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home : features : features August 28, 2014

6/19/2013 6:00:00 PM
Book details the life of a pioneer family
Rosita Smith

BLYTHE - Winona Ruth Gunther has penned a delightful book of memories of her childhood growing up on a 250-acre farm in Indiana located between the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers, approximately 20 miles northeast of their confluence near Lafayette and Battleground (formerly known as Prophet's town.)

In 1812 her great grandfather, Scotch John Anderson, emigrated from Scotland, settling near friends in Ohio. In March of 1812 he bought from the US. government 160 acres for the princely sum of $2 per acre.

Anderson was a "Seceder", stern, God-fearing people who had seceded from the United Presbyterian church. Seceders were opposed to the practice of slavery, intoxication, profanity, games of chance, dancing and secret societies.

In 1834, Scotch Anderson moved, taking his family into the dense forest of Carroll County, Ind., chosen for the proximity of an Associate Presbyterian Church. And there he built the family home that would be handed down among generations to come. This is the house that Ruth grew up in; the house of her young memories that she shares with the reader in Papa Said.

Ruth's father, the Reverend John Hance Alderdice Anderson, was also a veterinarian, administering to beast and man alike.

Ruth was the fourth child in a family that eventually expanded to include 12 siblings. She shares some of her childhood memories with the reader, memories that today seem really old fashioned - and a lot of hard work.

Weekly washday was an all-day task held outside with lots of wood to heat the water that washed the clothes; sagging lines to hang the wet laundry and an elaborate ritual to iron the freshly laundered garments.

Soap was required to clean the garments and attack any unyielding spots, and, as you may have guessed, they made their own lye soap that kept everything clean, another task that took stacks of wood to make the fire, a good day of continuingly stirring the hot fat, and large drying trays to cool the concoction until it was hard enough to cut.

Nothing was wasted. The fat used could come from butchered cows or sheep or chickens, as well as other cooking fat.

Ruth's memories in Papa Said takes place between fall of 1919 and 1925 when the U.S. was still very much a self-sufficient farm society. Fall was butchering time when the farmers would slaughter some of their farm animals and preserve the meat for winter food. Everything was used, right down to the hoofs of each animal, a process that took about a week to do in totality. Add in the vegetables and fruits that were canned for winter consumption and you had a lot of hot work over hot fires to assure yourself that there was enough food to last a family of a dozen kids through the winter.

Reading Ruth's step-by-step narrative is a real eye-opener of the processes that our pioneer ancestors went through just to meet the necessities of life. Against that background, we are really spoiled today!

Papa Said is currently circulating at the Palo Verde Valley Library. You can find it on the new non-fiction shelf under 920 GUNT. Papa Said is fast, fun, and informative reading of the life of a farming family some 90 years ago.

The Palo Verde Valley Library is at the corner of Broadway and Chanslorway in Blythe. Call 760-922-5371 for any library questions that you might have.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013
Article comment by: Winona Ruth Gunther

What a beautiful, well written article Rosita. Being the author of Papa Said, I am especially grateful. I am leaving July 19 for Indiana on a book signing tour in the area of the old Anderson Farm. They are rolling out the red carpet for me. Very exciting to be honored by your old home town. Thank you Rosita, I have so many wonderful memories of the four years my husband and I spent in Blythe with our two children.

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