Out of the Past:
Vel was the husband young wives dream about, to me and to our children. He was father and husband in every sense of the word. He would bring me a bouquet of wild flowers, present them in a most chivalrous way, with a kiss and all the courtliness of a courting swain. And, the children, as they came along, were treated to some form of greeting and a great deal of love. He would help do the washing, if I would then go to the woods with him for a load of wood. He filled the wash boiler, rubbed the clothes, wrung them out and hung them neatly and with a song. The neighbors thought I had some magic secret which I used to get him to help me, but it was just his way, and he never changed. His mother said to me one day, Â“He never did anything he could get out of doing when he was home. How do you get him to do all those things?Â”
Â“He loves doing them, or he wouldn't do them, I guess, I don't know how to account for it otherwise.Â”
Â“Well I have it all figured out, you drive him to it,Â” she said.
My life settled down into a pattern most wives get into when they become mothers and have a routine that is exacting and demanding. Day after day, washing, ironing, bathing, feeding, consoling. There was little time left to feel sorry for oneself, and I don't believe I felt sorry for myself until after the birth of my third child, and the event that followed that completely changed my whole life.
Doris Anne, our second child, was born, and since Vel had named the first child I got to name the next. We had agreed. Doris was a small baby. She was so quiet and easy to care for, I hardly knew I had two children. I had lots of clothing left from Joyce and that problem resolved itself. The name was the problem. After I had chosen the name, Mrs. Gray informed me that we could have attached an Â“A,Â” instead of an Â“E,Â” and she would have had a namesake.
Â“I didn't know your middle name was Anna.Â”
Â“Anna is not my middle name. It is my first name, Anna Mary.Â”
Inadvertently, another wedge was placed between my mother-in-law and me.
My growing family kept me pretty well occupied. Vel got jobs wherever he could find work, at whatever the employer could pay, and we kept our heads above water, which is about all the people anywhere could do. So we did not feel anymore pinched than others. The Saturday night dances gave us many of our social contacts. We bundled the babies up in blankets and parked them in a place where we could keep an eye on them - hay, a pile of straw, or a crib in the barn, if it happened to be a barn dance, and on the beds with all the other babies, if the dance was held in a home. Host and hostess saw to it there was always a place, and some of the children who did not care to dance, baby-sat for the group. I met many people at these dances who had wonderful and interesting stories to tell of their struggle to survive in the cold North Country.
We all began to feel a stirring of hope as the depression entered its fourth year. Washington sent out messages of cheer. They promised us a new deal. To get water from a well with a worn pump, you have to prime it, pour a little water down its throat, and then work hard. The government was going to spend a little money, and then the economy would begin to function. The business bosses, the Â“malefactors of great wealth,Â” would be put in their place, the Â“forgotten manÂ” would come into his own.
The new President took office, and within months we began to feel the effects of governmental policy. The Agricultural Adjustment Act, promising aid to beleaguered farmers, was a little disappointing to farmers in the Kelliher area with its program to help the growers of wheat and cotton and tobacco because they didn't grown any of those crops. But, Carson was able to sell some of his turnkeys to the government at prices better than he could have gotten elsewhere. Moreover, the government began buying corn, fruit, butter, cabbage, pork, and other surplus commodities in order to raise the price. These commodities were distributed to us, and they were welcome.
Â“Free groceries for the needy,Â” said Vel. Â“That's gotta be us.Â”
And so it was.
The word came that such things as corn, butter, pork, fruit and other commodities could be had for the asking. We were instructed to sign up at the village hall. Reaction was mixed.
Most people wanted the commodities, but were ashamed to accept the public dole. Using euphemisms such as Â“reliefÂ” helped a little, but not much. Often adults would sign for the food, but send their younger children to accept delivery.
Â“Did we sign up for commodities,Â” I asked Vel.
Â“Nope. I got something better.Â”
Â“You're going to tell me what Â‘something better is, aren't you?Â”
Â“Well, since you ask ... I'm gong to haul the stuff from Bemidji. I get thirty-five cents an hour plus mileage for the truck. The King hired me this morning.Â”
The Â‘King' was the county commissioner, top dog in Kelliher and generally the chief political wheeler-dealer.
Â“Well, for one thing, I've got one of the two trucks in town, and for another, I'm usually the King's partner in the smear games at Baldy's pool hall. And we always win.Â”
Â“Long live the King,Â” I said.
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