Tuesday Tales: Calico Connections #3
The story Calico Connections continues this week. Last week we met Nellie Morris, a mother trying to keep her family fed and clothed as her husband Charles struggles to keep the family farm in Iowa, not an easy task in 1934. Little Doris arrives home from school bursting with excitement about 4-H starting quilting lessons.
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Ignoring Doris for the moment, I headed over to the sideboard. Grabbing a pot from below, I sat it next to the water pail and dipped out a few dippers of water, tipping the bucket to pour the last of it into the pot.
“Rex,” I called out. “Are you ready to go help Father and Gerald yet?”
“Yes, Mother, I’m coming,” Rex said, bounding into the kitchen, hair tousled and one overall strap hanging unhooked, as usual.
“Go pump a pail of water first and bring it back in here before you head on up to the barn.”
“Don’t be a smart alec,” I reprimanded. “A yes or a no will suffice, thank you very much.”
Rex slid on his jacket and shoved his hands in his mittens, then grabbed the water bucket.
“When you bring the water back in, take the bowl of potato peels out to the chickens on your way to the barn,” I said to his retreating back.
“Yes, Mother,” he replied carefully, not wanting to be corrected again.
Doris and I kept busy in the kitchen getting supper ready. Glancing at the rack of threadbare dish towels hanging on the wall next to the stove reminded me how much I wanted some new kitchen towels. But right now we didn’t have enough money to buy any flour or sugar, or any other provisions for that matter.
The simple offering tonight was biscuits, mashed potatoes and homemade gravy … again. I thought there were one or two more jars of peaches in the root cellar.
“Keep watch on the biscuits,” I told Doris. “I’ll be right back.” I threw a sweater on and headed out.
Climbing down the rock steps, I peered around the dimly lit, meagerly stocked underground storage area. Only a few jars were sitting on the bare shelves. Last summers harvest was almost gone. Yes, there were two jars of peaches sitting in the back, along with a random scattering of a few jars of cabbage, corn, beets, and apple butter. And potatoes. Luckily there were still a lot of potatoes.
I brushed the dust off of one of the jars of peaches and headed upstairs to start on the gravy.
I was pulling the pan of biscuits out of the stove when John and the two boys came dragging in, covered in a layer of dust and grime. They headed to wash up in the water left over from scrubbing the potatoes.
I examined Charles’ shirt as he washed up. Even if we did get some new feed sacks they were needed to replace Charles’ work shirt. There are only so many patches you can add to a garment. His elbows looked like a patchwork quilt.
“Smells good,” Charles mumbled towards no one in particular as he dried his hands. “I’m starved.”
“Want to go to town tomorrow?” he added. “I need to stop by the train depot and see Albert Rusco. He’s been so busy with the railroad being shorthanded that he needs to hire out some help on the farm. Maybe I can pitch in and pick up some extra change. While we’re in town we need to get some grain for the mule, too. Melvin has some in the general store and we can check the mail while we’re there.”
“I’d like to get out and go to town. I’ve been cooped up with this icy weather. I’ll visit with Georgia while you run over to the depot and we can gab about quilting patterns for a piece. Is there enough for a bag of flour too? We’re running low in the bin.”
The chair wobbled and creaked as John sat down at the table. “Sure ‘nuff. We can get some flour. Can’t get much else but there’s enough for grain and a sack of flour.”
“I’ll check the eggs in the morning and see if we have enough to take a basket with us. Maybe Georgia and Melvin will let us trade and take a little bit off the bill.”
Pulling biscuits out of the range and setting the sizzling frying pan on the trivet I caught myself humming a little tune. An afternoon out of the house and visiting in town, I thought. It was almost like a vacation. One little bright spot in my life; I wished there were more.
“Can we swing by Vivian’s tomorrow on the way home?” Sometimes it was so hectic here trying to keep up with these three young ‘uns that days would go by without me seeing hide nor hair of my oldest child, married and tucked away in her own home clear on the opposite side of town. Charles’ mouth was full and he didn’t answer. Seeing the frown flit across his face I decided not to press my luck right now and turned to grab a spatula, discreetly wiping an errant tear from the corner of my eye.