Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

Spring Meant Hated Dose/Children Ducked From Spoon

Tri-City Pioneer
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, 11 March 1962

Seventy years ago, now, in this Tri-City area the pioneer mothers would be starting to look up their suppliers of sulphur and New Orleans molasses. February has passed. March has arrived. March was always remembered by the pioneer children as the time when their scratchy woolen underwear would soon be replaced by the more comfortable soft Canton flannel. This pleasure was somewhat lessened by the children’s remembrance that March was also the month that mother brought out the distasteful concoction of sulphur and New Orleans molasses. The children gulped just thinking about it. How that cussed stuff stuck to the roofs of their mouths and the gritty, stinking sulphur seemed as though they were chewing sand that might not be too clean! When they swallowed it they were not always too sure that it would stay put.

The mothers those days did not know about the tastebuds of their little darlings. But they did have an idea what the results would be if they were successful in getting some of their concoction into the stomachs of their young offspring.

The pioneers had to he realistical — they judged anything they used by the general results they obtained from its use.

I can still vividly remember my mother searching the kitchen drawers to find the old 1847 Rogers Bros. silver plated teaspoon that the concoction has turned a greenish blue and which she used each year to ladel it out. We children knew what was in the offing and the course we were to be put through.

Sassafras tea with its pungent flavor would be substituted for our morning glass of milk. The breakfast oatmeal porridge would give way to a thin gruel of white cornmeal. Fried pancakes with bacon, eggs and potatoes would cease for a while. This spring body cleansing diet and treatment was supposed to thin and purify the blood, open the pores of the skin, clean out the intestinal tract and in general tone up the entire physical system. It generally brought good physical effects. Everyone seemed to feel better when it had been finished.

We children were always happy when the treatment had run its course and we would no longer see the old tarnished teaspoon held upright by the yellow gob that the thick-lipped old white coffee cup contained.

The children’s next ordeal was the shedding of their warm-winter clothes to meet the lessening needs of spring’s warmer weather. It was too bad that the children’s mothers could not use curry combs and brushes on them like the fathers used on the horses.

There seemed to be no easy short cut to the pioneer mothers changing duties. The words housewife and housework contain the most numerous catagories of duties and responsibilities of perhaps any two other words in the English dictionary. With the completion of the sulphur-and-molasses treatment, spring would arrive the 22nd of March and winter would be over for another year:

The buds of the trees will swell and break
The birds of spring their nests will make
And the grass of the field will turn to green
As spring’s first flowers in their beauty are seen.

Bright new leaves will clothe each barren twig
To make a canopy both high and big
And spring showers will wash the dust away
That all may sparkle in the sun’s returning ray. B.O.L.—’62

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