Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Old Porch

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

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Sunday, May 14, is Mother’s Day and this story is dedicated to my mother, Dorothy Rose Barman Ringelstetter. Memories fade over time, so the storyteller in me might be embellishing things a bit, but it is mostly an accurate picture of how things were.


A well-worn path led from the driveway to the enclosed back porch of the old farmhouse on Elder Lane. The weathered wooden steps were often covered with dew in the early morning shade.


On one side of the porch steps, along the full length of the front of the house, was a colorful parade of flowers, each one opening up in its own time to the morning light. There were bright pink bleeding hearts, one of Mom’s favorites, usually blooming around Mother’s Day.


There were tulips of ivory, primrose, and crimson colors, waiting to be picked and admired in a bouquet of fresh flowers.


And delicate lilies of the valley surrounded all the other flowers and were a beautiful addition to a vase filled with spring flowers.


Shortly after the bleeding hearts and tulips had faded away, there were bright purple irises to brighten our days.


As spring gave way to summer, there were multi-colored gladiolas to enjoy.


On the other side of the steps, a white trellis leaned against the side of the porch. It was covered with periwinkle morning glories that had not yet acknowledged the dawn. A cool breeze often carried the sweet smell of the honeysuckle bush on that corner of the porch.


In the morning, after milking cows, feeding calves, and cleaning the barn, we would follow Dad into the old porch, eager to fill our hungry stomachs with a hearty breakfast. The heavy wooden screen door would slam behind us as we set down the galvanized milk pails full of fresh milk, slipped off our barn boots, and hung up our jackets.


In the mornings, the sun streamed into the east windows of the porch, flooding the wooden floorboards with warmth and splashing against the side of a dilapidated commode that stood just inside the door. The light oak veneer was peeling and faded from the southern exposure to the sun. The drawers were sticky and the handles were loose and mismatched. The top was covered with yellowed newspaper that was stuck to the commode in places. This ramshackle piece of furniture signaled the change in seasons as surely as did the change in the weather.

In the spring, plastic trays were crowded together on top of the newspaper, each one filled with seedlings that were bending toward the sunlight.


In the summer, it held boxes of fresh Georgia peaches, ripening in their crinkly pink tissues and waiting for the chance to drip down somebody’s chin. There were also tomatoes and pears ripening on the windowsills.


In the fall, a bushel basket or two of crisp Macintosh apples stood in the autumn sunlight, soon to be made into applesauce or apple crisp. And in the winter, hot pumpkin or apple pies warmed the top of the commode as they cooled in the chilly air.


Year ‘round, Mondays were wash days in the old porch. Luckily, the porch was pretty big because there were usually seven or eight piles of dirty clothes that had been separated by color and type. This was always the scene on wash day, when Mom started washing at the crack of dawn in order to get everything hung on the clothesline early enough to get dry before dusk.


Each pile would be washed in the wringer washing machine, pushed through the wringer to wring out the soapy water, rinsed by hand in the steel tub connected to the washing machine, tediously pushed through the wringer again (which had been swung from the washer to the steel rinsing tub) to wring out the rinse water, and then hung out to dry. I can still hear the sound of the wringer washing machine, wearily churning a load of heavy overalls.


And I can still remember how tired Mom looked sometimes, working on the farm and taking care of us and all of our needs. She worked from before sun-up until way past sun-down most days and she rarely complained. We owe a lot to her for all she did for us and for helping to shape us into the individuals we are today. This July, it will be 34 years since she left us. We know she is enjoying her rewards in heaven, but we still miss her very much.

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, and Happy Shunpiking!
Joann

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Isherwood's Cradle

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes. Just click on the desired photo and look for the blue “BUY” button.

Years ago, in the early days of my research, I found a book on Amazon about churches in Wisconsin and Minnesota. This was before the days of Amazon’s “look inside” feature, so I had no idea what I was buying.

When the book arrived, it was a tiny little thing with sketches of churches rather than pictures, and often the sketches were conceptual rather than architecturally correct, so it was hard to know what the church really looked like.


Among all the churches, one page in the book described a roadside grave marker for a baby. It was called “Isherwood's Cradle.” I marked it, but it was 2007 before Joann and I decided to see if we could find it.

It took some looking, but we did manage to find the location. It was in a tangle of underbrush, and we decided that there really weren’t any photos to be had. We continued on into the countryside and took photos of farms and other rural buildings.


We even found what we suspect was an old mill. The building sits on Flume Creek, but it was much too sunny that day, so it’s another location on our long list of places to revisit.


Since that time, we have started to hunt up unusual gravesites, so, as I was planning our trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan last fall, I asked Joann if she wanted to drive past again and see what we thought with our “new eyes.”

Driving slowly down the road, it was hard to pick out the cradle, but when we found it again, we also found that the site had been cleaned up. Much of the underbrush had been removed, so the cradle was a little easier to see.


The story that accompanied the sketch in my book was that an old man had told a farmer of his baby who had been buried at the edge of the road sixty years ago during a seven day blizzard. The baby had been born in the farmhouse and, sadly, had died. They couldn’t get further than the edge of the road, so the baby was buried in the ditch near a lilac bush.


Feeling that the baby should be memorialized in some way, the farmer and his son crafted a marker in the shape of a cradle. On the four corners, they welded symbols of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Native American spirituality.


They built a mound of native stone and placed the cradle on top of it. There is a small marker inside the cradle, but there is no wording to be seen on it.


I haven’t managed to find any additional information about this unusual gravesite. My book is 20 years old, and the story about this “cradle grave” said the man was old at that time. It also states that the baby had been buried sixty years before. By now, the man and his baby may be reunited in heaven.


The longer we enjoy this business of ours, documenting history across our beautiful country, the more lessons we learn. In this case, it was to document our finds in photographs when we first visit them. Even in Wisconsin, with so many locations marked to investigate, it’s often hard to find time to return. Luckily for us, when we returned this time, the site was in better shape.

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Happy Shunpiking!
Ruth