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(2 girls and logger)

Skagit River Journal

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Gran's years light burden
From the Journal's extensive Dowdle collection

By Mollie Dowdle, Skagit Valley Herald, January 1963
(Mollie's kitchen)
Mollie in her kitchen, taking notes

      My mother, Gran Moyer, has passed the four score mark in her life now. She walks slower, but still prides herself on being able to keep step with her companion, Gramp. She hasn't been up to par for the last month and as a consequence had her first vacation in her whole life away from home.
      My sister, Phil, took her to Anacortes where she has had a complete rest. Gramp was terribly lonely for her. Aware of this, she tried real hard to get well and was able to return home for his ninetieth birthday dinner. Now, she's back at her usual little household duties, and she plans to "get outside and do something" as soon as spring arrives.
      Gran has remarkable mental vitality, remembering the pest so keenly, looking forward to the future with such a definite purpose. I watched her hands at the sink a day or so ago, and I realized with pathos how beautiful were the hands of my mother. They're gnarled and rough from hard work and they move with sureness. Gran has belonged to that old-fashioned school of thought that closely adhered to King Solomon's advice: "Spare the rod and spoil the child."

No wasted time
      If her kids needed a tanning on the back parts she didn't fool around and threaten — she was plenty capable of laying it on us. And she kept the pod-wods scared out of us. We didn't dare get into too much deviltry be¬cause we knew what would happen. She didn't waste anytime letting us vindicate our ideas. She was raising kids that were going to listen to what she thought was right and she drew a distinct mark between right and wrong. There was no deviating and we were taught to walk the chalk line without edging over the border. I don't think we appreciated the value of her decisions until we began raising a family of our own.
      Even though Gran's hands have become rough and drawn because she wanted her children to have a better chance in the world than she did, she was willing to work them to the bone to help out. There was little money when I was a child growing up, and I can remember seeing her sit up at night by lamplight and knit long, black wool stockings for me. And she never sat down that she didn't pick up something to do, so her hands were never idle.
      She would bleach out flour sacks to make all of our underwear and then starch the petticoats as stiff as a board. A few pennies from here and t here would be saved to order calico from a mail order house for our dresses. I've seen her back bent over a wash tub of soiled clothes, rubbing them out on a scrub board when there were so many that it would be late in the evening before they were hung, shining white and clean on the lines.

(Mollie's parents)
Mr. and Mrs. David Moyer, Mollie's parents

      Then she would heat heavy, black sad irons on the stove, wrap rags around, the handle and iron our clothes (Sad Iron is from a word that dates back to the 17th century for Solid Iron). She starched almost everything — she said they didn't soil so easily. Besides her housework she went to the barn twice a day, balanced on a stool and helped milk a half dozen cows. She made a big garden and then canned and preserved hundreds of jars of food so we could eat. The tenderest memories of my childhood were those moments after the day's work was done when she would gather her children together and we would sit on the back steps.
      When my sister, (the one next to me) was only four years old she was stricken with polio and left a hopeless cripple. There wasn't anything that could be done for victims of the dread disease at that time except face a future with warped, disfigured limbs, bent and angular. The little girl had to learn to walk again and our mother wept with the joy the day she took her first halting step. She had to be tenderly cared for the remaining 17 years of her life and it was a patient loving mother who did it. When she was 21 years old she died of a malignancy.
      A few days before her [daughter's] passing, Gran carried her outside for one last look at her beloved flower garden. Together they picked their last armful of bright blooms. The girl pulled out a white carnation and pinned in on the front of Gran's old faded dress, a beautiful last tribute to her years of tenderness and devotion.

Journal Ed. note: Mollie's father, "Gramp," was David Moyer, who married Florence Wood in Hamilton on May 24, 1911. So he was technically her stepfather but he obviously had a strong influence in her life, more than her birth father, whose identity is a mystery. Dave died in 1969 at age 97 and Florence died in 1965 at age 85; both are buried in the Hamilton cemetery. David had three children by his former wife, including Gertrude, Chester and Vinnie, who also lived into her 90s. Dave also moved his family West, from Arkansas, in 1900 and he went to work as a logger for the Lyman Timber Company. Mollie's maternal grandfather, Malcolm Wood, moved Florence and Mollie and other members of his family from Haywood County, North Carolina in 1908 and they settled on land across the river from Hamilton, where a school was also built.
      Many thanks to Carol Bates, for the information from official records and descendant memories in her book, Hamilton 100 years, that helped me sort out the genealogy of this very complicated family tree. Dave's former wife remarried to Irving Cary, a son of another pioneer Hamilton family, and in other Mollie stories linked below you will find many of Mollie's memories about the Carys.

      Until just recently she could do a day's work and then walk through the field in the afternoon to visit me. She has put my sister, Phil, and I to shame when it comes to housekeeping. She is immaculate while we are usually in a state of upheaval and untidiness. We didn't seem to inherit her domestic perfection. I've always loved the little things she does for all of us — like always saving bean seed and growing a dish pan of tomato plants. Then realizing our lackadaisical ways and planting enough seed of her own to share things from her garden with us in the fall
      Age hasn't dimmed Gran's plans for the future — she wants a few more colors in tuberous begonias and a row of new chrysanthemums. She wants new white curtains for her kitchen and maybe even fresh paint and paper.
      She asks help from no one. She's still running the show and doing a remarkable job of it. From the pages of her worn Bible I pay tribute to my Mother:

She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household.
Her candle goeth not out by night.
She reaches forth her hands to the needy.
Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
She eateth not the bread of idleness.
Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
— Words of King Lemuel, Proverbs 31

Links, background reading and sources
Other Dowdle stories

Story posted on Oct. 29, 2006 . . . Please report any broken links so we can update them
This article originally appeared in Issue 36 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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