SOMETHING OF MYSELF
by Marie Trupp Krieger
(copyright Marie Trupp Kreiger)
THE HOME OF MY CHILDHOOD
[Part I] [Part II] [Part III] [Part IV] [Part V]
Indoors, insects, mainly a nuisance accepted controls, powdered sulphur sprinkled around the buttons in the mattresses exterminated reddish-colored bed bugs; moths, tiny winged invertebrates devoured wool, specifically chewed holes in wool garments; cigars, an enemy of theirs worked well until moth balls appeared on the market. The housefly, being the worst pest of all to eradicate presented a continual battle. At first saucers of water into which a black paper had been placed, the paper contained a poisonous ingredient to quell the flies’ thirst but ending their existence. Sticky fly-paper sheets (goo on just one side of the paper) purchased at the grocery store replaced the aforementioned method that drew the flies’ attention trapping them by destroying their mobility automatically. Another approach along the same principle, the unfolding of a roll with the same stickiness applied to it and attached to the ceiling out of a child’s reach brought about good results. The best solution of all depended on the diligent use of the fly swatter by family members in reducing the fly population plus window screens and screen doors. Animals’ problems with flies or gnats invoked the use of their tails in addition to head movements to unsettle the pesky critters. During the peak of the fly season, the milkmaid tied the end of a cow’s tail to one of its legs avoiding slaps in her face.
Outdoors, the familiar orange and black lady bugs entertained us when alighting on a finger or hand, an indication of good luck. The song "Lady bird, lady bird; Fly away home. Your house is on fire, Your children will burn," ordinarily motivated a movement, if not, blowing one’s breath on it shooed the bug away. Black stinkbugs crawled on top of the ground and released a foul odor if disturbed in any way, no doubt a defense mechanism to assure its safety. Russian thistles furnished shelter but a reason for its creation remains a mystery. A white butterfly laid its eggs on growing cabbage plants, wood ashes assisted in the counteraction of the larvae or worm. Beetles, potato bugs, tarantulas, spiders and ants could be located at various intervals in their respective habitats. Bees entrusted their activities to alfalfa fields as noted by their absence. Sage ticks, the most disliked insects according to my knowledge, caused consternation for the family group. Sagebrush grew along the edges of arable land so my mother examined our bodies quite thoroughly before bedtime on account of insects. Most of the time she found them clinging to our apparel but one of those brown blood sucking ticks had imbedded itself in the scalp on the top of my head before being discovered. It gives me the shivers just to mention it. They appeared to be more prevalent in the springtime.
Another moth found outdoors, a fledermaus we called it, a flighty gray female that loses a powdery substance when swatted and turns into a worm after its death, a disliked entity appears at night around light bulbs hoping to sneak into the house via an open screen door. For some reason or other they were quite numerous in eastern Washington, yet we find them here in Portland in the early fall months.
I have already written about mice living in and around our barns and sheds. Sporadically we discovered their entry into the house or cellar, a food storage space. Mouse traps set with springs, a sliver of bacon used as bait often trapped the unsightly rodents. I used to tell the story of two mice who had fallen into an open crock of cream in search of food. My former high school students longed for extra encouragement in their studies. One of the mice in the crock panicked, gave up the battle before attempting to help itself; the other continued its struggle until it discovered itself sitting on a pat of butter, crawled out and ran away. "If you try and don’t succeed, try and try again," an old adage learned years ago. Many mice found refuge in the fields by burrowing into the ground. A very narrow strip yet to be plowed remained in the middle of a field which must have been a mile long. We carried a blacksnake; that is, Jacob and I used the horsewhip and as the mice appeared by dashing out of their holes, we struck and killed about a hundred on our way to round up the cows for the milking session. I believe badgers and the crafty coyotes feasted on mice. The latter two wild animals faced extinction as civilization managed a take-over of the native environment. Jacob and Daniel rescued a pup coyote from its lair, brought it home and tethered it on the north side of our abode; the inquiry might best be left unanswered as to its disposition. Whenever I catch sight of a police dog, I’m reminded of a coyote whose howl I could not mistake. The badger, a burrowing animal with a broad back and short legs did consider eggs to be an elegant meal.
Jack rabbits or hares harassed the farmers by nibbling on the growing vegetation consisting mostly of future wheat crops. I remember talk of rabbits overrunning the countryside, multiplying by the thousands, their bodies infested with vermin presenting a dangerous situation for the domestic livestock and a possible solution. A peril of major proportions affecting humans envisioned by the authorities guided the menfolks to consider the organization of a rabbit drive or drives, an encouragement as an humanitarian act by taking to the fields, rounding up the culprits & using shotguns to eliminate a health menace. Malnutrition or an organism carried & spread by other wild creatures might have created the catastrophe. One also heard of a mad coyote (having rabies) or a mad dog to send fears through the populace. An eatable rabbit, the cottontail rarely seen by us, a cute little bunny with a fluffy tail hung around alfalfa fields. Another rodent, a gopher or ground squirrel who made a shrill sound, presented a pretty picture as it sat on its hind legs, but wow, could it disappear quickly within a second after it had spotted us. It had completely vanished into its burrow. My mother called it a "pivver", a whistler.
Rattlesnakes, seldom encountered except in Rocky Coulee (Moody station) or Puff, Washington, didn’t concern us children even though Daniel and Jacob underwent a few skirmishes. We hardly ever invaded their natural habitat among the hillside rocks, under cliffs or in sagebrush territory. Little knowledge did I have of nor was I familiar with the following: bobcats, skunks, moles, bullsnakes, porcupines, weasels, Hungarian partridges often called sage hens or quail, mud hens, water snakes or toads.
As for birds who inhabited the district from 1900 to 1929, my discovery of the bob-o-link, a migratory songbird of North America proved to be accidental; a favorite whose melodious songs greeted me in the mornings on my way to school. The meadow lark with its yellow breast, also a songbird in the Moody locality would burst forth with a song for us to enjoy on our trips to the grandparents’ house. Scarcity of bats in the barn, a welcome sign as far as we knew pleased us. Sparrows appeared everywhere as well as bluebirds; redwing blackbirds frequented some neighborhoods. The horned owl, also a light gray owl along with unnamed species of owls lived in abandoned badger burrows. We often spied magpies, members of the crow family chattering away. The golden and bald eagles nested in tall trees near Odessa, Washington. Every kind of hawk mostly classified as night hawks, sparrow hawks and the most common of all we termed "chicken" hawks would circle above the barnyard looking for prey with a good feast in mind. In case we spotted a hawk before the chickens noticed an enemy appearing skywards, we’d yell, "Choo, Choo" alerting the fowl who skirted fences or buildings seeking shelter. Pheasants, unknown to us, nested in alfalfa areas near irrigation ditches; my first introduction to the bird as delectable substance occurred after I entered high school.
Fishing on dry land proved unprofitable up to the time of an exposure for a projected grade school picnic at Pacific Lake located north of Odessa. Crappies, carp, sunfish, perch, bass and catfish considered pan fish including turtles thrived in the lake. My father decided, since he couldn’t afford a fishing license or whatever the reason that I should fish rather than participate in games with my schoolmates. As to the bamboo pole fishing equipment, it probably grew at the edge of the lake. To it my father attached a cotton string as a line recycled from a package of groceries purchased from a store, a hook fastened to the opposite end required bait. After that procedure I was ready to catch a fish. I don’t remember if we had any natural lure like angleworms, bacon strips or chamois skin. Probably not, what can one catch with a bare hook? A huge turtle, my only catch of the day killed all other chances and my interest in fishing leaving me to nurse a sunburn. After that my father developed an interest in pan fishing bringing home his limit for my mother to clean and cook. A sudden tiredness had overtaken his best intentions catapulting him into bed. Not until many years later did I awaken to the fact how fishing tires a person.
Other games we played at school during recess and lunch hour and at home in Rural America not aforementioned were: Stilts, my brothers made them by manipulating two long pieces of lumbar as poles fitted with foot rests along their length to be used for walking, Ring around a Rosy--A Pocket full of Posy, Post Office a kissing game, Tit-Tat-Toe, Cat and Mouse, Red Rover-Red Rover-Andi Come Over, Leap Frog; I neglected to explain in regards to Pump-Pump-Pullaway that the person who was it said, "If you don’t come, I’ll pull you away." London Bridge is falling down, falling down, My fair Lady we would sing after two lines of players had lined up, side by side, holding hands high in the air over the top of the players as they passed down the aisle, Lady was the clue for the encirclement of a player who then considered eliminated stepped aside, the last remaining person won the game. Our parents stayed skeptical of pocket knives until the boys became more responsible; whittling small toys from pieces of wood fascinated my brothers’ curiosity. A sling shot, fashioned from a "Y" tree twig and rubber bands cut out of discarded inner tubes with which to shoot pebbles didn’t set too well with my sisters and me on account of its conflicting uses. We also played tricks on each other by posing the following question: "Did you get the letter I sent?" A "No" answer urged the questioner to reply, "Oh, I forgot to stamp it" and at the same time stamped with his foot on the innocent person’s foot. We often played "Dead Chicken across the Road" counting from one (want) it to eight (ate) it.
I preferred school activities along the lines of arts and crafts as a diversion from the daily lessons; the school district furnished a splendid variety of materials with a word of caution as to their uses. The quart jar of paste excited us to a point of tasting the white adhesive while the construction paper stirred our imaginations. After all these years I still enjoy creating paper objects to entertain the little cherubs; myself, also. Besides I can afford to buy it now. The exact mixture of flour and water satisfied our yearnings at home in devising scrapbooks, etc. Paper, a treasured item, had many functions in the households of the pioneers. Outdated catalogs, Sears and Montgomery Ward, contained slick colored pages for fashioning a bead. We decided a size first, choosing the length and thickness before cutting the triangle, began at the wide edge rolling the paper onto a sturdy needle, firmly set the point with paste; the application of a light coating of shellac preserved paper to enhance the finished product for stringing later. To design a more attractive bit of jewelry, insert a glass bead between each homemade one whether for a bracelet or a neckpiece. A pair of scissors could do wonders with pieces of paper folded a certain way; snowflakes were a specialty as each one, a unique creation hung in places like windows for winter decorations. Children's innovative ideas transcribed into Yuletide decorations beautified the tree for the program every year. I discovered various illustrations and craft suggestions in the Book of Knowledge which we found very helpful. The lanterns we wove with construction paper were made by folding one sheet in half, then we cut through the folded edge every half inch but left an inch margin at the open ends. After unfolding that sheet, we proceeded to cut strips of paper one-half inch width of different colors for the weaving in and out crosswise until the sheet was completely filled. The two edges opposite the first fold had to be pasted together while the ends of the strips needed to be secured the same way, then it was only a matter of fastening a short string to one of the open ends and hung up to resemble a lantern. At Halloween, cut-outs of pumpkins from orange paper, black for cats and witches adorned the school windows as well as being lined up at the top of the blackboards. For the Thanksgiving season, pictures of turkeys, pilgrims and Indians replaced the previous holiday trimmings while Christmas wreaths and Santas appeared in appropriate colors to wind up the old year. Again for Saint Valentine's Day, the artists devised original designs for an exchange of superfine intricately wrought card deposited into a decorated box with a slit in it. Valentines were particularly meaningful for 7th and 8th graders since by then boys and girls began to show an interest in each other. Verses such as the following were written inside the folded greeting cards: Roses are Red--Violets are Blue, Sugar is sweet--And so are You! or The coast is clear--The sledding fine, Come and be My Valentine. George Washinton’s hatchet with a cherry tree, "I cannot tell a lie" to commemorate the Father of Our Country and honest Abe Lincoln could not be overlooked when their birthdates rolled around. I found this caption under a picture of Lincoln: "His Words Never Die" and I quote, "I do the very best I know how--the very best I can; and mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference." Not only decorations but programs featured the holidays during the school year. How all of us yearned for training in addition to the experience awarded us by appearing before an audience cannot be stressed too much! One of our teachers remarked to my oldest brother that a program without his siblings’ participation was an impossibility. Plays and songs took top priority when it came to entertainment pertaining to memory work. I simply loved to memorize whatever came my way. Just recently I ran across the following: "Learning by heart is a kind of organizing one’s thoughts," if you’ve got words, you start associating. It’s a marvelous alternative to being depressed. I often wonder how I ever managed to memorize all the theorems in my solid geometry textbook and why I ever signed up for that class.
I had long learned before reaching the seventh and eighth grades that any misbehavior necessitating a reprimand in the form of a spanking from the teacher, another of the same kind awaited me upon returning home.
Social functions never really flourished among the young people in the countryside outside of church and school. I can recall a few box socials at the school house for the young men and women of the community as an evening get-together. To honor St. Valentine’s Day could be appropriate for the boys to show interest in girls and vice versa. The gals were called upon to prepare a few goodies, mostly home-baked in hopes of snaring a future husband. Attractively adorned individual boxes enticed bidding by budding swains on the contents as well as the possibility of getting more familiar with a certain lady. Once in a blue moon hints as to whose box was being auctioned went awry causing a few disasters. It stimulated a tremendous amount of fun among all the participants while at the same time raised funds to augment the system’s kitty for extra essentials.
Music and more music, the vocalizing of songs absorbed via repetition of religious or patriotic or emotional subjects filled the air as entertainment on the farms. Our parents visited with their friends in different homes, the emphasis on a song fest and prayer, granting themselves countless pleasurable hours. Musical instruments and pianos as rare items among the earliest pioneers became more accessible in the early twenties in family homes encouraging children to seek lessons. We all longed for the opportunity to develop our musical talents which some of my siblings satisfied many years later; in some cases via their children. The wide open spaces on the farm gave the children the opportunity to exercise their vocal chords.
Being confined to the farm had its advantages; we stayed out of trouble. The machine shed housed the combine, drills for seeding and tool shop; fascinated by the various tools, their multitudinous uses awakened our hidden curiosity to the point of experimentation. I remember a homemade contraption resembling a forge, although an open apparatus resembling a nest holding hot coals to heat a branding iron for marking the horses. After heating rods or irons, one was able to pound and straighten them out on the anvil with a hammer. A vise, securely fastened to the workbench sporting jaws to hold an object, was maneuvered by a lever. We often clamped a small stick or piece of lumber between the jaws to saw into two pieces. I don’t believe any serious injuries befell us in the machine shed. Accidents did emerge in spite of warnings; a case in point when my father flew around a combine shaft luckily sustaining only bruises which left its mark on me because I was led to his bedside for a final farewell before his journey to a Spokane hospital. Our bicycle, a grindstone with pedals used to sharpen scythes, sickles and knives could be found on almost any farm. One day when a group of children sought recreation in the shed, a newcomer attempted a ride on our "bicycle" but landed on the ground; to our amusement she uttered the words, "Don’t look through my panties." We played in the granary partially burying ourselves under the wheat kernel and or walked in them cooling our bare feet in the wheat storage bin. "Memory like the ivy clings to olden times and ways and things."
Emaus church on the Lincoln-Adams County line had its problems--a minister supplied the pulpit every other Sunday so a layman read the text in his absence. Men members took turns. Not every substitute possessed the exceptional skills required for the task; jealousy and dissension commenced to kindle animosity among the Brethren. When the smoldering fire burst into flames, my father took his family to the Ebenezer Congregational Church at Ruff, Washington, for about a year until the furor subsided. It’s interesting to note that in the early days most of the ministers with a few exceptions had come directly from Germany to tend their flocks of Russian-Germans. No doubt education played a deciding role as in the case of Pastor E. Bernstein of the Ruff congregation which we had joined until a possible return to Emaus, an harmonious status again.
My grandfather, Henry Trupp Sr., moved to Ruff after my grandmother’s death in ‘26 where he lived up to the time of his demise in 1935. My parents had moved to Beaverton, Oregon, but returned to Ruff to attend his funeral and burial at the country cemetery alongside his second wife. I was almost thirteen years old and up to now still have vivid recollections of my father conducting his stepmother’s funeral service at her home. My father’s half-sister became Mrs. William Dirks in 1923. Aunt Katie and Uncle Bill lived at Ruff for seven years. Uncle Bill, a native of Russia, an affiliate with the Mennonite group, moved his family to Neppel, now known as Moses Lake after his termination of employment at Laing's mercantile store. Laing's store, a trading post, exchanged goods for our live chickens, my mother’s home-made butter and our farm’s surplus eggs. I don’t recall exactly when we switched our allegiance of grocery purchases to Michaelson and Koth’s outlet at Odessa. I do know we shipped 5-gallon cans of heavy cream to Spokane or Snohomish via train from the Marlin station. The name of the creamery has slipped my mind but this little gem remained ensconced forever: "When a hot pan I must lift, Save my fingers with this gift; And when you have cream to ship, Ship it to _________ every trip."
While we cultivated--plowed, sowed, harvested and reaped--at the Schell place up on the hill north of Ruff some of us resided there temporarily schlepping hither and yon, home on Saturday evening to refill the larder, back on the road Sunday evening after Christian Endeaver for another week of work. Esther was chief cook and bottle washer while I hoed weeds. When the Ostwald family who farmed west of Ruff received an eviction notice, my father gave them temporary shelter at the compound we were occupying; that meant some sharing of quarters. A summer-time adventure for all of us as I elected to ride via wagon and horses to pick up the last load for transporting it to the Schell site. The children performed a final chore ordered by the parents who were angry with their landlord; the breaking of the windows on a barn, chicken coop and shed horrified me to the point of detestation. Did I deserve to be a witness to such a dastardly act? I knew my father would have been shocked if he had become aware of the incident. I also had ridden on the wagon not realizing that I sat on a sizable slab of bacon concealed in a flour sack until I discovered upon alighting from the horse-drawn vehicle that I smelled like pork including a grease-stained garment. The family moved to Tacoma to seek their fortune in the lumber industry. Mismanagement had been their downfall in the raising of wheat because the head of the household was more interested in religious endeavors of his own desires and the condemnation of young people’s recreation such as playing baseball.
Our land holdings extended as far west as Wheeler, Washington; that is, as far as working it. I must relate several short episodes in connection with the area. One Sunday evening as we were traveling to that acreage with a wagon filled with supplies and kids drawn by horses and my father as driver, something spooked the horses who sprinted forward into a rapid run, no way of stopping them either, we kids hung on for dear life in fear of the consequences when all of a sudden they slowed down. The next day I wore one of my brother’s bib overalls to work in the field, I believe to hoe Russian thistles, my long braids of hair hung down my back shaded by a straw hat. Within sight of our shack and across the road lived another family. One of their boys spotted me in my garb, rushed into his house and excitedly announced to his mother that Trupps had a lad with long hair. Never in all my wildest dreams did I ever expect to experience the current trend in men’s hair styles. Ruff, a 1910 townsite, its land donated by the railroad company, was named after Gottfried Ruff who had taken a homestead across from the railroad. Shortly thereafter, Ebenezer church, Laing’s merchandise store, pool halls, a warehouse and wheat terminal, hardware store, more churches, hotels, a post office and schoolhouse among other buildings were built as more people became residents. Joshua Elmer had a portrait studio and with his expertise photographed the early families, their farms, equipment and occupations. We lived about 8 miles northeast of Ruff, the most convenient shopping center since Moody never grew into a town other than having a wheat terminal for shipping and lumberyard; the distance to Odessa from the place of my birth totaled 16 miles. At the present time one can only vision wheat terminals with piles of wheat, a far cry from the bustling communities of yesteryear, Ruff as well as Moody, the shift to Moses Lake where Uncle Bill had the only service station in town in the early thirties. To think this all transpired throughout the entire time of my life span beginning with my birth in 1910 to the present year, 1987.
Dust storms, Ah, Yes! We often had what we called "whirlwinds" in the inactive plowed but left unplanted ground for the summer months. It seemed their emergence from the horizon loomed up in a spiral form perpendicular from sky to earth while the wind gathered and blew the dust around and around as it traveled across the fields. We avoided being caught in any whirlwind on account of the force it projected on its journey; it soon lost its energy to vanish as quickly as it materialized--never showing any evidence of being dangerous. When the ordinary dust storm commenced to heap its fury onto the populace, no particular preparation was made to counteract its velocity, an obvious impossibility, but all windows remained closed (the dust piled up to two inches in height between the screen and window) while the people and the animals endured its vengeance in hopes for a disturbance of short duration. By way of a gloomy visibility, one observed the mature dry Russian thistles also known as tumbleweeds rolling over the countryside, piling up along the barbed-wire fences; soil from the fields filled the air, blown back and forth, eventually settling and practically burying the fence posts. Farmers hauled manure from their barns into the fields to spread it on bare spots here and there in hopes of halting soil erosion caused by frequent dust storms. Eventually many farms were abandoned because all the top soil had blown away. Years later, after the end of a dry cycle in addition to changes in farming methods revolutionized the countryside, one finds the land in production again via wells and irrigation. The latter brought about diversification of crops enhancing the tillers’ income. Before all the aforementioned turnabout materialized, my parents with all of their children, except Fred, had moved to Portland seeking greener pastures. As a result of the move, my father had licked his hay fever attacks; he with his family fared well in the new environment. I found this clipping in my scrapbook: There is no truth to the rumor that "Gone With the Wind" was written by a desolate farmer after a dust storm. The last humdinger of a dust storm I recall sprung up in the early 30’s while I attended college in Pullman; daytime darkness created by dust rolling in from the northwest direction (Big Bend Country) over the Palouse hills obscured the sun alerting folks that a storm was brewing on the horizon. In reading the descriptions written by newspaper reporters in 1980 when Mt. St. Helens erupted, a similar scene repeated only with more devastating results. My sister related that the dust seemed so thick inside the house necessitating a lighting of a kerosene lamp. That’s almost unbelievable! I experienced a minor duststorm in the 1970’s while attending the Deutsches Fest weekend, Odessa’s most noted activity invariably scheduled for the third weekend in September. The longtime residents and natives rushed to their dwellings, closeted themselves inside, none stirred or traveled anywhere, but Esther insisted that I tag along to roam around the deserted town taking in the sights. That evening when I removed my white anklets, I discovered a sudden change of color. The area is still plagued with an occasional dust storm but not too severe, although traffic is halted in order to prevent road accidents until the wind ceases to the extent that enough dust settles for the traveler to continue his journey.
Our visits to the town of Odessa before I reached my teens were limited to July 4th; my siblings and I awakened to the fact that we’d like more personal involvement in obtaining first-hand knowledge and adventure the town provided preferable to the hearsay dispensed by our schoolmates. I can’t say when my father purchased his first car, a Buick; while the dirt roads with their ruts hampered our travels somewhat, we did manage more family trips. Just when Jacob and Daniel begged for permission to take turns behind the wheel of the auto is another mystery; my brain shelf refuses to release those memories. My sisters and I never had an opportunity to operate an automobile; for me, the moment did arrive in 1956 at the age of 45. My mother’s two brothers (one was married) resided in Odessa after leaving a farm at the beginning of the twenties. We enjoyed happy times with Uncle Jacob, his wife, Aunt Pearl and Uncle Adam, but we’d walk to the heart of downtown at least once during our visit. Cement sidewalks caused a burning sensation on the soles of our feet even though we wore shoes. That was about the time we were introduced to the luxury of ice cream cones. What a treat! A nickel for "spending money" was considered a significant amount. An often-repeated story which I heard during my high school days always produced a great deal of laughter concerning two gals and their first ice cream cones; not knowing the proper procedure in consuming the confectionery, the dispenser received a request to the tune of, "Spoons, please." Other remembrances of my childhood, assimilated into my memory bank like the food into my system, need to be shared. After World War I when surplus uniforms appeared at Michaelson and Koth’s, a retail store, I can still see myself being fitted with a coat manufactured for the ex-soldiers. Wool material in olive drab for the army seemed OK but unappreciated by an eleven-year-old girl especially to wear to school. Unhappiness, embarrassment and reluctance best describe my emotions in that confrontation, a lingering unpleasant commemoration. To protest or show one’s disgust was unheard of; appropriate clothing, even for young children did matter. In connection with World War I, the story was told that Rev. A. Reiman, pastor at St. Matthews church in Odessa from 1916 to 1920 who had sympathized with the Germans, was ordered to parade on Odessa streets carrying the U.S. flag. Another disturbing factor of significance--the town of Krupp’s name change to that of Marlin. Expressions aimed at German-speaking people strained friendships.
As I continue my record of events based on my personal experiences at home and at school, one might wonder about the frost encountered on our rides to the white place of instruction. One morning as we were going down a slight incline with the standard horse and buggy, Dolly, the mare, skidded on the icy surface landing on her belly to our dismay. She arose immediately without any fanfare, continued the journey in a safe conventional manner delivering us to our destination in due time. In our excitement we informed the teacher of Jack Frost’s visit. Before beginning the day’s lessons, the schoolmarm inquired as to our caller; naturally we glanced about the room in anticipation of encountering a guest. Imagine the embarrassment and disappointment we suffered by having such short memories! Our one-room country educators possessed unforgettable talents. Their backgrounds varied but the training each had been subjected to, at an institution of higher learning in the basics, provided classroom leadership. I still marvel at the beautiful costumes, quite simply designed and sewed for programs presented by the students. Be it of cloth or crepe paper, nothing equaled their attractiveness. How could I forget the Indian attire I wore one Thanksgiving to portray the first inhabitants of our great country--brown muslin material for the two-part garment, the pants with fringe on the outer edges the length of the legs, long-sleeved blouse decorated with more fringe, a headdress with a band around the entire head across the forehead, feathers protruded upward in the band, my thick braids of hair hanging down my back--I carried a make-believe hatchet and about three of us (pupils) performed an Indian dance sporadically uttering a war whoop and patting our mouths with the left hand. Another time I represented grass in a play by wearing a green crepe paper dress, another girl posed as a lily in white crepe paper, one as a rose, etc., Jacob depicted a ballerina in a recitation, "Rings on fingers, Bells on toes, I shall make music wherever I go, Don’t you think I’m sweet?" That might not be exactly right, but it was the gist of things. Roses on my shoulders. Slippers on my feet.
Our school lunches bordered on the unique; homemade bread soaked with runny jelly didn’t suit my appetite. Only the skins of fruits were cooked for juice which mother then combined with a small amount of sugar for boiling. Such thrift! Hunks of cooked sausage and an apple or onion kuchen completed the menu; a hungry child couldn’t be choosy. Onions were a staple food in our household, probably healthy, too. Fresh fried potatoes in combination with onions served daily, finely chopped green onion tops, into the pancake dough they landed, but plain pancakes with Karo syrup certainly tasted good. Boiled-down watermelon juice (an exceptional flavorful concoction pleased the palate), a spread of butter couldn’t be beat. For a child a hand-propelled churn constituted a tiresome task. Henry liked the thick cream seconds before it turned into butter to spread on freshly-baked bread. Someone else drank the buttermilk. I didn’t care for the so-called milk soup made by cooking the noodles first, adding milk and served hot; dried fruit soup (a mixture of dried fruits cooked in water, thickened with flour and Karo syrup and adding thick sweet cream just before serving), too rich for me. That with raised doughnuts was the usual Saturday night fare. We weren't allowed to converse at the table, laughing was taboo. My father held "the Andacht" after breakfast; that is, he read verses from the Bible and offered a prayer. Each one of us recited an individual prayer before a meal.
To continue with my grade school days, I remember that two students would raise the flag every morning by fastening it to a rope which was then pulled to the top of the flag pole. Before leaving for home after the school day had ended, the flag was lowered, removed from the rope and folded for the next day’s ritual. (One did not dare allow it to touch the ground.) We began the school day with a flag salute followed by the singing of "America". How patriotic we all were! The FLAG! White is for purity, red for valor, blue for justice and all together make the flag of our country to be cherished by all our hearts to be upheld by all our hands.
My brother Henry subscribed to the Washington Farmer; where it was printed I can’t say, but I do recall reading it religiously. Where he obtained the money is also a mystery, but I do know if one of his siblings had a nickel, he managed to talk us out of it. We were also saddled with household chores; for instance, washing dishes was quite a task with no running water; it had to be pumped out of a cistern and lugged into the house to be heated in the reservoir, a water storage tank attached to the opposite end of the woodburning cooking stove’s firebox. When the water cooled in the dishpan, it was set on the burner section, a flat surface, for reheating. No whistling tea-kettles in those days, just ordinary teakettles which supplied additional hot water. Home-made soap, its ingredients consisted of used lard, chicken fat, etc., in a combihation of lye and water made by my mother substituted for the detergent used today. It was an inexpensive cleanser with a recycling overture, an exacting task I have performed the last 46 years. I add ammonia and boraxo for a whiter wash eliminating a commercial bleach. Other assignments--removing smoke from lamp chimneys attributed to the burning wicks accumulated in the form of a film which shut out the much required light. Trimming wicks and filling the lamp receptacle itself with coal oil kept one of us busy in anticipation of the long winter evenings; lessons had to be studied for the next school day. Then there was the eternal mess of removing ashes from the metal ash boxes that were so much a part of the so-necessary wood and coal equipment used in every household.
On Sunday mornings, my father required a valet but the boys were excused, a more appropriate substitute involved a maid in the form of a daughter. Dad’s complete Sunday attire bedecked his made-up bed for a quick change of clothing. His shoes, polished to perfection set in a rightful position on the floor close by. We girls argued about that duty because we misunderstood his responsibility for his own clothes. We had only two dressers or bureaus for storage capacity to provide for nine people and those had two or more drawers causing garments to be piled a mile high, a difficulty my father couldn't cope with since he was always in a hurry to unearth his clean laundry. The walk-in closets of which there were two in the four bedroom home lacked sufficient space also; besides each one of us possessed a minimum wardrobe so we managed somehow. Most of it was homemade especially the underwear, a product of bleached flour sacks (more recycling). At least it was cotton, washed easily and wore well.
When I became interested in recipes--I must have been eleven going on twelve years--I had the desire to learn how to bake cakes and cookies or pies. My dear mother used lard in her pie crusts, but because of her inability to read, neglected the creation of cakes. Oh, she had a cookie recipe stored in her brain in which a dab of lard and expensive sugar used sparingly fashioned a pastry item a wee bit better than bread. It was a treat and we gobbled them up. We didn’t realize then that sugar and fats were detrimental to one’s health, so fortunately we didn’t pay the price of losing our natural teeth at an early age or pile up cholesterol in our arteries although we consumed fats in our meats--pork, beef, sausage, etc. As my interest in baking goodies became more apparent, I discovered a common ingredient--shortening--in all the recipes. I was in a quandary and pondered for awhile, questioned a two-year older sister who ridiculed my inquiry. So my investigative instinct considered an addition to the grocery list. My father purchased the groceries at Michaelsen and Koth’s Mercantile Store; the telephone rang with my father on the line. "Marie, what is this shortening?" I responded, "SHORTENING". Poor Dad gave up since the grocer was as ignorant as we were, and he returned home minus my request. How I learned or became aware of shortening in our cellar in the form or lard or butter has not been retained in my memory cells. But I did begin my baking of cakes, etc. One time I forgot to add the soda, the disastrous results caused me to eat my own cake, a flat one-inch high product.
Confronted later with another problem, quite a puzzlement, an Aunt mentioned spuds. Now, what were spuds? I questioned my older sister who had a good laugh. To think it was the lowly potato of which we had oodles. Live and learn! I often thought how was I to learn without asking questions.
Hand sewing was used rather than a sewing machine--even the smallest scrap of fabric was valued because the supply was scarce for a pioneering family. Possibly students will realize the spirit of the people in the past who "made do" so creatively with the little that they had. My illiterate mother did teach me to sew, and after we acquired a sewing machine, I couldn’t wait until I was able to reach the treadle which aroused my curiosity. My mother sewed beautifully (no doubt taught herself) using the simple machine stitch, and the cotton thread didn’t break like the junk which is manufactured today. I taught myself to sew a perfect seam before enrolling in a primary sewing class in my first year of high school; the review was a mere matter of brushing up my natural skills.
As a seventh and eighth grader, I became quite interested in my teacher, advisor and confidante with whom I shared my thoughts. "A teacher affects eternity," Henry Brooks Adams once wrote, "he can never tell where his influence stops." Some teachers have that special spark which awakens love of learning (or love of life) in their students. Education is experience--it is life itself. So that spark became fire while I planned a high school education.
In 1988, Jennie Jantz who married Art Krehbiel and raised a family resides in the town of Ritzville, Washington. A great teacher with a remarkable influence in my life--the impressionable years, to say the least. I had set my sights on a continuous school program with Miss Jantz’s encouragement. My brother Jacob and I shared a birthday gift in the form of a Kodak Brownie presented to us by Miss Jantz on "our day" (we are exactly a year apart) on my 13th and Jacob’s 12th btrthday. What a treasure! It was a priceless gift and so welcome as it recorded photos of many people and farm memories that otherwise would have been lost. I used it in high school as well as in college; I’ll always be thankful for her thoughtfulness!
The farm provided endless work every summer. Russian thistles were ever present and eradication continued indefinitely. A wide-brimmed straw hat, a boy’s long- sleeved cotton shirt and bib overalls, the usual garb essential daily under a hot sun protected one’s skin and arms. I substituted jeans for the bib overalls in later years when fishing for salmon. I was always conscious or aware of the consequences of the sun’s rays long before all the emphasis on skin cancers so dominant today. In fact, I had no hankering for a leather-like skin produced by a sun tan.
At the end of the school year after finishing the 8th grade studies, the State of Washington Education Department required state examinations for a diploma as eligibility for entering high school. Since Odessa, even though in Lincoln County, was a shorter distance than Ritzville in Adams County, I elected to take my exam at the Odessa schools under the supervision of Peter Jantz, Jennie’s uncle, who was the Principal of the Odessa Grade School. I recall the arithmetic exam with which I had some difficulty. Mr. Jantz checked my paper I was handing in and advised me to look it over once more. Math was my weakest subject, and it was of utmost importance I pass the test for myself and my teacher. My diploma was issued June 27th, l925, and signed by Alice Ripplinger, State Supt. of Adams County; H. H. Scheller, the clerk of the School District # 73, Schafer School; Fred Rink and Sam Schafer. Receiving my diploma prompted my teacher to send me a congratulatory letter and a gift. My first purse, genuine cowhide in a light gray, a proud possession still rests among my souvenirs. I carried it with me to church but my mother discouraged that practice. One didn’t display one’s pride. After living for 77 years, I still consider myself meek and humble, constantly struggling to reach the top rung of the ladder. The following is a copy of the letter I have cherished ever since its writing.
Cheney, Washington July 22, 1925
I started to write to you a couple of days ago and didn’t get any farther than "Dear Marie". That shows how much time I have to write to my dear friends. I read in the Spokesman Review that you and Fred had passed. I sure was tickled pink over you children. I’m sending you a little graduation gift. To put in all the money you earn this summer so you can go to Hi School this fall. Is your Dad going to let you go? It sure would be splendid of him if he would do such a thing for his daughter. If you can’t go, just remember that you can still always get knowledge from good books and magazines and newspapers. If at any time I can help you any please let me know and I will do my best. I am greatly interested in you and will keep track of you in the coming years to see what will become of you. Of course I know you will be worthy of honor for you will be a very nice lady. Be sure you come and visit me whenever you have time.
Well, dear, I hope you are going to be able to go to Odessa Hi this fall. You will never regret it.
Are you still cooking for Fred? Say, Marie, I sure did enjoy your letter. I am very sorry I didn’t get to answer sooner.
I have 2-1/2 more weeks of school and it sure does make me glad for I am just awfully tired already.
Reuben is going to Odessa this fall also. Isn’t that nice? Oh, I just love to tease, but I guess it’s best for me to be still, eh? All right, I’ll be good now and go to sleep. Tell the other kiddies “hello” for me. I’ll write to them later. If you have time, write to your friend,
The summer of 1925 passed by slowly since I gave the matter of entering high school careful thought. I begged and I pleaded because of a goal I had set for myself to someday be independent and make my own living. I finally assumed I would get to Odessa that fall in spite of every possible obstacle such as basic finances and living quarters. School buses didn’t serve our district, my memory fails me as to the existence of any school transportation at that time. I had an Uncle and Aunt, Jacob and Pearl Libsack who resided in the town of Odessa. My father approached the subject of my room and board, and they consented on a temporary basis in exchange for a hog, possibly additional remuneration. The currency required for textbooks and a minimum of garments supplied by my father was a sacrifice made by the family. In racking my brain I still have visions of the Montgomery Ward catalog lying open on the dining room table to pages of unmentionables in hopes my father would allow me to place an order. He did! Out of the kindness of his heart!
My schooling had begun after having placed my meager belongings on the back seat of the automobile, and I sat alongside them on the way to town. "I’m staying," I told my father, "there’s no other way." I was 14 years old, determined and persistent. I had done hard and heavy work on the farm, had milked my share of cows, etc., deserving something better in the future, such as running water, a bathroom; in all respect, a better life must be around the corner. Besides, I was "extra baggage", a mouth to feed. "Where there is a will, there’s a way."
One day, my Dad inquired at the bank of the possibility I might work for my room and board in a private home. The banker, Jake Hopp, showed an interest, but his wife was recuperating from surgery. They had two small children and a full-time housekeeper for the time being. When Mr. Hopp related the feasibility of it to his wife that they could handle the idea of a high school girl working for room and board, they gave it serious thought. Mrs. Hopp as a friend of Grace Williams divulged the workability of Mrs. Williams providing my room and board for work performed by me until Mrs. Hopp could manage her household activities again. The result--A HAPPY, HAPPY ENDING!--I continued living and working in the Williams’ household. My benefactor had discovered the advantages of the duties I performed so willingly for the exchange of room and board. I had arrived to the point of making my own living-- What a glorious feeling, and there was no turning back! A single bed in the corner of an open room, a small dresser, a portable clothes closet at the other end of the room sufficed. A screen I opened and placed around my bed every evening offered privacy. A side door of the house into my room served as the front door of their house. Every morning after dressing, I made my bed, folded and placed the screen in its proper place and presto, an open room through which one reached the Ladies Ready-to-Wear Shop. Mr. Sam Williams had been a barber in Montana earlier but became the town’s plumber with a shop on Main Street. I do remember the winters he disliked crawling under houses to thaw frozen pipes--a dirty cold job. Mrs. Williams, besides marcelling hair (a deep soft wave made in the hair by the use of a heated curling iron) managed a dress, coat and hat shop similar to a Mom and Pop grocery store. The front of the store faced the street along the sidewalk with living quarters behind the business section. First, the shop, the width of the building, then my temporary bedroom alongside their bedroom, the living room the full width of the house with entrances leading to the bathroom and kitchen with a wall in-between and another small bedroom one could reach from the bathroom or the kitchen near the back door. It was a long house, with two wood heaters and a wood-burning cook stove which also heated the kitchen. Lloyd Williams, the son who had graduated from the Odessa High School, occupied the bedroom off the kitchen. He worked as a mechanic in a garage where he spent his evenings, too, that is after supper. Mr. Williams enjoyed card games in the downtown area after his supper. He also read the daily and Sunday Spokesman-Review printed in Spokane, Washington. Mr. and Mrs. Williams took pleasure in duck hunting and pan fishing at the lakes located north of Odessa. Wild duck didn’t compare to the duck fare my mother served from her barnyard fowl. The Williams’ pursued their hobby on Sundays so I was always entrusted with the cash box of the Saturday receipts.
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