The Ladies Page

COUNTRY ECHOES

Content Tools

BRANDON WISCONSIN RR-2 53919

John Keats, the English poet, during his short and tragic life, wrote some meaningful lines about 'a thing of beauty' being 'a joy forever.' And then we all know the saying, 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.' I can't seem to run down the source of this one.

I have a neighbor who says she has seen so much 'old stuff' all of her life, she would settle for something new without a second thought. But aren't the old and the new so wonderfully interwoven as to be complimentary one to the other?

My husband reported to me last evening that he had resurrected the harnesses from the best team of horses he ever had and hung them up decently. They had laid in a pile of 'stuff' for years. Oh! What a flood of memories came over me as I remembered that unevenly matched and yet cooperative team. Their fly nets are still around as well. He also hung them up.

Lady was a plump and calm dark brown work horse. Pete was somewhat rangy, more of a roan color. He habitually jumped forward in his harness as though he was going to pull the whole load by himself. But when the load got heavy with fresh fragrant hay, or other produce, Lady dug her steady feet determinedly into the ground and really pulled.

Those were the days when the milk was hauled by sleigh - in emergency, and my Mr. B. was a milk hauler. One awesome winter, snow almost covered us. The telephone rang constantly. 'What are we going to do with our milk?' was the query. It was way below zero and the roads were closed. Plus this, we were so young and inexperienced.

The usual delivery station was six miles away, but a cooperative butter maker nearer to us offered to take what he could handle. His haulers weren't getting in either. This would save some of the produce. So all the neighbors helped to get a sleigh track open.

So it was that my young husband gathered milk together by team and sleigh. He then took it to Mr. Olson's creamery the same way. One night we had 87 cans full of milk in our kitchen over night, to keep it from freezing solid. We prayed the floor would hold and it did.

As he was gathering this milk together he used Pete and Lady as his partners. One particularly stormy day he took his trusty team north up County Trunk M. I saw him disappear through the cut north of the house with real fear in my heart. The empty cans rattled in the zero air. He was gone about two hours. I was keeping a vigil at the north window praying for his safe return.

The cut was filling up with snow. My fear was mounting. Would he and Pete and Lady make it? Darkness was settling in. Little Paul clung to my skirts. I picked up the baby for comfort. AT LAST! AT LAST! I saw the shadowy figures of two straining horses wallowing and floundering through the drifts, and the wildly waving arms of Mr. B. as he loudly urged them on. THEY MADE IT! THEY MADE IT! Oh! How thankful I was! My young husband was all right! I scooped the babies up with a happy shout.

So, you see, that is why it is that those harnesses really deserve a place of honor. The horses are long gone, but neither my husband, the memories, nor the harnesses are. They also held out through the struggle, so they are as much a part of the accomplishment as the animal and human participants. They will never be ugly old harnesses to either one of us. So it is we can also empathize with other people and their memories.

As we sat in that cook car in New Rockford, N.D. (last column) I could just feel the nostalgia welling up around me. I looked at the men gathered around the long table. How like the crews I had fed in my own dining room.

A sign hung near the battered old National cook stove. It read, 'COMPLAINTS TO THE COOK CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH.'

We visited with an elderly gentleman who was full of stories. I think his name was Ed. Johnson, 86, and a local resident. He used to gather cow chips to burn in the cook stove for a cook car of that day. I did wonder a little about possible odors. We discussed sod shanties among other things.

About that time I heard one man emphatically say, 'I wish they'd stick to the old ways. They were so much better.' That man was next to having tears in his eyes. So sweet it was to him. Another soon commented, 'If you were near the stove you had to shoo the flies off of every mouthful. That's why they used so many raisins. You had to guess what you were eating.'

We sat across the table from a couple who live in Indiana, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph McCrum. They were in N. Dakota visiting her parents. This couple were 85 and 86 respectively. If I got their name right it was Jensomosback. (And I thought my maiden name, Tjepkema, was impossible.) The conversation with this foursome covered many subjects, even straw burners.

After we left the show we drove on and stopped at Breckenbridge-Wahpeton and stayed overnight at the Del Rio Motel. In all of our travels we've never had the luxury of sleeping in a Queen Size Bed on a Sealy Posturpedic Mattress. Yes, I pulled back the covers to see. From cook car to such comfort was unbelievable. It was such a good bed. Sealy is getting some free advertising, whoever he is.

So whether you enjoy antiques, or the brand new, life is pretty terrific, and the Christian can settle down at night and say, 'All this and heaven too!' Yes, as the new song says, 'God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He's so good to me.'