The auctioneer’s call sent a searing sensation to muscles and nerves as father and mother turned to leave. It was their farm that auctioned off to the highest bidder in 1947 at Lela, Oklahoma. It was their home that sold.
This farm home was not destined to be handed down, generation upon generation in our family, as other families were fortunate to do.
Oklahoma was our native home, but Black Bear Creek had been unkind. Four years in a row it flooded, ruining Dad’s crops (it did not flood again until after 1970). Crops were what he depended upon to provide for his family. There was no other income.
Some of Dad’s relatives had already relocated to the northwest and invited him to come and see how fertile the land was, so he made the trip.
“Mom, Washington is green, all green. The land is good,” Dad told her upon his return as he laid out the plan to sell and relocate.
The 160 acres of rich, red bottom land bordered by Black Bear Creek included a dwelling and outbuildings–one, a new hay barn–and sold for less than $9,000. With remaining possessions loaded inside and on top of a 1938 Chevy Touring Car, three children sandwiched between boxes and suitcases, we left for Washington State. Dad had steeled himself to do what had to be done, but his heart was heavy.
“We’ll make it, Mom, we’ll make it,” he affectionately comforted his wife.
A weak smile was all she could muster in response as she steadied the baby riding on her lap.
Mom had no time for tears with all that had to be done before the sale and moving, but tears would come. She had never before been separated from her mother, sisters and brothers by so great a distance. Lonely was what leaving felt like for her.
“Good-bye house, good-bye barn, good-bye fence posts,” came a chorus in unison from the three older kids as they waved from the car windows, oblivious to the heartache and uncertainty felt by their parents.
The road stretched on, mile after mile, day after day. This trip, unlike later ones, included no scenic routes or sight-seeing stops. A brief night’s rest, then back on the road was the routine. Dad took advantage of summer’s sunlit days to cover the most territory possible.
“Up! Everyone up. Breakfast will be down the road a piece,” is how he wakened his bedraggled crew.
“A-w-w Dad, it’s not even light yet,” was a usual groaning response.
Reaching our final destination, we took temporary shelter with relatives while Dad secured a job, not farming but working at a lumber mill. He made friends easily, some for life.
“Ellis, there’s a piece of property I think you should look at,” one friend suggested. To Dad’s delight, it met the needs of his family perfectly.
It was a small, old farm nestled below snow-capped St. Helens. A well established orchard provided more apples than the kids could eat and trees that were made for climbing. We raised gardens and canned the bounty each year. A creek ran through the property offering plenty of splashy, watery fun and exploration, plus hours of fishing for the really big one.
Built in the late 1800's, the house became our warm and welcoming haven as our family quickly settled in. The kitchen seemed to be the favorite gathering place.
“I could smell your bread baking a mile away,” a friend exclaimed as they were greeted.
“Set a couple extra places for supper, girls,” Mom called. The large, round oak table often seated more than the six of us at meal time.
Exchanging mid-west prairie landscape for the mountainous northwest was a big transition, but life often provides such challenges. This would not be the last move my family would have to make, and along the way we learned that truly, home is where the heart is...together, wherever that may be.
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