Linda’s Retelling

A cousin, Mildred Federspiel-Hebron, the daughter of Elmer Federspiel and Lillian Sklapsky-Federspiel, the couple that first convinced Grandpa Frank to come to Canada, told me her version of the tale of the donkey. Some people were passing through, on the Old Battleford Trail, and they had an ancient donkey and cart to trade for food. The Sklapsky boys got both the donkey and the cart for six hens. She sent me a picture of the outfit. Grandma Sklapsky looks as pleased as punch to be sitting there in a donkey cart. Oh how I wish Mom had seen that picture! She would have been delighted.

Mother told us once of a time she got heck from her Dad. He often found occasion to chastise his boys, but only once that she could remember did he feel it necessary to remind Mom of what was tolerable and what wasn’t. Mother never forgot it. Mom was angry at her mother, and I don’t think she even remembered why, but she sure remembered her father’s reaction. Her Dad noticed that his youngest daughter was pretty perturbed about something, and he asked about it. Mom answered, “She” did this and “she” did that! When he asked her who had done these things, Mom replied “HER!”

Her father’s response was, “WHO?”

And Mom responded, “You know… Mother.”

“Yes,” he thundered, “She’s your mother and don’t you ever forget it!”

Another episode Mom never forgot was one time her parents were fooling around. Her dad had been teasing her mother to get a rise out of her. Once he got her riled up enough for her to chase him, he ran up the staircase, looking back over his shoulder as he reached the top to see if she was coming after him, and ran smack dab into the open closet door at the top of the stairs. “Darn you Scottie,” he yelled, “You knew that door was open. You engineered that whole thing!” Her mother said she’d had no idea the door was open, but Grandpa swore she had left it open on purpose to catch him.

The closet was at the head of the stairs, and they did have bedrooms partitioned off. They had managed to finish off the inside of the house somewhat, but it remained very rough, as though it were a temporary dwelling and they would be going back to Michigan, or perhaps there was always something else more immediate on which to spend any money they ever happened to have on hand. Different kinds of paper were pasted to the inside walls upstairs to make a type of wall paper.

The unfinished nature of the interior had one advantage as far as children go; they were allowed to write on the walls. Mom told of how they would each try to make the tallest man. These tall stick men were made by drawing a head upstairs and walking down the steps, while drawing the long thin body of the man as they went down, finishing off with a couple of feet. We never dared to do such a thing in our mother’s house!

They used to enjoy the reactions of other students at school when their mother ran out of things to give them in their lunch kit, an empty lard pail. She always had bread, sometimes a bit stale, but at times there was nothing to put on it, so she would beat up an egg, stir in milk and dip the stale bread in that and fry it up. The others thought those Sklapskys were plain spoiled to be eating so fancy. Mom said they used to walk or ride horseback to school, though their Dad drove them in a van pulled by a horse or a team of horses in the winter. She spoke of the Christmas concerts they put on, teachers by the names of Mrs. Chapman who took the place of Miss Calkins, a lady by the name of Queenie Pope, picking gooseberries at the rock piles, finding and eating wild strawberries, and oh how I wish I had written down her words or that I had a better memory for detail so I could share more history with you!

I remember her telling us about the time she insisted on helping to wash the dishes, but being too small to be a help. Her mother, realizing the child was being a nuisance, knew a lesson was needing to be learned. She was told that she could wash the knives, forks and spoons, but she would have to wash them all and not play in the water. She was given an opportunity to change her mind, but she insisted on doing dishes. She enjoyed the talk at first, but soon tired of it, and wanted to quit, as there were so many. Her mother wisely made her continue until each knife and fork and spoon was washed, and washed well. In time there would be lots of dishes for her to wash and if you remember, that became one job Mom hated, especially on Sundays when all the extended family would come home to eat.

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