|Calif. Families Sikes Ranch PAST REFLECTIONS GROWING UP ON THE SIKES RANCH|
Jean Sikes McBride March 1992
I was born on July 19, 19 i5, In the ranch home built by my Grandfather, Jonathan Sikes, In the early 1870's. This was the home where my Father, George Alvin Sikes was born on February 5, 1880. The Sikes ranch is located in the Tremont District of Solano County, California, half way between Davis and Dixon. My Grandfather obtained half of the ranch through the 1862 Homestead Act of the United States Federal Government. Grandfather's grant Is Homestead Certificate #48, dated June I , 1869, and is signed by Ulysses S. Grant, President of the United States. I have this original Grand Deed framed and hanging in my home. The second half of the ranch was obtained by Grandfather trading a team of mules to a minister for the land. This gave Grandfather a total of 307.26 acres.
When I was born we had no electricity. Coal oil lamps were the form of lighting we had, When I was seven years old, Daddy put in a Delco home lighting system. It was only 72 volts, so we did not have many appliances as few were available for that voltage. We did have an electric iron instead of the old flat irons that were heated on the wood stove. The flat irons were the ones I first learned to use. Later we had a 72 volt toaster.
We did have a telephone In 1915, however it could not be used at night as the operator closed the office at 6:00 PM. When the doctor told Mother that her baby would arrive early and that she must nave the operator connect our phone to his house before she closed trie office early evening, Mother refused to do so, Daddy had married Mother In Kelseyville, Lake County, California on October 18, 1914. Since I was due the middle or August, Mother was absolutely not going to have a baby before she was married nine months. However, on the night of July 18, 1915, she did have the telephone operator connect our phone line to Doctor Bates home. I was born early In the morning of July 19, 1915, Mother was right, she didn't have her baby before she was married nine months.
My Mother, Clara Thomas, and her sister, Crystal Thomas, were married in a double wedding at their parents, Benton and Frances Thomas, home on that October date. Mother and Aunt Crystal were both expecting babies the middle of August, My cousin Gwendolyn Gross was born on August 25, 1915.
A year after my birth, my brother Jack was born, on August i5, 1916, Mother had asked a girl who lived across the street from Mother's girlhood home in Kelseyville, to come live with us and help her with the cooking and house-keeping and with the care of Jack and me. Carmelite Kelsey lived with us for several years, until she married Sidney Watkins, a neighbor form boy who worked for Daddy. At the time of this writing Carmelite is still living in Davis, Ca. She is in her mid nineties and lives in a nursing home, as she has had a stroke.
According to Carmelita and Mother I began talking before I was two years old. However, my language did not represent the English Language in any way. Carmelite was "Tob-a-dim". My favorite vegetable was cauliflower, "cali-pa-boo", and my favorite dessert was pudding, "padib-a-dee". Yes was "api-da". Carma would make me answer her in a full sentence, so if she asked me if I wanted some pudding, my answer was, "Api-da Tob-a-dim Dee-dee pedib-a-dee", translated, "Yes Carmelita Jeanne (wants) pudding". Fortunately I overcame this impediment fairly soon.
Jack and I grow up as great pals. Living on the ranch, we had no close neighbors so there were no other children our age near us. Most of our play time was of our own making, and such rich memories I have of these years.
One of our favorite games was to play we were the Watkins Man, He was a wonderful traveling salesman who came in his old rattling truck with displays of Watkins products. He had extracts, spices, lotions, liniments, etc. Jack and I would save any empty bottles of various sizes that Mother was throwing away and fill them with her rinse water on wash day, Mother always added blueing to the rinse water for white clothes. This lovely blue color was great for our bottles We would fill Jack's little red wagon and haul our bottles of flavorings, lotions, etc. around the yard and sell them to a] i our imaginary neighbors, Mother being our best customer. She seemed to love blue vanilla, blue lotion and blue liniment.
Another game we loved was one that went on all summer. We would make elaborate play houses out of orange crates, apple boxes, lug boxes and sheets of burlap, The lug boxes were ones that Mother would buy full of various fruits for canning. Daddy would order burlap seeks for the wheat and barley harvest, These sacks came wrapped in large sheets of burlap. Daddy would let us use these sheets for our play house. We would stack the boxes and tack the burlap to them to form the walls and room dividers. These houses grew all summer as we had more boxes and bur lap. Orange crates made wonderful cupboards, and a kitchen stove with one half of the crate for the wood burner and the other half for the oven, Any and all these boxes made tables, chairs, book cases, and beds, and more for farm equipment for Jack. He was always the father and I was the mother. Jack would go off to milk the cow, haul hey, plow the fields, and harvest the grain, I was the mother who stayed home and cooked, cared for the dolI babies ( of which we tied many), swept the floors, etc. Jack usually came home early for meals as, he liked to help me cook, We had wonderful meals, well balanced and all, Most everything was made from slices of white bread. We would roll them flat and cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter for pancakes, cookies, and layer cakes. The scraps we would use for our vegetables, mashed potatoes, end meat. Often we would roll these scraps into balls for meat balls. After plowing, milking the cow, sweeping the floors and dusting , these meat balls did have a color that resembled meat. Sometimes these balls were chocolate cookies.
One time I came In the house and told Mother there was a chicken in the yard. She told me to ring its neck and we would have it for supper, I took her seriously and went out to ring the chicken's neck. I found out that this was not so easy to do. After three or four twists and the head didn't come off, I went back Into the house and told Mother that the head wouldn't come off. Mother went running out to see what I had done to the chicken. It was staggering around as if It were drunk. However it eventually seemed to get its neck straightened out and was all right. Daddy would swing the chicken around once or twice and with a bit of a jerk, the head would come off, I just couldn't understand why I couldn't do this,
Jack went through a time when he wouldn't eat anything that he dropped on the floor because it had "joims" (germs) on it. One time he dropped his piece of candy and cried because it had joims" on it. I told him it didn't have any germs because he picked it up too fast, so he ate it with joy. Then I told him that I did see one germ on it as he put it in his mouth. This, I believe, is when we had our first fight. Aunt Verna was visiting with us at this time and I have often heard her tell this story.
One Christmas Jack and I received new rubber boots, We were anxious to try them out, so the first day that it was nice enough for us to go out to play we waded in all the puddles we could find and then decided it would be fun to wade in the pib wallow. This was a rather large low place ner the barns that Daddy would fill with water in the summer for a pib wallow. They loved the water and mud as it kept them cool. However, with the winter rains there was more water than we realized, Jack went out a bit too far, and one of his boots stuck in the mide. He couldn't lift is foot and his boot. So his foot came out of the boot and he fell in. O how we hated to go back to the house and tell Mother that we had been wading in the pib wallow and that one of Jack's new boots was still stuck there. We expected some horrible punishment, but I don't remember any. Jack took off his muddy clothes and we had a warm bath in one of the wash tube by the kitchen stove. Daddy rescued the missing boot.
Another fun time was when Daddy would lift us onto the back of Old Bud, our buggy horse. We would ride him around the corral. One time Jack slid off and fell to the ground. Old Bud just turned around and went back and stood by Jack until Daddy lifted him up again. Bud, as he was called in his younger days, had been Daddy's buggy horse, We loved to hear Daddy tell us how he liked to go to the spare dances on Saturday nights. Sometimes he would go to Dixon and sometimes to Vacaville. On the way home, Daddy would often fall asleep. When he awoke, he would find that they were home and that Bud was standing by the corral gate waiting for Daddy to remove his harness, lead him to the watering trough for a drink and then take him to the barn, give him a rubdown, and leave him for the night. Daddy would push the buggy into its storage shed and then go to bed himself.
The first automobiles I remember were the two we had, a Velie and a Mitchel. The Velie was Daddy's first car, the one he had driven to San Francisco on their honeymoon. The Mitchel was the one we used the most and the one that Mother had learned to drive. It had no windows on the sides, just a windshield in the front and a small window in the back. There were struts around the top and between the front and back doors. These supported the top. There was no air conditioning. In the summer, nature provided the air, and side curtains were provided for the winter. These had a kind of snap system that fastened to the struts around the top and between the doors and along the sides of the windshield and the back window. They had some small isinglass windows across the sides to permit us to see out, although rather dimly. We had lap robes in the car in the winter to help keep us warm. However we were always glad to see spring come when we could remove the side curtains and the lap robes. It was difficult to get into the car with the curtains on as they had to be snapped and unsnapped enough to crawl under them.
This car and the Velie had a running board along the sides of the cars on which we would step in order to get in and out. There was a small trunk on the back of the car for storage. Both these cars were started by turning a crank on the front of the car. Daddy have to adjust the spark ,then hurry to the front of the car and turn the hand crank. If it didn't start, he would have to adjust the spark lever again and crank again.
The Velie was Daddy's first car ,a 191O or 1912 model. It had a horn on the driver's side that was sounded by squeezing a bulb. The head lights were lighted with a match. The Velie was used around the ranch mostly, but in the winter when the road became too muddy for the Mitchel, Daddy would put side curtains on the Velie and drive it. The Velie had large wheels with tires that resembled over-sized bicycle tires. These tires,could make it through the ruts in the muddy road when the Mitchel with its smaller wheels and larger tires couldn't. Occasionally the Velie couldn't make it either. That was when Old Bud would be called out of retirement and hitched to the buggy. Jack and I loved it when Old Bud had to take us to school. I think Old Bud loved it also es he would trot off down the muddy road seeming not to mind the mud, cold, or rain.
One of my earliest memories was a drive to Davis in the Velie. We had had heavy rain and Putah creek was flooding. We had to cross the creek to get to town. There was a low water bridge with no side rails, In order to allow flood water to flow over the bridge with no barrier to accumulate floating debris. Dad(fy was sure the water on the bridge was not deep enough to cause any trouble if we used the Velie with its large wheels. However water did splash up onto the motor and we stalled in the middle of the bridge. I was terrified and crying - I think I was about four years old. We were lucky. though, as our Uncle Wally had come with his horse and buggy to see how the creek looked. Uncle Wally was Daddy's older sister Al ice's husband. He unhitched his horse from the buggy and rode the horse out onto the flooded bridge and pulled us out.
Most of the time Jack and I walked to school, about one and a half miles from our home. It was a small one room building with all eight grades. A wood stove provided our heat in the winter . There was no running water .just a well with a hand pump for us to get drinking water or water to wash our hands. There was a privy. One for boys and one for girls out across the school grounds. These took the place of flush toilets. We didn't have much, if any, supervision on the playground. When we went out for recess or lunch hour we were on our own. If we chose to go down the road and play in the slough that ran through the Dietrich property, we were free to do so. This was especially fun when our teacher had her boy friend come to visit during lunch hour. We would get an hour and a half or two hours for lunch. If we chose to play under the school house that was acceptable also. This was especially nice during hot weather. Ernie Dietrich helped us build a tree house. He was older than we were so he could stay and work on it while we were in class. It turned out to be quite a large tree house, and we could all climb up in it. Or maybe it just seemed large to us. This was the Solano Joint School . There were about ten students attending. By the time we completed the fourth grade, the school had become so small that county closed it. From the fifth grade on through high school we attended the Dixon schools.
Alta Eggert and I were best friends. We were the only girls in the primary grades so it as natural for us to become best friends. I would spend one week end with her and she the next with me. One time she had just read a mystery story. We decided that her home would be the ideal place for a secret passage. We spent the whole weekend looking for one. We searched the kitchen, the pantry, the dining room, the Having room and parlor ,the downstairs bedrooms, and then we started on the upstairs bedrooms. In one of the smaller rooms we found what we felt sure was a map. It was showing through a small crack in one of the closets. We didn't want to tear it, so we were very carefully trying to get it out. We worked for hours, and finally decided a button hook would be the best tool. We were not sure if it was a piece of paper or a cloth. With the button hooks we were able, with one of us working on the top and one on the bottom, to pull a piece through the crack . Imagine our disappointment when we found that it was Alta's Aunt Elda's brassiere which was hanging in an adjacent closet.
While we were attending the rural school, in the Spring Daddy would meet us at the corner of Tremont Road and our road ( now Sikes road). We would walk with Daddy through the wheat field and pull weeds out of the wheat mostly mustard plants with their lovely yellow blossoms. However we didn't consider them lovely as they were intruders into our wheat crop. We would pull them out and turn the blossoms down and push them into the wheat so that the roots were up toward the sun and the plant would die before the seeds were formed. I still can't appreciate a field of mustard in bloom.
Daddy always cut two or three rows of grain around the wheat and barley fields for hay to feed the live stock. He would rake this up into small piles and allow it to dry before hauling it into the barn. He would haul it in on the hay wagon pulled by Maud and Jerry. the mules. Since Jerry had a reputation for being lazy, Daddy would leave him hitched to the wagon. He would take Maud to the far end of the barn and hitch her to a rope that would pull the hay up into the haymow . The man on the hay wagon would push a large Jackson fork into the hay. He would then call to the man in the haymow and that man would call to Daddy to begin pulling it up. When it was pulled up into the haymow they would call out again for Daddy to stop. The man on the wagon would trip the rope that held the fork full of hay to dump the hay into the barn, and the process would begin over again. It took a good amount of hay to feed the livestock. There were Maud and Jerry. Old Bud. the cows and the sheep. Jack and I were allowed to climb on the fence that led into the corral ,but we were not allowed to go into the corral itself. Daddy felt it was not safe for us to be in the corral when he really couldn't watch us. We would watch from the fence until we became tired of that process and would go off to play elsewhere.
We had a hitching rack in our lane by our back gate. This was a long wooden rail, probably a four by four with the sharp edges rounded off and worn smooth over the years by the horses reins being tied to it. Occasionally Old Bud would be tied to it waiting for his passengers to climb into the buggy, usually Jack and I being driven to school on a cold rainy day. Sometimes Daddy would go to Davis with the horse and buggy for groceries, the mail,and the Sacramento Bee newspaper. In bad weather we didn't go to town very often. Mostly the hitching rack was used by Jack and me for our monkey bar. We would hold onto the railwith our hands and feet and travel along it hand over hand and foot over foot from one end of the rail to the other ,or we would hang by our knees or just swing from it.
Aunt Alta, Mother's sister .was a primary teacher in Oakland. She often came to spend holidays with us. She would always bring some of her classroom hand work or party favors the children had made. She would help us plan a party with Mother as our guest. Halloween was always the most fun with masks, jock-a-lanterns with candles in them, ,md candies and punch. These parties were always held in the parlor which made them even more mysterious. The parlor was never used, even though it was completely furnished, and the window shades were always drawn. This made it dark and perfect for Halloween candles, ghosts, witches, and goblins. Aunt Alta could recite the entire poem, "The Goblins will Get You If You Don't Watch Out". ( I think the title was really "Little Orphan Annie", but I thought it was "The Goblins will Get You---". It was very scary, but she assured us that there weren't really any goblins. However I felt sure that there were some goblins and that they lived upstairs in our back bedroom and the back closet. That back room was seldom used and was mostly Just a storage room, but that closet adjoined the closet in the bathroom. I was sure that the goblins could get into the bathroom closet also. For a lJ)Od many years, I refused to IJl to the bathroom alone after dark. If Mother was going up there, I would go with her. If not, I would talk Jack into going with me and standing guard in the hall by the bathroom door. I didn't tell him about the goblins, in fact I didn't tell Mother either because I knew they agreed with Aunt Alta.
We had a record player ,one of the old wind up phonographs. Mother and Daddy had a number of records that they liked. Jack and I had all the nursery rhymes on small records. Jack learned to pick out any record he wanted when he was very young, between three end four I think. One day a friend was visiting Mother and she asked Jack how he could teli which record was which. Jack 's answer was "Can't you see the 'readin'?". At his young age that was all he could read, but he certainly knew those records.
On long winter evenings we would sit around the wood stove in our living room and Mother would read to us. Sometimes we would ask Daddy' to play his violin. It was kept tn an old trunk in the back hall by the bathroom door. I would get Jack to go with me to get it ( on account of the goblins). Daddy would play a few of the old tunes of hts day such as "When You Wore A Tulip And I Wore A Big Red Rose", or "In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree". When he played "Turkey In The Haymow , Turkey In The Straw", we knew the concert was over and it was tf me to put the violin away. Other times we would get him to tell us stories of the "olden days". We especially liked to hear about the time his father ( Grandfather Jonathan) was going out to plow on a foggy morning. He was walking behind his mule team when he came across a buffalo bull pawing the dirt and snorting. Grandfather decided to go back to the barn and wait for the fog to clear. (What they called buffalo in those days were really bison). Another story we liked was how Daddy, as a young boy, would hove to take the shot gun out in the wheat field and herd the wild ducks and geese off the wheat. They would fly in in large flocks, descend on the ripening wheat, and destroy much of it if not shot at and frightened away.
Daddy often told us how important it was to finish school .and that we must not make the mistake he did, and quit. He had been helping his father put 8 new roof on the barn. The morning that school started in the fall, D t up early and was nailing shingles on the roof as fast as he could. When his father came and told him it was time to to school ,Daddy just said "I'm not going". He continued with his shingle Job. and his father never mentioned it again. much to Daddy's relief.
When Grandfather and Grandmother Sikes (Jonathan and Caroline) moved to Davis and turned the farming over to their son Alvin (my father ). Clara, their oldest daughter moved with them. Aunt Clara lived with them until they passed away. She gave piano lessons in Davis, and had purchased a house next door to them for a rental. After the death of her parents, she inherited their home. She then moved to Berkeley and purchased an apartment house. She lived in one of the apartments and rented the others. She would often take the train to Davis to check on her rentals and would always stay with us. One time she came and found that I had outgrown the youth bed and had been given the daub le bed in the room where she usually slept. She Insisted that she could sleep with me and would not need to have another bed made up for her. I was restless, Iguess, for I awoke to find her putting pillows down the middle of the bed, under the covers. She said that I was kicking her. I told her I didn't want pillows in my bed, and I threw them out as fast as she out them in. She finally gave up and said she would make up the bed in the back bedroom ,which she did. I didn't tell her about the goblins back there. In the morning she said she had slept very well. ( So much for goblins, or maybe they just didn't like Aunt Clara).
We had only wood stoves in my early childhood, so winter or summer all our meals were . cook ed on a large k itchen range. I do have fond memories of the good cakes and pies Mother could bake in that old oven. I wonder now how she knew when it was hot enough, or if it was too hot. I do remember her opening the oven and putting her hand in to test the heat. Then she would put the cake, or a beef, pork , or lamb roast in, and they always came out just right. Jack and I had the responsibility of keeping the wood box full of wood. We would iJock's little red wagon with wood from the wood shed and pull it to the back door of the house and carry it from there into the wood box in the kitchen.
After Carmeilta was no longer living with us, Mother would get a lady to help during the harvest time in the summer. She would do most of the kitchen work- cooking. washi ng dishes, and keeping the kitchen clean. We would have six to eight men during harvest time. It took a lot of food to feed those hungry men. In those days. the men always lived at the ranch where they were working. We had a bunk house, as their sleeping quarters were called. This was upstairs over Daddy's work shop. We had to cook breakfast, dinner (at noon), and supper in the evening. After breakfast. dinner would be started with baking and usually a big roast. Supper was usually a cold meal as Mother did not like to have a wood fire in the evening that would heat up the house again. We would have the leftover meat from dinner with cold vegetables such as tomatoes and celery, and fruits with lots of bread and butter and perhaps some cheese and cold cuts to fill in if there wasn't much leftover meat from dinner. Dessert would be leftovers from dinner ,or cookies and fruit, sometimes watermelon. It was my job to ring the dinner bell to call the men to let them know the meal was ready. It was a brass bell about seven inches in diameter. It was heavy for a little girl.but it had a sturdy' wooden handle, so I would hold it in both hands and swing it over my head and down between my legs. C Mother canned lots of fruit in the summer and I always had to help her peel the fruit. can still feel that fruit juice running down my arm and dripping onto the floor. I always said I would never can fruit. To this day I haven't canned fruit or made jelly and jam.
Two or three times a year Jock and I had to help Mother clean the chicken house. Jock and I would have to take all the old straw out of the nests and put new straw in. We liked that job but we didn't like cleaning under the roosts where the chickens roosted at night. We liked it when a hen would start setting, and Mother would put some eggs under her and she would hatch the baby chick.s. We had a special room for the mothers and babies so that we could give the babies some baby chick feed, and all the other chickens couldn't get in to eat the babies food. Sometimes Jack and I would climb up into the haymow and play in the fresh hay. Now and then we would find a hen who had stolen a nest up in the hay. We would watch for the chicks to hatch and then bring them to the chicken house. However there were so many barn cats that we seldom found any chicks. We were more apt to find some kittens, but the mother cat made it clear that we were not to touch her babies, so we respected her wishes.
On very hot days, over 100 degrees. we could put on our bathing suits and play under the sprinklers on the lawn. However, when it was very hot, there was usually not much wind. We had only windmills to pump our water so we had to be careful how we used water if there was no wind. If the water tank became nearly empty, Daddy would have to start an old gasoline motor that was in the tank house. He would hook it up to the well and pump water to fill the storage tank that was on the top floor of the tank house. Daddy hated to start that motor. It was old and hard to get started. Mother would never allow us to go into the tank house when Daddy was working on it. Jack was sure that the reason we couldn't go in there was because Daddy would use his swear words on that motor .
We were not allowed to use swear words, but one day Jack told me he could swear. He said he learned his swear words from Daddy. I told Mother that Jack could swear . Mother pretended to be shocked and said she hoped he would never say any swear words where she could hear them. Jack said he was going to say them. Mother begged him not to, but Jack said "i'm going to", and he did. He said "by golly, by gee, by jmminy, the debli( devil), the dute (duce), the darn". Mother pretended to be shocked, and Jack was so pleased with himself.
Jack was probably about three years old at this time. He still loved to have a bottle when he took his nap and at bed time. Mother and I convinced him that he was too big for a bottle. He decided that he would throw the bottles over the back fence where the bears could get them. We didn't know that there were any bears there, but he said he was sure there were bears out in that back field. Sure enough the next morning the bottles were gone. It made a believer out of me. There were bears in the back field and goblins in the back bedroom.
A few weeks after the bottles were gone, Mother took us to ·church with her. During the service, Jack became restless and whispered in Mother's ear that he wanted his bottle. She reminded him that the bottles were gone. Jack whispered in her ear again and said all his swear words. I think Mother missed most of that service. She had a hard time keeping a shocked expression.
Daddy had mostly mechanical equipment by the time Jack and I were old enough to remember. He had a large track layer tractor and a harvester. The tractor was used to pull the plow ,harrow. and the harvester.
My early memories were of Daddy using his two mules, Maud and Jerry, to pull the seeder when he seeded the grain, but in later years when Maud and Jerry became too old, he used the tractor to pull the seeder also. The harvester is the only piece of equipment Daddy would let us ride on. Jack end I loved it when we could get on that big machine and watch it cut the wheat. We could watch the header, which was attached to the side of the I harvester, go around and around and push the wheat into the sickle blade be cut and pushed up into the harvester and then we could watch the kernels of wheat come out of a spout and into the sacks. There were two men who would sew these full sacks up with a large needle with sack twine in it. They would then push the sacks onto a chute where they would slide to the ground. I
One dav Daddy came into the house laughing and told us what he had been doing. He had gone down to a straw stack that was in the field south of the house. His intention was to see if he could coax the sow to bring her babies up to the pig pens, which were by the barn. When he came to the straw stack, the little pigs ran in all directions. He thought about the situation for awhile and decided the only thing he could do was to crawl into the pigs nest and make noises like the mother pig. This is what he did. Sure enough, the little ones came back to the nest. One by one he caught them and put them in a wheat sack . He kept making noises like the mother pig and finally he had them all in the sack . He then took them to the barn where he put them in the pen with their mother . Daddy always made pets of his farm animals so the mother pig was happy to follow him to the pen. There he could see that they had water and feed as they needed it.
The one thing Daddy didn't have was a truck. He would hitch the mules, Maud and Jerry, to a wagon and drive through the field to pick up the sacks of grain. When the wagon was loaded, he would let us ride with him, on top of the load, and Maud and Jerry pulled us to the warehouse on Tremont Rd. by the railroad. The warehouse was located along side of the tracks very near where the railroad crossed Tremont Rd. One time when we were with him, Daddy kept yelling at Jerry to get going. He explained that when Jerry began to get tired, he would pretend to be pulling when he really wasn't doing his share and was letting Maud do most of the work. On the way home with the empty wagon, Jerry decided he had had enough and he balked. Daddy coaxed him and yelled at him and got down off the wagon and tried to lead him , but Jerry would not move. We walked home and Daddy found an old sack , put some gasoline on it, took an old shovel and some matches, and walked back to the wagon and mules, but he wouldn't let us go.
We watched him - Jack said we couldn't go because Daddy going to use his swear words at Jerry. When Daddy got back to the mules.he put the sack on the shovel lit it with a match, and pushed it under Jerry. He moved alright, but Just far enough to leave the burning sack under the wagon. Daddy pounded the fire out and by then I was sure he was using his swear words. Daddy finally talked Jerry into coming on home. Jack and Iran back to the house before Jack could learn any more swear words.
Jack and I,when we were older ,would mend holes in old sacks so that they could be used again. These holes were usually made by mice that were in the granary. The barn cats were always in there but they didn't seem to be able to keep up with the mice. Daddy always kept Quite a large number of sacks of wheat for feed for the chickens and some of the livestock and sometimes enough for some seed the next year. However. the mice made it possible for Jack and me to have some spendi ng money. Daddy would give us a nickel for a given number of sacks, I can't remember just how many, but we could make fifteen or twenty cents in a reasonable amount of time. We could buy an ice cream cone or a candy bar for five cents. If we spent some time every day mending sacks, over a period of time we would have quite a lot of spending money. We always tried to save some for Christmas.
In November , Daddy would always butcher hogs. We had a smoke house and Daddy would build a large fire on the dirt floor in the center of this house and keep it burning day and night. Out in the yard, Daddy would have another fire going with a large caldron over it in which he heated water until it was boiling. When the hog was killed, it would be dipped in the boiling water , then pulled out onto a large tab le-like platform and all the hairs scraped off the hide. Daddy had to have help with this Job as those hogs were heavy and he needed a man to help him handle these large animals. After the hide was cleaned, the hog would be hung on a tree branch and drawn. Mother would always have a large pan there for them to put the liver and heart in. She would take these into the house and clean them and prepare them for cooking. The hog would be left hanging over night to cool. The next day it would be cut into roasts, chops, tenderloin and sides for bacon and hams. The b6COn and hams would be treated with salt and hung in the smoke house to cure. All of the less desirable cuts would be ground into meat for sausage. Daddy would always mix all the spices into the ground meat for the sausage. Mother would collect all the fat and the rind left after the meat was trimmed, put it in big pans, and render out the fat for lard. This would be put in cans to use for cooking. Much of it would be used to preserve the sausage patties.
Mother would make the small round patties and cook them in lard until they were cooked through but not browned. She would put them inlayers in large crocks and cover them with lard. They would keep like thet for a rather long time. I often had to go down into the cellar and spoon out enough sausage for a meal. It seems to me that we had sausage for most of the winter. Jack and I loved to eat some of the cracklings - efter the lord wes rendered off the rind, it was brown and very crisp.
That cellar was under the tank house and kept very cool all of the time. I did a lot of carrying food up and down those cellar steps. It was my job to take leftovers down there after meals and bring them back for the next meal. All the canned fruit, pickles, and all the milk was kept down there. We did not have a refrigerator in those days, or even an fee box. We did get an fee box later when there was an fee plant in Dixon that delivered fee.
All of Mother's family would always come to our house for Thanksgiving - Grandma and Grandad Thomas, Uncle Del and Aunt Viola, Beryl ,Erlene, Leroy, and Jo Anne (Jo Anne was born in 1934- so she was a later addition to the family), Aunt Verna and Uncle Ray and Susan, Aunt Crystal and Uncle Bert, Gwendolyn and Alberta. These all came from Lake County. Aunt Alta and Uncle Arthur ,Thomas and Frances came from Dakland. With our family there were twenty four of us. Most of the relatives stayed for the weekend. We cousins had lots of fun. Daddy always cured olives about this time, so there usually were two big crocks of olives on the back porch. We children loved them ond would toke a handful out of the crock often.
There were no highways, only gravel roads, when I was small. There was no causeway to Sacramento then, so in winter we had to take the train from Davis to Sacramento. We always did this before Christmas, to shop and visit Santa. We never ate out except on this special day. We would have lunch at a restaurant in one of the hotels on K St., I think it was called "Wilson's". I have no idea what we ate, but I remember they always gave the children a small box of chocolate coated raisins. To this day I like chocolate raisins.
Occasionally we would take the train to Oakland to see Aunt Alta and her family. There was no Carquinez bridge then. and the train had to be separated and put on a ferry at Benicia. We would cross the Carquinez Straits to Crockett, where the train would be reassembled and then on to Oakland. Sometimes we would take the ferry boat to the Ferry Building in San Francisco.
We would visit Aunt Elsie Daddy's youngest sister). and sometimes to Golden Gate Park or to the beach. These were fun and exciting excursions.
Dorothy was born on Jack's eighth birthday, August i5, 1924. I was nine years old and delighted that I had a baby sister. Jack wasn't so sure - he would rather have had a brother. I had been wishing on the first star I saw in the evening for a baby sister and ending my nightly prayer with, "Please send me a baby sister". Thts all made me a believer in God and stars. Jack and I had been sent to Berkeley to stay two weeks wtth Aunt Clara and then to Oakland for another two weeks with Aunt Alta. When the word came that we had a baby sister ,we were anxious to go home. I believe I loved that baby as I had never loved anything or any one before. I gave her her bottle, changed her, dressed her ,and would take her for rides in my doll buggy. I liked to rock her to sleep for her nap and would sing her lullabies that I made up as I went along. I can't imagine how this would put her to sleep. I guess babies sleep regardless. After school started that fall, Mother had a number of dental appointments. She made these in late afternoon when I would be home from school . I would care for Dorothy, give her her bottle, and get her ready for bed. I would then peel potatoes for supper and put them on to cook, set the table, and do what ever else Mother had left for me to do before she got home.
That next summer ,Jack came down with whooping cough. I took it and so did Dorothy. I was not too sick and did not cough too hard, but not so with Dorothy. She would cough and lose her breath, just get limp and turn blue. She was not quite 8 year old end we were afraid we would lose her. Mother or I would pick her up and blow in her face, pat her back or shake her - anything we could think of to help her catch her breath. She became very lii and could not keep any food down. The doctor said she must to the hospital. They allowed Mother to stay with her. A cousin of Mothers was staying with us and helping Mother as it was harvest time and much work to be done. However ,harvest was about over when Dorothy was put in the hospital , so I helped Norma Jean as much as I could and we managed. I don't remember how long she was in the hospital ,but when they let her come home she could no longer sit up, stand, crawl ,or even make her little baby sounds. The doctor suggested we take her to the coast, where the cool damp air might stimulate her appetite and help her to gain her strength back and some weight. we still feared that she might not live. We went to SantaCruz for several weeks in August and Dorothy did begin to eat better ,sit up, crawl, stand, and make her baby sounds. On August i5th she and Jack had their birthday party. She and Jack both loved it.
She liked for us to take her out for a ride in her stroller and soon learned that she must have her bonnet on if she went out into the sun, so she began to point to the shelf where her bonnet was and SIJ'l "ba-ba". We knew then that she was on the road to recovery. When we Came home the end of August, she was pulling herself up and standing. It wasn't long before she was taking a few toddling steps.
One time I was feeding her. She was in her highchair and objecting to something I wanted her to eat. She pushed her head back , her legs and body became very rigid, and she slid out of the highchair and landed under the table. I was sure she was hurt, but she was fine and didn't have to eat that food she didn't want either. From her point of view everything worked out Just fine. Believe me, I didn't forget to tie her in after that. She was soon asking for a "pena budda saza", as peanut butter sandwiches were her favorite food.
Jack had decided by this time that a little sister wasn't so bad. Dorothy was quite generous with her kisses for Mother and me, but Jack had stayed clear of kisses. One day Mother and I saw Jack begging her for a kiss. We watched and sure enough she gave him a kiss. He was very pleased.
When Dorothy outgrew the crib, I said she could sleep with me. I had the same problem Aunt Clara had with me, but I wasn't going to that back bedroom . I had decided there weren't any gob lins, but I didn't intend to go back there to sleep. Pillows really did work if you were careful not to wake the child. Dorothy and I shared that room until I went off to college, but every time I came home, I found I had less and less closet and drawer space. After I started teaching, I spent one summer fixing up that back room and found it very comfortable. I was not home much, but H gave me a place to keep my things and a place to store college books and notes I wanted to keep.
Before I left for college, I became the neighborhood baby sitter. The only difference then and now was that I didn't get paid for it. It was usually at community gatherings. I would gather all the little ones and play school with them . The fathers of our farming community had buiJt a large building on one corner of the little old country school grounds. We Called it the "Community Hall" and had parties there. The men and.women would play cards and I usually had the Job of look ing after the little ones. Once a month we had dances and they were so successful that they decided to open it to the public.
It was advertised as a public dance at the "Tremont Hall". The fathers taught all us girls how to dance. I loved to dance with Daddy, but he didn't dance much as Mother didn't dance. He would usually only dance with me once during the evening. Ralph Bulkley was a dancer and he loved to dance so he would dance with each of us two or three times during the evening. Mostly we girls danced together as there weren't many boys our age that would dance.
I graduated from high school in 1933, in the middle of the Great Depression. Aunt Crystal and Uncle Bert had moved to San Jose that summer so that Gwen could go to college. In the fall, I went to live with them so that I could go to San Jose State also. Uncle Bert had found work in the cannery there and by taking me and one other boarder they could make it and afford to live there. We had to wear dresses or skirts and blouses and stockings to classes. Our stockings were silk , as nylons had not been invented yet. We all mended our stockings, sewed up runs, and made them last as Jong as we could. We were not called by our first names in classes. We were all Miss Sikes, Miss Gross, Miss Smith, etc. We wanted to have a small Christmas party before Jeanette Smith (their other boarder) and I went home for the holidays. We limited our gifts to five cents. A pencil, an eraser ,a small note pad were possible choices. Woolworths was our favorite store. There was a small shop in the China Town part of San Jose that had all kinds of lovely little things for five cents such as small figurines of cats, dogs, horses, and wi ld animals. We had a Jot of fun and didn't feel deprived although money was not plentiful.
I began teaching in Kelseyville, Lake county in the fall of 1937. I received one hundred dollars a month for ten months of the year. We were not paid in July or August. However , I was able to pay board and room, buy my clothes, and buy many supplies for my first grade class room with this salary.
Well, enough of this story of my youth. You all know "the rest of the story".