Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dad's Trilogy of Childhood Memories

My Dad left us three amazing stories from when he was a child.  I love these...they seem to come out of a very, very long time ago.  So long ago in fact, it is hard for me to fathom life at that time for someone that I actually knew as well as I knew my Dad.

Baby Food or Aunt Agnes' Answer to Gerber's

Google image baby

"Aunt Agnes, my Dad's sister, was a very resourceful person and I have vivid recollections of her feeding her babies.  This was the time before canned baby food so she improvised.  When her children graduated from milk to solid food she would take small bites of food, generally meat, potatoes and bread, put them in her mouth, chew well, roll into a little ball in the palm of her hand and pop it into her baby's mouth.  It seemed to work well because the little ones would anticipate it like a baby bird and would relish each morsel.  It didn't seem to harm them any as she had at least six and they were all very healthy.

My mother's reaction to this was one of disbelief and she abhorred the idea.  She preferred a knife and fork to get the food fine enough.  I am kind of glad Mom took this position!"

Chewing Tobacco or How To Get Sick In A Hurry

"I recall one incident that I shall never forget!  It was my first and last experience with chewing tobacco.  My Dad was going to take two loads of wheat to the grain elevator in Ventura, North Dakota.  I was about six or seven years old and my job was to drive a team and wagon load of wheat.  It wasn't a hard job and kind of fun.  I followed my Dad and his load.  The horses were gentle and followed his lead with no trouble.  The so-called roads were dual ruts worn by other wagons before us. 

We left early in the A.M and arrived and had unloaded our wheat by about lunch time.  There were no restaurants in the little town and the local butcher capitalized on that by provided local farmers with a place to get a snack.  

Liverwurst..possibly the wurst all right.

He had liverwurst and other sausages along with bread, crackers and cheese.  The real treat was Nehi Pop.  My Dad had malt liquor (this was before the day of 3.2 beer and sometimes I suspect home brew was also available to him.)

After our feast we were about to head for home and my Dad took out his plug of tobacco and whacked off a chunk with his pocket knife.  I must have looked rather wistful because he looked down at me and said, 'You think that looks pretty good, huh?'  My reply was affirmative so he gave me a piece about the size of a dime with the admonition, 'Don't tell Mama!' I really felt like a man as I climbed up on the spring seat of the wagon and headed for home chewing my chow.

Now wagons in those days didn't have rubber tires, but ran on steel rims.  So in spite of the spring seat it was a very rough ride in the empty wagon.  Dizziness reared its ugly head and I soon had to wrap the reins around the seat and let the horses follow the team ahead and lie down in the wagon bed. The ride got rougher and rougher and I got sicker and sicker.  I finally lost my good lunch and Nehi Pop.

I recovered before we got home but evidently my color wasn't too good because my mother questioned both of us about my condition.  I was ashamed to tell her I couldn't chew tobacco like my Dad and he was afraid to tell her what he did!  My Dad's reaction was of concern and some amusement.  He said, 'That can be lesson to you, son, not to chew tobacco.'  And you know I learned that lesson well.  I haven't had a chew since!"

My First Job Or The Saga of Ballinger's Bull

The first recollection I have of working for pay was when I was about eight years old.  I was living with my parents on my grandparent's farm in Mc Intosh County, North Dakota.  My cousin, Virgil, also lived in the area about four miles from us.  He was eighteen and made a deal with Mr. Ballinger to drive his old bull to market at the nearest rail head at Lehr.  The price to be paid for the ride was $1.00.  Virgil asked me if I would like to drive the animal with him and he would split the fee with me.  We started early on horseback one morning to drive that dumb bull 16 miles across open country.  (It was more like 26 miles 'as the bull runs!') 

It was in the fall of the year so crops had been harvested and there were few fences so the old boy had plenty of room to run.  It was a hard day's ride to the rail head and back but as I look back on it it was exhilarating fun in the outdoors and quite an accomplishment for a couple of kids.  I think some of the neighbors were laying bets we'd never get the bull to market.

We did it though and then sat back and awaited our pay of $.50 a piece.  For me it never came to pass and to this day I don't know if Mr. Ballinger got he bull to market for free or if Virgil reaped the full benefit.   I guess the moral of the story is you can drive a bull to market but you may not get your just reward!" 

Here they are, Daddy...1925! 
Virgil is in the clear!