You may wonder how I get my ideas for the next “shirlandyou. Actually, I wonder, too; and wonder and wonder until the time arrives that I have to write something. This week’s idea came to mind as I read a story written by a young girl about her experiences living on a farm in the early 1900’s. We all remember Old Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes, well, this story is about a farm goose, or geese, and a mother.
Early 1900’s was only one hundred and twelve years ago, think about it, that’s not so terribly long ago. There may still be a few people alive who lived back then. That was when only a handful of people earned enough to enjoy such expensive luxuries as piped water, hot water, indoor toilets and electricity. Most Americans now have radios, TV’s, automobiles and much more that no millionaire in 1900 could possibly obtain.
Getting back to the 1900 farm girl’s story, it was not one of total
hardship. She talked about the good times making molasses candy and the big time they had getting ready for the church’s yearly revival meetings. What really caught my eye was when she told how she and the other children in the family would catch the farm’s geese and take them to their mother for plucking. Now, I was not raised on a farm, my husband was, but his was more truck farming, raising vegetables and strawberries. As a young child, though, he remembers his parents had a goose, a mean goose. “Oh, yes they are mean,” said a good friend of mine, Elsie Mahoney. During her whole lifetime she has lived on a farm. “They chase you and grab for your backside and then twist,” she said. Burl, my husband, remembers well having gone through this experience.
So how the children in the story were able to catch their geese and how their mother was able to restrain them while plucking their feathers, the story doesn’t tell. But why she did this was explained, to make feather pillows for the family. By the way, the geese were not left devoid of all their feathers. no, they survived the process as mother was particular to pluck the down near the bottom of the feathers. Pillow ticking could be purchased back then, three sides were stitched and an opening left to put the feathers in. Details on how to clean the feathers were not given, but I imagine they were washed first. Today, it’s suggested that they be placed in the freezer to kill any unwanted creatures. although washing them should accomplish this, too. Sounds like tedious work, doesn’t it? And a big job! Finished pillows were approximately 18 by 30 inches, but pillows were not the only thing that the girl’s mother made. Imagine plucking enough feathers for bed sized feather beds.
Sheets were made from unbleached muslin. Then about 1928 when hog and chicken feed came in muslin sacks, mother would economize and would sew four of these together to make a sheet. I’m sure you’ve seen how beds were constructed before sets of springs and innerspring mattresses. They were wooden slats, or earlier, woven rope supports fastened to a wooden bedstead. However, sleeping comfort was not exempt on the old homestead, mom took care of that. Although a straw tick was the mattress, a feather bed, and feather pillows, encased in fancy embroidered pillow cases topped this straw tick, and families slept in hand crafted elegance.
As a child, I remember sleeping on feather pillows and how the shaft of the feather would sometimes come through the ticking. Pillow fights between the boys were a messy sight. They say those old feather pillows lasted a life time. The ones we used at home had been passed done from grandparents. I’ve never wished this before, but how comforting it would be to have the feathered pillows my mother used, on our family’s beds.
If right about now, you could use some consoling and comforting, grab an old feather pillow or better yet, turn to Psalm 91:4 and read these words: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”