Thursday, January 4, 2018
THE FAMILY STORYTELLER
20 May 1904 - 15 October 1997
My dad's older sister, born in Las Animas Colorado, became the family storyteller. I'd like to share a bit of her written legacy - bits and pieces of what it was like growing up in the dry land farming area.
My parents, Maude McConnell and Scott W. Dobbins, were married December 28, 1898, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They met the year before when Papa and his brother Gaston were members of the Midland Band in Colorado Springs, playing during the summer in Stratton Park. His family lived in Las Animas, Colorado, his father a rancher.
The wedding was held in Colorado Springs at the home of Lillie McCammon, Mama's widowed sister, with family and friends present, her mother Frances McConnell, brother Bert, Aunt Lillie's children, Hazel age 10, Floyd 8 and Frank 6. Papa's brother Gaston was there. His parents were unable to come because of illness. The young couple would live in Las Amimas on the ranch.
Ranch life was a new experience for Mama, different from farm life as a child and city life as a young woman. She would become an expert in the ten years they lived there. I arrived on the scene May 20, 1904, Dorothy Caroline, and was born in town rather than the ranch. My grandfather had died early in 1904 and Grandma soon moved back to Kansas to live. Uncle Gaston married Sophie Swanson in 1901. She was born in Sweden, came to Omaha, Nebraska when she was 22 years old. She had a friend in Las Animas whom she visited and that is how they met.
Papa raised hay and grain for the stock, and garden vegetables and melons. Mamma's very graphic accounts of ranch life never failed to entertain us, the one most exciting was of a bull snake who shared the kitchen with the family for a very short while! It was an adobe house and over the kitchen door was a hollowed out place where he lay at times. Mama's ultimatum was "Either he goes or I go", so Mr. Snake went. There was a pet goat and sheep always into some sort of mischief. One year Papa raised some prize melons which he planned to enter in the county fair. A day or so before the fair opened the goat got in the melon patch and took a bite out of every one of the choice melons! Papa was so angry he could have killed him. By the time he caught up with him his anger had cooled. Lucky goat!
We had two dogs, Beppo, a large shaggy spaniel type, and Tatters, a little short-haired Mexican dog. Both were my constant companions. One day I took a walk down the road, wandering too far. When I was missed, Papa got on his horse and found us near the river! That was a no-no; a whack on the seat of my pants was a reminder not to venture so far away again.
Nearly every Saturday night Papa and his orchestra played for country dances held in various places. Papa played the cornet, Ed Simons the piano, his brother Clyde the violin. Everyone young and old were there. The little ones were bedded down at one end of the dance hall, older children amused themselves or watched the grownups dance. Hazel was about sixteen when allowed to dance. The boys thought it was boring, Mama said! Papa didn't dance. Mama said she always had plenty of partners for dancing.
The years passed. Papa decided to give up ranching and moved the family in town in the early summer of 1908. A new baby was expected; my brother Scott Walter was born July 1st. Everyone was happy. Mama said I went to all the neighbors, telling them about my baby brother. I called him Buzz, as did the family. He carried the name on into late life, he is still Buzz to me. As a little boy he had curly golden hair and brown eyes. As he grew older his hair was dark brown. My hair was brown and straight as a string, my eyes brown. Mama had black curly hair, brown eyes and fair skin. Papa had blond or light brown hair and blue eyes. I think I resemble his family and Buzz our mother's.
Papa continued playing in the orchestra. They did the dances and in addition they played at the moving picture theatre five nights weekly. When we were old enough to go, our friends envied us. We got in free. Papa worked in a furniture store for several years and later was in real estate for dry land farming. I remember going with him in the horse and buggy out south of town to see some of the farmers.
Grandma McConnell (Bonnie) came to visit us in Las Animas often, usually staying a month or so. She always brought her featherbed rolled up, wrapped in canvas and tied with a rope. What a treat for Buzz and me to snuggle up with Bonnie in that feathery heaven. Once in a while Grandma Dobbins came to visit while Bonnie was with us. There was some rivalry between them but they usually enjoyed each other. Since we saw more of Bonnie we felt closer to her. Bonnie lived in a little three room house half way up the alley from the Wheelers. Uncle Charlie owned a lot on the street north of them. He built a house to sell and on the back of the lot he built Grandma's house. I spent many happy vacations visiting them.
We had a variety of pets, dogs, puppies, cats, kittens, chickens, ducks, fish, guinea pigs, polliwogs who lost their tails and became little toads and hopped away. One summer the little ducks followed the dripping ice wagon and we had to gather them up and take them home. Hortense, a large black and white mongrel whose favorite pastime was climbing a tree in front of our house. A nameless cat I loved to dress in my doll clothes and wheel about in my doll buggy. One episode ended when a strange dog came along barking, scared the cat who jumped out of the buggy and climbed up the nearest light pole, clothes in shreds. During the melee, dog barking, me yelling, cat yowling, Papa came to the rescue of the cat. Then my ever-patient father lost his patience and I got a spanking but good.
A favorite chicken, Josephine, grew up to be a beautiful rooster, who any time the screen door was left ajar, came in and made himself at home on the couch. Wow! that made trouble for chicken and kids. Towsie, a beloved mama dog who kept us supplied with puppies, a mama cat who abandoned her five babies and we were unsuccessful as foster parents. Freckles was a battle-scarred reddish cat that was really a rogue. He would be gone for days, dragging himself home to recuperate. Mama would nurse him back to health, only for him to repeat the performance time after time. Our last dog followed Buzz home one day. He named her Sport. We soon learned she would be having puppies. She was a beautiful tan and white, short-haired, nondescript breed, a big dog with a happy disposition everyone loved. She followed Buzz wherever he went. One Saturday night he went to the picture show and when he came out Sport wasn't there. When he got home Sport was having her puppies. By morning there were four darling puppies looking much like their mother. They thrived with Sport's loving care and the attention of family and boarders. We had no trouble finding homes for them.
(Watch for future installments.)