'd better get out to
Lois's house, she was sick. Now, could these new fangled outfits do that?
Then again, when Ray died, don't know who the girl was any more but she
certainly was on the job. Calling people, telling them I needed help. Never will I
New phones are another sign of Progress, but I don't like this one. The old way
of the operators was so comforting to know. Just call the operator and you had
sympathetic help at once. In small towns like ours, it was a good thing.
First sight of a steel trap
Once upon a time a certain dumb little girl went to spend
Saturday with a friend. It was a beautiful morning in early Spring, so the two little
girls decided to take a walk down the lane. Just over the line fence was a field
which had already been planted to corn. It looked so pretty, the corn was just
corming up. The girls spoke of the beauty of it. The corn looked like small dots of
green evenly spaced over the entire field. Suddenly Miss Dumb Bunny saw
something strange fastened on top of the fence. She asked her friend what it was
and was told it was a steel trap. What's a steel trap was the next question. Friend
(oh, let's call her Ethel) explained her brother Frank trapped crows in it. Said the
crows were pulling up the little green corn plants and Frank thought the traps
might help to scare them away. Of course that explanation didn't tell Miss D.B.
how it worked, can that thing catch a crow? Ethel said, "Frank spreads the side
things apart until they will lay flat, then he baits it with corn. Crows try to eat the
corn, that springs the trap and it catches the crow right by its head."
By this time the dumb gal was at the very top of the fence looking right down
onto the trap. "What’s that funny looking round thing there in the middle,
she asked. Ethel replied, "That's where Frank puts the bait." Next question,
where? there? Ethel screamed, "Don’t touch that". Too late, the trap was sprung
and the Dummy's front finger on her right hand was held in its jaws.
I might as well tell you because I think you have probably known all along that
it was Dumb Myrtie who always had to know how everything worked that had her
finger in the trap. It was chained to the top rail and so was I. Ethel managed to
unfasten the chain. I climbed down. Ethel tried to spring the trap open to release
my finger but of course she didn't have the strength. Her father was plowing the
field just a little farther down the lane, so we headed for him. Ethel walked closely
beside me carrying the trap so the weight wouldn't pull on my finger, both of us
crying, we reached Mr. Walsh finally. He was using a walking plow and when he
saw us coming, we were (to him) such a funny looking pair of little girls, he just
leaned over those plow handles and exploded with laughter. Quickly, though, he
released my finger and apologized for the laughter. Said it was really no laughing
matter, it could have snapped the end of my finger off. Made the tip of my first
finger on my right hand crooked was all. Now there's arthritis in that joint but the
crookedness is there above it. Mr. Walsh never let me forget it after I grew up.
Well, I admit it was a dumb but I had to know how steel traps worked and I
received a full demonstration.
A Near Tragedy
Might just as well include this story right here for it also
involves Ethel, her mother and father, Mary and John Walsh. Before the road
between the hills was graded up and filled in as it is now. Going south directly in
front of our home was a very steep hill. The road leveled off maybe 25 or 35 feet,
then another sharp hill. On this level spot was a small bridge, just about the same
width of the road and probably not more than 4 or 5 feet wide. Don't remember
whether or not there was water running under there, but in the spring of the year
the water came from somewhere. At times the bridge was covered but never was
very high. Until this one particular spring it became very bad. It was Saturday and
neighbors north of us were driving to Vermontville to do their weekly shopping.
The water was a little deep but nothing to be frightened about when all these
people went to town soon after noon.
In the middle of the afternoon, the water began rising. We could see it climbing
higher and higher up each hill. Ma was worried about the people coming from
town, so we sat on our steps to watch for them. Of course, we had seen them go
by on their way in and knew they would soon be coming and how many.
Finally, they had all passed through safely excepting the Walshes. Ma said
when the last family came through, "I have to go start the milking, but I'm
still worried over Mr. and Mrs. Walsh. Hope they come before dark. You girls sit
here and wait for them. If they get into any trouble, you Myrtie, run for Arby and
Ernie Benedict but tell Arby first. He is quicker than Ernie". Off she went to
the barn, all the time so sure something was going to go wrong. Arby, at that
time, lived on the first farm north of us, on the east side. Ernie, who was
Walshes son in-law, lived directly across from him on the west side of the road. It
is about 1/4 mile from us.
Ma's prediction came through. She was right. Mr. Walsh came. He had two
horses hitched to a single buggy with a top. Everything was fine, when suddenly
a buggy wheel ran off the side of the narrow board bridge, tipping the buggy over
on its side, breaking the tongue loose, horses kept on going dragging Mr. Walsh
holding fast to the reins, Mrs. Walsh holding fast to his coat tail, screaming
"Ethel's in the buggy" over and over. Water was up to their arm pits. By this time
I was headed for Arby's calling to Ma to get to the house as I passed by the barn.
Arby was at the supper table but he jumped up and was on his way before I could
even tell him my story. I hurried across to Ernie's and told him, then started back
Arby was wearing rubberboots. I hadn't gone very far before I saw one of them
on the ground, a little farther and here was the other boot. He had kicked them off
as he ran on in his stocking feet. I carried the boots on home. When I arrived Arby
was just swimming out with Ethel in his arms. The buggy was entirely submerged
with only one corner of the top in sight. Ethel's head was up in that corner but her
head was above water. Arby had quite a time getting her out, he thought she was
dead. Looking back now, she probably had fainted away or maybe struck her
head as the buggy tipped over. Whatever it was, air in that part of the top above
the water, and Arby, saved her life.
Next I remember the doctor being there. Pearl remembers them putting Ethel in
bed in our spare bedroom and she and Mrs. Walsh were there for a week before
Ethel was able to go home.Shock, I suppose, might have caused that. That is one
experience that we all could have done without. Don't know what might have
happened if Ma hadn't had the foresight to tell us to get Arby and Ernie there.
It's 11:3O p.m. and I'm all out of breath from reliving this. Think I'll go to bed. Not
a very good story to go to bed on. Just a little more history.Ethel married Clarence
Collier, Charley's brother. Don Collier is her son. Good Night.
Our cellar was not a basement. Webster says a cellar is a place
for storing provisions while a basement is the lowest part or story of a building.
No refrigeration back then, so when a house was built, a cellar to keep your
perishable foods cool was included in the plan.
In this house, too, the cellar is located beneath the den. I used to keep the walls
swept clear of cobwebs and dust, clean papers on the shelves, floor scrubbed
with soap suds, then rinsed with clear water carried down from the kitchen. The
water ran out then down the drain in the southeast corner, immediately. Now
sometimes water comes in but it takes its time running out. I don't carry it down,
Always put the milk, butter, shortening etc. directly on the cellar floor. Meat, if it
wasn't to be cooked at once, I seared in a skillet over the fire, then carried it down
stairs and placed it on the floor. Everything had to be covered.
My cellar shelves were loaded always with canned fruits, jams, and jellies. No
more of that, I do a little but can store it in my cupboards. The south part of the
cellar, I always called it, is what Webster would call a basement. When we moved
here, the furnace with the corner made into a coal bin was all there was down
there. Haven't been down for years. I'll bet people who do have to go must be
afraid they'll get hung up on cobwebs. I do have someone else clean it once in
As usual, I am getting away from my subject but I write things down just as they
pop into my head and this just popped in right now.
In the early days (What an expression, makes me feel so antiquated), doctors
would accept most anything useful as payment of a bill. Maybe a sack of
potatoes, oats, or hay for their horse or wood to heat their houses. Most anything
usable. Apples, butter, etc. would be accepted.
When Ray's sister Ethel was born, Jan. 25, 1897, the doctor wanted a load of
wood for his payment. Roads were snow covered, so Ray's father told him to
hitch the horses to the sleighs and take a load of wood to Sunfield, delivering it to
Ed Snyder's house. The house was this very one I'm sitting in today. Dr. Snyder
built it in 1900. Ray, 12 years old then, used to say in later years, on that day so
long ago little did he think he would be throwing wood and coal into that same
Cellar at the old homestead
This cellar ran the full length of the house. It was divided into two,
one under the north end and the other under the upright at the south. The north
one had no windows, so we called it the dark cellar, the other one had four
windows and was called the light cellar.
Besides the windows, ahatchway opened into it from outside, so this could be
opened in the summertime. This made it nice and airy, no stale or musty odor at
any time. Milk waskept in crocks on the shelves, waiting for cream to rise and be
skimmed off forbutter, so the place had to be kept very clean and free from odors.
Open crocksof milk would become tainted with the slightest smell.There was also
an insidestairway leading down from the pantry above. A small landing, with
shelves forstorage at the end, built at the top was nice. No steps leading down
into space when you opened the door.
But this landing and those cellar steps had to be scrubbed with a brush every
Saturday. My mother was a great "scrubber-upper". After all there was FOOD in
that cellar. This light airy storage space was certainly in the fall always, "a sight
for sore eyes'', or maybe a more accurate expression would be, "a sight for
hungry stomachs". The shelves were filled then with canned fruit, gallon crocks
of apple butter, lard to bake with, cucumber pickles in a six gallon crock on the
floor. Enough food to feed an army. Maybe that's what we had, there were eight
people living in that house regularly with plenty of coming and going, my mother
The prettiest sight in this cellar were the shelves on which my father stored our
apples. These shelves were not built with a solid board but with narrow boards
placed a half inch or so apart to let air in around the apples. Also there was
something across the front to keep them from rolling out.
The apples were all sorted according to the variety. We had so many different
kinds, most of them are not raised anymore. There were Northern Spies, of
course, Greenings, Baldwins, Greasy Pippins, Tolman Sweets, and Snow apples.
Also had one called Rambo. This was a fall variety and had to be used first. Not
very good keepers but delicious eating. Then another called Russets. These my
dad buried in a pit to be opened up in the spring. This pit was dug at the edge of
our garden, lined with straw someway. Can't tell too much about this because it
was one more thing we never did after my dad was gone.
However, the pit was like a cold storage and Pa buried Russet apples, heads of
cabbage, carrots, turnips,etc. What an exciting day when he went out in the
spring and opened that pit. Everything was as fresh as the day he stored it. The
Russet apples weredelicious. Not even withered.
The Dark Cellar
All I can remember we kept in this one is barrels filled with
potatoes and cider barrels. The cider barrels- were laid down flat and had spigots
in each one. Cider, as you all know, turns to vinegar as it ages. We always had
one barrel of that and each fall my dad would take apples to the cider mill and
have fresh cider made. We drank out of this until it turned so hard it wasn't fit to
drink, then we'd leave it for vinegar.
Now all this was fine until one day you were sent down to draw a jug of vinegar.
You didn't want to go into that old dark place, you were scared but you didn't dare
say you were afraid and could you please take a lamp with you. The answer to
that would be, "a lamp, you want to set this house on fire, now go on and get that
vinegar, there's nothing down there to be afraid of". I knew there was and it's
name was DARK. Coming so suddenly out of the day light into this room, you
couldn't see a thing, so you'd wait a few minutes (seemed like hours) and then
you could see a little but still you were scared. Walking, gingerly, up to the vinegar
barrel, you'd put your jug under the spigot and turn it on. Not too fast, it will spit
back up, so you wait forever for the jug to fill, expecting some wild animal or an
old crazy man to grab you and choke you to death. It wouldn't have taken long,
you were half way there already. The jug is full, you turn off the spigot and go out
into the light and up the stairs to safety.
When you were sent down for potatoes, that was a lot worse than drawing
vinegar. You'd enter the darkness, stand still until your eyes were accustomed to
the sudden change, then walk up to that potato barrel! You look down into that
barrel and there really is no light now. Barrel is nearly you're going to need to
reach way into this one. But it isn't you at all, it's me. I am really scared now. I
pound on the outside of the barrel to scare the rats or whatever is in there.
Nothing comes out so reach into the darkness and fill my pan. Once more I have
Pearl told me last Sunday when she had to go for potatoes, she always
snitched a few matches and hide them in her apron pocket. When she reached
the barrel, she'd strike a match, holding the lighted match inside the barrel she
could see whether there was anything in there or not. Always careful to hide the
burnt match in her pocket to dispose of it before Ma found out. Now, why didn't
think of that. You know something? I’ll bet Ma would have caught me at it. No
flashlights in those days. What an invention that was.
What a delight these strings of sleigh bells were. Used only in
the winter time, when the roads were covered with snow and you were unable to
pull a buggy. Buggies had wheels, so now a cutter or sleighs with runners were
the conveyances. The sleigh bells, mounted on a strap, placed around a horse's
neck, hanging loosely underneath his head, jingle and jangled with every
movement of his body.
Each string had a different tone. The size of the bells, some about an inch in
diameter gave out a high pitched sound, while the larger ones made a lower
sound. Probably were 25 or 30 bells on a string. One soon learned the sound of
each neighbors bells and could tell who was driving past without looking out.
My father’s bells were called a graduated string. Tiny inch bells at the top and
gradually changing to one and one half inch in the middle. They made the most
melodious sound. Ma gave them to Arby and now Ruth Wright has them. She has
quite a collection of strings, all from some of her relatives. Has them displayed
hanging side by side on one wall of a room in her house.
A sleigh had two sets of runners. The front ones turned as
you guided your horses, the back pair was stationary. Followed the turn of the
front pair. Usually a wagon box, with a high seat in front for the driver~ was used
to carry passengers or grain to the mill, your groceries, etc. Sleigh bells were not
used on these horses, but a larger bell was placed on each horses' neck. These
were called team bells.
Lots of logging was done in the winter time. To draw logs, the box was
removed. The first winter Ray and I were married (1911), he drew logs into town
from somewhere south of here. Would get up at 3:00 a.m., have his breakfast,
then go bring in a load of logs before he began his daily Dray-line job here in
town. Brought in a little extra income.
Ray kept his horses in a barn on Washington street, where P. J., then Gary later,
used to live. While he was gone for his team, I used to start my dayswork, then I'd
hear his bells coming and be in the window to wave my hand; butas soon as the
sound of the bells were gone, I'd crawl back in bed, feeling guilty to be so nice
and warm when I knew Ray must be cold. Sometimes, he would get off the
sleighs and trot alongside to warm himself up. When I heard the sound of his
bells coming back into town I'd get up, light the lamp and be in the window again.
Guess I forgot to say we lived right down south of here where you turn to go to
the school houe. Can see the house now from my window. Those woods where
he went for the logs must have been close by, for he would be back in town
before daylight. Had to be ready to meet the 8 a.m. train to pick up freight for the
merchants. What a cold winter that !
A cutter was the only other conveyance used in the winter
time when snow covered the roads. Just sleighs and cutters. Two horses were
driven to pull the sleighs, but a cutter used just one horse. These vehicles were
sort of a square looking type with the seat in the very back. The back then curved
around, down the side, shaping down towards the floor. This gave one protection
so you wouldn't fallout, and could tuck the blankets or robe around you to keep
warm. Then the sides continued on to the front, making a sort of dashboard. This
body was mounted on runners, like those on a child's sled only of course large
and longer. The whole cutter was maybe four feet wide and perhaps six feet long.
It cleared the ground at maybe twelve or eighteen inches. Not so high. You could
easily step right in, about like going up one step on' the porch.
So what are we waiting for?
The runners are on, the horse is between the thills, LET'S GO,
Climb in, no brakes to be used. You may step on the bottom of the blankets to
hold them around your feet, tuck them tightly then around your legs and up your
body as high as they will reach, usually about to your arm pits.You feel sort of like
a mummy but necessary because,"Baby It's Cold Outside". Cold or not, it use
to give me a thrill even though we might only be going to Vermontville. So
different than a buggy ride.
Before Ray and I were
married, sometimes we would go for a cutter ride in the evening. Usually it was
Sunday night, not many people out. 3uch a beautiful world, snow everywhere,
fields, trees, roof tops, everything covered, smoke coming from the chimneys of
the houses we drove by. The hush and silence of a winters night almost took
one's breath away. As our horse trotted along the way, the only sound we heard
was the jingling of our sleighbells, cutters just glide along noiselessly. Gave me
the feeling of us being the only ones in the world and we were just soaring along
into space. Sort of lonely but happy, just to be alive. We look up at the sky and
see the moon shining down upon us and our snow covered world, making it
almost as light as day. Next, the clouds begin to break away and out comes the
first star. Must make a wish and say, "Star light, Star bright, wish I may,
wish I might have the wish I wish tonight." Still think of this, even now,
when I see my first star. Other stars soon follow my first one, until the sky is
dotted all over with them, sparkling like diamonds. We located, the ripper, the
Little Dipper, and also the Milky Way. Didn't see the man in the moon try to dip
right in and take a drink but the sight was so beautiful and fairy-like that you
thought you might.
The beauty of the winter night around and the diamond studded sky made us
feel, as we drove home, that we were driving on Hallowed ground. We feel like a
King and Queen, this great, big, beautiful world is ours.
You modern guys with your noisy snowmobiles can have your speedy fun, but
I'll just float along silently in my old cutter, taking time to enjoy the wonders of the
world around me.
A Sleigh Ride
In 1900, the year before my father died, we were invited to his
brothers, John Lovell's, for Thanksgiving Day Dinner. Sleighing didn't always
come as early as this but this year, the snow came and the ground was never bare
until spring. We had good sleighing all winter.
Uncle John's family lived south of Sunfield on what is now known as the Dan
Aungst farm. Five miles from our place. Such a beautiful winter morning, ground,
trees, and buildings covered with snow, sparkling in the early morning sunshine.
I can hardly wait to get started. Hurry everybody! At last, here comes Pa and Arby
from the barn. Horses prancing, act as though they were as anxious as I to get
started. Pa and Arby have filled the bed of the sleighs with nice clean straw
covered over with horse blankets for us to sit on. Ma climbs up on the drivers
seat with my dad, Arby, Mae, Sylvia, Grace, Pearl, and I sit on the straw covered
bed. More blankets to tuck around us and we are started at last. Down the road
north 3/4 mile to Dellwood corners, then east one mile to Bismark School house.
There we stop to pick up my father's aunt and her son. Her name was Aunt Diana
Pickens, (she lived to the age of 102), the sons name was Thomas. Their home is
now owned by Lloyd and Rose Steward. We go north two miles from Aunt
Diana's and next east one mile on what is now St. Joe Highway. Here we behold
the most gorgeous sight! This whole mile bordering on the south side of the
road, was covered with timber. Huge, tall trees, their snowy branches glistening
in the sunshine, growing so closely together, looked to me like a huge snow bank.
On then down east to the Brethren Church, one-fourth mile north and we are at
Uncle John's. Don't remember much more of this day, except Aunt Allie had roast
turkey. It was a first time for turkey with me. They raised their own. Of course, I
remember the rest of the family, Bessie, Donna, and John Jr. All older than I. Don't
recall the ride home but I'll bet we sang most of the way, because if my dad was
riding anywhere, he sang. He loved music.
Thinking of this great big Woods makes me wonder if that wasn't where Ray
went for his logs that winter of 1911, I told you about. So much timber was sold
and cut down at that time. I know it was close to town because he never was
gone very long. I'll just bet that is where they came from. I think ,Charles Brown
owned that place, perhaps not then but he later lived there. Some of you will
Changes Life Style
A few years after the death of my father, some things to make life easier for a
woman were invented. For instance, small portable stoves to cook on. The fuel
used for these was kerosene or gasoline. They made quite a difference at our
house. We never cooked our meals in the Summer Kitchen anymore. Could set
one of these small stoves on top of our wood-burning range or on a shelf. Also a
portable oven came on the market. This was a big help, saved on wood as well as
a lot of leg work, carrying things outside to cook, then carrying it back in to eat.
Another thing was spring and mattresses for our beds. Can't help but think the
old fashioned straw tick was much more sanitary than a mattress but not nearly
as comfortable. Using a material called ticking, these were sewed together like
huge pillowcase, excepting both ends were closed. Down in the middle center of
the top was an eighteen or twenty inch slit fastened together with buttons and
button holes. Through this opening, the tick was filled with fresh oat straw.
Crammed so full you could scarcely button the opening. Next procedure,
carrying the bulky thing up that hill, into the house, up the stairs, and get it in
place on the bed. Ma, Mae, Sylvia, Grace each grasp a corner and lifting it high
enough to clear the ground, they are on their merry way. The awkward thing was
not heavy, oat straw is very light.
I called it a merry way because it was just that. Sylvia had a way of turning any
task, however hard,into fun. They talked, laughed, and giggled all the way to the
house. This tickgoes upstairs, so that will take a bit of doing. There were
banisters alongeach side of the stairwell at the top. So they'd stand the tick
through the door way, two of the girls leaning over the banisters at the top pulling
on it, the girls at the bottom pushing, and then with one last mighty heave, over a
banister the unwieldy thing was, upstairs and in place on the bed. Most of our
beds had a tick filled with feathers, which was placed over the straw one. Eased
the hardness just a bit.
Earlier in the day this room had been completely cleaned. Curtains, bedding,
throw rugs washed and dried. If the tick was not new, it also had to be washed.
Feather bed and quilts hung on the clothes line to air. Even the carpet had been
taken up, carried down stairs, threw over the clothesline beating the dust out with
a carpet beater. I got to help a little I could wack away at the carpet, also a feather
tick. Probably my wacks were not very hard ones but every little whack helped.
When they put the carpet down, I never was allowed to pound a tack in but now
I came in handy. A tack puller was handed to me and I was ordered to pull the
tacks out. I didn't mind doing around for the good tacks when she was laying the
carpet again. Didn't like that, too puttery, I'd rather beat the carpet and see the
dust fly. This one bed finished, just four more to go, and they will be clean and
sanitary. Sanitary or not, I’m very thankful for mattresses and springs.
Just must tell you this, then I’ll leave the beds and housecleaning, because
they are making me tired. When Sylvia and Johnnie were married, they began
housekeeping at Grandma Rachel Welch’s. Just two rooms, Grandma Welch had
built onto the side of her house, for her son, Grandpa Ped, (Johnnie's father) to
live in when he was married.
I use to be there quite a lot, helping Sylvia. No place for me to sleep in their part
of the house, so I would have to go upstairs in Grandma Rachel's part. At
bedtime, carrying a lighted oil lamp in my hand, I'd start on that LONG journey
across Grandma's kitchen, then up the stairs to the ROOM. This place was filled,
almost to over flowing, with Grandma's things she had no use for anymore. One
thing I remember was her spinning wheel. I thought it was all but today it would
be very valuable.
A stand to put my lamp on and the bed was in one corner of the room. This bed
was very old. In place of slats, ropes were strung across and up and down to form
a place for the tick. If you thought the slats were hard, you should have slept in
this. You could actually feel the ropes. The whole place was very spooky, my little
light didn't reach more than three feet away and what did I know the things that
were hiding to come after me when I'd blowout the lamp. Didn't dare to leave it lit,
might tip it over in the night and set fire to the house. Every night when I’d start
for bed Sylvia would say, “Are you sure you are not afraid, Myrtie?” Always
answering, “No, I’m not afraid” when I was shaking in my boots and my teeth
All of Grandmas treasures were burned when a few years later, fire destroyed
the old, old house. Always wanted to rummage through that upstairs but didn’t
dare. Grandma Rachel would have called me a snoop. I was always on pretty
good terms with her and wanted to keep it that way.
Settin' Hens and Such
Back in the "hey-day" of my life, we raised chickens, as
did every farmer. Our henhouse was built at the edge of the orchard, not very far
from the house. Roosts were built along one side of the wall inside with a row of
nests for the hens to lay their eggs in on the opposite wall.
Can just hear you younger readers say, "Now what crazy thing is she talking
about? What are roosts and hens nests?" My more antiquated children know but
for the others I'll try to explain. Roosts first. Ours were started with 3 two-by-fours
about 4 feet long.
One end nailed at right angles to the wall, half way between top and bottom,
then a board slanting from the roof to the edge of this first board. Three of these
were used to hold the roosting poles, one at each end and the third in the center
so the weight of the chickens couldn't make the poles sag. The poles, small
enough for a chicken to cling to with their feet, were then placed length-wise
between the supports. Fastened to the slanting board, one pole above the other
(not directly above, of course), it now looks like a stairway with no steps hanging
to the wall. Just the poles.
Sometimes you might be a little late with your chores, darkness came before
you had taken water and grain to the chickens. Always had that out for them
ready for the next morning. With a lighted lantern hanging from one arm, a pail of
water on the other, you'd enter the henhouse. What a sight greeted your eyes. All
those chickens clinging to the poles, all facing the same way, backs to the walls,
eyes closed, they were asleep. Maybe one or two would open a sleepy eye, give
you the once over, and just go back to sleep. BUT, if you made the least bit of
noise then pandemonium would start. They were very much awake, roosters
squawking, hens cackling, all flying down off their poles, you didn't tarry. You
just grabbed your lantern and fled out the door. As soon as you left with the light
they would quiet right down. Chickens made a good burglar alarm. If people
heard them making a fuss in the night, someone always investigated
immediately. Most men would carry their shot gun out with them. Maybe you
wouldn't see anything, could have been a rat, weazel, skunk, or some other wild
animal wanting a chicken dinner or it could have been a man. Plenty of chicken
thieves around in those days.
Guess it's about time I began on those nests. This was just a simple board
mounted like a shelf on the opposite side from the roosts. A board along the front
to keep the eggs from rolling out, small boards about four inches high, spaced
cross wise about twelve inches apart the full length of the shelf, made a box like
nests just large enough for one hen. These were covered on the bottom with straw
to keep the eggs from breaking when laid. Now in the early spring, some of these
older hens would decide a family of little chickens would be a nice thing to have.
So she would quit laying eggs, climb into one of those cozy little nests and there
you would find her when you went to gather in the eggs. You couldn't scare her
off, had to pick her up and throw her out, being very careful to reach under her
from the back to get hold on her legs. She would fight back, picking your hands
with her sharp bill, if you didn't take care. You'd give her a toss but if she really
wanted to sit in that nest for the next three weeks (time it takes for eggs to hatch)
she'd fly right back in and set there. Reporting to Ma, she'd tell me to keep that up
for three or four days until we knew for certain she was going to set, then we'd put
the eggs underneath her. You didn't put fourteen perfectly good eggs under a hen,
then have her decide after a few days that she didn't really want a family that bad
and have her leave the nest. The eggs would be spoiled and have to be thrown
away. Well, this old hen persisted, we put nice fresh straw in the nest, marked
fourteen eggs with blue carpenters chalk, and let the old hen crawl in. She'd take
her beak and her feet to push the straw around making a little hollow in the center,
she arranged the eggs in it. Dropping gently down on them, they would still not
suit, so she'd poke her head around underneath herself, first on one side, then the
other until they felt exactly right. Then spreading each wing out a little way from her
body, she'd settle down for the long three weeks ahead of her.
She would leave her nest just long enough to eat and drink and maybe go
outside the hen house long enough to scratch around in the ground a bit. Always
get back on the nest before the eggs would get cold. If they were allowed to get
cold, they wouldn't hatch . When the little chickens began to appear, Ma (not me)
would take them out of the nest, put them in a pasteboard box, tuck a cloth lightly
over them, take them in the house until all the eggs were hatched. If she had left
them in the nest, after the appearance of one or two chicks, old mother henwould
be so proud and anxious to show them to the world, she might just leave her nest
with them. Then the rest of the eggs would get cold and no more little ones. Pa had
made several box like structures to house the hen and her tiny chicks. These
looked like tiny houses, had a slanting roof over the top, the back and sides and
floor were built solidly, but the front had slats across so the chicks could go In and
out. Ma not me, again) would carry the old hen out and place her inside the little
house then returning the baby chickens to her, she'd start clucking and the little
chicks would run to her crawling underneath her feathers to keep warm. When the
chickens were two or three days old, we let the hen out of her house part time. After
getting the hen and her babies settled in their cozy little house, Ma told me to go
clean out that nest, dispose of the eggs that didn't hatch and now were rotten, then
put clean straw in. I didn't like this nasty job but went about it anyway. Soon
finished everything but disposing of the rotten eggs. Three of them. Ma had said,
toss them way back into the orchard and don't make a mess around the hen house.
Gingerly, I pick up an egg, going just outside the door, closing my eyes, I gave that
egg the hardest underhand toss I could. The thing landed in the apple tree right
over my head, down it came PLOP, right at my feet. You'll have to imagine what
happened next, for really I remember no more of the incident. I'll bet someone else
finished my job. Guess I forgot to explain why Ma put the mark of blue chalk on her
eggs under that old hen. Sometimes, another hen would decide they wanted to lay
their eggs in that nest. 30 every night) when you gathered in the eggs, you had to
lift that old settin hen up to check. If there was an egg with no blue mark on it, you
knew that one was freshly laid, so you'd take it out of the nest. Modern incubators
have been in use for a good many years, taking the place of my old "Settin' Hen".
Life At Lovell's
Arby's bout with the bees, comes
to my mind right now, so I think I may as well start with that. Pa was not at home.
Time - summer. Place - supper table. All six children seated in their proper places,
Ma came to sit down, carrying a large plate covered with fresh hot biscuits.
Conversation started in this order, (I think) . Ma, "Wish your pa was home, we
would have honey for these biscuits". Arby, "I can get it for us." Ma, "I don't want
you to try it. You'll get stung". Arby, "No, I won't, I've watched Pa get it, and I really
know how". Ma, "Well, go ahead, if you think you can, but get Pa's hat with the veil.
That will protect your head and face at least". Arby, "I don't need that I Pa never uses
it! He just reaches inside the hive and pulls out a block of honey. The bees never pay
any attention to him, so why would they bother me"?
Off he goes with Ma and we five girls right behind him. Cocky Arby leads the
parade. Now, the bee hives were at the edge of the garden, probably twenty five or
thirty feet from the south side of our house. Bold as brass, Arby squats down and
reaches inside the hive and removes the honey. Before he could even straighten
up, those bees came out by the hundreds, swarming all over his face, neck any
place they could see a bare spot to light. Arby started screaming at the top of his
lungs, running as fast as his old long legs could carry him. Past the house, past
the granary, on down the hill he ran to the horse tank, probably sixty or eighty
yards from the hive. Tank was full of water, so Arby quickly ducked his head in to
rinse the bees off. Now, I know this is no way to end a story. I'm sorry but I can
remember no more. I would like to know as well as you, how Arby was affected,
whether anyone had any supper, if they did, could they eat the honey, etc., etc.
What do you expect of me, this happened before my Dad died, so it had to be at
least eighty four years ago. Just thought of something I Suppose that was why
Arby was bald at such an early age. Wish I could remember what Pa said and if the
bees drowned. Whole thing is hilarious now but at that time a tragedy.
Sylvia's Easter Eggs
I've told you earlier in this history, every farmer raised
chickens back then. This was a~•yearly custom in my family, at least. Don't know
whether or not other people followed it, but we did. Two or three weeks before
Easter Sunday, whoever did the nightly chore of gathering the eggs, would start
snitching a few out each night and hiding them somewhere. Keeping the place a
deeply guarded secret. On Easter morning, they would take a pail and get them,
bringing them in for Ma to cook for our breakfast. When I say "they", I'm always
referring to Mae, Arby, Sylvia, and Grace. I've told you before, Pearl and I were the
LITTLE girls. THEY wouldn't think of trusting us with such an important thing as
the hiding place of the Easter eggs.
This year Sylvia insisted on gathering the eggs and wouldn't even tell the rest
of the THEY'S where the hiding place was. Of course, every year my mother
would pretend she didn't know what was going on" but kept saying to my dad,
she couldn't understand why the hens were not laying as many eggs as usual.
They had been laying so well, but were dropping off so suddenly. He'd go along
with her and make believe he didn't know either. Usually, one or the other of them
would know where the eggs were being hidden, but this year, Sylvia kept her
secret well. Now, last fall before winter set in, my dad had made a frame about
twelve or fourteen inches wide around the horse tank, filling the space with straw.
This would keep the water in the tank from freezing. Sylvia decided in this straw,
she would have a splendid place to hide her Easter eggs. Wonderful! No one
would ever guess this one, they didn't either. But one day, the thing back fired on
her. A few days before Easter, my father and Arby decided to remove that banking
from around the horse tank. Said the weather was getting so mild, probably the
water wouldn't freeze very hard, just maybe a thin scum, so they sat to work
clearing the straw away.
Sylvia, who was watching out the north windows, suddenly began crying, so
hard my mother said she was actually sobbing. She finally stopped enough to tell
my mother, the Easter eggs were in there. Later. my dad told her if he had known
he would have left the straw in place until Easter morning. Ma sent Sylvia down
with a pail to bring her eggs up to the house. Remember Ma telling, Sylvia had
stashed away over one hundred eggs. No wonder she was heartbroken and no
wonder Ma thought the hens were dropping off. Sylvia always thought so much
of tradition. Every little thing meant so much to her. Sylvia, very special to each of
Myrtie the Moron
When you finish this article, I know you will all agree
that Moron is a very fitting name for me and for once I would not argue. I can
visualize this happening as though it were yesterday. Winter time, the family all at
the table except me. I had been dancing around all over the place, telling everyon
how I could hardly wait, I was so hungry. Ma's supper looked so good but as I was
about to sit down Ma said, "No one filled the water pitcher, Myrtie take it outside
and bring some fresh water in for supper". Filling the pitcher, I started to carry it
inside, when suddenly I thought, "Here is my chance, no one will be coming out if
I hurry. I'm going to see if this is true". Someone had told me if you stuck your
tongue on a piece of iron in the winter time you couldn't pull it loose. The whole
top of your tongue would stick fast to the iron. Deed and double, (as my Grandma
Croy used to say). I knew better than that, it just wasn't true. Now, the pump
handle was a nice clean bit of iron so I quickly put my tongue down on that.
Jerking back up, looking at the pump handle, top of my tongue on it, I found it to
be true. Casually walking back into the house with my pitcher of water, I took my
place at the table. Refusing everything that came. My the questions soon began to
fly and remarks like, "I thought you were so hungry", "this is so good, try it", etc.
My mother saying, "you just must eat something", when all I wanted to do was get
away from the whole bunch and cry. I could have screamed, it hurt so. Soon after
supper, Sylvia asked me to go down the garden path to the little house. I said I'd
go, she picked up the lantern to light our way and putting it down by our feet while
we sat, it also threw off a little heat to keep us warm. Settling in for the duration,
Sylvia said, "Now, Myrtie, you tell me what happened out at the pump to make you
lose your appetite” “Promise me, Sylvia, if I tell you, you won't tell the others". She
promised and she never told until we were back in the house, then she told the
whole story. I can hear the laughter yet. After Ma got through laughing, she fixed me
some warm milk. I did manage that. Now, I know it is true, but I had to prove it,
didn't I? Still like to get to the bottom of everything.
Myrtie the Moron
Sunday afternoon, the folks were gone to Dimondale to
spend the week end with Ma's cousin, Rachel Smith, leaving Pearl and I at home
this time with the older ones. Arby, probably getting bored, nothing to do,
suggested to the older girls that they make some taffy. That should be fun. Said
he wanted them to teach him how to pull it, he had always wanted to try.
I don’t remember Mae being there. Probably spent the afternoon with a girl
friend or maybe had a date with a boy friend. Anyway, the rest of us all headed for
the kitchen and the fun began. Can't really tell you who did what, everyone was
busy doing something, especially Pearl and I dancing around, getting in
everyone’s way. The other three brought the maple syrup from the pantry, poured
it into a large kettle, lit the little oil burning cook stove, set the kettle of syrup on
the burner and the taffy was on its way. Nothing to do now except wait for the
syrup to boil down. Oh, yes, you could butter three plates to turn the taffy on to
cool. One for Arby, one for Sylvia, one for Grace. None for Pearl and I, again we get
told, "You are just too little". We were big enough to enjoy smelling the aroma of
that boiling maple syrup. Most delicious odor in the world At last, it is now time to
turn the syrup onto the buttered plates to cool. Syrup has cooked long enough or
so they thought. Checking every few minutes with their fingers, they finally decide
it's cool enough to handle and we all start outside. A beautiful autumn day, sun
shining brightly, we decide to go on the south side of the house. Arby was the
first one to get his taffy off the plate to start pulling. Grace and Sylvia, when they
tried to pick theirs up, discovered the syrup had not been cooked long enough.
Telling Arby to put his back on the plate. He said it would be alright when he
pulled it enough for the stuff to set, but that wasn't the way it worked. The heat of
his hands and the warm sunshine made it softer and stickier than ever so he gave
up finally. Tried to put the syrup back on the plate but most of it stuck on his hands.
Asking the girls to take the spoon and scrape it back on to the plate, he was told
that no way were they going to scrape his fingers then put the scrapings in with
theirs to be cooked over. Go wash your hands. "No" Arby said, “Ma won't like it
when she finds out we wasted all this syrup. I know what to do” Calling Pearl and
I (the scape goats, always), he ordered us to start cleaning up his hands by licking
it off. Always were told to mind the older ones and do as they said, so we started
licking, Pearl on his right hand, me on his left. I can see all this so clearly, but as
usual my memory has left me. It's frustrating not to know if they cooked the taffy
over or if Arby helped to pull it. I'm certain of this, I'll bet Pearl and I didn't help eat
it, if they did. Such a dirty trick that brother of mine played on us. I wish now I had
nipped his fingers just a wee bit. My story is over, the day is gone, but as usual it
was a fun day. Everyone happy.
Chicken for Supper
I used to like to feed the young chickens in the fall of
the year. Why wouldn't I, I had helped set the hens, take the little chicks out of the
nests, and now they were nearly full grown. Almost ready for market. There was a
bare spot down in front of the granary. I liked to scatter the wheat grain there, then
I’d stand and watch them scratch around in the dirt for their supper.One night as I
was feeding them, Ma came along, going to the barn to do chores. I called her
attention to how fast they were growing. She agreed saying some of them are big
enough to eat, like this one right here. There was one almost under my feet friend
by his head, raised up, gave his body a flip, broke its neck, handed him to me
saying, "Take him to the house and tell the girls to cook him for our supper". On she
went to the barn. I knew she always killed a young chicken that way, but I had never
seen her. Always before I had closed my eyes when she was about to show her
dexterity. I was struck dumb, couldn't utter a sound, no one around to hear me
anyway. I just stood there with the poor thing in my hand, then decided I better mind
and do as she said, so I walked slowly to the house. The girls were delighted.
saying, "Our first young chicken. Won't he taste good", we'll have mashed potatoes
and so on and on for our supper. Presume I ate as much as anyone else but right
that minute, I was very mad at my mother.
The first farm on the west side of the road north of
Lakewood High School was owned, at one time by my father's aunt Diana Pickens.
She lived there, a widow, with her two boys. Thomas and Charley, who married and
brought his wife to live there, also. They had two children, a boy Orvin and a gir
Coral. When these two were quite small Charley died. Soon after, his wife, Addie,
remarried to another Pickens, Tommie, a cousin of Charley. Now, Tommie moved in,
took over the farm and helped raise Charley's children. Aunt Diana and her other
son, Thomas, had to move out. She asked my father to find them a place with a
small acreage, so she could have her garden, a cow and always chickens. With a
garden filled with vegetables, a cow to furnish milk and butter, chickens to provide
you with eggs, once in awhile, a chicken dinner, then setting your hens, you might
just have some young ones to sell in the fall. This would be practically their living.
My father soon located the ideal spot, I've told you before, the twenty acres across
from the Bismark Church and School house where Lloyd and Rose Steward now
live. House just the right size, could have their garden, cow and chickens. Just
one and three-fourth miles from us. Also Thomas would find plenty of work as a
day laborer for the farmers. This is the thing that seems so ironic to me. Pa moved
Aunt Diana close to him so he could take care of her when she grew old. He was
the only relative she had here in Michigan. Pa died at the age of Fifty, Aunt Diana,
one hundred and two.
Time moves on. Of course Aunt Addie and Uncle Tommie, as we were taught to
call them, were really not related to us in any way but Coral, and Orvin were. Their
Grandmother, Aunt Diana, was a Lovell. We always called each other cousins but
we really were third cousins. Coral and I were the same age, everyone said we
looked more like sisters than distant cousins. We had been close friends all our
lives when suddenly, at the age of sixteen, Coral became ill and died within a
week. Don't remember what her illness was. Such a shock to everyone, Aunt
Addie almost lost her mind with grief. In a short time, she began driving over to
our home wanting me to go home with her for a few days, Ma would always say I
could go, thinking perhaps it would help Aunt Addie adjust to the loss of Coral.
One day she came for me and asked my mother if she could keep me, said "Ma
had Grace and Pearl, and she had no one, Ma didn't need me but she did. etc." Of
course you know the answer to that one and also I didn't go home with Aunt Addie
that day. Later on, I did go once in awhile. It was so lonely there, no one my age.
Can remember Sunday mornings, we always went in to Lake Odessa attending
the Methodist Church there on main street.
Orvin grew up, married, rented a farm about a mile from us. First farm west of
Delwood Corners. on the north side. In fact, Ionia Road is the east boundary of it.
My mother ,took care of Orvin's wife when their first son Claire was born and was
probably there when Orlo came along. Orvin died there, his wife took their two
sons and moved to Lake Odessa to be near her parents. So, Claire and Orlo
Pickens, the Lake-O undertakers were distant relatives of the Lovells. I never knew
them, don’t know whether they had children or not.
Another Chicken for Supper
Once on one of my visits to Aunt Addie's she said "I wish Orvin
and Tommie weren't working over on the other place, I’d like a chicken for supper."
A few minutes later she asked me if I supposed I could run one down. Now that
was one thing I could do, run. We went outside, she pointed a chicken out to me,
saying catch that one. No sooner said than done, handing the poor thing over to
her, she now said "Get the axe, I'll hold it down for you while you chop its head
off." "Me?" I answered, "I never killed a chicken in my life.. Then her answer came,
"Neither have I, but if we're going to have chicken for supper one of us has to kill
it." So she took the chickens legs in her left hand, laid the poor thing on a block of
wood, grasped it by the head with her right, pulled its neck out straight and said
"Now, kill it."
Picking up the axe, I raised it over my shoulder and came down with a powerful
blow, I thought, but it was just hard enough to start the blood a little. The rooster
squawked, I screamed, threw the axe and ran for the house. Aunt Addie was on her
own, a half killed chicken in her hand, nothing for her to do but pick up the axe and
finish the job. Suppertime, it made a lot of sport for Orvin and Uncle Tommie. They
sure enjoyed making fun of us. I didn't care, I never had. killed a chicken, I never
was going to kill a chicken, up until now I never have. Now, I couldn't anyway, no
one has chickens running around. You go to the market and buy them already
killed, sometimes already cooked but, however, until you have tasted a freshly
killed fowl, you never will know what a delicious treat it is. I really don't enjoy
chicken any more.
One evening Ma and I were milking the cows outside in the
barnyard. Oh, oh, now I hear someone say "Barnyard? What's a barnyard?" A
barnyard was a huge pen built to enclose your animals at night. The long part of
our barn run from the east to the west, covering about half the length of the
enclosure. At the south east corner a fence was fastened directly to the barn, then
extended east to the water tank, leaving this space for the animals to drink when
they were shut in, beginning the fence on the other side, it extended east to the
road, then north, probably a couple hundred feet or so, now back to the west until
even with the lam at the west end, then south and fastened to the corner of the
barn again. A large gate was in this last part, to enable a team and wagon to get in
and out. Sliding doors on this side of the barn opened into the horse stable, the
cow stalls and the sheep pen. You could let the animals in or turn them out again
without leaving the barn. Hope you get the picture. I could draw it but how do you
type a picture?
Guess Ma and I better get the milking done, so we had just threshed our grain a
few days before this. A huge, cone shaped stack of straw, thirty or forty foot high,
was built about fifteen or twenty foot from the barn, directly in front of the stable
doors. This straw would be used during the winter months to bed down the
horses and cattle making them nice and cozy through the cold weather. We liked
to milk our cows outside in summer so pleasant, air so nice and fresh, no stuffy
Just as we were getting up on our feet, after finishing the last two cows, Ma
spotted a hen's nest about halfway to the top of that straw stack. She said “Look
up there, the hens have stolen a nest in that straw. How will we ever get the eggs."
I answered that I could easily climb up after them. She said "I couldn't, I'd fall,
straw was so slippery" etc. I insisted that I could do it and I started climbing. Oat
straw was especially slippery and so recently threshed, hadn't settled, the least
bit, I would maybe get three or four feet up, then down I'd come. After trying
several times and getting nowhere but down, I decided the east side was a little
more slanting, I'd climb up that side to the top, then work myself down towards
the hen's nest, pick up the eggs and come to the ground. Ma said "I'd fall" I said
"I wouldn't" and up I went clear to the top without a back-slide. I started down and
about the first step I took, the straw started sliding and I shot like out of a cannon
clear to the ground. Traveling past that nest at a terrific speed, thinking I'd break
my neck, my leg or maybe just an arm. I scrambled out of that pile of straw,
thankful to be alive and unhurt. Do you want to know what that Mother of mine
said “you never got the eggs!" Well, now, I liked that! I was thankful just to be alive
and unhurt and all Mother could say was "You never got the eggs." Don't
remember whether we ever did or not.
Ma Slides Down the Hill
I slid down a straws tack trying to gather eggs but my Mother slid
down hill to feed the hogs. This could have happened any year between 1905 and
1909. Sylvia left home in 1905 and Grace in 1909. Grace t Ma, Pearl and I were living
at home. One morning we awoke to find our world had changed overnight into one
covered with ice. Limbs of the Evergreens in our front yard weighted down with
ice, trees in the orchard behind the house covered, all roof tops, too, with huge
icicles clinging to the edge. Just everything was covered, especially the ground
leading down the hill to the barn. That was a glare of ice. Sun shining, though,
made it all very sparkling and beautiful; but WE had chores to do.
Ma and Grace picked up the pails and made it to the barn to milk the cows. Pearl
and I watching from the north windows of the kitchen. Out at the east side of our
dooryard, along the road, was a strip probably twenty-five or thirty feet wide
covered with Cherry and a few Butternut trees. This was where the slope towards
the barn began.
Grace and Ma, walking very carefully, headed for this group of trees. Wasn't quite
so icy at the end of the trees the ground leveled off and soon they were at the
southeast corner of the barnyard. Clinging to the barnyard fence, they easily
made it to the barn. Door right at this corner and they pop out of our sight. Soon
Grace and Ma returned, each with a pail of milk in their hand. Neither one had
fallen nor spilled a drop of milk. Ma said now if she could get the pail of swill down
to the hogs without spilling it but she didn't know how she would ever do it. Grace
said "Let me go" but Ma wouldn't allow that.
Now the hog pen was built just west of the barn and the path down to this was
even steeper than the other. Ma managed to get past the granary, a little more than
half-way, sitting the pail down to rest a bit and plan her strategy, she came up with
this idea. "That pail has a good strong bottom, I think if I set it between my knees, I
could plant my feet firmly on each side and slide down this grade right to the
hog-pen door. No sticks or stones sticking up that I can see, I'm going to try it."
We girls, watching from the kitchen windows couldn't imagine what she intended
do, when all at once she gave her skirts a hitch above her knees, squatted down,
one foot on each side of that pail of swill, held on to the top edge with a hand on
each side, gave the pail a little nudge and down she went directly to the door of
the pen. Not a drop did she spill. The pigs had their drink, suppose they were
happy and so was my Mother! She could always find a way out of a problem.
Some way she would get the task done. Guess I'll try and give you a better idea of
our home. It wasn't all up and down that hill I've written so much about. The
house was built on the hilltop but to the north the ground sloped gently down
towards the barn, then leveled off. Was perfectly flat when the barn and hog-house
were built. Our farm and all others north of us were perfectly flat for miles and
miles. Our farm, directly behind the house was level, that stretched through many
farms west of us. Directly behind our house was our beautiful orchard. I wonder
now if that wasn't the reason, Pa built the barn below the hill. Really no other place
for it without sacrificing a lot of fruit trees. Maybe. now, I hope, you will get the
picture a little better.
One lazy summer afternoon, we girls were enjoying ourselves on the front porch
doing nothing. When out of the quietness came this distress call from Ma. "Girls,
the pig. are out! Orneriest animals anyone ever had on a farm. Now, cattle will form
into a group and they are not hard to manage, but, pigs, you have to chase one at
They’ll go this way and that, maybe turn around and come right towards
you.Chasing them finally back into the hog lot, we are grunting as hard as the
pigs; we find they have broken the big gate (maybe ten feet long) completely down.
We will need a hammer and some nails, Pearl goes to the granary for them Grace
and I try straightening the gate back up. Now, the top board had been nailed, with
the flat side down, to the end posts. Grace pulled one end up, boards all in place, I
pulled up the other post. Boards all in place here excepting my end of the top one.
When I straightened my end of the gate and set the post in the proper place, that
board being fastened at the other end, just swung around and set itself into its
proper place. The nail was still in the board so it settled right down in the original
hole. Good! Gates all back together, no problem, we'll just add Some more nails to
make it stronger then we can go back to the house and relax after our long hot
chase." Wait a minute, just one small problem. I am nailed fast to the gate. I had
placed my hand fiat down on top of the post, when the board flew back of Its own
accord, that old nail went right through my hand. Just about an inch down from
the base of my third and my little finger on my right hand. Grace screamed and
cried but pushed the board up and released my hand. Nail went right between the
bones of those two fingers, never even drawing a drop of blood. Never, hurt at all.
Ma had me soak it in Epsom Salts water, then put her favorite remedy, turpentine,
on it, then covered my hand with a bandage. All of this was not necessary, nothing
to bandage. A little round hole in my hand was all you could see. The scar was
plainly seen for years, but no more. Can’t prove it without the scar. I assure you it
My Mother told me, when I began learning to walk, I humped my
shoulders up in such a peculiar way, that my father began calling me "Hump" and
he never even then called me, Myrtie. I was always "Hump" to him. Just once in my
life. I can remember him saying Myrtie. That was because I was disobeying him. At
the dinner table that day my father said he was going to get feed ground for the
pigs and wanted me to come out and hold the bags for him to put the grain in. I
said I would, then I finished my dinner before he did and I slipped upstairs. I was
reading a book, as usual, and I very much wanted to finish it before having to help
Pa. Thought if I read real fast, I could make it, just a few more pages.
At the head of the stairs there was a west window and through this I could see the
granary door. I settled down on the top step, picked up my book and proceeded to
read. Had one eye on the book the other one glancing now and then toward the
granary. Now, I saw my Dad when he went out to work, also heard him call
"Hump"." Just two more pages, I thought, I can't stop now so I kept on reading. All
this time, I didn't realize he could see me just as well as I did him. Calling out
"Hump" the second time, I didn't move but the third call was MYRTIE in no
uncertain voice. It really meant move and move I did. I was so frightened, I threw
my book and down those stairs I went. Maybe he'd spank me although he never
had, but I knew I deserved one. You know what happened. I walked into that
granary, never a word did he say, just handed me a bag and began shoveling the
grain. Pa never called me Myrtie again that I remember. He never had to in that tone
of voice, I learned my lesson.
Rufus, Arby’s Nickname For Me
I was always reading to the older ones. This day, I lay flat on the floor
with a book laid out in front of me, entertaining Sylvia, who was busy ironing. My
story was about a certain boy whose name was Rufus Roughwig. I didn't know
how to pronounce those big words, so I asked Sylvia, Rufus Row-wig. Giving the
letter u the sound as in up instead of just plain u. Arby came into the room where
we were and sat down to listen. Well, that boy's name soon came up in the story.
Arby said for me to let him see but he thought I was mis-pronouncing that name. I
said I wasn't because Sylvia told me how. He answered, "She probably didn't
know how herself." Sylvia said she did too know how, she was just playing a trick
on me, knowing how badly I felt over mis-pronouncing a word. They bantered
back and forth awhile, then Arby said "Guess I'll call her Rufus, then she'll never
forget how to pronounce it. From that day on, the rest of Arby's life, I was Rufus to
him. No one else called me that. I always thought Sylvia deserved the name but
Mae, Arby, Sylvia, and Grace were never nicknamed.
One, cold, fall day, my Mother was husking corn. Guess I better back
up and tell you the primitive way of harvesting corn for already I can hear you
asking "What did you say your Mother was doing?" I'll try to explain. Remember,
in the beginning of my story, I told you how evenly the rows of corn were planted,
now it's fall and time to cut it down so it can be husked. There was a real pattern to
this. A perfect square was blocked off by counting eight or maybe ten
(I'm not certain) rows each way. Then going to the very center of the block, you'd
tie the tops of about four hills together to start your shock of corn. Then with a
hand corn knife, you grasped the top of each stalk in one hand, then cut it loose
from the ground about six inches up. The stalks were then carried to the center
where the four stalks were tied together. You sort of pushed the cut ends into the
ground, then leaned them up against the center. When the whole block was cut
and stacked, the tops were pulled together and tied. This made what was called a
shock of corn, looking much like the tepee of an Indian. It was a beautiful sight
when the field was all cut down and shocked, to see those "Tepees" placed so
evenly over the ground. The corn was then left standing in the shocks to ripen
and kernels to harden on the ears. Next step was the husking. The shock was laid
over flat on the ground. Had to take a corn knife and cut down the center stalks.
A little contraption called a husking-peg was used to pull the husks from the ears
of corn. This gadget was a steel blade, about four inches long and maybe an inch
wide with a hooked end. You grasped this firmly across the palm of your hand, the
hooked end protruding out between your thumb and finger. With the exception of
the hook, the rest was padded with leather to protect your hand. also had straps
to fasten it on firmly. Now, you are all ready to attack that great mound of corn
stalks. Squatting down using your heels to sit on, you reach over and pull a stalk
toward you. Now using the husking-peg, pull off the husks, give the ear a little
twist and jerk, then toss it on the ground. Pushing the husked stack to the back
of the pile, you grab the next one then repeat until you have the whole shock done.
Now, let's see, if that block was ten hills on each side there would be one-hundred
stalks of corn. This is just one block and maybe there's ten or fifteen acres. The
husked corn has to be picked up from the ground, loaded onto a wagon, hauled to
the corn crib up by the barn, then unloaded into the crib.
Think of the changes I have seen in just this one thing, A corn binder came first,
but still you had to shock it. Huge corn huskers, run by a steam engine, combines,
can't exactly tell them all but up to the present way. So easy now. I have seen my
Mother after my Father died, go out and help Arby husk corn when snow was on
the ground and sometimes storming.
Now I'll get back to the nickname Jim Cramer. As my Mother husked the corn, she
would give the ear a toss on the ground and I was supposed to keep them picked
up; placing them in a basket for Arby to empty into the wagon later. A few times I
would find one or two husks left on the ear, just the inside ones that probably
were not quite dry enough to snap off. Really made no difference because they
dried up and dropped off later, but I told Ma she was not husking that corn right.
She asked me what she was doing wrong and I said "You're not doing it like Pa
does." She answered "So, how does your Father do it?" I informed her he didn't
leave any husks like these hanging on his ears. I was still just standing there
looking at that ear of corn when she said "Oh, you are just like old Jim Cramer,
always standing around doing nothing. Just telling other folks the way it should
be done." Jim Cramer was a man she knew in her "beloved Woodland" who did
just that. He was lazier than a pet coon to hear Ma tell it.
Of course, as usual, everyone gathered around the table at noon was told that
story. Everyone, excepting me, enjoyed it. From that time on, I was called Jim
Cramer, sometimes Cramer but mostly just plain Jim. My Mother called me Jimmy.
My brothers-in-law Fred Clay, Chas. Collier and Johnnie Welch never called me
Myrtie, it was always Jim. Pearl’s Nickname “Pete”Arby told me years ago how
this came about. Pearl had a toy wagon, on the side of which was written two
words, “Little Pete".
0ne day Arby, Pa, and a man who was working for them sat waiting for Ma and the
girls to get dinner on the table. The hired man was playing with Pearl and he asked
her what those words were on her wagon. Arby said Pearl shook her head "No".
The guy then told Pearl "It says Little Pete". From then on Pearl became Little Pete,
Peter or just plain Pete. Of course Fred, Chas, and Johnnie never called her
anything else either. Never could understand really why I had so many, Pearl had
only one and the other four none. Since I've written them down, I guess maybe I
deserved everyone of them. Beautiful morning. Beautiful tree loaded with red
cherries, glistening in the sunshine. I'm so happy, I hop, skip and jump along like
a frisky young colt alongside sedate Mae, who has asked me to, help her pick
cherries. At last someone has realized I'm beginning to grow up like the rest. I'l
l show them today I I'm really quite dependable Quite a large, tall tree, so Mae has
brought a ladder down with her, which she now sits up in the tree. Before
mounting the ladder, she hands me a little pail, saying "You can reach enough
cherries to fill this, standing on the ground" and up the ladder she goes to have
all the fun. Grown-ups! This tiny little pail for a big girl like me! Stand on the
ground, not me, I soon tire of that. Looking up, I see lots of cherries I could pick
by climbing into the tree. Up I go, Mae not telling me I couldn't. Cherries all around
me now. I start picking them. They look so delicious, guess I'll eat one or two, so
tasty, one or two calls for more, besides it's fun to spit the seeds. Wonder how far
I can spit them, bet I can spit a cherry seed farther than anyone in the family,
wonder how far Mae could spit a cherry pit, guess I'll ask her. No I better not she
would just tell me it was very unlady-like to spit anything. On and on my thoughts
keep rambling until they are interrupted by a call from Mal "Girls, dinner is ready."
By this time I have really worked myself up into the top of the tree. Thinking I would
climb to the ladder and get down that way. About that time Mae is on the ground
and so is the ladder. I yell at her "Don't take away the ladder, I need it. I can't get
down from here, I'm hungry." This was her answer to that: "You climbed up there,
now climb down the same way. You can't possibly be hungry, you've done nothing
all morning except eat cherries and spit seeds." With that she left me "up a tree". I
got down, I had too, done something and I could prove it. The bottom of my little
pail being almost covered with cherries. Now the usual thing has happened, I
simply can't remember any more of this day, so my story ends. One thing I am quite
certain didn't happen. Mae didn't tell of my "shenanigans" the minute she stepped
in the house. If she had, I would have been laughed at, someone would probably
nick name me the great cherry picker. Mae really didn't care for the way the other
ones picked on Pearl and I. Think I'll write next about my grown-up sister.
My Sister Mae
Nancy Mae Lovell born, Oct. 10, 1877, in McComb, Ohio. Nancy
was our Grandmother Lovell's name. Mae, thirteen years older than I, twenty-four
when our Father died, had black hair and eyes to match. About my height, maybe
five foot five or six inches, never very heavy, don’t believe she ever weighed more
than 130 or 135 pounds. Rather a quiet, reserved sort of person but fun-loving like
the rest of us. Such a dependable sort of person and always a willing helper of our
mother. Took so much responsibility in caring for the younger ones, especially
Pearl and I. She was our second Mother. Mae did most of the sewing for the family.
One time, I remember, she was making a dress for me. All finished except turning
up the hem, she called me in from my very important play, telling me to remove my
play togs and get into my new dress. Ordinarily, I would have been pleased about
the whole thing: but today my playtime had been disrupted. I didn't want to but did
as I was told. Mae sat on the floor, a saucer of pins in her lap, and began turning up
the front of my skirt. Such a terribly, hot, humid summer day. Top of her blouse was
wet through with perspiration. Her face was dripping like she'd been out in the rain,
hands so sticky, she could scarcely' pick up the pins; but she began on the back
of my skirt. I had my back turned towards her and I informed her I wanted to play
and for her to hurry the thing up. No response came for a minute, then she reached
up, taking hold of me by the waist, turned me around, looking me right in the face,
said "I believe if I'm willing to work on this dress for you on this hot day, you should
at least be willing to just stand still while I do it." She never really scolded me, but
always with a few well put words, Mae could make me feel like a worm. This hot day,
I was so ashamed I think I felt like two worms, one wooly and the other smooth.
Mae was married in October of 1901. Salle year our Father died
in May. Fred Clay was her husband's name. Not a local man, Mae met him when
she taught the Gunnel School out by Parma. I believe Mae boarded at Fred's
parents home. You see I was just eleven years old when she was married and I'm
going to skip details because I just don't remember. Mae taught out there two or
maybe three years. Fred used to come to see her during vacations, always having
to stay the week-end, too far to drive a horse in one day. That way, we became well
acquainted long before they married. Everyone liked him. Especially the little girls,
Pearl and I. Mae taught her last year at the Patterson School just a mile south of us.
She left Gunnel so she could spend her last year at home. I often think how happy
she must have been over that decision: We were all home together the last year of
our Father's life. Wonderful memories of a happy family. On November 18,1902, Mae
and Fred's first baby was born. A boy whom they named Morrison LeGrand,
choosing the name of a favorite Uncle, Eli Morrison, married to Pats youngest
sister, Emma, and the LeGrand was Pats name. What an event that was! Nothing
so thrilling to the Lovell sisters had ever happened before. We wanted the whole
world to know, could hardly wait to get to school the next day, to brag and "strut
our stuff". No one in the whole Bismark School had a married brother or sister.
Just us! Most important people on earth! We had a nephew! We were now Aunt
Grace, Aunt Myrtie and Aunt Pearl. Yes, Aunt Grace, who was always telling Pearl
and I how much older and wiser she was than we, came right down to our level
and bragged just as much as we "Little Girls". Fred and Mae were living with his
parents at that time and I believe Ma went out to help Mrs. Clay. We nearly lost our
big sister and it was several weeks before she was able to come home. Too far fo
r her to ride in a buggy. Dr. said she could come by train to Vermontville just four
and 1/4 miles from our house. Sylvia met her there and brought her on home. Now,
I wonder, who saw Morrison first? Of course, no other but me. I saw them coming
up the hill, darting out of the house, I met them just as they were turning into the
driveway. Before Sylvia could even stop the horse, I had jumped up on the buggy
step, right between the moving wheels and almost into Mae's lap. I remember she
said "Well, couldn't you at least wait until I got out!" Trying to sound a little
disgusted with me, but with a half smile on, her face, I knew she was as anxious to
show Morrison off as I was to see him. Fred came later in the day driving their
horse on the buggy. Mae came home so Ma and Sylvia could help her with her baby
but Fred came with the idea of renting a farm nearby home. Luck was with him. A
nice farm, with a tenant house, just south to Rawson's corners, then east first
house on the north side was available. They rented it and soon were living just
around the corner from us. Everyone was so happy. Almost like having Mae home
again. Close by so we could help her if she needed us and visit her probably when
The only thing I really remember about that house was the big window in the
front. I thought that was wonderful, all our windows were small. Mae loved flowers
and plants and could always make them grow most any place even in this. Fred
made her a window box just right to sit in front of that big south window. They
filled it with soil and Mae sowed (of all things) Climbing Nasturtium seed! Ma told
her they wouldn't amount to anything, they were never meant to grow inside a
house. Ma was wrong, that was the most beautiful sight all that winter. They vined.
Mae strung cords up to the top of the window. Soon they reached the top, next
started blossoming. Mae had bouquets to give away to everyone who came.
Ilene, the second thrill in my life was born Jan. 20, 1905, on the old home place.
Leta, Mae's third child was born Apr. 24, 1907. I &II not certain rot I think she was
born on our farm, too. later Fred and Mae moved to Charlotte, lived on a rented
farm for awhile, then bought the pretty place with the brick house, just south of
the fairgrounds in Charlotte. That was Mae's home until her death, June 28, 1959.
Fred lived there until his death in Apr. 15, 1960. After his parents died, Morrison
and his wife Sara Ledyard, purchased the family home. Sara was killed in an
automobile accident, dying on Nov. 3, 1969. Morrison then lived there alone until
his death Oct. 14, 1977. Not many left in Mae and Fred's family. Just, Ilene, who
married Ted Lee, now deceased and Leta, married James Pasco, now deceased.
Morrison's daughter Shirley and her two sons and Judy (Ilene's daughter) with
her four children are the only ones left besides Ilene and Leta. All so very
precious to me.
Tale Of The Pigtails
Dr. Snelll Not only a Dr. in Vermontville and the surrounding vicinity;
but a real friend to everyone in the Community. One of my Dad's special friends,
mine too. Dr. had a daughter, Norena, a deaf mute. Sometimes, if Pa was not going
to be in town very long, he'd allow me to go with him, dropping me off at Dr. Snells
to play with Norena while he went to take care of whatever business he had,
stopping by to pick me up on his way home. Their house was just at the north
edge of Main Street. Norena was older than I; rot she liked small children. Would
bring out her dolls, or maybe some books to entertain me.
This day, Dr. Snell came out of his office to talk to me. Asked what my Dad was
doing. I told him he butchered two hogs the day before. Dr. said "What did he do
with the pig-tails?" I answered "He threw them away." "Threw them away! That's a
terrible thing to do. Doesn't he know pig-tails make delicious soup, my favorite.
When he butchers again remember to bring them to me. Will you?" I promised I
would and told Pa on the way home. I remember how he laughed but he said "We
will do just that. Help me to think of it." Next time we butchered, Pa brought the tails
in the house for me. Said "Wrap these up for Dr. Snell, I'm going up town and you
can go take ,them to him.” I dId, the Dr. thanked me kindly, asked me if I wanted him
to save me some of the soup, but I said "No" real quick like. I was rewarded for the
gift, though. Sometime later, he drove into our yard, lifted out a small crate and
handed it to me, saying "He enjoyed the soup so much he wanted to give me
something. In that crate was a beautiful pair of snow-white-fantailed pigeons. I was
a happy little girl. Later, I would want to take Dr. Snell the pigtails every time we
butchered but my folks said he didn't really make soup out of them, it was just a
joke, but I didn't believe them.
One summer Arby was very,
very ill with some kind of fever. I remember a bed was moved into our parlor, placed
in the center of the room, better air circulation and plenty of room to get around him.
Dr. Snell came every day, ordered medicine every hour, on the hour, night and day.
The neighbors were so kind. They took turns coming in to help Ma and the older
girls. Someone would always stay overnight so Ma could get some rest. No
hospitals back in those days. You took care' of your own sick person. I presume
maybe in the large cities there might have been hospitals. Arby grew worse every
day, sometimes delirious and a little hard to handle. Later on he just laid there
rousing up only for his medicine and I suppose a little food. Don't really remember
that. Dr. Snell had told them when Arby's fever broke, whether it was night or day
they must notify him immediately. It happened one afternoon, and the rest of this I
do remember clearly. I was out in the door-yard on the south side of the house and
saw Dr. Snell when he was at the corners a quarter of a mile south. Now, Dr. Snell
had a span of small, bay driving horses. Always drove the two of them, roads were
sandy, muddy at times or frozen and snow covered, most too hard for one horse.
Especially, being on the road every day. for a Dr. made house calls wherever and
whenever he was needed. What a sight I saw that day as he came closer. The Dr.
was standing up in the buggy urging his horses on by flapping the lines across
their backs. He had run those horses every step of the four and a quarter miles
from Vermontville to our house. Tossing the lines to someone (I presume it was my
Dad) the Dr. grabbed his little’ black bag, and was soon inside with Arby, staying the
rest of that afternoon, on through the night. In the morning he reported, "The Crisis
is over, now all he needs is rest and good care. He'll soon be good as new." This
was certainly a heavenly message to a little girl, who adored her only brother.
This thought just popped into my mind. I'll bet no winning race horses at the tracks
ever received more efficient, loving treatment than Dr. Snell's little bays at the hands
of my Dad. After all they had just won an important race against life or death. Dr.
Snell! A true friend of the Community.
Cutter Ride With my Dad
I always loved going places, didn't matter where. with my Dad. Just
the two of us, he was all mine. no one I had to share him with. This particular
morning at the breakfast table, he told my Mother he had to go to Woodland. Of
course, I was excited and thought wish I could go, Woodland. I don't get there
very often, on and on went my thoughts. Now, any of the others, would have
blurted right out "Can I go with you?" not me, I just hated having to ask for
anything, especially such a favor as this. (Never did and still don't like having to
ask for anything.) I had my own special way. I'd wait until Pa left to go harness
his horse, then sneaking up to Ma, would whisper to her. "You care if I go with Pa"
always the same answers "I don't care, it's whatever your Father says." Down
that hill I'd race, pulling up short at the barn door, standing just inside, my Father
never even looking at me, watching him place one piece of the harness after
another until he started to take the bridle down off its peg, That was the final act,
so it was now or never. Finally out of my dry mouth would at last come "Pa. can I
go with you?" Always the same the answer: " I don't care, it's just as your Mother
says." . Before the words have all come from his mouth. I'm gone, racing up the
hill, bounding into the kitchen saying "He said just as you say." Then my Mother
would sp utter at me, (can't say I blame her) "I don't care but I wish you would ask
when you should, never have time to get you ready properly, come here while I
comb your hair, etc., etc , until I see Pa driving up from the barn. Some way she
always finishes in time. This morning is very cold and I am bundled up like a
mummy as I go out to the cutter to climb in. Pa reaches over to tuck the blankets in
around me. Our cutter is what they called a Swell-box painted a bright red. Not
quite as big as the box-like ones but much lighter and prettier. We are on Our way,
out the driveway , north down the hill, red cutter glistening, sun: shining on the
snow, sleigh bells jingling such a pretty song, everything just perfect. I'm going to
Woodland all alone with my Dad.
Now, I would like to tell you some more about my ride but I can remember
nothing after coming down that hill at home. Must have gone the whole way just
floating along, in my cutter on top of "cloud nine" until I came back to reality. We
had been to Woodland, although I don't remember about it for here we where at
Kilpatrick Church., halfway on our way home.