Frosting

Last night brought us the year’s first dusting of snow – barely more than frost, really, about a quarter inch frosting the rooftops, ground, and cars with sparkly whiteness. As much as I hate the cold, I have to admit that snow does make everything look prettier, and more serene.

* * * * *

It’s been a trying couple of days. Fuzzy’s father is intractable about so many things. We keep reminding him the house has to be empty by 11/3, but that the outbuildings have more time; he keeps diving into the garage, the barn, the chicken coop, the brooder’s house, to pull out things he wants the auctioneer to see.

Monday morning, Fuzzy took me on a walking tour of the property, and identified all these buildings, none of which house animals anymore, just mounds and mounds of the kind of crap a midwestern farmer who lived through the depression considers to be “useful someday.”

An example:

HENRY (6’9″, 76 years old, my father-in-law): There’s a refrigerator out in the old hog barn that works good, just needs a new switch, and those are in a box in the chicken coop.

BILL(6’5″, 44, paunchy, my brother-in-law): If it needs a switch than it doesn’t ‘work good,’ does it, Dad?

HENRY: Well, but someone might need it as an extra. We could take it with us and fix it and sell it in Sioux Falls.

BILL: Dad, we discussed this. We’re not bringing any appliances, you’re buying new things for the new house. You and Mom like new things and it’s time to have them. You’re going to be living in town, and you might get company.

HENRY: Your mother won’t want company.

BILL: Dad…we need to concentrate on the house. We need to have everything out of it by the end of the weekend.

HENRY: Well your mother is already sanding the bed set up in your sister’s room, she thinks it’s worth money.

It went on in the same vein, and Fuzzy’s having similar conversations, though he isn’t quite as forceful as Bill can be – symptom of being the youngest, and not living close by, and such.

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We took a field trip to DeSmet, SD yesterday morning to tour the Laura Ingalls Wilder houses. The first is the old Surveyor’s House, mentioned in By the Shores of Silver Lake, which is always smaller than I expect, and yet, Laura considered it a mansion, and until she was married, it was the largest house she ever lived in. It’s a lean-to (like a mud-room), a main room, a bedroom, and a pantry, and then a sleeping loft upstairs. The tour guide takes you on a brief history of how old Laura was when she lived in each place, goes over the timeline, then explains several events from the books.

– She showed us the quality of the wheat that Ma milled in the coffee grinder during The Long Winter
– She explained the corner “whatnot shelf” and showed us the china sheperdess, and then explained that Ma always had a red and white tablecloth, and used a scrap of red fabric to color the kerosene in lamps – to brighten the home.
– She told us where things were in relation to other things, and reminded us that at one point 15 men slept on the floor of the house (for $0.25 each) in the region’s first (unofficial) bed and breakfast.

We had the opportunity to poke about, a bit. On the floor of the lean-to there’s a square marked in blue, to illustrate WHY Laura thought this house was big: a 10×8 square – the usual size of a claim shanty. And then, extended, a 14×8 square, the size of the claim shanty Pa actually built out on the prairie. 14×8, btw, is smaller than most modern master bedrooms – just the bedroom part – and in that space was a cookstove, Pa and Ma’s bed, table and chairs for six, and Ma’s rocker. There couldn’t have been much room to walk.

After the Surveyor’s House, we followed the guide to the Ingalls Home, where Pa and Ma lived out their lives. Laura never wrote about it, because she never lived in it, but it started as a two room house, and ended up as a two story, five-bedroom home. The kitchen’s been turned into a museum, and that’s where many of the family’s items are – brushes, name cards, autograph books, the little glass boxes mentioned in the books, etc.

This house feels warm and cozy, but it’s jarring to see how severe they all looked. And then, Ma and Laura were my height (five feet), so everything is built for people that small, in terms of counter height and shelves and such.

* * * * *

We had lunch at Taco Johns, where Fuzzy handed me the Huron Tourist Guide, which I found to be entertaining, because of items like “game cleaning room” listed in the amenities of local hotels. Also, all the motels take dogs, and offer kennels for bird dogs, and there are several locals who run dude ranches for pheasant hunters.

(I just looked outside. Apparently it’s still snowing)

Last night was the first night the house was COLD, mainly because every other night Henry’s been feeding the wood stove, which heats the house. We were begging him to burn stuff, but he smiled and said, “Why would I stay up all night burning trash when I can just turn the furnace on for you?” So he did, and we opened the register in our room, but there’s no register in the bathroom, and let me tell you, cast iron gets REALLY DAMNED COLD. So does porcelain, for that matter.

* * * * *

I want a bunny. On our walk the other day, a large brown and caramel and white Jack Rabbit came out to say hello, and let me get really close before it decided we might be a threat after all. It was so fluffy, and sweet, and no, I don’t want to take a wild one home, but I want a bunny. (Fuzzy reminds me the dogs would eat a bunny. Zorro wouldn’t – the bunny we saw was bigger than he is – but Miss Cleo probably would.)

On a side note: The cows across the way? One of them has been mooing incessantly for DAYS. And NIGHTS. Cows should so be seen and not heard.

* * * * *

It’s nearly eight, and I’m going to curl up for another hour before leaving this toasty warm room for the arctic conditions of the hall and living room, and a shower (in the basement, where it’s warm). I’m hoping to venture out and snap pix of the snow before the sun comes out and it melts, but don’t hate me if it doesn’t happen.

(I have pictures of other things, but I don’t have enough signal to post them).

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Frosting by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

3 thoughts on “Frosting

  1. That’s a very interesting time you’re having, Melissa. It sounds like your FIL is definitely having trouble adjusting to the change in housing. I hope your husband and his brother are able to get everything done in time.

    I was fascinated with your statements about the sizes of the claim shacks. I had no idea they lived in places that small. I’ve seen some colonial houses so I guess I should have known… but I never put the pieces together in my head.

  2. Good luck with your FiL. It sounds like me with my mom when we were cleaning out my grandmother’s house, but yours is on a grander scale (my grandmother just had the one small house).

    I have a friend in AZ who works at a rabbit rescue — finding homes for bunnies that have been abandoned by their owners, that sort of thing. She rescues quite a few of them on her own.

  3. WOW! I loved the LIW books growing up, So I’m jealous of the ‘sightseeing’. I think my frame of mind on giving up things is similar to your FIL. Although I *DID* take an old monitor & keyboard to a city wide recycling thingie this morning.

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