(Proudly, we launch the writing career of Mrs. Gertrude Smith, of Clunette, Ind., a pioneer lifetime resident of Kosciusko County, Ind. At 93, this is her first magazine publication. The grand lady, who underwent the hardships as well as the heart-gladdening incidents of pioneer life, has a vivid memory for events and customs nearly a century ago. The twinkle in her eye betokens the sense of humor which pervades her colorful style. Editor.)
When white settlers came to Northern Indiana the land was full of stagnant water. Everything was timbered except the Big Prairie, Bone Prairie in Kosciusko Co. There were only small cleared spaces.
Indians battle ground east of Leesburg raised crude corn. It was on May 15, 1862, just the year President Lincoln signed a bill which became U.S. Department of Agriculture. And 46 days later he signed an act which was the beginning of our agriculture colleges.
We have come from hand scattering broadcast to sowing in rows; plowing with single shovel steel plow, cutting wheat with hand sickle and scythe in swaths--binding with straw double-band. Hauled to barn threshing floor and flailed out seed for next year by hand and extra for food.
The seed must die, germinate in order to produce-- "we must die to live again." There were stone-crush grinders at Monoquet on Tippecanoe River power. Another one south of Atwood. A lock at Crystal Lake McCullough mill. Machinery-drills, binders, reapers.
Farmers cleared timbers, burned brush piles in springtime. I have seen snakes of all sizes and descriptions run in all directions. All hands at work.
The Indians had ponies--wild horses. Money was scarce-- a man and family located near Stony Point. He had but one ox--so hitched his oldest daughter with the ox to till the soil. His neighbor came over--said "No, not in this new Country. You're not in old Country."
Sirs, Have you ever seen so many bundles stood bracing, with two bundles spread for top sheaves, until it goes through a sweat. A farmer is never sure of a crop, until it is in bin or money in his pocket. It has to be watched: insects, weather. Usually harvest begins about 4th of July.
The following weeks, threshing machines, steam engines sounds of whistling, were heard anytime thru nite or day, calling men to duty to save the precious food in the old days. A crew of men accompanied the machines, 2 separator men and an engineer, a water tank man to keep water available for the steam engine and attend the horses.
How happy the farmer when he was awakened in nite by shrill whistle miles across on another road. Knew he was letting you know he was on the way.
Up early to inform your help to be ready; teams for bundles. And women, who were ever anxious to help, prepare food as long as needed. Daylight did not county. On into the wee hours of nite above the rattling machinery. Thru the night air, could hear an audible voice calling to the water man, "water me now."
One year we had 2000 bushels to sell at .58 (cents) a bushel. All the work, wait, and expense.
If a shower came up, toughened the straw. God spread his sunshine to dry. I have kept the crew for days and nights. Was lost when they were finished.
Now-- combines have taken the threshing machine's place. Each man threshes his own as it cuts it and the acreage has been reduced. The children had a good time at threshing. The big long tables of good things for 30 to 35 men and partakers. No ice boxes or electric refrigerators.
A couple of tubs of clean water, soap and lots (of) clean towels. A woman with a large limb of leaves kept swaying before the back door waving--no flies. Flies would ride men into the house.
The youngster too small for labor was jubilant in the middle of barnyard to welcome. When, all at once, the mischievous engineer pulled the throttle--let off steam. The whistle so shrill, the kid startled, leaped over board fence--never stopping for gate. On into house to bed room--rolled under the bed to safety.
When I attended Hardscrabble School, a few terms, there was an odd backwoods family. One day, children of family heard thunder, and came dashing in, yelling to teacher: " `Tater wagon is comin'; it's goin' to rain." Their father wore a long time a long coat all rags. Said it whipped him warm in winter and fanned him cool in summer.
CLUNETTE DOINGS TODAY
The taxes is paid-- The land belongs to the mushroom hunters now.
HOOSIERLAND June 1962 page 5.
By Gertrude Smith, age 93
The Grandma Moses of American Literature
Do you remember when there were no automobiles even before horse and buggy? Those were the days. People went by foot jumping from log to log, following Indian train in the moon light. To spelling schools, singing schools.
Oh what fun they had. All brotherly Love. Friendly. The roads were made by those who owned the land. Working so many days, to work out road tax.
It took a lot of preparation to get ready for a date, if every thing would be pleasing to the lady friend. The buggy must be swept, washed. The wheels greased and the Buffalo robe, well dusted. In summer a clean Duster would do. A new whip in the socket. If night was clear and bright, the top could be put down.
My pride was touched by riding in the first rubber tired buggy in our neighborhood. How noiseless the tires were. The driving horses iron shoes, went clippity, clippity, over the road. The buggy and we, rode in the parade July 4 at Etna Green ---1900.
The old horse was to be pitied during the winter months. The horse blanket was supposed to keep him warm. The fact that the blanket was thrown over the horse's back, left open at the bottom, left a free undercurrent of air continually flowing upwards. Yet Old Mark was supposed to remain patient even into the wee hours of night while his master continued to enjoy the old Round Oak stove fire. No, not so, Mark was always unhitched and put in the barn.
One night, a part convened at a neighbor's -- Mark was left tied at a hitching post with other horses and vehicles. Some of the crowd left earlier. Either untied "Mark" or he backed up the Sleigh. A gate being open, went down lane to gravel pit woods the bells did not jingle when party broke up he was missed. Snow did not betray by tracks.
Consulting members of the crowd the owner found a man with sled who he hired to take us home, thinking he (Mark) would be at my home. His home being eight miles farther, hired him to take him on home. For his parents would hear "Mark" at the gate, nickering and no driver be worried. He walked to his brothers and they drove back with his horse and sleigh; came back in time for breakfast.
There was Mark with his head in barn door; blanket had thrown him down; lay there in cold all stove up. Had to exercise him as you do race horses before he could be able to go the trip home.
This was before the farmers telephone was in use in 1903 --one of the wonders of the new world. Horses had horse sense.
HOOSIERLAND, July 1962 page 5
by Gertrude Smith, age 93
The Grandma Moses of American Literature
The subject at hand was born in Alsace, Germany in 1829 and
landed in Canton, Ohio. He grew to manhood and married, moved
to Kosciusko Co., raised a family of eight children.
On a farm during winter season, a neighbor, he was a stalwart lone man. David Beckner could be seen walking up a lonely road, carrying a muzzle loader rifle, a butcher knife, and whet-stone, early at daybreak. He aroused attention as he went to a neighbor's a mile away, who had his herd of swine sorted and ready. Not been fed, as usual, on the day they were to be butchered.
A fire under large iron kettles, hanging on long pole. Suspended by stakes drove in ground at each end of pole. A large barrel or hogshead tipped with a platform of planks or rails. And as soon as water was boiling, a clean pail or large dipper conveyed the water to the barrel ready for the first operation.
The gun was heard to snap, after the man sighted between the animal's eyes. So, soon a knife was stuck into the meat near the jugular vein or heart and bleeding was done. An iron hook with two hand holts was put into the hog's upper lip or snout and drawn to the platform and is pulled through this hot water. Doused with clean ashes to help loosen the hair. The head, feet, ears scraped clean and head chopped off. The tendons in the back were split, a gambrel stick slipped in hind legs and hung on a braced pole. The front of the animal is split open, liver, heart, removed and intestines caught in a clean wooden tub. The web of fat is taken from the stomach and intestines kept separate. Each animal is hung ready to cool off animal heat. First work of the day and so on until all ten animals are dressed.
The women take the small intestines two vessels or pails and go to back of orchard with tepid water and the ramrod or smooth stick. They turn the casing wrong side out, strip it of refuse. Get the smooth fiber casing boards from year to year and scrape with back of case knife. The inside and outside layers are discarded, keeping the 3rd or middle. A home butchering delicacy is the stomach when emptied, scraped and cleaned and in time stuffed with fresh vegetables which have been buried for winter use. They are cleaned and cooked for old-fashioned boiled dinner yum---yum---Irish Stew.
Each animal is supposed to have enough casings to hold the sausage of itself. People often make muslin bags a yard in length and four to six inches around and stuff tight with sausage, hang and smoke when smoking rest of meat. Cut, slice and fry to cook it.
You must be careful not to freeze or get sausage casings too hot or they will not go on the horn of the sausage stuffer.
Beckner returns the second day to cut up meat. Have a bench scrubbed and cleaned ready. A hog at a time is processed. The ribs and back bone, the hocks are all piled by themselves. The hams and shoulders are shaped, trimmed and scraps are put in a vat for sausage. The tenderloin along each side of back bone is most tender part of the loin. The fat portions are cut into bits or squares for lard.
The sausage meat is all ground. The seasoning is three small handfuls of salt to 250 pound hog, three tablespoons level of back pepper each; two ounces red pepper corns cut up in tin cup with boiling water made into a tea and poured over top of ground sausage. It helps digest grease; no gas forms.
Sausage, seasoned, is worked and mixed by a strong man. Sleeves rolled, he mixes it like a baker does bread dough. Finished, someone put the casings on the horn of the stuffer and gets a receptacle to hold finished sausage.
No part of a long day is fun. A hard day has to be put in for to think of the long year ahead. The eating has to last. Your patience about exhausted when all of a sudden some person comes along. A large sausage is squeezed out fast and bursts the casing, sausage runs wild into the bushel basket. Your work all to be done over. Stop, fill up again, lean up and laugh off the joke.
We are coming to the end of a perfect day, but each "joint" or piece of meat has to be treated or rubbed with salt and placed in a barrel to cure a few days. A coarse wire then is run through the skin portion to hang up to cure.
After spring time, usually in March, a few stones are placed to make a pit to build a fire under the hams and shoulders to smoke them, sassafras, hickory chips and few clean sweet corncobs are used.
One Sunday, most everybody in a small burg has gone to church. three churches within same block, also firehouse.
The fire whistle blew during sacred services. All people started thinking of their homes naturally. Those in the company compelled to respond, as a sentinel was sent top ascertain where and what the cause. The zone it was in relieved some.
Finally, the report came. One of church deacons had decided the better the day, the better the deed; the more ideal the morning for the smoke. Some busybody had gone to worship late and turned in the alarm. Smoke oozing from all crevices of his meat house. He was sincere, no fooling.
In the beginning, I spoke of the farmer's yearly meat supply. Now, this was a goodness-to-eat family. But just for safety, they had a lake on their farm. Plenty of fish, rabbits, pigeons, wild turkey, deer, and in emergency the flock of sheep.
The daughter told me she often had to hold the lambs head on the block while father chopped its head off.
Pioneers used to have many hardships we have not. Many times we hanker for the old pickle meat jar. The corned beef hunk. The lard rendering was a very tedious job. The fat was put in a clean hot kettle with a long paddle of wood. The man kept stirring it from side and bottom so as not to let it stick
The sausage may sometimes be made into patties, fried and packed into small jars. Fresh lard is run over it and when cold can be sealed air tight with a white paper treated with white of egg. Large brown wrapping paper is placed over top of all; tied with twine string. Fresh backbone or ribs are put in half gallon earthen cans with sealing was sealing the tin lids. Will last a year.
For variety, sides cut into same size slabs with salt in bottom of jar. Pieces of side are packed end to end and pressed tight together all holes are filled with meat and salt, layer after layer with dry salt. A plate or board with stone weight is placed on top for several days unmolested. A salt brine to hold up an egg is slowly poured over until it is covered with brine. Left `till corn husking, take a chuck of this and cook with a couple of quarts of navy beans. Is it every tasty to the Indiana pioneer? Cooked good and tender in an iron kettle on the range and anyone can eat without teeth and relish it.
The swine of Indiana have been a boon to the countryside. Get rid of rattlesnakes and all other varmints.
In later years, a most delicious ham is cured by putting joint into hot salt water in kettle and brine stirred until quite hot. Salt is put on top and all around until piece of meat seems cooked. Seared 15 minutes and is lifted out. The bone end is filled with hot salt and hung in smokehouse to drip for a few days.
Sweeter meat never be tasted. Try some. This must be same day butchered. Helps cut work in less time. People are time savers now in all kinds of work.
HOOSIERLAND, September 1962, page 7
by Gertrude Smith, age 93
The Grandma Moses of Americna Literature
Incidents at Early Schools
The Kosciusko county country schools about 1880: all ages of family children up to 21st year. Children are the spice of life. They come from many homes, English, German, French, Swiss, Irish to be taught together.
The three R's' reading from the Bible; Lord's Prayer; ten commandments; the Psalms of David; writing with stones on wood in the sand; `rithmetic, orally counting and by aliquant parts.
My grandfather did not know figures but he could reason out value of load of grain. Two bushels of grain in a sack would be so much. So many sacks would come to that many times the first. This he reasoned without paper or pencil.
Most all pupils were zealous to be ahead. Once in a while you'd find one just go for sport as now. One who went till big boy said, "I wouldn't go to school at all, if it wasn't for playing ball."
Then again, one more anxious to succeed said, "I can outplay so and so in ballgame, why can't I out cipher, or (out) read the best one." The teenage girls at recess time wandered along the thickets in numbers together gathering tenderbriers, oak balls, green and sour tender sprouts of sassafras to munch on them. Remember how lean and hungry you felt towards the end of the day of school?
The boys looked for hazelnuts, pawpaws (Indian Bananas), beech nuts, hickory nuts, butternuts. The government and road makers have sprayed the roadside and killed bushes and birds' nesting places. Smaller children gathered violet blossoms, Johnny Jumpups, purple, yellow and white wind flower, boys & girls breeches, nigger toes and blood root flowers.
Some pupils just put in their time. Some of the older ones had spruce gum, long rolls of rubber gum or white paraffin gum, which had to be put away in class time.
There were seats with desks for books, if we had any, or a slate. The owner when asked about gum took out of his mouth and stuck it under top of desk.
You might be accosted by a youngster asking to chew your gum till recess. All thru the year we had entertainments. Thanksgiving time, all told what we were thankful for. Christmas, recitations were given at New Year's Each gave resolutions. Washington's birthday, Lincoln's birthday, and Arbor Day were celebrated by decorating the school ground.
Each Friday, after recess, spelling and speaking matches were held. One first grade pupil was alert. A senior coached him, thus: "Oh Lord, of love, come down from above, and have pity on us poor scholars; we have a fool to teach our school, and pay him forty dollars."
Reciting this, he politely took his seat. The teacher, all afire, said: "you can either take a whipping or quit school." His comrades felt badly but no explanation was to any avail.
After all was over, he piled all his arms would hold of books and trudged home, worn out and tired. When his father saw him exhausted, he said, "what's wrong? Is school out?" "It's out for me", he replied and told what happened. He was made to get on a horse and visit the teacher three miles away and make some reconciliation. The teacher said that if he apologized before the school or took a whipping as punishment, and said it was the boys who had him coached, he would stay.
At another time, a couple of first graders had slipped down the road by the ditch and were so interested they did not hear the 5 minute recess bell. They were missed and the teacher sent an older one in search of them. They had to sit under the teacher's desk a great disgrace. Both girls are yet living.
One punishment for small offenses was to stand up in front and hold book and study goose fashion. That is, hold one foot up tiresome. Didn't harm--(only) humiliated them.
We had a water pail with a long dipper in it. The teacher usually let the one who had good lessons go up and down the aisle. Each pupil in turn took dipper brim full, drank and put drippings and all back in bucket for the next one to quench his thirst.
A one-room school teacher was his own janitor. Always had a job taking care of big belly stove with door in end.
Ciphering matches on blackboard were great sport. Neither saw each other's work, no copying or cheating! One who missed had to leave board. See how long one could stay up be ahead. Choose fractions, interest, etc.
A lesson in cleanliness, neatness, politeness, singing, reading Bible chapter in concert opened school each day.
Some so slow to think. Hard to comprehend. Early teachers had a lot to teach to humanity. Early times, necessity was the mother of invention. Doctors very necessary. Teachers too, for education is everything. They imparted kindness to others and humanity.
Cool days. Cider mill is on the go. So are many people. We used in early days have cider worms and all they ate was apples after all. Now are sprayed in the blossom and worms never get here.
Arthur E. Smith, wife, mother and aunt Ethel helped Mr. and Mrs. Harry Beatty celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary Sunday p.m. at their beautiful home on Oswego Lake at mouth of Tippecanoe River. The river never freezes over-- connects lake with ice-fishermen in winter. Several Chinese lotuses are blooming now. Beautiful!
The crickets and grasshoppers have taken all the leaves off the clover, garden and glad buds. Give thanks for what you don't have. Some localities worse than others.
Dale Beeson had misfortune to have three dogs get into his flock of sheep and kill all. They got the beautiful dogs. Had been tied, but got loose.
Some six and seven year olds discussing over the weather and talking of going in water to swim and cool off said, I better not. It's dog days, we must be content. May get germs.
Some of ladies ask me if this downstairs room my bedroom. No I said; my room is upstairs. The air is good after you get up higher.
In olden days, mothers used to say after supper work and chores done for the day to wash one's body in a tub of cold water and set quietly on the porch or walk till one's blood cools off and go to bed quietly after talking with God, we could go to sleep in peace, gracefully.
HOOSIERLAND October 1962, page 7 & 8
by Gertrude Smith, age 93
The Grandma Moses of American Literature
Cool days in fall. The farmers began to get ready for winter and before Halloween get out the old Kraut barrel; cleaned it out. Soaked it so the stays would not leak. A stomper was made of a hickory limb. They peeled bark off and inserted a clean handle, fastened so as not to be loose.
If you haven't a kraut cutter, borrow one. They are wood, about two or two and one-half feet long and 12 or 15 inches wide, with grooves in side. A box is made of hickory wood so as not to taste. It is split with tongued sides to fit in the grooves on cutter, and steel blades fitted in bottom of main board. Slounch ways are fastened with set of screws to cut fine or coarse. A pint of coarse barrel salt is used to one barrel of cabbage.
After the evening chores are finished you have invited your neighbors to a Kraut-Cutting picnic. The men cut the cabbage, put in clean wagon box with straw bottom and haul to summer house or kitchen. They trim out leaves and wash. Women cut in halves, quarters, and put in clean pans or basket. Next they fill the box on the cutter and push it along with two or three heads of Golden Acre, or Flat heads. They put in a little salt and spread out even and press it down. And so on until cabbage is all or barrel is full. Do not pound too hard. When finished, put a layer of clean outside cabbage ribs and leaves on and put on a clean board sawed and nailed together for a lid.
Now a nice large stone, used as a weight, is brushed and cleaned. It is used to keep brine over cabbage. Move kraut barrel to place where you can leave it set for two or three weeks, without molesting. by cabbage smell you'll declare it kraut sooner.
You may make smaller amounts even in a quart glass jar. The cabbage is cut and pressed in; head with a little salt, one teaspoon granulated sugar and seal for an appetizer, in place of throwing it out.
Some used to think it unhealthy. A man once asked a doctor who told him that if his wife nursed the baby she should not eat it. He asked, "Doc, will it affect the baby if I eat it?" Poor dumb Hoosier in early day.
In early history, our pastors used to ride horseback through country to preach. Money scarce. The parishioners kept them overnite and or by week. Now I told you the kraut barrel was kept on the porch. It didn't hurt if it froze. We cut it out with a clean ax. We ate it raw, stewed, or fried, for variety.
The preacher was put in the spare bedroom. There were no lights so he slept. Toward morning he smelt something. Thought might be a dead man. Wondered if he might be next victim.
Dark the odor seemed close to him. A little later, he saw a big fat thing behind the door, clothed in a calico drapery dress. Got up and out before being caught. He spoke about it at breakfast the next morning.
The woman of the house said, "Law me, preacher, that's our winter's supply of kraut."
An English lady and her son went to Bourbon years ago to visit and old English friend. Custom used to be not to wait for invitation-- just go and stay. Well, meal time came. Suited old lady but the child looked grim.
She said to him, "Have some stewed kraut!" He replied, "Mr., you know I don't like kraut."
The host said, "Maybe he'll have some fried kraut." He sat a while and said, "Ma-give me some kraut." After he got away from table, he said, "Ma-have you got a nickel. Give it to me. I'll go up town and get me a cookie." (A true story. He became a Chicago businessman.)
Happenings in Indiana, 1900
A new doctor came to county seat in early 90's, rented an office, put up his shingle, sit, sit, and no calls. He ask the livery man to hitch up his horse to the buggy and bring it to his office, which he did. He came out all dressed, his hat on, his pill bags in his hand, in a hurry got in the buggy, top down, sorrel light mane and tail, he took the whip out of socket, gave it a slight brush, drove through town down main street out in country, good gate out of sight couple miles and back to hitching post. And went into office, several men merchants nosey, watching from street. He rushed out again, got into vehicle, drove the opposite direction like meant business, and all eyes watching. The talk of the town began. The new Dr. must be a great fellow, busy everybody wants him. One way to make life's work! And he did. Stayed for years, prospered and had a hospital. Said: Every 7 out of 10 person which walk the street have a cancer, but some thing may take them before it does. He also his wife died with cause of them. He left much money in trust estate to educate youth of tomorrow to educate young people who are worthy of it.
In early day doctors were not plentiful and old women were called upon to administer and be God mothers in homes. On one occasion the women said, let's play a joke on Grandma Miller, who always comes to see the new arrivals, so they dressed up the cat and put in the scooped out cradle bed, put a mosquito ban and blanket up and greetings walked to the chords cradle examined and turned to the mother, said, "Oh, he looks just like his father," her usual not noticing it wasn't a child. ha! ha! People are funny.
HOOSIERLAND December 1962 page 6, 22.
by Gertrude Smith, age 93
The Grandma Moses of American Literature
Soap, Butter Making
Indiana's early settlers burned beech and maple wood to keep warm in winter. They took up ashes clean; put in containers and in shelter to dry.
When spring rains are settled and the farmers help wives to make a leach hopper of boards. There were slats in bottom with clean straw for sieve, and ashes on it. Boards on sides and ends were focused to enter so liquid would run into container. You filled the hopper with layers of straw and ashes until at top; then pour clean water on until it runs through and leaches off yellow.
Put an egg shell and all in it to test strength to see if the egg will come to top. Then stop when you have enough from two or more leaches to fill an iron kettle.
At hog butchering time in winter save cracklings and some lard not enough for pastry and frying. Put so many pounds of same into the kettle proportional to lye. Boil until all lye is dissolved fine. The product left was used as soft soap. It was emptied into keg or barrel. The soap easily adhered to wash board or soiled spots on clothing. when the barrel was filled, we had a year's supply of soap.
If you want it in cakes, when it gets to last stage, you put rosin or hand of salt in and rose leaves for perfume. Then run in wooden flat and cut with knife. Then stack it with dishes and woodwork. If you keep your hands in it too long, it will take skin off and eat little holes in the hands.
Very tedious work! The mothers were quite careful not to overuse it. They usually had a tin cup hanging near the hopper to save lye water from running over. Mothers were watching that nothing gets hurt.
I was quick and snoopy and got a drink of the lye water ere they thought. They had to get vinegar to counteract lye.
In early days people milked cows in pails, tin cups and strained in clay jars. Milk was placed in running water to cool quickly for cream to raise to top. Jars were covered with sweet sugar wood squares to keep milk clean. Have a clean jar for cream. Skim with thin ladle to lift cream each day.
Stir cream to mix together each time until have enough to make butter. Do not add any milk to same for at least 2 days, that it will ripen together, that you may get it all.
The churn is earthen or wooden-staved, upright, with dasher with auger holes in, on a long handle. You have lid with hole in top. When you begin to churn do not stop or play at the job. It will go back to be done all over from beginning. After cream beaks into butter particles, you have a wooden bowl to wash it in and to work all milk out.
Use two ounces salt to the pound. Do not over work it. You will break the grain of butter texture.
In August a great aunt had taken her churning to the well under an apple tree in the shade. She was out of butter and needed some for dinner. The rooster of small farm flock came up gave a big crow.
She was so nervous, as that was a sign of company and bad luck. She flapped her apron to frighten him away and at same time, her butter slipped in the bowl and went out on ground in a big soft splatter. One thing at a time, shooo-you old rooster.
It was laughable, in spite of accidents. "Troubles never come single."
Hoosierland January 1963, page 6
by Gertrude Smith, age 93
The Grandma Moses of American Literature
The Sleigh Ride
The country was new. Trees and stake-and-rider fences were everywhere. Ground was filled by fall rains. No ditches. Snow was more plentiful. Sharp winds were checked by timbered areas.
No paved roads, snowplows or automobiles. Not much travel. Horses and sleds were used by people, hauling fodder and wood for fuel.
People, used to the weather, planned to have a hayride to visit other communities. The nite for the party was set.
Sled was scooped out clean and several bunches of hay or clean straw were put in the wagon bed which sat on the runners. Four stands of sleighbells were on the team.
Two trusty drivers were chosen and all occupants were to be ready by 6 o'clock. Each place stopped at, new people came and got in. Soapstones and warmed bricks were brought. A broom brushed off all sticking snow from their clothing as they came to the sled.
You either sat up on your knees or put feet straight out. The drivers at front of sled stood in coonskin caps, with ear tabs, large knit mufflers, doubled around shoulders and head. Just their eyes were peeking out to see the roads, all snow-covered, but the moonlight.
These days, we merrily slide along over the deep snow and occasional drifts, snow squeaking beneath the load.
Squeaky-squeak, creaky-creak-stop. We hold our breath as we lean to the opposite direction to keep our load from going over in the snow. We women folk held fast to our partners for protection.
Turn the corner, on we go; merrily, merrily, we go. Some one strikes up a tune and finally we reach our destination. Several couples are there ahead of us from nearby homes. They live in the first frame house built in the settlement.
We had sugar which a committee was to make taffy from. The owner of the home went to the cave and brought in a bushel of good eating apples and pulled some popcorn off string hanging in the woodhouse.
Soon, we were like a swarm of bees in a blooming clover meadow.
Our bricks and soapstones were brought to the fireplace to be ready for our return home. No harm was done. But all had a merry evening.
Everybody happy. Even, the dog which couldn't open his mouth to bark because of the piece of taffy wax given him. Just set there wiggling his tail and grinning.
All satisfied. Agreed an evening well spent except Allice. On way home, she got so excited or something at sled nearly upsetting! She opened her mouth as the sled careened. And, her dentures flew out in the snowdrift.
Who could find such a minute thing in a snow drift? So, we decided to go home and perhaps when spring thaws came, they might be found.
The laughter and jingling of bells could be heard a great distance. And people today are still remembering the sledding party. The horses usually travel homeward much faster than going away from home. They know their warm stable will be at journey's end.
The most energetic has the most grievances. He who laughs last has the most fun. The sleighriders are now in California where no snow is found.
We were off with a wave of our mittened hand and a Merry and a Happy Good night.
Aunt Gertrude, who has been doing poorly much of the winter and confined to her bed, writes that she has taken a turn for the better. She has been up and around some lately, but still unable to go outdoors yet. We hope the spring sunshine will bring a speedy recovery. This is the first serious siege of illness Mrs. Smith has had for many years. We thought our readers would enjoy getting acquainted further with our columnist who writes so entertainingly of the early days of Northern Indiana. This photo was taken in 1956 when she donned a dress from her young days to take part in the Kosciusko County Centennial celebration
Hoosierland February, 1963 page 4
by Gertrude Smith, age 93
The Grandma Moses of American Literature
Aunt Gertrude's Wedding
If ever there was a hot, sultry day, it was the 12th of June, 1901. Four women were busy in summer kitchen baking half-moon individual cakes of yellow frosted pink. All the ingredients of a wedding supper for a 6 o'clock home wedding.
Horse and buggy days. People from distance began coming in mid-afternoon. And, family kin from Huntington Co. and from Texas arrived. Heard of the event and invited themselves, making acquaintance.
The boy was invited to go along with my brother to meet the train at Etna Green and bring the Parson.
The contracting party, a school teacher of several years, had many friends. The bridal party members have all passed on now but the organist and bride.
The table was spread in big dining room from wall to wall and everybody were helped to all good things a farmer's table can hold.
after the first serving, the tables were replenished and others were served.
Mother about gave out. Not well. The bride took off her bridal gown, and waited upon the guests. Finally, her eyes met faces of men and boys of surrounding country.
Guns booming and bells ringing, almost to shatter the windows. The captain asked entrance to the home and they all entered and ate at table. Ice cream and cake were then taken to the little country store and all given candy and cigars.
Asked the bride to re-adorn her bridal outfit but, some had her excused as not often were the hoodlums treated so nicely.
They all knew her. Later on that nite, after the guests were all gone or quieted for the night, a big thunder and lightning storm came to frighten the 20 guests that remained till daylight. The groom's parents lived 8 miles away and we were invited to be welcomed there the following Friday to meet his kinfolks.
On the next Monday I was to be ready to leave my little home and fly to a home of my own. Glad but sad too. Where you have trod so many years. Hard to pull away.
A big wagon, double side-boards, a spring seat and big span of Belgian horses, came for me and my belongings. Times were different from nowadays taking a train going on a honeymoon. They loaded in a bedstead which had been handed down from my grandfather, springs, straw tick, feather bed, bedding sheets, comforts, blankets, and pillows, a trunk of clothing, books I had used when at college.
A roll of home-made carpet, woven in strips a yard wide, clean, colorful rags, to cover floors of two bedrooms. A cupboard, dishes, canned vegetables, and fruits to last until summer would come on. Last, after I got on that high spring seat, a box with a speckled hen and a brood of little chicks was hoisted. A guernsey cow was tied on behind the wagon. The train, already to go.
We went home the cool road, 8 miles back from traffic. My husband had a bedroom suit of oak and 33 yards of ingrain carpet, mattress and springs, curtains and blinds. We always had hired help from word start summer and winter, good cooking range, and fine sugar wood to burn. Such bread and biscuits never did he eat so good, although his mother and sister could not be beat for same.
I fell right into work. No riding and walking up to neighbors soon. Had butter to sell and chicken to eat, and eggs, everything worked together. Had many callers and visitors. Old Clunette Town still a live wire as is today. Have lived for 63 years on same farm.
Each year after threshing machine leaves you take your tick clean to the straw stack, pull nice bright straw, shake chaff from it, and put it in. Have men help you carry to house a nice new fresh bed.
In early days, those that have no straw, take the inside white corn husks and fill the tick or those that live close to the big marsh, use long grass for mattress.
You set a hen on eggs and hatch chicks or goose eggs for goslings. They are little balls of puff when small. Eat bread and milk like water. But, if a rain comes up you have to herd them. They just stand with there heads up and drink as rain comes down and drown, even half grown.
When all feathered out they get ripe and lose feathers. Time to pluck them. You catch them turn them on back put their heads between your arm and body. With your right hand in feathers, get a bunch between your fingers and give a quick jerk. Put in a sack ere you let loose so feathers won't float away in the air. As you pull each hand full, the goose squawks, but you talk to it and go on as it nibbles at your clothing. And if clothing too thin, gets a bit of you.
They can be picked about 3 times a season. You take some down too and leave wing and tail feathers unless you want toothpicks or pens made. A farmer's wife is a jack of all trades.
Every evening after sun goes down, she must close chicken cook up for fear of varmints. In the nite, rats or weasels often kill chicks. You have to sleep with one eye open.
A box under apple tree, which served as a coop, once had few boards on top. I went out in day time once and there lay a blue racer snake on top trying to get the chicks. You must work for what you get in this world. In early days farmers had no social security, only his hands and back.
When I was young at home, we had a neighbor girl who lived across road. She and a horse and buggy were on roads all times, every day to go home to mother. Needless to say she and her husband did not stay together, he had no helper.
My mother, oft so lonesome, would stand, look to the east and watch every one that came over the hill a half mile away. Thought it might be me. Said the road got longer after I was not there. Not that we didn't love or care for her. You don't always do as you like. Business comes first.
Always work in season. We had been taught to do and let do, stand alone. We knew we were always welcome and got a hand out of something and the pleasure of us both, little dreaming it would come to such a quick end, her going beyond at 53 years, only four years after my leaving home next.
Don't take us wrong, many a day I went home to take sunshine, do the cooking, care for her at bedside, during the siege of flue, pneumonia, etc.
Would stay until last minute I dared to get my work finished and also home to my duty, leaving with tears and prayers.
She, a scholar and great reader. Always a food for thought. Not complaining, looking on bright side of life. At time of my leaving home the P.O. at Angleton star route had discontinued which she and father ran, store abandoned, no rural delivery and things were more quiet. She still carried on God's work.
She taught Sunday School class. Her last Sunday at church, got dinner for minister and company. Went to evening services and without warning ere midnight was gone, saying good bye to those around her.
She folded the clothing around her, lay down to pleasant dreams as in Thanatopsis. Her work was finished.
Now the little farmer is crowded out in everything cut down by government. With eggs and butter, we exchanged for coffee and tea at stores. Having maple camps, had our own syrup and jar of maple sugar for the year. Our garden contained all else necessary, even to frogs and toads. You carried them away for fear of killing them. They made cows give bloody milk.
But, incessantly they returned each day to eat bugs there. So you had to abide by them, being careful where your hoe struck. They hopped up to top and set blinking their big eyes at you like one in a thunder storm. God has been wonderful to me. "Praise the Lord!"
Thanks to everybody for everything that helped to make my life useful.
HOOSIERLAND, October-November 1963 page 4, 17.
Note: Permission to reprint granted by granddaughter,
Barbara Smith Goon.