(Author notes: Donald was another postal community on Mona Road in Wyoming. Its name came from the McDonald family who had a ranch there. Mae was related to this family. Many of the dances she mentions were held in their barn. Church services, weddings, baptisms and other community activities were also held there. From Mae’s letters it is apparent her family must have had a place there. Besides wintering there she often mentions her father off farming the property in Donald.)
October 1, 1913
October has come, every day I see more wild geese flying south. Papa had hoped to find a job and a place for us to live in Belle Fourche, but he had no luck, so we are staying put for the winter. I’d prefer to be in Belle Fourche or even Aladdin. We wouldn’t have to work so hard to stay warm or enjoy the company of others.
So far though we have been blessed with pleasant weather. After that freak snow two weeks ago I thought we were going straight to winter and skipping fall. I intend to enjoy this nice Indian summer while it lasts.
October 20th, 1913
I am afraid I’ve been very lax in writing in you. Mama and I have been busy with the last of the canning, shelling of beans and turning a bumper crop of cabbage into kraut. We are going to move to Donald at the end of November or maybe even wait until December. My it will be a chore to haul all our food stuffs there. But Papa got the mail delivery route and must go into Aladdin each morning to pick it up. It’s just too cold for him to travel from here. Being in Donald cuts off at least 5 miles for him.
November 1, 1913
I haven’t been writing very regularly with all the chores to be done. Besides helping Mama with all the preserving to do for winter I have been helping Grandma Lavina too. So much to do to get ready for winter. But helping Grandma is kind of fun because while we are working she tells me stories from her youth in Iowa and let me tell you she is quite the storyteller.
All her stories start the same though. I was born in Boone county, Indiana in 1856. My mama was Mariah Hull and my Daddy Jonathan Harden. My Mama’s family came to Indiana from Tennessee, but they were really Pennsylvania Dutch which means they came from Germany long ago. Only after she tells that part does she launch into the real story. Yesterday’s was about a white mountain lion that roamed around Tama county, Iowa one year when they lived there. I guess Grandpa’s grandmother, Phebe Fowler came face to face with him one day. Thank goodness she lived to tell the tale. She also told another one about a couple who had just gotten married and got caught in a blizzard and froze to death so close to their cabin. She never forgot how the searchers brought their frozen bodies to her family’s cabin when they found them. How awful, made me about cry. No wonder she worries so, about us getting caught in a winter storm.
Her telling me about Grandpa’s Mother, last time I was here, got me to wondering about hers.
Many a time I had heard about how her father Jonathan had come here to the Black Hills in search of gold in the late 1870’s. Like Grandpa’s family in California he didn’t have much luck, so he took up a homestead here instead and that’s why we eventually came here too.
She had never mentioned her mother, so I asked about her. I was sort of sorry I had because she told me she was only 9 when she died and didn’t remember her to well. I guess it was great aunt Sarah who took care of her and her brother a lot after that. And she was real glad when she came homestead here a few years ago. I like her a lot so I’m glad she came, too.
She said her father married again and so she had 4 half siblings. I gather she wasn’t too fond of her stepmother though. I think maybe her and Great Grandpa weren’t too fond of each either because she never did follow him to Wyoming.
Papa and Grandpa have been very busy mending fences and winterizing the outbuildings. Papa has set Daniel and Hazel to chinking in all the holes they might find in all our buildings.
November 3, 1913
I have spent the past two days in between my normal chores of milking the cow, washing up the breakfast dishes and that infernal cream separator and helping Mama get all our seeds for next year’s garden categorized and safely stored. I never realized as a child just how much work went into assuring we had what was needed to survive the winter and assuring crops for the next year.
My writing was just interrupted by the best of news, a letter from Roy. And better yet he says he expects to arrive for his visit here sometime in December after logging closes. I don’t know how I am going to last waiting so long.