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Things before you were born

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Title  Things before you were born to Marjorie Nicholas Johannsen, by Donald Harve Nicholas 
Author  Donald Harve Nicholas 
Text  1985-1986
To Marjorie Nicholas Johannsen
THINGS BEFORE YOU WERE BORN - You may like to know about them as I remember them. I can remember mostly from age 6 on but some before then. We lived in the little house across from Dee's. Don't remember what Dad worked at. We had a buggy horse named Pet and a black horse named Jack. It had had a broken leg and I think Dad set it Crooked. Really don't remember it. The houses at that time (but later) we had carbide lights in the house. Dad smoked cigars then and I had my first smoke there in the kitchen. Catherill remember how sick I was. Dad always lit up when he came home at night. I wanted a smoke so he gave me one. Must have thought it would cure me from smoking but how wrong he was.
I was white haired and freckles all over my face where Dee and Paul were black haired - so must have thought I was an outcast. My first day at school was in the old school house in Rippey. Think I bawled all the way to school and all that day - so never did like school.
One time another kid and I set the barn on fire but the neighbor woman saw it and put it out with her wash water. That was Maggie Morris. It was just a pile of hay in a stall. I NEVER DID THAT AGAIN.
Now thinking back, the folks had to be in their 20's. The folks and Millers across the street were friends so we all were together a lot going to the riveror on a picnic.
I think it was in 1916 Dad rented a farm about 4 miles south of Forest City. He put everything in a boxcar and sent it up. I still can't remember how Mother and us kids got up there. The house just had a kitchen and living room down stairs, bedrooms up. Dee might remember how we went up. Mother must have been carrying Vandan for think he was born in 1916.
Pet, our driving mare had a colt before we left Rippey. We called it Sweetheart, a beautiful mare. I remember Dad breaking it the second year we were there to the buggy. It about tore the buggy up but finally made a really nice buggy horse. She was tall with a beautiful head. We used old Pet a lot.
Later she had two more colts - driving horses- one called Nibbin and one Buster. Dad used them on the spring wagon. They were a lot smaller than Sweetheart.
Mother drove her a lot to town. Sometimes she would take the three of us kids with her and remember a few times all of us would go in the wagon. One time Mother went alone and on the way home her hat blew off. She had gotten out to get it and Sweetheart started to walk - then run. Dad was in the yard and saw Mother wasn't in the buggy. He was really scared! He jumped in the buggy and went back and found her walking. Mother thought it was a big joke but Dad didn't.
A couple years later on another farm we moved to, Sweetheart was running and jumped over an old hay bailer in the pasture and broke something in her stomach. That was a sad time. We all cried about it. Dad dug a hole in the yard and buried her there. It was very hard on Dad for he loved horses. We must have had 1- or 12 when we sold out.
The country was new at that time. No tiles yet to drain the land so all low places were ponds, all full of lillies and cat tails. Really pretty when in bloom. All mud roads - so in the spring you could hardly get through in the low places. I have seen the horses go clear into there knees. We lived on that first place three years. World War I was going on.
We three kids walked to school, up the railroad track that run along our place. It was about two miles. Guess Paul didn't go till the second year we were there. Seems the winters were colder and more snow, so we didn't get to school every day. I remember one day Dee and I went it was very cold. We were numb when we got to school. Good thing they had school that day or we would have frozen. We found out later it was 33 below zero. Both places we lived, the schools were two miles from us - so lots of days in the winter we didn't go. It's a wonder we learned anything!!
Dad and Mom would take us kids fishing in a creek quite often where we caught a lot of fish. Some times they would let us play in the water.
In the fall we would make out a big order from Sears and get a load of boxes of groceries, dried fruits, oatmeal, coffee, so it wasn't often they had to go to town. There was a shortage of white flour during the war so we ate a lot of rye bread. We never did like it. Our neighbor was about half-mile away. They had five kids and they walked to school with us quite often.
Dad sent us three over there the time Vandan was born and we had to stay all night. I remember they had mouton (sheep) and pancakes for breakfast, fried in mouton grease. We three couldn't eat them so was about starved when we got to go home. It seems Mother was very sick every spring while we were up there.
We never did have a big Christmas. Just hung up our stockings and would get candy and some small thing. One year though, the folks bought a small farm wagon just like a big wagon. It was painted green with red wheels and a seat. Vandan was big enough then so we about wore it out pulling him around. By the time he was three he wanted to run off, so it was up to us to see he didn't.
One summer Dad made us all a big box kite. It was 4' long. We got it in the air with lots of string and the sting broke. Never did find it.
In the wniter months when it was too cold to get out, Mother would read to us. Several times Dad would make things for us to play with.
We all three had different chores to do.
One winter we had a three day blizzard - snowed and blew so hard. When it was over there was 12' snow drifts. Had 10' over the outside "can". When Dad had to go outside he had Mom tie binding twine on his wrists so he could follow it back. We didn't have a sled so slid down the drifts in a scoop shovel. Fun, tho!
We had a small dog and she had pups back of the cook stove.
We had a good stock dog named Keno. He either run off or someone stole him.
Later Uncle Bert Johns sent us up a collie pup that we had and sold at the sale. It saved my life once, so I really cried when it was sold. Probably the Fall of 1918 or 1919 the folks took all of us to the fair at Forest City. We went in a wagon and had lunch with us. I think that was the biggest thing of us kids lives!!! I must have been 10, Dee 12 and Paul 8, Vandan 2 or 3. I remember many things of that day sfter all of these years though some of them are faint. I remember it was night when we went home for we stayed for the fireworks and it wasn't often we were out after dark.
One time Mom talked Dad into going to a movie. We all went but didn't stay long. All I can remember was a man and woman were on the screen loving each other and Dad said, "Let's get out of here."
There was lots of wold hay then. Dad and neighbors changed work and cut and stacked it. Once Dad let me run the mower. I got slong fine until I run into a BUMBLE BEE BEST. The horses started to run away but it happened close to where the men were stacking and Dad ran and caught them. That was the last of cutting but I got to do other things like driving the big buck with long teeth that slid the hay to the stack.
One time we were all over to the neighbors helping to hay. Mother and Ann, the woman, were getting dinner and washing. Ann was about to have a baby and was running the wash machine. She hollered at Mom and said the baby was coming and it did - RIGHT THERE. They cleaned it up and she went right back to work after a couple hours. Must not have hurt her for I visited them several years later.
It nust have about 1919 that we moved to a farm southwest of Forest City. Vandan was 3, Paul 8, Dee 12 and I was 10. This was the place where Sweetheart died and where Dad buried her. So when we went anyplace Nubbin and Buster were old enough to drive. Dad always drove them double to the spring wagon. Approximately 1917 they started to tile out the ponds. Phil and Margaret Miller and two boys came up and he tiled for a few years. Part time they stayed with us then they rented a one room shack and lived closer to his work. One Fall while tiling he trapped and got over 1000 muskrats.
Some times the boys would stay with us and we would go to the dredge ditch and catch bullheads. We didn't have any hooks so we would use a willow pole with cotton string and a bent pin. We did get a lot of fish and Mom would fry them. One time Paul and I got a bunch of frogs and cleaned the legs. We had them all cleaned and wanted Mother to fry them but she wouldn't so we fried them outside. I remember they were good. The dredge ditch was close by so Dee, Paul and I went quite often. Vandan was 3 past and was gwtting into everything. We had a pump house and there was a lot of black grease on the pump jack. One day Vandan went out there, took off all of his clothes and when Mother found him he had grease all over him. He was always getting into something.
One summer there was a full eclipse of the sun. About 2 or 3 in the sfter noon lasted quite a while.
By this time we had a big herd of cattle and lots of horses, too. Still had old Jack with the crooked hind leg. Dad worked him a lot but he was my horse to ride. Dad hadn't set his leg too well. Behind the knee it stood out and I could put my foot on it, grab his tail and get on him. Didn't seem to bother him but always twisted his foot when he walked. But he was a nice riding horse.
This farm is where Old Shep saved my life. My job was to get the cows up. One cow with big long horns had had a calf. I went to get it up and the cow didn't like it so she ran and knocked me down. Lucky she didn't step pn me but I was under her and the dog grabbed her by the nose and pulled her off or led her away, then chased her away. Then he come back and licked my face to see if I was all right. No wonder I loved that dog. Seven years later I stopped into the poeple that bought him and sure enough- he knew me.
You girls remember the bear robe the folks had. Well, one fall Mom and Dad went to town and left us kids at home. It was cool so Mother took the robe to put over her lap. It was dark when they came home. Paul and I had cleaned the barn and had the cows and horses in. Dee was getting supper and had the lamp lit. Dad had stopped by the house and Mother got out and put the robe over her head and opened the door and got down on her hands and knees and crawled in the house. Dee let out a scream that you could have heard for miles. It really scared her, it was no joke. Mom was very sorry about it, guess she didn't think what it would do. Dee soon got over it and we all laughed about it.
We lived in the center of four schools. 2 mailes to each. I think we ended up going to three of them. There were a lot of bad days in the winter so missed out on a lot of school. Funny but I don't remember much what the other kids did but do know that they had their things to do. But Paul and Vandan weren't too old. One fall Dad had a lot of Fall plowing to do and I worked 5 horses on a gang plow many days. I was 11 then.
Phil Miller had bought a new Chevrolet touring car. Mother and us kids were visiting in Rippey. Phil was going back up there to work so Margaret and boys, Mom and us four road back home with him. He never got the car over 35 M.P.H. at any time so it was a long day. He had a tent for it and parked it in our grove. Dad had the team all hooked up to go to town one day - just the two of them. Phil had said they could use the car but Dad or her had never driven - but Mom teased Dad until he put the team away and got in the car. There was a big wooden water tank a short ways behind the car. Dad put it in reverse and his foot was heavy on the gas - SO BACK HE WENT. Hit the tank and about upset it. The only thing it did to the car was break out the tail light. Never did hear how they got along going and coming from town but didn't have any more bent places on it. Don't think he ever drove a car again until we moved back to Rippey. Then you wanted to get out of the road when you saw him coming. Ha.
Grandpa N came up a couple times to visit us and then the folks took care of him for some time until he passed away. A few times when the folks were away he would hide the butcher knife in the sleave of his coat. Dee was the only one that could talk him into giving it to her. Don't think he would hurt any one but it scared us. Once when we all were going to town in the spring wagon, there were about 50 birds flew around and round us for sometime right close. Mother said to Dad, "Something has happened", and sure enough they got a call that Uncle Carls boys had passed away.
All seed corn had to be picked before a freeze and put in racks to dry. Then in the spring Dad would make a big rag doll, they called it. With numbered squares, a couple kernels in each square off of each ear, then dampen it and roll it up. This was done to see what ears of corn would germinate.
There may be more but forgotten a lot. Hope you don't think am nuts for writing this.
I remember the sale in 1920 but no details. Only about Shep being sold and me crying so much. How we moved back to Rippey I don't remember. We moved in the house again across from Dees and Veina was born September 11, 1921. Mother wasn't well so Veona was fed canned milk. We had moved south of Rippey.
Dad had a lot of hogs for sale and they died with cholera. Then Mom and Dad were really hard up for several years. Finally tried to farm on two other farms, then gave up and moved to Rippey and started the blacksmith shop.
Marg, you can guess the rest of know it for you were born soon after, November 26, 1925. I was 16 then and not home much.
I got through the 7th grade and just started in the 8th, then quit school.
At 17 I went back up south of Forest City and worked on a farm. Did most of the work with horses on a 240 acre farm. 12 cows to milk and hogs to take care of. Worked there one fall and all the next summer. Then quit in the fall and came back to Rippey.
Some things that have come to me-maybe have written some of it. About Grandpa Nicholas. Veona may remember about him. He lived in the house where you were born, a small man. He always had a mustache. I don't even remember what he did only had a big garden like Dad did. I remember helping him plant potatoes. All the skins had to be up. While going to school in the new school house, Dad always wanted me to go at noon to see if he was okay, tho, remember when he was pretty active yet. He and Uncle Ernest had some horses across the river. Dad and I were along. Must have been about 6. Anyway, the 4 of us had to wade the river. Grandpa chewed plug tobacco. Still remember how big that plug swelled up. He always had a little flat top, cook stove in the kitchen and always when I stopped in, there were baked potatoes and onions. But I only knew him a short time before we moved south of Forest City. (5 or 6 then). Then I got to know him better when we moved back. He visited us a few times up there but didn't seem to like it, so he was always ready to go back to his home. I can see now why. As we get older we want to be in our own home, So after we moved back I stopped in to see him when I went to school. One time he wasn't feeling too well and wanted Dad to stop in. Siad to tell Dad he had some gold. Out in his back yard he had a can buried and in it was $240 of gold coins - a life savings!!!! He stayed with us south of Rippey on a farm for a while but would always want to go home. Then when we lived west of Rippey he finally had to stay with us till he passed away.
I don't remember Grandma, Dad's Mother. And don't remember Grandpa on Mom's side. But stayed a lot at Grandma, Mother's Mother, west of Rippey. She was married to Dad's brother, Uncle Ernest. They had Norman and Nora. Norman, I think he was 5 years ilder than I. He and I would go squirrel or rabbit hunting most every day we could.
Grandma most always washed clothes outside. Even used wood ashes and water to break the water in a big iron kettle. We had to carry water up a steep hill, then get cobs and wood to heat the water. I worked hard when I was out there, but liked to be there. Everyone said Uncle Ernest was mean. Guess he was, but always treated me good. They had a big garden and big orchard. Every Fall we would make apple cider. Then let it go to vinegar. She would make lots of grape wine, too. Tho I wasn't too old, she showed me how to do many things, like cleaning chickens, cooking, too. Uncle Ernest had a blacksmith shop, east end of Main Street of Rippey before they moved west of Rippey on the farm.
He was sick a long time before he passed away.
Dad's other brothers I never knew too well. Carl and his #2 wife, Addie lived at Buffalo Center, when we lived up by Forest City. There were a boy and girl of Uncle Carls and his wife treated them mean. She had a boy - he couldn't do any wrong. I met Uncle Fred of Kansas City a few times. His first wife was nice but the second one was a pig. Uncle Fred had several kids from his first wife. Prohably most are living yet. The other two Uncles I only met a few times. One in Illinois and one in Colorado, and then there was Aunt Addie, you remember her.

Mother born: February 4, 1889 - 17 years old
Dad born: June 3, 1882 - 24 years old
Married: August 6, 1906

Dee born: June 30, 1907 -Rippey
Don born: July 30, 1909 -Rippey
Paul born: August 17, 1911 -Rippey
Vandan born: March 24, 1916 -Forest City
Veona born: September 11, 1921 -Rippey
Marg born: November 26, 1925 -Rippey

by Donald Harve Nicholas

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