My Forty Years Scribblin's
Summer ’Round the Bend

Typed manuscript sent to Geraldine (Geri) Stinger dated Nov. 10, 2000

Summer was a whole new deal at long-ago Evaro. Winter's chapped hands were left behind and we got out of bed at day break to get the washing scrubbed, boiled and wrung through a tubful of Mrs. Stuarts bluing water before the sun got cooking. How well I remember. I stood on an apple box to reach the wash board. And I learned the hard way how to hold the garments to keep from rubbing blisters on my knuckles. Many of these items were starched until they could stand alone in a corner then sprinkled down over night to be ready for the ironing board at next day break. Ironing was a hot and tiresome task since the "sad" irons were heated on the old wood range. Nor was there any sleeping in on baking day. The yeast (sponge) was stirred up at night and worked into a dough—again at daybreak—to get it out of the oven before the heat of the afternoon—all eighteen or twenty loaves of it. The loaves were kept in huge crockery jars in the cool cellar under the house, covered with damp cloths and papers.

Churning came along early too, the cream must be cool so the butter would be firm. Lacking refrigeration all milk, butter, buttermilk and other perishables were hung in pails in the spring. If there was more butter than the family needed my aunt would head for Missoula and Bonner's grocery as early as she could see to harness the horse, a blue ostrich plume waving on her black manila straw hat that was pinned to her hair with two ten-inch hat pins. She had to get the butter to the store before it "went soft," along with whatever eggs she could spare, for these things that she took in exchange for her produce were an important part of our living. My uncle worked away from home so the homesteading and homemaking were her responsibility and she took it seriously. Summer brought canning time—whatever we could find to put in a jar. At huckleberry time we took to the hills in the "cool of the morning." If the heat and thirst overtook us there would likely be a trickle of water somewhere with a tin can hanging on a twig. After drinking we would hang the can back on its twig for the next thirsty traveler who came along. It was the unwritten law of the woods.

We watched the clouds and dreaded electric storms for fear of forest fires and of course everybody knew that thunder killed unhatched chicks in the shell and soured the milk! We kids went barefoot from May on to save our shoes only to find when school started that we'd outgrown them or had so many stubbed toes and bruised heels that we couldn't get them on. There would likely be a Fourth of July Stampede and a circus or two when little girls were dolled up in white dresses and stockings and Mary Jane slippers. How I hated those Mary Janes with the strap around the ankle—I felt the same about the streamers hanging down the back of the leghorn straw hats they made us wear, and surreptitiously took the scissors to mine from time to time! A sight to remember was an occasional band of a couple thousand sheep with their herders (and barking dogs) grazing their way past our house on their way to some point on the reservation. Pity the traveler in a Model T trying to get through the band from behind them. It could take hours.

We who dwelt in log cabins didn't even dream of screen doors so when the mosquitos hatched someone would light a few wood chips in an old discarded pail, throw on a handful of grass to make it smoke then speedily deposit it the house, leaving the smoke to kill the bugs. After a while someone would dive in and retrieve the "smudge bucket" and throw open the doors to clear and cool the air so we could go to bed and sleep. Yes, it smoked up the premises, a small matter compared to being eaten alive by the voracious insects.

Memories are the threads that tie the years together— past and present. We took our chairs into the yard as the summer twilight settled down. A few bats darted silently hither and yon. The fog horn utterance of a zooming nighthawk blended with the coyote's chorus and a cowbell tinkled in the distance. No telephones jangled. And no night travelers in smoking automobiles disrupted nature's music because Model Ts didn't yet have dependable lights.

Back to school the day after Labor day, then the next week we got a day off to attend the Fair. Another summer at Evaro had become another pleasant memory.