The Hardest Job

When our family moved to the farm in October of 1930, my mother was twenty-two years old.  She had two children, one five (Arvel) and one three (Ardis).  We moved into an old house that had been unoccupied for some time.  Imagine the spider webs, dirt dobber nests, wasp nests, and general disrepair.  Remember, it was essentially a two-room house with one large room and one much smaller.  There were only three windows with no screens, and two of them could not be raised.  The door had no screens and the main door (front) was closed with a bar which was opened by pulling a latch string from the outside.

The nearest neighbor, as well as the mailbox, was a quarter mile away.  There were no phones, no radio, no television, the well was dry, and water had to be obtained from a spring some two hundred yards away.  Imagine the difficulty in getting some organization and cleanliness in the house.  Also, remember there was no outhouse and there would not be one for about ten more years.  With no contact with others, you were largely on your own.  If someone became sick, as they surely did, you had to make do with castor oil, baking soda, alcohol (whiskey- there was always a medicinal bottle), and maybe some aspirins.

One year later (8/19/31) a daughter (Alzie) was born, which meant that there were now a six-year-old, a four-year-old, and a baby.  The baby was of course born at home.  The doctor was some seven miles away and had to be notified in person since there were no phones.  I don't know for sure, but I believe my daddy walked to Dr. Klein's house near Snead and then rode back with the doctor in his car.

At this point my mother had a baby and two small boys.  Her typical day would be:

The saying that a man's work is from sun to sun but a woman's work is never done was certainly true in the thirties.  There was no respite.  Every day the cow must be milked twice, three meals prepared from scratch, and children cared for.  This continued year round.  There was no vacation.  You couldn't get away for a day unless a neighbor could be obtained to milk and care for the animals.

In listing the jobs performed by the wife, I have neglected to include the care of the farm animals.  The chickens had to be fed corn in the afternoon, the eggs gathered, and always the hogs had to be slopped.

I have totally overlooked one huge job.  When the weather was cold fire had to be kept in the one fireplace sufficient to have the room livable for children.  This required that the wood in the fireplace be replenished often.  In addition, to prepare the noon and evening meals, a fire in the kitchen stove had to be made.  I can imagine Mother placing the baby in a baby bed and rushing outside to get firewood to maintain some warmth in the room.

My parents never had a day off from the time they married in 1923 until the farm animals were sold in the early fifties.  Even the thought of a vacation was absurd.  The cow had to be milked twice daily, the mules fed, hogs slopped, chickens fed.

On rare occasions, emergencies arose which required the presence of Mother and Daddy.  Sickness in the extended family or deaths of family members would necessitate their leaving home.  On these occasions, they would visit a neighbor and ask for help.  The neighbor and his wife would come and milk, take care of the mules, hogs, and chickens for the day or two they had to be away.  The Otis Kent family was always the special friends with whom we exchanged help.

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