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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pig Pen and Breakfast

You might think the association here is bacon but its not; its fuel.  One of our projects is to interview long-time residents on their childhood.  What was life like growing up in this area 70 to 80 years ago?  It is amazing how different it was; especially the things we take for granted today.

For instance, this morning I got up in a warm house and went out to the kitchen in my t-shirt, boxers and bare feet.   I flipped on the lights (still dark out) and turned on the coffee maker.  I slipped some instant oatmeal in the microwave and I had breakfast in a couple of minutes.  The outside temperature was a cool 17 degrees. 

The morning routine was quire different for some of our older residents when they grew up.  In those days, they woke up in a cold house, more often than not it was actually freezing inside.  Their rooms were normally upstairs where there wasn't any heat at all and downstairs the fire in the coal stove would have died long before dawn.

The first heat in the house was often from the cook stove in the kitchen.  A fire had to be built in the stove for it to get hot enough to cook on and the water in the water tank to thaw the ice and to get warm for washing.   No electric stove, no furnace, no gas water heater, seldom did they have electric lights.  Most often the fire was built with paper and wood and then fed with corn cobs which was the primary fuel in the country. 

Two of the ladies I've interviewed told me that one of their many chores while growing up on the farm was to collect corn cobs from the pig pen.  They both screwed up their noses then telling me this was their least favorite chore on the farm. 

You see, not much was wasted in those days.  Wood wasn't as plentiful as it is today and coal was expensive.  Slightly more than a century ago this was simply prairie, and endless see of grass; there were no trees here.  That generation planted those trees. 

Farmers picked corn by hand and the job of shelling it was laborious.  Farm animals were fed eared corn instead of going to the trouble or expense of shelling it.  They ate the kernels and left the cob.  It didn't end up very clean but it was valuable fuel. 

These girls had to pick up and sack these cobs along with others that were used for the kitchen stove.   Cobs were normally kept in a cob bin on the porch.  One lady said her mother told her not to pick up a large handful, because of the possibility of carrying mice into the house. 

I know some people that would consider what these girls had to do child cruelty but honestly, they turned out to be quite lovely and charming ladys.   That is another story! 

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