Memories of a simpler time are the dearest memories to all of us -- a time when we were held close by loved ones, feeling secure in the world around us. I was opening my window to the outside night air the other day and I was hit by an impression from my childhood.
My mother grew up on a ranch in western South Dakota. She remembered a time without running water and electricity, of milking cows, running to beat the school bell a mile away, ice skating on frozen creeks. Going to the ranch was always a treat for my brother and me. He would go jack rabbit hunting; we would take coffee to the men in the field and sit in the shade of the tractor while they took a break. We would stand at the back door and watch for the headlights on the tractor signaling it was time to set the table as the men were done for the day.
It was also a time without air conditioning. Thinking back now I find it amazing how the cool breezes blew in through the windows in the upstairs bedrooms. Downstairs windows were left opened and the front and back doors as well. Rarely was the night so hot we couldn’t fall asleep. In the morning doors and windows were shut and the sun blocking shades were pulled down to keep the air in the house cool until the middle of the afternoon. Then the men came for lunch and took a nap. When the sun’s rays angled rather than hit directly they would return to the fields and work until after dark. Supper was usually around 8 p.m. After about an hour that was followed by another round of coffee. Someone walked around and opened the doors and the windows.
My grandmother would sit by the back door in the dark and enjoy the evening breeze. She could see the Milky Way sweep across the sky and the yard lights in the little country store on the hill to the south and she could watch a few headlights coming over the hill, heading north. Now as I think of her sitting there I wonder what she was thinking about. She had grown up in western Wisconsin and talked often of her sisters and the forests where people sometimes got lost the woods were so thick.
Then she followed my grandfather into South Dakota where he homesteaded and made a good life for his family. As the youngest of a large Norwegian family he enjoyed going back to visit wearing a new Stetson hat. Grandma made a home and the stories I have heard about her and her courage are many.
But waking up to see the curtains in the bedroom standing straight out flying in a strong morning breeze and some times even grabbing the sheet and pulling it close in the chill, that was what I remembered as I opened the windows in my house.