Monday, December 26, 2011

I Don't Like Cold Weather

One way to keep our memories alive, according to Humorist Will Rogers, is to talk about the weather. I find it hard to understand how we can have CLEAR SKY, bright SUNSHINE  B-U-T  it is cold! I mean BELOW FREEZING. It did not quite make the forecast of 3 below last night but +2 is still cold for me. I NEVER did like cold weather. When I was age 11, we were poor. School was a mile across a pasture. My younger brother, age 9, was in the hospital dying. Mom sat with him. Dad had to feed the cattle for the folks he worked for. In our family were twins Leonard and LaVerna, age 3. We lived in the hired hand 4 room house. It was COLD and had snowed that night, and I set out to walk to school. I got about half way and my ears, feet and hands were getting numb. I was crying and found myself a snow drift that had one of those curved tops, probably six feet high. I snuggled up out of the wind for a few minutes, then I finished walking to school. I got there late, stumbled into the one room country schoolroom - half out of it. The whole class  was disrupted from my entrance. The male teacher tended to me and revived me. I remember that day crystal clear.
After school a family came to pick up their kids and they took me home. That was the coldest I had or ever have been. This was in about 1932 or 1933. 

My brother did die from pneumonia. It was an era when the Depression had just started. We had been share croppers in Trego County, Kansas (rural WaKeeney). We had hail, 11 inch rains, etc. 

Dad had to take Bankruptcy. We moved to Mom's brother Fred Koleber's, who lived near Eaton, Colorado. After my brother Alfred died in 1933, we moved back to Barton County, Kansas. Fred Michaelis financed us to get re-established. His wife, Eva (Margheim) was my dad's oldest sister.

Shortly after that, 1935 the Dust storms rolled in. But we survived.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas

Last May I spent several weeks in the hospital and in rehab in a nursing home to recover from the effects of deydration. Then in August I accidentally took an overdose of insulin, which landed me in the hospital again, as I fell during that experience and cracked my ribs in 14 places. Somehow I've made a complete recovery, tho I still have issues to deal with, but am feeling better than I have in several months. 

Since I have daily visits from the super volunteers at Meals on Wheels, who bring my lunch Monday through Saturday, I am able to enjoy short visits with people. I live alone and don't drive, and that can get to be a lonely experience. My daughter Becky comes to my house to visit and help me with "chores" several times a week. And her husband Jamie stops by to do occasional repairs. This week Becky took me out on Tuesday morning to an appointment with my foot doctor. Then we went to the eye doctor where I got my glasses straightened, repaired and cleaned. After that she took me to get a (she said a badly-needed) haircut. Well, you hate to get all dressed up with nowhere to go! So after all those appointments, we went to lunch! It was a lot of fun...being out and about and visiting. We even saw Christmas lights in the daytime. 

I'll be getting out next weekend as I go to Becky's house to celebrate Christmas eve with our family. I'll ask her to take pictures and share them here, for all my friends to see. 

As I always say in my emails "Thanks for listenin'"!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Dear friends and family,


Merry Christmas Everyone! Yes, 2011 has nearly expired to make room for another year. Looking back over past decades with nostalgia, I'm flooded with memories (I'm 90 years old—celebrated August 8th) of past experiences. I lived through the Dust Storms of the 1930's, the grasshopper plagues, and jackrabbit drives. That brings us up to WW2. In my Army years we crossed the Atlantic on the original Queen Elizabeth ship to England in preparation for the June 1944 Normandy France Invasion via Utah Beach. Our unit joined General George S Patton's third army across France. December 1944 Battle of the Bulge from Belgium, Luxembourg, across the Rhine River into Germany. I served as an interpreter for our unit, since I spoke German from childhood. May and June found us near the Czechoslovakia border. We returned to camp Lucky Strike—France to board a Kaiser Liberty Boat (ship) for bumpy ride across the Atlantic, with ocean waves brushing over the front deck next to our escort of Porpoise with their rhythm. We rode on the deck by the rail, feeling so sick! Then back to my job for 54 years at Thies Packing Co., highlighted in November 1947 with the birth of my twins—Becky and Dennis. The Lord has blessed me with great family and friends. Becky is employed as the Parish Administrator of a church and Dennis retired from the Army, now full time organist at Western Hills Methodist Church, El Paso, Texas. His wife Marie serves as a Major in the US Army at Fort Bliss.

I am doing fine. I made a couple trips to the hospital this year, but with good medical care and lots of hard work, I've recovered from a bout of dehydration and 14 cracked ribs. My meals are delivered by Meals on Wheels, so I have daily company in my house! My daughter Becky and her husband Larry Jamison look after me. I lean on them quite a bit.

This is a summary of life in Canon City, Colorado. Happy to be healthy and wishing each of you a joyous Christmas and prosperous New Year. Stay in touch. Oh by the way, if you have a computer, visit my blog "Ernie's Journeys" at I'd be very happy to hear from you (email me at MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cooking, Sewing and doing Laundry in the Dust Bowl Days

Note from Ernie's daughter, Becky Jamison: In 2007 Harold J. Rutherford published his book "Dust, Wind and Tears: Life on the Great Plains in the 1920's, 30's, and 40's". It's a collection of personal accounts from the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Ernie contributed his story to the book. It was published by Ten Mile Publishing, 9740 Peacock St., Federal Heights, CO 80260-5749. This post is an excerpt from Ernie's story.


I remember those oblong baskets that we bought concord grapes in. Every year Mom made jelly from several baskets of grapes. We had to buy Sur-Jel to make the grapes gel. We kids had to wash our feet and then we put the grapes in large 8 gallon crocks and stomped the grapes 'til they were all mashed up. When we got out of the crock, our feet were purple for quite a long time. 

There were several mulberry bushes and trees by the windmill. We used to climb in them and pick an eat the berries. We picked wild plums that grew along the riverbank ann mixed them with mulberries and made wild plum jam. We made sauerkraut out of cabbage in 8 gallon crocks.

We bought Karo syrup in 1 gallon and 1/2 gallon buckets and used some of them for lunch buckets. They really worked great!

When we went to the store to buy commodities that we couldn't raise ourselves, we took our own jars and buckets to put the food in...foods like dried peas, corn, and various kinds of dried beans. Much of the food at stores was sold in bulk' most of the fruits and vegetables were dried. Mom, however, canned fruit, vegetables, pickles, and watermelon rinds in glass jars. She also canned tomatoes in half gallon Karo syrup buckets and sealed the lids on with a hard canning wax that melted with heat and dried hard when it was cold. When we opened the buckets, Mom took the hammer and broke the wax to get the lid off. After it was opened, we couldn't store food in the buckets until it was resealed again, as it would quickly become poisonous. We bought peanut butter in large jars and by the time we got to the bottom of the jar it was sometimes not too good!

Mom made her dresses and shirts for us kids. She also made our underwear on the sewing machine that was operated by a foot treadle. Mending was an ongoing thing. Many times Mom spent the evening sitting by a kerosene lamp mending out clothes or darning our socks. We kids wore bib overalls and Mom kept the old ones to make patches to mend our newer pants. 

We had a small building called a washhouse where we did all our laundry. There was a small cast iron stove that would hold a big black iron kettle where we heated the water to do the washing. A little pile of corncobs and some coal were kept in the washhouse to heat the water. We ran our washing machine with a gas engine. Mom also used a washboard and scrubbed the extra dirty clothes. She then rinsed them in a tub of cold water, used a hand-turned wringer to get the water out of the clothes, and hung them on a line outside to dry.

The black kettle was used to make soap when we butchered a hog. We made the soap by cooking pork fat down to cracklings and mixed them with powdered lye.

Pork was a staple at many farm homes. Sausage patties were fried down and put in 8 gallon crocks and covered with lard. It kept very well then covered with lard. We ate a lot of pork. I especially liked spare ribs. Years later when my mother's brother died in Longmont, Colorado, his son said he died from eating too much pork! 

Entertaining Ourselves on the Farm

Note from Ernie's daughter, Becky Jamison: In 2007 Harold J. Rutherford published his book "Dust, Wind and Tears: Life on the Great Plains in the 1920's, 30's, and 40's". It's a collection of personal accounts from the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Ernie contributed his story to the book. It was published by Ten Mile Publishing, 9740 Peacock St., Federal Heights, CO 80260-5749. This post is an excerpt from Ernie's story.

We didn't have electricity or radios at our house. Television didn't exist then. We had to entertain ourselves by pitching horseshoes, horseback riding, playing marbles, playing hide and seek, and flying kites when I was small. In the summertime baseball was quite an entertainment, not only for the players, but also for everyone who had gathered to watch the games. Most of the time games were played on Saturday or Sunday afternoons.

My dad and his brother loved to "noodle" for fish. They would wear shoes and bib overalls to swim and go under the water along the banks of these streams. In many places the streams had eroded away some of the bank and some tree roots extended out into the water. Sometimes the holes would go back into the bank among the tree roots and some large fish would go into the holes head first. The fellas quietly slipped up along those banks and, with their hands and arms, reached in to see if they could feel a fish. They tried to grab for the mouth and gills and pull them out. They were quite successful doing this, and would often come up with some huge flatheads (like a big catfish) or even channel catfish. 

I was along one Sunday afternoon when they were all noodling on the Smoky Hill Rover. My Uncle Emil Koleber reached into one of those holes beneath the riverbank, and a snapping turtle grabbed and bit into one of his fingers. Snapping turtles have a reputation of being able to bite hard. Uncle Emil came right out of the water and they had to cut the turtle's head off to free his finger. The first joint of Uncle Emil's finger was disfigured for the rest of his life. 

Life on the Farm in Dust Bowl Days

Note from Ernie's daughter, Becky Jamison: In 2007 Harold J. Rutherford published his book "Dust, Wind and Tears: Life on the Great Plains in the 1920's, 30's, and 40's". It's a collection of personal accounts from the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Ernie contributed his story to the book. It was published by Ten Mile Publishing, 9740 Peacock St., Federal Heights, CO 80260-5749. This post is an excerpt from Ernie's story.

Life on the Farm
Mom pulled fine feathers called "down" off the breasts of our live geese and made pillows and filled them with the down. They were much softer than our mattress ticks that were filled with corn shucks. Every year we dumped out the old shucks and filled the tick up again with fresh corn shucks.  

In the 1930's it was very hot in the summer during the wheat harvest. We used a header pulled with horses and also used a threshing machine part of the time. We pitched wheat by hand onto the conveyor belts to the thresher that was powered by a steam engine and huge, heavy canvas belts with a figure eight configuration. I was always fascinated by  how it worked. Sometimes I got a ride on the water wagon that hauled water to the threshing machine. We usually had several watermelons floating in the tank to cool. 

Dad used horses and mules to pull all our farm equipment. When the threshing crew went from farm to farm, they traveled as a crow flies. When they came to a fence, they pulled the staples that held the wire fences in place and stapled the wires on the post next to the ground. When they had moved all of the machinery through the fence, they put the fence back where it had been. Sometimes this saved many hours and many miles, moving the equipment directly through the fence rather than on the roads. Every year the same farm hands came to work in the fields. Even their sons and daughters that were married came back for the harvest. It became like a family reunion. We kids had to set out the laundry washtubs with clean water so the farmhands could wash up before the meals. We looked forward to those meals because they had goodies that we usually didn't have.  

Photo courtesy of
We didn't have sheds to put our farm machinery in to get it out of the weather, so we parked them alongside the closest field. During the sand and dirt storms, our farm machinery would be completely covered up. The seat and handles usually showed, but sometimes the only way to find them was digging into a mound of sand.

Special Collections, University of Washington. Courtesy, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, KS
Where the Russian thistles blew up against the barbed wire fences, the sand would drift up 'til only the top wire of the fence showed. Sometimes the top of a fence post was all that showed. We could walk right over the top of the fences where the sand had settled as berms along the fencerows. 

I don't know how many years the dust storms lasted, but some days it would be nice and sunny in the morning, but pretty soon a red cloud would drift in. It didn't blow, it just drifted or rolled in and sometimes black clouds came in from the northwest and it would become dark out by noon. Mom tore old white bed sheets in strips to push in the cracks around the doors and windows. It still got hazy from the dust that permeated the air in the house. 

Most of the time a wind would blow from one direction, then in another direction and the sand and dust covered our cow pasture 'til there wasn't anything left for a cow to eat. The pasture finally dried up and we had to sell some of our cattle to buy feed to keep the rest. Sometimes the sand would cover our Spring crop 'til it was ruined. There were times the soil around our corn would just blow away and leave the roots exposed. 

Many cattle died from the dust. Some people developed dust pneumonia and eventually died as well.   

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Life in the 1920's and 1930's: Our Food Supply

Note from Ernie's daughter, Becky Jamison: In 2007 Harold J. Rutherford published his book "Dust, Wind and Tears: Life on the Great Plains in the 1920's, 30's, and 40's". It's a collection of personal accounts from the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Ernie contributed his story to the book. It was published by Ten Mile Publishing, 9740 Peacock St., Federal Heights, CO 80260-5749. This post is an excerpt from Ernie's story.

 Our Food Supply
On our farm we raised corn, wheat, milo, cane and cattle. We milked eight cows by hand and that was a chore! We bucketed calves and separated the milk by hand. We made butter out of the cream for our own use and sold the rest of the cream in town and fed the skimmed milk, mixed with bran, to the calves. We made cottage cheese out of some of the soured milk and fed the curd to the chickens and hogs. Each spring we raised 200 baby chicks for fryers and kept 20-30 laying hens for the eggs. As we went to town each week to sell the cream, we also sold a lot of eggs. Our geese and turkeys helped keep the grasshoppers down. Every Fall we sold all the turkeys in town, but we raised the hogs for our own needs.

Fred Michaelis, one of my uncles, farmed north of Susank, Kansas. He had a smokehouse that was about the size of a one-car garage. It really impressed me as a small kid to see hams and other kinds of meat hanging in the smokehouse.

South of the livestock water tank and windmill was our garden. The overflow from the water tank and windmill. The overflow ran down towards the garden along a fence where rhubarb was growing. We grew radishes, lettuce and peas in the early spring before it became too hot. We also raised turnips, sugar beets, carrots, parsnips, red beets, cabbage and tomatoes. Along the ditch that ran alongside the garden, we raised watermelons, pumpkins, cantaloupe, cucumbers and squash. Close to the garden we planted sweet corn for our own use. 

Mom canned about everything, including apricots, corn, meat, pickled watermelon rinds and tomatoes. We pickled lots of the cucumbers and canned them in jars. Some vegetables were pulled and stored in the cellar. The cellar was half in and half out of the ground with dirt on top for the roof. It never froze in the cellar and never got very warm. Most of the winter we could go out to the garden and move the straw covering the carrots, parsnips, red beets, and turnips and have fresh vegetables.  
We stored watermelons in the wheat, milo, or maize in the granary. They'd stay good 'til Christmas! We always had a large pile of potatoes heaped up in one corner of the cellar. They lasted all winter, even with our family of 5. Mom made fine cut noodles and we always had lots of fruit jars filled with cream. Mom used cream in everything she cooked!