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.


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.