From the book about North Central Michigan, Hitch Up the Horses We're Going to Town

Mother Saves the Day

Submitted by Lorraine I. Bull of Bailey, MI

Born 1933

This is my true story:

      By the light of the kerosene lamp and with a cold, wet wind whipping around our old house, we children played school – always school – always on rainy evenings – and always big sister Evelyn, the only one of us kids who could read very well, was teacher.

      My younger sister and brother, Joan and Johnny, known as “the twins,” and I were lined up on the old brown imitation leather couch, along with my rag dolls, Joan’s teddy bears, and Johnny’s little toy black Scotty dog. Joan would only play school if her bears were counted as students. And Johnny followed suit with his toy dog. Poor Evelyn put up with this ragtag collection, as she wanted all the pupils she could get. She’d grit her teeth and hold the Elson Basic Primer in front of us and each bear and the dog in turn and read aloud, all the while pretending we were doing the reading.

      Meanwhile, out in the kitchen our mother made supper on the old wood range. As she worked, she often sang bits of favorite hymns and songs from World War I. Many times Evelyn taught school to the background strains of K-K-K-Katy, Till We Meet Again, and Let the Lower Lights Be Burning.

      On pleasant evenings, we all went down to the barn with Dad, and Mother would help with the milking. This was a fun time, as the barn cats would line up by our three cows, Lucy, Nellie, and Fanny, and sit there with their mouths open. Waiting. Every so often Dad would aim a teat at one of the cats and give a big squeeze. We’d giggle like mad, as the cat gulped down the milk!

      But on this stormy night, Dad went to the barn alone, and we children played school. After a while Mother called, “Come! Wash your hands. We’re about to eat. I see your daddy’s lantern coming.”

      Then Dad, all dripping wet, entered the kitchen. As he set the milk pails beside the milk separator, he announced, “Old sow had her litter tonight. Only three of them. Then she stepped on one. Made a huge cut in its back.”

      “Oh dear!” cried Mother. “I’d better go see what I can do for it.”

      “No use,” said Dad. “The gash is so deep that pig’s probably dead by now.”

      Few people nowadays know how important one little pig was to our family’s financial picture back then.

      “We shall see,” said Mother and promptly lined us children up by the kitchen window. “Don’t you dare move!” she said. “If you kids get to ‘mukin’ around and tip over the lamp, you’ll burn the house down!”

      There we stood; our noses pressed to the cold glass, with tears streaming down our cheeks as we watched the lantern light grow smaller and smaller and at last disappear inside the barn. It was the first time we’d ever been left alone, and we were scared to death!

      Soon, although it seemed like forever, Mother and Dad were back in the kitchen. “John, get the Aladdin lamp going. I’ll need the brighter light. Evelyn, get my sewing basket. Lorraine, Lorraine, where are you?”

      I’d taken one look at that bloodied mound Mother was just removing from her clutched apron, and I had crawled behind the wood box. With her free hand, Mother was clearing a spot on the table. With no nurses training and only an eighth grade education, Mother proceeded to sew up the gigantic gash. I poked my fingers into my ears, but nothing would drown out the pig’s screams or the twins’ excited comments, for while I hid behind the wood box they had climbed up on chairs for a better look.

      “Hurry, Lorraine, Mama’s sticking the needle right into the baby piggy! Oh, look! Now she’s pulling the thread through it!” Hurry up, Lorraine; you’re missing all the best parts!”

      I stayed behind the wood box and sobbed.

      After a while, Mother was coaxing me out. “Come see the baby piggy now, Lorraine. Look, Sugarnose. He’s all better.” Tenderly, she led me into the living room where Evelyn sat in a rocking chair holding the baby pig. He was snuggled up in one of the twins’ old receiving blankets and nursing from one of their discarded baby bottles.

      And Evelyn? Evelyn was all smiles, no doubt visualizing a new pupil for her classroom.

      And me? I looked from that little pig to my mom and I beamed. What did I ever have to fear? Wasn’t I the luckiest little kid in the whole world? Didn’t I have a mother who could do anything?

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