|Whether the wind was like a monster alive,
once a banshee, again a moaning ghost, sometimes a whispering thing or a
violent jerking adversary the children must have been aware of but;
still and the same, even in their tiny sizes; they were able to stand up
to it. This was because those little ones were held close around the
skirts and with the hands of their American Indian Mother, Velma.
This morning there was a grayness all
about the landscape with no sun in sight. There was too, a pulling and
pounding by the wind at the big house which was built before the thought
of insulation. That house was large and, no doubt, provided the most
beautiful summertime living for those who could or would just simply
survive the miserable winters there.
Velma had closed off all the rooms except
this one room where they huddled. It in itself was large and was not
exactly what one would call cozy. There was a steady fire in the little
cook stove. The lack of burnable material on the prairie dictated they
be frugal also with their heating fuel which was wood and sometimes the
dried cow chips picked up by their father.
The little girl knew it was frigid even
though her mittened fingers could not feel her cold nose and face. Their
mother had bundled them up in their heaviest clothes up to, and
including a coat. The coats Velma had sewn from fabric cut down from the
tails of the adults old coats, or any other part which was not worn. The
Children were always as proud of the coats as if they were stepping into
something the adults themselves had been happy to own. By any standards,
the good wool and forever stylish colors of neutral tan and beige tones
made the garment.
"Come close to the stove,
Children." Velma hugged them to her. "Look! I have some yeast
rolls to put into the oven. They will be so delicious with Gramma Bell's
sand plum jelly. I have already cleaned and fried a pullet. Look!
Delicious milk gravy."
The cleaning of the chicken the children
had earlier watched from their perch at the window. Velma had a way of
catching the birds with a long heavy wire. Their father had built a
small three legged stool with a log setting on the legs for her chopping
block. To see her dip the bird into the hot pan of water she had on a
small fire outside meant nothing at the time. However, when the girl
became older she was thankful she knew this when she realized it was
impossible to pluck the feathers without this step.
Much later in the girl's life she would
think about this cleaning of animals when she came to study in her
classes as to working parts of an living thing. The mystery of it was
always there, and not until she became a older woman did science begin
to come into an understanding, only in a most primitive way of some of
that very intricate design. It was then she appreciated her mother and
father's teaching. " Life is sacred. Do not take it in vain.
Anything you hunt or raise for food must be treated with respect."
When the child returned to the ranch
house to live now as a grown woman, one of the neighbors was visiting
and said, "I'd bring you some fish, but a city gal like you
probably wouldn't know how to clean them.
"You just bring me the fish Mr.
Fulsom, I guarantee you, I know how to clean them," she had
laughed. As a result they enjoyed many a meal of fine bass from fresh
water ponds. Here again was a lesson tied to their hearts coming from
this thinking old gentleman, who was also a master rancher; but who was
teaching them a way of friendship. He didn't have to take time to stop
by and visit. He had no motive or need to give of himself for this young
couple, but he did. This was a man who, like their mother, Velma, met
the challenges of a life time in providing for their families.
Velma was a woman of unmeasured courage.
She could "think on her feet," as the expression goes. Some
had the nerve to say she was an opportunist. Whatever the world wanted
to call her or say about her, only God stood quietly above and took
notes of how she cared for her children out on the very vast lonely
This is not Velma's recipe, but it will
Yeast Muffin Recipe
1 package active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
3/4 cups margarine, melted
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups flour
1 tsp. Salt
2 tsp baking powder
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in
melted margarine, egg, sugar, stir well. Combine flour, baking powder,
and salt and to yeast mixture. Use an electric mixture (something Velma
didn't have) and beat batter until smooth. Divide mixture into 12 paper lined muffin
tins. Bake in a 350 degree over 25-35 minutes
or until golden brown and tested for doneness. Remove from tins to cool.
Serve at room temperature or reheated in
the microwave. These will freeze well. There is no need to rise the recipe.
I have done this yeast muffin recipe a
number of times. Once they will come out great and the next time not so
great, tending to be heavy. I have a much better recipe that comes from
the hill folks around Missouri.
3 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 teaspoons soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1 cake compressed or dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
6 tablespoons vinegar plus enough sweet milk to make 3/4 cup liquid
Sift flour, baking soda, salt and sugar together and cut in shortening.
Soften yeast in lukewarm water. Heat vinegar and milk to lukewarm and
combine with yeast. Add liquid to dry ingredients gradually and
stir only until flour is blended. Dough should be as soft as can be
handled. Turn onto lightly floured board; knead gently one minute.
Shape as desired. Place on lightly greased baking pan. Let rise
about an hour until double in bulk in a warm place. Bake at 400
degrees for about 15 minutes. Makes approximately 18 rolls.