A to Z Challenge: A Pistol Shot

A family with 9 children survives life on the Kansas prairie in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The experiences they have illustrate the joys, sorrows, hardships and everyday life of the Midwest pioneers. This faith filled series of stories is true. The eldest child was my great grandmother Alzina Pomeroy Boone.

A pistol shot at 12 noon on September 16th was the signal to start. The story, as told by Alzina Pomeroy Boone in her memoir “Me and Mine”

“In the autumn of 1893 the government acquired the western part of what had been Cherokee Indian Territory and opened it for settlement. A quarter section of land in rural sections, or a town lot in the cities that had been laid out by government surveyors was offered to the first person to drive a stake as a claim to that piece of land. A signal shot was given for starting.

Milford and a young man who had worked for my father each purposed to secure a quarter section farm in the “Cherokee strip”. Milford had traded a young three year old black horse for a fleet footed sorrel mare, which he drove hitched to a two-wheeled cart or buckboard.

I consented to this trade (the black horse was mine), but I was not very enthusiastic about the venture. We had lost on so many ventures on the farm, and I would have preferred his teaching school. Milford was not successful. He never liked to talk about it.

He and the other man went about September 1, as they wanted to explore the strip beforehand and get some idea of where they wanted to see land. They had to register at one of the booths which were set up along the borderline. Also, they needed to hold that place in line. The strip was 165 miles from east to west, and 58 miles from north to south. One could begin the race anywhere they could get in on one of the four borders. Many spent three days and nights or more holding their places. Some men spent three weeks on the line. Probably they were with covered wagon outfits and close to water. They must have gotten pretty tired of it.

In this race, said to be the “biggest horse race that ever had been”, the purse was the Cherokee Strip, larger than the state of Massachusetts. There were thousands of horses, and thousands of drivers and riders. Most of the horses were under saddle. The others were hitched to every kind of a rig – light buck boards like Milford’s, spring wagons, and sulkies, and covered wagons too. There were one thousand people in the run and they came in from all four directions.

At the pistol shot, Milford started from a point not far from the Sedan on the north border. The horseback riders took the lead, passed Milford and other drivers. When he had gone about 15 miles with the crowd, he turned to the east where he saw the top of a string of trees. That meant a stream, an asset of great value to a claim. After crossing two dry creek beds and mounting the rises, he saw the welcome sight of the trees he had seen when he first turned east.

He rode onto a draw while he followed the creek which was ten or twelve feet across, and was just about to drive his stake when a rider appeared over the bluff. The man was leading his horse from which he had removed his saddle and informed Milford that he had already staked his claim to that land. Milford rode with the man to higher ground and saw the flag and pup tent where the man had driven his stake, so he knew he had been beaten to the claim.

On some quarter sections there were as many as 300 claimants, and contests after contests for those who could afford law suits, and some who had won fair and square never got a thing. Milford had no money for a law suit and was too honest to deny this man’s right to the claim. He spent several hours driving around but did not secure a claim. He had left the farm in care of his brother Samuel before crops were harvested and didn’t return until December.

After a few days at home, he went to his boyhood home in Missouri on a business deal which was also a disappointment. I looked after the harvesting as best I could for Sam didn’t stay long, but had to depend much on my father. The oats got too ripe so that they fell to the ground and we didn’t get enough to pay for threshing. I got so hard up that I had to beg the two cent stamp for writing Milford, urging him to come home. He came on horseback within 24 hours after he got my letter, two days before Christmas. He never again left me in such need and was sensitive about any dependence on my folks.”

A to Z Challenge : Over the Edge

A family with 9 children survives life on the Kansas prairie in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The experiences they have illustrate the joys, sorrows, hardships and everyday life of the Midwest pioneers. This faith filled series of stories is true. The eldest child was my great grandmother Alzina Pomeroy Boone.

The title “Over the Edge” refers to the event at the end of this post. Had the story turned out differently, I would not be here to retell it.

“Our second boy was born on May 4, 1893 at the Holland farm. We named him John, with the middle name of Milford. He had a sense of humor, the youngest I ever heard of. When only two weeks old, he smiled broadly at Sadie as she patted his cheeks. We could not decide on a name for him for nearly two weeks. Sadie declared she would call him “Jack” if we didn’t name him soon. As we began to urge Milford to suggest a name, he said casually, “Call him John”. I thought he was just joking, but when he showed real earnestness, I didn’t wait long to ask that his middle name be Milford.

All four of my children were well behaved in company because of the reticence they inherited from their father. They had very little sickness, except occasional colds, and the usual complaint when teething and in their second summer. I seldom used any drugs for medicines for any of them. Foods such as oatmeal, tomatoes, fruit and vegetables could be used, I found, to cure about all their maladies. The most serious illness was when Esther had pneumonia every winter her first three years. Onion poultices on her chest cured her within a week. The first two winters, Ethel and John often had croup, which was soon relieved by packing ears of corn around them which had been taken out of hot water. Usually, if I began in time, I could stop the croup by hugging them close and wrapping them warmly. I awoke easily when an ailment disturbed some one of the children, and our God was always quick to answer our cry for deliverance.

North of the path leading from barn to pond and east of the house was the vegetable garden. Here, of evenings, all through the summer, one could see Milford working with the three older children close at his side. They loved to drop the seeds for him, or pluck up weeds, or anything to be near him. And, he was fond of them and proud when they preferred him to “mamma”. But, the new little girl (Esther) was somewhat coquettish in her manner. She was eight months old before she would go from “Mamma” to “Papa”. How proud he was though when the day came that she cried to go to him while her Mamma was holding her. I was pleased, too, for I loved my husband and wanted our children to love him most, and was happy to see them all so happy.”

In 1895 Milford bought a 40 acre farm across the road north west of my parent’s farm. Here he built us neat one and a half story cottage, 12 x16 with an attic. At my parent’s home, there was an old well or cistern. It was old, but oh what refreshing water the buckets brought up from the depths of the earth. A feed mill was near the well, where grain was a ground, enough for a half day at a time.

“In the winter of 1896 a near tragedy occurred. Wilbur Pomeroy, one of my younger brothers, aged about 11, was drawing water with a pail and rope to fill a tub for watering the horses. Another of my brothers, Charlie, who was about 6, and my little John were near by playing. John, who was only about 3 and a half, came over to the well and wanted to see how full the pail was. He slipped and fell into the cistern head first!

There was no curb, the rocks around the edge of the cistern were level with the ground and covered with a coating of ice. Water spilt on them made them very slick. The wall of the cistern was of shell rock about the size of a dinner plate and one or two inches thick, and was six feet down.

Wilbur jumped into the cistern after Johnny, and by straddling across, found footholds at the waters edge. He grabbed Johnny when he came to the top of the water. Charlie, anxious to help, slipped in and fell on top of Wilbur and Johnny. It looked hopeless and that all would perish, but Wilbur somehow held Johnny with his right hand against the side of the cistern and pushed him to safety, with Charlie’s help. Only God could help Wilbur climb those ice covered slick walls of the cistern and get all of them out safely. Although water soaked, the wind coming strong from the north, and freezing temperatures, they made it into the house.”

These stories were put together from “Me and Mine” by Alzina Pomeroy Boone and Pomeroy family letters.

A to Z Challenge: Now We Are Parents

A family with 9 children survived life on the Kansas prairie in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The experiences they had illustrate the joys, sorrows, hardships and everyday life of the Midwest pioneers. This faith filled series of stories is true. The eldest child was my great grandmother Alzina Pomeroy Boone.

1891

From Alzina’s own writing: “On October 15, 1891, a Thursday morning, our first born, a son was born to us. We named him Stanley Emerson. Milford wished to name him Stanley for the first name, and I wanted his middle name to be Emerson, after my father. “

“I had always liked babies that were old enough to play, but felt awkward with tiny babies. But, this one was different, and so were each of my babies, charming from the very first day. After he had been bathed and fed, and admired by all present, he looked up at me with wide-open eyes as we lay in bed, seeming to study my face and read my mind. Mother said, “We’ve been telling what we think of him. Now he is finding out what he thinks of you.” I felt the responsibility of being mother to an intelligent, immortal soul, and prayed as I had prayed for several months that I might train him in the way of eternal life.”

“He was a healthy baby. We were very happy parents. I had only a few of the ailments common to young mothers, though they seemed very serious to me then, as I had never suffered real pain in my twenty years of healthy girlhood. Stanley was usually smiling or crowing when awake and comfortable. When he awoke in the morning, we each raced to be first to take him up. On cold winter days we kept him in the warm kitchen where I cooked and worked. We fixed him a bed with pillows in our large arm chair rocker.

He was usually awake when Milford came home from school and at the sound of his father’s voice, or even his step, the little fellow would twist and turn his head till he caught sight of him, and then how his feet and arms would fly to express his delight. If Milford stepped out of sight, Stanley would again twist and turn and watch till Milford appeared again, and then he would kick and crow in delight.”

“Often I laid him on the table while I washed dishes, or ironed, or I laid him on the bed while I made beds, and he showed the same ecstasy whenever I spread a cloth or sheet over him and then removed it . Our days passed happily and swiftly by.”

“At Christmas time, 1891, we spent a few days at my parent’s home. The first night there, Stanley was very restless and cried quite awhile in the night. I made sure that there was no physical ailment to distress him – just nervousness at being in a strange place. He would not be consoled by his father’s caresses as he usually would.

Finally, Milford turned him over and spanked him. Oh, it seemed to me he spanked so hard! But, I did not interfere. I had determined to never do that, for I had seen so many children spoiled and homes made unhappy by such interference by one or both parents.”

“I knew Milford loved the child, and I could trust him to punish wisely. Of course, he cried more loudly and in a frightened way for a minute or two, but when Milford spoke again, sternly and with a little, but firm, shake, he hushed his cries and nestled in his father’s arms quietly and before long he was asleep. It was the best treatment for the baby, but oh he was such a little fellow and too young to punish, I had felt. It took real self-control and determination for me to refrain from crying out in protest. I am sure this experience made us parents to have more confidence in each other, and the cooperation that makes parenthood happy and successful.”

Stanley grew in stature and in favor with God and man. He learned to creep as fast as I could walk, by the time that the paths out of doors were dry and warm enough to him to creep on. Before long he learned to walk. Every new accomplishment of his was a delight to us.

We both found much pleasure in talking to him and trying to imagine his jabbering was meant to express thought, and was talking. But he began to talk in sentences. I noticed that he made the same series of sound in a pleading, teasing tone as I set the table for the noon meal to be ready for Milford. When he drove home with the team, Stanley began that same cry, “t-i-i-i-e-e-e.” I told Milford, “He has been crying like that for the last half hour or more. What does he mean?” Milford caught him up and placed him in his chair at the table, saying, “It’s time to eat”, Milford’s usual call to him for dinner. Then we began to notice that he spoke whole sentences that way.

The family grew to four. John Milford (my grandfather) was born in May of 1883. Ethel Philena was born in 1894 and Esther came along in 1896.

Stanley and John, standing Ethel and Esther, seated

April A to Z Challenge: Marriage

A family with 9 children survives life on the Kansas prairie in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The experiences they have illustrate the joys, sorrows, hardships and everyday life of the Midwest pioneers. This faith filled series of stories is true. The eldest child was my great grandmother Alzina Pomeroy Boone.

1889

Marriage had been on her mind a lot since Willard and his proposal. Dating was no longer just a social exercise. It had the possibility of lifelong consequences and Alzie wondered if she would find someone that matched her growing list of husbandly character traits. Teaching school was also quite time consuming, and she was still helping at home whenever she could.

Oh how she missed her brothers and sisters! There were six of them now and Wilbur, the youngest, was only four. So much fun and cute too! Getting to see them every other weekend was just not enough.

Alzie sat in the buggy next to Timmy. He was nearing man size and loved to drive her places now that he was fourteen. They had been up to Garnet where she attended the teacher association meeting. It had given her a lot to think about, and not all of it concerned education.

“Tim, these meetings are very interesting. I met quite a few teachers this time whom I had not met before. Do you know the Prairie Vale school?” Alzie felt like talking. Even though tired from the day long of session, she was still feeling the excitement and mental stimulation of it. All the ideas she had heard and all the conversations she had been part of had her mind in a whirl.

“I’ve heard of it. Somewhere up in Shawnee County, I think.” Tim had not had such an exciting day, but he was also interested in what his sister had to tell.

“The teacher there is a man, a Mr. Boone, and they say he is very effective and successful with his students. I enjoyed talking with him quite a bit.” Was her blush just a bit brighter suddenly? Timmy thought so.

“I hear you sister, and does he have as nice of a buggy as Willard did?” Timmy smiled, looking at Alzie out of the corner of his eye, pretending innocence even as he planned this tease in detail.

Alzie punched him on the arm, and laughed. “I believe he enjoyed talking with me as well, if you must know. He may even visit next week when he is in the area for some business.”

“You might as well tell me more about him then. What does he look like and how does he talk, that you are so impressed?”

Alzie fixed her eyes on the road ahead as she mentally conjured up the picture of the man with whom she had talked most of the afternoon. “He is very tall, which I am sure gives him authority in the classroom. He is… handsome, with black, curly hair. And he loves to be out in the woods whenever he can. Hunting would be his first choice of a livelihood, if teaching did not pay more. He speaks well and is quite jolly at times. I do think you would like him. But, as I said, I have just met him and there is much I do not know, yet.”

That was about to change, as by Christmas of that year Mr. Milford S. Boone had become a frequent (and welcome) visitor at the Pomeroy home.

After supper one evening, Mr. Boone came to call and was in the sitting room exchanging greetings with Alzie while the rest of the family were finishing chores in the kitchen. The children were playing, and Wilbur was intent on his favorite pastime of riding his stick horse furiously through the kitchen, into the sitting room and any other room that was open. “When he got to the sitting room, he stopped and turned back into the kitchen, and in a disgusted tone of voice said, “Pshaw, Boone’s come”. Those in the kitchen were embarrassed as they felt afraid those in the sitting room had heard what Wilbur said, but no – they were too interested in greeting each other to hear Wilbur. Milford knew the rest of the family welcomed him. Even seven year old Emma liked to climb up on the sofa beside him and hear him talk or sing.”

Even though Alzie went again to Teacher’s Institute in July 1890 and obtained her first grade certificate, she did not apply for a position to teach. Milford had proposed and wanted to marry before the school year began. He had a teaching position for $45 a month for eight months. That was a princely salary! On August 21, 1890 Alzina became Mrs. Alzina Pomeroy Boone, wife of Milford Sylvester Boone.

Milford and Alzina

April A to Z Challenge: Learning

Welcome to the April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year my contribution is the story of my great grandmother Alzina. She lived in the style of “Little House on the Prairie”and kept a record of her life through letters to family and her own journals. I find her story fascinating and intriguing. Each post will start (sometimes strangely) with a consecutive letter of the alphabet, just because they have to. My hope is that we can “catch” some of her courage to help us face challenges in our present times.

Alzina and her siblings took every opportunity to learn, both at church and at community events. They went to events to hear speakers who traveled from town to town and gained reputation while inspiring their young listeners to “make something of themselves”. The young men often responded but as Alzie complained in a letter to her aunt and uncle, the young women were not often interested in education. Alzie laid the blame on the parents, but had this to say of her own father and mother who encouraged her to go past the higher grades to study to be a teacher.

“I don’t know why I have so many advantages given me. A good home, wise father and mother, kind uncles and aunts and so many others . I only hope that I may be able to give a good account of improvement to them. “

To give her “good account” she began early to give singing and music lessons to any who would learn. She taught in Sunday school as well. As small schools sprang up anywhere there were enough children to warrant them, Alzie set herself to acquiring the credentials needed to teach. In those days, teachers had to have continuing education and certification in order to secure work. It was usually one teacher per school. There was no tenure or promise of continued employment and openings for work at the schools changed from term to term. Often preferential treatment was given to relatives or friends of the school board members.

Alzie wrote to her Aunt and Uncle:

June 1888

“I told you I would write to you, but I haven’t kept my word very well. I have been very busy, though, and although that is the universal excuse, I really have had my hands full. Tomorrow is the last day of the three months school. I began at the first in all of my books, and tomorrow I take the last lesson in all but Arithmetic. I had to take 7 pages per day in some and Physiology and Civil Government were new studies to me.

I went to the county examination in April and got a 3rd grade certificate. (Certificates were “graded” according to proficiency, not the grade to be taught.) Phebe and I will both go to Normal. I am going to be just “cheeky” enough to apply for a 1st grade certificate (the highest level), even though I have never taught a term of school. I think that I can do it, if I put a good deal of time on Philosophy and Algebra. But they don’t require those who applied for 1st grade certificate last spring to be examined in Algebra, or any of the higher studies.

Phebe will go to Baldwin this fall and I want her to go until she graduates. I want to go to Emporia as soon as I can. I have applied for a school and have been promised a preference to others, but being a new school district, they don’t know much and can’t tell much about it until after the school meeting.”

Early March, 1889

“Miss Pomeroy, I can’t find my mittens. Can you help me?” Little Mary tugged on Alzie’s skirt and pleaded with her to come out to the cloak room where the children were milling about after being dismissed. It had been the last day of the term and many of the parents had come at the end to hear the children spell.

As soon as Alzina left the room, the men who had been lingering about the door carried some large boards into the room and set up a makeshift table over the desks in the front. The women fetched their baskets from the wagons outside and began to spread “the good things of this life” out for a small feast.

The surprise was ready when Alzie came back into the room and was escorted to a seat of honor by one of the fathers. It was an hour complete with speeches and compliments from the parents who were well pleased with Alzie’s work. It was a great encouragement for a young teacher starting a long career.

Miss Pomeroy and some of her first students. Pictures were rare – this one has survived a hard existence.

April A to Z Challenge: Keeping Company

Welcome to the April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year my contribution is the story of my great grandmother Alzina. She lived in the style of “Little House on the Prairie”and kept a record of her life through letters to family and her own journals. I find her story fascinating and intriguing. Each post will start (sometimes strangely) with a consecutive letter of the alphabet, just because they have to. My hope is that we can “catch” some of her courage to help us face challenges in our present times.

Probably 1888

In Alzina’s words “mother wouldn’t allow any teasing about beaus, either. She said that she believed her two older sisters might have married happily if they hadn’t been discouraged by teasing.” Her sisters went to work in Vermont factories, and contracted tuberculosis and died.

So Alzina’s experience was markedly different. As a young girl, she had been given a gift of some cows from her grandmother (a gift we all dream of getting, right?) She asked permission to sell the cows and buy an organ on which she and her sister could take music lessons. Permission was granted, and having learned to play, their home became a gathering spot for the young people of their church and community, nearly every Sunday afternoon, for years. In this way, “dating” commenced for the Pomeroy girls.

“Our birthday is coming up soon Alzina. Would you let me plan an outing? I have something that I want to show you.”

Willard was planning what that evening would look like as he drove his new buggy to Alzie’s boarding house and helped her down. He had become so fond of her during their time of “keeping company”. They were becoming quite an item, he thought.

“Yes, that is our mutual celebration day. We might as well share some time with each other, although you are the “old man” by three years.” Alzie teased him. Ever since they had discovered their February 6th birthdays, it had seemed to be a bond of a sort. She thought well of Willard, and he did have a fine buggy. It had also been nice to have an escort to school and social affairs in the community.

As it turned out, Willard showed Alzie a ring on their birthday and asked her to marry him. It was a bit unexpected. Alzie promised to consider it, and she did over the next few months. And then she said “no”. That was not good news to Willard, to say the least. Their courtship was over.

One day some time later after the school term had ended, Alzie returned home. She found her mother in tears over something in the morning mail.

“Mother, what’s wrong? You hardly ever come to tears over letters! Did Father’s carload of hay come to disaster? Was it that bad?”

“Oh no, no loss of hay returns would concern me so much as the letter you got today. Look who it is from.” Mother, with a sad face, handed her the envelope with familiar signature on the back.

Alzie looked curiously at the envelope and went over to hug her mother. She didn’t even need to read the letter to know why Mother was troubled.

“Mother, please don’t be grieved over this. You know I refused Willard because I didn’t care for him enough to marry him, and that sentiment has not changed at all. I would never want you to worry about that. I know it was difficult for us all and having decided, I am quite content and glad. Willard was not the Christian man I had in mind, but I do have hope that he will someday be just that – for someone else who loves him better than I.”

And that is exactly what did happen. Some time later when Alzie was engaged to someone else, Willard came to call on her and asked her if she was truly happy. She was, and after hearing that, Willard was glad. About a month later he did marry a girl who loved him, and Alzie was glad for both of them. Once again, her prayers for others had been heard and answered.

April A to Z Challenge: Just How It Is

Welcome to the April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year my contribution is the story of my great grandmother Alzina. She lived in the style of “Little House on the Prairie”and kept a record of her life through letters to family and her own journals. I find her story fascinating and intriguing. Each post will start (sometimes strangely) with a consecutive letter of the alphabet, just because they have to. My hope is that we can “catch” some of her courage to help us face challenges in our present times.

Just a short letter, just how it is – but what a picture of life in a hurry, from early Kansas history. And do not miss the remedy for dingy complexions at the end!

To Alzina from her mother Philena Pomeroy. Alzina is attending Baker University in Baldwin, Kansas and staying with her Uncle Pliny and Aunt Allie. It is a Tuesday morning…

“Dear Daughter,

I will send a word, for you are looking for a letter, I expect, but I am in such a hurry. I am letting everything go that I can, and trying to enjoy Uncle Wilbur’s visit. Went down to Uncle Ephraim’s Saturday after school. Yesterday, down to Mr. Child’s and spent the evening. Next Thursday Uncle Ephraim’s folks and Brother Stillwell’s are going to be here. This afternoon we have to butcher pork and beef and I have a pair of pants to make before Friday for Pa to wear. Not much leisure, have I?

I felt very sorry for Aunt Alice in her letter, having to be awake so much nights and work so hard days. I know just how it is, it seems as though I never could go through it again, up and down all night, but must be on hand early in the morning. Even what I have to do now (even though I don’t have to be up and down much) I think to be all I can do.

You must try to get up and start things for her . But, oh, how we did laugh at the idea of you laying abed till seven o’clock! I should have thought your nose would have been stopped up and turned up, too, and wonder your eyes didn’t run, too! How are people going to know that your father has had the name of being the earliest riser in Anderson county, if you do that way? No, Miss Sleepyhead, at the time you were tearing away at those braids, your younger sister, who has been washing since daylight, was serenely finishing her white clothes and calmly preparing for school. So you see, Indian Creek is ahead of Baldwin, yet. We have scarcely missed a day since school began of getting up at four. You see, whenever Phebe was a little slow or backward, I would make fun of her and say “Alzie is at Baldwin” and spur her on to do better, but now she only laughs and says, “yes, and lays abed till 7”. So, you see, I haven’t anything to say.

Now I would suggest as a remedy, that you regain your reputation, that you beg permission to sleep downstairs when Uncle Pliny is gone, that you set the alarm, if you have one, or get Aunt Allie to awake you at some certain hour, and that you get up and make a fire, and then dress and get thoroughly warm, then put on the potatoes and the tea kettle, (you needn’t put it onto the lounge just because your father did), then go and milk, thus giving Aunt Allie a little longer rest.

But there, I didn’t set down expecting to write a sensible letter. Pa prohibits you from writing nonsense, but he has laid no such restrictions on me . But burn this up before he comes, for he may demur at having to pay postage on such trash. I am glad you are having so good times. Laugh every time you have a good chance, be bright and jolly. Study hard, work faithfully.

I was glad you cleaned the stable for Aunt. I was afraid you didn’t think to offer to do it and Aunt maybe, hated to ask you to. Can’t you find time every day (after the dishes are washed) to do it? It don’t seem as though Aunt A. ought to have to. You try and get lessons and work in such shape that Aunt A. will have time to visit as well as you.

It may be a long time before we see Uncle again. Uncle and Pa planned to go on Friday and return Monday, both of them. I suppose you got those stockings. You wrote in such a hurry that you didn’t mention them. Can you wear them with your shoes without hurting your feet?

In haste, Mother.

P.S. Mrs. Childs gave me a recipe for dingy complexions. It is after washing your face. Take a little meal and rub your face, then wipe it off with a crash towel. If Mrs. Childs and Green can profit by it, you and I may. Of course, it won’t cure at once. “

April A to Z Challenge: In the Mirror

Welcome to the April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year my contribution is the story of my great grandmother Alzina. She lived in the style of “Little House on the Prairie”and kept a record of her life through letters to family and her own journals. I find her story fascinating and intriguing. Each post will start (sometimes strangely) with a consecutive letter of the alphabet, just because they have to. My hope is that we can “catch” some of her courage to help us face challenges in our present times.

In the mirror, her all too familiar reflection stared back at her. Frowning, Alzie tried to imagine how she might look. Her long dark hair was wound up in a bun to keep it in place and she had just taken off the bonnet that she wore outside.

“Mother, what do you think about bangs?”

She and her mother were very close and she knew she could ask her anything and get a kind, wise and respectful answer.

“What’s wrong dear? Are you getting teased at school for your appearance?”

“Not exactly, and I don’t want to be teased either, which is why I’m asking. You know that some of the girls are having their hair fixed with bangs now. And they talk sometimes about wearing earrings too.” She didn’t bother telling about the dancing that she had watched in the school hallway. That had also been interesting but she was pretty sure she knew what her mother would say about that.

“And what do you think about that, Alzie?”

“I wonder if I would like it because it does seem pretty to me. But I want to know your opinion Mother.”

“I know. And I shall give it to you. I am not in favor of those measures to beautify my girl, who is already made beautiful the way God has fashioned her. You know that I believe you and Phebe and Sadie are growing up to be strong capable young women. I am in favor of you learning to support yourselves in some way but I believe that being a wife and mother may likely be your highest calling. The preparation of your character for these roles is much more important than the outward appearance. Fashion and keeping up with trends can become much too important at an early age and I would rather you choose other interests. There, you have it. But whether you approve or disapprove yourself, when you talk with others, do it kindly without offending. Can you do that?”

And so she did learn to stand for her own ideas. And simple observation helped her see who were the safest companions. She really cared more for the approval of Christian parents and friends, and sided with them without arguing about details. And as it turned out, there was no lack of social life. Father was always willing to take Phebe and Alzie to evenings of charades, social games, literary societies and night schools. Since they didn’t have brothers old enough to accompany them, their mother would also go, and then Father would return about 10 p.m. to fetch them home.

In those days being a wife and a mother was a very high calling, and entailed very hard and necessary work. There were not many opportunities available to women that were more attractive either. And whereas bangs and earrings no longer have a stigma today, they were bold and experimentally “fashionable” at the time. And as we all learn sooner or later, one thing can lead to another when dealing with experiments.

April A to Z Challenge: Home, Sweet Home

Welcome to the April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year my contribution is the story of my great grandmother Alzina. She lived in the style of “Little House on the Prairie”and kept a record of her life through letters to family and her own journals. I find her story fascinating and intriguing. Each post will start (sometimes strangely) with a consecutive letter of the alphabet, just because they have to. My hope is that we can “catch” some of her courage to help us face challenges in our present times.

Home was the hub of the world for the Pomeroy family, and anyplace was home if people could gather round a table and share treasured family customs and a good meal. Alzina grew used to having guests come for dinner, for her parents were always inviting the minister or friends to join the family, often providing lodging as well. They didn’t have much, but what they had was joyfully shared.

Alzie struggled to get dressed, her sore finger throbbing so she could hardly use it. She and Phebe were the “older kids” now, old enough to help with work. Earlier in the week she must have gotten into something out in the hay field where the two of them had been helping Father. The thorn or splinter caused her finger to swell and become infected. Mother called it a felon. And now, since Father had lanced it, the pressure was not as bad but there was very little use for her hand that did not cause pain. She wouldn’t have to go to the field today, but maybe she could help some in the house.

She picked up the water bucket with her good hand and went to the well for the morning’s water. That was another problem. The well water had been quite bad and they had been filling the well with water from the creek. But the creek was also low and oh, how they needed some rain! Grandma Fisk had been saying the bad water was making her stomach ache for days now and they almost went for the doctor last night, she was so bad.

Alzie found she could set the table without too much trouble and needed only the one hand to position each plate, upside down at each family member’s usual place. No food would be put on them until after morning worship and the table blessing. Mother was already turning from the stove, where something delicious was covered in the fry pan, and getting Sadie from the crib. Phebe and Timothy were already over by Father’s rocking chair ready for Bible reading. Alzie finished putting cups at each place and joined the rest.

Father started worship with their favorite Psalm, 107. Sadie loved to hear his clear, strong voice reading the verses about how the Lord satisfies the hungry soul with goodness. It was true, they hardly ever were hungry without there being some food to fix the problem. Father stopped and looked expectantly at Alzie, Phebe and Timothy and they answered his look with their memory verse, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” They were the “children of men” and it was good to know there might be some wonderful works coming their way. Four times during the psalm they were called on to say their part, so it had been easy to memorize.

The Psalm being finished, they came to their places at the table and Father asked the blessing. And so this day began, as all days began, for Father was never so busy that he would forsake leading the family in worship and prayer.

Father also loved to sing, and Alzie loved it when he did, as did most everyone who heard him. He sang in church but it was his singing at home that cheered her up and made her want to sing with him.

As they were finishing breakfast, a gust of wind blew the kitchen door shut with a bang. Everyone jumped, and Father put his nose up in the air, sniffing. “I do believe I smell rain. Could it be?” Everyone left the table and rushed to look outside. It was true. The first drops of rain were pelting down amid the swirling dust devils.

Alzie knew what was coming next. “Sing, Daddy, sing!” The words came like a command from all three excited children. And because he was happy, and was not one to disappoint children, Father did just that. He stood in the doorway and sang at the top of his voice “Rain, oh rain, dear Lord send it down”. Alzie figured they weren’t the only ones listening to Father’s song. God heard too and he must have liked it because it surely did rain.

April A to Z Challenge: Glancing out the Window

Welcome to the April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year my contribution is the story of my great grandmother Alzina. She lived in the style of “Little House on the Prairie”and kept a record of her life through letters to family and her own journals. I find her story fascinating and intriguing. Each post will start (sometimes strangely) with a consecutive letter of the alphabet, just because they have to. My hope is that we can “catch” some of her courage to help us face challenges in our present times.

The Mad Dog Story, Part 4`

By Sarah (Sadie) Pomeroy Postlewait

There were no rabies vaccines in those days so when a rabid animal showed up in the area, the after shocks went on for a long time affecting farm animals and pets – and scaring children.

Around 1889

Glancing out the window of the schoolhouse, one day the next spring, I saw our neighbor’s dog out by the hedge fence. The teacher had already dismissed the two lower grades and let them start walking for home. Just then I remembered hearing my parents talking at the supper table the evening before. They said Merdicks had tied their dog up because it was acting strangely. They thought a lot of that dog.

When I saw Merdick’s dog out there I wondered if he was all right and had been turned loose, or had he broken loose and was he a dangerous dog! The dog went up the road and I was almost frantic for I knew my little brother Wilbur, had not had time to get home. I held up my hand to attract the teacher’s attention but for some reason she paid no attention to my hand. I felt almost desperate for I could think of only the worst. My feelings were a bit calmed as I saw a man in a wagon driving past the school house, going in that same direction. I hoped he would overtake the children if there was really any danger.

As soon as school was out, I hurriedly gathered up my books and dinner pail and started for home. I had told some of the others about the dog. When we got into the road we could see that the man in the wagon was driving very slowly and was crowding over near the fence. Then before he had gone very far, the man drove on, going very fast.

As we neared our home we saw my mother and Mrs. Merdick motioning us to come quickly. We all came running. They told us the dog had been having a fit and broken loose so Mrs. Merdick had followed at a distance to give warning to anyone she might meet. The man in the wagon told them he had seen the dog at the edge of the road in a real fit and had to drive near the fence to get around it. He said the dog jumped up and went through the fence on the other side of the road.

I asked about Wilbur and Mother said he got home ahead of that wagon. They had sent the children into the house. I went in with tears of joy. I clasped Wilbur in my arms and told him how frightened I had been. He said, “I guess Jesus was just taking care of me.”

Of course kind neighbors were ready to assist in taking care of the mad dog since the Merdick men folks were away from home.

And where was Alzina when all this was happening? Wilbur in this story was born in 1884 so by the time he was old enough to be in school, probably age 5 or 6, Alzie would have been 18 or 19 and was most likely at her teaching job in a neighboring school. We’ll be getting back to her in the next post.