My Grandma

Yesterday, October 14th, 2017, would have been 95 years young. She was a remarkable woman. I miss her so much. So, today’s post is a tribute to my grandma. This is her story.

Muriel Janette (Larson) Hayes was born October 14th, 1922, in Hendrum, Minnesota. She was the third child of Lars and Cora (Herbranson) Larson. Her great-grandparents were immigrants from Norway. One of her grandfathers was actually born on the ship. They named him Oceanus, which is Norwegian for “ocean”. When Muriel was a small child her parents decided to start a new life in eastern Montana. Lars had asthma and the doctor said a drier climate might help. Muriel commented once that, her and her siblings would wake up in the morning and their pillows would be gone because Cora would have to prop Lars up to help him breathe. Muriel also said her dad would be breathing so hard his bed would shake. So, Lars and Cora packed everything they had, including a milk cow, in the back of their truck and set out for Montana. They homesteaded about two miles south of the Canadian border. Homesteading meant if you lived on the land for a certain amount of time, the land was yours. The Larson’s lived and farmed on the homestead for about ten years, before moving once more. During that time Cora and Lars had another daughter, Emogene. Muriel now had two older brothers, Lyle and Marvin, and a little sister. Everyone did their part to help with the farming. Lars used a team of horses to work the farm. Farming was back-breaking work, but for the Larson’s it was part of their everyday life. Cora was a devoted Christian. She saw to it that her family and all the neighbors were able to meet when the traveling minister was in the area. Even when the minister wasn’t in the area, Cora and the family would either go visiting on Sunday or invite the neighbors to their home. They would sing hymns, read the Bible, eat and fellowship. In the wintertime, they would put stones next to the fireplace and when it was time to go home the stones would be warm. On the way home everyone would place their feet on the stones and wrap up in blankets to stay warm. Eastern Montana was pretty baron with very few trees and strong winds. A stream ran through their property so the Larson’s were able to carry water for the livestock and themselves.

The Larson’s lived and farmed on the homestead for about ten years. During that time Cora and Lars had another daughter, Emogene. Muriel now had two older brothers, Lyle and Marvin, and a little sister. Everyone did their part to help with the farming. Lars used a team of horses to work the farm. Farming was back-breaking work, but for the Larson’s it was part of their everyday life.

Cora was a devoted Christian, and she believed going to church was important not only for her and her family, the neighbors as well. The closest neighbor may have been two or three miles away, and the nearest town was even farther. Cora saw to it that her family and all the neighbors were able to meet when the traveling minister was in the area. Even when the minister wasn’t in the area, Cora and the family would either go visiting on Sunday or invite the neighbors to their home. They would sing hymns, read the Bible, eat and fellowship. In the wintertime, everyone would put stones next to the fireplace and when it was time to go home the stones would be warm. On the way home everyone would place their feet on the stones and wrap up in blankets to stay warm.

Eastern Montana was pretty baron with very few trees and strong winds. A stream ran through their property so the Larson’s were able to carry water for the livestock and themselves. However, conserving water was still a priority, which meant one tub of bath water for six people. Cora would start with the youngest, Emogene, and by the time it was her turn she would just wash her feet. Now there are two possible reasons Cora just used the water to wash her feet. Either the water was too cold and dirty after four kids living on a dusty farm used it, or she was too exhausted after scrubbing the aforementioned children. Regardless, Cora was a devoted wife and loving mother, and this was farm life.

Education was important to the Larson’s. Muriel, Lyle, and Marvin would pile on one of the horses and ride to school. According to Muriel, the horse had a mind of his own at times. On the way home from school, the horse, knowing he was going home, had a tendency to start running. Muriel’s brother Lyle would have to start pulling on the reins to slow him down, way before they got home. Muriel said they were afraid the horse would just keep going all the way to Canada. Later, when her brothers no longer attended school, Muriel would ride horseback to school. Her teacher lived along the way, so most days they met and rode to school together. There was an old fence post that marked their meeting spot. If one of them got to the spot and decided to not wait, she would put a rock on top of the fence post as a message to the other “I went on, do not to wait.” The Larson children attended a one-room school, which was common in those days. When Muriel was in the first grade there were only two first graders, her and a boy. The next year, the boy was kept back in the first grade. The teacher decided that instead of Muriel being the only second grader, she would just promote her to the third grade. This was no problem for Muriel, she was a smart lady.

Muriel told many stories about her time on the homestead. Like the time workers were digging holes for electric poles. She was on her way to the privy, as she walked by one of the holes, and became curious. You’ve heard the phrase “curiosity killed the cat.” Well, I guess her curiosity got the better of Muriel. She wanted to know how deep the hole was, so, you guessed it, she jumped in. The hole was just wide enough she was a perfect fit. The problem was, her arms were above her head and the top of the hole was at her fingertips. She was stuck. Muriel did the only thing she knew to do, she began yelling for her help. Cora heard someone yelling, but it took a moment to find where and who it was coming from. Cora managed to get Muriel out of the hole, but it was not easy as you can imagine.

When Lars and Cora decided to move further west, they left the girls home to tend the farm, while they scouted out new land. The boys were grown and had moved on to begin lives of their own. I believe Muriel and Emogene were thirteen and nine, respectively, at this time. Lars and Cora found a piece of land in the Columbia Falls/Kalispell, Montana area. Once again, the Larson’s packed up their lives and moved to begin a new life.

And that dear readers, is where we end our story….

…for today anyway. Stay tuned, Muriel’s story continues.

Until another day,

AC

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