Tuesday, January 29, 2008

About our Dad

My brother born in 1926 had these memories to add:

On the Farm----
This is in response to being asked what I remember about my Dad, Wm. K. House, and my growing up on the farm. He loved to farm and take care of livestock. He was a good farmer. Seemed to know what to do at the right time and saw that it was done in the right way. He was a hard worker when he was able. Due to having rheumatic fever at age 13, he developed a heart problem that he had to endure until his death at the age of 52.. I remember about three different times before I was 10 years old when he was sick, and neighbors came over and stayed all night because they didn’t expect him live. One time a Doctor came over and stayed all night. Dad would have been in his 30’s. He always bounced back----must have had great determination and great faith. Not being able to work steady much of the time, I remember him always having a “hired hand” working full time for him. Often they would live with us if they were single---- a couple of families came up from Tennessee at different times needing work, and my parents rented a house nearby for them.
My dad did not show his emotions or seem to get unusually upset with us, at least verbally. He executed his discipline by the way he looked at you. If something was wrong, he said very few words, but you knew what he meant.
I very well remember exceptions to this---we always had a large garden. Being 8 to 12 years old I would always lead the horse that pulled the plow when making the garden each year. He would get very upset with me that I couldn’t lead that horse in a straight line.
He liked to whistle--I especially remember him whistling from the house to the barn in the morning, and other times too. He liked the “Mocking-Bird Song”. Would say to my mother “Good Morning-Glory!”. He wasn’t very talkative at home, but he liked to laugh and joke with people. When he and I would go to the grain elevators or to the filling station to get the car serviced --- he would talk with everybody. He liked to be around little kids and tease them. Unfortunately, he did not live to see any of his grandchildren.
He was active in and a good supporter of the Harvey’s Chapel Church. Was very faithful--would not talk business on Sunday’s. I remember an Insurance salesman coming to our house on a Sunday afternoon. He told him to come back the next day. When I was in my early teens the church furnace went bad, so my Dad and two others bought a new furnace. The church had no funds for that. I remember the “revivals” and “homecomings” each fall. The church overflowed. Anyone who had ever attended the church would come back for these events.
Not many organized activities in the community back in those days, as there are today. They attended parent-teacher meetings and ball games at the school, and ice cream socials frequently. On Saturday nights we usually went to Arcadia to see a western movie that was shown on the side of a brick building. Almost all of the community was there. A big part of their social life was getting together with neighbors, or my uncles and aunts, and often the preacher, on Sundays after church for a fried chicken dinner, greasy gravy and home made noodles. Especially on holidays we always made home-made ice cream. Dad and Mom liked to play checkers with us and eat popcorn after supper. My bedtime usually was about 8:00 pm., because we got up early.
Something that I will never forget is the night our barn burned in 1936 when we lived a quarter of a mile from Walnut Grove. I was ten years old. It was so hot that night that we were all sleeping on the floor near the screen door, trying to get some kind of a breeze. No air conditioning at that time. About midnight Dad noticed a fire in the barn. He yelled at me to go open one of the barn doors, while he opened another door to let the livestock out. Mom says he ran out in his bare feet. It was raining hard and I fell flat on my face in the mud before getting to the barn. Dad had opened the door for the horses and they were running out toward me, but I did get out of the way very quickly. The horses were then let out on the road, and the next morning a couple of neighbors had found them and brought them back. The barn burned completely to the ground. I remember him being very sad, but he drew up plans and a new barn was built, one of the nicest in the area. The haymow was floored and had a high roof, so a great place for a basketball court. After that, I had more friends !
It does seem like that we had some real bad snows in those days. I remember my sister, Annabel and I going to my uncle’s home a mile away, crouched down in barrels, on a big sled pulled by a team of horses with my Dad driving. Snow was too deep for cars. I always wondered why it was so important that we go over there before the snow melted!
Another experience at Walnut Grove. I was about nine years old. It snowed so hard that day that most of the kids could not get home from school. Dad and Mom called the school and offered to help--so eight or ten about my age walked to our house and stayed for two nights before their parents could get them. Dad had just butchered a hog that week, very timely, so they had fresh meat to feed them. Remember, this was during the depression, and all the food we had was grown or raised on our farm. Every winter neighbors would help each other butcher. Always on the coldest days, in order to help preserve. Would then hang the meat in the smokehouse to cure.
The Depression during the1930’s was very tough. My sister remembers my Dad coming to the house crying one day -- one of his team of horses had died. Everything was done with horses back then, no tractors. My Mom thought he was upset mostly because he needed another horse to farm with--but didn’t have the money. I distinctly remember the day we all came home from town and a foreclosure notice was posted on the gate to the barn. Dad was very upset--apparently they had not notified him. He went back to the mortgage company, got it worked out somehow, came home and took the notice off the gate. Somehow he managed to keep the farm.
You asked me about my chores as a child. My Dad liked to be around livestock. We had Belgian draft horses, usually two or three riding horses, and he raised cattle, hogs and sheep. Sometimes we would even have goats--their purpose was to eat the weeds out of the barnlot. He would make trips to Kansas City by train out of Indianapolis to buy young cattle, have them brought home by freight train, and then feed and fatten them until ready for market. As long as I can remember, it was my job to feed some of the animals, or throw hay down from the haymow. He was very particular in keeping weeds out of the garden, corn rows and fence rows along the road. I got to do some of that too !
That was some of my rainy day jobs--and picking up rocks off the fields.
When I was 12 years old we moved from the Walnut Grove farm to the House “home place” two miles east of us. My great-grandfather, George House, was the first House to settle in Hamilton County, Indiana, in 1841, and purchased this 160 acre farm. My dad was thrilled to be back on the farm where he was born. He was the sixth child of Robert M. and Ida House. He had five brothers and three sisters. As I got older, into high school, he and I would go to the barn and milk the cows and feed the livestock, usually before breakfast. Then same thing over in the evening. On evenings I practiced or had a ball game, he usually would have the work done when I got home. For about five years after high school I farmed the 160 acres plus another 140 acres that we rented.
My Dad and Uncle raised and showed Belgian horses at the County and State Fairs. When 10 years old, I joined the 4-H club and started leading and “showing” the horses at the County Fair. From then until I was about 22, every year we would enter eight to ten horses in competition from all over the midwest. I would go with my Uncle to one or two County fairs in Indiana, and usually to the Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio State Fairs, and a big one in Chicago called the International. At the State Fairs we would sleep above the horses in what was called the hayloft. Each morning we would feed and water the horses, curry them and then take them for a walk for exercise. We had a lot of fun at these Fairs. My cousin, Ralph, continued showing horses at the Fairs for several years and now his son Kent is still carrying on this “House Belgian Horse” tradition.
Growing up with riding horses, I learned to ride very young. Used these horses to round up the cows at milking time in the evening. They always seemed to be at the other side of the farm at that time. Also, when I was in high school we would have rodeos in certain towns nearby, usually on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes lots of people would be there-- I had a bay mare we called Lady. She was one of the fastest. Lot’s of fun! Sometimes after working in the fields all day, a friend and I would ride our horses about three miles into “Dogtown”, in the evening just to buy a Coke.
Not as much “playtime ” while growing up on the farm then as they have today with Little League and all the organized events. Not many boys my age nearby. Would get together with my cousin sometimes to play “catch” and basketball in the barn. Our house was a tall two story with a scalloped gable on the west side. I had a rubber ball about the size of a baseball, and seems that about any spare time that I had, even when I was in high school, I was throwing a ball against the side of the house. Back then I knew all the major league baseball players names, so I would pretend to be the pitcher and throw the ball against this scalloped gable to a particular batter. Depending on how the ball would hit the scalloped part, the ball would either come straight, or go left or right, and if I caught it the batter would be out. If not, he would have a hit. This was the way I practiced. Must have been very disturbing to my parents, but remember my mother telling someone that at least she knew where I was! I really enjoyed playing softball and basketball while in school. Continued playing on organized independent teams at Noblesville-- basketball until about 25 and softball until age 30. Have a clipping from the Noblesville Ledger about “this ole House” not ready to topple yet!.
Now, about Yvonne and I---she was attending Anderson College. We were introduced by my cousin, who was also going there. He was dating a friend of Yvonne’s who lived in the same Dorm. This was in the fall of 1948. We seemed to enjoy being together, and I thought she was pretty attractive. I think she liked my car. Anyway, we dated pretty regularly until we both graduated. Then we were married in November 1951 at the Park Place Church near the college. Yvonne had gone there throughout college. She knew everyone. She often sang in the choir so our Sunday evening dates usually started there.
No, I did not know how to cook when we got married. Not something I learned on the farm. Now I can fry an egg and heat water in the microwave. But Yvonne knew-- had a lot of experience cooking at home.
As you can see I have some great memories, and I am thankful for the experiences I have had in growing up in a farming community, and for a good family heritage.
By Wendell House
(May 1, 2000)

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