Winter Then and Now

        I get up in the morning from my toasty warm bed, warmed by the heated mattress pad.  I come down the stairs and turn up the thermostat to a warmer temperature.  I then proceed to make a pot of coffee, listen to the news on television and start my day.

I think sometimes of how others long ago woke up on frosty mornings like today and how their day began.  First they would struggle from under their multiple layers of covers ,if they were fortunate to have several blankets, and put their feet on icy floors.  As they scrambled to put on their clothes, they looked out windows with frost upon them.  Then they would have to put wood in the stove or the fireplace.  Wood that they had spent time cutting and stacking the days and weeks before.  The night before they had banked the fire so that it would still have embers in the morning to catch fire.  

As their fire was beginning to burn, they would go outside to the shed where meat might be hanging and cut off some to fry in a pan.  Then they would trudge through banks of snow to the chicken house to gather the eggs before they froze in their nests and bring them in for their breakfast and baking.  They would fill a pot with water and put it on the stove or over the fireplace to heat.  The milk would come later after they milked the cows.

Meanwhile, I have already drank a cup or two of coffee, put my toast in the toaster and taken jam out of the refrigerator.   The house is becoming nice and warm and I can go about my day in comfort.

Our ancestors, meanwhile were still working on making the fire and adding wood to it to make it hotter.  The warmest place in the house was directly in front of the fireplace or stove.  I remember gathering around the stove on frigid winter mornings in our kitchen which was the warmest room in the house.  I was blessed to have a father who had already gotten up early to make the fire so that the house would be warm for his family.

As I go through my day, I don’t worry about keeping warm as the furnace keeps pumping warm air up through the registers and my house is comfortable. 

Our ancestors, however, had to bring in wood from the woodpile several times a day to keep the fire going.  Part of the day was spent splitting wood and stacking it by the door.  Cold foods were kept outside because there was no refrigerator.   I just open a door and there is plenty of food for the day or week. 

Animals had to be fed and watered as they were the family’s livelihood.  Cows had to be milked, chickens fed and eggs gathered, pigs fed and bales of straw spread for beds for the animals.

I get my milk from the refrigerator and remember the times when my daddy had to go out in the cold winter mornings to milk the cows.  Cows needed to be milked every day.  We drank the good cow’s milk after Mother pasteurized it in the pasteurizer.   

Not a day goes by in winter that I don’t think about how easy I have it compared to those who lived long before me.  Roads are quickly cleared now so that people can get into their warm cars and go where they want to go.  Years ago people had to harness their horses or mules and get in their wagons or sleighs to go anywhere.  Roads were not cleared for them, nor did they expect them to be.   We complain if the roads aren’t cleared within hours of a snow storm.

  Every winter about this time, I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, The Long Winter.  It reminds me how hard it use to be in the winter for people.  Laura’s family had to heat their house with twisted straw as the long winter commenced because all the wood was gone.  They had no way to get food because the train could not get through to bring supplies to their little town on the prairie.  People were starving and they could not even find anything to hunt.  Finally, Almanzo Wilder, Laura’s one day to be husband, and another man took out across the prairie to find a man that was rumored to have a large supply of wheat.  They were to go there and bring some back for the townspeople.  It was a very exciting trip they had.  They made it before the next blizzard came through and saved the  townspeople from starving to death.

As night draws nigh, I take a bath in a warm tub and heat my pajamas in the dryer before I put them on.  Then at bed time I get back into my nicely heated bed and go to sleep.

My ancestors had to bank the fire, be sure that all the animals were in for the night.  They had to haul water for their baths, heat it beforehand, and afterward they got into their icy cold beds and probably slept as soundly as I do.   I am so thankful I don’t have to worry about where my heat is coming from in the morning or work so hard to get my food.  I thank my ancestors for being the hardy people they were. 

Think about your ancestors when you get up in these cold, winter mornings and thank God you don’t have to do all they had to do just to survive.  Here’s to hardy ancestors.  Bye.

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