Everybody stopped working even Dad and the farmhands to listen to the sirens, the bells and the big shoe-factory whistle all at once or in rapid succession. People made all kinds of joyful noises, celebrating the end of the horrible "war to end wars."
We could hear Columbia’s celebration racket from four miles east of downtown. My earliest memory is of the Armistice Day celebration on Nov. 11, 1918, when I was 4 years old. There was not much noise on roads or farms in those days of horse-drawn implements.
Even Dad and the farmhands stopped work and came to the front lawn that day to listen. I’m sure Mom cried because Uncle Lawrence Henry had enlisted and was suffering in the horrible trenches in France.
It was weeks before she knew he had survived.
Bess and John Estes were our neighbors who lived a half-mile away when we went by footpath through the woods and across a small branch of Grindstone Creek.
When we went by horse and buggy, it was about two miles, and we had to open and close six or eight gates or gaps ours and theirs. It was about a half-day event to visit Bess or for her to come to our house. We usually walked.
Every Sunday, Mom drove the milk truck to Olivet Church to play the pump organ for Sunday school. She’d be waiting when Dad returned after delivering milk and cream to Columbia families in time for their breakfasts.
Bess harnessed the mare, hitched it to the buggy and tied it while she dressed in her very best and headed for Olivet Church at Harg, four miles east.
John Austin Estes helped Bess load butter, eggs and cream, which she would sell or trade when William McHarg opened his store after Sunday school.
Bess and John were farming at the turn of the century. Bess raised beautiful flowers and traded iris and cannas bulbs with friends, including Mom.
There was an old Estes burial ground in the yard, and Bess kept the grass and weeds cut and decorated with flowers there, on graves of people she had never known. She also decorated graves in the old cemetery of Olivet Church.
When Mom visited Bess, I played with baby kittens or baby chickens. Bess taught me how to put my hand on the hen’s head and hold it down gently so she couldn’t peck my hand when I reached under her warm body and took out a little yellow baby Buff Orphington.
I’d wrap it in my long dress and talk it to sleep. Later I’d put it back the same way: one hand on the hen’s head and push the baby chick under its mother, where a dozen or more other little warm yellow babies rested.
The hen spoke softly and scooted her big warm body around a bit to fit the extra baby back with the others. Then she spread herself wider to cover all of those little bodies and spoke with them in a gentle cooing noise to quiet her precious family.
A few times I saw a black snake looking for eggs, and I saw one swallow an egg!
It took a lot of stretching of the snake’s mouth to finally surround that egg and get it moving in and out of sight.
The egg was still intact inside the snake when I had to leave for the long walk home.
Gee, it was fun being a kid in the early part of this century and going to visit Bess and John.