The Farmer’s Wife

Seven children spread over 17 years required a lot of daily “keeping up with chores.”  There was no such thing as “catching up.”  Moms didn’t get behind in their daily work except for illness or childbirth.  Each day’s work filled that day more than a day’s worth, so “catching up” was not a viable option.

She washed, ironed, canned, baked, cleaned house, cleaned chickens, gardened, sewed, scrubbed anything that stood still for long and, overall, made Olivia Walton look like a lady on vacation.

She was active in the church choir and ladies aid, along with hostessing, baking, and sewing quilts for World Relief through the 1950’s.

After her death in 1997, my oldest brother wrote a narrative based on his memories of our mother and her friends in the early years.

Mother was born 130 years to the day after Paul Revere made his famous ride.  On Mother’s birthday, Dad would recite the poem to her: “T’was the eighteenth of April in seventy-five, and hardly a man is now alive, who remembers that famous day and year…”  In retrospect, I believe that Mother and her friends faced and overcame challenges every day of their adult lives that exceeded anything Paul Revere faced on April 18, 1775.  Their hymn, regularly sung at Ebenezer Lutheran Church was “Work, For the Night Is Coming.”

Prior to the mid-1940’s, these women gave birth to their children in their farm homes.  In addition to bearing and rearing their children, they were the core and mainstay of their families.  Each year they canned hundreds of quarts of fruit, vegetables, beef and chicken.  This was done in pressure cookers, often during the hottest days of summer, on coal-fired ranges in kitchens where the temperatures were regularly well in excess of 100 degrees F.  Dozens of loaves of bread, cakes, cookies and pies were baked in these same coal ranges every month of the year.  There was no electricity; thus, no air conditioning, freezers or refrigerators.  Feeding the threshing crews was the ultimate of these women’s ability to prepare and put food on the table.

This “eldest in the family” joined the Navy when I was about one year old.  Dad’s quoting of The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere apparently went on for decades, because I remember hearing him recite it still, on her birthday, when I was in my early teens.

Nostalgic word pictures don’t usually focus on tears, frustration,  discouragement and endless weariness which were surely part of  normal life for all of these women.  They had an amazing load to carry, and carry it they did.  When it all simply got to be too much, Mom would go for very long walks down in the pasture and, I now realize,  sometimes just cry until she felt ready to come back home.

I remember one particular day when our Dad left the work he was doing in the middle of the day and walked southeast of the barn over the hills, going to find her where she was, and walk her back home.  That was the only time I was aware of him doing that.   It was unusual, and meant that I helped with after-supper chores quietly and quickly.

The ladies of the day kept attractive and cheery homes.  They were not discouraged into giving up, even if they did need to go down in the hills to cry from time to time.

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