Monday, November 02, 2009

My mother's story: falling in love

Thanks for the favorable comments on my mother's adventures; she'd be very happy to know that such a wide audience is enjoying her life's story.

I was seventeen years old when my last little sister was born. She only lived two days, and I was beside her when she died. We were all sad at losing little Betty Louise, as our little brother was seven years old, and we were all happy to have a baby in the family. That was a special event. We kids were all growing up. My father had escaped going to World War I because he had three children and was expecting the fourth. He did have to go to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, but after he wasn't taken on to service, the crying was over. I was a small child, but I was sad to see my mom and sister crying when they thought he'd have to go.

My mom's sister and her family

My sister, who was born in 1909, got married in 1928. They bought their first 10 acres for $10 per acre. They located a little old two-room house someone had been using as a chicken house after it had been vacated; they bought it for a very small sum of money, moved it onto the ten acres and cleaned it up beautifully. They painted it white outside and papered and painted inside and made it into a clean little home for happy newlyweds. I was at my sister's home a lot, since we had been close.

In 1932 I met and fell in love with a man who was working for his cousin on the farm. His cousin and wife hired me to help with the house and garden work, as she was pregnant and was sick a lot. So I started working for them in May. I stayed Monday through Saturday, day and night; but my friend was only there in the daytime, working at raising crops. However, he was there for the noon meal, and I guess he liked my cooking. I worked for 25 cents a day and he got 50 cents a day. With no car, he got by; and I had no need for anything, so I saved my money. When the cousin's second child arrived, I stayed on and worked. I always felt she was lazy, but I needed to make a little money, so I didn't care.
The men there planted acres of cane to make sorghum molasses in the fall; so when September came and a frost hit, a crew was called in for the sorghum-making. The molasses was made in a big old evaporator pan about 40 feet long and four feet wide. The old-fashioned way before that was in flat boat-like pans, each on a dug-out furnace under each pan heated with long poles of wood that kept the flame burning under the pans. With the pan method, you started out with 30 gallons of that sweet juice all squeezed from the cane stalks, and after boiling and skimming, you'd end up with seven or eight gallons of thick, luscious stuff. In the evaporator method, the juice went in and worked its way down the evaporator pan slowly, and after four or five hours it came out the other end as finished molasses.
Juice went in one end; when finished hours later, it was the real thing. It took fifteen men and women working hard to make the oh-so-good sorghum molasses. Guess what? I was the cook. Seven of the men bunked in the sorghum barn and ate supper and breakfast there in the house with us. So fifteen besides the family were there for the noon meal. So I was busy, as we had chickens for meat. I dressed at least two for dinner. We ate baked chicken with dressing, boiled chicken with home-made noodles, or fried chicken. I was twenty years old then and could do a lot of work. I dressed the chickens every day and baked five big loaves of bread. Now, in 1996 at age 84, I do well to bake myself a potato in the microwave.
Well, sorghum-making was over, the farming finished, and the garden done for the winter. The baby had arrived to go with their five-year-old (who was in school now) so the people wanted me to stay on for 25 cents a day. I guess they liked my cooking. So I stayed on and kept seeing Everett, as he lived with his father, four brothers, and his sister, not far away.

My father's mother with his siblings (I believe he was taking the picture)
His mother had died in 1922 with the flu at the age of 35 years and lost a baby at the same time; bad times! No one had money, but Everett had asked me to be his wife. I had started working there (at his cousin's) in May, 1932. We decided we'd get married on Christmas Eve, after discussing it at length for four or five weeks.

Tomorrow: wedding day!


I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

It must have been a thing back in those days to go out and work at others farms for jobs. My mom and several of my aunts did the same. Big farms needed lots of hands. I cannot imagine doing what they did. We are so spoiled today. I'll be looking forward to the wedding

madcobug said...

She had a pretty hard time doing all that cooking for that crowd. Killing chickens before she ever got started with the meal. You don't see 20 yr olds doing hard work like that now. I remember my dad telling how he worked for $.50 a day. Those were hard times. Helen

Anonymous said...

I'm loving your mom's stories - I just wish my mom had written some of her life down - we tried to get her to tell her stories into a tape recorder but she wasn't comfortable doing that. Sadly, she died last month at age 92, but I have the honor of living on the ranch that her parents homesteaded so it makes the things she told me about growing up here very real. Marcia/Wyoming

Paula said...

There wasn't a lazy bone in her body! I like the part about now being 84 and baking a potato in the microwave. Bet at age 20 she would never believed there would be microwaves to cook a potato.

Debbie said...

I wish over the years I'd written down all the stories my Mom & Dad shared with us. Times were so hard back then but they seemed to enjoy life with few complaints.

I made a molasses cake yesterday. Yummy! said...

wonderful story and pictures.
Women sure had it hard back then. I was thinking of my own grandmother who had eight children.

Sharon's Cottage Quilts said...

What a wonderful story of your mama's life. How poignant and sad. Those were hard times. Isn't is something that your mom went from that to cooking in a microwave??? Wow! Blessings~Sharon

Jackie said...

I love reading about your mom's life. I get so carried away reading and so excited to get to the next chapter, that I forget to leave a comment! lol