Bernice Forest Diary, 1916 - 1917

December 30th, 1916

st one more day in the year 1916, and three weeks or almost a month of happenings to tell about before the end of the year. I’ve been home for over a week – came home a week ago yesterday (Friday) and now Christmas is past. I don’t think I’ll forget this Christmas very soon but in case I should I am going to write it down to prevent it. Mildred and I with Tillie, went after the Christmas tree Saturday and I wore papa’s boots and wore a blister on my heel because they rubbed my feet so hard. It had been snowing and we had a snow ball fight when we got on to the bridge. When we got back to Bretz’s we left the tree on the wagon while we went into the house with Tillie and Mr. Bretz tho’t the tree was Tillie’s so he took it in the house. We tho’t he had done it for a joke and went home without it. Harriet and I went after it the next day.

We had lots of fun fixing up the tree, and decorating the house with mistletoe.

Christmas eve was quiet and lovely. I real Van Dykes “The Last Word” out loud while the while family sat around the fireplace except dad who was on the couch as usual. But we were suddenly taken from the sublime to the ridiculous by a visit under the house from a skunk. Papa and mother went to bed, and we girls sat about forming a parody on “the night Before Xmas” to such the visit of the skunk.

“Twas the night before Xmas

And all thru the bunk,

Not a creature was stirring

Excepting that skunk

Each of us fled from the

parlor with care

In hopes that the piano

Would enjoy it there

While out in the sitting room,

There came such an odor

The family accepted it as a remover

And each, as we turned over,

And blew out the light,

Held our noses tight

And called a smelly “Good Night””

When we got up on Christmas morning the perfume was still there but not quite so strong. We ate our breakfast before we had our gifts, then sitting about the hearth on the floor before a crackling fire, with dad playing Santa, we opened our gifts as he called our names from the tree. He hadn’t opened Hazel’s or Lucille’s package so he did that too. It was all so nice and “homey” altho we did miss the girls – even tho they did remember us so well.

Our Christmas dinner was very plain – in fact I don’t think we ever had Christmas dinner without meat – and this one was. But no one complained and we all tried to forget finances and enjoy the day.

Christmas night we went down to see John and Tillie. That is, we girls did, but dad and mother went to bed. We had lots of fun walking down carrying the lantern and trying to hold our dresses high enough to miss the mud. Harriet looked too comical for words with her dress pulled up above her knees and nothing but a short white petticoat and boots showing below her coat. John and Tillie are good hosts – and we had a good time – talking sense and nonsense – mostly the former, for john isn’t much for the latter. He is known to have said that “all novels are trash and all girls are silly” – hense our attempt at talking sense to him. (Harriet says he is twenty-four but he seems more like thirty-four to me.) But the climax of the evening came when he asked Harriet to teach him to dance – a thing which he has always refused to do before. But with Tillie at the piano as the orchestra they began. I pulled myself, feet and all – up on the couch to give more available dancing space, and watched the proceedings. Before long however, I had to make a wild search for the “funny paper” – in order to find an outlet for my feelings. John is very persistent – and he is very stiff – Harriet may have hopes for him. I have very little – unless he gets springs for his knees.

When it came time for us to go home John and Tillie brought us as far as our gate in their “Jeffery”. But when they attempted to drive into our wonderful “driveway”, they found the mud too deep for them, and got stuck. We got out and pushed, and pried, and “puffed and huffed” – and just when we tho’t it was going to back out all right – it backed too far – skidded – and away it went off the culvert into the ditch. By that time dad had awakened and dressed and came to our rescue. He carried all the fence posts around, to the hind wheels, we all sat on them to pry up the wheels in order to level the car and – about eleven-thirty with the aid of all our gasoline and kerosene – the car was finally on the way home. Dad told John “after this do as I do – let these girls come home the same way they go.” He has done that since.

But life here isn’t all dancing lessons and auto rides. When I came home I discovered the family finances were at the lowest ebb they had ever been in our history. There has been no milk in the house since a week after Thanksgiving because papa couldn’t afford to pay fotr the feed of the cows since they didn’t give enough milk to pay for their feed. One dozen eggs is all that has been in the house since the last time I was here. No meat - no nothing - that costs money because dad hasn’t the money to buy anything. He went to town Tuesday and came home with just exactly thirty cents, the entire extent of his bank account – and no chance to borrow any more. He wouldn’t go to town the next day for fear he’d spend it – so he told me. I went in that day and bought some butter and gasoline – (he couldn’t saw any more wood till he had gasoline for the wood saw) But yesterday was the bluest day, when he came home with two cans of carnation milk, no money in his pocket, and said he had been turned down absolutely – every where he went to get a loan. He just has to have money to pay for groceries – and money to get some crops in here – and a few improvements before it is in shape to sell. But what to do I can’t tell. I have offered to lend him the remainder of my check which is only a drop - about $7.00. Mother went in today to try her luck with some of the loan men – but she looked so discouraged when she came back I didn’t have the courage to ask her how she succeeded – and I guess I didn’t need to. She wrote to Hazel today and told her the situation and asked for a loan – so I am sure they will get a little from there. But I feel sorry to have to ask Hazel for it when they are trying to get started themselves. I’ll be so thankful when we do get on our feet – and when I can earn something myself to help out.

It seems funny that this shamrock – should show up in this place in my book. I’m going to take it as a good omen. Surely it can’t get any darker – and it is always “darkest before dawn.”

John has invited Harriet to go into town in the morning with him and Mildred and I are going along – to go to Church. I haven’t been to church since the morning of Dec. 17, when Mr. Huffman caught me trying to skip church because I didn’t like the evangelist – and made me go back with him.

Mr. Huffman is a strange man – sometimes just like a big little boy – and other times like a powerful machine. But for all his strangeness I like him. Miss Frances doesn’t – and she makes all sorts of remarks about him. He has a “pretty fine girl” down south some where, though. Nice men usually do.

I wonder what next year 1917 – will bring to me. Not things like 1916 I hope.

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