I had such wonderful neighbors. The nearest was Mrs. James Cullen from Wisconsin. We had an understanding - if I needed anything I would hang a white sheet outside my house. Some other good neighbors were the Jim Morarity’s from Chicago. Little Mrs. Morarity never quite adjusted to the rugged life. She was always wishing she could be walking down Madison Avenue in a white suit with a bouquet of violets pinned to her lapel.
One winter’s day after a big blizzard when through, when the snow was very deep, she saw me walking across the country to Carter and remarked to her husband, “I do not believe that Miss Carr has any feeling, going out on a day like this”. What she did not know was that Miss Carr had to sit in the dark the night before because she was out of coal oil.
My second school was about 13 miles from my place. It was known as Castor School. I boarded with a family by the name of Howell. They had two boys, the oldest was a boy in his early teens, and he used to let me ride his pony back to my place on Friday night as it was quite a walk.
One Sunday when I returned to their house, he was in bed and his mother told me he was very ill. I realized that, when I heard him moaning. He was one of my pupils and I knew he was not putting on an act. This when on for a couple of days.
His father was a railroader and was not at home. The mother sat as if she were in a trance. I realized something had to be done, so I walked over to the home of Mr. Castor who was on the school board and he drove me twenty miles to see a nurse. We brought her back with us and she said that she felt certain he had osteomyelitis, as his leg had started to turn black.
She advised us to get hm to the Great Falls Hospital at once. The mother went with hm and the grandmother came to stay with us. He was in the hospital for over a year. The doctors wanted to amputate, but he would not let them. I learned after I left Montana that he recovered enough to walk.
It seemed as if everything happened at this place. I killed my first Diamond-back rattlesnake as it was sunning itself in the yard.
One Sunday when I was out on a picnic with some of the young folks, the lightning struck the house and tore off the front of the house. I had to take my belongings (what was left of them, as some were destroyed by fire) and hunt for a new boarding place.
I remember once when I was riding the pony home and feeling pretty lonely (as day was I could look there was nothing in sight), I happened to glance up and see a lonely bird winging along. The children has been memorizing the poem, “To A Waterfowl” and that last stanza came to my mind:
He, who, from zone to zone,
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must trace alone,
Will lead my steps aright.
There were times when it was lonely, but the beautiful friendships that I made compensated for that. My dearest friends were Edna Vischer, her sister, Gertrude Trackwell and Ina Duncan, a young woman who was there with relatives. We kept up a correspondence through these 50 years even though we have never seen each other in all that time.
I often feel like the Oscar winners when they receive their Oscars. I could not have done my homesteading if it had not been for all of the good people that helped me. People invited me into their homes, they loaned me horses, and hauled water to me. Water was a problem as wells could not be found very often. In winter I melted snow and in summer I carried water from reservoirs. This water was full of little crawling creatures and had to be strained and boiled.
I remember the time after a big blizzard, I looked out of the window and saw a lone rider coming down the lane. He said his wife could not sleep because she knew there was a young woman down there alone and she was afraid I needed something I assured him there was nothing I needed and he wended his way back through the drifted snow. It warmed my heart. It was a wonderful gesture that someone cared that much for someone that they did not know or had never seen.
(Although Sadie never wrote it in this memoir, she once told us that during those frigid winter’s nights, she would often sleep with potatoes under the covers to keep them from freezing.)
I had an outside cellar and one day during harvesting, I was going in for something and I heard a rustle. Looking down I saw a large rattler. I took one leap and was out of the cellar. I went into the cabin and told the girls who were helping me feed the harvesters. On of the girls was real brave. She said she was not afraid to go in. She started down the steps and she not only saw one snake, but two. It did not take her long to get out. I closed the cellar door forever and decided the snakes wanted it more than I did.
The painting above was done by Sadie Marchant in the 1980’s when she took a beginner’s painting class. It was painted from her memory of her long ago Montana homesteading home. Sadie’s memoir concludes on tomorrow’s blog.
Take a look at my paintings: davidmarchant2.ca