Prairie's Children, Home in Alabama -- Chapter 3

 

 .....That helped verify the fact that a serious virus may be spreading through the area. Ruth became more worried. After all, she was a new mother and did not know what to do with a very sick baby. She mentioned that to Lolus on the way home....
 

 

 

 

Prairie's Children

Home in Alabama

Chapter 3

 

 

Ruth was looking forward to a new life in Alabama, leaving her despised reputation behind she had gained in the west. She had only tried to protect the life of the man she loved and it had backfired. Now that Josh and she had a child, maybe fate would smile upon the young couple and they could live what she considered a normal life.

 

Having put on hold the purchase of land near Tait's Gap, Josh could help Grant farm and gain experience in farming. Although Ruth knew a few things about the occupation, she was by no means an expert.

 

The major cash crop was cotton. Corn was raised for the farm animals, but a substantial amount was transported to the mill to be crushed into corn meal. Early corn was pulled for “roast'ners” (as it was commonly called by rural farm families). The easiest part of farming was the plowing, although it took a lot of time to break ground with a one-horse turning plow. He hard work came when it was time to gather the crops, particularly the back breaking chore of cotton picking.

 

Most farm families were large, so there was a sufficient supply of workers. However, Grant and Lolus only had one daughter, so they had to hire extra help such as school children. When time came for gathering crops, schools broke for “cotton picking”. Children used the money to purchase necessary clothing items, such as shoes. Since payment was “by the pound”, the more cotton picked, the more money earned.

 

Ruth soon discovered that life was difficult for farm women. They not only rose early in the morning, often before daylight, to prepare breakfast, but they washed the dishes and did a little house cleaning before grabbing their bonnets to go to the fields. After a few hours in the field, they would return to the house and prepare lunch (referred to as “dinner”). The process was repeated that afternoon and some women worked well into the night, coining the phrase, “Man works from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done.”

 

Of course, there was the washing. Water was boiled in a black “wash pot” in the back yard. Homemade lye soap and scrub boards were common at the turn of the 20th century. In Autumn, the women canned vegetables to store for the winter months, so the average family always enjoyed plenty of food and able to share with families that may may not have enough due to sickness or other reasons beyond their control.

 

The women had to provide clothing for the family which were sewed by hand from whatever cloth was on hand, mostly flour sacks. The kind of clothes that a woman would provide for herself were dresses or skirts that came down to the ground. The men were the ones who most often bought their clothes from the store, most overalls.

 

Community news and gossip spread fast throughout the county, but national news was slow in arriving. It was days (weeks for some) to learn that President McKinley was assassinated. (The first radio station was not established in Birmingham until 1925.)

 

Life could have been considered dull, but it was a good and satisfying life to farm families. Imagination created forms of entertainment, such as horse shoe pitching -- often the highlight of social gatherings. Church and religious life was very important, so Ruth's association with the local Baptist congregation fit her new life. Church did not meet every week, so some Baptist would visit the Methodist Church and the Methodist members would often visit the Baptist.

 

Baptist church rules were very strict. Consuming alcoholic beverages and dancing were serious offenses. That didn't stop moonshine stills or an occasional square dance. Also, wine was very common. It was made from wild blackberries, muscadines, grapes, or whatever was handy.

 

It was in this environment that Josh and Ruth began their new life.
 

 

The almanac says it will be a good year,” said Grant as he and Josh sat on the front porch on a cool spring evening; Grant in his favorite rocking chair and Josh sitting in the swing hanging by two small chains attached to the ceiling of the porch.

 

Josh nodded.

 

I have 80 acres cleared and was wondering how I could farm most of it, then you young'ns came along. I was just thinking. How's about you and me splitting up the acreage betwixt us – you take 40 acres and I will farm 40 acres. We could help each other and maybe have two good crops.”

 

Josh, still silent, stared across the field.

 

We will need to get another mule and a turning plow. Otherwise, we can use the lay-off plow, the planter, the *guanna distributor and the scratcher together. How's that?”

 

Sounds okay to me,” Josh finally spoke.

 

(*It is unknown where the term, guanna, came from unless it was from the Peru word, “guano”, which was an excrement from certain animals, mostly birds, used by humans for fertilizer. The export of guano was beneficial to early American settlers.)

 

Okay, supper's ready. Come and get it or I will feed it to the hogs,” yelled Lolus from the kitchen.

 

Well, let's go,” said Grant. “The hogs get enough slop as it is.”

 

After supper, me and Ruth are going over to Martha Hill's and carry her something to eat. She is sick and poor old Sam don't know how to boil water,” said Lolus.

 

While the men hooked the buggy to the mule, Lolus and Ruth prepared a basket of cooked vegetables, bread, blackberry pie, and a gallon of tea. Lolus also added some canned food that did not necessarily need cooking. Ruth wrapped the baby in scrap clothing and placed it in a basket of its own.

 

The women discovered Mrs. Hill in the bed. Ruth immediately recognized the possibility of a serious disease, maybe contagious. Her first thought was of the baby, little Maudie Mae.

 

Has the doctor been out,” she questioned.

 

He's been busy checking other folks,” replied Mr. Hill. “A lot of sickness going around.”

 

That helped verify the fact that a serious virus may be spreading through the area. Ruth became more worried. After all, she was a new mother and did not know what to do with a very sick baby. She mentioned that to Lolus on the way home.

 

Lolus patted Ruth on the knee. “We will just have to wait and see what happens.”

 

Nothing was mentioned to Josh about Ruth's suspicions. The men had enough to think about, getting ready for spring planting without worrying about something that may never happen. Besides, wasn't it the women's place to worry and see about the welfare of the children?

 

The next morning was greeted by what promised to be a warm, sunny day. Lolus had taught Ruth the proper way to milk a cow and she was returning from the barn with a metal bucket half filled with warm milk. She looked toward the sky and prayed, “Lord, I don't know what to do or what will happen. Will you please take care of my baby?”

 

Lolus was in the kitchen in a wooden straight chair rocking the baby . Bump, bump was the sound as the chair legs would strike the wood floor, first on the back legs, then the front, back and forth, back and forth.

 

She was crying. Must be hungry. I changed her diaper,” said Lolus as her voice vibrated because of the bumping.

 

I'll take her,” replied Ruth as she picked up the child and went into her bedroom to breast feed the baby.
 

 

 

As she gently rocked the child, singing a sweet lullaby, she turned her thoughts toward God.

 

Please dear Lord, I know I am new at this and I don't really know how to pray, but I am asking that my baby will get well and that she will grow into a fine beautiful woman.”

 

Tears began to form as she continued, “I don't know what I would do if I should lose her.”

 

It seemed that she felt a moving deep inside her heart as a voice spoke to her mind, “Fear not, my child. The child will be all right.”

 

The entire dialog progressed without a single word being spoken. It was at this moment that Ruth realized that she could talk talk to God from the heart; that he was a father to her just as much as her earthly father was when he was living. She remembered carrying her childish problems to her dad in the past. He seemed to understand things that momma could not understand, but on the other hand, momma understood things that daddy could not.

 

Ruth put the sleeping infant to bed and walked out to the kitchen.

 

Aunt Lolus, I feel that I need to go over and help Mr. Hill take care of Mrs. Hill until he can locate the doctor. She needs me. I took care of my mother until she passed over, so I know a little about sick folks,” stated Ruth.

 

Aren't you afraid of bringing some kind of disease back home to the Little Maudie? After all, she looked like she was coming down with something,”answered Lolus.

 

No,” smiled Ruth. “Me and the Lord done took care of that.”

 

Well, do what you must. I can take care of Little Maudie for awhile. I know of babies being raised on cow's milk, so I will see that she doesn't go hungry.”

 

Oh, thank you,” said Ruth as she grabbed Lolus around the neck and gave her a big hug.

 

I will get Grant to hitch up the buggy.”

 

No, I don't need it. I will go horseback. After all, I came from Kansas on horseback, so I know I can ride a few miles further.

 

As Ruth walked out the door, Lolus thought that girl was all heart, just like her mother. If her mother were alive and well, she would be doing the same thing.

 

 

  • To be continued

Copyright 20010 by Starla Anne Lowry

 

 

Prairie's Children, Home in Alabama -- Chapter 3

Faith uch as Ruth's will move mountains. May Your Light Forever Shine

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