Monday, June 10, 2013

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 20: Sisters and snacks

To read this project from the beginning, click here.

In this second-to-the-last installment of Elsie Crocker’s manuscript, she relates a couple stories of two of her younger sisters: my grandma, Aileen, and the youngest girl, Inez. I particularly like to read of my grandma as a child. It is amusing to think of her as a pesky younger sister.

She also tells about some more of the foods of her childhood. I am not surprised that Elsie wrote so many times about different recipes, as Elsie herself—and, indeed, all four of the Underwood sisters—became an excellent cook herself.

Mother would cook for the thrashers when they came to our house. The thrashers would go from one farm to the other until all the thrashing in the community was finished. The men went from one farm to the other to help thrash. The wives would go with them to help the one that was having the thrashers that day. They would help with the cooking. The thrashers were fed well. We liked to watch them thrash. But wern’t aloud to get very close. As the shaff would get in our eyes, or get in the way of the machinery. It was exciting to see all the wheat filling the sacks. They called the stems of the wheat straw, used for bedding doun the horses and to keep other animals clean. When they finished there was a huge pile.

A threshing machine, perhaps similar to the one used by Elsie's "thrashers." 
By ThomasWeise (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

One day I remember clearly, we had the thrashers that day the straw was piled. As I usually collected the eggs, Mom told me to see how many eggs were at the top of this huge pile of straw. She knew there was some as she had heard the hen cackle, the hen cackles to tell the world she has laid an egg. I started to go, and there was Aileen crying and tugging at my skirt. I had to take her but it was going to be rough. That straw was stickery and light. I’d go about one step and fall back two. Carrying a small child on one hip and a basket for eggs in the other, was tough going. We found the egg, but I was tired, I wondered if it was worth it, going by myself wouldnit have been so bad but the extra weight made me sink deeper in the straw. My legs were scratched, I wasn’t very happy. I asked my mother why Aileen had to follow me everywhere I went. Mom told me I should be glad I had a sister who wanted to follow me. I am sure my mother was right. I never got upset after that, Aileen followed me every where any time

Mother made the best cottage cheese. She would put any sour milk she had, in a pan on the back of the stove top, where it cooked very slowly, until it separated. Rinsed it and washed it real good. She put the cheese part in a bag and let it drip dry. She the mixed the cheese with a lot of thick fresh cream, salt and pepper. Um’um good.

Dad would help us make pop corn balls which he never ate any (no sugar). Our snack food those days were pop corn and apples. No fast foods’.

We were always happy to get home to all the good smells especiallywhen Mom cooked the left over mashed potatoes and left over boiled cabbage, she fried it in bacon grease. This one of the dishes Bill and I would hurry to get to the table for. The smell was so good while we were doing our chores. We always when we were young had dinner at noon, and dinner or spper as we called a night meal.

We had a big irregation ditch next to our house, to one side. The ditch had a lot of rushing water going thru a culvert, the culvert ran under the road.

One night the neighbors were having a kids party. Dad was in Portland working for the war. Mother told us older kids, we could go to the party. She would go and visit a new neighbor and take Inez. Inez was not much over a year old. Mother was quite ready when we left the house, for some reason I had to go back to the house. I didn’t see Inez and asked Mother where she was. She asked Isn’t she there? I told her I couldn’t see her any where. We hyrriedly looked every where. Then I happened to remember her loving that little baby at Roxy’s house. She just wouldn’t go there surely, well, we started up to Roxys house. As we got started over the culvert. I heard a faint “Elsie”. I looked doun into this water and at the entrance of the calvert, her arms out stretched side ways was the only thing saving her from washing doun stream. I jumped into the ditch and grabbed her her out. I don’t know how I had the strength and couage to jump in that fast water. Mother was happy to see she was alive. We were both thankful we were there to save her, what if I hadn’t have gone back for something that night? I am sure the Man Upstairs was there with us that night.

Mom didn’t go to the neighbors that night, the neighbors came to our house. They worked hard and took turns pumping the water out of her. Mother watched over her to see if she was still breathing normal. Mother said to forget it but think of it as a lesson.

I enjoyed reading about fried mashed potatoes, as that is also a favorite of mine. I have never added cabbage to them, though. Perhaps I will try that one of these days.

I love that Elsie was so specific as to the time of the story of Inez’ near drowning. The details she offers would place the incident in probably the spring or summer of 1918.

Elsie told me another story of saving a little girl from drowning. This would have been several years later, when the Underwoods had moved to Portland and Elsie was working for Safeway. I believe that would have been in the late 1940s, 1950s or early 1960s. It was at a company picnic at a park. I’m sure that Elsie told me which park it was, but I didn’t write it down. (Genealogists often lament their slack note-taking in their early days, but I must excuse myself. Rather, I am glad that as a high school student I had the foresight to take notes at all!) There was a pond or a river there, and a little girl fell in. Elsie saw her go down once, twice, and then a third time. She remembered the old saying that a drowning person only goes down three times, and in she jumped.

To continue with the next installment of Elsie's manuscript, click here

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