Mama Coming down Porch Steps, Papa Getting Snugery Ready
to Roll to Points of Gospel and Mexican Supporting Ministry and Fellowshiping Yonder
At once we'd "hit the floor running".
When Papa had a job for us, we knew it was imperative that we hustle. We wolfed down some hot oatmeal, a piece of Mama's whole-wheat bread, and a glass of milk. By then Papa was at the door with a wide grin on his face. He's snatch up the devotional book and turn for the message for the day and after reading, he'd pray. Some mornings, Mama would read and pray, usually with a tear-filled voice.
It was a potato picking bee. We all had a bucket and a gunny sack. Usually, it was one of the older sisters who would announce, "We'll pick potatoes as fast as we can, and when we're finished, we'll see who has picked the most potatoes!"
When all the potatoes were harvested in, we'd compare our sacks. We were surprised to see how much the youngest had in his bag. We were all so busy, we hadn't noticed that some of the older sisters had snuck some of their potatoes in his or her sack! What a fun memory.
Papa was very creative! I don't ever recall seeing a toboggan and I don't know if Papa had either. However, he saw a need for a swift conveyance whether for sport or necessity.
Papa took a long, flat-bottomed, not too thick board, secured a wooden box at the front end, attached a single-tree to the front and a horse would be hitched to it. Many times we kids would use "The Board" to get to school. Two and one-half miles each way. The older sister or Art would take the reins, we'd pile our lunch buckets and books in the box, and we'd balance on the board, facing out. There had to be snow on the ground, of course, for good sliding. Papa often used "The Board" to take a fast trip to the neighbor on some errand.
Yes, the box would get a good spraying of snow from the horses' hooves. Now to use the board for sport, we'd entertain our company with a ride on the board. When the driver got the horse trotting good, one of us at the back of "The Board" would give the back-end a kick and of course everyone but the driver would either jump off or fall off.
What hilarity, what great exercise, what fun. At times the driver would have to stop the horse until all could get on "The Board" again. However, it was quite a run for everyone! If we had no guests, we were enough children to make a grand sport of "The Board".
To prove our success, we had to produce the tail of the captured. A penny could buy a big round sucker at the drug store or many times two candies for a penny. The war on gophers saved Mama's garden!
There were times in the summer, after Papa would hitch up the horses to the stone-boat or sleigh. We pretty much knew what would be expected of us then.
Our farm had many stones and rocks in the soil. The very large ones, Papa would dynamite before we children would come out to the field. When the coast was clear, we would join Papa and roll the rocks and throw on the stones and later we'd drive the horses to the stone dump and unload. The other scattered stones, would be picked up and thrown on the stone-boat as we walked alongside or out in the field.
After the disking of the field, there'd be other stones to pick up or rocks to roll on the stone-boat. There was a great satisfaction to see the field black with no sign of stones. However, this took diligence on the part of the farm family from year to year.
Because of the arduous work of clearing the farm of stones, during the Depression we could easily spot the Indian arrowheads we'd find on the cultivated fields. The topsoil had blown away so the arrowheads were visible.
Since South Dakota is a state of much wind [the biggest wind storms are known to frequent Pierre, in the Capitol during legislative sessions--Ed.], going one way was okay but with the wind blowing toward us, the dust from the horses would blow in our face, hair, nostrils, and we'd look very "colored" by the time we had accomplished the job.
Papa had to take a government loan to buy seed for the fields, and for seven years he did this with not even seed at harvest-time.
Years after I had left home, while visiting the folks, I asked Papa, "You know, Papa, I never remember you complaining during that terrible Depression."
He curtly answered, "Complain? Complain? We didn't deserve anything! We knew that God knew what harvest we should have and if we didn't get a harvest, we knew it was God's will!"
I've never forgotten his answer! I began to understand how dependent the folks were on God's will in their lives.
During the Depression, the only way we could keep our cattle alive was to herd them along the road, down in the ditches for them to graze. If we had a horse to ride, we didn't mind. However, there was always a steer who thought the grass greener way up the road and it was some fast running on the part of at least one of us to hustle down the road and head the animal back to the flock.
By the sixth year, our cattle were so skinny they gave no milk and of course couldn't have calves. Herding now was an impossible job. The wind blew with such fierce force and the only thing the wind could blow was dust and the Russian thistles [tumbleweeds]. They stuck all along the fence in the pastures and the dust settled along the thistles until the cows could walk right over the fence because it became so compacted. To this teenager, these were dark days [yet God's Sovereign Grace got the Stadems through it, unlike the unfortunate many who lost heart and all provision and were forced off their farms at this hard time.--Editors] --With love, Estelle