Waterman Farm: A letter from my Mother, January, 1980
My happiest memories were from the “Waterman Farm” we rented fom Mr. Waterman. I think you can remember the place, it was about two miles this side of Milton. Soon after we moved to Milton, Mother died. I was 13, and after that
my life was a disaster. Dad was bitter that Mother was taken from him and it was
as if we weren’t there, and the brothers were mean to us. Gladys and Helen were married and Helen lived in Minneapolis; there was no one to talk to, so I don’t care to recall that part of my life, but on the Waterman Farm I can recall many happy memories. There was lots of work to do, eight children and a farm to run. I will try to tell some of the things we did, that kids now would really complain about but they were a part of my life and I think it was beautiful.
We made our own butter, I can remember turning the crank on the butter churn until my arms
ached, but when that sweet butter and good, fresh buttermilk were ready, the taste was heavenly and the work seemed worth the effort.
We turned the crank on the ice cream freezer too, but somehow, That didn’t seem like work!
In the fall there was extra work to harvest the food and can and store our winter food. I can
remember sorting Navy Beans, we had a big table and we’d all sit around it and sort the good beans from the bad. Then, Mother stored them to make good baked beans and side pork in the
winter. We had lots of good family banter while we were working. Brother Howard taught me the alphabet in German, which he was studying in high school. I have never forgotten it. We have some good singers in the family and
Mother would get us going on hymns. Now and then we would digress and sing some rounds of Row, Row, Row Your Boat and a song that went “Put on your old grey bonnet with the blue ribbons on it, and we’ll hitch old Dobbin to the
shay, and ride out to Dover through the fields of clover on our golden wedding day. Dad and I took a trip to New Glarus on our 50th, and would you believe we sang that song? We did!
We also had to go out in the fields and help load up the pumpkins and squash, and pick up potatoes and sack them. The air was nippy, our cheeks would be rosy and our noses and feet cold. If we could keep remembering all the good food Mother would fix for us come Winter, it would relieve some of the discomfort.
Summer was more fun. We had a beautiful woods and we loved packing A lunch and walking down the lane to the woods. On the way, we’d pick
blackberries and there was a choke cherry bush, and they were good, too. I remember one hill in
The wooded area that In the Spring would be
Yellow Lady Slippers and daisies. Sometimes
at night, If Mother and Dad weren’t too tired
they would go with us and we’d build a bonfire
and roast wieners and marshmallows.
Another thing we used to do was take the
potato bugs off the potato plants.
We’d get a penny for every ten bugs. We had a can with kerosene in it and a stick, and we’d knock the bugs off with a stick into the can.
Then Dad and Mother bought the farm in Milton. We had electricity and a modern house. Dad bought dairy cattle and started a milk route. We loved to drive along in the horse-pulled wagon
and deliver the milk. The townspeople would send their kids out for their milk: they could get it cheaper. They came early, sometimes 10-15 of them and we played run-my-good-sheep-run, follow the leader and Aunty-over the wood shed. Such fun!
To many, this would seem like an unhappy childhood, but to me it was the best time of my life. We never got into mischief when our work was done. There were so many enjoyable things to do with our free time that it never occurred to us to get into trouble.
Mother’s deep religious faith in God was an integral part of our lives, too,. No matter how tired she was, all eight of us were bathed, dressed and taken to Sunday school. We walked to Milton (2 miles.) Dad didn’t want the horses worked on Sunday. We didn’t miss unless we were sick.
I wish my Mother could have lived. Remembering all these things has brought her back so vividly to my mind, and all the years I ached with longing for her.