Pearl Sklapsky-Holben Memoir – written April 22.1989

One day when Mother was feeling really lonely and deserted, Fritz cut himself and went running to her bleeding pretty badly; the blood running down his front. She whipped off her apron and wrapped it around Fritz, sat down on the door step, rocking her little boy crying and saying, “He’s cut his throat, he’s cut his throat.” Hilda and Lottie carne running. Practical Hilda says, “Let’s see!” and grabs Mom’s apron away. Fritz had scratched his chin deeply and it bled freely. What a relief! Let anything happen to a child of Mom’s and she was upset. She was efficient and calm in helping others in their emergencies, but her own loved ones were too close to her heart.

Mother would have to go for supplies when Dad was away, and Lottie and Hilda would be left in charge. George and Frank, if not in school, would try to haul out rocks from the land and put them in stone piles. Mother would ask the boys what they would like her to bring them from town, and Norman always requested apples but Fritz would want gum. He was interested in Paddy, the oxen chewing his cud and one day Mother caught him in the corral too close to the large animal, so she walked slowly over to bring him back. There she found Fritzi with his arm over Paddy’s neck begging, “Give me some of your gum Paddy. You don’t need it all. Come on don’t be stingy!’

There was seldom if ever a dull moment on our homestead, always some work or fun going on, and always extra people for meals. Mother was a good cook and she taught her daughters well. The girls complained that there were too many bachelors and no other girls for them to visit with and talk too, but there was soon to come a time when the bachelors would prove interesting to them as well.

Mother cooked and taught Hilda and Lottie their cooking skills on a little stove with two lids to cook on, an oven with stove pipes running through it. It was hard to bake with this oven as it would get too hot and burn the food. My husband, Jim would call cookies that burned Sin and Misery Cookies; it was a sin to burn them and a misery to eat them. He also said, but not too loudly, “The Good Lord sent the food, but the Devil sent the cook.” In Mother’s house the Good Lord sent the cook as well. The fires were made with buffalo chips at first, but these soon ran out, about the time coal and scrap lumber became available from Brock. There was never a stick of wood to be found on the prairie where I grew up until after the hurricane.

I cannot recall what year it would have been but the hailstorm and hurricane were talked about for many years after. My dad had just built a new granary, and unlike all of his other buildings, including the house, he painted it. It was a wonderful bright red. The hurricane took that new granary and totally demolished it, at least none of our family ever found a red painted stick of it. My dad swore he would never paint another building of his and he didn’t.

Ours was not the only building smashed apart, and thereafter, Dad always picked up every stick he ever found on the prairie and carried it home for the fire, a habit he never dropped, long after he no longer had a stove to burn it in.

A bachelor, Bill Macoun left the district and Dad bought a cook stove from him. What an improvement that was for Mother! It was a big heavy Oxford Malleable with two warming closets, an oven which was large enough to hold eight loaves of bread, and had no pipes running through it, and it had a copper lined reservoir. There was also a closet under the oven where Mother kept her bread tins, and pie and cakes tins. She must have felt like a queen, or at least the cook in a queen’s household. The older girls used to talk about the new stove and they used it for the time they were still at home, which wasn’t very much longer.

Lottie and Hilda started helping other folks who were homesteading. Lottie worked as a cook’s helper where the men had big outfits from the States which hired out to break the land for different settlers near Eston. Her boss also had a threshing outfit which hired men to go out during the harvesting. This made about a dozen hungry men to cook for. Hilda worked for a lady who ran a stopping house where settlers stopped off for meals or for an overnight rest. At one establishment in Eston where she worked, Hilda was not impressed by the high and mighty manner of the lady of the house or her guests at a tea party she was assisting to serve. The dainty sandwiches she made for the ladies were interesting when her sense of adventure or mischief lead her to make a sandwich using the tongue of a shoe as the filling. There were not many dull moments with this family!

In 1913 George and Bill Krepps got the Hyde farm. The mosquitoes were terrible that hot, wet year. Rumors of war, a crop to be threshed, more rocks needing to be dug out of the land and dragged to rock piles were daily concerns. And they call it the “Good Old Days?”

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