A to Z Challenge: Suprise of a Snaky Nature

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.

And so Alzina Boone, widow, stepped back into teaching to support her young family. She was able to keep her children with her, thanks to her sister Sadie who stayed with them the first spring. The next year she persuaded Sadie’s beau, Park, to marry Sadie and move in with them and help with the farm as well. Most of the time she took Stanley, her oldest boy age 5, and John, age 4 with her to school while the girls stayed home with Sadie, or occasionally with her mother. She had all the worries of a mother, and a breadwinner, and a teacher. Children got sick, food got scarce, bills couldn’t be paid, but through it all, they stayed together and were glad for that.

The school teacher, Alzina Boone

Alzie’s story continues:

“Sadie and Park moved to his father’s farm the following autumn, 1898. I hired a girl, Mamie, to stay with me and my four children at Elizabeth Town, where I was paid $33 per month. I rented a two story house about a half mile from the school house, and close to neighbors, and my father and brothers hauled my household goods over to the new place. With my buggy and good driving pony, Kate, we thought we were well equipped for a prosperous year. But we had some exciting events, which spoiled our joy of living there, and tested our faith and courage.

I ordered some fresh hay delivered inside the barn door about the first of the first week we were there. I asked Mamie to fill the three ticks with fresh hay to be used as mattresses on the three beds. She filled the ticks during the day and let them lie on the hay pile till I came home to help carry them in. It was almost dark when we got the beds made. Our rooms were lighted with kerosene lamps.

I had put the children to bed, and they were soon asleep. Mamie and I sat on the top step of the stairway, talking over tomorrow’s plan when suddenly Ethel, the oldest girl, screamed in fright, as in a bad dream. I sprang to my feet holding the lamp in my hand and saw a dark snake about a foot long wriggling up and down her right arm, and off onto the floor. I exclaimed, “Oh Mamie, it’s a snake!”

Then she sprang to her feet with a scream and whirled me around, which motion put out the light, and without a match where we could find it . I started down the stairs for a match, but she wailed, “Don’t leave me up here!” So I commanded her to get a match. When we got the lamp lit, there was the snake darting up and down the wall from the floor. I seized a mop and stepped on one side of the bed and struck at the snake, but it vanished.

We hunted for an hour or so, but never found it. We decided it must have jumped out of a low open window beyond the foot of the bed. But it was very hard to give up looking for the snake and go to bed. A neighbor woman jokingly said next day, “I’ve heard of men having snakes in their boots, but never of women having snakes in the beds.”

A to Z Challenge: Resolutions

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.

Alzina was left a widow with four little children, a big blow for a pioneer woman. But as many brave people do at the start of a new period of her life, she made some resolutions and set about keeping them.

A long, but revealing, letter from Alzina Pomeroy Boone to her Uncle Wilbur Fisk, dated July 8th, 1897. The pouring out of a grieving heart…

Dear Uncle Wilbur,

It really is too bad that I have waited so long to answer your good letter with the generous gift enclosed and I am almost ashamed to write now. Two weeks after Milford’s death, the members of the school board of Lyon County District came to me, and offered me a chance to teach two months of school at $30.00 a month. At first I thought I could not possibly take up teaching so soon. I had little heart to do any kind of work, and teaching calls for so much energy and spirit. I had not taken an examination for a certificate for seven years and had not studied much either. And my children seemed so small. Their father always spent most of his time when was in the house, petting and playing with them and always made so much over them. And it seems hard that they should have to do without both father’s and mother’s care, while I am gone all day.

But after careful and prayerful thought I decided to take courage and do the best I could for the children’s sake. I want to keep them together, and I want to keep them out of town while they are so young and I very much desire to pay for this farm that Milford had partly paid for and improved. So I commenced the school April 18th. I hired Sadie to take my place at home and I drove from home to school all the time – five miles. I took my two boys with me. There was considerable business to be seen to on Saturdays and as we raised chickens and garden stuff as usual, you can see that I had no time to spare.

I had to go to considerable expense at the beginning in the way of clothes, taking examinations, mending harness, etc… before I had received any wages, so your gift was a timely help to me and I felt very grateful for it. You said it was for the children, and so when I got my first month’s wages, I got them all a pretty waist or dress for Sunday wear and some other clothes they were needing. I got a half dozen photographs of them taken and I send you one. I felt I must have a picture of them as they were when left fatherless. I look forward to having a stone for his grave, and choice plants upon the grave and his picture enlarged, but these I can get as well ten years hence as now. But to have the children’s picture as when he left them, I must have them now. I hope it was not an extravagance.

This, most likely, was that picture. Stanley was 6, John was 4, Ethel was 3 and Esther was 6 months old.

The question of supporting my family does not look so hopeless to me, as some of my friends feel it is. I have a good garden, a good start in chickens (for I had only five hens last year) and ducks, and a fine prospect of corn. The haying business is beginning to look up and if I can sell my hay press at $65 (Milford gave $100 for it two years ago) that will clear the chattel mortgage, and I will have my two horses clear. I would rather sell one of them before winter, if I can’t get more than $10 for him – he has several slight blemishes. But perhaps I can hire them out this fall, and thus earn something. I have a plow, cultivator and mowing machine to sell, but of course, such takings do not sell easily. I have $7 left from my school money, and have paid $15 on the principal of the first mortgage on the place and got that renewed for another year. The principal was $150. Fifty dollars being due last December, fifty next December and Fifty in another year. The second mortgage amounts to $150 also. The mechanics lien on the house is for $90, and they promised to extend it two years.

I sold my hay sheets for $15 and paid $7.50 of it to the doctor who attended Milford. There are two accounts in Milford’s favor which will amount to $12, and I think they will pay them before long. Mr. Hilton has Milford’s thoroughbred bird dog and her pups and Milford expected them to be worth $20 before winter. Milford’s gun and gun implements are at a store in Colony for sale. I felt that I never wanted to see them again, though all other personal belongings of Milford’s are very precious to me. I want to pay $23 for the coffin, and then whatever else all these things amount to will be mine to use for our support this winter.

I think I will get 7 months of teaching at $35 this winter. They will not be able to pay me until January. I can’t tell how much of the school money I will save. I will have to hire a girl to take my place at home, and it is no small matter to provide for six, and I will have to hire some work done on the house, and building a stable and hen house. But the way seems quite open to me, and back of it all, I know that God is ruling all things, and with better judgement, by far, than I could ever have.

The hardest part of life for me is the awful loneliness and the dread of the long years before me. But I compare this separation to that of seven years ago, after we were engaged and before we were marred, when he was in Missouri. Of course, I heard from him often the, but I remember it seemed to me the months would never pass. I looked forward to our wedding day with such joyful anticipation, although I knew there were severe trails in married life.

Now it seems to me the years are so long, but I look forward to joining him in heaven some day, with a far holier joy, and there will be no sorrow or disappointments over there and we will understand each other fully. I believe he knows more now of how much I loved him, than he ever knew while living here, and yet I did all that human weakness can do to prove my love to him.

My only unhappiness the past seven years has been my anxiety for his soul’s welfare. Perhaps my anxiety was a hindrance to him, but I exercised all the wisdom God gave me, in regard to this and I couldn’t help caring, you know. And if I had had my mind and heart engrossed in the petty things of life, the house work, the question of what to eat and wear, I know I would have given up to grumbling at our circumstances, and thus made his life unhappy.

What comfort or assurance could be mine since his death, if I had never prayed for him? But my only desire, my daily prayer or vow to God was that I would take uncomplainingly any lot on earth if he would hold me up and save me and my loved ones in eternity. And so, with the faith I have in God’s promises, and the few words Milford spoke, I know he is among the redeemed ones.

Just one question I sometimes might ask, that is, is he enjoying now more than the joy and comfort he enjoyed with his children? Or, do the spirits of our departed ones linger until the resurrection morn? You know, so many in speaking of one who is gone say “poor boy” and “he wanted to have this or that pleasure, but now it is too late”. Such expression started the question in my mind. Searching the Bible, I find nothing yet assuring us that our spirits go to heaven before the resurrection day, except Christ’s assurance to the dying thief, while he was on the cross. But leaving aside these questionings, with the knowledge that my prayers for my darling’s salvation are answered, the glorious hope of a happy meeting someday, and the consciousness that round about me and underneath me are the Everlasting Arms, I can not be sad.

It is only when I look at my own life from a human standpoint, that the burden of sorrow becomes more than I can bear. I have all the petty cares of a mother’s life – wakeful nights, teaching baby to eat, adjusting the difficulties of the older ones, and looking to the ways of the household, and added to these are the vexations of business life, receiving dunning letters, collecting accounts, being “jewed” down on the price of what I have to sell, quibbling about wages, looking after fences, feed, fuel, etc… and sometimes I feel that it is a very heavy burden, and wonder why he was taken when we needed him so much. Ah! If this world was all there is for us, how dark and despairing my heart would be.

I received such a good letter from Uncle Pliny last week and I ask you would send this one to him, as a partial answer, for I don’t know when I will get to write again. And I shall be so glad when either of you find time to write to me. I know I have the Bible, and I believe all the truths of salvation but someway it cheers me up, to have some one I know tell me personally of these truths. And now I must close this long, though tardy letter.

Yours lovingly, Alzie Boone