This one is for us “wimmin”…the female point of view. Not that they paved a physical path necessarily, but the women folk certainly held the path together! But that’s another story for another time.
Ma had her hands full; a baby added to the mix of four older children, a large house to care for, meals to cook, water to haul, Indians to worry about, lessons to be taught, illnesses to doctor, cows to milk, chickens to tend and very importantly, trees to plant. Jessie wrote, “My mother went bravely about it to plant trees and flowers only to meet with repeated failures, the trees died out and the flowers never bloomed.” Even now, tree planting is a risky business. Just one summer of continual 100 degree temperatures, day after day, can wreck havoc on any orchard in Kansas. I digress….
Clementine held her own. Her daughter wrote that the only time the children saw her break down was when letters and newspapers from Back East arrived in the mail. Then, she cried. Jessie states that her mother’s one comfort was the cherry organ that had been shipped toKansas. Charles gave it to her as a wedding gift in 1869 and the shipping crate was later used to make desks for the children’s school studies. Nothing was wasted.
Abbie, the daughter of the sunflowers, and the baby of the family shared a passage that touched me when I read it years ago…and it still touches me. I have walked in her shoes although I was closer to “back home” and had the ability to get “back home” in 8 hours driving and two hours flying. Clementine did not.
We will never realize the terrible loneliness and longing for loved ones which the women of those early times endured. I recall the day that word came that grandfather Stevens had suffered a stroke and was lying at the point of death. Father was away from home doing some carpenter work for a neighbor. That night mother asked me to go out and walk with her. There were deep paths worn in the prairie and along one of these we walked, my hand in hers. I cannot remember of anything being said, but a battle was fought and won out there under the stars as she paced back and forth for what seemed a long time, for when father retuned home the next day, he begged her to take the money he had earned and go east to see her father. How anxiously I listened to the conversation, wondering how we could live with mother away, but the answer was, “no, the money is needed for the family,” and could not be persuaded otherwise. Did the clinging hand of a little child have a part in that decision? Grandfather rallied and lived several years but mother never saw her parents after the parting as she left to come West.-Abbie Ruff Sidebottom