Kansas StoriesI don't know why I started thinking about it, but last night my thoughts turned to my great-grandmother, Rachel Coulter. She raised twelve kids during the depression in Kansas. She passed away before I was born, but it got me thinking about what expectations she had for her kids, compared to what I have for mine.
I don't know how many of Rachel's kids graduated from high school, I know my grandpa didn't. Still grandpa was a hardworking man with a big heart. He worked his whole life in a wood mill, married the waitress at the local cafe, and raised three girls. Then, when my mom had a baby out of wedlock, he helped raise me.
For five months in 1998/1999 my grandfather lived with us after he discovered he had cancer. He was 83-years-old, and instead of trying to fight it my grandpa decided he'd had a good life and he was ready any time the Lord would take him.
During that time, I would sit for a few hours every day and talk to my grandpa about growing up in Kansas. Since my kids were just little at the time, I jotted down some of my grandpa's memories so they could remember him.
Here are a few. They are simple, but they also remind me we don't have to give our kids everything society says is important to raise good people. Grandpa Fred had very little, but what he did have, really counted.
When Grandpa was a boy, he had a lot of brothers and sisters. From oldest to youngest there were Floyd, Pearl, Bus, Lettie, Frank, Fred, Gladys, Florence, Roy, Jack, and Dale. They lived in a big farmhouse on the Coulter Farm. It had five bedrooms, and a full basement with a garage for their car. The basement was used as their wash room. They also had their corn grinders down there and an old wood stove.
The Coulters had a big enough table to fit everyone around it. When they sat around the table, there was no arguing, and no hollering . . . or else. Also, you ate what you were given, without a word. The Coulter family often went through 6-7 loaves of bread in one sitting—and this wasn’t just bread you could pick up from the store. Great-Grandma Coulter made it all from scratch!
On the Coulter Farm, their cooking stove was a wood stove. For an “ice box” his family had a cabinet, and inside was ice packed in sawdust. In the winter, Grandpa and his family would go down to the lake and cut ice. If stored properly, this ice would last all summer.
Even though the Coulters had many conveniences, their toilets were outside—they were called outhouses. Since they didn’t want to have to go into the cold at night, they’d keep buckets by their beds to be used when needed.
Grandpa Fred had an Aunt Lena and Uncle Charlie who lived near him. He also had an Aunt Ruth who lived in Manhattan, Kansas, and an Aunt Rose who lived in Colorado.
Every September, Grandpa’s family would cut wood to prepare for the winter. To go get wood, they had a wagon pulled by four horses. The wood they often cut was Red Elm. They had a buzz saw to split it all. Also, in the fall, they’d butcher two pigs at a time and wouldn’t let anything go to waste!
Once as a child, Grandpa had twelve skunks as pets! He and his brothers knew how to cut out the sacs that contained the fowl odor. Grandpa said they were as calm as kittens. One day when a neighbor his mother didn’t like very well came over, Grandpa Fred (he was a young boy at the time) let the skunks into the house. This woman felt something brushing her leg and she assumed it was a cat. When she looked down and saw it was a skunk she nearly jumped out of her skin!
Grandpa Fred got a scolding for that, but he told his mother, “Well, you said you didn’t like her.” (The reason that Fred’s mom didn’t like her was because she always bragged on her children. “My son did this, and my son did that.”) Grandpa Fred said that neighbor never did come visiting again . . . and he was glad!