06 October 2006

Ninety years ago next week....

It was about this time, ninety years ago, that my great-grandparents eloped. I never knew they eloped until one of their friends' daughters told me the story. They lived in Holt County; I found their marriage certificate two counties to the south. Her brother didn't know, their son didn't know, nobody knew they did this!

What was really interesting was that my great-grandfather, who was a good Christian and really walked the line, said on the sheet that he was 21 years old. Actually he was 16 and Grandma was 17.

I ended up writing part of a story about it, and I'll post a bit of it here.

October 1916

Rose walked out of the hot kitchen of the boarding house for a moment, rubbing flour off her fingers, shaking it out of her hubbard. It was a misty, drizzly day. The mist caused the wood smoke smell to hang low over the small river town. Down the street, clanging like a distant bell came from the blacksmith’s, then stopped. So quiet out. An old yellow tom, his winter coat thick as an old coon’s, meowed as he stepped toward her. A slight cool breeze touched her face, but it wasn’t cold enough to freeze the rain or turn her breath into vapor.

A loud cardinal at the top of a walnut tree ran through all its songs. Sourdough bread scent leaked out of the screen door behind her. Though rainy Saturday afternoons are dreary, written in a minor key, it’s still beautiful, despite the yellow October grass and skeletal back trees and white sky. A steam train bellowed several miles away, probably at Marti’s crossing. That meant it was about 11:45. Back to work, Jonas is on his way. She smiled.

Inside the kitchen, lit by oil lamps, Grandma was placing some wood on the fire, arranging the logs to keep the heat as even as possible around the oven, where the bread was baking. Noodles in red sauce bubbled on top of the stove. Grandma shut the fire door and wiped her face with a man’s handkerchief.

Grandma had run the boarding house for several years, ever since Grandpa had died of a stroke out in the fields. Rose had been helping for the last year, receiving a measly payment for her efforts. “About time you got back in here,” Grandma said, stirring the red noodles, scraping the bottom of the pot to keep the noodles from burning. “Now get those dishes washed.”

Rose got the tin dishpan, put it in the sink under the small pump, and began pumping. Freezing well water splashed down. Rose sighed. The whole world outside was so beautiful, but she had to stay in this cramped, hot kitchen and listen to Grandma’s complaints. She could not understand how her mother could stay so patient with Grandma. Mother had faith in God and the sweetest temperament she’d ever seen. But Rose wanted to lash out against Grandma – indeed, against this small world that kept her locked in. She didn’t want to plod along like Ma did, like cattle in harness.

At least there was Jonas, and their secret.

Jonas rode up on his sorrel horse with the white face. Her heart fluttered to see him. He was a stocky young man with curly blonde hair, and wore droopy work overalls as all the men did. He slid off the horse and tied it up as the horse tugged at the rope with short jerks of his head. His sorrel was one that, if he didn’t like what he was tied to, would look around and take off.

Rose smiled, giddy, and brought the hot rolls to the table just as Jonas walked in, hanging his hat on the hooks by the door. Several other men from the fields or the businesses around town were also coming in. Jonas’s cool blue eyes met her and he gave her a secret smile. She blushed, smiled in return, then, abashed, hurried into the kitchen as the men, talking in their loud voices, began to seat themselves at table.

End! (for the moment)

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