Monday, December 20, 2021

Autobiography of Edith Marshall I

There is No End

The Date and Place . . .
It was the year 1897, the month of April, day 22nd. A baby girl was born -- the seventh child in a family of eight. The place, a small town in the state of Ark, a town so small that it doesn't even appear on the map. Our farm was so large -- a whole section of land, and afforded almost everything we needed at home. There was an orchard that yielded a bounty of apples, peaches and plums. The fields produced plenty of corn, some of which my dad my dad would take the mill to ground into meal. The cattle and pigs produced the milk, butter and meat for the table. The chickens gave us the eggs and sometimes fried or roast chicken. There was also a surplus of wild pigeons and turkeys that my Dad often hunted.
Our home was built of logs at a time when the country was torn by the Civil War. My grandparents had moved from Texas to Arkansas in an effort to escape some of the havoc of that war . . .
The house had remained very much as it had been during my maternal grandparents' time, who had built it. There was a large stone fireplace on one side of the wall in the room where we always gathered on Sunday night, where we children liked to eat our cornbread and milk before the fire. Sometimes my older sister would make toffy from the homemade sorgum and it was a real fine time for me. She was my favorite sister for she was so understanding and good to me.
Looking back at those days that were so unhurried, so blessed with each season's produce, the green vegetables in the spring, the melons and fruit of summer, and the yielding of grapes and nuts of the autumn, yet, my Dad was always talking of going west . . . I suppose stories of those who had come to Washington State had come to him, causing him to desire to make the change. I'm sure that God must have been in it for our lives are not our own. He has planned our lives long before we are born. And so we came to Wash. state!

We traveled by wagon with our trunks and such possessions as we brought, to the nearest railroad station at Gravette. One of my aunts lived there and we stayed overnight with her, catching the next train out in the morning. Trains those day swere much to be desired. The coaches were often cold and uncomfortable, sometimes so warm that the windows were opened for a breath of air. This had to be watched by the conductor as we went through many tunnels on our way west. If one window was left slightly open the coach would fill with smoke from the train's smoke-stack.

Arriving in Kansas City, Missouri, we had to change trains. This was the first time that my sister Sue and I had ever seen a negro. It was also the first indoor toilet that we had ever seen, and we were intrigued with the long chain we could pull sending water into the toilet bowl, from the high tank. It gave us a chance to catch a glimpse of the black woman who did the cleaning and who became impatient with our many trips to the restroom.

Only Dad could have sustained my poor mother on that trip. There was not much rest or sleep for her with three of us younger ones sharing the two seats for the first days it took to make the trip. But my mother was one of those rare persons who gave without even a thought of rewards. She was one who could sing to me and soothe my earaches or whatever seemed to affect me. She had many old-fashioned remedies, too, which always seemed to work. Her voice had a sweet high quality which I loved and which was admired by all who heard her. She often sang with a group who entertained with their acapello choir.

My dad was quite a social lion in his younger days, but after the change of environment, he discovered that life was much different than it had been previously. There was work to be done on the farm in Washington State such as he had never done before. There were trees to cut and stumps to be removed such as he had no experience in before. There was a barn to build along with a new house, a chicken house, and fences. The crops to be planted were also different from those in the south. No sweet potatoes or melons, no peanuts or gubers as we called them. Irish potatoes, peas, beans, and such vegetables as did not need to heat of the south were substituted. This was a way of life that we had not known, and it was especially irksome to my dad, who wanted to return to Ark. But this was one time that my dear mother stood firm. She had seen her old house sold with all of its wide acres of farmland, fruit and hardwood forests, and now she had nothing to which to return.

It was a time of growing, building and learning many things. It was not an easy time for me as a child. I was a very shy person, and perhaps because of that, some children picked on me, until sometimes I just wished I could disappear. But I was learning and eventually becoming more able to cope with life. God does not put us in the world just to leave us at its mercy. I have felt his Divine guidance throughout my whole life, even when I did not know Him.

I have always loved to read and whatever books came into my hands were very quickly read and often re-read. Poetry has always been irresistable to me and I memorized a great many poems from the second grade on through high school.

Only one thing interested me more than reading a story: to listen to a good story-teller. Such a one was a little old lady whom everyone called Grandma Mitchell. She made the rounds visiting all her old friends once or twice a month. Grandma was small and the best words I can find to describe her was, "the little grey lady." She never wore any color that I was aware of, just greys and blacks seemed to be the limit of colors in her wardrobe. Just a drab little woman, you say? Not on your life! Grandma Mitchell was all fire and warmth inside. She never forgot the fire of her youth in crossing the plains in a covered wagon: the nights around the campfires, people banding together as a protection against the Indians.

Grandma knew how to tell these stories in such a way that she could hold us spellbound as we sat at her feet all ears and literally tingling with expectancy as the stories progressed.

There was probably much fear on both sides as the people pressed further and further west; the Indians fearful of what the white man would do, and the white man fearful of what he and his family might be facing. Grandma was made of that sturdier stuff, like those who came before, withstanding disease, sickness, and even death because of faith in One who had conquered it all, and was the real leader into the unknown. Grandma told of the many kind Indians who came with offerings of corn, wild turkeys or perhaps venison. The white people often repaid them with perhaps medicine for one of their tribe who was suffering from disease, and often went with them to minister as best they could.

Grandma had many funny stories to tell as well as those horrifying ones of Indian attacks on the wagon trains. One she told a a little white woman being left alone in a little log cabin while her husband hunted for wild turkes or other wild food. An Indian brave walked in and was about the help himself to some food she was preparing. Picking up a hot skillet she chased him from the cabin. He flet in terror of that hot skillet.

There were stories of nights of terror and nights of hope. The strongest only survived. The weak ones were often overcome by hunger and sickness, then death would take its toll. Many graves were left along the trail as a witness to the price paid by those who came before.

But those who were strong and survived the rigors of the long trek west, opened up a brand new land and a new life for those of us who were to come later. Besides the barren plaiuns and a scarcity of water, of heat that seemed to scorch through their very vitals, there were poisononous snakes and often wild animals, also the unfriendly Indians. But those who came through just as Grandma Mitchell, were led by something greater, a () that led even as the Children of Israel were led into a land that had been prepared for those of faith in the move them were making.

There were weddings among the travelers, and soemtimes a birth for these were a people who loved, a people who cared for one another. They needed each other. They were learning a lesson many have never learned that there is a strength in love, in caring for those who are needy and less able to help themselves.

Grandma has made her last trip - her final one across the Great Divide. She is gone from us but the memory of a great and valiant little lady lingers in the heart of a child who can see.

First Love

There was a time, that I might call the age of innocence. It was a time when the world was peaceful, as far as we knew it. There was always hope, and something to look forward to.

At the time I was fifteen, an age when girls (boys too, I suppose) begin to dream dreams. Many hours of each day I spent day-dreaming. To me at that age, nothing was impossible, so if my dreams were all far-fetched, as a better-informed person could have reminded me, it made no difference to me. I had read many books, and had not things always turned out well for those who really believed in themselves?

One (day) after school, a boy I had known ever since we were in the second or third grade, was waiting for me and we walked home from school together. It was a nice feeling being with him, even though we practically walked on opposite sides of the road. I always knew the days when he planned to walk me home for he always came to school dressed in his Sunday best.

My mother was very much opposed to him walking me home, because he came from a broken home, which amounted to a disgrace in those days. The result was that he only walked part of the way, and we would just stand and talk for a while. But that didn't work out because of a neighbor's wagging tongue. He would tell my sister when she would go home from work, and she would tell mother.

There had to be another way to avoid that gossipping neighbor, so we went to a () round-about way which led through a pasture which ended across the (field) from my home.

I don't remember what we talked about, but it didn't seem to matter: just being together was enough.

Then one day my mother opened a letter he had mailed to me. It was a love letter and my mother was furious. It probably caused her to distrust her, even though she had never spoken these words to me. In the letter he asked me to go to a party being given by one of his boy friend's mothers, with him. After reading the letter, mother wouldn't let me go. I was very bitter towards my mother for a long time.

Our friendship continued for some time, whenever we had the opportunity to see each other, but there was never an endearing name or a word of love from him. Our friendship was sweet and wholesome such as one doesn't see these days -- and so it ended as it should, with just kind and generous thoughts toward each other.

He was leaving to go live with his father, and I (returned) to my day-dreaming.

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