A Rugged Land, A Rugged People
by Jon Roe – The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, January 25, 1981
Maud – like Henry – was proud of her accomplishments in the kitchen, the home and fields. And – like him – she made no real distinction between work and play. Short and stocky, she could unhitch a team of horses faster than Henry could. And her interest in reading and education matched his. But her greatest asset was her boundless energy.
Henry called her a “goer,” and she was on the go from morning to night. She doted on efficiency, getting the job done the fastest way possible. As a matter of fact, she met that goal in all her work – whether it be doing the wash, canning fruit or keeping the children entertained (by this time they were Wayne, Helen, George and Irene). At least three times a week, kids from surrounding farms were there to join in activities Maud planned and supervised. Flinch, checkers, picnics, ice skating, cookouts. And, of course, dinner.
Late at night, when they were too tired to do anything else, one of the kids – generally Wayne or Helen – would grin wickedly and ask her to tell them about when Dad proposed. That would start a family free for all, as Maud tried to talk, Henry held his hands over her mouth, and the kids tried to pull his hands away . . . until they all laughed themselves into a state of collapse.
It was the big green house decorated with African violets and nestled at the foot of the hill that was her pride and her domain. One reason it was the center of social life in the Matfield Green area was because Maud and Henry preferred being there to anywhere else.Even a short visit to a farm down the road would end with her saying to Henry, “Let’s go home.”
From memories of Irene Rogler Palenske:
The taste of new peas and little round potatoes creamed together and served with the first fried chicken and roasting ears lingers in my memory like a benediction. And homemade ice creaml No gourmet chef can ever match that.
It took one of us kids to sit on the gunny sack on top of the salty ice to hold the freezer down while daddy gave it the final turns. When it started to jump off the floor, kind of, and the handle just wouldn’t go around again the ice cream was done. Off came the sack and then the ice from on top of the lid. Next the lid was removed with extreme caution, so no dirty salt water would creep over the edge and spoil that smooth, creamy, vanilla flavor. A shout to mama brought her with her spatula to do her part. By careful scraping and pulling at the same time, the floppy ladle would come free still thick with ice cream. We kids all jumped around and begged her to leave just a little more than last time on the ladle and then whose ever turns it was, was handed the prize. On a hot day one had to lick fast and lean away over because little gobs of· the good stuff would slide off onto one’s clothes. It was hard to reach the center part of the ladle with one’s tongue and the cream always got all over one’s face but that was small price to pay for such a treat.
Now the hole in the lid was plugged up with waxed paper and clean crushed ice put on top of the can, and an old rug on top of that so the ice cream could really get hard before dinner. Then it was served in oatmeal dishes with big pieces of cake.
Saturday was churning day and I liked to see the little drops of buttermilk ooze out on top of the yellow butter as mama worked it in the big wooden bowl with a curved wooden paddle. Then it was my job to use the same wooden bowl to cream the sugar and butter for the Sunday cake. The inevitable Sunday cake.
The Sunday cake, and a lot of other food for that matter, was a necessity. They were prepared with the experienced expectancy of a houseful of hungry relatives or friends or both before that day would be over.
If they arrived before noon we sat at the big dining room table for mama’s hot fried chicken, mashed potatoes and cream gravy dinner. If they arrived in the afternoon they “had to stay” for a paper plate supper of cold fried chicken and sandwiches which we generally ate on the front porch complete with flies and good fellowship.