Monthly Archives: April 2013

Block Thirty-Three: Not-So-Contrary Husband

contraryhusbandActually, the name of this week’s block is Contrary Husband, and Barbara Brackman selected this block to remind us that not so long ago, it didn’t matter how rotten a man was, if you married him, you were stuck.

Any property you brought to the marriage became his.  Money?  You guessed it, his.  Land?  His.  If you had children with him and decided to leave him?  Yeah, he got the offspring, too.  What if he beat you?  That was your tough luck, because your family and society in general were just as likely to turn a blind eye to his execrable behavior as well your bruises and broken bones.  Divorce you say?  That wasn’t happening either.  The callous old saying, “you made your bed, now lie in it,” seems so much more cruel used in this context.

I’m in such a good mood, I believe that I’ll pull a Scarlett O’Hara regarding this week’s block topic – I’ll think about it tomorrow.  We’re on vacation this week and we’ve been having some high times around the home place.  I’ve had the opportunity to get some flower beds cleaned out and seeded, and the dogs are enjoying the extra freedom.  The donkeys are ready to get shed of their winter coats – it’s amazing how long they’ll stand still when I have a brush in my hand – and one of the two people that live here has been battling the epic number of tumbleweeds dropped on our place by the last few windstorms (psst… it hasn’t been me).

Barbara Brackman Grandmother's Choice Contrary Husband Template

Ms. Brackman’s pattern called for a solid square in the center, but I couldn’t leave it there.  That large center patch was crying out for me to be contrary and add my own touch… why not?

The Great War, A Biplane, & Damson Plums

Ben Saucier Ree Heights South Dakota 1920

The following is the transcription of a letter written by my granduncle, Benjamin Harrison Saucier – that’s Ben in the photograph above – addressed to his younger sister, Josephine (Saucier) Cowan.  The letter came to me through a Howell cousin, who was also the source of the bios written by Henrietta (Saucier) Pace.

Dear Jo,

Yes, I hear from you from time to time but not as often as I’d like, so get on the job and show your class – Am writing this in a greenhouse that is attached to a chateau that’s surrounded by the most beautiful grounds you ever saw.  We are in a small village 6 or 8 miles from Nancy and about the same distance from St. Nicolas – both good towns.  

With the possible exception of the day I was born, yesterday was possibly the biggest day of my life.  Two of my corporals & myself were strolling around a little and wandered over to the aviation field – going down I remarked that all I needed was to take a fly over Nancy.  They ran out a light bombing plane and one of the assistants asked – Who’s going along.  I said – “I am” first, so we soared for awhile — He started straight for Nancy and reached it at an elevation of 5000 feet.  The view was something that I shall not soon forget.  

We circled over the city rising to 8000 feet in doing it, then went out in the country.  It seemed more like a dream than anything I’ve ever experienced – We went to 11,000 feet high and came back over Nancy at that height at a speed of 96 per.  Could only see the earth then in spots for the sky was cloudy & the clouds were all below us.  

The only thing I regret is that I did not enlist in that branch.  It’s too late now to think of transferring.  We were up for about an hour and I wouldn’t exchange it for any other hour I ever spent.  It sure was great – The clouds as seen from above with patches of mother earth here and the mountains in the distance etc. etc. is the most wonderful picture I’ve ever seen.

We came back from the front lines again a few days ago and will most likely be back for a month or 6 wks.  We are altogether yet and feeling fine. – We are out of the mountains – in a beautiful rolling country almost level and for a change it looks pretty good.

There are worlds of damson plums in this vicinity.  I wish you might see this country – Pass this on to some of the rest for I’ve neither time nor stationery to write to all – been writing to Mother at Stanton today — Haven’t seen anything of Eugene’s bro. yet.  Would like to run across him.  Write – Good luck & lots of it to both of you —

Ben — Cack is right with me & is ok.

Sleuthing: It’s Not Just For Hard-Boiled Detectives

Many happy hours I’ve spent daydreaming while reading this letter.  Besides the letter being a cherished piece of family history, I’ve often wondered what kind of impact it may have had on my father, who later became a pilot.  Dad would have been eight years old at the time this was written, and it’s easy for me to imagine the family gathered to hear Uncle Ben’s letter from France being read.

What’s hard for me to believe is that this letter has been on my ‘to-do’ list for well over a decade – funny how time gets away from you.  My goal was to date it as closely as I could with something other than “Sometime during WWI: April 1917-November 1918”.

I was recently provided with a new clue from a Cowan cousin that rekindled my interest in the letter.  That one item, along with the clues supplied in the body of the letter itself have allowed me to narrow down the date considerably.

the clue

For a dove of long standing, I find it just a little embarrassing to admit to an interest in military history, but it helps that I’m aided and abetted by a husband who shares that interest.  Sifting through source material is an engaging pastime for us – so here’s hoping that you don’t find the journey a dry one.

Look Out… This May Be Your MEGO Moment

Shoulder Insignia of th 35th "Santa Fe" Division, WWIBenjamin and his brother Charles ended up in the 138th Infantry, Company E of the 35th “Santa Fe” Division made up of National Guardsmen and draftees from the states of Missouri and Kansas.  They trained for over seven months at Camp Doniphan near Fort Sill, Oklahoma (which by the way, is located less than fifty miles from my back door).

Those seven months must’ve been eye-openers for a couple of farm boys hailing from a green and ‘water fat’ state, finding themselves just a stone’s throw from the 100th Meridian, the onset of the great American desert (only about sixty miles from my front door).

As mind boggling as southwestern Oklahoma may have been to them, the pair probably had little time to gape – the infantrymen of the 35th were drilled intensively by British and French instructors in the use of bayonet, hand grenades, and gas masks.

I’ve provided a few online sources below that you may find interesting, but what it boils down to is this: the 35th division was mobilized, leaving Camp Doniphan in late winter, 1918.  They were moved to the east coast by train, embarking from New York Harbor arriving at LeHavre, France May 10, 1918.  The infantry received additional training in Amiens until June 6, 1918.  Then traveling by rail – 40 men and 8 horses per boxcar – the destination was the Wesserling sub-sector on the Western Front in the Vosges Mountains where they remained through mid-August.  On September 1st, the 35th moved forward to St. Mihiel where they fought their first battle.  Between September 12th-16th, the American Expeditionary Forces liberated the town of Nancy and the 35th bivouacked in the Foret de Haye just a few miles west of town.  The Meuse-Argonne Offensive began September 26, 1918 lasting until the Armistice, November 11, 1918.

The 35th Division collapsed after five days of fighting in the Battle of the Argonne, which has been described as the greatest battle in the history of the American military.  In little more than four months, the division casualty list totaled 7,296 (killed in action – 1,018; wounded in action – 6,278).

It saddens me when I think of Ben’s last line: Cack is right with me & is ok… less than two weeks later, Cack was killed in action.

Charles Clide (Cack) Saucier born April 6, 1895 in Sullivan, Franklin County, Missouri – died September 27, 1918, age 23, in the Argonne Forest during the second day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Chas_Saucier Headstone App

Sources:
United States, Adjutant General Military Records, 1631-1976 (p. 191-2)
The 35th Infantry Division in the Great War
The Diary of a Doughboy
The Meuse-Argonne Offensive
From Vauquois Hill to Exermont by Clair Kenamore

Blocks Thirty-One And Thirty-Two

What, another twofer?  Yes – seeing as how two weeks ago my iron did a full gainer off the ironing board (long story having to do with my bigoldfatone).  That one event put a halt to all things quilt related, and it took so stinkin’ long for the replacement dry iron to arrive.  Methinks the vendor made a tidy little profit on shipping costs judging by the length of time it took to get here vs. the $$ I paid.

Block Thirty-One: Tinted Chains

The title Tinted Chains, refers to the circumscribed lives of women who were bound to husbands, families, and homes; chattel, denied the right to voice an opinion at the polls.

I pulled in a new fabric, a medium gold plaid, to replace the orange fabric that I 86ed.  No matter how hard I coaxed, the orange just wouldn’t play nice.  I probably spent more time auditioning fabrics for the Tinted Chains block than it took to make, but I do admire the finished piece.

Tinted Chain Barbara Brackman Fight For Womens Rights Quilt Grandmother's Choice

Block Thirty-Two: Mr. Roosevelt’s Necktie

The block is called Mr. Roosevelt’s Necktie in reference to the Bull Moose (Progressive) Party’s use of the women’s suffrage plank in the failed 1908 presidential race.

Is it a necktie?  Or is it a doggy treat?  My first impression of this pattern was a dog bone – try as I might, I can’t get that image out of my head.  I’m all about the more traditional bow tie pattern, and I admit that I’ve reached the point where I actually kind of enjoy Y-seams, but I don’t mind adding a variation to my pattern book.

Mr. Roosevelt's Necktie Barbara Brackman Fight For Womens Rights Quilt Grandmother's Choice

Much can be done by law towards putting women on a footing of complete and entire equal rights with man – including the right to vote, the right to hold and use property, and the right to enter any profession she desires on the same terms as the man… Women should have free access to every field of labor which they care to enter, and when their work is as valuable as that of a man it should be paid as highly.  Theodore Roosevelt, 1913

Froggy Went A-Courtin’

I’m in the mood this evening for old folk songs.

I like to say that I grew up in a car, and that’s really not very far from the truth.  My family crisscrossed the American southwest when I was young and we nearly always went by car.  My very first memory of a car was our family Nash Rambler.

Over the years, as both our family and the concept of American transportation changed, the family “beater” changed with us; we eventually graduated to a full-size Country Squire station wagon.  But before we acquired that behemoth, I can remember times when my sisters would stuff me up into the rear deck of the sedan so they could ride more comfortably in the back seat.  (Note: seat belts were not in common use at this time)

In those days AM radio was king.  This was long before the FM band came standard in a car, and the music and chatter would fade in and out as you traveled along the highways.  After sunset was the best.  It was then when many of the AM stations would boost their signals and you’d be able to hold a station far into the night.

SaucierOccasionally there would be times when we couldn’t find a station at all.  At these times my dad would chime in, keeping all of us kids quiet by singing old folk songs in a very acceptable baritone.  Froggy Went A-Courtin’ was definitely the front runner, with The Crawdad Song and Bill Grogan’s Goat finishing in the money.

Personally, I always favored the latter (nothing like a little blood and gore to get, and keep, a child’s attention).

I don’t know why I started thinking about those songs tonight.  All I really wanted to do here was to let you know that I’ve got the final part of Henrietta’s Story posted.  I won’t say that this is the last of Aunt Hattie’s stories, new items turn up from time to time, plus I’m constantly surprised by things that I’ve squirreled away and forgotten.  For now at least, you can find the latest segment here, Henrietta’s Story: Part Three.