Archive for April, 2012

Yellow Iris guarding the Cemetery

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

Yellow iris blooming in Linda Hubalek's gardenOur early and mild spring weather has given us beautiful flowers this year. My back patio is a fragrant experience with roses and iris blooming right now.

When my yellow iris shows it first bloom, I think of the old cemetery that is on the top hill of one of our family’s pasture. There hasn’t been anyone buried there for decades, but years ago someone planted a yellow iris root by a grave, and now the old cemetery is covered with them, blending in with last year’s tall dead grass.

Today, my yellow iris started from a root from this pasture cemetery, reminds me of the silent statues guarding the graves of loved ones, and the burst of color surrounding them right now.

Grave stone in country cemetery. Photo by Linda HubalekThe grieving parent or spouse may have only been thinking of decorating one grave at the time, but their single act of planting that iris root has given a burst of color and a remembrance to all for almost a century. It also gave the grave a reminder of home since the iris was probably a start from the ones growing at the family’s homestead.

Another country grave that has yellow iris blooming now is Carl Swensson’s, the first husband of Kajsa, who started the “Butter in the Well” homestead. What a comforting thought that the flowers planted over a century ago are still remembering the loved one today.

Sobering Thoughts on Past Tornadoes

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog

Tornado near Central City, KS on April 23, 1884. Photographer was A. A. Adams, Garnett, KS.Kansas made the news this last Saturday with over 100 tornadoes spotted on the ground or by radar. The approaching bad weather—thanks to modern technology—was forecasted both well in advance and during the tornado outbreaks.

We knew exactly when to go to our tornado shelter because of the radio announcer’s commentary on the paths of the three tornadoes that threatened our immediate area during the day and evening storms.

Even though a few homes were destroyed, the people that lived in them were saved by the warnings.

Because I’ve been posting photos of dugouts, I did some online search for old tornado photos on KansasMemory.org. Tornadoes have been a part of the Great Plains nature since the beginning of time so I figured I could find something on the internet.

What I found was the first photo believed to be taken of a Kansas cyclone on April 23, 1884 by A. A. Adams, a photographer from Garnet, Kansas, as the storm passed by Central City, Kansas. (It’s noted that it looked like he enhanced the tornado a bit with ink to make it show up better.)

Because of our “instant news”, we see the remains of households strewn and destroyed by current storm destruction almost immediately. We also know that help is on the way from the Red Cross, National Guard, neighbors, etc. In most cases, insurance or organizations will replace belongings.

What happened to the people in the dugouts or sod houses out on the prairie? I’m sure they watched the weather and had a very clear view of approaching storms—unless it happened during the night. But think of the panic, as there was no way to fit your wagon in that little house space. They may not have a shelter built for their livestock so the milk cow and horses were out in the elements.

What if the tornado caused the roof to cave in? Some possessions would blow away and others ruined. Letters from their parents in their homeland, the only photo they had of a child that died, the memory quilt signed by all the wife’s old friends, their only bucket, the wagon, the livestock…all gone forever. Hopefully, the family lived through the incident, with no one killed, injured, or buried under the remains of the home …

After the destruction, you’d just be standing there out in the open, and it could be dark, raining…and you’d have no help…

Plastering Dugout Walls

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

A photograph showing a family posed in front of their dugout in Norton County, Kansas.We’re in the process of building our own house, doing almost all of the work ourselves. This week I’ve been pounding in nails on wall edging, and taping and mudding sheet rock. My finger joints and wrists feel like they could break off as they are so tired and sore.

But then I think of this diary entry from Butter in the Well

April 25, 1868
We saved the hard layer of sand from when we dug the well. This sand, and clay from the river bank, were mixed with water to plaster the walls of the dugout. It’s very crude, but it will have to do for our first winter. The dirt floor will get packed down in time. I’ll sprinkle my dishwater on it to help it harden. I wish we had rugs to cover the floor. It would make it warmer and easier to keep clean. I talked Carl into cutting up one board for a door. At least I’ll feel a little safer at night with it closed. The hungry howling of the wolves scares me.  (Excerpt from Butter in the Well, © by Linda K. Hubalek)

Okay, with all the modern conveniences of premixed plaster mud, and a wooden sub floor that will eventually have carpet or tile on it, I shouldn’t complain when I compare my modern tasks to what the women had to do in 1868. (Plus I’m sure my new bedroom is  bigger than most dugouts were back then.)

And also…

July 20, 1868
 I had a scare today while washing clothes. The fire pit is deep and lined with rock, but I still have to be very careful in case the wind is blowing. A gust came out of nowhere and blew a spark into the grass. I had been stirring the pot of clothes with a stick. I reacted so fast I threw out half the clothes as I flung the stick around to beat the spark out. Christina was sitting nearby. I could have scalded her to death and started a prairie fire all at the same time. Carl was working at the Robinsons’ today, so I was on my own.
Tonight when we said our evening prayers, I gave my deepest thanks to the Lord for watching over us today.  (Excerpt from Butter in the Well, © by Linda K. Hubalek)

I’m so glad I can take a hot shower and toss my dirty clothes in the washing machine at the end of my work day…

Pleats and Photos in Prӓrieblomman

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

Alma Swenson, 1880s photo featured in book Prӓrieblomman © by Linda K. HubalekLooking through old photos I used in the book Prӓrieblomman (which means prairie flowers in Swedish) I came across one of Alma Swenson, posing for a portrait to commemorate her 8th grade graduation.

Many of my blog readers enjoy excerpts from my books, so here’s the start of Prӓrieblomman.

(Note: I still have the doorknob—from the original “Butter in the Well” house—mentioned in this excerpt, and held it many times when writing this book to feel connected to Alma and the house we both grew up in.)

Prologue
January 27, 1889
To Alma,
For your sixteenth birthday, I am giving you a blank book of pages. This may seem odd to you, but I want you to write down the normal and unusual events that happen in your life. You don’t have to write every day. Just scattered tidbits of thought, misgivings and joy will record the growth in yourself and the happenings in the world around you.

Years later this book will bring back smiles and tears to help you recall favorite places you never meant to forget, cherish lives lost, and to see how yesterday’s events become tomorrow’s history. Someday you may want to show your children the changes you saw while growing up on this farm in Kansas.

Keep this book with you always. Your written memories will sustain you when you have moved on to a prairie of your own someday.
                                                                             With love, Mamma

The Setting
 Snow blankets the homestead on this quiet Sunday afternoon in 1889. Silent white-iced furrows in the fields of the 159 acres wait for spring planting. The height of bare-branched trees shows the farm to be about twenty years old. You can tell that the farmer is prospering because there are several outbuildings, and the wooden two-story house has been added onto a time or two.

The dirt road running by the farm was just a trail not too many years back. Life and growth have progressed for the family, but there are still patches of native grass beside the homestead to remind them of their start on the prairie.

Peering into the parlor window facing south, you get a glimpse of petite Alma Swenson, an optimistic young woman with typical Swedish blonde features, innocently pondering her life as she turns sixteen.

Chapter One – The Birthday Present

 January 27, 1889
Sunday dinner dishes are done, little sisters are napping, and I have a few moments to myself. As I turned the white porcelain doorknob and slipped into the cool, closed-off parlor, I pondered about the book of blank pages Mamma gave me today for my birthday. On the first page, she wrote a note, encouraging me to write. Mamma has kept a diary ever since she moved to Kansas in 1868. I’ve never read it myself, since it is personal, but sometimes Mamma reads bits to us. A diary entry may make her smile or bring tears to her eyes.

Her journal tells the trials and errors as she and Papa built their homestead on the virgin prairie twenty years ago. When they arrived as Swedish immigrants to this land by the creek, the blue stem grass was as high as a man’s head on horseback. With their bare hands and a few primitive tools, they cleared the land, dug a well, and fashioned a sod dugout home. Clashes with Mother Nature, Indians and animals as they struggled to coax crops out of the broken sod almost took their toll on Mamma’s spirit, but she had a family to feed and protect. Favorite entries tell when her children were born and the joy of uniting with families when my grandparents left Sweden and moved to America.

The dugout was replaced by a sandstone one-room house in 1870. The house has been built on to three times with wooden additions when we could afford to buy lumber. The barn and granary were originally makeshift buildings for temporary storage of the crops and animals. As of yet they have not been replaced. A sod and straw-roofed open shed shelters the animals when they are out in the elements and the chicken house guards the fowl flock at night. Most of the acres of prairie have been tamed into fields for crops except for the hay meadows along the creek.

Us older children are almost grown now. Christina is twenty-two and getting married next month. Willie turned nineteen the fourth of this month and Alfred is fifteen. Carrie, who was born after Papa was killed, is twelve. When we needed help on the farm, Peter Runeberg came into our lives as a hired hand, and five years later, he and Mamma were married. Our half-sisters, Julia, born four years ago and Mabel, last March, have livened up and further crowded our household.

Peering out the window at the drab sleeping field to the south, I ponder over Mamma’s note. Maybe someday I will cherish my thoughts and reflections, the everyday events that have taken place on our farm. I wonder, since I finished my country schooling last year . . . what will my future bring? Will I marry soon and start a family or spend my life here on my Mother’s farm, tending to the everyday tasks that must be done to sustain life?

Prӓrieblomman, pioneer historical fiction book by Kansas author Linda K. Hubalek.(Excerpts from the book Prӓrieblomman: the Prairie Blossoms for an Immigrant’s Daughter © by Linda K. Hubalek)

Alma became the neighborhood seamstress, making clothing for a living until she married her stepfather’s brother at age twenty-seven and moved to Iowa. (Yes, you read right…Her husband Nels was forty years old when they were married.)

Look at the details in this dress. I imagine today’s teenagers probably spend as much time in a mall shopping for an outfit as Alma spent on the tucks in this skirt…or texting, when Alma would have been hand sewing little pleats.

Clothing styles change each generation and many times in a decade, but a photo from the 1880’s gives us a good glimpse of the past.

Will any of today’s photos taken by teenagers on their cell phone be available to view in 100 plus years? I hope so somehow, so future generations can see what they were wearing in the 2010’s…

 

Linda’s Books & Series

Darcie Desires a Drover

Autographed. Book 7, Brides with Grit Series.
$11.95 (tax incl.)
by lindahubalek

Sarah Snares a Soldier

Autographed. Book 5, Brides with Grit Series
$11.95 (tax incl.)
by lindahubalek

Stitch of Courage

Autographed. Book 3, Trail of Thread Series
$11.95 (tax incl.)
by lindahubalek

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