Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Poetess in The Family, Part Two.....Ruth Harvey Douglass

In honor of Women's History Month, I have chosen to write about Ruth Harvey Douglass. She wrote a wonderful memoir of her family and without it our family would not have the privilege of knowing as much as we do about our ancestors. Ruth left us all a great legacy in the form of her story and beautiful poetry. I hope everyone enjoys reading about her memories of family and Wyoming!
Harvey family picnic on Horse Creek near Albin, Wyoming -taken before 1915

Poetess In The Family, part 2:

My mother’s people always gave us advice as to where things should be, as to directions.  I remember they said the barn must be northwest of the house for fear of sparks from the house chimney would blow over and set it afire.   Our caves and chickens must be where they were less likely to be covered with drifts in times of blizzards or blowing snow.  The wood pile and any posts we may have extra must be stacked on end or stacked real high.

We had a big wood pile and it lasted a long time.  I remember in fixing the cave in the fall our father had it all done except the door and it began to snow.  He got a little panicky and said he guessed he ‘Got caught with his pants down’.  It was only a short storm and soon melted away.  In summer when we saw the rain over by the buttes, we all ran to fill the baskets and boxes with dry wood so we could keep the fires going.  We even enjoyed using the axe now and then.

As I remember, ants by the hundreds found their way into the house from the wood pile and once they got into mother’s fresh gingerbread and she had to throw the whole thing away.  We were never hungry for dessert for she always had a gallon crock of cookies or the big stone churn full of doughnuts.  If she tried to hide them our brother, Ed, would smell them out anywhere they were and his eyes were always bright with pleasure when he found them.  I remember his daughter Kathryn’s son, Roger, has those same bright eyes that express love and mischief.


I know of a beautiful hillside, sunny, green and still,
A canyon, deep, that lies below it…above it rises a hill.
A hill that is dark with cedars and bright with summer’s glow
And where a path is leading…to the cool spring below.

Along the edge of the canyon the cedars their shadows throw
The leaning tree branches quiver…above its deep repose.
And there where the sandstone whitens, the prairie winds blow free
The early days of my childhood remain these memories for me.

The splendors of the hills and valleys among the cedars dark and tall
The mourning doves nest on the hillside, the purple haze over it all.
I remember them all in my dreaming as I roam these hills so free,
The sego lilies were blooming with silken petals for me.

I feel the canyons breathing with each breeze that falls
And the mystery all around me and peace is over all.
So when comes the autumn and snow their glory crowns
In memory I seek that hillside, far from the noisy towns.

And where the spring is flowing, from every care beguiled,
I gaze at the endless distance with the eyes of a little child.
Blessed are the memories that none can take away,
Memories sweet and tender of childhood’s happy day.

And of these memories that in later years we read,
They lie along our pathway, in the flowers and the seed.
So I love these hills and canyons, the cedars on the hill,
These memories I shall take with me...wherever that I will.

When Ed was twenty-one he filed o 160 acres about a mile an a half south of us.  He only lived there long enough to prove up on it.  That was in 1912.  When he did batch there, his friends called him ‘Scuts’ Harvey due to the good biscuits he always made, but home seemed best and he always came back.

We children attended a log school about a mile and a half away.  Our teacher’s name was Maud Sinon and her home was over on Horse Creek.  There were several other children too, Paul and Ralph Smith, Sylvia and Otto Anderson, and later a family by the name of Shake moved into the neighborhood.  They had three children, Russell, Elmer and Sarah.  Russell was so smart in arithmetic he got better grades than any of the others.  There was a family by the name of Miller who lived in the canyons but they didn’t go to our school.  We liked to go visit them as they had several children and Mrs. Miller would always make us some things she called ‘Doughgodies’ which were either bread dough or biscuit dough fried in deep fat.  Both were rolled into thin cakes before frying.  The Anderson family was large…Albin, Charlie, Elliott, Arvid, Sylvia and Otto.  Alvin was an invalid and was the postmaster of Albin, Wyoming for many years.  Andersons had lots of horses and cattle and nearly every Sunday they had a rodeo and we all went to see the boys ride.

John McMann married a widow who had several children..Fred, Fern, Blanche and Neta.  Other families were Cunningham, Rabou, Chindler, Welch, Edwards, Irvine, George and Joe McCann, Hermina Green, Adcock, Draper and Lige Rundell.  Some new ones came by the name of Conley.  Mrs. Conley was Mrs. Smith’s sister.  The Gallio Post office was named after Mr. Conley.

As the years passed, Elmer had a well drilled on his place and built a grout house.  Our father built us a four room house and made a cistern that had water piped from Elmer’s windmill so we then had water close at hand.  A log barn was built too, which had a straw roof.  A coal house and new chicken house and two granaries were built.  We raised large gardens to can and fill the new pantry that mother had.  Father sent to the John A. Salzer  Seed Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin for our seed and some new oat seed to plant called ‘Salzer’s White National’.  The yield that year of this new seed brought people all over to buy their seed, but father wanted all he had raised for seed for himself so he told them all where they could order it.  We raised flint corn as father didn’t think eastern corn would ripen.  We children wanted to raise some popcorn but he didn’t think it would do anything either. 

I well remember the year mother went back to Iowa to be with our married sister, Myrtle, who was ill.  That summer my father and I raised 400 chickens and he was so proud of me as I learned  to make pies and bread nearly as good as mother’s.  I think I was about 12 or 13 years old.  He would buy canned pumpkin at Albin and I would make pies of it.

I think they were mostly custard as I made too many pies for that amount of pumpkin.  Both of us girls could kill and dress a chicken by the time we were 12.

Once my parents went to Pine Bluffs and were caught in a bad rain and hail storm on the way home.  It was getting dark and they were wet and cold.  I had supper ready of fried chicken and hot biscuits when they came in and my mother said she had never eaten such a good meal.  Of course, that made me very proud, too!  Fried chicken does not taste so good today after being fried in these synthetic fats.  Nothing will ever smell as flavorful as hot lard.

When my mother made hominy from the corn we raised, she didn’t use lye but used Arm & Hammer baking soda, three tablespoons of soda to a gallon of shelled corn.  This was washed many times to loosen the hulls and remove the soda.  When it was finished it was nice and white.

No one has ever been able to duplicate her sugar cookies.   We either had too much flour or not enough flour.  Would you like to try them?  Take two cups of white sugar and one cup of butter and cream well.  Now add two eggs, one cup of milk, two teaspoons of KC baking powder and one teaspoon of nutmeg.  Add flour to make soft dough.  Roll out a portion, sprinkle with sugar and press into dough lightly with the rolling pin.  Cut and bake.  I hope you are able to get the right amount of flour as I have never been able to.

My mother’s baked beans did not taste like these do today.  She took one quart of great northern or navy beans and soaked them over night.  These were put into a large granite pan with a lid.  Slices of salt pork were added with salt, pepper and molasses.  They were placed into the oven and cooked all day at a moderate temperature.  Sometimes she added a little dry mustard but never tomatoes in any form.


When as a child I followed my father
Behind the horses and a walking plow
Turning the good earth into long furrows.
The myriads of blackbirds eating each worm turned,
The smell of freshly cut hay in the fields
And the cry of a curlew high overhead.
The dozens of meadowlarks sitting on the barbed wire fence
Singing in the morning when the sun was red in the east.
Fresh Beef, covered, hanging at the top of the windmill
Curing in the pure mountain air.
Rest periods in the afternoons lying on
The floor listening to our elders talk.
My mother’s plans for the evening meal
Frying chicken and hot biscuits from the oven.
Our old cat with kittens hidden in the hollow log of the barn
Which she later carried to the house.
Ripe golden grain being harvested,
The whir of machinery threshing
And the smell of grains being hauled away
Twenty miles t o the nearest town.
Butchering day when father expected
All of us to help prepare those five
Big hogs for the winter.
All these, and more, are my memories
Of the sweetness of summer.

Our first plow was a walking plow and father drove the team of horses and one of the boys held the plow in the soil.  We had a mowing machine too.  When father bought our binder and cultivator in Pine Bluffs they said we must be rich for he paid cash for them.  Also, a story got around that mother had cut class and real silverware that she used every day, which wasn’t true for it was only pressed glass and 1847 Rogers Brothers silver.  We used what we called black-handled knives and forks for every day which we kept bright by polishing with brick dust.  We had a white tablecloth but used either red or blue checked ones for everyday and mostly ate on the oil cloth which covered the boards on that home made table at all times.  It was always exciting times when threshing time came with all the good things to eat and extra men there to help in return for our men helping them.  Once mother had chicken and noodles which the men called shoestring dumplings!  Mother did not cut her noodles like we do today.  She rolled them out and dried them and then rolled it up again into a long roll and cut it in thin strips, and when unrolled they were long and narrow and just as hard to eat as spaghetti.

I think Mr. Cunningham had one of the first threshers.  The first machine was run by horses which went round and round in a circle.  Later he bought a steam engine.  There were always about six men with hay racks who brought in the sheaves of grain from the fields and two men stood in the front of the separator to cut the binder twine on the sheaves as they were run through the machine.

Our only hay for a long time was the wild needle grass on the prairies but this was not so good for the stock, due to the needles, so my father started raising more oats for the horses and cows and then raised some millet for the chickens.  Barley along with the corn was raised for the hogs.  Mary and I loved to help father pick corn and worked along side with the men.  A Doctor in later asked me if I had worked in the fields and I said yes, not because we had to but because we wanted to.  I think we girls did everything in those years that was to be done.  We could ride horses, chop wood, make soap, and milk cows.  We picked the chokecherries for mother to make jelly of and she didn’t have much luck with it.  She did make tomato preserves though, out of canned tomatoes.  A number 2-1/2 can of tomatoes, three cups of sugar and stick cinnamon cooking would bring the wild bees from the canyons, but we never did find their tree.

Our little dog, Coaly, (because he was so black) was so cute.  If he decided to visit our grandparents he would go by himself, which was about two and a half miles and we could see him going up a path through the hills.  We only had to say, “Let’s go to the canyons, Coaly”, and he would taker off with his tail in the air.  We wouldn’t see him again until we were at the spring as he had his own special way of going.  When we got back home, there he was but his tail was not carried high over his back…it was dragging.  Coaly was really Ed’s dog.

The fall of 1905 we saw the first and only trail herd go through to Pine Bluffs from the ranches on Horse Creek.  They camped at night on section five, which joined ours.  We could hear them at night and one of the drovers told my father that was the half-way place.  They must have watered at the spring as they couldn’t get any water at our place.  There was a way to get a wagon through the canyons to the spring, so they must have come up that way.  

Nora Cunningham used to drive a two-wheeled sulky around the country and she often stopped to talk to Mary.  I remember once there was a cowboy who was talking to them and I asked who he was and she said “That’s Henry Greiser”.  He later won the championship in Cheyenne at the Frontier Days Rodeo.  To me, he looked handsome in his chaps and kerchief.  In later years I met him again and we became good friends.  He was then a foreman on a ranch north of Cheyenne.

I remember too, when Bill Carlisle robbed the train near Cheyenne.

Mary and I never did get to go to Cheyenne to see the Frontier Days Show until later on in life, but Neta and Fern Raymond always went every year.  Fern didn’t ride but Neta was always on a horse about every day.  Mary and I both rode horses but we didn’t have time to spend away from the work at home as they did.  I remember that Mary would rather clean than cook.

Mary and I didn’t go to High School.  A Dr. Marshall in Pine Bluffs offered to take us into their home as they had no children and our father could pay for our keep with meat and vegetables but mother wouldn’t let us go.  We went to barn dances all over the country, driving a team of horses to the wagon.  Ed and Earl always went with us.  Many times we were caught in snow storms and the snow got quite deep.
Sisters: Ruth, Mary and Myrtle Harvey, taken before 1915

To be continued.......

Poetess in the Family, Ruth Harvey Douglass- part one: here
Poetess in the Family, Ruth Harvey Douglass- part three: here
Poetess in the Family, Ruth Harvey Douglass- part four: here

All stories, poetry and photographs in this series are owned and copyrighted © by the Harvey and Hopkins families and may not be reprinted without the permission of the family. Contact clchopkins[at]gmail[dot]com

1 comment:

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