Selected quotations from Ruth's journal

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... Early 1929, when they bought the property, was a time of prosperity. The stock market crash later that year, and the Great Depression that followed, were the (blissfully) unknown future. But despite desperate cheery propaganda to the contrary, prosperity was not just around the corner. My parent's plans to enter farming, conceived in the heady days of the1920's, would have to be realized in a new time - with an out-of-control economy in free-fall....
     - Ruth's Journal: 1. A Farm of Our Own

... Suddenly my father yelled "Damn!" then pulled over to the side of the road and stopped, a profuse cloud of steam hissing from the car's radiator. In the interest of harmony on a stress-filled day, Mother did not make her usual fuss about his strong language....
     - Ruth's Journal: 2. The Move

... We all scrambled out, and Daddy took off his hat and wiped his forehead with a handkerchief. Replacing the hat, he turned to the car and said, "You done a good job, Betsy, damned if you didn't!" patting the hood's hot metal as if it were the perspiring shoulder of a tired horse, after a long day's plowing....
     - Ruth's Journal: 2. The Move

... Trying to ignore the high-pitched whine of bloodthirsty insects, I resented cowering under the covers. I longed for a full view - to watch stars emerge one by one, as the light slipped beyond the western edge of the woods. Despite my fatigue from the long day, I strained to hear all the new soothing sounds like crickets, nocturnal scampering, and breezes rustling through leaves. At some point, I drifted off....
     - Ruth's Journal: 2. The Move

"Those spiders must think it's the end of the world," John said in a brief moment of empathy for the wildlife we were routing. But, the next instant he was back on our side, attacking the mess with greater vigor, as we both pretended we were invading giants, intent on removing all traces of our conquered inhabitants....
     - Ruth's Journal: 3. Settling In

... If cleanliness was next to godliness, she was, for that reason alone, a saintly woman. Before I passed her inspection as respectable enough to be seen in public, she made me wash my face and hands, comb my hair, and put on clean overalls - I was making my first appearance at the Park Rapids lumber yard....
     - Ruth's Journal: 3. Settling In

... Under the covers, I felt strange and vulnerable. The one I depended on for protection and wisdom was gone. Even though I had no specific cause for alarm, I did not know how well my mother would manage. She was alone in an alien, isolated world - one with little use for Greek Poetry....
     - Ruth's Journal: 3. Settling In

... Postage on a twenty pound package was less than fifty cents, or about one hour's wages. Most letters and parcels were delivered the next day, which meant he could send fresh fruit and vegetables and even some kinds of meat by mail....
     - Ruth's Journal: 4. RFD (Rural Free Delivery)

... My father sent us books such as ... They Also Serve, by Peter B. Kyne, which was about horses and mules in the First World War. It was written in a heavy Irish dialect, and when Mother read it to us, she followed the pronunciations faithfully with considerable dramatic flair - although omitting many a "hell" and "damn" as I found out later....
     - Ruth's Journal: 4. RFD (Rural Free Delivery)

... Cautioning John and me to stand back, Mother wielded the heavy axe on her first target. Scandinavian heritage aside, at a delicate 5'2" and 100 pounds, she hardly fit the image of a lumberjack. She not only lacked daddy's skill and strength, but her housedress restricted her swing....
     - Ruth's Journal: 5. Adjusting to Our New Routine

... The long spell of fair weather ended on Saturday afternoon with a heavy rain. As Mother described it in her letter, "We almost drowned in the house. We have pans sitting all over." Deploying them became part of our routine over the next several days, as one rain followed another....
     - Ruth's Journal: 5. Adjusting to Our New Routine

... John and I often overlooked our age and gender differences and played together. We commandeered an old log pig shelter in the grove to set up a military headquarters, where we ate our lunches and planned strategy. We drew a map of the grove and all the buildings, including our shelter, and sent it to Daddy, trusting him to keep it safe from enemy agents....
     - Ruth's Journal: 6. Lazy Days and Country Work

... One particularly hot day, in a fit of battle-weary desperation, Mother shocked us into action with a breathtaking offer. She promised us all of the lemonade and sugar cookies we could eat if we finished cultivating the garden that afternoon. It was the first rash open-ended promise she had ever made....
     - Ruth's Journal: 6. Lazy Days and Country Work

...The chokecherries were ripe and ready. Daddy chuckled as we innocently took our first mouthful and quickly spit it out in disgust - our mouths puckered forever-more, and the berries' graphic name no longer a mystery....
     - Ruth's Journal: 7. Making the Cabin Cozy

... Clear skies for his entire visit ... offered no opportunity to test our new roof. Soon afterwards however, a torrential downpour provided a worthy trial-by-water, and Mother, in her understated manner, wrote "It is nice to have a tight roof." But I'm sure he would rather have enjoyed it with us - savoring the sound of raindrops on new tarpaper....
     - Ruth's Journal: 7. Making the Cabin Cozy

... John looked impressive in his new clothes, but I had to settle for wearing a dress from last year. Sewing my new dress by hand had taken longer than Mother expected, and it still lay unfinished in her workbasket. She took extra care ironing my nicest old one though, so that the lengthened hemline hardly showed....
     - Ruth's Journal: 8. Starting School

... Only one girl, about John's age, had dressed up for the occasion. The three oldest girls wore two dresses each, but with holes in different places so their bodies were fully covered. Some boys wore only patched overalls, and most of the children were barefoot....
     - Ruth's Journal: 8. Starting School

... there was a telephone pole directly across the road. She told us to stand behind it, and call out instructions as she backed out and turned ... she did more backing than turning, and hit the pole. At her slow speed there was no damage - except to the last shred of faith we had in her driving ability....
     - Ruth's Journal: 9. Preparing for Winter

... Our foreboding increased as we realized that she was going faster than Daddy ever had over the bumpy washboard stretches. She must have sensed this too, and tried to slow down, but pushed too hard on the brake while trying to steer toward a smoother section of road. We watched in horror as the car skidded toward the edge of the shoulder, and finally stopped - teetering on the edge of a deep ditch....
     - Ruth's Journal: 9. Preparing for Winter ....

... When the temperature first dropped below freezing, Mother got up during the night to add wood, crawling out of bed twice a night, shivering in her nightgown. She soon concluded the effort required was not worth the small amount of heat that found its way back to our sleeping quarters....
     - Ruth's Journal: 10. Final Winter Preparations

... With her thick Dutch accent, she tried to explain to us how she made her favorite porcine treat - head cheese. Her jolly laugh, as she shouted orders - cradling the pig's head - made it sound like a festive holiday. John and I sought another change of venue....
     - Ruth's Journal: 10. Final Winter Preparations

... She put his boots by the stove to dry…Before he put them on the next morning, Mother traced their outline on a piece of paper, so Daddy could send him a new larger pair. As a temporary fix, to improve their water repellency, she smeared them with lard....
     - Ruth's Journal: 11. Winter Prelude and Thanksgiving

... Soon after each snowfall the road crew plowed our road, so most of our winter travel difficulties involved the temperament of the car, which like a bear, would have preferred to hibernate....
     - Ruth's Journal: 11. Winter Prelude and Thanksgiving

... The first step prior to any errand, was lugging the heavy battery up the steps and out to the car, setting it in place, and connecting the cables. Since there was no anti-freeze, the next step was filling the radiator. She always heated the water on the woodstove first, in order to warm the engine. Finally, because low temperatures made the transmission stiff, she jacked one of the rear wheels up off the ground, to help the engine turn over more easily. There were no casual outings....
     - Ruth's Journal: 11. Winter Prelude and Thanksgiving

... But ten days later, Mother gave up on the school, knowing that she could do more for us at home. Because she was a high school physics and math teacher, with graduate level education in Greek and Latin, she was far more qualified to teach than Miss Eula....
     - Ruth's Journal: 12. Anarchy at School

... At the end of November, she walked to the schoolhouse with us to get our books and school supplies. Her only comment to Father was: "The teacher never said a word and neither did I."
     - Ruth's Journal: 12. Anarchy at School

... we happily passed the time making Christmas decorations. Daddy had sent us some crepe paper, red and green wrappers from rolls of coins, shiny silver foil inner wrappers he'd saved from Hershey chocolate bars, and a package of colored construction paper from Woolworth's....
     - Ruth's Journal: 13. Christmas at the Farm

... Sometimes our generous applications of paste dried into white patches, which an imaginative observer might charitably describe as snowy accents. We proudly lined up our finished products on the phonograph in the living room....
     - Ruth's Journal: 13. Christmas at the Farm

... After supper he lit the candles ... as I watched their flickering light in the darkened room, the tree seemed to come alive. Then, framed by yellow curtains, the candlelight danced on frosty windows, filling the room with Christmas trees reflecting from every pane of glass. I was mesmerized....
     - Ruth's Journal: 13. Christmas at the Farm

... As we sat by the woodstove and admired our tree, Daddy began reminiscing about his favorite boyhood holiday tradition - spinning the top.... Grandpa David would be marking the sixty-fourth year in West Concord that night....
     - Ruth's Journal: 13. Christmas at the Farm

... But no one was happier than John when he finally found his ax, its sharp blade gleaming from behind the tree. His letter-by-fire had worked, and he had tangible proof. He also got Robert Lewis Stevenson's The Black Arrow....
     - Ruth's Journal: 13. Christmas at the Farm

... We positioned ourselves on the front edge of the roof, in full view of the house. Through the veil of our breath, suspended in the night air, we looked around from our high perch, feeling very much like king and queen of the mountain. Moon-shadows draped every branch and feature over the frozen ground....
     - Ruth's Journal: 14. The Moonlight Wolf Caper

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