MY CHILDHOOD IN MISSOURI AND MONTANA
Pictures with Chapter One
On September 15, 1905, in the village of Stabl, Missouri, I, Myrtle Deane Buckallew, first saw the light of day. Since I was the seventh child and the baby for nine years, I received plenty of attention. When my brother Millard was born he became the center of attraction and I adored him as much as any of the others and was certain he was the most wonderful baby that was ever born.
About this time land was being opened for homesteading in Montana, and my parents decided to go West where the climate was better and take advantage of this offer of free land by the Government. By filing on the land and complying with certain regulations such as living on the land so many months each year, fencing it, after three years the land became yours. My eldest brother and family had already begun their term of obtaining their land and they encouraged my parents to come.
Most of our possessions were sold by auction and only the necessities were kept which were loaded into a box car. Because there was a law which prohibited cattle being taken out of the State, a team of young horses and a span of mules were loaded with the furniture as well as a huge tent that would be our first home in THE WILD WEST.
Three of my brothers, Fred, Orville and Ray thought it would be fun traveling in the box car and, although much against father's wishes, he permitted them to steal the ride. The piano, violin, guitar and banjo were used all along the way which father enjoyed and even the animals seemed to appreciate the music. Since it was father's responsibility to care for the animals, he traveled free.
We arrived at a small town in Montana called Brockton. I saw Indians for the first time and also oxen pulling a wagon. We were all excited as well as a bit frightened realizing we soon would set foot on strange soil that would some day be our very own.
My brothers were a witty trio, and I am sure they were the spice of life to our parents for they could always see the funny side of life. I remember Orville saying to father, Dad, you have brought us to an awful place. (But years later when I returned to the hills of Missouri, I wondered.) When I asked the storekeeper for a G string for the guitar, he began cutting off a lariat rope. Ray had to think of something to say too so he said, and when I asked for a bridge for the violin he told me they crossed the river on a ferry.
My brother Willie had come to meet us with his team and wagon, so as soon as the wagon we had brought was assembled, all of our belongings were loaded and we were on the last lap of our journey.
We crossed the Missouri River on the ferry and headed for the homestead. Our trip came to a sudden stop before we reached our destination, for there was a prairie fire raging and the men were needed to fight this fire, which not only burned many acres of good grass but endangered a number of ranchers' homes as well. My sister Edna, my seven months old brother, and myself spent a restful night but Mother helped Mrs. Canada prepare food for the men while they hauled water in barrels on a little vehicle called a stone-boat and dipped sacks into the water to fight the flames. Indeed our first night in Montana was a memorable one for us all.
At the end of our second day's journey our big tent was erected. We were at home in a new kind of house and in a strange land where the coyotes could be heard throughout the long hours of the night.
Our new house, (sod) was soon under construction. The little plow was drawn by the young horses and father carefully manoeuvered it in order to cut the sod an even depth. It was interesting to watch the man who was experienced in building sod houses. It was not long before the walls were high enough to put the two side ridge logs on and when more sod was lain the top log was set on. Boards were nailed to these logs and tar paper fastened to the boards and the final touch was given when a layer of cut sod was carefully laid on. The house was ready for the windows to be put in and the floor to be put down. Many of the homesteaders just had the dirt floors but we had no desire for that, so boards of soft lumber were used. How well I remember Mother scrubbing that floor using a bit of lye in the water to make it clean and white.
A 14xl6 ft. room was not large enough for eight people so as soon as the hay was put up for the winter, Father dug a hole about ten feet square and about six feet deep, and used logs to extend the height. Logs were used the same as for the house and sod was put on for the final covering too. There was a window by each side of the door which faced South, which helped to warm the room as well as give light. A small heating stove was installed and the soft coal which Father and the boys dug out of the hill not far away was the fuel we used in both rooms. Often during the winter the snow would pile up against the windows and door and father would shovel a path out for the boys.
Mother could not bear those dirt walls or the bare logs so she decided she would put unbleached cotton cloth on the walls, and used narrow strips of boards to tack it to the walls. Nor was she anxious to live in the sod house with those dirt walls. One day as she was strolling over the hills she found some big lumps of white like substance and she thought it would be worth a try to dissolve some of this and see if the solution would do for a whitewash. (This was later found to be gypsum.) Her experiment worked, and it was not long before the log part of the dugout walls were as white as snow. The two beds were comfortable, a few pictures were hung on the walls and the boys' bedroom was not only comfortable but quite attractive.
I cannot remember just how the imitation cement was made but I know ashes and gravel were in it, and I know too that the big room was soon plastered and whitewashed. There is an old axiom, Necessity is the mother of invention and mother proved this to be true many times.
Since we needed some cows and money was not plentiful, father suggested trading the piano for some. He made an agreement with my sister Edna and me that if we would agree to make this trade, when we married he would give us a cow. In a few years Edna claimed her cow and took her to their farm.
That first summer on the homestead was not an easy one for my parents, but the worst thing that happened was when the horses ran away with Orville when he was going to mow hay. As soon as he threw the mower into gear the horses leaped and the sudden jolt threw him into the sickle. Only the Providence of God saved his life. It was a slow and long thirty miles to where they could go by train to Glasgow to the hospital. His arm that was so badly mutilated was saved and although it is far from good, he has always been able to use it and certainly we are all thankful for this.
When I recall how the washing was done on the scrub board, how mother made a good portion of the laundry soap and how white the clothes were washed (each white garment was boiled in the old boiler) I feel none of us at the time realized just how hard she toiled and it was not until I had a family of my own and was compelled to do many of the tasks she did, that I learned to appreciate what she had done for us in those pioneering days. Mother was also a good seamstress. She taught me how to do many kinds of hand work for which I have been so grateful.
Father must have been almost exhausted after following that walking plow that had to be held and guided hour after hour.
Despite the hardships they endured, they were never too busy to be hospitable and would drive many miles with the team to pay a visit to friends who had spent a night with them. Mother went wherever there was sickness in a home and father looked after the home. During the winter of 1918 when more people died from influenza than were killed during the war, mother traveled many miles in a sleigh, with rocks that had been heated in the oven of the old stove, so she would be warm, and cared for the ill. Many men and women today remember their nurse.
When Millard was three years old, another baby boy came to live with us. The sod house was his birthplace. Ludy could sing when he was only a child. I think he has used his talent in praising God more than his brothers who where also good singers. Ludy never married till quite late in life. It seemed he was to wait for THE right girl, for he married one of the finest girls in the world. She too is a good singer and it is always a real pleasure to listen to them sing.
Sorrow came to us when my brother's wife passed away. Willie was left with two little boys. Gene was only six days older than my brother Millard and Raymond was three months old. They were with Mother and Father for some years until their father re-married.
When Ludy was three years old another son was born to my parents and his name is Don. Five little boys to care for was quite a job and the washing was the biggest problem. Believe me that old wash board was used plenty!
Those boys spent many hours singing and playing Church, as they called it. One day they were in the shade of the old house having Church and as usual Ludy was the song leader. Raymond was not able to sing as well as some folks but he could make a joyful noise, but somehow this time his efforts irked Ludy and he stopped in the middle of the verse and said, Raymond, do you think the Lord will be satisfied with such singing? Ludy still leads the singing where they worship.
When Don was about two years old, one of Mother's brothers lost his wife and his two little boys were too much for Grandma Cason to handle so she brought them to our place. Seven boys almost the same ages would remind you of a hive of bees. That old wash board really took a beating. However, there always seemed to be room for all and we always had plenty to eat and wear so what more could we ask?
My parents obeyed the Gospel early in their married life but did what so many do when they move where there is no congregation of the Church, they neglected their duty in service to God. Shortly after the Church was established in Eastern Montana they became very active in the work and remained faithful until they were called to that better home. However, their years of neglect left its imprint on some of the family who are not faithful to the Lord.
In 1922, Brother J.O. Golphenee held a meeting in the school house where I had attended. It was during this meeting I obeyed the Gospel. The Nazarenes had held a meeting near there and I had become interested in Spiritual things so had associated with them some. This bothered my parents because they knew the truth and certainly were not going to allow me to be led away by false teaching, so I received plenty of sound teaching before Brother Golphenee began his meeting.
It was a cold day (about thirty below zero) the day I was baptized and three feet of ice was cut with steps going down into the water. Indeed that hole in the ice resembled a grave.
I made up my mind then I would never marry anyone who was not a Christian, and as my story unfolds you will know that I never changed that decision.
The next year, a young man from Canada came to Montana to preach the gospel. He was a good speaker and knew the Bible better than anyone I had ever known. He was a fine looking young man too and before many months had passed we had decided we were going to travel life's road together. We were both young, and neither of our parents had much of this world's goods but what difference would that make to our success in life? I could not find any fault in this young man except that he had very little talent for singing. While this bothered me at first, I soon realized that he was so superior in other talents that this was by no means a hindrance to our success in life.
Published in The Old Paths Archive
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