Sod and Stubble: The Story of a Kansas Homestead

By John Ise | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIII
Henry Buys a Windmill, and Sells Some Cattle

T HE winter of eighteen eighty-seven and eighty-eight was a cruel winter -- the winter after May was born -- thirty below zero in January. Some of the neighbors lost cattle from cold and starvation, but Henry had good shelter, and enough feed to keep his livestock in fair condition. Night after night, Rosie and the children had to catch the chickens that roosted in the trees and throw them into the chicken coop. Every night Rosie carried live coals into the cellar to prevent the vegetables from freezing, and put hot bricks in the children's beds. In March there was enough pleasant weather to tempt the box elder leaves out, and to bring birds back from the south. Then, on March the nineteenth, a raging blizzard rode in from the north; and when spring finally came, the children found quails, robins, snow birds and meadow larks frozen to death along the hedge rows.

The interest on the mortgage ran on, and there was no money to pay on the principal that year. Henry often thought of a bit of doggerel that was widely printed at the time:

A chattel mortgage in the West
Is like a cancer on your breast.
It slowly takes your life away,
And eats your vitals day by day.

A cloud by day, a fire by night,
It keeps him in a dreadful plight;
And haunts him in his dreams and sleep,
While salt tears trickle down his cheek.

-194-

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