From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Letter from Aunt Cleona

Childhood memories shared by my aunt


I had a nice letter from Aunt Cleona Allen (my dad's sister.) I decided to share some parts of it here because some of you know her.

Aunt Cleona had mentioned a coconut peanut brittle in her Christmas card, and I asked her to send me the recipe for it. When she sent it, she included several other favorite holiday recipes and a long letter too. Here is part of what she wrote. The comments in brackets were added by me.

One thing I remember your Dad talking about is how Freddie Wales came one time and how he [your Dad] liked his [Freddie's] cowboy boots. He asked Mom and Dad for a pair, but guess they didn't approve. Anyway, he said he saved up his money and got him a pair as soon as he could. Never wore anything else after that. Also remember your dad having a pair of black leather chaps.

One time I remember I guess he went to get on his horse or off. Anyway somehow he got his foot caught in the stirrup and the horse was dragging him and someone managed to grab the reins as the horse went to go out the gate or your Dad probably would have been drug to death.

Then he asked me one time when he was here if I remembered Mom frying our pet rabbit for supper and none of us kids would eat any of it. I can't stand rabbit to this day. [This was during the Depression. Cleona continues with a memory of another unhappy childhood event.]

I remember one other time I had an accordian type valentine and I'd got it from my teacher. I'd left it in the window standing up. I came home from school and asked Mom where it was and she'd burnt it.

All them good old days riding horseback to school facing that old northwest wind and so cold you could hear the screech of horsehooves on the snow. Them are some of my memories. Don't regret any, just the way it was.

We were fortunate to have the artesian wells and a tank with a house over it to keep our cream and milk, etc., cold. It would make your arm ache to reach down in that water. It was that cold. We could put a gallon syrup pail of milk in there when we first started to milk and it would be cold by the time supper was ready. Them syrup pails also was our dinner buckets when we went to school.

I remember Dad putting a fence on top of a fence because snow drifted clear over the fence and sheep were walking out of the pen on the drifts. Then it was my job to stay on a horse all day in summer time herding them sheep. One evening I was bringing them in and a coyote came out of the swamp and grabbed a lamb. I got it run off but that lamb always had a big knot on his neck but it lived.

It was also Charlie's [my dad's] job when I was little to keep me in the yard. Of course I'd find a hole and crawl out.

One time I remember all three of us getting spanked. Guess we'd had some spring rain and we all played in the water.

Also remember Charlie getting on his ice skates when the lake [Moon Lake, south of Johnstown, Nebraska] was frozen in the wintertime. We'd probably be going to Grandpa Clark's and Dad would drive on around the end of the fence out onto the lake. I was always afraid the ice would break through. You'd hear it crack. Then we'd pick up Charlie down on the other end of the lake. He'd skate that far.

In summertime, turtles would come out and lay their eggs in the sand along the lake. Then when they hatched, they'd go back to the water.

There was springs in that swamp. We used to fill our water jugs when we were going to the hayfield. In the wintertime, the spring water going out into the lake, when it was so cold, there would be like a fog above the water.

There was flowers that looked like your tiger lilies. In the spring of the year, the carp would come up the creek and you could catch them with your hands. Lots of times we'd see an old mother duck with her little ones swimming in all that water.


I really appreciate Aunt Cleona taking the time to write down those things and send them to me.


I had to smile when Cleona wrote elsewhere in her letter that her son Lonnie's favorite pie is coconut. Coconut pie was one of my dad's favorites, also. And on a bread recipe that she wrote out for me, she made a note at the end that this was a good dough to fry and powder up with sugar. My mom used to fry  bread dough sometimes, as a hurry-up way to have fresh hot bread for dinner when it wasn't really done rising yet. We all loved it.

These little comments about baking made me wonder if Grandma Nora (mother of my dad, Uncle Harold, and Aunt Cleona) was a baker of coconut pies and a fryer of bread dough, too.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ask Dennis about the tame rabbit we ate at his house.

Genevieve said...

I have heard him talk about the long rabbit pens they had behind the house when he was a kid, but I don't remember him ever saying anything about eating them. I'll ask him.

Genevieve said...

I did ask Dennis and he said that his mom cooked them but he did his very, very best not to eat any.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.