Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Snow

Last night we experienced a major snow event here in Cache Valley and I'm sure many of the rest of the family got in on the same storm.  It came with a fury and lasted only a couple of hours in which about eight inches of snow fell and all of it was accompanied by strong winds.  We were expecting it as it had been forecast right down to the hour and the intensity of the storm and the following drastic drop in temperatures.  We were prepared and so had no need to fear.  This storm took me back in my memories to our growing up days in Bear Lake Valley and experiences we had with the weather while living there. 
     As I think back on those days, I have come to believe that the weather actually had a major role in the way we grew up and on our character development as well. One particular experience stands out in my mind.  I forget the exact year but it would have been when I was about eight or nine years old as I recall.
In Lanark as well as most of the rest of rural Bear Lake Valley nearly all families depended on small dairy operations for a livelihood. By this time most of the small creameries which had been privately owned and existed in many of the small communities around the valley had been consolidated and a dairy cooperative had been created  with a large creamery and cheese plant built just about a mile north of Paris.  Farmers from all over the valley would send their few ten gallon cans of milk to the creamery in Paris.  The milk was picked up from each place and hauled to Paris by a milk truck driver.  I remember that Uncle Ivan, mother's brother, was the milk truck driver who came each morning to our place and picked up the milk.  He was always singing a song or humming a tune, even when the weather was bad or he got stuck in the snow. 
     Anyway, I remember this terrible storm we had.  The wind blew and blew and it snowed and snowed for several days.  The drifts were immense and for all intents and purposes we were cut off from the rest of the world.  We couldn't even see across the street during this entire time.  One thing that did go on however, was the feeding of livestock and milking of the cows.  After a couple of days all the milk cans were full, and the milk truck could not make its rounds as all of the roads were covered with huge drifts of snow.  Milk was essentially every ones major source of income and as the blizzard continued it became apparent the the farmers would all have to dump their milk, as there was no place to put it.  One thing about cows, they wont hold more than a days milk at a time and preferably only a half days, thus the morning and night milkings.  Dad became concerned about having to dump his milk and knew that all of the other farmers around town were having to do the same.  This could become a major problem for them, and he knew it,  so he harnessed up his team and hitched them to the sleigh and went off into the blizzard.  He soon was joined by another farmer, Dave Parker, who lived about a mile away.  Together they went from one end of Lanark to the other picking up all of the milk cans  full of milk from all the farmers, loading them on to the sleigh in the blizzard and taking them to the creamery in Paris six miles away, where the milk was dumped into the large vats for making cheese.  Then the empty cans were loaded once again onto the sleigh and Dad and Dave were off into the raging blizzard once again.  They now had to return all of the cans so the farmers could refill them once again.  I remember that as the day wore on Mother was very anxious and concerned about Dad out in the blizzard all day.  About dark, the door opened and their stood Dad plastered from head to foot with a thick coat of snow, but thankfully safe and sound.I especially remember how the snow was caked onto his whiskers and face.  I have often thought about this experience and have reflected on what made Dad do this.  First of all, he was physically strong and he was brave.  He was never afraid or reluctant to reach out and help someone in need.  He had faith in the Lord and in himself and even in his team of horses.  He cared about his neighbors and knew that their predicament was equally as dire as his own.  He knew that there were neighbors out there, who had the same concerns that he did, and that they would be willing to help if they could, and that they would be grateful for the help they received, if they couldn't. He did not hesitate, even at great risk even of his life,  to come to their aid.  This was not the only occasion in which he came to the aid of someone in need.  It was a part of him. Throughout the years, I have always been grateful for the example that was shown to me on that wintry day and in the howling blizzard.  People who have spent their lives in the Bear Lake Valley have a name for these blizzards, which happened then much more frequently than they do now, or at least, so it seemed.  They say: "That was a real Bear Laker."

     Another event of my youth associated with the winter weather occurred during my high school years.  I was a Freshman and Ellis was a Senior.  We both attended Fielding High School in Paris. 
There were not a lot of clubs and school activities beyond ball games and dances, but one was a banquet put on by the FFA (Future Farmers of America).  Ellis and I were both a part of this organization and were in line for some sort of award, I think. At this time Dad had a 1950 Plymouth and took us to the dinner and program in Paris.  I can't remember for sure, but they must have had a baby sitter for Brenda, Nina, Reed, and Mark.  Brenda was not old enough to care for them I'm sure and our parents would certainly never have left them alone without adequate care.  Anyway the evening went by pretty much as planned until we started home.  By  the time we reached the Lanark Road the wind was blowing and the snow was drifting heavily across the road. Dad turned on to the road and started towards home.  Soon it became apparent that the car would never be able to break its way through the snow drifts which covered the road and the storm was not letting up.  Mother had been nursing Mark, who at the time was still just a baby.  She knew, she had to get home, and so they assigned Ellis to take me back to Paris and go to Grandma and Grandpa Eborn's and ask to stay with them.  Of course, they let us.  Dad and Mom then took off on foot through the drifting snow, knowing that somehow they just had to get home, Mom to nurse the baby and take care of the kids they had left at home and Dad to milk the cows in the morning. Somehow, they made it and all went well, but it once again showed the love and determination they had for all of us.  First of all, they were supportive of Ellis and me in our school activities and secondly they were not to be dissuaded from the even more
challenging task of getting home so they could care for the younger children.  It took about three days before the roads were finally open and we could return home.  Most of the school buses couldn't make it in to Paris during this time, but the Paris kids and, of course, Ellis and I and some others who also couldn't make it home had to go to school anyway.  Needless to say, school was more play than work during those days, but we, nonetheless, felt a little put upon.  This story is true to the best of my recollection, but there may have been a few things I'd forgotten or got mixed up.  Maybe Ellis could clarify if need be.

By Bart

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Harvest Season Memories

Today, my thoughts are of my wonderful mother.  It is her birtday and were she still with us she would be 98 years old.  I'm sure she's in a better place and happily watching over us just as she did when whe was here on this earth.  November is special to me because I always am reminded of the special person who was our mother.
November is also a special month of thanksgiving.  It is also commemorated a a month of the harvest although the harvest in the Bear Lake Valley was usually over by November and often the ground was already covered with snow before the month was over.  As with all of the other months of the year, November holds special memories for me and I'm for other members of the family.  Our family worked hard to make sure that our harvest included enough bottled fruit and vegetables to get us through the winter.  That was no small task for a family of eight.  We didn't always depend on what we could buy at the grocery store in town.  My personal memories are of Mother shelling peas and canning almost anything that would fit in a bottle.  I remember not only the traditional fruits and vegetables, but venison stew and bottled meats and chili beans etc..  I remember also butchering pigs and putting some of the cuts of meat in a brine and spice solution to soak.  This had two major purposes.  It gave the meat a special tasty flavor as in ham and bacon and it also was a way to preserve the meat in the days before we got a freezer.  Some of the special things that Mother canned and put away on the shelves were Mom's Chili Sauce.  Pickled Beets, and I even remember her bottling mince meat which was used for an occasional special pie.  I remember planting potatoes and in the fall digging them and then tyring to keep them for use later in the winter and early spring.  We had to work at it, but I'm sure no one ever went to bed hungry in our home.  Sometimes it was potatoes and milk gravy with a little bit of sausage.  This was especially good with some of Mom's home made Chili Sauce.  I even like it to this day.  I learned to like bread and milk of which there was always plenty.  Mother was an outstanding cook in spite of not always having a lot to work with.  She could make an excellent meal out of what we would now consider to be very meager ingredients.  The smell of Mother's home made bread when we came home from school, is a memory which will fondly linger in my mind until the day I die.  Home made bread a a slice of cheese always tasted so good.  I also remember fondly the home made cookies, the Yorkshire puddings and rice puddings with raisins, as wonderful pies of different kinds which were served on special occasions.  One thing I don't think I appreciated as much as I should have at the time was the fact that for many of my growing up years Mom did all this cooking and baking in a wood fired stove.  Just keeping the fire burning was in and of itself no small task.  It seamed we were always scrambling to find a few extra sticks of wood, so that the bread could finish baking or something else could be cooked completely.

Below are pictured some of my favorite tastes and smells form our kitchen.

Home made bread 5-6 loaves twice a week.

Home made Chili Sauce.  I loved the smell of it being cooked on our wood burning stove.  It tasted yummy too.  We always bought a few bushels of tomatoes from a peddler who would come around in the fall.  Mom made those tomatoes last all year, chili sauce, tomato juice etc.
Beets were one thing we could grow well in Bear Lake Valley,  Mom bottled them as a vegetable and also as Pickled Beets which I especially liked.

Another favorite memory of the harvest season was when we harvested the grain (wheat and barley.)

Dad always hired someone who had a combine to come in and harvest the grain.  I remember so well sitting in a big truck full of wheat eating raw wheat by the hand full.  It actually tasted pretty good. And the smell of the freshly harvested wheat and barley is a lingering memory that just wont go away.  Dad always worked very hard to get a good crop and then to get it harvested in a timely manner.  I remember one year in particular.  The barley harvest was very good.  I can still hear Dad telling me that his crop that year yielded nearly a hundred bushel per acre.  Such was unfortunately not always the case due to lack of water and untimely frosts. Most of the  grain was sold as a much needed cash crop with some being retained for feed for the animals.

A bumper crop of barley, this was used as a cash crop, but also as feed for the animals, pigs, chickens
and cattle.

by Bart