Of course we had coaxed the badger story from her long before. She had been sitting out on the prairie, tending grazing cattle as the horizon shimmered in distant heat waves, On a hill across from her, she saw a funny rock she had never noticed before. She looked away out over undulating prairie thankful for the breeze which gave a semblance of coolness, then glanced back to see the ‘rock’ had moved! She began slowly to approach it to investigate, when it began to move toward her. She turned around and began to run, looking over her shoulder to see it running after her. Fear lent her feet wings, but not grace, and she tumbled down, scraping her knees, releasing a piercing scream, and beginning to roll down the hill. She scrambled up to speed on, looking back again to see the badger running as fast as it could in the opposite direction. That was one experience she was to remember, and relate to us, not minding the joke was on herself.
I remember Mother telling me of her earliest memories. One memory she had is of her brother Frank asking her for a piece of paper for him to wipe the soap and whiskers off his razor. She remembers peering around through the house, not knowing where to look, in search of a piece of paper, which in those days was a rare enough commodity. As an adult she rather thought Frank just wanted her out of the way.
Another memory she related to me was of looking for shoe laces. It seemed to be dark, but not at night, just the dim interior of the house. Feet and legs of the others were about all she could see. She must have been very young, because although she never got to be a tall woman, she did rise above the level of legs.
The last really early recollection she recounted was that of closing her fingers in a drawer. She had been searching, the ineffective way children search, for shoe laces. She had looked into a drawer of the dresser, and not finding laces there, went to close it. She put her little hands against the open drawer, with her fingers curled over the top and pushed hard. The drawer slid easily and gave her tiny fingers an awful pinch. She said for years after she always approached the closing of a dresser drawer with caution and respect. She never did say whether she found the laces, but probably it was the furthest thing from her mind once she hurt herself.
She says she doesn’t remember her brother George very much as he was older and out working during her childhood. When she grew older she was very happy to meet his new wife Harriet, a small sweet little woman. When George became so ill with cancer before his death she wanted
so badly to go see him and be with him for a while, but money was scarce in those days and Dad was hesitant. She was so cross and hurt when her brother died and Dad offered to send her out to the funeral. She refused to go. She wanted to see her brother, not go to a funeral. In later years, Mom always made a point of visiting her relatives and her friends when they were ill, before they passed away, in preference to attending the funeral, and we, her children, made sure it was done if at all possible.
We have made several trips out to the homestead place in recent years, and though you cannot find the exact location of the house, we found the huge flat rocks that served as front steps, and the depression where the well had been. Though it was very depressing to find so much had been erased, it was exciting to find out where things had been, and to find traces of the history involved.
Mom was surprised at how low the hill from the well seemed now, but time has a way of reducing our childhood impressions as we gain in size, and also the land is slowly eroding, levelling off to some extent.
I think therein lies the meaning of the old saying “You can never go back home.” Your perception of things changes, and times are changed, those who peopled the area are gone, and all that remains are your memories. Home becomes more a time than a place; a time filled with the people, events and places of that period, and you cannot go back in time, except through your memories.
Uncle Fred gave Mother a plaster of Paris plaque. It is a donkey towing a cart. He had picked it up because it reminded him of the early days on the homestead. Mom has written on the back of it that it was given to her by her brother Fred in memory of the early days when another brother, George, traded a bridle for a donkey, which was driven to school in the early days.