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A Lean-To


After their meal the women were busy cleaning off the table and washing dishes.

“These are such lovely dishes, Zona.” Mrs. Stanton could feel the delicate thin plates as she swished a dish cloth over them for drying and placed them upon a make shift cupboard John had hastily put together.

“It’s a pain to keep the field mice out of them. One of the Indian men taught John how to take a large, live bull-snake by the head and push it around the camp. The mice won’t cross over where its trail goes.”

“Oh my! Say! Now that is nice to know. The mice have been a real nuisance.” Mrs. Stanton was glad to learn this handy bit of knowledge.

The men visited and smoked their pipes. John’s pipe was never farther away than his pocket. It was a ritual with him, the tapping it out to clean the bowl, then tamping fresh tobacco into it, lighting and relighting it until he could finally draw the smoke from the bowl of it. It wasn’t until he was 93 that he had to take radiation for the treatment of a cancer at the place on his mouth where the stem of it always rested.

“I’ll tell you what,” Stanton spoke to John. “I’ll come over and see if between the two of us we can’t get this place put together. When we get yours, you can come help me with mine.”

“Well, now! That sure is good of you to offer and danged if ah won’t take you up on it.” John reached over to Stanton and heartily shook his hand as a way for sealing the deal. Those were the days when a man’s pride, in fidelity made his word “as good as his handshake.”

Indian summer was their friend at the time. She was the one who was holding the fierce grip of winter at arms length. As the sun began to drop lower in the sky and the days began to grow shorter Stanton and John had put the Jones’ structure up and were hard at work on his in turn. As they pounded the last nails into the boards of the porch on Stanton’s house, the two men congratulated each other on their success.

“John! Ole’ friend. We had our work cut out fur us, but it looks like we purt near have ‘er whipped.”

“I could-nah done it without you, Stanton, and I’m obliged.” John thanked his friend.

No sooner had the families settled into their homes than the blast of winter swooped down upon them. The howling of the fierce, banshee winds weren’t able to cut through the heavy wooden walls, though. The icy cold, blasts knifed their way through everything else except their fortifications and structures. The wooded area close to the creek provided fuel for a wood stove and with this they were able to keep warm. The house wasn’t as well insulated as the log cabin John’s father built on Hogshooter Creek in Bartlesville but it was far better than trying to keep warm with a *lean to and a roaring fire in front of that.

Zona’s little daughter was just a child but already the mother was teaching her girl to use a needle and thimble.

“Always keep your thimble handy, Girl.” She advised her daughter. “It will save you a lot of grief if you learn to use it as well as if it wasn’t even on your finger. The clicking of the needle against the thimble on Zona’s finger testified to this statement and her little daughter marveled at how her mother could so rapidly run the needle through the fabric. The child learned to turn the edges of the fabric and by finger pressing the hems first she held the fabric so the needle easily slipped along the edge.”

“I’ve saved some of the Christmas wrapping string. I’ll teach you to crochet with that.” Zona kept the little string doilies her daughter had made as a child for her whole life time. The little bright spots of color gave an accent for highly polished side tables in her living room.In the cold barren winter Zona found herself longing for the colors of spring flowers so she often cut petals from bright colored fabric in a long row much like paper dolls, which have been cut and all strung together. By rolling this up into a rose shape, tying them at the base with string on a wire and then dipping them into hot paraffin to give them body they held their shape. In this way she was able to have a splash of color on her dining table. The lovely hues of her fake flowers gave them a respite from the dreariness and colorless environment and these were the simple things to give them courage to endure.

*A lean to was simply a piece of canvas for a roof that was hooked to two trees in close proximity. Wood on the sides and back of the space kept some rain out. Essentially, it was just a warm place to sleep and to get in out of the most bitter of the cold. It was placed in a wooded area so a roaring fire kept burning at all times. The temporary place served while the men were desperately working to get some sort of log cabin erected. Sometimes a more sophisticated structure had a roof and wood floor but still had the front wall open.


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