Remembrances

I attended a meeting last night with some conservative friends. The original program scheduled for the evening had to cancel due to a sick family. Instead we had a round-robin of ‘Intro and tell’, or introduce yourself and talk about…whatever took your fancy.

To say the topics varied is an understatement. We discussed national politics and conservatism, state politics and conservatism, local politics and conservatives—do you see a pattern here? Each of us had our favorite hot buttons but the discussions were friendly and informative.

During one session on education and the NEA, I mentioned my mother was a teacher and related a story about Mom when she first started teaching in 1922 at the age of 18. Times were different then. It is less than 100 years since my Mother began teaching. All-in-all, I believe people were better educated then than now. Why? Because Mom didn’t teach rote memorization. She taught her students how to teach themselves—and think for themselves as well.

Mom’s birthday is coming in a couple of weeks. If she were still alive, she’d be 109.

The session last night caused a lot of memories to resurface. It’s time to repeat the story of Mom and the Fisher Boy.

Mom and the Fisher Boy

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Today is my mother’s birthday.

Mom was the oldest of five children, four girls and one boy. She was born in 1904 and grew up on the family farm near Olive Branch, IL not too far from Thebes in the southern tip of Illinois. This area was in the southern portion of Illinois is known as “Little Egypt.”

In 1922 at the age of 18, she began teaching in a country school about five miles from the farm. The Nialls Township school was a single room building containing grades one through the first two years of high school. The youngest pupil was five and the oldest seventeen. Mom, having just completed teacher training, was hired to be the sole teacher at the school.

Attending this school were the four Fisher boys. The Fisher boys ranged in age from eight years to seventeen. The oldest boy, no longer legally required to attend, wanted nothing to do with the school. In fact, none of the Fisher boys wanted to go to school and it was only their father’s heavy hand that any attended with regularity.

Mom was a disciplinarian. She’d help raise her four siblings, as well as many of her cousins in the area. She had definite ideas on how children should behave. In short, Mom did not believe in sparing the rod (as I well remember!)

The Fisher boys did not care to attend school, nor were they interesting in learning or being quiet. The oldest stood several inches taller than Mom and outweighed her by at least 50lbs. After the first week, he decided it was time to show Mom who was boss.

The usual routine was for school to start at 8 o’clock in the morning and run through until 11 o’clock. The pupils who lived close to school would go home for lunch returning at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. The remaining pupils brought their lunch. The Fisher boys lived several miles away and stayed at school. The afternoon session, starting at 1 o’clock continued until 4 o’clock when school dismissed.

On that day, all the pupils had returned and entered the school—except for the oldest Fisher boy. I don’t remember if Mom ever mentioned his name. For the purposes of this story, I’ll call him “Mose.”

Mose declared he wasn’t going to school anymore and Mom couldn’t make him. Mom’s reply was, in that case, Mose should be getting along home. He was to tell his father that Mom would be stopping by on her way home. That didn’t set well with Mose and he said that if she showed up, Mose would give her a lickin’.

Now, Mom had a brother that at that time stood over six feet tall. She had several male cousins her age, larger and heavier, and neither her brother nor any of the cousins gave Mom any lip. She had, at one time or another, licked them all. Mom might not have been a tomboy, but at that time, at that place, there were few women who couldn’t hold their own with any man.

Mom grabbed Mose by the collar and the seat of his pants, frog-marched Mose off the school grounds and tossed him out into the road. That did it. Mose came up swinging. Mom promptly decked him. Mose tried again, several times, with the same result. Since he wasn’t getting the results that he wanted, Mose finally decided that he’d enough and took off down the road. His three brothers started to follow but with one look at Mom, decided to remain at school.

At the end of the day, the children took off, primed to spread the news about the big fight. Mom spent another hour at the school, cleaning and preparing for the next school day. She was saddling her horse for the ride home when one of her pupils arrived to tell her that Mose had a gun and was coming to “fix her.”

It was not uncommon for most folks at that time to carry a gun. There were still night raiders who came up from Arkansas on the Mississippi River to raid small towns and rural homes. As was also common of the times, the law ended at the city limits and the only time the Sheriff was seen was just before Election Day to buy some votes. Mom, like many women of that time, who travel the country roads alone and often at night, was armed. Next to her horse, Mom’s prize possession was a Smith and Wesson Model 1917 .45 revolver. Grandpa Miller had bought the pistol for her as a graduation present from one of her cousins who had kept it when he was discharged from the Army at the end of WW1.

Mom had ridden about half way home when Mose stepped out from the side of the rode brandishing a shotgun. Before he could blink, Mose was staring down the bore of Mom’s forty-five. Mose promptly gave up the idea about “fixin’” Mom.

Mom marched Mose home at gunpoint and reported to Mose’s father what had happened at noon and later on the way home. The elder Fisher told her she should go ahead and shoot Mose, since Mose was a worthless SOB who couldn’t lick a little school lady and wasn’t worth the cost of the bullet to boot. Mom declined. Mose’s father then proceeded to teach Mose some manners to the extent that Mose lost several teeth.

Mose never returned to school after that day. He left the county the following week to find a job and never returned to “fix” the school teacher who wouldn’t be intimidated.

Mom died in 1967 after a long battle with cancer.

 

The Outhouse

It’s been a while since I recorded a memory from the Farm.  Sixty years has a way with blurring the events from that time.  Some memories are still fresh.

I’ve written about my Grandma who lived with us in the 1950’s.  I’ve spoken about our farm and the livestock we raised.  We also had vegetable gardens.  

All together, we had three.  The eastern garden next to the barnyard covered about  three-fourths of an acre.  The one in back of the house, the closest, was a half acre.  The last one was the largest, slightly over an acre on the west side of the house.  In addition we have a two acre orchard and a grape arbor.

We all were involved in the garden.  To me it was dirt, sweat, heat, sunburn and I’d rather be anywhere else than working in the garden.  Dad was still working in the mines at that time.  Mom taught summer school three days a week.  That left the garden to Grandma and me.  Except for weekends.

Each garden had different crops.  The large west garden had long rows of strawberries, corn, and pumpkins and watermelons that we sold in town at markets.  While we kept a lot, those were the cash crop of the garden.

The one in back grew potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, and others destined for canning or immediate use at the dinner table.  The barnyard garden was for everything else—carrots (ugh!), squash, cabbage, lettuce and leaf lettuce, mustard, dill, and much more.

The grape arbor was between the back garden and the one next to the barnyard. Grandma made a lot of jelly. Every year she put away jars and jars of strawberry preserves, blackberry and raspberry jelly, and grape jelly by the tens of jars. 
 

Nestled next to the grape arbor was an old outhouse.  When we first moved to the Farm in 1953, we had no indoor plumbing.  That situation didn’t last long and within a couple of years Dad and one of my uncles remodeled the interior of our house adding a separate kitchen, a water pump and a bathroom complete with a hot bath and toilet.

In the summer when working outside in the garden, we used the outhouse. It was closer.  I could never understand why there were multiple holes in outhouses when there was never more than one person using the place at a time.

The old three-holer also provided shelter for some birds who nested just under the roof and provided cover for field mice. 

The birds and mice attracted predators.

One Saturday afternoon, the four of us was working in the garden—weeding as I remember because I’d popped a blister on one hand and was trying to use that as an excuse to go inside.  After denying me my escape, Mom felt nature’s call and walked over to the outhouse.

A few moments later, Mom let out a screech following by some language I wasn’t allowed to use.  Dad headed her way.  Grandma followed.  I came along last.  I didn’t know Grandma could move so fast.

When I arrived, Dad was laughing.  Grandma had a smirk on her face.  Mom’s face was red and she wasn’t saying much by that time.

Blacksnake

Grandma told me later what had happened.  When Mom opened the outhouse door, a black snake fell out of the top of the outhouse onto her head.  It appeared that the black snake had stretched over from the grape arbor, along the top of the door and into the eaves of the outhouse.  Apparently the snake was looking to make a meal of the birds that nested inside.  It was in the process of swallowing a bird when Mom opened the door and knocked the snake from its perch.

Mom wasn’t bitten nor harmed.  Blacksnakes aren’t poisonous.

She never used the outhouse again and by the end of September she made Dad tear the outhouse down.  We didn’t need it anymore, she said, and besides, it stank.

Well, all that was true.  But the rest of us knew the real reason.  Mom wasn’t going to be surprised again from above!             

Mom and the Fisher Boy

Today is my mother’s birthday.

Mom was the oldest of five children, four girls and one boy, born in 1904. Mom grew up on the family farm near Olive Branch, not too far from Thebes, Illinois. This area was in the southern portion of Illinois is known as “Little Egypt.”

In 1922 at the age of 18, she began teaching in a country school about five miles from the farm. The Nialls Township school was a single room building containing grades one through the first two years of high school. The youngest pupil was five and the oldest seventeen. Mom, having just completed teacher training, was hired to be the sole teacher at the school.

Attending this school were the four Fisher boys. The Fisher boys ranged in age from eight years to seventeen. The oldest boy, no longer legally required to attend, wanted nothing to do with the school. In fact, none of the Fisher boys wanted to go to school and it was only their father’s heavy hand that any attended with regularity.

Mom was a disciplinarian. She’d help raise her four siblings, as well as many of her cousins in the area. She had definite ideas on how children should behave. In short, Mom did not believe in sparing the rod (as I well remember!)

The Fisher boys did not care to attend school, nor were they interesting in learning or being quiet. The oldest stood several inches taller than Mom and outweighed her by at least 50lbs. After the first week, he decided it was time to show Mom who was boss.

The usual routine was for school to start at 8 o’clock in the morning and run through until 11 o’clock. The pupils who lived close to school would go home for lunch returning at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. The remaining pupils brought their lunch. The Fisher boys lived several miles away and stayed at school. The afternoon session, starting at 1 o’clock continued until 4 o’clock when school dismissed.

On that day, all the pupils had returned and entered the school—except for the oldest Fisher boy. I don’t remember if Mom ever mentioned his name. For the purposes of this story, I’ll call him “Mose.”

Mose declared he wasn’t going to school anymore and Mom couldn’t make him. Mom’s reply was, in that case, Mose should be getting along home. He was to tell his father that Mom would be stopping by on her way home. That didn’t set well with Mose and he said that if she showed up, Mose would give her a lickin’.

Now, Mom had a brother that at that time stood over six feet tall. She had several male cousins her age, larger and heavier, and neither her brother nor any of the cousins gave Mom any lip. She had, at one time or another, licked them all. Mom might not have been a tomboy, but at that time, at that place, there were few women who couldn’t hold their own with any man.

Mom grabbed Mose by the collar and the seat of his pants, frog-marched Mose off the school grounds and tossed him out into the road. That did it. Mose came up swinging. Mom promptly decked him. Mose tried again, several times, with the same result. Since he wasn’t getting the results that he wanted, Mose finally decided that he’d enough and took off down the road. His three brothers started to follow but with one look at Mom, decided to remain at school.

At the end of the day, the children took off, primed to spread the news about the big fight. Mom spent another hour at the school, cleaning and preparing for the next school day. She was saddling her horse for the ride home when one of her pupils arrived to tell her that Mose had a gun and was coming to “fix her.”

It was not uncommon for most folks at that time to carry a gun. There were still night raiders who came up from Arkansas on the Mississippi River to raid small towns and rural homes. As was also common of the times, the law ended at the city limits and the only time the Sheriff was seen was just before Election Day to buy some votes. Mom, like many women of that time, who travel the country roads alone and often at night, was armed. Next to her horse, Mom’s prize possession was a Smith and Wesson Model 1917 .45 revolver. Grandpa Miller had bought the pistol for her as a graduation present from one of her cousins who had kept it when he was discharged from the Army at the end of WW1.

Mom had ridden about half way home when Mose stepped out from the side of the rode brandishing a shotgun. Before he could blink, Mose was staring down the bore of Mom’s forty-five. Mose promptly gave up the idea about “fixin'” Mom.

Mom marched Mose home at gunpoint and reported to Mose’s father what had happened at noon and later on the way home. The elder Fisher told her she should go ahead and shoot Mose, since Mose was a worthless SOB who couldn’t lick a little school lady and wasn’t worth the cost of the bullet to boot. Mom declined. Mose’s father then proceeded to teach Mose some manners to the extent that Mose lost several teeth.

Mose never returned to school after that day. He left the county the following week to find a job and never returned to “fix” the school teacher who wouldn’t be intimidated.

Mom died in 1967 after a long battle with cancer.