In the early 1900s, a young man named Frank Joseph Feldman, unhappy with his home life in Morrison, Illinois, borrowed money from his mother and purchased 1/2 section of land and homestead in the area of Spring Coulee. He paid the Hudson's Bay Co. $30.00 per acre for the original land package, which was the going price of land at the time. By 1917 Frank repaid his mother, and then bought another 1/4 section in 1919.
Frank's younger brother, John came to live with him, so he put an ad in the Lethbridge paper for a housekeeper. A young, pretty girl named Margaret (Maggie) Hunter, who had immigrated from Ireland several years before and was living in Macleod, applied for the job in 1916 and a year later the two were married.
By the year 1918, the couple had a girl, who currently lives in Joliet, Montana, and in 1925 another girl, who lives in Hamilton, Montana.
We raised geese, pigs, chickens a few cattle and horses which were used to do all the farm work. We sold many geese to some Jewish families in Lethbridge, and I'll never forget how nauseated I would get when my dad would stick a goose with a knife to bleed the poor creature and it would slowly collapse as it's life blood drained away. The other meat we raised for our own use.
Threshing machines would go from farm to farm to harvest the wheat, which was the main crop in this area. Some of the wheat would be stored in our sheds, but the biggest part was taken to the elevators in Spring Coulee and Magrath.
During harvest season it was up to the farm women to feed the crews of workers. The woman would prepare bounteous meals of fried chicken, ham, roast beef accompanied by lots of mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots, cabbage slaw, cakes and pies. There was always plenty of home-made bread and jellies on the table. Fruit was scarce as well as expensive and the vegetables grown locally were sparse. The harvesters would come in with astronomically big appetites. I remember one young man who mistook the bowl of gravy for soup, and it was half gone before mother had a chance to stop him.
In the fall, we could hear flocks of geese flying south, visiting and councelling each other. At night there were coyotes howling their lonesome cries. Every once in a while dad would have to get out his twenty two and kill a visiting skunk, and there was a problem with weasels which would wreck havoc with our chickens. Badgers were quite common in our area, too and were known to attack cars-ripping at the tires with their sharp teeth.
Indoor plumbing was something we read about in books. The commode under the bed was a common necessity and the little outhouse too far from the house in the winter and too close to the house in the summer was part of every homestead.
The water on our land was alkaline, so all our drinking water had to be hauled in huge wooden barrels from somewhere else. A windmill pumped water for the cattle and horses, and every day in the winter dad would have to hack holes in the ice so the stock could drink.
There was a coulee with quick-sand on our land. A story circulated that a whole team of horses was sucked into the mud in this place. My parents swore the story was true, so we never went near the soggy looking area.
Farmwomen worked very hard. Mother even wheeled me in my baby buggy out to the field one year when she had to help dad shock grain. She washed clothes on an old washboard. In the winter she would bring clothes in off the lines and they would be frozen stiff as boards. Water was heated in a reservoir built onto our stove. She had an old sewing machine and got as much pleasure out of a few yards of new material as we do out of a new ready made garment.
Trips to Lethbridge were a big event. We would drive two or three times a year (yes, we did have a car, one of the first in that area) to this city and have dinner in a restaurant, have a ride on the trolley, buy some fruit, bing cherries, apples, plums and oranges, (I don't remember every having a banana) and go to the music store. My dad liked music so we usually bought one or two records to play over and over again on our old Victrola.
My memories of school are still quite vivid, although we left Spring Coulee when I was eight. We started our education in a tiny school house with one row of seats arranged to each grade, and there were either six or eight rows. In September my parents brought me to town to enroll, and my tears floweduncontrollably when I found out the Ist grade row was filled. We returned in January and I was able to start.
My joy was short-lived, however, as the school wasquarantined by the authorities as a communicative disease had broken out, probably measles, and that ended the school year.
In the winter, we rode to school in a sleigh, our knees covered with a burly bearskin rug. Often the snow was so deep we could ride over the fences which were drifted in.
There was a little store in town, which sold the most delicious penny candy. My little friend, whose father ran the local blacksmith store, and I would painstakingly ponder over each penny we spent on each delectable piece.
The farm was rented to Glen Gilchrist in 1926 and to Margaret's brother, James Hunter and his wife Lizzie in 1929. Frank's health was starting to fail and he could not handle the hard work any more. The beautiful mountains, lush fruit trees and warmer climate of Hamilton, Montana lured him and there he lived until his death in 1935. Margaret died in 1987.
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