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Sage District Farm: Chapter 4

Chapter 4 The Mother

Mom was the blue eyed, blonde beauty from Daysville that won the heart of the rugged, black haired foreigner from across the ocean. How they met and how the romance developed I really don’t know. It is obvious that nature did follow the usual course of events. There were many tears in this relationship, stillborn babies, and a son, Donald, struck and killed in front of their home on Rome Street. There was also a lot of hard work trying to make a success of the farm operation and the hardship of the dissolution of the marriage.

Dick, Dugal, Myself, Sally, Alexander and baby sister, Thelma, along with mom, certainly filled this small, three room house to overflowing. We managed.  Jack had opted to stay on the farm and care for the animals until they were disposed of. Shortly after the animals were gone, he and his new bride Fran, moved to Tucson, Arizona in an effort to stabilize his asthma. Other than a couple of short visits and a quick trip for DGs funeral, they spent the rest of their lives in Tucson.

For a few months right after they were married DG and mom lived the city life. They did not own an automobile so it made sense to live near where you worked.  I get the impression mom worked as an assembler in a typewriter factory and perhaps as a sewing machine operator.

On May 5, 1919, Arthur was stillborn. Moving to Rome Street, Pulaski in 1920 they proceeded to build a one car garage. A set of twins, Dorothy Maude and David George were stillborn in July of 1920.

The one room garage was hardly the lap of luxury but it did provide shelter while the home was being built. Donald Gordon was born September 20, 1921 and until his death on May 29, 1925, was the pride and joy of his parents.  I have been told that he was a very happy young lad, given to singing hymns and marching around the dining room table. He was struck and killed as he stepped out from between two parked cars, directly in front of the house. This may have been a contributing factor for the move to the farm.

Jack and Dick were also born in the garage. I am not sure weather Dugal or I was the first to be born in the house. Sally and Alec came along in July ’32 and December ’33.

During this period of time DG worked diligently providing for his expanding family. He would catch a train at the Pulaski depot, ride to the Syracuse railroad yards, change clothes and head out on the “Hojack Run”.  Sometimes this was a layover trip so he would be gone from home for two or three days.  He would also catch some sleep at his mother’s apartment if he had a short turnaround.

I do not remember if we had electricity in the house or not. I do believe we had running water and an ice box. On the day the iceman came you would put the “ice card” in the front window with the desired size of ice in the readable position. This saved the deliveryman quite a few steps.  At a quick glance to see a 10, 15 or 20 on top, a couple jabs with an ice pick and the proper sized piece would be gripped with the tongs and transported to the kitchen. The iceman wore a heavy leather coverlet over his shoulder to prevent chills.

Mom, in the memory of this 4-5 year old boy, was a presence that gave security and balance to the world. She provided warmth, nourishment for the body and soul. A sense of humor that carried the proximity of the good earth. Always there to settle a sibling rivalry or if need be, a few firm whacks on the skinny behind of an offender. For some reason I seem to recall Dugal getting more than his share of whacks. He had a tendency to explore and wander including later during the War when he was in the Merchant Marine. The Far East was frequently his destination. Kowloon, Hong Kong and Shanghai were stops along the sea lanes he knew.

The calm acceptance of the difficulty of life’s trials and tribulations always came through.  I recall seeing my mother cry only on rare occasion; DG’s funeral, her mom’s funeral and the death of Alec’s dog “Spud”.

Spud was a unique dog. A German shepherd, who served his country during the time of war. Alec had decided during the strong feelings of patriotism in World War II that his dog was going to war, even if he (Alec) couldn’t. Spud was inducted, trained as a “war dog” and served with honor.  He returned home (after de-training) where, perhaps, in the archives of The Pulaski Democrat there exists an article with his picture. As far as I know Spud was the only dog from the Pulaski area that served in the Armed Forces during war time.

As we all do, Spud grew older. His eyes and ears lost a lot of resiliency and he started becoming lame and slow. It eventually happened that a neighbor from up the road was driving home when old spud walked into the road, directly in front of the moving car.. He was not killed instantly though it would have been better if he had been. Alec was at work at a neighboring farm and wouldn’t be home for several hours. The driver of the car and I carried Spud out behind the house and tried to make him comfortable. It was to no avail. He had been fatally crushed and was obviously suffering.

The only humane thing to be done was done.  I buried Spud beneath a small shrub to spare Alec the sight of his old friend who had been so grievously injured.  I believe we all shed a tear or two that night.

Several years earlier, on the farm there was another incident involving a dog. Garden planting day was an activity that involved everyone who was capable of helping in any manner. Potatoes were the name of the game.

The soil had been previously “fitted up”, the rows clearly marked and the planters were hard at work Jack would make a hole with his hoe; Dugal would place a potato with an “eye up”, Dick would cover the potato with soil and I would proudly step on each hill to ensure the soil was in firm contact with the seed.  The big draw back to this plan was the dog thought it was a game and promptly dug the potatoes back up.

After observing this a time or two and shouting with no results, I picked up a stick and made a threatening motion towards the dog.I cannot fault the dog. It was my own action that produced the results of being knocked to the ground and bitten on my face. Mom cleansed the wounds and applied iodine. The dog was tied up at the barn to await DG’s return that evening.

The garden eventually was finished and to this day I feel a terrible guilt about that dog. It was a very nice, reddish colored chow with a tail that curled over its back.  I have heard many times since then that Chow dogs are temperamental and cannot be trusted but I know I caused the death of that dog. There was no hesitancy or regret in DG’s voice as he issued the order to Dick, “Shoot the dog.  He cannot be trusted around the children.”  And so it was done.

At the time of the breakup, the little bungalow was owned by DG and sitting empty. It was signed over to mom along with the papers declaring a legal separation to exist. I recall a gas stove, a small oak ice box, a small table and four chairs, two beds and an overstuffed chair.

The next few years brought some easement. Dick graduated from school when he was sixteen and got a job breaking up cast iron at Olmstead’s Iron Works in Pulaski.  His first do-it-yourself project was a bathroom.  The second project was the addition of two bedrooms. An existing closet was determined to be long and wide enough to contain a cot. With a fabric drape it was an adequate sleeping nook.

With the war going on, Dick enlisted in the Marine Corps. and later Dugal went with the Maritime service as a Merchant Seaman.  After the war ended they came back home. Mom had kept things together and there was much more to come in our lives. I don’t recall hearing mom complain in all those years. She seemed to accept whatever came her way. A shy smile and a wink was her way of handling a problem.

Next: Chapter 5 – Hay Maker

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