Archives for category: cowgirls

So, it’s A-okay to have a treat when you’re expecting and even better when the doctor prescribes it!  Some more entries from our mystery diary:

“Thur. Jan. 12

Jay & I got out about day light. Had a time getting the fire to go so did not have our breakfast very pronto. Jay cut up quite a lot of the wood & packed some upstairs. Got his tradeing done before dinner & left for home about 2 p.m. I surely hated to see him go but tried to be a good girl & not a baby.

Mama & I went down town about four P.M. & saw the Dr. He told me to try Oyster soup & Bananas so hurrah for me we had Oyster soup for supper.

Bright but cool.”

It was a big deal to have your husband leave, when home was nine hours away across the snowy Montana plains.  I hope our lady diarist got some comfort from her fancy soup.  Oysters are pretty scarce in Montana now, I can imagine how expensive they were in ’22.

Here’s a recipe for ‘old fashioned’ oyster soup, posted at http://hambycatering.com/blog/old-fashioned-oyster-stew/.  It’s pretty much like all the old recipes out there for this dish:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 12-16 ounces standard-size oysters with liquid
  • 1 quart half-and-half
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (14-ounce) box oyster crackers

“Melt butter in a heavy saucepan.  Add oysters and cook over low heat just until edges curl.  Slowly add half-and-half and heat gently.  Do not boil.  Add salt and pepper.  Serve steaming hot with oyster crackers.”

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After the big New Year’s Eve party–the hangover.  The next few entries in the diary describe a tired, grumpy household getting up late and ‘messing around’.  Read for yourself:

“Wed. Jan. 4.                                     13o below.                                    1922.

Got up a little earlier & Jay was on the peck & meaner than the d–.  He is never happy than when he can provoke me.  Fixed the kitchen walls and part of the ceiling.  Killed two pullets. One egg eaten.  Got 2 eggs.  I emb. on & tatted for the dress all day.  Ruth emb. pillow case.

Jay cut his thumb nail into.  Frank was busy trapping.  Had a nice tough swift steak for dinner.   Fritz Ontromire (?) was here after some mail.”

Tatting lace is a tricky skill, requiring intense concentration.  Here is a dress with tatted collar, dated 1950 but gives you the idea (credit: littlegreybungalow.blogspot.com).

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While our mystery lady was squinting at her tatting and arguing with Jay (sounds like her husband to me!) her father and a fellow named Frank were up in the snowy hills, laying trapline in 10F below weather.

But the humdrum routine of winter is soon to be interrupted by a major event in our diarist’s life…

A few days later phone call from the owner of Circle Square Antiques brought me back through that creaky wooden door.  “Come see what else was with the diaries,” said John, who I view as a friendly Charon guiding folks across the river Styx into myriad unknown pasts.

A small dingey envelope labelled “G. E. Schoffield, Ovando, MT”  lay on the glass counter.  The cursive writing in fountain pen was brisk; businesslike; nothing like our rancher lady’s cheerful looping script.  If you look carefully you can see how well-preserved it is: an Eastman-Kodak envelope (poor old Kodak!) from Smith’s Drug Store on HIggins Ave. in Missoula.

Who was G. E. Schoffield?  Was it our mystery lady, or one of her family members, or just a neighbor who rode a horse/drove a buggy/hopped on the New York Stagecoach/caught a ride in one of those newfangled CARS into Missoula?  And where in the heck is Ovando, Montana? 

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Well, here’s a map, and a picture of the trading post today.  Ovando is still there, still small (81 souls at last census), still Euro-American (98.8%, with 41% German ancestry) and probably still mostly a ranching community (If one of you readers knows anything about G. E. Schoffield from Ovando MT please write to me pronto!)

Meanwhile, John carefully pulled out the negatives and we peered at them through the light of the window.