A day in Grandma’s life is exhausting, they sure worked hard. But honestly – ironing diapers!!! I remember mom complaining bitterly about washing out diapers in the toilet, and although I try to be more eco friendly, I have to admit I was pretty happy to just throw diapers in the trash.
We now have the story of how Aunt Gertie joined the community before she joined the family. I loved the story of our great grandfather Richard giving Auntie Sheila sweet treats. When my boy was born, I kept him off sugar for so long and was so careful. Then his first Christmas, when he was about 6 months, my dad took him on his knee – in the dining room here at grandma’s – and very gleefully put a gigantic spoon of Grandma’s Christmas sauce in his mouth. So that was the end of that. What a great way to start out with sugar though – that sauce is mad good.
Shortly before we were married, Percy gave me a fine big black saddle horse named Spades. He was part Arabian and very gentle. I loved to go out riding with the gang when they were working the cattle. Annie rode a very beautiful spirited bay hunter and she certainly was a good rider. Percy’s dad always had a string of coyote hounds following him and occasionally they would go after a poor little rabbit that crossed our path.
In 1929, Jack Copithorne and Dave Lawson combined their teams of horses and pulled Archie Arie’s(?) homestead house down to a spot between Nicoll’s and Jack’s to be used for a school house. All the children of the district were living in this neighbourhood at that time. The fall after we were married, 1932, the teacher Marg Erwin boarded with us and walked to this school. Marg was a city girl and found it very lonely at our place. She was extremely musical and we brought my mother’s piano out for her to play on. We enjoyed many musical evenings after that. Frank, Percy’s brother got married to Georgie McDougall in 1934 and lived on the XC ranch. That year Gertrude Flumerfelt came to teach and boarded with us until our Sheila was born in 1935. While Gertrude was here, my mother’s health deteriorated and she spent considerable time with us too. Sheila was a real pride and joy to everyone. The first baby girl to be born in the district for fifteen years and everyone made a great fuss over her and she was a darling. Percy’s dad used to hold her on his knee and give her little bits of food at mealtime. She sure started eating ice cream at an early age. By now my mother’s health was so poorly my dad rented a house in Cochrane no moved her in near the doctor. He was fortunate to get Mrs. EC Johnson, her dear friend to come and live with her and nurse her that year. She died when Sheila was only six months old.
When I was in Cochrane so much, Sheila came in close contact with my sister’s daughter Aileen, who was, unknown to us, just coming down with the whooping cough. Sheila caught the whooping cough and what a winter we had after that! Frank was in the hospital all winter and poor Georgie was alone with Richard who was only a tiny baby then. Sheila’s health was poor after that until she was two years old when we had to have her tonsils out.
Percy’s father died in April 1936, when Sheila was just a year old. It threw the whole responsibility of the ranch and family on Percy and Frank’s shoulders. Clarence was only fourteen years old. He seemed so young to lose his father after having lost his mother when only two years old. Annie carried on as usual that summer, cooking etc for the haying crew, for which I was very thankful. But it was a short haying season and by then when I took on the job of feeding the men, the poultry and dairy, I was expecting my second child. But I at last got a washing machine of my own and certainly needed it with all the men’s clothes to wash as well as our own. Sometimes there were as many as fifteen shirts to iron each week. The washing machine was run by a gas engine – a very temperamental one. I often gave up trying to get it started then in anger would give it a swift kick and it would start.
I churned once or twice a week and with the butter and eggs bought the groceries. Butter requires a lot of cold, cold water to wash all the buttermilk out of the butter and to make it firm. Then you add salt and work and work it in, then pat it into a mould so that the result weighs exactly one lb. My churn was a big wooden barrel, one that made about thirty lbs at a churning. We carried the water from a well on the other side of Annie’s house. It seemed like a quarter of a mile away. We had a big Windlass built out in the corral and butchered our beef there. Hung it up on the Windlass to clean and skin, about an hour’s work. Then after it hung in a cool place for ten days we would cut it up and put it into a brine and some into jars and cooked. I also canned chicken. I remember one time I starved the roosters etc and the other chickens to be butchered as usual the night before so that they would have empty crops and be easier to handle. Never thinking about the weed seeds in the bottom of the trough. The chickens ate them. I had forty beautifully jelled jars of chicken but when I opened them to use they smelt so strong of stink weed and tasted like it too, I nearly wept when I couldn’t use them.
As I said before, money was scarce and there was no hope of making our tiny kitchen larger. I loved my little kitchen when there were only the three of us, but that winter, trying to crowd four and sometimes six more people around our table and then squeeze between it and the stove was just impossible. I use admit we were a jolly crew and had many hearty laughs and jokes about it all.
That winter was a long one. Marshall was born in March and about that time Percy brought his cows home from Olds. He bought some of their hay they had for sale and when he got it home the cattle wouldn’t eat it. It was slough hay that they had cut on top of the ice and it didn’t even make good bedding. When driving them home from he stockyards in Cochrane, one old cow just played out about four miles south of Cochrane so he had to leave her there as it was getting late. Next morning she was standing at the gate at the home corral.
Fortunately Marshall was a healthy, happy baby because I was too busy to fuss much. I remember very foolishly ironing diapers for Sheila and everything had to be just so, but not so with Marshall. We baked eight or ten loaves of bread every other day – set it to rise overnight. I used those hard Royal yeast cakes. I even made my own soap for a while. There was su much fat after butchering and I had a good soap recipe. Poor Sheila must have been a bit neglected then too because once when she was only two years old, she was playing around the yard while I was churning in the basement. She tried to look through the window and both she and the window crashed to the cement floor. It was a long fall. Fortunately she was not cut by glass but did bite her tongue and lip badly.