Stories of their parents continue

One afternoon when Mother was about 5, she went across the road to their old-fashioned plum tree and filled her pinafore with delicious plums.  As she was climbing the fence on her return, she looked up the road and there, not far from her, was a man walking toward her leading a big bear on a chain.  Mother was frightened; she dropped her plums, ran for the house shouting to her sister, “Lock the doors, a bear is coming!”  Then up the stairs she ran and crawled under her mother’s bed and hardly dared breathe.  She stayed there a long time – once hearing Josephine calling her to come down, but Mother didn’t move from her hiding place.

At last, when it began to get dark, Mother went cautiously down stairs to hear what she had missed.  Her sister had given the man a few pennies and the bear had done tricks for her and danced with a broom.  After her mother explained that the man earned his living with his performing bear, Mother wished she hadn’t been in such a hurry to hide.

Grandma Catlin was a practical nurse, and when away from home after Aunt Josie married, Mother had charge of things.  Wishing to be real helpful one such time, Mother did the family washing and ironing.  John Ransom boarded with the family and, of course, she did his laundry too.  Sunday evening, after dressing to call on his ‘lady fair”, John came down stairs pulling at his trousers and wriggling about.  Finally he said to Mother very seriously, “Pears to me this shirt has considerable starch in it.”  And it had, for Mother had starched the shirt all over, not just the cuffs and shirt front as they did in those days.  The tails rattled with John’s every move and he thought Mother had done it on purpose as a joke.  Mother hadn’t, only thought she had done a good job.  The whole family teased Mother for a long time about that starched shirt.

Mother’s most frightening experience was her ride down Beech Hill with her school teacher, Miss Delia Wolcott.  Miss Wolcott lived in North Colebrook when she taught at Colebrook River and went home weekends.  One evening she invited Mother, a little girl of 8, to go with her and spend the time with her half sister, Ida Simons.  Mother’s half sister, Ida, had been adopted by the Simons family shortly after her mother died.

Mother had a pleasant weekend and she and Miss Wolcott started for Colebrook River early Monday morning.  The horse was quite frisky, but Miss Wolcott seemed to handle him well until they reached the steepest part of the hill.  Mother was on the ravine side and could see over the one-rail fence to the rocks far below in the brook.  She didn’t look again, as it was frightening.  Then the horse stopped and refused to go on.  Miss Wolcott had Mother climb over the back of the seat and sit on the floor of the carriage.  Mother realized then that the horse was getting ready to kick.  All at once he lunged ahead, running, then stopping to kick all the way down the hill.  Mother was never so frightened in her life.  When the horse reached more level ground, he stopped again.  This time Mother jumped out and scrambled to the top of the bank.  Nothing would induce her to get back into the carriage.  The horse reared and kicked about, but did not run.  Then Miss Wolcott got out and whipped the horse very hard about the front legs.  The kicking act was over and the horse seemed quiet enough, but Mother walked the mile or more to the schoolhouse and never again did she ride with Miss Wolcott.

Bees, Bees, Bees
We had two hives of honey bees under the crab apple trees not far from the clothes line, which Father had strung from pear tree to pear tree for Mother.  One morning Mother was hanging up the laundry to dry, when half a dozen bees began buzzing about her head.  She drove them off, all but one, by swinging a wet towel at them.  This one persisted, and she called for Father.  He ran down and with his straw sun hat beat off the bee, but not before it had stung Mother on an eyelid.  She was in great pain and her eyes, nose and one cheek puffed up.  Father finally found the bit of stinger left by the bee and pulled it out.  Mother applied baking soda and water.  It was 2 days before she looked natural again.  When Charles first saw her face, so puffed up, he burst into tears, crying that he wanted his own Momma back.

A few weeks later we were playing “horse” and Mother and Father were watching us in the front yard.  We had made spool-knit reins with colored twine and we were taking turns at being the driver and the horse.  It was my turn to be the driver, and I thought I needed a whip, so giving my reins to Mother to hold my “horse”, Ella, I ran across the road to break a whip from the bushes that grew there.  I was wearing open sandals on my feet, but no stockings.  Just as I broke the whip, I felt a lot of “hot needles” on my legs.  Giving a yell, I ran straight for Mother with a swarm of yellow jackets all around me.  Mother saw me coming and she, Ella and Charles ran for the back of the house.  Father came to help me using his hat, this time a felt one, he drove the yellow jackets off.  He always said my screams helped more than the hat, and didn’t see how the yellow jackets ever found a place to sting, as I didn’t stand still long enough for them to alight.

I was a wreck.  My legs, arms, hands, face, even the top of my head had been stung, and each place was swelling.  My nose, large enough as nature’s gift, was a sight.  My eyes were narrow slits.  Father said I looked like the loser in a prize fight.  They all had a good laugh every time they looked at me, but every one of them helped put on moistened baking soda to ease the pain.

“The sting to end all stings” came later when pears were getting ripe; not to one of us, but to Grandmother Seymour,.  She went out to the pear tree one afternoon in time to see a fine pear drop to the ground.  She thought she picked that one up, but she took another one, which had been there several hours.  It looked so inviting she took a bite and groaned with pain.  She had bitten on to a blue wasp, which had been hidden in a hole in the pear.  Her lip swelled up – her nose too.  She was a sight!  How sore it was, and as the pain kept up, they took her to Dr. Ward for treatment.  It took about three days before Grandmother was back to normal.

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