Part Two - Getting Educated

At that time, a child started to school at the beginning of the first term after his sixth birthday. As my birthday was in August, I started to school about one week after my sixth birthday. We walked one and one half miles to school. When I started to school, the first half of the year was called the Primer Class. I had only one book and subject – reading. During this period of my education, I discovered it was easier for me to commit the words to memory from hearing the book read than to learn to read. By Christmas time, I knew the book by heart but couldn’t read a word. The primer had four major characters – Dick, Jane, a dog named Spot and a cat named Puff. It also had many minor characters – ponies, butterflies, pigs, cows, bees and some others. Note that they were all real God’s creations. And they all acted like real animals. The cow said only, “Moo,” walked on four legs and ate grass. She could not speak English and didn’t wear clothes. The other animals acted like animals, also. If I remember correctly, I was about nineteen years old before I saw a mouse that wore a coat and walked on two feet or a duck that spoke understandable English. The first page of the primer went something like this:

See Dick run.
See Jane run.
See Spot run.
See Puff run.

     The second page was much more exciting. It went like this:

Dick can jump.
Jane can jump.
Spot can jump.
Puff can jump.

     When you finished the primer and got into first grade, your education really got into high gear. You still had Dick, Jane, Spot and Puff to contend with, but you also had some numbers to learn. Now, this is where I commenced to run into some trouble. Did you ever try to memorize arithmetic? Writing was sort of a drag, also. We were expected to do our writing on tablet paper, which was about three grades below newsprint, with lines about one and a half inches apart. Some of the letters were supposed to be as high as from one line to the other, some only half that high. Most letters were supposed to set on the line, but some were supposed to cross it and be half above and half below the line. Are you confused? I was, too. As you might expect, I flunked the Primer Class I didn’t try too hard the last half of the year, since I had flunked the primer part and was going to have to take it over next year anyway. Each child was expected to furnish his own book then; or, rather, parents were expected to buy their children’s books. So if a second-hand book was available, you got it for half price. We mostly had second-hand books. Now, the kid that had my primer one of the years before I got it was a fast learner. He had learned the ABC’s and became bored before the teacher let him go on to the next page. So when I was to learn my ABC’s in my book between the F and the H was the G colored in with black. As I enjoyed memorizing, I learned the ABC’s with little difficulty. As the teacher didn’t tell me what to call G colored in with black, I just skipped it.

     Now, while it was fairly easy for me to memorize, it was hard for me to forget. So that evening, Mother asked me to say my ABC’s for her, and I said, “A, B, C, D, E, F, H, I, J,” etc. She spent about an hour trying to make me remember that there was a “G” in there. Then she started supper, and dad took over to teach me “G.” I had repeated the letters about one hundred times and left out the “G” every time, and Dad sort of lost patience. I can still hear him holler, “G – dammit – G!” every time I would say, “A, B, C, D, E, F, H…” Even now, when I print my letters, I sometimes have to stop and think, “is it G or G colored in with black?”

     My education really started before I reached school on the first day. We had to walk one and a half miles to school. I was all decked out in my first pair of short pants, my panty waist to hold them up, my shirt waist, my knee-length, black stockings, held up with a rubber band cut from a Model T inner tube, and my high brogan shoes with metal toe caps. Kenneth started to high school that year, so I had three big brothers to walk to school with. I had my primer book, a “Big Chief” tablet, my dinner in a half-gallon syrup pail, and my pencil. Now, everything would have gone really smooth, I think, except for that pencil. We had to cross the bridge across Limestone Creek on the way to school. Compared to the Golden Gate Bridge, it was not a large bridge. But, compared to any bridge I had tried to walk across before, it was huge. It was floored with planks, and there were huge cracks between them. Under the bridge was a puddle of water. I started to cross with the other boys. After I got about three steps out onto the bridge, I looked down through one of those cracks. The first thing I thought was I might drop my pencil through a crack. I hurriedly backed off the bridge. The other kids assured me there was no danger in walking across the bridge. When this didn’t convince me, they tried cursing, then threatening, then bullying me. Nothing got me onto the bridge. Then Charlie took his cap off, put it on my head and pulled it down over my eyes so I couldn’t see, took my hand and led me across. I don’t know when I finally got up nerve enough to cross a bridge with my eyes open, but I can remember crossing that one many times blindfolded.

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Thelast year that Dad farmed the homeplace, I was introduced to “chewing tobacco” and “blue racer snakes.” Dad was listing corn in the west forty. In the middle of the afternoon one day, Mother fixed a jug of fresh water to be taken to him. She put me on old Snip, gave me the jug, and opened the gate to let me into the pasture. I was to ride across the pasture, open the gate between the pasture and the cornfield, and give Dad the water. I had to dismount to open the gate, and I could not get back on the horse. So I started down a cornrow toward where Dad was, carrying the jug and leading Snip. Dad was resting under a big cottonwood tree in the middle of the field. I happened to look behind me, and in the corn furrow between Snip and I was a blue racer snake. It was coming towards me. I dropped the water jug and Snip’s reins, let out a couple of war whoops, and started down the corn rows as fast as my pudgy legs would carry me. Dad saw something was wrong and came running up the row to meet me. After he found out what was wrong with me, he laughed and then showed me that if you ran from the snake it would chase you, but if you ran toward it, it would run from you. After that, I wasn’t much afraid of blue racer snakes.

     About the first of July, Slim [17] was laying the corn by (that is, plowing it for the final time). He was working a two-horse team on a one-row, walking cultivator. When one man operated this machine, the lines were tied together and looped over one’s right shoulder, across his back and under his left arm, so that the team would be guided by simply turning your shoulders. However, this proved to be lonesome work, so Kenneth wanted me to go into the field with him. To get me to go, he promised I could drive the horses. He seated me on the tongue of the cultivator between the wheels and gave me the lines. I loved it for a couple of hours, and then I got tired and wanted to go to the house. We stopped to rest in the shade of the big cottonwood, and I insisted I would go to the house. So Slim said he would give me a chew of tobacco if I would stay with him until quitting time. I stayed in the cornfield until quitting time, all right, but I don’t think I was very good company, as I spent the remainder of the afternoon in the shade of the tree heaving up my heels. I never was so sick in my life. And, boy, did I get spanked when we got home! I don’t think Dad spanked Slim, but his “talking to” was worse than a spanking anytime.

     Out in the grove of stunted and second-growth box elder trees there was a large hole in the ground. This hole was where an ice storage house had been dug in years past. It had not been used for many years, and the banks had caved in and filled it in until it was just a big, bowl-shaped hole. One time, Charles got Dad’s .45 revolver and put a tin can in the bottom of the hole for a target. The first time he shot at the can, the kick of the gun was not anticipated, and he killed an old rooster that was sitting in the grove. Another one of Dad’s “talkin’ to’s”

     The reason we called them “talking to’s” is because when we did wrong, Mother would always say, “I’m going to get Will to talk to you.” Sometimes this meant with his mouth, but, he would also impress ideas with his hand, the razor strop or a hitch rein.

     Dad had a big piece of iron about eight inches square and four inches thick that he used for an anvil. It had a hole in the center about the size of a .45 shell. We were playing with a .45-caliber shell and found that it just fit the hole in the anvil, so we put it in the hole with the cap end up. This was not very exciting, as it just sat there. So Willis hit it with the hammer. That hammer went about forty feet in the air, and after the explosion, we heard sort of an intermittent whistling sound for a couple of seconds. Mother came out onto the porch and said, “What was that?” We said, “Nothing.” Again, she said, “I’m going to get Will to talk to you.” She did. He did – with his belt this time. After he finished his visit, he dug the .45 slug out of the ground under the anvil. We never did find the shell case. I suspect it probably landed someplace in Cloud County.

     During my second year in the first grade, I fell in love. She was only a couple of months younger than myself. Since her sixth birthday came after school started the year before, she was just starting that year.

     Her name was Deitz. She was of Dutch extraction and had the physical characteristics usually attributed to the Dutch. She was blocky built, and she stuttered. I think this is why I was attracted to her. It took her so long to say anything, she didn’t say much, and I could think as fast as she talked.

     I made another friend that year. His name was Burl Thomas. He was in the seventh or eighth grade. He was a very friendly boy, and he sort of took me “under his wing.” He was the biggest, strongest boy in school, and, believe me, no one picked on me that year. He had a real “store bought” dinner pail. The lid to it was a container for liquid and had a screw top that served as a drinking cup. His dinner pail also had two little trays in it to hold dessert. Oft times, he would have a piece of pie or cookies or some other goodies in both trays, and he would give me one for my lunch. After he graduated from grade school, I lost contact with him. When I was in the fifth grade, he and some other boy were swimming in the river and he drowned. I cried for days. I think that was the first time I ever thought much about death.

     The schoolhouse served as the community center. The last day of school was always a big holiday. All the people in the community came to school that day. Every family brought “pot luck.” During the morning, school would be held as usual – well, not really as usual. We would have classes and recite, but only those classes which had been practiced would be held on that day, as the whole neighborhood would be watching from the back of the room, and the teacher tried to prevent any surprises. Then, at noon, the dinner would be spread on tables set up in the schoolyard, and everyone would gorge themselves. Then the bell would be rung, and everyone would go inside to see the graduating class receive their diplomas. Then the chairman of the school board would give a talk, and the teacher would tell everyone what she had tried to do that year and what she planned to do the next term. Then everyone would clap real loud, then go home, thinking what a good time they had.

     Mother had a set menu for any “pot luck” dinner she attended -- fried chicken, boiled ham, sour cream raisin pie and fruit salad. She made the fruit salad with strawberry Jell-O, bananas, grapes and black walnuts. It was always the best thing at the dinner, except the raisin pie she made. She always knew that us kids wouldn’t get any of the two pies she took to the dinner, as the kids were always last in line and her pies always went first. So she made four pies and left two at home. I always looked forward to those “pot luck” lunches because, besides all the good things we had for dinner, we were going to have the raisin pie for supper. I have always liked raisin pie, but none has ever tasted as good as those.

     Dad and Uncle Buck fished together. Since there was no water near Ionia, they either went south to the Solomon River or up into Nebraska to the Republican. Since it has been said that the Republican is “too thick to drink and too thin to plow,” they preferred the Solomon. When they fished, they would set “trot lines.” This is a line, any length, with hooks placed at intervals along its length. One end of the line is tied to a stake driven at the water’s edge. A rock or iron is tied to the other end after the hooks are baited, and the rock is thrown into the river as far as the line will permit. About every hour, these lines must be run and the fish (if any have been caught) taken off and the hooks re- baited. Now, there were at least three things absolutely necessary to a successful fishing trip: a case or two of home brew (fishing in Kansas is dry work), a gun (the grizzly bears and mountain lions are bad there, too), and a lantern (also, it usually gets dark there at night.) One night, Dad and Buck went to run the lines and heard a big commotion in the brush. Buck was carrying the lantern and the gun, while Dad was checking the lines. It turned out that the noise was just an old milch cow coming down to drink. When Buck was telling the story after they got home, he said, “I says to Bill, ‘Bill, you hold the lantern,’ but when I looked back, Bill was gone!”

     The Rawleigh man came around about every three months. His coming was a big event in our life because his sample case, when opened, filled the house with the most delicious odors. You just haven’t lived until you have smelled a Rawleigh man’s sample case. He was some distant relative of my mother’s, so he usually stayed two or three nights at our house while he worked the neighborhood for miles around. He had a Model T roadster. He had removed the boot (now called the trunk) and replaced it with something that looked very much like a big doghouse. This served as his warehouse when he was on the road. He sold such items as imitation vanilla, imitation lemon flavor, liniment, a variety of salves and elixirs for various ailments, perfumed soap, face powder, shaving brush and soap, razor blades, many brushes (hair, tooth, scrub, bath, etc.), and I can’t remember what all else. But I say “Thank God” for all the excitement he brought with him.

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Dadwas born in a dugout soddy on the hillside west of the homeplace house. The well and the windmill were across the draw from the dugout. Grandmother had a garden over by the windmill.

     The dugout was dug into the side of a steep pitch of the little hill, the back being about five feet below the ground level and the front on the ground level. Then these walls were leveled up by placing sod around the hole. The sod wall in front was about seven feet high, and the sod wall in the back was about three feet high. Cottonwood logs were then placed on top of these walls. The poles were then covered with brush and prairie grass and then buffalo grass sod laid over this. When Grandma went to work in the garden, she often left Dad at the house to play. One day, while she worked in the garden, she looked up and a small herd of buffalo had come over the hill and were coming down the draw between her and the house. Some were very near the door to the house. Dad had climbed up into the roof at the back of the house, and was sitting on the roof watching the buffalo pass. Grandma got into the enclosure formed by the legs and braces of the windmill. The buffalo came to the tank formed by the water from the windmill, drank, and then went on down the draw. I have been back to the old place in more recent years. Traces of the hole where the dugout was can still be seen.

     I can recall only two occasions when I was in Uncle Abe’s house. The first time, Mother had sent Sis and I with a message for Aunt Josephine. [18] It was a very hot day, so Aunt Jose had us into the kitchen and gave us lemonade. I think this was my first taste of lemonade, and I can still remember how good it was and how cool the inside of that big house was. The other time must have been on my fifth Christmas. It was Christmas Eve. We had just finished supper and someone said they had heard Santa Claus on the front porch. Sis and I were sitting on top of the ice box in the dining room when Santa came in from the front room. As there were very few houses with fireplaces in that part of the country, it was not at all unusual for Santa to come in through a window which had been left unlocked on purpose.

     I was afraid of Santa and didn’t want him to get too close to us. Santa kept trying to talk to me and kept reaching to hold me. I kept telling him to go away. Finally, he gave up on me and reached for Sis. This was too much. I swung a right hook at his chin and followed it with a left jab and told him in no uncertain terms to leave me and my sister alone! He pulled a cast-iron fire engine with a tandem-hitch, six-horse team on it from his bag, thinking he would bribe me into friendliness. When he handed me the engine, I swung at him with it, missed, and dropped the engine on the floor and broke the head team off. I don’t know whether I remember this or heard it told until it just seems I remember it. But I do remember the fire engine, as I still had it when I went into the Army. I have since been told that Santa was my brother Kenneth.

     One time while we lived on the old homeplace, Dad was working on the old Model T. He was tightening the connecting rods and was under the car, lying on his back. He took his old, horn-shaped meerschaum pipe out of his mouth and laid it on the running board of the car. Willis and I were playing in the yard a short distance away. We decided we could snitch the pipe, take it behind the rose bush in the yard, take a few puffs on it, and get it back on the running board before he missed it. Our plan was strategically correct only to the point where we got behind the rose bush and I got few puffs on the pipe. Then Dad called us. We left the pipe under the rose bush and went to see what he wanted. He asked us to help him find his pipe. We knew right then we were in trouble. We both said we didn’t know where the pipe was. Sis had seen us put it in the rose bush, so she thought she would help us out. So she told Dad where it was. Dad crawled under the rose bush and recovered the pipe. When he asked if we smoked it, we both said, “No.” I think, now, he smelled our breath, because he said a very few words to Willis, but he talked to me more with the palm of his hand.

     Once we were all playing “keep away” with an old wooden croquet ball. Slim threw it to Lawrence. It hit an old wagon tongue, bounced and hit Lawrence in the mouth. It broke the corner off one of his front teeth. He has never had to tooth repaired. He still has a chip off the corner of his front tooth.

     My Uncle Buck was married to Olive Kiken, whose father, Ben Kiken was the Ionia banker. The bank at Ionia held the mortgage on Granddad’s property. In May 1926 Dad made an agreement with Granddad and Mr. Kiken by which Dad was to give up most of his possessions and be free of all responsibility to the bank. When we left the homeplace, Dad loaded everything he had on one lumber wagon and two old milch cows, which he led behind the wagon. Kenneth, Charlie and Lawrence took the wagon to the new place. Dad drove the Model T with Mother, Willis, Blanche and I as passengers. I remember Mother packed the egg case, the cream and the bread starter in the back seat, as she would not trust them in the wagon. I am reminded of this often now, when Margaret [19] is preparing to go to the house in Floyd. [20] She always had the truck cab full of things that might tip, spill, break, blow or crush if put in the back of the truck.

     Mother always rode on the right side of the rear seat when we went in the car. Dad’s plastering tools were kept in a white canvas bag. When we got into the car, I can remember that bag on the front floor of the car. We moved to a rented house five miles north of Ionia. We called this the Dusenberry Place, as it was owned by a man named Date Dusenberry. As we moved too late in the season to farm that year, we only rented the house and pasture and paid cash rent. Usually a farm was rented for a small cash rent and a one-third portion of whatever crop was raised.

     Soon after we moved into this place, Willis, Blanche and I decided to go for a ride on the horses. We first got the saddle, bridle and Sis onto old Snip. We led her out of the barn and left her in the lane, “ground hitched.” She would usually stand, if she had a bridle on, if the reins were left just hanging from the bit. Willis and I went back in the barn and got the saddle and bridle on Zion. When we came out, Snip and Blanche were gone. Snip was going down the road about a quarter mile from the house in a very fast walk. She was going back to the homeplace. We both got on Zion and started after her. Sis was not alarmed at this point, as she was enjoying the ride. Snip and Zion had been trained as a buggy team and, therefore, didn’t like for other horses to pass them when on the road. As we approached Snip from the rear, she decided not to let Zion catch her. So the faster we went, the faster she went. But, to keep the reins from getting under her front feet, she had to hold her head off to one side. Having to hold her head in this position slowed her down some. So after about a mile or so chase, we managed to catch her. By this time, Sis was alarmed and was letting the whole world know how she felt. After a few minutes, everything quieted down, and I got on Snip with Sis and we finished our ride.

     I think it was about at this time that I started to worry about having to quit using the name Winton. Now, this is how it was. Dad always insisted that we call older folks “Mister” and “Missus” And we were never to call them by their first name. So it seemed reasonable to me that when I reached some certain age everyone would start calling me “Mister.” As I sort of liked the name Winton, I was not sure I approved of this custom. I worried a lot about this for a year or two until I finally got up nerve enough to ask Mama about it. She explained it all to me, but about all I understood was that I would always be called Wint if that was what I wanted. That was what I wanted, so the whole thing ceased to worry me.

     At this place the house was set on a little knoll, which sloped southeast toward the barn and west toward a draw (a colloquial term meaning the lower ground where two gentle slopes meet) by the road. During wet weather, this draw would collect “run off” from the slopes, sometimes being two or three inches deep and several feet wide. We had invented a game. We found an old steel barrel with both ends removed. One of us would crawl into the barrel and brace his feet and hands against one side and his back against the other. Then the other one would start the barrel rolling down the hill. Since the biggest portion of the weight was against one side of the barrel, it would not roll straight. When we were tired of this game, someone conceived the idea of trying the same game, substituting an old auto tire for the barrel. This worked much better, except when the tire stopped rolling, it would fall over and dump you out on the ground. One day we had a lot of grown-up company, several aunts and uncles. We were all dressed for the occasion in our “Sunday best.” After dinner, all the aunts and uncles began to get drowsy, and the conversation was boring anyway, so Willis, Blanche and I decided to go roll down the hill. Since it was a lot more fun to ride in the tire than to run down the knoll behind it, Sis insisted that she ride first. Now, please understand that we were only small boys and could not be expected to remember that it had rained the night before. So when Sis reached the bottom of the draw, the tire tipped over and dropped her into about two inches of muddy water. She got up very quickly, but she still got some mud and water on her dress. Remember the living room was full of drowsy, droning aunts and uncles and parents, and we must cross it if we were to get Sis into the bedroom, where she could change clothes. So we went to the back porch, thinking we would find something and wipe some of the mud and water off before we tried the living room. We got Mother’s old gardening apron and wiped Sis’ shoes off to look reasonable, but the back of her dress didn’t wipe off. It just smeared more when we wiped it. One of us saw an old corn knife on the porch and got an idea. We sat Sis on the edge of the step and spread her dress tail out behind her and proceeded to scrape the mud off with the corn knife. This got rid of the mud reasonably well. The problem was it also got rid of most of the dress tail. As the whole back of her dress was now gone, we knew someone would notice if she tried to walk through the living room in the normal fashion. We thought maybe she would have a better chance of making it if she sort of eased through, keeping her back to the wall and always facing the center of the room. We decided she should enter the room through the front door, since this was the entrance nearest the bedroom door. So Sis goes in and starts to move around the wall sideways, like a sand crab. She had to go across one side of the room and about halfway across another side. She made the first side OK and was progressing nicely on the second, but just before she reached the bedroom door she came to where Mother was sitting, her chair flat against the wall. Sis could do nothing at this point but go in front of Mother. When she stepped in front of Mother, Mother picked her up very quickly and took her to the bedroom. We carefully closed the front door, leaving a small crack so we could watch and hear what went on. In a few minutes, Mother and Sis came out of the bedroom, just as if nothing had happened. Mother resumed her chair, took Sis on her lap, and very quietly said, “Will, I think you will have to talk to Wint and Willis.”

     When we lived on this place, we walked one and a half miles to school. A girl named Nellie Ballinger walked part way with us. I think she and Willis were sort of gone on each other, as they usually walked together some distance behind the group. Now, just because they walked behind us doesn’t mean we didn’t watch them very closely. One afternoon, as we were coming home, we heard some loud talk between them. Then Willis laughed rather loud, and Nellie swung her dinner pail and hit him over the head. She had one of those fancy dinner pails with a liquid container in the lid, a sectioned tray, drinking cup, and I don’t know what all. But, when she hit him with it, the pieces went every which way. I never did know what he said to “set her off.” Usually, we would cut across country going to and from school, as this was the shorter way. We would walk the road past where the Ballingers lived, then out across Ballinger’s orchard and our pasture to home. If there was any ripe fruit in the orchard, we usually got some as we passed. This was just an added bonus.

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I think this is when I can first remember “Old Settlers Day” being held in Jewell City. “Old Settlers Day” was usually held the last part of August. Jewell City was built around a square, as many of the first towns in that country were. Jewell City was planned for the county seat of Jewell County. The courthouse was to have been built in the center square. Because the county seat was moved to Mankato, no courthouse was built in Jewell City. The center square was planted with trees and became a park. During “Old Settlers Day” celebration, a carnival would come to town. Usually, this carnival was only a merry-go-round, a small Ferris wheel, a snake charmer, a bearded lady and a couple of ball-throwing games. Nearly everybody living in Jewell County would be there. It was the high point of the social activity of the year. Most of the older married people came to talk, the younger grown-ups to court, and the kids to play and eat. Everyone brought a picnic lunch and spread it on the ground in the park. Nearly everyone came in a team and wagon. The wagons would be parked on the street surrounding the square, the team unhooked and tied to the side of the wagon. Hay and grain would be put in the wagon and the team would eat and sleep all day. The Jewell City merchants had bought two new stock water tanks, and had about ten spigots put down the bottom edge of each one. On “Old Settlers Day,” these two tanks would be set up on sawhorses in the park, one filled with lemonade and the other with iced water. This was free to everyone, compliments of the merchants. A platform would be built on one side of the square, where a free act would be performed in the afternoon and again in the evening. Usually, there was more than one act. The acts were usually a tightrope walker, a knife-throwing act, a rope-twirling act, a magician, and clowns – always clowns. There was always a horse race in the afternoon, held just outside. These were usually spontaneous and always run by local horses. The race was usually to settle an argument as to who had the fastest horse and also to give the men something to drink to before, during and after. A few small wagers were placed, just to give some spice to the event. Someone always organized a sack race, a three-legged race and a peanut roll for anyone who felt real athletic. The town band always marched around the square a couple of times before taking their place in the square for a concert. We always attended these celebrations when I was small, but after we moved up near Burr Oak we quit going to them. After I got to high school I went to one. At the time I was going with a girl who had lived in Jewell County when she was small and wanted to go. The carnival company had a belly dancer show. The carnival was all set up before the town fathers knew this. They would not let this show open, so the carnival did not open. I think that was the last “Old Settlers Day.”

     I remember a couple of incidents related to the International Order of Odd Fellows’ Ionia lodge.

     The I.O.O.F. had a very active lodge in Ionia. Dad had gone through the lodge offices there. Mother was a “Rebecca” and she had also gone through the chairs of that lodge. Both had earned the Collars of the Lodge. I don’t know what that meant, but each of them had a collar. They were shaped very much like horse collars and were made out of velvet. Dad’s collar was a very pretty shade of blue with gold trim and tassels. It had the three links and the initials F.L.T. in gold on it. Mother’s was red with a star on either side and the three links in silver. Her’s also was bordered with silver tassels.

     Each year in the fall or early winter they would have an oyster supper at the lodge hall. The hall was in Ionia, just across the street from Riley Moore’s General Store. The lodge building was a two-story, rectangular building with the ground floor door in the narrow end. There were windows in both sides of each floor. The steps leading to the upper floor were outside and went up one side of the building. A creek ran very near the back corner and side opposite the stairs. At the back and side of the building was a wild plum thicket. The underbrush along the back and side was very dense. No one except Odd Fellows and Rebeccas were allowed to go up to the second floor. To keep us kids from teasing to go up with him and Mother when they went to the lodge, Dad told us they kept a large billy goat up there, and everyone who wasn’t a lodge member and went up there was made to ride the billy goat. He said the goat always bucked them off in such a way that they went through a window and landed in that brush on the creek bank. I don’t know for sure that his story was true, but it accomplished its purpose for several years. When the time came for the oyster supper, all the women of the lodge had been saving butter for two or three days in advance. They would have several pounds of homemade butter and someone always brought two ten-gallon cans of fresh, whole milk. Every family who belonged to the lodge would load up in the buggy or wagon or Model T right after dinner and go to Ionia to the lodge hall. All the Rebeccas and Odd Fellows who had been through the chairs of the lodge would wear their collars. Someone who had a car would be commissioned to go to the railroad to pick up the oysters, which had been ordered in advance. I think the oysters were picked up from the railroad in Mankato. While they were waiting for the oysters to be brought the ladies would all gather in the ground floor of the lodge building and spend the afternoon discussing all the local news and renewing acquaintances. The men would gather in a shady place and pitch horseshoes and gossip, or just sit in the shade and spit, whittle and spin tales. The kids would play games like blind man’s bluff, hide and seek, drop the handkerchief or spin the bottle or any other game they could think of. The men would arrive with the oysters packed in ice in two or three small wooden barrels about the size of nail kegs. The oysters were shipped live, and they were good to eat only during months which had an “R” in their name, as SeptembeR and OctobeR. About five o’clock in the evening, the men would break the heads out of the barrels and start shucking the oysters. I always was fascinated by this process because if you watched close enough, every once in a while you would see one of the men shuck an oyster out of the shell, pop it into his mouth and swallow it, the look on his face being somewhat like that of the cat that just swallowed the canary.

     The ground floor of the building was a dining hall. Along the wall opposite the door were two large wood- burning kitchen stoves. While the men were shucking oysters, the ladies would heat up the stoves, fill a couple of wash boilers with milk, add pounds of butter to each, and when the milk was hot, the oysters would be dumped in. Each mother would pass out a bowl and spoon to each member of her family, and everyone would eat oyster stew until he was ready to bust.

     One time Dr. Poppen and Dad were sent to get the oysters. Dr. Poppen always carried his little, black bag with him at all times. He had a Model T touring car. The gas tank on it was located under the front seat, and the gas was fed from the tank to the carburetor by gravity. When the gasoline was low in the tank and the car was driven up a steep hill, sometimes the gas would not feed over into the carburetor. On the way back to Ionia this happened to them, and the car stopped. Dad suggested that they turn the car around and back up the hill so that the tank would be above the carburetor and the gas would feed over. But Dr. Poppen had a better idea. He took a small can of ether from his bag, poured it into the gas tank, and shook the car from side to side to mix the ether with the gasoline. Then they started the car and went to Ionia. Dad said he’s never seen a car run like that one did after they put that ether in the tank.

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17. John Kenneth Sipe. Return
18. Josephine Phillips, born in Centerville, Iowa. Return
19. Margaret Felicia Tweedy Sipe (1916-1991) born April 20, 1916, in Amherst County, Va., the daughter of Robert William Tweedy and Veda May Wilkerson; died Aug. 25, 1991, in Virginia Beach, Va.; buried in Fort Hill Memorial Park, Lynchburg, Va. Return
20. In 1974, the Sipes purchased 40 acres in the Courthouse District of Floyd County, Va., on Howell Creek, one-half mile southwest of the intersection of Route 710 and Route 714 at 2016 Woods Gap Road, S. E., Floyd, Va. There they built a two-story cabin to use as a retreat. Return

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