Bell was near death in
the year 1949. She was the lady who had stood beside Bertha and Joe to
build the ranch home, but age and infirmity now, was upon her. Weldon
was there doing the chores she asked him to do. She had him butchering
a hog, helping her to render its fat, and baking the skin so it could be
made into pork rinds. Cornbread was a recipe with bits of the rind in
it and was almost, a lost delicacy. Even in 1949 modern packaging and
processing of food was making the old ways of doing things obsolete.
Weldon sat in the middle
of the kitchen floor working to preserve the parts of the hog’s head
under Bell’s direction. The feet had already been pickled. The ears,
the snout, and the brains were what he was working to clean and
preserve. The chitlins in the oven made the house smell like there was
ham cooking. No one explained that chitlins were the small intestines
of the hog.
Mariah had a family
of her own and; although, they would eat the processed foods where
Bell stored them at the locker in town, the modern woman wouldn’t
have thought of humbling herself to get into the butchering.
Mariah would have commented if she saw Weldon cleaning that animal.
“Everything saved but
the squeal,” Bell was heard to say.
Gramma Bell was
weaker though. Only occasionally did she pull out her fiddle to
make us want to dance to “Eight of January,” which by the way was
her birthday. Her sewing machine was idle much of the time. Where
upon she might occasionally break the Sabbath by cooking she never
did anymore, but instead, rested comfortably in her chair.
“They will put you in
the moon for working on the Sabbath!” Gramma warned us.
Not until years later
we learned the moon was thought to be where the Celts went when they
died, and then, if not before realized how serious the matter could
be. The strange marrying of Christian and pagan Celtic beliefs, of
course, we knew nothing.
Velma aware and
sensitive to Bell’s condition was busily working to get her family
away from the ranch lands. She and Leon had purchased three acres
close to O.G. & E.* The land had never been farmed and must have
been an early campground for the Ponca. History tell that if there
were a lot of arrowheads in one place, probably, a battle occurred
on the site. Leon had plowed up great numbers of arrow heads. The
rich alluvial soil washed up there by the Arkansas River worked to
produce vegetables in a grand way. Sweet potatoes, the size of a
bucket, were easily dug from the rich soil, and peanuts equally
could be easily removed from the ground. Leon went happily about his
building work as he always did. He dug a well and was preparing to
tap into the underground waters to irrigate his crops. His children
enjoyed the roasting peanuts and became accustomed to a food, sweet
potatoes, they had never known before.
Bell’s health took a turn for the worse. Leon and his family were
now driving back and forth to Foraker, one hundred miles round
trip. The Hudson he had purchased with the sale of his cattle was
up to the drive, but Leon was tired.
“Are we going to
Foraker tonight, Dad?” The children asked.