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Monday, March 1, 2010

Hazeldean McDowall - her own account.

Hazeldean McDowall 20 May 1893 - 12 July 1979

I was born in a little sod house on May 20th 1893 near Dresden Kansas. My father had been a bookkeeper and collector for a machinery company in Beloit Kansas, but was away from home so much that he decided to farm. My mother was a schoolteacher.

When I was four years old we had an Indian scare. We were very fortunate. The Indians went a few miles west of us. They tore up a store, but did a lot of damage farther north. My childhood was one of the most uneventful and happiest childhoods anyone could have. After the Indian scare my father sold the creek farm and bought a farm about eight miles west. It was a nice place - an ideal place for cattle and hogs. The creek cut off a corner of the place and had large elm trees and a walnut grove.

The church was two miles away. We always went twice on Sunday. Almost all of the youngsters loved that little white church. I cherish my memories of that church. On Decoration Day everyone in the community met there and marched to the roll of the drum a mile to the graveyard. We decorated the Civil War soldier’s graves, and placed new flags on the graves, and flowers we had gathered the day before. I still remember what a thrill it was to hear the drums roll with the march. They put on programs for nearly every occasion at the Church and then went to enjoy the people and entertainment at the grove. I don't know why, but I always had to take part in those programs. My mother taught me to never refuse to do my part to the best of my ability whenever I was asked to help out.

The first horseless carriage I ever saw was quite a sight. I was on my way to Sunday School and I saw it coming down the road. I couldn't imagine what it was. I got clear away from the road and watched it go by. It looked just like a buggy going along. I couldn't understand what made it go.

When I was seven years old I wanted to learn to milk cows. My father did the milking alone, and he was pleased when I wanted to help. I had seen people waltzing to the beautiful waltz music. I thought it was the prettiest dance I had ever seen. I wanted to learn. My father would waltz with me before we would start milking and that is how I learned to waltz. I wasn't very graceful, but I could waltz with a cup of water on my head without spilling it.

The years flew by but I was always busy. Our school was a one room building with a big pot bellied stove in the center of the room, and we carried water from a spring. In the wintertime we skated at recess and noon. We didn't have fancy shoe skates - just those that clamped on. I wasn't a pretty skater, but I was fast. My younger brother (Wallace) and I always skated together in the races and nearly always were winners.

I never astonished anyone with my grades in school, although I did get a good compliment. One day the county superintendent listened to our history class and he told the teacher I was the best student he had listened to in the county. What do you know about that!

I was guard on the North Valley Bloomers girls' basketball team. We weren't much on the win, but we had a lot of fun. Our coach was a little old spinster lady from Lunidad Colorado. All our team loved her. I was like all the rest of the kids in the neighborhood. We had to make our fun.

I had to work hard on the farm as my father's health was failing. I did all the work only in haying and corn husking. We had to be up and have all the chores done, horses harnessed and ready to go to the field at sunup. We had quite a bit of time off as the crop was laid by.

The fourth of July was always a big day, and the county fair in the fall also the log rolling. I rode horses quite a bit. I was always trying something new and one stunt was riding standing up with the horse on the gallop. It's a wonder I didn't get my neck broken. I played the organ at church and the revival meetings.

My sister was married on August 28, 1902. I was one of the flower girls. They had made our dresses with a low neckline. When the wedding march started we started down the long stairs and saw the crowd. We flower girls stopped. We wasn't going down in that crowd with those low-necked dresses on, because they might see our bellies. The bridesmaid gave us both a good slapping and down the stairs we went - our faces red from the slapping. That day was the first day I met Charlie. Little did we know what was in store for us. But we were pals from that day on.

I was always having to stand in the comer of the schoolroom or sit right in front of the teacher's desk in school. And all I did was draw pictures of mice and the teacher. The kids didn't need to laugh out loud but they did and I got into trouble.

Life went on -- lots of hard work and fun. The day came when my folks told my brother and I they were going to have a sale and sell all our belongings and move away as my father's health was very bad. We had no way of knowing that he had a cancer. They bought a restaurant at Morland, Kansas. I learned in short order how to be a waitress (in other words a bean slinger) and on Feb. 10, 1910 my father passed away. My world dropped out from under me. My mother broke up house keeping. I went to Pueblo, Colorado to stay with an aunt. She was a teacher in the Central High School and my uncle was an architect for Thayer and Cooper. They were so good to me, and I didn't like city life and was so homesick all the time. The girl across the street and I were close friends. She was crippled but was a good musician and studied at the conservatory of music.

I finally went back to Kansas and Charlie and I were married on October 29th 1912 in Hoxie Kansas. We didn't go on a honeymoon. We just settled down on the farm. There wasn't anything exciting happened, just trying to make a living on a farm. On Oct. 7, 1913 our first baby, a girl, arrived. That year our crop wasn't too good, and that winter I played for dances each week. In those days we didn't know what a nursing bottle was, so I nursed my baby. I had gotten into the habit of feeding her every two hours, so when I played for dances I stopped playing every two hours and nursed her. The crowd would stand around and wait for me. Then we would start again. That would go on until the wee hours of the morning.

There was one incident that happened a few days before we were married. Charlie and I were going to a dance. We took Charlie's youngest sister, Francis, along. We were driving a single horse to the buggy and we had two real steep hills to go up. It was through a very desolate country, lots of coyotes and wolves, snakes, bobcats, skunks, etc. That horse would not pull the buggy up the hills unless Francis and I got out and walked. That is just what we did. We didn't waste any time getting up those hills.

We farmed for several years, but due to crop failure and the drop in the price of cattle, we sold out and Charlie went to work on the railroad. We were sent to Wyoming, Nevada and finally Idaho. We had a family of eight. We wanted a family of six. We finally settled down with five as three of our girls were taken through sickness and accidents. We have been married fifty-four years. I am seventy-three and will be seventy-four in two months. I sew, read and do needle work without glasses. At the present time I have eight grandsons, seven granddaughters and nine great grandsons and five great granddaughters.

Source: Hazeldean McDowall: This personal account was handwritten in March 1967.

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