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Pioneer Girl - Ida Symington


Elaine Symington


When my grandma Symington was little they had to do a lotmore things harder than we have to do. When wash day came, they took thewashboard out and started washing the big pile of clothes. They scrubbedthem with a brush until they were clean. The people that were near a rivertook their wash board down to the river and scrubbed the clothes there.

Sometimes, through the years a peddler came around withher trunk. When she opened her trunk, she had it all in order. They allof the family would crowd around her to see the things she had. The trunkcontained things like: cloth, dishes, toothbrushes, clothes, and other things. When the family had bought what they wanted, she would repack her waresin order. If it was dark, she would stay at the farm house and sleep ina bed of straw for the night. In the morning, she would lift her trunkup on her back and start for another farmhouse. Sometimes the peddlerswould be able to hitch a ride with somebody.

In Grandma's early days, there were no faucets where youjust have to turn the tap and the water would run out. The people had todraw the water out of wells by means of a pulley which was there. Theywould have a rope and there would be a bucket on the end which was let downto get the water. When the bucket was full, they pulled it back up. Theythey hooked the pail from the rope. There they had their pail of water.

When Grandma went to school, they had no clocks so theyhad to rely on the sun to tell time. They had three marks on the floor,one for 9:00, 12:00 and 4:00. When the sun got to the first mark it was9:00. When the sun got to the second mark it was dinner time and when thesun got to the last mark, they knew it was time for dismissal

Grandma remembers how they made soap. They would saveall the fat off any animals they butchered. Nothing was wasted. Then theywould take the lye they made and mixed it with the fats from the animals. They would boil this in a pot over an open fire. Then in the morning,they would cut the mixture into square pieces of soap. The lye they neededin the soap was made by saving all the ashes and pouring water on them andthen what ran off was lye.

Grandma's first home was made of logs, not lumber. Thelogs had to be cut at the ends so they would fit right. The walls weremade first, then the roof. The men would then cut the logs in half to makethe floor. Sometimes there was a loft in the house where people slept.

When my Grandma was fourteen, she had to stop school andhelp her mother at home as there was a big family. In the following summer,she worked for a neighbor for a month. She earned $15 which she spent ona watch. The watch still runs and she bought it in 1905.

Grandma did housework and worked in the stone milk house. There were four shelves in this cool room and each milking was kept onseparate shelves in shallow pans. These had to be skimmed for the makingof butter, cheese and curds. Much work and time was required to take careof the utensils to keep them clean.

My Grandma's life was filled with hard work and sometimessorrows, but the joy of doing things for others and the thought of beingindependent kept them happy.


Symington, Ida, Neche, ND, Interview, February, 1974

>Symington, Ida, Neche, ND, Interview, February, 1974