BUCK AND BERRY WERE WATER BOYS
By Mrs. Thompson Lanphere
Excuse me while I adjust my thinking cap and stroll down memory’s lanes, while I recall and record some of my experiences as a pioneer child of York County.
Acting on the advice of our family physician, my father, J. D. Thompson, brought his family consisting of my mother, who was a semi-invalid at that time, my brother, S. J. Thompson, then three years of age, and myself to Nebraska from Henry county, Ohio, in November, 1877. When we arrived at Utica in the late afternoon of that November day we were met by my uncle with his best conveyance, which was a farm team and lumber wagon. The spring seat was placed on the floor of the wagon bed, as some protection against the biting chill of the late evening before we could reach my uncle’s home some seven miles from Utica. My father worried over the situation, for my mother’s lungs were considered bad, but she survived that and many other hardships, soon fully recovering her health. Of that Christmas I can not recall an incident, but on New Year’s day, 1878, the sun shone so brightly and the weather was so warm that my father and I played bare-headed beside the soddy – even sweating.
One of the scenes I shall never forget was that of my father driving our oxen, Buck and Berry, hitched to a makeshift sled or mud-boat to Lincoln Creek, to a spring to get water – a never failing supply unless the oxen ran away as they sometimes did. Father hauled the water in two barrels, which when full, kept their equilibrium very well, but gave some trouble when empty. On one occasion father started quite triumphantly, standing in one barrel, and with one hand holding on to the other, the other hand guiding the oxen. At the top of a steep hill something startled the team and they ran away rolling the barrel, full of father and the barrel full of buckets, all mixed together down the hill. No one hurt, but ho! the show for mother and we children.
The soddy was roofed with split trees laid from a ridge pole to the sod side-walls. Hay of the long prairie grass type was piled high on those timbers and sod laid over hay, making it almost rain-proof. My mother lined the roof with wool blankets tacked up to prevent bits of hay or tiny clods of dirt falling down on us in windy weather.
We had many scares from prairie fires coming too close for comfort, from bands of Indians going up or down Lincoln Creek, and epidemics without a doctor near.
My chief joys were following the furrow of the breaking plow, as father plowed; gathering wild flowers, of which there were many kinds in this locality – one a wild orchid, I’m sure, corn-yellow, honey sack, paler cream lips with dainty fringes of milky white – I can just see them yet, they were beautiful. Then the nests of prairie chickens, broken up from breaking the prairie sod; also, the baby quail and rabbits we used to capture and pet for awhile – such possessions and memories how precious! The B. & M. R. R. was as far as York when we came, I believe.