Looking Backward by David MacClement Rowe
Part 2:  1872-1876 Evansville & Illinois


 

The "Order of the Can"  or "Kappa Alpha Nu" having met in regular session and finished Deacon was called.  He continued

       

The population of Evansville was largely German. We had a German cook.  Her name was Lizzie Baronowsky. 1  It sounds like Russian but whatever the name she was a German.   I think the name was derived from the words 'Burn'  a tette and ausgeseit -- She was an ausgeseit cook. I have never since eaten such cinnamon bread  pickled cabbages  and other things such as she made.

            But I want to get to my farm experience.  One day when I was about six years old my father came home and said he had sold our home and business and had bought a large farm in southern Illinois.  My father had been raised on a farm  my grandfather having at one time owned a farm on the Germantown pike which was later bought by the government and is now a part of the Soldiers Home property  The old homestead still stands at the Germantown pike entrance to the Home.  It is only natural, therefore, that my father should again hear the call of the country.  So it came about that I found myself in trains, one day, headed for our new farm.  We arrived and moved in.  I do not recall how many acres it contained, but to me at that age, it seemed that there were miles of wheat fields, corn fields, vegetable gardens, pastures and woods.  Also millions of snakes of all sorts and sizes black snakes--blue snakes--garter snakes--hoop snakes and all kinds.  Altho I never saw any  pythons or boa constrictors.

Also, as we found out soon enough there was ague.  And plenty of it. The only remedy was quinine which we bought by the pound.  And a pound did not last long either.  Capsules had not yet been invented. The method of proceeding was to take a teaspoon in your right hand and a half of an apple in your left then scrape the apple with the spoon until it was partly covered.  Put in a genuine helping of quinine then scrape some more apple on top.  The apple was for the purpose of camouflaging the quinine, but it never worked.  The apple invariably slipped off when you got it into your mouth and left the unindulterated quinine fully exposed much to your distaste.  The result of the constant dosing was that you could always hear the Chimes of Normandy 2 ringing in your ears.

I suppose none of you members of the C.A.N. know what the ague is. Well one day you get a chill like ten below zero.  You cover up with blankets and lie down by a log fire in the big fire place and just keep on shaking the same as if you were stark naked at the North Pole with a fire no make that the South Pole.  Then the next day you have fever and feel like you were sizzling in the illeg of your  future country.  Now if you are lucky you get a couple of days vacation.  Then you begin all over.  This is ague.

        My first job on the farm was to take a hatchet and sharpen one end of a lot of bean poles.  There was a stack of them about as high as the Reibold building  so it keeps one doing for some time. Another task cut out for me was to be water-boy for the field hands.  They always had a fox-horn with them and when their water supply gave out  they would blow a blast on the fox-horn.  That was my signal.  It was like the Adjutant's call in the army.  When the Adjutant's call is sounded the troops "fall in" to march to the drill field.  That is what I did.  This is how I did it.  I would fill a water jug at the well  Then I would go and climb a rail fence.  The top rail would slide off and I would fall into the hedge fence inside and get scratched up by the thorns.  The water jug would also fall and spill all the water.  I would get up singing  "I want to be an angel" and start back to refill the jug  Eventually I would reach the field to be asked what took me so long. With that experience I believe I would make a successful "bootlegger."  It may come in handy yet.

        Another thing I did was to run errands to the village store for supplies.  The store was about a mile from our farm.  One day while I was waiting for the clerk to put up our order I went outside and climbed up on the rear of a chariot that was standing in front.  This chariot was a red affair and looked something like those old English tally-hos which you often see in pictures.  It also looked a little like a funeral cabonly different.  The bottom was shaped something like the rockers on a hobby-horse and rested on two heavy  leather straps which were stretched from front to rear and took the place of springs.  Instead of being arranged for putting in something it was all enclosed and contained tin-ware, crockery, glassware and other useful articles.  These were carted through the country side and sold or exchanged for rags  paper  old iron  etcetera.  This junk was usually loaded on top or an extension was made.  Such was the chariot on which I was seated when a group of village boys came along and began calling me names  such as farmer, freckle face and the like.  At that time in my life I was a pacifist  or thought I was.  Also I had been taught to return good for evil  partly on that account and partly because the odds were against me I sat put and said nothing.

One of the boys had a mop of red hair They called him "Reddy" for short.  One of the crowd put a chip on Reddy's shoulder and dared me to knock it off.  I had heard some one say at some time or other  Never take a dare.  I was in a quandary if I was ever to defend my country it was then or never.  I began to figure out a plan of attack.  Suddenly I looped the loop off of the rear and landed with both hands in that mop of red hair.  I pulled and yanked and Reddy was down with me on top  Then he cried [illeg] and I desisted.  I was at once accepted as a member of the gang and had no further difficulty with those boys.  It was just a case of Reddy being the goat.  I remember that one of our neighbor farmers died and with all the farmers for miles around  I went to the funeral.  Usually funerals are sad affairs but I enjoyed this one because after we laid the late departed to rest we all went back to this farm house and had a big dinner.  There was fried chicken  sweet potatoes and cream gravy all sorts of jellies and jams, hot biscuits, pies and cakes and every thing my young heart could wish.  I shall never forget that funeral.

I used to have some fun  mixed in with my work  I remember a big white hog we had.  I used to jump on his back and grab his ears, then he would run around the barn-yard, grunting all the while.  One day he ran into the barn and turned into a narrow alley way between the hay mow and the head of the stalls and shelled considerable skin off my legs.  After that I let him alone.

We had two hay-mows in the barn  one on each side with a wide driveway between where we kept the wagon and other farm implements when not in use.  We  use to form two companies each taking a mow then we would fire corn cobs at each other.  It was just like playing snowfort.  Only we used cobs instead of snow balls.  It was very unfortunate to be hit, but it was great sport.

        I think we staid on the farm over two harvests.  Harvest time was great.  All the farmers helped each other get the wheat in.  While the men were busy in the field the women would cook dinner.  If you have never feasted at one of these harvest dinners you have missed something.  They are delectable.  Everything to eat and plenty of it.  Also plenty to eat it.

        But the ague was getting us all in bad and father decided he would have to illeg at the first opportunity.  He got a nibble one day and jumped in before the fish got loose.  The farm was sold and mother decided we should come back to Dayton as that was the only fit place to live and educate me.

        My time is up and I shall have to continue at our next meeting.

 

 Footnotes

 

1.  Lizzie Baronowsky domestic 310 Chandler avenue Evansville, IN 1888 Evansville, Indiana Directories, 1888-92

2. The Chimes of Normandy / by Eduard Holst. Chicago: Chicago Music Co., 1878.

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