The Happy Train
It occurs to me that one reason why the people in the United States work so hard and accomplish so much, now, is a matter, of nutrition. We eat so well. When I was small our family ate better than most, that is before my father died, but I knew so many people who never had enough to eat and who were what they were for that reason. It seemed they were too weak physically to be anything else. There are times and places and people who, it is true, triumph over physical weakness or food and work very hard for long periods on scant food even for whole life-times. Where you find that, you have indeed found a triumph of the lifetime spirit. A triumph of man's spirit over circumstances.
I was born in November, 1903. So when we lived on the ranch and I was about five when I presume my memories begin to be rather constant. It was 1908. What did we eat?
My brother and I began the day with bread and butter. It was very good. The bread was homemade by my mother. Her bread was always light and fine-grained. The butter was sometimes made by my grandmother, but more often I believe purchased "store" or bought from neighbors. We had milk, at least we had cows, but I do not remember drinking milk. I remember drinking Postum and I think we put evaporated milk in it. Willie liked sugar in his, but I couldn't bear sweet drinks then nor now.
I took mine plain. I think that is all we ate until suppertime. When we got hungry we would ask for a "piece". We would have bread and butter. I cannot remember drinking, during the day, but we must have. The climate In Colorado was very hot and dry. Did I drink milk? I don't think so. Did I drink water? Maybe. Probably I drank Postum, coffee, tea, or whatever brew the folks partook of. I think Postum and tea were probably the choices. I early cultivated a taste for good tea.
Our water was very unsafe. We hauled it in barrels from the Arkansas River. We were two miles below the town of Portland. We didn't know where typhoid fever and other ills came from and drank the water freely with no sterilization so possibly we owe our lives to the fact that we drank tea and Postum rather than plain water. Even so, while we lived there isolated from people poliomyelitis came and claimed my baby brother, scarlet fever laid us low for a long period.
Most of the time, however we were very well. Willie and I played all
day on the sun-baked earth. We were indoors only while we slept. The only
shade were the dogberry bushes and the stunted cedars up on the hill.
Only the hottest days drove us up the hill to the cedar trees. Our playground
was as wide as we could walk or climb. Even now, for rest to my spirit
I go back to that untroubled time.
At evening time, Mother bestirred herself and cooked supper. Supper was steak, most often, boiled potatoes, milk gravy, bread butter and coffee, tea, or Postum. I always went to sleep at the supper table at evening time and would awaken not until the next morning. Papa would come down the ditch bank on his bike. The carbide lamp gleaming. Willie and I would always go to meet him. He would call us Edielum and Willie Chum. He would give us each a finger and we would wall to the house. How did he manage to give us each a finger and also manage the bike? I don't remember.
Our folks bought whole hams and canned tomatoes. Aside from the things we also raised chickens and sometimes ate eggs or chicken. Those are the things we ate and except for holidays and special treats that is what we ate. But we ate well and had enough. Many didn't. And later, we didn't.
The "happy" train went by our place every day at exactly the same time. It was a small train with a mail and baggage coach and two passenger coaches. It went on our side of the river on the Santa Fe line. It never knew that Willie and I owned it. It was "our" train and one of our best friends. Across the river was the Denver and Rio Grande line. The long, snobbish D & RG trains went by several times a day. They were always haughty and unfriendly. We never liked them. They were very long and pretentious with many passenger coaches and dining cars, etc. Sometimes they would go beyond all bounds of decent reticence and pull fancy observation coaches.
Talk had been going on at our house, but I hadn't made myself aware of it. Probably we had been out of doors through most of it as usual. So it came with a shock one morning to find ourselves standing in the right-of-way waiting for the "Happy" train. (It would obligingly stop for you if you waved a handkerchief. We were going to Florence [Colorado] to live. To live! Not to live at the Ranch any more? I still remember the shock and the sense of loss. I couldn't believe it was so. But it was. We never lived at the ranch again. [We] only visited it once, I think, after that until last summer, when I, who am quite an old lady, went and looked where it used to be, but you can't really see it any more.
I suppose we had to go to school. Well, we went to school. We lived first in a pretty green frame house rented. It had a very nice flower garden and the flowers grew in a lovely tangle. An irrigation ditch watered the flowers. Some people with very industrious ways and a foreign accent grew neat long rows of vegetables in the fields around our house. They had a little girl our age but we didn't like her. I remember a big boy who wished to harm Willie and me. He didn't harm us, but we knew something of the queer ways of the world after that. I have often wondered if this boy turned out to be a normal adult or were these symptoms of a very wrong personality,
We started to school, but before we had been there long, our family moved to the house on Third Street. It was a little brown house. It was surrounded by an apple orchard. There was one tree which had an 'apple' on it which would pucker up your lips. That I was told was a quince tree. What are they for? They are used in making jelly. That must have been fall, 1911. On November 4, I was 8 years old.
We had gone to the McCandle's school. Now we went to the Emerson School.
I was in the A class and Willie in the B class. One day the A class displeased
the teacher. To punish us she moved the B class into our places and put
us on the side where the B class sat. It was a triumph for my brother.
But as usual, when dealing with me, his triumph did not last. The day
after our disgrace, the teacher had no choice but to move us back to the
A class part of the room, because we were simply more able in the matter
of letters and numbers than the B class. Willie always resented my facility
with letters. He shouldn't have because I was older and I was a girl.
However, he was just a little boy and probably couldn't understand. He
always outdid me in the matter of physical strength, and pounded me often
but he didn't really hurt me and I hold no grudge over his chastisements.
Later he outdid me in practical matters of work. Fire building, fixing
the clock, etc. He was a swell kid.