Clark County Press, Neillsville, Wisconsin
December 24, 2008, Page 17
Contributed by "The Clark Co. Press"
Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.
Index of "Oldies" Articles
Compiled and contributed by Dee Zimmerman
Clark County News
A Daughter’s Tribute to Her Parents, Kenneth & Mabel (Braunsdorf) Wood
By Elaine Wood Greene/Jensen
I feel my tribute would have to go to my parents. They wouldn’t be called originals to Clark County, but they were pioneers in a true sense of the word.
They were married August 26, 1929, when my mother was 16 and my father was 19. I was born in August 1930 and my brother was born December 25, 1932.
Times were very tough due to the Depression and they had nothing. My father did commercial fishing on Lake Michigan out of Door County, but this did not supply enough income for his family.
In 1932 they decided to move to Clark County. They got permission to move onto a piece of land owned by John Seif, which was located in nothing but woods.
My father cut enough wood and built a house. It was 8 x 16 feet, and the brush stuck in the widows (windows) and the ferns grew through the floor, and occasionally a snake would find his way in through the floor. In winter he banked the house with dirt, leaves and cow manure, no there was no smell as it was well decomposed. We had a kerosene lamp and a wood stove. It was so nice when spring came and we could get rid of the banking and have our windows back.
They were able to acquire two cows and dad built a shed for them. They cut marsh grass and stacked it around the shed for the cows during winter. All water had to be hand carried from a spring, which was in the woods about a half-a-mile away. They would lead the cows to that spring two times a day to drink, and carry back water for the house. Mom would use water very sparingly, she would use the same water to wash clothes or dishes, then would scrub the floors, which were only 12-inch wide boards, after she finished the floors she would water the garden with the water, as soon as it was cool enough. In the winter they had to chop through the ice to get water and that too was used to water house plants after it was well used.
Bath time was on Saturday night, taken in, a round washtub, after the last person finished bathing it too, went to water the garden. They had a beautiful garden despite the drought years at that time.
Our food consisted of vegetables from the garden and venison. My father would hunt deer when we needed food. One time the game warden came down because he had a report of my dad poaching. It was Christmas and he saw the meat on the table. He took my dad outside and told him that someone had reported him and he had to do his duty and investigate it. But like he said, “I don’t have to report that I saw anything.” He told my dad he would not do anything as long as he didn’t waste any or sell any of it. He also said that if he got a report he would still have to check it out. And with that he left and wished my parents well.
My mother worked right along side of my dad, digging by hand the plot for a garden, clearing away brush and cutting trees and bringing hay from the swamp. Yes, it had to be hand carried as they had no equipment other than a scythe to cut the hay; they also had a bucksaw and a cross cut saw, which they used for clearing land.
One Christmas, John Seif told my dad if he would allow him to have one cow, we could have a clear deed to that farm. John chose his cow; and it wasn’t the best one either, and gave my parents a clear title. They hung it on the Christmas tree that year.
(Christmas gifts come in various wrappings. The Wood’s family received a deed to their farm acreage, one year at Christmas.
The Woods farm was located in Section 17 of the Town of Seif, 1 ˝ miles west of Bachelors Avenue, the area being at the end of what is now Wildwood Road. D.Z.)
Kenneth Wood and Mabel Braunsdorf on their wedding day, August 26, 1929. They moved to the Town of Seif in 1932, clearing land for a small farm, where they raised their family.
My Investment in Spring
(Article from Guidepost magazine, written by Pat Sullivan)
I had promised myself I really would get up early this morning. But as I groped for my shrilling alarm clock, rising at dawn to prepare a garden for planting seemed fruitless. I shut off the bell. Why bother with a garden, I reasoned to myself, when all the children are grown and gone? It’s too much work for one person, and no fun. I slept until nine.
Ever since our last son, Bob, and his bride, Kathy, moved away from our Wisconsin farm to work in the city, I was alone most of the time. My husband, Chuck, worked in the city too. I was lonely, only seeming to come to life on weekends, and slept late five days a week.
When I finally dragged myself out of bed, I remembered that the fence line had to be checked to make sure the horses were penned. I drove the pickup to the top of the horseshoe bend road and parked. The year before, Bob, Kathy and I staked out the clumps of wild asparagus here inside our property line with sticks and red plastic ribbons. As I checked the fences, I saw someone had taken the new asparagus stalks anyway. Then, coming to the old farmhouse, which stood empty just inside the end of our property, I noticed a window had been broken and the front door left ajar.
When Bob and Kathy moved, they had reluctantly left their matching bicycles there because they didn’t have the room for them in the city. The bikes were missing. Oh, I knew I should have got up earlier!
By the time I returned home I was angry. I reported the theft to the sheriff and drove into La Farge to place a reward notice in the local newspaper. I gave the editor of the Epitaph an earful, “I hope the sidewinder who took those bikes gets what’s coming to him!”
The following week the sheriff called to say they’d caught the thieves. Would I come to the courthouse to sign the complaint against them?
“You bet I will!” I said. “Did you get the bikes back?”
“Well, Pat, we did and we didn’t. We have one bike here, but somebody stole the other from the culprits, I guess you could call that poetic justice.”
When I arrived, the sheriff started to fill in some papers for me to sign.
“Where are the thieves? I want to see them first,” I demanded.
“Oh, they’re sitting right outside in the hall,” he replied without looking up from his paperwork.
When I glanced out, the only people in the hall were two skinny little boys with unkempt hair and big fearful eyes. They reminded me of two skittery chipmunks I once startled in my garden.
“Sheriff, are you sure?”
They’re the guilty ones all right,” he snorted. “They’ve admitted everything.”
Then Judge Bennett swept into the room in her robes, and the sheriff went to fetch the boys. They came in with heads hanging. I began to soften.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Can’t we work this out another way?” My mind was racing a mile a minute. Work – That could be the answer, I thought. Then I asked, “Judge Bennett, why can’t the boys work for me this spring? They could earn enough to pay for the bike that was stolen from them. Now that my children are gone, I could use a little help, and the boys will have the benefit of knowing the value of a dollar earned.”
Judge Bennett peered at me over her eyeglasses and replied, “Well, I hope you know what you’ll be getting yourself into. But all right. If that’s what you want, the court can arrange it.” She went on to say a juvenile officer would come by once a week to check on the boys.
The following Saturday at 7 a.m., I awoke to a knock on the back door. The boys were standing on the porch, shivering in the early morning chill.
“Come inside,” I invited. “You didn’t have to come so early. Nine would have been okay. Would you like some breakfast before we start?”
They looked at each other and mumbled, “Yeah.”
“Well around here we wash our hands before we eat.” I threw a towel at them. In a few minutes they were sitting down to a meal of scrambled eggs, sausages and a big stack of pancakes. They seized their forks and started to shovel the food into their mouths.
“Whoa, not so fast, fellas. Around here we say grace first to thank God for our food.”
Their eyeballs rolled, and while I said the prayer, they glanced slyly at each other out of the corners of their eyes.
As they ate, they told me they were 10 and 11 years old, but both were in the same class at school. The 11-year-old was a middle child, with seven others in the family. He had moved three times in the past year since his parents’ divorce. The mother of the second boy had been depressed for several months since the death of her husband.
We worked in the garden until we heard the noon whistle. I was so tired we ended up at the drive-in for hamburgers and root beer. I asked the boys to be at work at 9 a.m. on Monday, as they would be on spring vacation.
The next morning I was waked again at seven. Oh, no, not on Sunday too! I thought as I put on my robe. Sure enough, it was the boys I’d come to call Chip and Dale.
“We have a present for you,” said Chip. “And here it is,” Dale squealed, thrusting a garter snake at me.
I gritted my teeth. “Thank you very much, boys, for the lovely snake.” I handed it back. “Now please put it out in the garden where it can do us some good by eating insects.”
The boys looked sideways at each other as if to say, “What kind of a woman is this, to thank us for a snake?”
Monday came too soon. I got through the day, but just barely. I had to show the boys the difference between vegetable seedlings and weeds. They had a thousand and one questions, and we somehow got into an hour-long discussion on ecology, wildlife and rock bands.
After they put away a huge lunch, I read them a story I had written to amuse my children years before. They we got into the pickup and they sang all the way home. I reminded them to come at nine the next morning.
On the dot of seven came the now familiar knock.
Dale said, “We really have a lovely present for you today, Mrs. Sullivan,” as Chip handed me the biggest, fattest blacksnake I had ever seen. It must have been close to five feet long.
This had gone far enough, I thought. “Look out boys, this is a Coluber constrictor!” I yelled and tossed it back at them. They dropped it and ran.
When they finally came back, I told them, “Now boys, I want you to know something about me. I raised nine children and a half dozen other kids. There is no trick you can play on me that hasn’t been played before. I’ve found salt in the sugar bowl, worms in the washer, toads in dishpans and my bed set on pop bottles. I’ve heard ghosts in the middle of the night and even found a piglet, dressed in a baby bonnet, in the bathtub. If you can’t come up with something better than some old snakes, don’t even bother to try to scare me anymore.”
At last they gave me a respectful look.
The boys shoveled, they raked, they dug, and divided peonies and irises. They watered and weeded and helped pick the produce from the seeds they had planted. We worked together all summer, and I began rewarding them with nature hikes and picnics on Wildcat Mountain in the afternoons. In early fall we planted tulip bulbs, daffodils and crocuses. When the boys asked why I bought so many “old dead bulbs,” I told them they would turn into beautiful flowers – they were my investment in spring.
All summer I had been baking treats I hadn’t made in years. Together we made gingerbread men, homemade pies, and dozens and dozens of cookies.
“Those boys are walking stomachs,” I told my husband.
“This boy is getting to be a walking stomach too,” said Chuck. “We haven’t eaten this well in a mighty long time.”
Each week I reported “no problems” to the juvenile officer. The boys paid off their debt, even earned enough to buy bikes of their own. They went to school but still came back to help me Saturdays and holidays. They brought me their report cards and were proud to show me how their grades and marks in deportment had improved.
One Saturday I missed their familiar 7 a.m. knock. I turned to Chuck and asked, “I wonder where the boys are? I hope nothing has happened to them.”
“Don’t worry about those guys,” he laughed. “They can take care of themselves.”
“Yes,” I said, “but I really think they changed for the better, don’t you?”
Chuck laughed again, “They’re not the only ones who changed for the better. You have not been this content since we had the whole brood at home. You’re just not happy unless you are helping. I guess it’s true what they say; that whatever you sow, so shall you reap.”
Then came the boys’ familiar knock, and I fairly leaped to answer it.
The following spring, shortly after I came home from ten days in the hospital, Chip and Dale rode their bikes all the way from town to visit me. They presented me with a big bouquet of the tulips we had planted the autumn before. As usual, it was 7 a.m.
We went into the kitchen, and I set out the raspberry jam we’d made, along with some biscuits and milk. I picked up a biscuit and took a bite when both boys said in unison, “Whoa, not so fast! Around here we say grace before we eat!”
I looked up sheepishly to see them beaming at me. My investment in spring had just bloomed.
(This story is an example of giving of the heart. Often opportunities of helping others appear before us and if acted upon, we receive as much, or more in return as we give. D.Z.)
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