The Rutabaga Patch
A collection of heart-warming true stories gleaned from a lifetime spent in rural Western Washington State. Told in Narrative Rhyme, stories such as Milking The Cows, Cousin Dick and the River's Peril, The Day We Rang the Bell and more will entertain both young and old.
RUTABAGA PATCH INTRODUCTION
Poetry of one form or another was introduced to me beginning with the nursery rhymes of Mother Goose, which my Mother read to me as a babe learning to talk and sing. I received A Child’s Garden of Verses, the classic book of poetry for children, as a present from my aunt Mary Easter when I was about five years old. My Grandmother, Laura Jane Easter, also wrote and read me poetry, I wrote my first real poem at four years of age, which my Mother still has. It reads:
I am a little spam.
They cook me in a pan.
And when I’m done they take me out
And eat me like a man.
A sophomore poetry class taught by Mr. John Terry at Montesano High School revitalized my interest and introduced me to the many forms of rhymes, structured meters, and sonnets in particular.
I credit my Mother with instilling a passionate desire to learn at a very early age. I could recite many nursery rhymes before the age of two, at 29 months stood on a table, and sang my first solo at my Mother’s home-making club. I later reported to my Daddy, “all the ladies patty-caked!” My Father and Mother loved music and spent many evenings around the living room fireplace with Mother playing the piano and Dad playing the guitar on our dairy farm in the upper Wynooche Valley where we spent fourteen happy years. My brother Randy, who was eighteen months younger, and I learned many songs there. I also took piano lessons for two school years in the fourth and fifth grades. My Mother continued to teach and encourage me all through my elementary and high school years. I was Valedictorian of my graduating class at Montesano High School, and was given the Outstanding Musician Award.
Through the years I have continued to write poetry, as well as many songs; lyrics and music. Some of the songs have been published.
Those boyhood days on that farm sixteen miles from Montesano were filled with work and play, in that order. Milking, feeding, and cleaning of our cattle was all done by hand. Two workhorses pulled the plow, disc, mower, rake, manure spreader, and wagon; all used in the farm operation. The hay was harvested “loose” with pitchforks; no bales. The silo was filled by chopping and blowing grass into it. House and barn water was piped across the Wynooche River from a meager spring on a hill in the woods by gravity. Having no electric power lines there, we had an old Delco gas light plant that produced eight-volt power for a few light bulbs and wringer washer. We had a wood fireplace, wood heat stove and wood cook stove. No refrigerator. A party-line hand crank telephone with twenty-five or thirty families on the line came in mighty handy, but conversation privacy was unknown. The Aberdeen Daily World and the Seattle PI, delivered only one day late, kept us up to date, along with an old Sears Silvertone radio. We also regularly received the Washington Farmer, Parents magazine, Life magazine and the Saturday Evening Post.
Mr. Cuzama Alexandria Lukivinikov was our “old” Russian neighbor (in his seventies) who lived and farmed across the road. After leaving Siberia and immigrating to the United States he shortened his name to Cuzama Lukin. An amazingly stout and durable little man, just a bit over five feet tall, speaking poor English, he was a constant source of entertainment for our family, though he was very serious about everything. He and his family were excellent neighbors. He became a legend in our little neighborhood and lived well into his nineties.
Many of the following true stories have “Cousin Dick” in them. He was two years older than I and lived in the “big” city of Aberdeen, Washington. He lived for the days he could work and play on our farm. His real name is Richard Easter. He had much curiosity and a propensity for getting into situations he shouldn’t. Some years we spent a week together on our Grandpa and Granma’s farm near Porter, Washington in a community called Sharon. Primitive conditions there included a two-holer outhouse, candles and lanterns, a hand water pump in the yard and a 1916 Model T Ford to play with, along with all the other similar inconveniences found at our Wynooche Farm. Our Grandma, Laura Jane (Ridings) Easter, was a wonderful woman, born at Sharon in 1878, who raised nine children there and knew many hardships. She knew how to handle boys. Some of the stories took place there. My Grandpa, Richard Higgins Easter, was a colorful character who came from Missouri by covered wagon at the age of 14 years. He was a hard worker and an inventor, who could make productive things out of very little.
Randy and I also spent many fun hours swimming, fishing, camping and playing ball with our cousin, Karl Valentine, who lived about three miles up the valley. My brother, Mark Valentine, who was born eleven years after me, was too young to participate in our escapades but was a joy to have in our home.
When I was fourteen years old, my parents moved down the valley to a farm four miles from Montesano where we dairied until I left home at seventeen.
In 1961 my Father bought his cousin Howard F. Valentine’s farm along the freeway just west of Montesano, Washington. It had been in the Valentine family since the early 1900’s. My parents retired there a few years later. I would stop by to see them as often as I could. If they were gone I would go in and “make myself at home”, which included eating anything I could locate that sounded good if I was hungry. I started leaving them little notes on my business card, or on any piece of paper I could find. To make it more interesting, I would compose a quick little rhyme, which they really enjoyed when finding it upon their return. My Mother carefully kept each one. After fifteen to twenty years, she had quite a collection, which she showed me one day. It inspired me to write more.
In the 1980’s I had the idea of making Christmas or birthday cards for Dad or Mom instead of buying them some little present they didn’t need. They seemed to like the gift of my time and talent much more than something I’d bought. The verses on the cards recalled good times and situations that were pleasant memories for us all. And, since there were no picture records, I would draw the pictures indelibly imprinted in my mind’s eye to further illustrate the happening. Mother, of course, kept all of these cards.
I soon realized that my family and friends enjoyed the spirit, humor, and the biographical and historical content of this narrative poetry. They have continued to encourage me to make it available to others who may enjoy it and relate it to experiences in their own lives.
The following true tales are as accurate as I can remember. Much of the vernacular used is the way wagon train people from Missouri spoke including unusual phrases describing some person, place, or situation. I could find no artist to illustrate these happenings and times because there were no outside witnesses. Cameras and black and white film were scarce so there were few pictures. I have done all the pencil sketches, drawing from memory the images of things as they were then. The names of the people and places have not been changed. These are real people in real places.