Remembering… I “member that”…

When I think about my early life and how to describe it I’m reminded of my daughter when she was small, if you asked her if she remembered something she would reply ” I member that”. Well I like to “member that” too.

The sights and sounds of my early years are still here in my head if I concentrate they come back. I think of our old former homestead shack in the summer and I can feel the almost unbearable heat in the little old shack without any air-conditioning or insulation. You could feel and smell the heat beating in on the roof and the attic with no venting. The heat had a slight mousey smell which blended with the hot air. Mixed in with the heat and the mouse smell was that of dust which in the 1950’s amounted to a fine layer from about 40 years of blowing wind in the attic.

The Crites' Old Home Place in Gildford, Montana

The Old Home Place

In the winter the scene changes with the wind rattling the storm windows and the single pane window behind it with a vengeance. The curtains covering the window on the West especially swayed with the wind inside the house. The windows were all covered with frost as the warm air escaped to the cold air through the cracks. The heat in front of the old wood stove to begin with then the fuel oil stoves later was almost unbearable right in front of the stove itself. About 10 feet away from the stove it was cold. You constantly turned over like a piece of meat on a roasting stick to burn one side then the other. The floor was wood with old linoleum covering it and it was cold wherever you stepped. There were throw rugs on some parts of the floor and you tried to keep on them for warmth. At times the door would freeze solid and you would have to use a hot teakettle and dump water along the cracks to unfreeze it to get it opened in the morning.

A window in the Crites homestead, north of Gildford, MT

The old West window, at least it had glass then..

Of course summer and especially winter the ever present slop jar or slop bucket was handy on the floor of the kitchen so you didn’t have to go out in the elements to relieve yourself. Running water came from someone running or walking to the pump house and coming back with pails of water. The only sink had a drain that went outside but that was no good in the winter at all. Water that was used for dishes or baths had to be brought to the house in pails then after it’s use was dumped outside when you finished. My mother took the water from the used bathwater and dishwater to water a tree or a flower in the summer..

Baby Russ Crites on the floor in the heat of summer

Must have been summer, here I am on the floor..

When it was winter on the old home place we closed off the back room because you couldn’t keep it warm anyway and used the room where the stove was and the kitchen. We slept in the room where the stove was, other times of the year it was labeled the living room. My place in the bed was next to the west window and I can still hear the winter wind moaning and the coyotes howling when it was 30 below. I can still see the curtains move with the wind next to the bed. We darn sure had a lot of covers on the bed because if you didn’t and you were next to the West wall it got very cold by morning. The old home made quilts we had were very heavy, but you surely didn’t throw them off in the middle of the night.

I didn’t think it was so bad or that we weren’t blessed at the time. My folks were just happy they had a house, land to work, and animals to take care of to make a living. I can’t ever remember them feeling sorry for themselves or me thinking we didn’t have things others had. I’m grateful today of where I came from and am Damn proud of the people who raised me. “I member that…”

Standing here "Membering"

Standing here “Membering”

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