One thing which we never did when I was a boy was to say Sunday, Monday, etc. We said First Day, Second Day, etc. In fact, I did not know the names of the days of the week as they are called now till I was nearly grown. I remember while Perie and Callie were in Alfred in school, they used the word, “Sunday,” in a letter. Father wrote back, “If this is what you are learning up there, you can come home.” Sunday was never used in their letters again.
Father and Mother: You can see from the above incident that Father was very set in his views. I will give a few more incidents about Father. Father and Mother were very much opposed to Emza’s marrying A. W. Coon for several reasons-she was not strong (in fact, she had T. B. and only lived about two more years); they considered him an old crank (he was about 70 years old) and not fit to marry anyone, much less an invalid. After they were married, Emza wrote; but her letter was never answered.
One other story will suffice to give a good picture of Father, except for his work in church and charity, which I will also mention. Perie spent a couple months at home the fall after she was married. They went to church meeting on Friday night and a good “Sister” got up and delivered a eulogy on Father. She told how honest he was, how truthful he was, how charitable he was. In fact, with one little change he would be just about perfect-if he just wouldn’t be quite so harsh in some of his statements. She thought she had put the “cleaner” on Father. When she sat down, Father got up and this is what he said, “I wish I could say as much for some other members of the church as has been said about me.” That evening at supper, Perie told Father that he should not have said that. Father’s reply was, “I know when I am insulted.”
I will also tell one story about the way Father paid on the church when they were building it. They were having trouble to raise the money to finish it, so Father offered to pay one-third if the rest of the church would pay the rest of the cost. This was subscribed but not all paid, so he had to help pay the rest. Someone reported Father had built the church and was going to use it for a hay barn, so you see that you can’t please some people.
Mother was every bit as liberal as Father and maybe a little more interested in the church and the church work than he.
About 70 years ago, Father was on a deal for a farm (known as the “farm with the brick house”) near the Seventh Day Baptist Church on Green Brier. Father had been out there; when he came back, he told Mother that they were trying to raise a salary for a preacher and got pledges for $13.75. Mother said, “You don’t need to buy, for I won’t go there.” The church is now dead.
Father and Mother were an ideal couple, for I have heard them each say that they never had a cross word (and I never heard them, either). There are not many couples like that!
Mother’s Sister, Rhoda: Mother had another sister, Rhoda, whom I have not mentioned so far. She had rickets when she was a child and was not strong mentally. She stayed at Grandfather’s (Doctor John) until I was about eight years old. Then it was reported that an old widower by the name of Tolls was planning to marry her for her money (he was past 70 and had very little himself), as she had about $1,000 that her father had left her. Mother and Uncle Elisha felt Tolls would use up her money and leave her with nothing to live on and no one to care for her but Mother and Uncle Elisha. So Uncle Elisha went out and got her and brought her to our place, where she stayed until some time after Mother’s death (about 8 or 10 years). Then Uncle Elisha took her to his place and kept her till she died, for which he got what she had (he surely earned every cent of it), which was a small thing for 15 years (or maybe 20 years) of care. She had a good home and good care; I am thankful.
One little incident happened while Aunt Rhoda stayed at our place. One Friday evening a spring wagon stopped at our place, and Toll and Uncle Joel came in. We knew at once that they were after Aunt Rhoda, so Ellsworth went after Uncle E. J. to come in and help prepare the strategy by which they hoped to win. It looked as if Father planned to take Aunt Rhoda in the buggy, but just before he got in the buggy (Aunt Rhoda was already in), Father told Uncle Elisha to get in the buggy and drive Aunt as he had forgotten to ask Mr. Tolls to go to church with us. So we all went to church. When we got there, the buggy was not there; and they saw nothing more of Aunt Rhoda. This was hard luck for Uncle Joel, for he was to have had $50 for the trip if he could have delivered her to Salem as planned.
Now what had happened was that Uncle Elisha had crossed the Deep Ford and gone up the river over to Pullman and on to Dan May’s (whose wife was Mother’s cousin) and left her there until the coast was clear. When they asked Elisha about her, he told them the last he saw of her, she was going West. They thought we had sent her to Uncle Nathan’s, who lived in Ohio. Toll tried to hire someone to slip her out and take her to Salem, but failed. So ends this beautiful romance in failure.
Some Stories About Alva: My brother, Alva, was by far the greatest squirrel and crow hunter of us, as he was a great shot with a rifle and had lots of patience to wait for game. He did not hunt rabbits or night hunt as he would rather read than to be out at night. One day he was down below the corn field when he ran into some young animals that he thought were young wild cats. He began to shoot; when he thought he heard the old cat, he began to yell for help. He got all three-they were young coons. One of them he got alive. These were the first coons (I was about 10 at this time) that I ever saw.
Some years later Alva was in a big woods back of our home farm when he saw a wild cat behind a tree. He could not see its head nor shoulders, so he shot where he could see. He was afraid to move for fear it would run, and he only had a rifle. When he shot, it fell over and scratched and screamed. He was afraid to go near it until he got the gun loaded; by then it had left. He followed it by the blood to a big fence. Every little bit he would see where it had fallen off the fence and had trouble to get back on the fence. He tracked it to a den but could not get it. Later it was found dead near the den. It had come out of the den to die.
It was rather difficult to get Alva to do chores about the house, so the girls would sometimes offer him special things to get him to do some of the things they wanted done. One day when Father had butchered a sheep, they offered to make some meat dumplings for some work they wanted done. Now Alva was very fond of meat, so he did the work. They made a nice batch of dumplings, but when Alva cut into one, he surely was sore and said, “There isn’t a bit of meat in them.”
I remember one more thing that I think I shall tell. All our clothes-pants, shirts, and under-clothing-were made at home. One night our hired girl (Tanie Hammond) gave Alva a new pair of pants which she had just finished for him and told him she would guarantee they would hold him. But she didn’t know what a test they would get. He got up and put his new pants on and hurried out. A little later he came out with a long face and said, “I put on my new pants and just filled them full! Isn’t that a shame?” I think so.
An Incident when Callie was Courted: I will now turn to some other members of this populous family. In the winter of 1881, Father and Mother went to Salem on a visit. While they were gone, Callie’s boyfriend (John Meathrell) came to see her and brought a black Indian pony, which he gave to her. Ellsworth didn’t like Callie’s sending for John to come see her when Father and Mother were away. So when he went upstairs to bed, he, instead, watched them to tease Callie. He soon grew tired of this and finally went to bed. Just as he went to sleep, Virgil jumped out of bed and said that he heard the shop door open. (Now, the shop door made a noise every time it opened by grating on the floor.) Virgil grabbed his pants, rushed out and called the dogs, with Ellsworth at his heels. But there was nothing wrong at the shop. When they got back, John was mad; he thought it was a joke on him until he found that it was Virgil who had heard it. He feared someone was trying to steal his horses. They went to the stable, but there was nothing wrong; so it left everything a mystery. Ellsworth always said it was an easy thing to settle-it was just that John kissed Callie. I expect that he was right! Anyone can see why John and Ellsworth never got along well. They never could have gotten along anyway.
Ellsworth and Steele Brake: I will now tell a little story about a school experience that Ellsworth had at Berea while Perie was teaching there. Steele Brake was about Ellsworth’s age and size. He made a business of getting Ellsworth down and beating him up very often. Ellsworth feared to resist; for Perie would not give one of us a fair deal. She feared people would accuse her of being partial. But Ellsworth grew very tired of being submissive.
So one day when Steele had him down flat of his back and pounding him just as he wanted to, he just reached up with his right hand (he was left handed) and pushed him up and poured his left fist into the pit of his stomach until Steele howled like a whipped hound pup. As soon as he could got loose, he ran to the house to tell how he had been treated. Of course, Perie held court to see who the criminal might be. The children all said that Ellsworth was no rougher than Steele had been. But Steele said, “Ellsworth was mad, and I wasn’t.” “How do you know he was mad?” Perie asked. “I saw the tears way back in his head,” Steele replied. The whole school yelled, and even Perie smiled. This settled the case, and Ellsworth got sweet revenge on Steele for all his bullying and didn’t get a whipping either.
A few years later, after Steele had quit school, he met Ellsworth one night as he came home from school and told him he heard he had been talking about him and if he didn’t quit, he would tan his dog hide. Ellsworth just looked at him and said, “There is such a thing as a ‘bull hide,’ and it’s mighty hard to tan.” This settled the whole argument.
I had a little trouble with one of Steele’s younger brothers when I was a boy in school. He was quite a hand with the girls, and one day at noon three of them told him they would like to kiss me. “Why don’t you?” he asked them. “We’re afraid of him,” they replied. He told them he would hold me. I just got up, took off my coat and put it on the fence. Wirt, that was the boy’s name, raved but did nothing. We became fine friends later. One evening when I was in his store where I traded, he told this story. One of those there asked him why he didn’t hold me. He replied, “I was afraid he’d whip me.”
Mr. Wasp: The common wasp used to build its nest in all the outbuildings. One day I went into one of the sheds, and a wasp was sitting on the wall. I just pointed my finger at him and said, “I am going to kill you.” Just then Mr. Wasp rose up and lit on my nose and stung me. Oh! How it did hurt! My nose got big, and Delvia told what I said and everybody laughed at me. Right here I will insert a few quotations from the Bible which I think will apply:
Let he who thinks he standeth take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12, KJV)
Pride goeth before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction (Proverbs 16:18, KJV).
Such is life!
Jip and Sheep: When I was about 8 years old, Father bought a yellow “bone-legged beast” from Harrisville. We called him “Jip.” Now Jip was a good rabbit dog and not much good for anything else. We let our sheep and lambs run out in the road early in the spring before the grass started in the field, as the grass would start earlier along the river than in the fields. Jip would get and run the sheep. Ellsworth took care of the sheep and didn’t like to have them run.
One evening we were at the barn doing the chores when we heard the sheep coming (one of them had a bell) with Jip after them as hard as he could run. Ellsworth picked up a two-inch cube which had been sawed off an oak scantling. The sheep went by as hard as they could run with Jip after them, grunting every jump. As soon as the sheep passed, Ellsworth leaped out of the shed door where he had been hiding and let loose with that left hand. The block took Jip square to the side of the head and knocked him over the bank next to the river. He got up, yelling like a possessed one, and ran to the house like Satan was after him. That was one dog who was broken of sheep-chasing, for Jip never ran sheep again.
Alva and the Sheep: Ellsworth had always cared for the sheep; but when I was 12 years old, Father decided that Alva should care for them that spring and summer. When grass came, Alva turned the sheep out in a field we called “Poverty Point” (which was in the far end of the farm a half mile from home and adjoining a big woods). We had a part of this field in corn and beans, and Mother went up to see it. When she came back, she said she could carry all the corn and beans up there in her apron (and this wasn’t so far wrong), so we called it “Poverty Point.”
The first time Alva salted the sheep, which was about twice a week, he said one little lamb was missing. In about two weeks he reported nine more lambs missing (they would have weighed from 40 to 60 pounds each), and he couldn’t find them. On search, the nine were found near the woods, partly covered up with leaves. Their throats were out and they had been partly eaten above the necks. They seemingly had been killed one each night. The sheep were moved to another part of the farm, and no more lambs were bothered; but Alva never took care of the sheep again. His mind was too much on books.
About two years later a neighbor (Ves Parker) killed from 5 to 10 cats. (The cat that I told about Alva’s shooting was in the same woods.) So the lambs were revenged!
The next fall after the lambs were killed, Father gave Delvia and me charge of the sheep; and we never had any more killing.