Farm Collector

The Ladies Page

Country Echoes

By MAE BABER

R.D.2, Brandon, Wisconsin

Waiting for spring is sometimes a depressing experience. As one
woman to another let’s hope your husband doesn’t get at the
Ladies’ Page before April 1st. Just to cheer things up a bit
this time of year why not try this on your special man? I will
admit mine got even with me in quite a clever manner this last
April 1st so perhaps you would like to challenge a come-back
bout.

In April of ’59, on the morning of the first day, I decided
to bake some pancakes for breakfast. We do not have them often that
early in the day. They seem a little heavy for a steady diet. What
was my motive this particular morning? I wouldn’t call it the
very best, but nevertheless I got out my spoon, my frying pan, all
the ingredients and went to work. Anyone watching me would have
wondered what I was doing with a round piece of cloth, clean
muslin, which was possibly four or five inches in diameter. I took
on my sweetest morning look and made myself as busy as any good
housewife should be. Here came the men for breakfast! Sizzle,
sizzle, onto the griddle went the batter. For one particular
pancake I took only half the amount of batter, spread it out
carefully, as thin as I could, laid on the piece of muslin and
smoothed the other batter over the top. Ah! it looked just like all
the rest! It worked! My friend was right. She had pulled this one
on her husband.

‘Humph, we’re getting real service this morning,’
said my husband with one of those adoring smiles which still makes
my heart flutter, as I waited on each one separately. A pang of
conscience shot through me. He was so nice, and I was being so
mean. After all a little fun now and then is good for a family, I
reasoned. Our daughter had even encouraged the idea after I had
baked her a similar one for her breakfast a short time before. As
she had left for work, her departing remark had been, ‘Pull
that one on Daddy’. I didn’t have to be told. The plans
were already laid.

I can still see him giving his fork a workout over that pancake.
He worked harder than a sawmill on a heavy log. He couldn’t
believe his eyes when he saw what made the going so rough. I saw to
it that more were ready and I could disappear to the kitchen,
trying hard to stifle my laughter at his chagrin. The children said
‘Mom, I didn’t think you had it in you,’ as they let
their laughter warm up the house with its sheer joy. They looked at
me as though I were something from outer space. Serious-minded old
Mom doing a thing like that was unbelievable. They just didn’t
know of the time I slipped quietly into the milk house when the
milking was going on and shut off the running apparatus, hid behind
the door until my poor husband had tried the light switches all
with success, and scratched his head a while to have it come back
on. He found me behind the milk house door. Nuf said! Nor do they
know how I hid under my grandmother’s bed while she was out of
the room and when she returned the bed came into action from my
hands and feet underneath. My poor grandmother almost had heart
failure and I didn’t sit so well for a while. I was about
eleven, that time.

Since the April 1st episode in ’59, I have come to the
conclusion that my husband has a memory like an elephant. April
1960 rolled around. We were in the midst of remodeling and I had no
heart for jokes. Life was quite grim in the midst of our mess but I
thought there was going to be a few quiet days with nothing to
disturb. Things were in order for the present. On one particular
Tuesday I returned from town to find our plumbing fixtures being
hauled down the stairs. We were going to have new bathroom fixtures
upstairs and equip the downstairs with some of the old ones. In two
days from the time the plumbers came we were to have as houseguests
two college girls from a visiting choir for an overnight stay. I
groaned as I stepped inside my door and saw what was going on. Two
days! What a mess! The plumber assured me that there was nothing to
worry about. He would have the old fixtures in downstairs and all
would be well. I could close the door on the upstairs bathroom and
no one would be the wiser. Anyone who has never tried to move
forty-year-old equipment has much to learn, let me assure you. It
was a must to get new fittings. From town to town flitted the
plumber. ‘Outdated’, was all he heard. We were beginning to
question our thoughts of economy (we have now settled for another
new one). The Scotch seems to predominate in this Hollander and her
German husband.

The afternoon of March 31st arrived. After the evening concert
we were to have our houseguests. The clock rolled around to 4 p.m.
Nothing would work! The baking had been done the day before, every
room was cleaned up that it was possible to clean and the doors
pulled tightly shut. Split pea soup was for supper. The plumber
sweat, I fidgeted with the broom, having thoughts of taking it and
a pail of water out into the backyard substitute. The plumber
wouldn’t hear of it. ‘We don’t live in the sticks, you
know’, he commented. In desperation he installed the new
equipment, intended for the upstairs and already hauled up, and now
again hauled down. They departed, probably thankful they had
escaped my waiting broom. Mary and I cleaned like a hurricane, sat
down at the concert, and recuperated somewhat. It was wonderful.
The girls were charming farm girls from South Dakota.

There had been intermittent bursts of water on my washroom floor
all afternoon of that mixed up day as they had tried to make things
work, and my dearly beloved saw his golden opportunity. At
eleven-thirty I fell into bed, exhausted. Oh, how I slept until two
thirty when, with great concern, my worthy tormentor awoke me with
these words: ‘Mae, Mae, you’ll have to get up, things have
sprung a leak here again the floor is all wet!’ He crawled
conveniently back into bed. Dragging one tired foot behind the
other, I walked into the bathroom too sleepy to realize that he
would be in the basement shutting off water if anything was wrong.
My feet stayed bone dry as I groped sleepily along. I opened my
mouth in protest to be answered by a giggle from under the
bedclothes. ‘April fool, Mama, April fool.’

So do it if you dare, Ladies. I think I have learned a lesson
but I am not quite sure. Perhaps I have another friend who

My brother threshed with this outfit and number of other ones in
the vicinity north of Balta, North Dakota. He is shown in the
picture on the engine platform. I worked with him as engineer on
some of his other engines several years. This outfit was his last
with steam. I think he threshed a Fall or two with a gas tractor. I
never actually saw this engine and don’t remember the make it
may have been a Northwest. I am sure the separator is a Rumely
Ideal, as he used a number of them during his threshing career and
liked them very much. The car in the picture is a Dodge. That is my
brother’s wife standing by and two of the girls are his. My
brother was a very successful thresherman, and he was at the height
of happiness when his rig was in the field with a good crew and
everything was humming. The engine was fired with straw, a very
suitable fuel.

  • Published on Jul 1, 1961
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