During the dark, cool days this week, the mind wandered back to the canyons of home in order to dispel dreary thoughts and to recall how we entertained ourselves without benefit of television, radio, or any electronic games.
Although my brother was eight years older than I, he didn’t seem to mind having a little sister around in those days because we were the only children in our house in the canyon. He had the patience to teach me some of the simple board games so we could entertain each other for hours in front of the little wood stove in our living room.
When we were fortunate enough to have apples on hand, he would hang some of them on strings in the doorway between the kitchen and living room, and we’d try to catch them with our teeth as they would swing back and forth. He’d either be on his knees, or I’d be standing on a chair so we could have a fairly equal chance to catch an apple as it swung in our direction. We’d get to take one bite before starting the action again and would finish that game when little remained but the cores.
In the late afternoon, Mother would find the time to make that wonderful, old-fashioned fudge and would let us like the pan while we waited for the fudge to harden. She always left plenty so we could have a battle with our spoons while savoring the sweet chocolate. Sometimes, she would begin popping corn before the candy was ready, and we’d stand beside her while listening to the noise it made in the skillet as she moved it back and forth across the hot cook stove.
We’d then retire to the living room again with a little bowl of popcorn and a few pieces of fudge to feast on while talking so happily to each other and trying to see who could tell the tallest story. I might not have been good at doing much of anything else, but I could tell wild stories almost from the time I could talk and could win at that while losing at even the simplest board game. Because I had imaginary friends then, I would report on their latest activities and create a lot of laughter. My brother would then take over to tell ghost stories in order to try to scare me silly and often succeeded in scaring himself as much as he frightened us. As a result, we might even have to go with him to help with the chores before Dad came home. I sort of think he did that on purpose so we would help too.
We’d clamber up hill to the spring and dash back with buckets of water and then would go to the corral to help him with the milking. Sometimes, Mother would let us finish that chore so she could begin cooking supper.
By the time the chores were finished, Dad would usually appear and would sit at the kitchen table telling us about his day’s activities while we watched Mother finish cooking a pan of cornbread to go with a big pot of beans. We’d eat by lamplight, and then Mother would decide we might have time for her to make some taffy so we could pull it before returning to the living room. She could cool that taffy to the pulling stage fairly rapidly by placing it in a snowbank for a few minutes, and then the fun would start. We’d all slather our hands with a lot of butter to keep the taffy from sticking and burning as we pulled it as rapidly as possible. By the time we struggled with the last really tough pull, Mother would snip the rope of taffy into small pieces and let it continue to cool for a while longer although each of us had one piece to chew on as we headed for the living room.
We’d then settle around the stove while Mother would read another chapter of whatever book she had been reading to us the night before. We’d eat more taffy and listen with excitement as Lassiter was loping through The Riders of the Purple Sage, and just at the most crucial moment, Mother would decide she couldn’t read another word until the next night. What might have been a dark, dreary day outside had been a warm, caring one in that little house in the canyons.