Thursday, 23 January 2014

Life Story: Second Version

(Editor's note: This life story was incomplete when I received it. Hopefully someone in the family finds the rest of it so we'll know what happened next!)


by Claudia Knapp Hess

     "My ancestors were all pioneers to the Rocky Mountains.  They all came here to be in Zion.  My Mother's parents lived in Marysville, Idaho.  My Father's parents lived in Hibbard Idaho, where they had come when Dad was two years old.  They had home-steaded a place a Dad had build a one-room house upon one corner of it and there he brought Mother after they were married.  On May 11, 1911, I arrived:  Ahead of the doctor and causing quite a bit of excitement.  Dr. Walker soon came and Grandmother and Dad who had been there to meet me probably felt better.
     "A friend of Mother's, Claudia Dayly, came to care for us and I was named her name plus part of Mother's as a gesture from Dad.
     "Before I started to school I didn't have any playmates.  I played with my cousins when I could which was not very often.  When I was too small to remember, my first baby sister was born and died.   My first memory is of my baby brother being born.  We played together a lot of course, and I was set to watch him a lot.  I remember of being tied to a rope on whose other end he was tied and I was to keep him on the high places so he could not get into the spring mud-puddles.  I used to like to visit at Grandmother's house.  She lived a quarter of a mile away and two of her daughters were still home.  Aunt Esther and Eveline.  I like them both but I like Aunt Evie very much.  I liked Grandpa too.  He was fat and kept everyone laughing.  He had made a violin.  He made grave markers and made designs upon them.  He was a very good artist.  He was a shoemaker and a sawyer as well as a farmer.  But he had hay-fever and farm work was bad for him on that account.  He used to whittle a lot when I can remember him.  He made us little rolling pins and potato mashers.  He liked Uncle Josh phonograph records and Hawaiian music.
     "When my brother, Warren was small, we were visiting up at Grandmother's one Sunday when Warren disappeared.  Mother found hi in the irrigation canal a long way down stream and was able to get him out.  It was almost like a funeral, they worked and worked over him.  Dad breathed in his mouth and gave him artificial respiration and they prayed over him.  Grandmother and Grandfather both gave him up but Dad would not.  Finally after what seemed hours, he started to breath though he was unconscious until sometime in the night.
     "Then we had a baby sister in December, but she caught whooping cough from us and when she was seven weeks old she died.  Mother's sister, Aunt Alta came and stayed with us a little while then.
     "Every Sunday as far as I can remember Dad would take all of us to Sunday School and almost every Sunday we would go back to Sunday Meeting.  In the long winter evenings we used to sing either wit Dad playing on Grandfather's violin or playing chords on the old organ.  Quite often Dad had meetings and when I was a little older they both went and I entertained the kids by making up stories to tell them.  They were great long stories continued from one night to the next. 
     "World War 1 was raging at this time and we were wondering if Dad would have to go.  Grandmother and Grandfather Hale moved to Smithfield, Utah about this time and they visited us on the way.  Uncle Joe, Mother's brother was drafted.  In February 1918 Mary Marjorie was born, on Valentine's Day.  When she was about seven months old we, Mother, Marjorie, Warren and I went to Smithfield to see Uncle Joe before he had to leave.  It was high adventure.  We went on the train.  We took our lunch and ate on the train but in Cache Junction we had to change trains and we had a long wait there.  Grandmother had petunias in her windows and tea roses in her yard that bloomed all summer and were a lovely dark cerise.
     "When I was seven a new adventure started.  Mother took me in the buggy to school one and a half miles a way.  The school house was made of rock and was square.  It had a wash boiler out front filled with cement to hold the flag pole up.  It had four rooms but the first year I went they only used three.  They had a class called the beginners which had kindergarten activities and took a year to learn.  So when I started as a beginner Mrs. Fullmer was my teacher.  I had to walk to and from school.  I walked with two neighbors who were in the eighth grade.
     "Grandpa died that fall.  The Armistice was signed.  During the winter an epidemic of influenza swept the country.  School was let out and all the neighbors had turns having it.  Grandmother Knapp had it at our place and then all of us did.
     "By the time school started again in the spring I had finished all my books and I was older than most of the other kids so my teacher put me in the first grade.  Then she gave me second grade books and when school was out in the spring she promoted me to the third grade.  My sister Thelma was born that spring. That summer Dad took me up on the canal back of Grandmother's place and baptized me.  Brother Orson Ricks confirmed me the next day.
     "At nights we had to carry in the wood and get the water.  I used to think I pumped more water than any one ever had.  Our reservoir held six big buckets and we only carried small buckets so it took quite a while.
     "Miss Ivins was my third grade teacher for a little while, then they separated the children and used all four rooms and had four teachers, so Miss Squires became our new teacher.  That winter Miss Ivins got influenza and died.
     "After the first year when our neighbors graduated, I walked to school with a girl who lived down the road a ways, Belva Park.  I liked Belva but she sure bullied me around.  We walked to school every day together.
     "In the fourth grade our teacher was Reba Ricks who later became my cousin when she married my cousin Irvin Widdison.  That spring our school house burned down and the school teacher's little sister, Isabelle, who was my dearest friend died after a very long illness.
     "My sister Anna was born that spring.
     "We used to have a lot of programs in school.  Some of us sang a lot and we all tried to find new songs before anyone else could learn them.  We had spelling contests too much like our grandparents used to do.  None of the schoolhouses were modern and we had to hold up our hands with different combinations of fingers protruding for different privileges.  Like one finger to talk to someone else two to go get a drink, three to go out to the old toilet behind and schoolhouse, and four to go up and speak to the teacher.  If we had more fingers they would have thought of a code for them too.
     "Mr. Wardell was our fifth grade teacher.  He was probably my favorite teacher.  He taught us a little music and a little dramatics, poetry appreciations and the fun of a sense of humor.  He also tried to make very good penmen of us. Miss Young was our sixth grade teacher.  The new school house was finished.  It was modern, drinking fountain and all.
     "I was twelve years old this spring. My brother, Alma, was born.  We visited in Ashton for a while. Aunt Finnie, Mother's sister lived there.  It was always fun to visit at Aunt Finnie's place.  We had visited her at Warm River long before when I was about four or five years old.  She had taken us to Great Falls.  Then we had visited them in Ashton on their farm, before they moved into town.  Dad had taken us to Ashton in the buggy and it was really thrilling, we saw big shade trees that looked like some we had seen in the Tarzan shows.  We stayed quite a long time.  WE had plays and dressed up and watched the moonlight on Fall River.  I was ten years old then.  Now two years later when Aunt Finnie lived in town Aunt Theola, Lella, Zara and Maxine were there and Dad's niece, Sylvia Larsen, went up with me and we had a wonderful time.  Zara and Theola played duets and we sang and it seemed almost enchanted.  I remember thinking sadly that we would never all meet like that again.
     "I had been staying summer nights with Grandma, she hated to stay alone in the evenings.  One night there was a terrible storm and I had to walk up there after dark with lightning showing the way ever now and then.  She used to tell me a lot of things.  About the man who “according to the paper) had chopped up his four children.  About her own children who had died.  She had pictures of them on her bedroom walls.  She told me about her second boy who was next to death and who told her he could hear angels singing and music, then he died.  She told about her baby boy who was a twin and whose twin had died at birth.  Raymond wanted her to take him to Rexburg to have his picture taken and she did and not long afterward he had died.  Leaving his picture for her.  I can still see him sitting there on his little chair in his dress.  Two daughters died when they had been little.  One when she was seven years and one when she was tiny.  They were so real to her.  She had a picture of the larger one, but it's eyes were colored wrong she said.  She told of the suitor of one daughter threatening to kill himself if she would not marry him.  She told him she would not so he promptly went out on her bedroom doorstep and shot himself.  She talked about Grandpa and told me the first time she saw him in Conference in Logan, Utah.  She said he was so handsome that she just kept watching him where he was in the balcony.  Then when they left the meeting she saw him again and this time she could see he was crippled.  He always walked with a cane and his feet were crooked due to some disease he had when he was three or four years old.  She used to play phonograph records.  One she had was the Wreck of the Titanic.  I had nightmares a long time after that.  But she told me about pleasant things too.  About the apple-peeling bees they had before she was married.  About the Gypsy who put a curse on her because she would not give her some coral beads she wanted.  The gypsy told her she would never have anything.  She told of the time when she was little and they could hear Indians near by.  She said when anybody died in their tribe that they stayed up all night screaming, cutting themselves with knives and dancing.  One Indian woman used to come over to her mother's home and beg, and she had a cute little girl with black eyes and hair and Grandma, who was small herself at the time used to comp"

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Life Story of Mabel Claudia Knapp Hess - Part 2

Part I • Part II


"Once my youthful world was bounded
By a circle at your feet,
Then the lines were stretched and widened
To the schoolyard and the street.
But the center of my circle
Was your tender, watchful care.
And when storms or darkness gathered,
My footsteps led me there.

Far horizons called and claimed me,
But they kept us not apart.
For an ever-open highroad
Was the pathway to your heart.
And although the circle widens
To some distant, shining star,
I know your love will find me,
And your hand will not be far."

~Josephine Wetzler

When I was eight, my dad talked to me a lot about being baptized. Then one Saturday in the May right after I turned eight, he took me up back of Grandma’s house to a turn in the canal and baptized me. The man who confirmed me was Orson Ricks. His daughter was so sweet and good, you just loved to be around her. Her name was Isabella. She had pretty red hair; it was long and in two pigtails around her head. Her oldest sister was my teacher in the fourth grade. Near the end of the year our teacher married my cousin, Irvin Widdison, then even later the schoolhouse burned down. Then on May the 4th or 5th, Isabella died. She was so pretty when we went to see her. Her hair was so shiny and a white bow was on her tummy to hide the swelled look a little. They said she had dropsy and leakage of the heart. I was one of the flower girls and carried gladiolas. As I stood by  her, I promised never to forget her, or how she looked; and always to close my eyes in prayer, because she did.

That summer Dad helped me join the Farm Bureau’s Pig Club. The class work was a little over my head, as I was younger than the rest, so Isabella’s older brother Robert helped me with long division in figuring pig-feed. I had two purebreds, Madison Beauty and Black Bob. Bob finally grew to be a huge beast, about 700 pounds, and Madison Beauty was about 500 pounds, but she was a good-looking lady and never outgrew it. When I was in the fifth grade, we had to go two miles to school, until the new building was finished. Mr. Henry Wardell was our teacher. Two grades were about all we needed in one room and as he taught the sixth grade about Longfellow and some of his favorites, we listened in. So from him I learned to love poetry. He was a great dramatist, and because of him I can see how powerful a good teacher could be.

About this time Dad had a hired man named Bunker Box. He worked in the summer and fall for us, then went to Ricks in the winter. He was a football and basketball star, and the most real matador I have ever seen. One day Segus, who was Dad’s purebred Holstein bull, got loose. When he was a year younger, I had chased him with a home made bow and arrow, but a year changes a bull. When Bunker and Dad tried to corral Segus, he took serious offense. So around and around they went. The orchard had only small trees 12 feet high or so, and a little more than a broomstick trunks, but they were all the protection Bunker had most of the time. Even so, Segus plowed into a couple of them. We kids climbed in the manure spreader to see the show from a safer distance, and the show was really on. They purred and dodged, and at tight moments Bunker chewed his apple harder than ever and the bull got the core right between the eyes. I remember this very clearly, but not the climax. Finally, though, with both Bunker and Dad mounted and working together, they drove the bull to a sturdier corral. Bunker was a big blond fellow with this shoulders, like my own son much later and like him, too, he fell heavily and swiftly for one girl, Eva Fritchie. Soon they were married and moved away.

We used to have a lot of programs in our school. It was a real challenge to keep one renderable song ahead so we could sing at the next one. They probably sounded pretty silly to the teacher. We had a lot of peanut showers, too. Everybody brought a big bag of peanuts to school, then in the afternoon, after recess, we’d get someone to call her out and when she came we all threw peanuts at her or him. After that we gathered them again and had a party.
In the summers, the two celebrations I looked forward to, were the fourth and twenty-fourth of July. There were the program, parades, rodeos, fireworks, and foot races that made them all such wonderful days. They helped us remember our independence and the pioneers.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Today I Saw • One

     A new little house. It looked large as the truck took it past the other houses on the street; but when they installed it upon its basement foundation, it looked pitifully small. One side had no windows. As soon as they were married two people who had been born in different countries were going to live in it and were determined to make it into a home. Already, two huge trees were very near in the next lot. So there would be birds.
     A flowering bush was near and spring was here, with the possibilities of a new lawn and countless annual flowers.
     The planning was yet to be done for the placement of the furniture and the very new curtains that would look bright and cheery now, but would be still hanging there when dark days came and life was not April. The flowers would not grow and come to blossoming without weeds and watering. The lawn would not grow well without mowing. The pretty dishes that would soon sit in the new cupboard would have to be washed and replaced hundreds of times. The pretty floor would get tracked and smudges would appear on the shining glass windows.
     But life was in its April and now everything was shiny bright. The dreariness of doing things over and over had no part in their dreams as they planned and fixed the house.
     The monotony of washing the dishes and having to adjust their wishes always to fit two people was a problem that would still come up. Not in April but maybe in November.
     In November the sun isn’t always shining and the leaves of the trees and the birds wouldn’t be a cheerful mediator.
     Some days you will ask yourself if this is the way things always turn out. November is a time when windows don’t sparkle the way they do in April and a lot of mud tracks in.
     The little new April house won’t know if it’s a happy home for a long time to come. When November comes and then December and the pathway is muddy and sticky, when it is a hard problem to go down and get the mail, when the wind whips around the back corner and talks of death and change and fallen leaves, when the skies become gray instead of this cheery blue, when you aren’t seeing the street that sits in front of you; then you will begin to become acquainted with you little April house.
     Oh, little girl from the land of the high Alps, from the land of friendliness, from the land of dreams where you have lived while you equestrian lived in Mexico riding his white charger, be wise; keep somewhere a bit of April in your small house. Keep some happy token of this time where you can take it out and look at it, and then as constellations burn and your happy April comes back, the magic will return. If you can keep enough of April to mix with the drabness of the latter days, then will your little April house be the place you are dreaming it will be. And always look for loveliness. Always enjoy the happy things. Keep your April; keep your April in the small house that Today I Saw.

—Mabel Claudia Knapp Hess