Other Stories and Random Facts
There are other stories about life on the homestead that Lloyd told at one time or another. Here are some stories and facts that he did not get around to writing down, presented in no particular order.
In the fall when the ducks and geese migrated south, there were about three days straight when the migrating flocks were so thick that they darkened the sky. Apparently the migration north in the spring was less concentrated and therefore less noticeable.
When there was snow on the ground, Lloyd and his siblings (and maybe some schoolmates) often made the walk to and from school more interesting by playing a game called “Hare and Hounds.” Apparently one or more of the group were designated “hares” and were given a head start running through the snow. The rest of the group were “hounds” and were soon chasing after the hares, tracking them through the snow. The objective for the hares, of course, was to evade capture through hiding and disguising their tracks. Lloyd often said that playing this game added several extra miles to their daily trip to and from school.
The family had a chamber pot so the young children, especially, would not have to make a trip to the outhouse in the middle of the night. When Earl was small, he woke up one night needing to go the bathroom. Somehow in the darkness and his sleepiness, he did his business into his father's shoe instead of the chamber pot. When John went to put on his shoes the next morning, he found one of them all wet inside and smelling of urine.
Between the dry air on the prairie and the constant activity of the boys, they were very thirsty when mealtime arrived. Poor sister Anna, whose job it was to pour water at meals, would go around the table pouring water. By the time she had made a full circuit, the glasses at the beginning were empty already. So around she would go again. Often this would continue for several trips around the table. Lloyd always gave the impression, without explicitly saying so, that it had become something of a game among the boys to keep Anna going around the table pouring water as long as possible. Even when asked about this late in life, Lloyd gave a good laugh as he reflected on it.
While outside one winter day, Anna noticed a buildup of frost on the head of a nail (in a fencepost or outbuilding wall or wagon or… the location does not matter). She thought it would be fun to lick the frost off. But when she did so, her tongue instantly froze to the nail head. There was no one around to help her (or at least no one who could help), so she did the only thing she could: pull herself free, leaving some skin behind. Ouch!
Lloyd mentioned on one occasion that he could remember his mother in the sod house singing to herself the hymn “Will There Be Any Stars in my Crown?” The words of the refrain are:
Will there be any stars, any stars in my crown
When at evening the sun goeth down?
When I wake with the blest in the mansions of rest
Will there be any stars in my crown?
(Eliza E. Hewitt, c. 1897)
As Lloyd implies in “Hardships” and other places, Minnie's lot was one of nearly constant hard work. All indications are that she bore this without complaint. Still, to her especially, “mansions of rest” probably sounded wonderful.
Speaking of music, one of the more surprising things the Wrights brought with them on the immigrant train was a pump organ—first from South Dakota to Washington, then to Alberta. It was on this pump organ in the living area of the sod house that Minnie taught her children (Irvine and Lloyd, at least) to play the keyboard.
Sometime after the family moved into the frame house in 1918, Irvine bought a piano. That piano eventually found its way to Oregon and is now in his son Bob's possession. The pump organ, though, was not moved again. As Lloyd recalled, it was given to a neighbor (the Wetherals).
Aurora borealis (the northern lights) was a regular feature of the winter night sky in Alberta—not every night, but very frequently. When Lloyd was asked how they could see at night with no source of light anywhere around, such as to go to the outhouse in the middle of the night, he said it was not that dark, especially with snow on the ground. Apparently even just starlight was enough—something that is hard to grasp in 21st century America, where it is rare ever to be completely away from artificial light.