Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Beginning

I was born in Lincoln, NE in 1937. Mom and Dad married in 1935, mom was 25 and dad was 27. Mom was a teacher, grade school, in small one room school houses in outlying towns. Dad, well, dad was dad. As was normal in that time, they moved into my mom's moms house. It was on 28th street, between P and Q. The front porch wrapped around the whole front, with a door at each end. The far right door was Gram's Beauty shop, a waiting room, and a two chair salon behind that. Gram slept in a reclining salon chair at the back of the salon. I think that may have begun just weeks earlier than my birth, my grandpa died the day I was due, so she was a new widow. The other side of the house was a front room and dining room, I do not remember a kitchen, just a narrow hall with a hot plate where grams coffee was always perking away. In the back was a bathroom and small bedroom. Off the hall was a stair way to a scary, dank basement that we never went into, and a narrow twisting stairway to the attic where mom and dad and I took up residence. The attic was very "peaked," you could stand up in the middle but the eaves were very sloping and I still remember how you had to stoop if you were more than 2 feet tall. My bedroom had a big feather bed, the living room was in the center, and there was a painting of an Indian on a horse with the sun setting behind him. I have seen that painting since, think it was a classic. The kitchen and dining room were under the eaves, and very hard to use, mom and dad had a bed in the dining room. Grams beauty shop was very modern for that day. A perm was done with tiny rollers, then clamps on the rollers, and wires attached to a hanging electric hood clipped to the rollers. It smelled awful. Being beautiful was a tough affair. Gram was president of the American Hairdressers Association, and very proud of her expertise. I always had a welcoming lap, and am told I had a stack of books and was always asking "read to me a gook please." When I was one year old, mom's sis married and she and my uncle moved into the downstairs bedroom. It was a full house, but full of love and happiness. We had some great growing up times. A year later, my cousin Bill was born so we spent our first years there in Grams house. Each neighborhood had a grocery store, small, but with all needed supplies. It was just across the alley from Gram and we used to run over, go in the back door, and get what she needed. It was put on the tab, which was settled monthly. Before too long, the house next to gram went up for sale, and my Aunt and Uncle bought it and moved in there. I remember building igloos with big blocks of snow, and skating on the flooded back yard. Uncle worked for Cushman, and got a motor scooter that he built a box on the front of. We were taken to school many days in that contraption. No seat belts, no roof, would be unacceptable now, but it was fun to have the wind in your face. We lived with gram til I was seven. Then mom got pregnant with my second sister and we needed more room. so we began the hunt for a bigger house. Living with gram had been a remarkable period, she and I were very close, I considered her as special as my mom, maybe more so at times, could always look to her for solace if mom and I had a tif. When I was 2 or 3, gram and I rode the bus to town and she bought me a lovely new outfit, all white, even the shoes. And then she humored me and let me have a chocolate ice cream cone. There were pictures of me in that nice new dress, with chocolate all down the front, my face and hair all smeared, kind of funny but sad too. The clothes and I both cleaned up nicely. Leaving was very hard, now I would see gram much less, but a new chapter was beginning.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Long ago in Shelby NE

I was young once upon a time, lets begin a journey together from about 1940. The sun crept slowly into the bedroom, streaking across the floor and bringing daylight. Curtains stirred at the window, and a rooster crowed somewhere outside. Soon horses, cows and other farm critters added their voices. The windmill creaked in the breeze. Throwing back the handmade quilt, I got myself up and into overalls for the day, no mean feat for a 4 year old. Summers were spent on my grand parents farm in Shelby Nebraska. The old farmhouse was a saltbox style, tall and narrow and square. Downstairs there was a kitchen dining room across one side of the house, the other side had a parlor and the grand parent's bedroom. No heat except the wood stove in the kitchen, no running water and of course no plumbing. If the chamber pots were used in the night, they had to be taken down the road to the outhouse and emptied in the morning. Breakfast was a big meal, usually getting the men stoked up for a hard days work. We ate oatmeal, eggs, bacon and biscuits at the long harvest table in the sunny kitchen. Grandad plowed with a team of horses and a walking plow, many hours spent digging furrows, then later hand planting the seed for corn, wheat, alfalfa and other crops. He fertilized with manure raked up from the horse and cow areas, and the barn, stacked up behind the barn. And spread each spring before the ground was tilled. Weeding was also by hand, walking the rows and hand pulling. Harvest was a big deal, the farmers got together and helped each other, taking turns on each farm. I learned to cook in grandma's kitchen. She taught me many basic skills. I stirred, rolled, patted and had a wonderful time learning to feed others. Instead of our modern kitchens, we had a wood stove and a very long harvest table that doubled as a work place for making bread, cookies and all the other goodies we ate. My first cookies were made there. The crew always came in for lunch during harvest. Gramps rotated crops every year, and let some ground lie fallow each year to renew itself. The crops were abundant and healthy, no chemicals were used in any way. Funny, we were seldom sick, and we worked from sun up to sun down. At the end of the day, we would sit in the parlor by the kerosene lamp and read the bible together before going to bed. There were always new babies to play with, one day gramps called me into the barn to meet the new baby chicks. He had me hold out my hand and placed a tiny golden fuzz ball in it. It was fine until the chick did its normal thing and my hand was messed up, never have quite trusted chicks since, certainly not sitting in my hand. I loved the calves, and foals, but my favorites were all the barn cat's kittens. I have no idea how many there were at any time, but I used to sit out on the end of the board walk with a lapful of tiny kitties, just in seventh heaven. The walks were like the ones my son builds for us here in the mountains, guessing there was not much concrete work done back then, so boards became the functional way to keep mud out of the house. There was a huge horse tank next to the windmill, and gramps kept goldfish in it. They were humongous. He always told me a goldfish was a carp in a gold dress. The horses did not seem to mind drinking from this water, maybe it added something to their diet. There was no traffic, no airplanes, just the lovely stillness of the country, punctuated with animal sounds, the breeze and occasionally someone calling out to another person. Such bliss, peace and solitude. Sometimes I think I would gladly go back there. Utilities are not all they are cracked up to be. We had no tv, and I do not remember a radio. though there may have been one. People communicated, and had time for each other. Those summers were some of my favorite memories.