The Diary of Lizzie Dopps

 

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Chapter  VIII
THE STORK AND DEATH HOVER OVER THE PRAIRIE HOME

 

In the second spring of our pioneer life our Gracie* was born,  There were no doctors there in that new country, but when a child was born, the other women from round about came to help and we usually got along very well.

Our Gracie was a little darling with very dark blue eyes and almost black curls.  She was quite a serious-minded child and a very orderly little thing,

Time passed and about eighteen months later our little Jennie came to our home.  Her advent was heralded with mixed emotions, happiness, anxiety and danger.

This time it was not only the expectant mother that faced danger and death.  It was the father as well, Eli very nearly drowned going for help for me.  It was this way.

Late in the afternoon I knew my hour was approaching and Eli went after Ellen.

A heavy rainstorm was coming up and when it did rain on this Kansas prairie land, it rained to make up for lost time.

After Ellen arrived, Eli went to bring Mrs. Williams who lived across the Prairie Dog from us.

Ordinarily a team of horses and wagon could easily ford this creek, but there had been a cloud-burst a few miles from us, and this mild little stream had grown to the proportions of a roaring river.  Nevertheless, Eli plunged in with the team and wagon.  He landed safely on the other side, but realized the danger he had passed.

Mrs. Williams met him at the door and he said, "Mrs. Williams, my wife needs you and Ive come for your help, but the Prairie Dog has risen out of its banks.  The crossing is dangerous so Ill not ask you to go back with me.

She was not a young woman and so replied, "No, I'm afraid to go across that water, and fortunate it was that she was not on that return trip.

Dangerous or not, Eli knew he must return.  After urging his horses in the water (all his animals, even to the cat and dog, had confidence in him and would do his bidding) they were soon struggling to keep adrift and it seemed they were fighting a current.  They were swimming and the wagon was pulling them downstream between high banks,

If they could only hold out until the banks were not so steep!  But their strength was ebbing.  One of the horses was not much more than a colt and he was getting panicky, barely keeping his head above water, and leaving the other horse to do all the pulling, including the weight of the frightened horse.

At last they were out of the rapid current and were nearing the other side, but the bank was far too steep for them to effect a landing.  Would those banks never flatten out!

There was not much time to think of anything except those raging waters and the struggling team, but there were moments when came the thought of his sick wife and the baby that was coming.  He would never see them!  'No!  He must not even think of that!

He couldn't leap out and swim for shore and leave that poor struggling team to drown when he had driven them into this peril.  That was unthinkable.  Even if he were selfish and heartless enough to do this, it would do no good to try, as he could not scale that slippery perpendicular bank.

At last the bank seemed not so steep and soon the poor team was able to pull themselves and the wagon out of the water up onto the home side.

In the meantime, over our little home the stork was hovering, ready to alight.  Darkness had come and the candle lighted.  Ellen and I were awaiting the help we were hoping for, little knowing of the peril that Eli was in.

Time was passing and Ellen went out to the other room to fix the bed as we had planned for the occasion.  Suddenly, I knew the moment had arrived, and I cried out, "Ellen, come quick!"

In her hurry and the excitement of the moment,  she snatched up the candle so swiftly the flame went out and all was darkness.

Ellen knew my house as well as I did, knew where I kept everything, but in her excitement became bewildered and cried out, "Oh, where are the matches?"

I was beyond helping her, but she found the matches, re-lighted the candle, and all went on as it should.  Our little Jennie arrived.  

By this time it was raining in torrents and the sod roof began to leak.  They had to move my bed and put a tub down to catch the water.

Before my confinement, I had arranged our little home as tidy and neat as could be, had a nice new rag carpet and all looked very cozy.

But when things began to happen and it started to rain so hard and the roof began to leak, they were at that time too busy attending to me to pay much attention to the havoc the storm had wrought.

Alas, my new rag carpet was ruined!  The rain seeping through the sod roof, of course had formed mud, and my carpet was a sight to behold!  Eli said, "We'll fix that up alright.  I'll stake it out in the creek and the water rushing through it will wash it nice and clean.

He carefully staked it out, but those were busy days, what with the new baby and Gracie only a year and a half old.  We tried to hire help but it was impossible to find anyone, so Ellen came every day to help out and do what she could.

When we went to get the carpet it was gone, washed away, I suppose.  It probably never reached the ocean---too many hundreds of miles--but I never saw it again.  The old Prairie Dog tried to get my husband and failed, but it did get my carpet.  Well, I should worry about that!

God had been good to us.  We had our darling baby, I was getting along fine, and Eli had been saved from a watery grave, so why grieve about a rag carpet!

My days were certainly full now with two babies and duties on a homestead claim.

Jennie was about three months old when harvest time came and I had to cook for the harvest hands.  When the threshers arrived I had fifteen to cook for, dinner and supper, but of course, the threshers were there only for a few days.

One hot day after dinner was over but the dishes still to be washed, something went wrong with Gracie and she began to cry, although this was unusual for her.  Then baby Jennie began to cry.  This was too much for me, so I began to cry.

Eli came in from milking and found all three of us wailing.  He set the milk pail down and putting his arms around me, said, "Well, what is the matter, Lizzie?  I know.  You are just tired out and there is one thing certain sure--we will never have two babies at one time again."

He was always like that, kind and considerate and kept my courage up.

The children grew and thrived and were such companions for each other in their play, since there was so little difference in their ages.  It was sweet to watch them when one had time, but really time was as scarce as hen's teeth.

There were heartaches as well as gallantry and high courage. It was about this time that Dave's and Ellen's little Maud came and their darling little Etta took angel's wings and flew away.  

*According to her tombstone in the Norton Cemetery, Gracie was born in 1874, and died 15 April 1877.

*According to her tombstone in the Norton Cemetery, Maud Close was born in 1873, and died 08 June 1888.

 

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  2006 Laurie Arnold.  All material presented herein was transcribed or otherwise provided by Laurie Arnold from the unpublished text of the diary, family photos and personal genealogy.  She and her family have graciously given permission for the diary to be posted to the Norton County Kansas GenWeb website, for the benefit of others who had pioneer families in Norton County, Kansas. This diary, photos and personal genealogy may not be reproduced, published or re-published for any reason, in any format, without prior written consent of the contributors or copyright holders.  web design 2006 Ardie Grimes