Sunday Stories: The Fattig Family: Life on the Homestead

Part Three

By Josie M. Fattig

During those early years while we were paying for the farm, the budget, in general, was as follows: Aside from eggs, cream and butter for the table, the egg money was used to buy groceries and the cream checks supplied gasoline and upkeep for the Model T Ford. The income from the farming operation went as payments on the place.
Farmers selling cream at Nath Miller's cream station in Boone County, Arkansas
We had our own meat and potatoes, and vegetables from the garden. And we did considerable canning of vegetables for winter use.

One year the potato crop failed, but the beans that had been planted made a bountiful crop. So we ate beans twice a day all winter instead of potatoes. Every evening after supper Mother measured out two No. 3 cans of beans, one each for Lottie and me to look over. Then they were put to soak for cooking the next day – one can for dinner and one for supper. I got so tired of beans that for a long while afterward I could scarcely look a bean in the face. However, eventually I recovered my taste for beans and have been fond of them ever since.

Collecting cow chips for fuel
One year Father planted a cabbage patch and it surprised him with a bumper crop. When the cabbages were harvest he piled them in a large stack. The price of cabbage that year was one cent a pound, and he had to sell it out for that price to get rid of it.

Using corn cobs for fuel
We found an important fuel supply in the pasture, in the form of cow chips. Another was corn cobs from the pig pen. Cow chips were gathered by the men by the wagon load, hauled in and unloaded in a big stack. Between times when chips were needed, Mother sent Lottie and me out to the pasture area closest to the house with a wash tub to carry them in, between us, by the tub load. One not-so-pleasant aspect of using this type of fuel was that it kept one quite busy carrying out the ashes. It was also Lottie’s and my job to bring in the cob supply, by the bushel basketful.

In those days roads often angled across farms instead of following section lines. Our place was on the main road between Tryon and Stapleton, and the road ran by our house.

Stapleton was at the end of a spur railroad line that extended that far from Kearney. So the Tryon-Stapleton road was a busy one, used for hauling supplies by freight wagon from Stapleton to Tryon and the surrounding area. In inter, after a prolonged spell of bad weather and roads, wagon trains went by headed for Stapleton and fresh supplies.

At times someone coming in from the east would be snowbound by the time they reached our place, and we would put them up until they could go on.

I recall one such instance when a young Negro family by the name of Tolliver, who lived farther west in the county, got snowed in and stayed overnight with us. They had some small children, the youngest being a baby several months old. We children thought it quite a treat to have them with us, and especially the baby, who was a real cutie.

One time Joe and Dr. Harriet McGraw became snowbound at our place and to stay a few days before they could go on home to Tryon. They made themselves right at home, and we enjoyed having them with us.
As they were leaving, Dr. McGraw gave Mother a five-dollar bill and said, “Use this to buy a new bedspread for the room we used.” Mother added enough more to it to buy a nice spread for each of the three bedrooms.

We got our mail on a Star Route that came up from North Platte by our place and on to Ringgold and Tryon, and then back to North Platte. I recall one time when Roy Parkhurst, brother of Mrs. Fred Popham, was carrying the mail that he got snowbound at our place and had to stay overnight.

An example of an early sod school in Nebraska
We girls completed our elementary schooling at what was called Cottonwood Grove School, District 16, in McPherson County. The schoolhouse was a little soddy, with two windows on each side and the door in one end, located on the north side of our place not from our house. There was a grove of cottonwood trees between, hence the name of the school.

One quarter section of the Brooks homestead was a tree claim, thus the grove of cottonwood trees which he planted. A community Sunday School was held in the schoolhouse. In later years the soddy was replaced by a new frame building, which was placed on the section line on the east side of our place, making it accessible via a section line road.


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