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By Norman Verl Stones, Dwight Nacaytuna
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2014 Norman Stones
All rights reserved.
I was born on a farm in a house that was built by my great grandfather about 1880. It was in north central Kansas just a few miles from the geographical center of the continental United States. Very soon after I was born, there was a loud noise that startled my aunt Ruby who was helping my mother. She thought I had fallen out of bed, but a book had been knocked off onto the floor. Some time later as I was being given a bath, my grandmother Mary Alice Francis Stones said, "Oh look at him stretch! He is going to be tall." I did reach six foot as an adult so she was right. These are stories that I was told over and over as I grew up.
The farm is 2 ½ miles west of Kansas State Route 281. The roads all run north and south or east and west and were dirt surfaced. After rains or melting snow they were slick and muddy and during dry weather dusty and bumpy. It is about 10 miles north to the small town of Red Cloud, Nebraska and about the same south to Lebanon, Kansas. There was no electricity or running water.
The house was built on a hill a hundred yards or so from the road. It had a covered back porch with a large hinged floor that had steps down into the cellar that had a dirt floor and walls. At the east end was a wall that had a door that led into the basement with a wood floor and walls. The east wall was limestone blocks about one foot thick and two feet long. A door and two windows looked out onto a porch of wood. Above the basement was the living room, two bedrooms and the front porch with a railing all the way around. The back porch led into the kitchen. There was a large pantry and a long storage room. The milk separator was in the pantry. The coal and wood fired (Majestic) cook stove was on the east side of the kitchen. On the end of the stove was the reservoir where water heated when the stove was hot. A wash stand was on the south wall where the water bucket sat with a dipper to get a drink or put water in the wash pan to wash up. Two cabinets and a round tale with chairs and a small table where the radio and batteries were placed completed the furnishings. We were one of the last families to get a radio. It was a Philco and a man came and ran an antenna from the house to the windmill so we would have good reception. High on the south wall 8-penny nails were located to hang coats. There were no closets in the house. Once, when a cousin was visiting, we were running back and forth from the kitchen to the living room. As I chased him he pushed the door and it bounced off of the clothes and swung half closed. I ran headlong into it and received a huge bump on my forehead.
Just east of the house was the pig-pen that was fenced and had several low buildings to protect the sows when they had baby pigs in early spring. There was a vee shaped trough to put in soaked corn to feed the hogs. Pigs are thought to be dirty. They head for the mud during hot weather to keep cool as they don't have the sweat glands like other animals. They have one area where they all go to the bathroom. Other animals and chickens go anywhere they happen to be
West of the house across a small draw was the chicken house with wood slats for the birds to roost on and boxes on the east end with straw where the hens laid their egg every day. On the west end was a two-hole shed for our bathroom. There were a couple of low buildings just to the south.
South of the house was the wind mill with a small milk house and two large water tanks for stock to drink from. The mill was manufactured by the Aermotor company. Another popular make was the Dempster company. It is fortunate that the wind blows almost all the time in Kansas as pumping by hand is very labor intensive. The well was about 50 feet deep and never ran dry even during the dust bowl years of the 1930s.
Beyond that was a granary building with an attached sloped roof addition that was used as a garage. On further south was the barn with east side being a place to shelter cattle in the winter. The west side had stalls with containers to hold hay and oats. There were also two small storage units for storing grain and the corn-sheller. Nails were on the wall to hang the harness for the horses. The upstairs or haymow was open for hay to be piled for winter when it snowed and the livestock could no longer graze. On further south was the garden when we raised potatoes, sweet corn, radishes, onions, tomatoes and other vegetables. It was far enough away to keep the chickens from tearing up plants.
Barbed wire fences were around the whole farm. There were about 100 acres in pasture and the rest in cultivation. This was my world as I grew up. I had no brothers and my sister didn't make her entrance until I was 13 and living in town going to high school. It was about 1/8 of a mile west to one cousin. It was about ¼ of a mile east on the north side of the road where another cousin lived. We lived on the homestead and they lived on the timber claim that my Great Grandfather James Timothy Stones had procured under the Homestead Act.
It was in the spring and I was running barefoot through the plowed ground for the garden even though it was chilly. I was told that I should have my shoes on. This was blamed for the cold that I caught. I became very sick. Finally I was taken to Red Cloud, Nebraska to the doctor who said that I had infected ears and it was very serious. We did not go to the regular doctor for some reason but to the new doctor who had recently opened a practice in Red Cloud. He recommended that I be taken to the larger town of Hastings, Nebraska where a Doctor could perform a new type of operation at the Mary Lanning Hospital. He would call and set up the procedure for six the next morning. We went home and got up the next morning at four am only to find out that we had a flat tire. Dad jacked up the car and patched the inner tube before we could start. Would we make it on time? It was ten miles to Red Cloud and another 50 miles on to Hastings over gravel roads that were rough and dusty. As we walked into the hospital entrance a large grandfather clock was striking six. I have been told this is what happened. I have very dim memories. I was six years old.
When I was being prepped I remember being asked if I could count and I proudly started but only got to five or six as the ether was applied to put me to sleep. I remember waking in a large room in a high bed all alone. I slid down to the floor and felt dizzy. The floor was cold and I went to the door and started down the hall. Evidently a nurse saw me and hustled me back to bed. The operation consisted of chiseling the bone behind both ears to reach the mastoid cavities and drain and clean them of the infection. My head was wrapped around and around to protect the wounds. I know it was difficult to sleep as it was painful to lie on my back and side so I laid face down which made it hard to breathe.
I must have been in the hospital for an extended time, but I don't remember. When I did go home I had to be brought back regularly to change the bandages. I remember stopping in Red Cloud at Sid's Café to get a ten cent hamburger and an orange drink on the way. I did not like carbonated beverages so always had pop without any fizz. When we started going once a week or so I can remember it being hot so it must have been later in the summer. I remember them calling it "irrigating my ears." After the bandage was unwound, water would be run over the wounds to clean them before rewrapping the bandages. It must have been difficult for dad as he had to drive because mother never learned. He had do the farming and then drive the sixty miles up and then back from Hastings. It seems that he was with me during the operation. The doctor wanted to take out my tonsils and adenoids, but dad said that I had had enough. I don't remember mother being at the hospital. She stayed for a time nearby in a house. They never complained about anything.
Dad was upset when I came down with the German measles. I must have been exposed at the hospital. I remember having to stay in bed with the blinds drawn so the lights wouldn't harm my eyes. It was hot. I remember mother placing her wrist watch close to my ears and then slowly moving it farther away to check if I could hear normally. The hospital receipt was dated 1937 for $32.60 and marked paid.
On one of the last trips to the hospital, as they were cleansing my ears, a small coca cola glass filled with crushed ice and root beer (I think) had evidently been placed there as a treat. I had never had a carbonated drink so I wouldn't drink it.
The operation was quite an ordeal to go through. Somewhat later they started just drilling a hole into the mastoid cavity to drain the infection as I have heard. Of course with penicillin and other drugs, the operation is no longer needed. Small tubes as placed in the ear drum to relieve pressure. My daughter had this done when she had her tonsils removed. She has a slight hearing loss due to not knowing fluid was being trapped in the mastoid cavity. We thought it was cute as a small child she pronounced basement as just base. She wasn't hearing the last syllable and we felt bad that we had not had it corrected sooner.
This whole affair had a huge impact on my life. My ears remained very sensitive for a long time. I would not participate in contact sports such as wrestling, boxing or football. I avoided roughhousing with other boys and kept them at arms length. This was a problem in high school.
One warm day when I was about 5 years old I heard a loud noise coming from the road. The sound got louder and louder. It was a rock crusher being pulled along and dumping the crushed rock on the roadway. Men with shovels walked behind and made sure the rock was evenly distributed. They shouted out when they say me. I remember being told to stay back. This was a WPA (Works Project Administration) job to make the road surface "all weather." It worked quite well for many years until the rock sunk into the mud or was pushed into the grader ditches. While the bottom of my feet were calloused from going barefoot in warm weather, the sharp edges on the rocks made walking on it uncomfortable. Gravel must have been too expensive. It is still called the rock road to this day but it is mostly dirt.
My mother used to tell the story of when I was just a little tyke. I would pull my little red wagon over the yard and come up to the kitchen door and yell "mommy" and she would stop whatever she was doing and I would say, "I got some kindling for you". She would take the sticks and corn cobs and let me know that was a help. Many times when she had to walk to the back of the pasture to round up the cattle and bring them in to be milked, she would pull me in the red wagon as I would tire quickly. I also had a smaller wagon that I would tie to be back to drag along. She must have had the patience of Job as they say.
I was a helper in other ways too. I had no siblings or close cousins so I would walk around the yard and upset stumps or turn boards over. There would always be worms or bugs of some kind exposed. The chickens would rush over and gobble up anything they spotted. Some of the hens would follow me all around the yard until they were full. At night we shut the door on the chicken house to protect the chickens from predators. There were sloping boards from ceiling to floor with cross pieces for the hens to roost on. On the east side were boxes about waist high with straw in them for the hens to lay eggs. When you went to get eggs from beneath a hen sitting on the nest, you moved quickly or you would get pecked with a sharp bill. Tentative folks were afraid to gather the eggs for that reason.
Many years later I still did more "helping." Dad and I rode in the hayrack pulled by a team of horses to the field about one half mile from the barn. The cane had been cut, dried, bound into bundles and put into large shocks. We threw the bundles one by one into the hayrack to take back to the barn for feeding the livestock during the winter. There were many mice that hid under the bundles in the shock. As the bundles were moved the mice would scurry under cover. When the last bundle was picked up, the mice would run trying to find shelter. I stomped on a whole lot of them and put them in my winter coat pocket. When we got back to the barn, I went up to the house and called the cats. We usually had anywhere from 3 to a dozen hanging around. I emptied my pocket and threw the mice on the porch floor. The cats were eating the mice and trying to keep other cats away. The cats always start with the head and eat back to the tail. Since the tail is long and stringy, we said they saved the tail for a toothpick.
I had one experience that was traumatic. I must have been 5 or 6 years old. My older cousin and his two sons came by in the wagon and stopped to see if I wanted to go with them to the "80" which was a half mile west and almost a mile south. The team of horses walked along slowly and they were taking a horse to pasture there and had a rope around his neck to lead him along. I jumped at the chance and mom let me go. We had not gone far and started playing with the rope by winding it around our hands and quickly unwinding it. While it was wrapped around my hands, the horse was startled and stopped and jerked his head up. This jerked me the length of the wagon. My new coat that had just come in the mail caught on a nail and tore it almost half in two beyond repair. My teeth had cut the inside of lower lip that caused me to bleed a lot. One small flap never did heal over and is a reminder to this day. I was taken back home and mom did not place any blame but indicated that I should have been more careful.
Excerpted from Experiences by Norman Verl Stones, Dwight Nacaytuna. Copyright © 2014 Norman Stones. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Mastoid Operation, 7,
Rock Road, 10,
An Annual View, 12,
Tough Tasks, 21,
Grade School, 24,
Spare Time, 27,
High School, 29,