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Pioneer days

November 18, 2013
By Ellayne Conyers , Marshall Independent

Part II:

"A few rods from the stable was a little pond or slew, and there was such a lot of muskrats houses at the edge of the pond, and when us kids went there to skate on the ice, the muskrats would come towards us so we always had to carry a stick to chase them away. Once when we went down to skate or slide on the ice, my sister Lena fell down and the muskrats ran all over her. My father saw what happened so he came with a big stick and chased them away and brought Lena in the house. My father set traps and caught them. I can remember once in the summer there was a little buffalo running past our place, us kids were out playing. And I know I ran in the house and told mother there was a little calf running loose and mother said it was a little buffalo. I can still remember the big head with long hair on it and the other part of him had short hair. Mother used to tell kids how scared she was of the Indians. She was afraid the Indians would steal us kids. She said she would always give them something life a loaf of bread just to keep on the good side of them. I never saw any of the Indians but they were around when my parents first came to the homestead.

In the late spring mother had to shear the wool of the sheep and then she washed the wool and dyed it, then carded the wool and spin it into yarn for knitting our stockings and mittens. Mother spun real fine yarn for weaving cloth for us girls into dresses. We got new dresses for Christmas. The collars were red blue and brown plaid. We always like our new dresses mother sewed them and we had to sew the pockets in for our handkerchiefs. The bodies were plain, the skirt was pleated and sewed to the top part, no belt, no collar the neck part was faced with a bias cotton tape. In the summertime we girls had calico dresses that mother sewed for us. I can remember so well mother had made me a pretty apron. It had a border at the bottom with little girls holding hands but the sad part of it was I used to chew the corners of the apron. Mother told me if I didn't stop she was going to have my front teeth taken out with pliers and mother had just got through telling me and there was a knock at the door, and it was a big husky man came in it was Ole Lende. Mother asked him if he brought his pliers with him because I had been chewing on my apron again. He reached in his pocket and came towards me and said if I promise never to do it again he would let me keep my teeth. I was scared out of my wits but it cured me. The material was very cheap in those days, the calico was five cents a yard the gingham was seven cents unbleached muslin ten cents a yard. Mother would buy the unbleached muslin to make sheets for the beds. Well my parents got enough money saved up so they had a nice house built with 3 bedrooms upstairs and one bedroom downstairs. And was it ever nice to live in a house with lots of light coming from the windows and sunshine. We were so happy.

My parents worked very hard to keep things going and I am shure it was tough for them many times but they had their faith in God and He saw them through their hardships. On Sunday afternoon we all had to be quiet while mother or dad would read the gospel or Bible aloud. My Dad was a good singer so we children had to learn songs in Norwegian and sing with them. My youngest sister Ida, Olie, Bert and Lewis was born in the new house and things got better as the years went by.

Well I am running ahead of time, so I will go back to the sod house again and tell some more about that store room. My parents had a large wooden barrel where the salt pork and beef was in brine. The brine was so salty it had to be put in fresh water to get out the salt and the same way with the pork. We got a chunk of pork out of the brine and cut off as much as needed then chunk of pork went back in the brine and the cover put back on the barrel. There was also a stone crock where the lard was stored. There was different things that had to be stored there.

I can remember the table against the east wall, one day my sister Lena got the inspiration that when some body came to visit us, her and I should sit under the table and see what they would do before they knocked at the door. We just done it once because Lena started laughing and my mother found out so Lena and I got a scolding for spying so that was the end of that.

In one corner of the store room the wood and twisted hay that we burned in the stove and it was up to my two brothers my sister and myself to twist the long prairie hay after we came home from school and then bring it in and store it up neatly along side of the wood. Our hands got so rough and chapped to when we got through we had to put some goose grease on our hands. My father had built a wood box, which was in the back of the stove, and we kids had to keep this full. When I think of it, it's a wonder we didn't have a fire but there must have been a guardian angel to prevent from having fires.

Our evening meal was mostly cooked mush from milk and we poured milk on and ate, sugar was used sparingly, very seldom we had cake, but mother fried doughnuts. We called them fried cakes. We never knew what pie was till we got older and could afford it.

We had a mile and a half to school. In the winter we used to walk over plowed fields which shortened it by half a mile. We all had dinner pails each, except my two brothers, they had their's together. Once in school, a girl sitting back of me dropped her slate right in front of my desk. I picked it up turned around and gave it to her, and the teacher made me stay after school half an hour, which I didn't approve. Another time I had to stay after school was I talked Norwegian to my sister Inga at recess and the teacher heard me and said Julia you have to stay after school. That's the only time I can recall. We had eight months of English school and one month parochial school, which was in Norwegian. The first years I went to school we used slates instead of paper to write on. Our school was so crowded some of us smaller ones had to sit three and four to a desk. The subject I liked best was spelling and singing. We used to sing a lot especially us girls. My Dad was a good singer, and my parents were charted members of St. Lucus Lutheran Church, Normania Township, Yellow Medicine County."

(Continued next week)



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