Helen Seymour is discussing discipline in the family

When Esther was a small child, she had the habit of crawling under Mother’s bed and crying and kicking the bed springs every time she couldn’t have her way.  One day Father was working in the cellar right under her, when she began crying and kicking.  He took a broom handle and pounded on the floor, not saying a word.  Mother said it was funny to see Esther come out from under the bed; she did not try it again and never knew for years what made the noise.

Father expected his farm animals to “toe the mark” too, and he tried to train them by sheer power of his lungs.  He often shouted at the top of his voice when getting the cows into their stanchions at night in the summer time.  We had many a giggle over the performance, but never let him hear us.  We’d hear something like this: “Get into your places; how many times do you expect me to tell you?  Back out of that place, you belong over there.  Your calf is all right, get back here!  I’ll tan your hide.  Get your head into that stanchion; you’re the dumbest cow I ever owned; I’ll sell you to the first dealer who comes along.”  (Now and then a few unprintable expletives were also heard.)  Then all would be quiet and we’d know the brush and curry comb were busy.  Then the cows were sprayed to protect them from the flies, their bags wiped off, the milking started, and peace and quiet would reign, although broken now and then when some brave cow flipped her tail and hit Father in the face.  Then the explosion, “Keep that tail quiet.  I’ll fix you!”, and he would tie the end of her tail to her leg and all would be serene again.

Grandfather Catlin, a calm, steady man, used to say to Mother, “I’d think that all that noise would make the cows so nervous they wouldn’t give their milk.”  Mother’s reply was, “They expect it now and like it, I think, and it gives Ed a chance to cool off when he is tense and tired at day’s end.”  And so it seemed, his cows thrived and were rated high in milk and cream production.

Cats and hens weren’t given the loud voice training; cats could do no wrong in Father’s mind, and he usually had about six in the barn to pet and feed and find homes for their numerous offspring.  He kept the feed mill supplied with good mousers for years.  Father was as quiet around the hen house as he could be, and we never knew why.  Mother’s explanation: he had used up all his energy on the cows.

Winter Evenings
How cozy we were on those cold winter evenings; Father liked to be warm and could build the best fires of anyone I knew.  He had a fine large woodpile each year and we enjoyed basking in the warmth it provided.  Some evenings Mother would make chocolate fudge or penuche for us, or best of all, old-fashioned molasses candy just full of butternut halves.  Yummy!  We always had several barrels of apples, and an apple, cold and juicy from the cellar made a wonderful bedtime snack.  The games we played I’ve mentioned, but let me tell you a few of the stories of their own experiences that we loved to have Father and Mother tell.

Sterling, Illinois
When Father was 18 months old, his mother took him and went to Sterling, Illinois to join Grandfather, who had been out there three months building a house for them and finding work.  The then called “west” was just in the height of ‘growing pains”, and carpenters were in demand with work for them the year round.  This was a fine opportunity for Grandfather, and he was anxious to settle.  Grandmother was about 18, a small woman, and very timid.  She had a dreadful journey out alone with Father not yet 2 years old.  She crossed New York State by the Erie Canal and then went by boat on the Great Lakes.  She was so glad to see Grandfather after her long journey, but her peace of mind was soon shattered by seeing several Indians near their home.  They frightened her even when assured that they were friendly.

One day a neighbor saw her running towards her with the new baby in her arms and dragging Father along by his hand.  She could just gasp “Indians” when she reached the safety of her friend’s kitchen.  Grandmother finally said that eight Indians had just opened her door, entered, and sat down on the floor by the fireplace.  The friend persuaded her to return with her to her home, for the Indians were making a friendly call and would stay until they were fed.  The neighbor helped cook a big meal and serve the “guests”, who eagerly ate everything, then without a word got up and left.  Grandmother never felt safe with Indians about, and, after two years of misery, persuaded Grandfather to return to Connecticut.

Father’s most exciting experience came on a Halloween when he was about 16.  He, with five other boys were looking for mischief when they saw a young man hitch his horse and go inside a nearby home to call on his best girl.  Quickly and quietly they unhitched the horse from the carriage and rolled it to a barn not far away.  They removed the wheels and shafts, and then with ropes, they hauled the shafts and body to a position astride the ridge boards and replaced the shafts.  Father was left holding them in position while the others returned to bring up the wheels.

Just then dogs began to bark, and men appeared to see what Halloween pranksters were doing.  The boys and wheels disappeared from Father’s sight in the nearby woods, leaving Father to face the music alone.  Not wanting to let the wagon fall and be demolished, Father held on, getting more and more angry.  He had, for once, to keep quiet and hope the men wouldn’t see him.  In a few minutes the bells began to ring in the church across the way.  The men returned to the house thinking that was the cause for the dogs to bark.  Father sighed with relief as the boys returned, fastened the wheels on the carriage and left for home.  Thinking back, Father thought that they had had enough Halloween fun, hadn’t been caught, and wouldn’t press their luck.

Mother’s older sister, Josephine, was very nervous even as a child.  One day she, then a girl of 10, and Mother, only 4, were sent to the garden on top of the hill to cut a cabbage for dinner.  They ran most of the way and when Aunt Josie bent over to cut the cabbage, she was puffing.  All at once she dropped the long knife and ran for home, calling for her mother.  Mother picked up the cabbage with one hand and the knife in the other and started for home.  Her mother told her later that Aunt Josie yelled, “I’m dead!  I’m dead!  My heart is heating!”  She was scolded for frightening her mother and told she was a pretty lively corpse.  Grandma Catlin always laughed at the memory of Mother coming down that hill with the long knife and big cabbage

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