I love flower gardening, but being a busy mother of five children, an editor and writer for a newspaper, followed by a position of program director and on-air person at a radio station, my flower gardening involved slipping a few annual plants into a hastily prepared bed. Of course, I was aware of the beautiful Iris plants blooming in other gardeners’ flower gardens but my experience with Iris plants were the few I dug up many years ago when we moved from the old homestead to a new house. That was in 1972. I thought those flowers would bring back memories of Grandma Dyke and the yard and flowers I had enjoyed at the homestead, while raising our family.
I planted the clump of Irises on the border of our big yard, them and a peony plant,
and for years did practically nothing to encourage them to grow except maybe occasionally weed around them. The Irises never produced a flower, neither did the peony. It was a shaded area, maybe they preferred the sunshine. They continued in this state until a few years ago when I dug around them, hoping a little love and encouragement might help the situation, they began to look better, but still there were no blooms. Last year, I dug up the nearly forgotten Irises and planted them in my well-groomed flower bed where they would be in the sunshine and that did it. Grandma Dyke’s Irises are blooming. So love and encouragement not only works on people but on flowers, too.
What comes to memory when I see these Irises in bloom? I think of the years of loving care, sacrifices and hard work Grandma Dyke put into her family of six children. (She didn’t neglect her Irises and Peonies either.) One of those children, Fred, was my husband’s father. I’m getting ahead of myself here. Grandma and Grandpa Charles Updyke moved to the old homestead in Sweet Valley when Burl’s dad was three years old, so that would have been in 1911. They came from Courtdale, about eighteen miles away. There, Charles had worked in a breaker at the mines. He also learned to be a carpenter and built the first house on Charles St. ( The street is named for him.)
Why the family decided to leave “town” and come to the country, I’m not sure. Maybe it was a hankering to become a farmer. From what I have learned and seen of mining, he may have wanted to get away from it. What they were moving to was a 30 odd acre orchard farm. They loaded a wagon full of their belongings along with the family, then four children, two additional offspring were born later. At the time, while backing the wagon up to the side porch, it pushed aside a whip of a tree. That tree, a giant locust, still stands today. Grandma Dyke, Barbara Nafus Updyke, was to become a farmer’s wife. Cows were bought and kept in the barn across the road from the house. before the milk was picked up, it sat in the front yard’s cool, spring which never went dry. Several of the milk cans, imprinted with the name “Updyke” are now family heirlooms. It seems what the farm provided, along with the sale of apples, for this family would have been a meager living.
Of the six children, four were sons, two daughters. There was Roland. Warden, Mable, Fred, Merritt and Thelma. How did this family fare under what some might call tough circumstances? Out of their four sons, three became ministers of the gospel of Christ. Fred, Burl’s dad, followed in his dad’s footsteps and became a farmer, tilling the same land that his father did. The children grew up in the Sweet Valley Christian Church where their dad was a deacon for many years and their mother faithfully saw them bathed, and dressed, ready for the wagon ride to church every Sunday and kept a watchful eye on the family that filled a whole pew. The pulpit used for many, many years there, was constructed by Grandpa Dyke.
It was in 1956, both the elder Updykes had passed on, and their family decided to sell the old homestead. We purchased it and raised our family of five children there. Out of our four sons, one became a minister. Our daughter was the tail end of the family, a nice surprise after four boys. Another whole story could be written about this family. Aren’t you surprised that a clump of Irises can evoke so many memories? The fact that they are blooming adds life to these memories.