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Some Kids I Have Known
Dust Bowl Days


Ashes and cinders were whipped up and out of the bonfire by the now prevailing north wind. Bell wiped them from her eyes before they could become an irritant. This fire set exactly in front of the "lean to" where she and her family had lived, here beside the river. If it was a miserable existence, she only had to think back a few months before when they were at the mercy of the blowing sand in the western part of the state where the dust bowl was raging.

Winter was approaching and Joe was working fervently to try to get a log cabin finished. It was small maybe fifteen foot by thirty foot. The log cabin was to serve to get them through the frigid Oklahoma season coming up.

"Are you ready to get things moved in the cabin?" Joe was a man of few words but when he was finished with a project he was anxious to move on to the next step.

"It won't be much of a move for me." "I think there is maybe thirty minutes required to pick up this campground." "Dennis is getting worse with this cold he has." "We need to get him inside." "Especially since the winds are switching to the north." "We can't keep this "lean to" warm much longer.

The "lean to" to which Bell referred was simply two long posts set at an angle out from a higher place on two trees that were close together. Over these posts a canvas tarpaulin was draped. The front of the lean to was always open allowing the heat of the ever burning bonfire to keep the area warm and dry in case of rain. It wasn't much of a camp but it was what they had. It was outdoors and because the Osage were living around them they felt no intimidation from the elements.

The move into the cabin was easy and just in the time to save one of the two children who were ill. They lost Inis to the measles. Now Bell was doing battle for her son, Dennis. He was gravely ill with pneumonia.

The tired woman huddled close to the stove with the child where a kettle there was continually sprinkled with the herbs the Osage women gave her. No cold drafts were wanted at this time and since the ground was too frozen to allow them a material (mud) for chinking in between the logs, Joe took packed straw and shoved it between the cracks to keep out the cold wind.

Joe had to spend time bringing in game for their food and this made the bringing in of wood the younger son, Lee's, responsibility. Lee was only a boy of eight. Children of this time lived the realities for the necessity of fighting to live. He went about the task of bringing in firewood with a serious dedication. Sometimes, even the driftwood from the river which did not burn well was still used. Their combined efforts gave Dennis a chance to live. The fever was fought through and when it broke he was back with the living.

This cabin was also the one where Elizabeth Ann Brewer Collins, Mrs. Nathaniel Stewart Collins, Bell's mother, spent her last days. Some of the grandchildren told the story of remembering their grandmother in bed, but having a weekly Bible study with a visiting minister. Between visits she voraciously read the "Golden Age," which he left. Elizabeth Ann had been a Christian all her life. There are saved receipts of as much as a forty dollar donation to her minister. At that time when a loaf of bread was five cents this amounted to quite a sizable donation. However, when she became ill she had no one to minister to her spiritual needs. The visiting person who went from door to door called on her and spent an hour a week with her in Bible study and it gave her comfort before her death. She would have been very pleased to have seen a Golden Age her children enjoyed. Yet, she will be even more greatly pleased to see the ultimate Golden Age.


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