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.

April A to Z Challenge: Father’s Fear

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 3

By Sarah (Sadie) Pomeroy Postlewait, sister of Alzina

(A plague of rabies, brought about by a mad dog, continues to affect the pioneer families months after the dog’s death.)

Father noticed, one day the following summer, that old Steve the bull was doing an unusual amount of bellowing, so he made him a little more secure by adding a chain to the rope which already was fastened to a ring in his nose. As the evening shades settled down, Father’s fears seemed more assured. It was prayer meeting night. He made sure he had Steve secure by adding two more chains to his horns and fastening them to a large beam in the barn. Then Father and Mother went to church. They told Phebe, my older sister, their fears, but did not let grandmother or me know about it, for we were so nervous.

Phebe got us all to bed, then she sat by the window upstairs to watch. She could hear Steve becoming more and more fierce, pawing the ground, bellowing and striking the chains with his horns until she could see sparks fly. Finally, to her horror, she saw that he was loose. She thought about her parents.

At last they arrived, driving in carefully. The heard the clanking of the chains on the east side of the barn. Father mistrusted that Steve was loose and they were in danger. Leaving his team stand, he took Mother to the house and ran back to his team. Quickly he unharnessed the horses, and hurried them off to the pasture a quarter mile west. Then he ran to the neighbors house to ask for a gun and someone to help him. They gave him a lantern and two men came with him, but when they got sight of old Steve dashing toward them, with only one weak fence between them, they ran across the road and jumped into the field, leaving Father with gun and lantern.

One thing was in his favor. When Steve would make a dash, he would seem to feel something biting his hind leg, and would turn and begin kicking furiously. Fear seemed to give force to FAther’s movements, and in a short time he fired the shot that did the work. His neighbors came back to commend him for his bravery. (And yet there is more, concluded in Part 4, next post.)

April A to Z Challenge: Eager Children with Weapons

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.

Eager children armed with weapons confront a mad dog… What could possibly go wrong?

The Mad Dog Story, Part 2

By Sarah (Sadie) Pomeroy Postlewait

(Previously, the boys playing ball notice an animal under the schoolhouse and think it is a rabbit. They investigate.)

All the boys came running, one bringing a board with which to hit it. They put the board in the hole and lo, a dog came near and began biting at it! Immediately the boy dropped the board and yelled, “Mad dog!” And we all tumbled into the schoolhouse in a hurry.

The teacher used great wisdom and locked the door. The older ones raised a window and saw the dog lying in a fit by the side of the house. The teacher sent two big boys, who were young men, across a field to get a gun. After a while the dog got up and went around the house to the coal shed and there he had another fit. We smaller scholars were glad the dog had moved where we could watch it too. It was all so exciting that we could hardly realize the danger we had been in. When the big boys came back, the dog was curled up and they lost no time shooting him twice. The boys came in and the teacher locked the door again.

After a while someone looked out and announced the dog was not dead. The teacher let the big boys out again. This time they ventured a little nearer by walking along the hitch rack. Just as they aimed the gun, the dog sprang into the air but their shot brought him to the ground. This time they rand and got the ball bat and knocked him in the head until they were sure he would never come to life again.

There was no more school that day for us. Each of us went home to tell our parents the thrilling story. However, awful things had only begun to happen. My father killed poor Carlo, and every dog in the neighborhood was tied up or killed within the next few days.

A number of cows and hogs, and perhaps some horses showed the presence of hydrophobia in the days that followed. Occasionally a new mad dog was heard of, but a suspicious looking dog could not exist very long in that part of the country after that.

Some time after this Cherry, one of our best milk cows, went mad. They went out to milk one morning and found her running here and there bellowing constantly. Father and the hired man and older children managed to run her into a small yard where they could get a strong rope over her head and tie her closely. When Father and Alzie came near she would bellow so pitifully, but when strangers came she would paw the ground and lunge at the fence. Before night they had to shoot her. Of course Mother emptied out all the milk we had on hand, for we had been milking Cherry right along. Some months later another valuable cow went mad. (Continued in Part 3, next post)

April A to Z Challenge: Dogs and Animals

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.

Dogs. Dogs and animals were a great asset in pioneer days. Most families had a dog around the farm for protection, and as a companion, but these animals were part of the work force, not necessarily pets. They were not fed manufactured food and taken to the groomer. They were not even allowed in the house.

The next few stories are about some of those animals that belonged to the Pomeroy family when my great grandmother Alzina was a child. Her sisters Sadie and Emma were writers and told the stories well so I will not rewrite what doesn’t need to be rewritten.

The Mad Dog Story

By Sarah (Sadie) Pomeroy Postlewait

When I (Sadie) was a child, our neighborhood was visited by a mad dog. By neighborhood I mean exactly that, for it seemed in one night’s time, every farmyard was visited by this creature. Cattle, horses, and hogs as well as dogs were bitten by him, while chickens and geese were greatly disturbed, and a number of them killed by this rabid beast.

I shall never forget that dark, cold night in the dead of winter when we were awakened by some dog fighting our dog Carlo. They were going round and round the house with poor Carlo yelping at a great rate. Carlo had two little pups in a box in the coal shed, which was a lean-to built against the north side of the house. Father went to the door and called, “Carlo, Carlo!” As the dogs came near Father opened the shed door and went back to bed. But soon he heard Carlo barking and whining again so pitifully. He again went to the door. As the light from the lamp shone out, he saw this strange dog run away. It was not Carlo at all.

Again Father began to call Carlo, and going out to the shed, he found both puppies nearly chewed up. One was dead and the other barely alive. He brought the box into the kitchen. The strange dog came near the door but seemed to be dazed by the light. Father kicked the dog aside and it ran away. Soon Carlo came in answer to his call and he turned her into the kitchen also and shut the door, never dreaming that the visiting dog was a mad dog.

The following morning is indelibly stamped on my memory. As we reached the road on our way to school, we saw the Gardner children and they waited for us. Then we saw the Ellsworth children coming behind, and we waited for them. All were very talkative concerning a strange dog that had made great disturbance around the houses and yards the night before.

At recess the older boys ran out to play town ball, while we children played around in the school yard. Almost everybody had been telling dog stories, and some children declared their papa believed it was a mad dog. This added new thrill to our stories but I was sure it was not so, for my papa did not say so!

The ball game was going fine and the first runner was standing on third base, just ready to make his home run, when he heard a noise under the house, for third base was at the southeast corner of the schoolhouse. One stone was out of the foundation, so he stooped down and looked under. It was too dark to distinguish what was under there, so he called out, “Oh boys, there’s a rabbit under here!” All the boys came running, one bringing a board with which to hit it. They put the board in the hole and… (Continued in the next post!)

Weighing In

It’s Sunday, which means it’s a day off from the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. Instead I want to update anyone who has wondered whether or not I accomplished anything with my December walking/fitness goals.

10,000 STEPS

For a while there, the 10,000 steps a day thing was at the top of my list. It was hard to make it happen. I got tired of it and was glad when the month was over. But, guess what? It became more of a habit than I anticipated.

It was a challenge, and not meant to last forever, but I loved the activity and have kept it up, with a few alterations.

First, I lowered my daily expectation to around 8,000 steps, which I have heard is just as beneficial as the higher number. Who decides? I think I heard it was a somewhat arbitrary number that sounded good to someone in charge of a program.

Second, I don’t reach that number seven days a week. Realistically, there are days when it’s just not going to get done because something else is more important. But if I go two days without walking, I know it’s time to hit the road again. Now that the snow is gone it is so much easier, and so interesting to be outside in the spring!

Ooops, did I say the snow was gone? Well, it was, and then it wasn’t.

FITBIT

In December I frequently found myself looking at fitness trackers and smart watches. Carrying my phone for GPS and counting steps was always an uncertain thing. I was always wanting to walk at the low end of the phone battery life. But I thought I could hold off getting one – maybe someone would get me one for Christmas?

So that’s what I finally did, bought myself a Fitbit Versa 3. I spent about a month wearing it 24/7 and got addicted to all that good information it was giving me. Then I noticed a reddened area on my wrist under the band that looked very unusual to me. Being a nurse, I immediately googled the problem and found scores of reports of allergic skin reaction and possible EMF sensitivity. I was very disappointed and stopped wearing it all the time.

Made myself a little cuff, for when I’m not wearing long sleeves. Zeb can’t figure out the new gadget.

I still use the Fitbit for shorter periods of time, and I always wear fabric between it and my skin. So far, so good – no new skin inflammation. It can still read my pulse and count steps, and give me notifications from my phone. I’m not using it to track my sleep though. I’m being cautious and giving my arm some free time at night. Basically, the Fitbit is now an expensive pedometer.

NOOM

There’s more. I saw a trial offer for Noom on Facebook and decided to go for it. I like learning about different approaches to weight loss and wanted to know just what was so unique about this one. They promised I could lose what I wanted to lose by mid April, and they were right! I did it. I am back down to a weight I can easily live with, and I think I can keep myself there. Here’s why.

I’ve been made so much more aware of why I eat (overeat) and this understanding has made a lot of difference. The psychology around weight loss has taken some pretty big leaps. I was surprised by a lot of it, but it made sense. The daily lessons were short (I chose how long I wanted to spend on them). They involved some snarky humor, which helped it be interesting. And who doesn’t want a couple coaches and a group of fellow Noomers available for encouragement and accountability, right there in your phone, whenever you need them?! Again, a little addicting.

Gonna miss the #NoomNerds

Apparently I wasn’t keeping track of when my trial period ended, and was a little surprised when my next monthly charge came through. I decided not to renew, even though the program was good and effective. Daily weighing and logging of meals raised my awareness of what I was doing to myself which was helpful, but also time consuming. It was like a long range project. I don’t need another project in April. They refunded the charge and cancelled my account with no hassle. I still have use of the free app, and I learned a lot of good stuff.

BOTTOM LINE

I feel pretty good about my general health and have added some new tricks to my “already pretty good lifestyle”. Everything isn’t perfect, and I’m still feeling wear and tear on my aging body, but I’m not dead yet and I’ve lived through 2020 without getting COVID 19! How great is that? Feeling blessed, just sayin’…

April A to Z Challenge: Can I Ever Forget?

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.

1879

Can I ever forget? This day has made such an impression upon me, and upon the whole family I felt I must record it. I think we will all remember it.

It was the day of the Fair, not for our county but the neighboring one. It’s such an undertaking to travel to something like this, especially with the four children but Emerson and I (my name is Philena) know that we have to take a short holiday and put something positive into our lives. It has been a hard year farming our small homestead and we are definitely stretched, both in our finances and our faith. But that’s what faith is for, and it grows through the stretching. I am less sure about the finances, but we will do our best through working hard and trying to remain positive. That’s why we decided to go to the Fair.

We went in the wagon, of course, our usual means of transportation when we have the whole family. Alzie, our eldest daughter, surprised me by being up and ready to help quite early. She’s only eight, but she tries so hard to help. She probably had the most curiosity about the day ahead, since she remembered a previous fair. The younger ones didn’t know what to expect, but they were cheerful, cooperative and willing to be bossed around by “big sister”.

The Woodson County Fair in Neosho Falls is the closest fair, the one we look forward to every year. Emerson had a few things from the garden that he was taking to show, and I had a knitted shawl that had turned out nice enough to exhibit, but there was another reason we didn’t want to miss going today. We had heard of something special to happen. The president of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, had been talked into visiting us here in Kansas! Who would have thought that would ever happen?

We walked through the agriculture exhibits and all the home goods exhibits. We let Alzie and Phebe have their first photograph taken and what a treat that was! It was so good to be Kansans, and around others who loved the land as much as we did. I have to say it has always picked up our spirits to have the fellowship, taste all the good food, join in the fun of contests and see what others have managed to accomplish. I’m not so keen on the horse races and the betting, but the animals are so fine and majestic looking that I love to see them run. Emerson might have gone in for the corn husking competition but frankly, I needed him to help me keep watch of the children. There was such a crowd it would have been easy to lose the little ones.

We were glad to finally go to the amphitheatre, where we were able to sit and rest before the parade. Even I was not sure what to expect from a presidential visit but the fair board made a good show of it. Of course, all the schools took the holiday so families could attend, and I don’t know how they managed it, but even the rail companies gave special pricing so people and exhibits came from far away. I could hear the noise and clamor increasing as the parade came past the amphitheatre and then, there he was, President Hayes. He was standing in a fine carriage, drawn by four white horses. He was waving his hat above his head and smiling at the crowd, amid much clapping and shouts.

But I will admit that what struck me most was looking down at the faces of the children, even the little ones who hardly knew what they were seeing. Alzie has had some schooling and she especially had a look of awe and wonder that made me guess at the feelings she was forming for her country and its leaders. It made me think a short prayer for those who stand for us in government. I don’t really know much about President Hayes except that a lot of Kansas people seem to like and respect him. I know the kind of courage I respect. I heard at Temperance Meeting that his wife Lucy was the first President’s wife to refuse to serve liquor in the White House. That took some “standing up”.

It was a long day, but I am so glad we went. I never thought I would see a President, and who knows, we might never see another one in our lifetime.

Phebe (left) and Alzina (right) at the Fair. Their first photo.

April A to Z Challenge: Better Stay Close

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.

1874

“Better stay close to the house Alzie.” Philena told her young daughter. Alzie was a husky three year old, her sister Phebe was two and number three child was due in a month. Philena wondered what she was doing out on the prairie in a make shift shack, trying to take care of the children and feed Emerson and the hired hands for days on end while they harvested the hay crop. If they hadn’t needed someone to cook, she could have been back at Prairie Home and a whole lot more comfortable.

But grass was one thing that grew on this Kansas prairie, even on bad years when farming didn’t provide what they needed. It was thick and sometimes as high as the horses’ backs. If enough men could be hired to do the work, the grass was free for the taking. It could be cut in June, and again in August if the weather cooperated. The market would be good for it later in the year. They would get by, and she was helping, doing her part.

But cooking for the men and keeping an eye on the children at the same time was a challenge, especially since Alzie was old enough to disappear in no time flat. Philena had given the child a paper with alphabet letters on it and she could hear her practicing their names as she sat just outside the doorway of their hut. She was a quick learner, and Philena knew she would have to start schooling her soon, maybe in the fall.

Probably because she was thinking about that, it was several minutes later that Philena realized that the recitation of letters had stopped and all was silent outside. Philena glanced over at Phebe who was napping on the cot in the corner, gave the pork chops she was frying a quick flip, and went to the door to see what her daughter was doing.

Alzie was on her way to the closest of the haystacks that were lined up on the prairie, her little legs going as fast as she could manage. It wasn’t that there was much danger in letting her play there, but there was one peril that made Philena diligent and that was the possibility of prairie fire. Thick, dry prairie grass could go up in flames easily and there was no way of stopping it once the wind started pushing it. People could get caught in it with no way of escape. Even if she could manage to pick up both girls and waddle with them, she wasn’t really sure where she would go.

Fortunately she could still go faster than Alzie and soon got her turned around and headed back to the hut. In one instant Philena noticed two things that set her heart racing. One was a slight curl of smoke coming out of the door of the hut and the other was the sight of the thick layer of hay that was serving as roofing over their living space. Why had she left her cooking on the stove, and her Phebe was in there!

Philena picked up her skirts and ran as fast as she was able, stopping only at the doorway for a moment to assess the situation. Even with the smoke in the air, she could see that the fry pan was aflame. The heavy smell of burning grease and smoke was nearly choking her as she crossed the room and grabbed the container of baking soda and emptied it on the pan. The flames shot up, nearly reaching the hay ceiling, and then died down completely as the smoke doubled in thickness. Philena pulled the pan off onto the dirt floor, gathered up the sleepy, coughing Phebe and stepped outside where they could breathe. Alzie was wide eyed with fright, but soon sat down on the ground with mom and Phebe and asked questions as they hugged.

In the distance, Philena could see one of the hay wagons coming. The men would be there soon for their noon meal, but some of them were going to have to share their pork chops this time. They were definitely going to be one pan short.

April A to Z Challenge: Life of Alzina Boone

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.

1887

Alzina saw the last of her students leave the schoolroom and head for home. Watching them walk the lane away from Triangle School, she wondered whether teaching would be the constant in her future. It was the fall term and this being one of her first positions, it was still exciting. At sixteen she was working and earning her own money! She was independent!

Well, maybe not completely independent. She was still living at home with her parents and siblings, and father had secured the horse and buggy for her, but she was paying for it herself. She watched the horse wandering around the schoolyard, grazing as far as its tether would allow. It was quite a fine animal.

Alzina gathered up her lunch pail and some papers she was grading and went out to get her steed harnessed up to the buggy. The five mile ride home through the Kansas countryside, in beautiful October weather was going to be relaxing. She needed it.

Her intentions of putting aside the day’s troubles were quite soon forgotten however. She found herself worrying about one of her students and the discipline she might have to apply to his case. It was an aggravating situation, one which she wanted to avoid. Her brow furrowed and she could feel her shoulders tensing as the buggy bumped along the lonely road.

The horse, as yet unnamed, was being a little unruly. It might have been something about the harness, or a biting insect that was provoking it to kick. At any rate, it was no trouble at all for Alzie to impose her irritation from the student to the poor animal. She picked up her buggy whip and flicked it at the horse’s rump. The kicking stopped immediately and turned into a wild and frantic rush down the road. The buggy careened into the grassy ditch and the bordering fence. Alzie saw the harness straps snap, and that was the last she remembered.

There is that moment that people speak of, right before they experience impending tragedy, where their life passes before their eyes for them to consider. Alzina was allowed that instant and the thought that she could perhaps have payed more attention to the horse and her driving. There was also that longing to have the moment back when she could have chosen not to use the whip, or perhaps to have checked the harness more carefully.

It was nearly an hour later, and a mile closer to home when Alzie, returning to the conscious world, found herself walking behind the horse, holding the driving line. Panic having wiped her memory clean, she continued walking and reached home where her concerned father met her and took the horse. A hired hand was sent back to find the buggy.

Fortunately there was no major injury to the girl, and the buggy was promptly repaired and was, in fact, ready the next morning for the trip to school. Five miles was a long way to walk and there was no one able to take her. But Alzie was made of tough stuff and did not scare easily. She was ready to try it again. To her great relief, her dear, understanding father had already found her a different horse. And it could be supposed that she also was now a different girl.