Let’s step out of the fantasy world and enter the historical fiction world of Georgia May Maxwell a nine-year-old girl in 1918. She would one day grow up to be my grandma, but the road to that destiny tested her to the very core.
What do you do when a tornado destroys the life you’ve always known and a deadly virus threatens to destroy what’s left?
The 1918 pandemic of Spanish Influenza looms over Georgia, her parents and siblings as they leave Kansas bound for Colorado in a Studebaker Touring Car.
This is a photo of the Maxwell Family's first camp.
(The following is combined from two accounts told by Viola Turner Siems. It was transcribed by Jessie E Turner. This story takes place about 1915 to 1920 in Evanston, Wyoming.)
We lived on the ranch until I was three years old then we moved to town because the older girls had to go to school and it cost a hundred and sixty dollars per pupil to put ‘em in on tuition into the high school and Mama couldn’t raise that kind of money, so she found a house in town with a whole block – not just a lot – a whole block.
And the house had three big rooms. It was a big log house. She bought it for six hundred dollars. So, we moved into town in the winter time so that she could send the kids to school.
Dad drank a lot and we never got much of his pay.
We’d move the milk cows (as we called ‘em) into town and milk them night and (again in the) morning before we went to school – by hand – out in the open corral. We didn’t have a lot of good warm barns to get into. You just went out, sat down, and milked your cow. And you hurried up so your fingers wouldn’t freeze.
We had milk cows – well you could call ‘em milk cows. If they gave a pint of milk and (you) had a good fast horse and could catch it, that was a milk cow. Mama built a good big barn and some corrals down on the lot and we had room for all of the cows that would give any milk.
And we didn’t have the kind of cows that you guys have now days. They were long horns – some Texas Long Horns. We had Roan Derm, Red Derm, White Faces, one little Jersey, I remember. But we would milk thirty-five head of cows morning and night to get maybe fifty gallons of milk.
And we peddled milk to all of the cafes in town and a lot around to customers. We got ten cents a quart for our milk.
My brother, Glen, and I had a dog that we’d hook to the sleigh and he’d sit on the sleigh and hold the box a milk with about fifteen (to) twenty quarts a milk and I’d run along and lead the dog and we’d deliver milk all winter long. Every night after school we’d have to go deliver milk. And sometimes my toes’d get s’ cold on real cold nights (40 below zero was nothin) that they’d feel like a big baseball in the toe of my shoe because we wasn’t very well dressed and we didn’t have a lot of warm clothes.
Mama would take the men to work at four o’clock in the morning. She had an old Model T with a seat on it like a buckboard with no cover or anything. She’d leave at four o’clock in the morning to take the men to work (in the coal mines).
Well, then she’d come home and we’d milk. She’d be back by about six. Ida and Lilly and Dorothy and I’d get up and go out and start the milkin’ and when Mama got home wy, she’d help us finish up the milking.
Then we’d have to cool the milk in a big tub. We’d put it in ten-gallon cans – strain it into the ten-gallon cans which was set in a vat of cold water by the pump that we’d pump every morning fresh and cold and the milk’d be chilled and cooled.
And then at night, wy, Glen and I would deliver our quarts of milk and Lilly and Ida and Dorothy would take the milk with the team and buggy up to the cafes. We sell milk to all of the cafes.
Mama would drive to the ranch every day and feed the range cattle and bring hay back for the milk cows. Well, at one time we was the only dairy, you might say, in Evanston.
Lilly and Ida would take the team and take the milk up to the cafes. They’d take it in five- and ten-gallon cans and the cream.
We had an old dog. In the Summer time we’d use the hand wagon. (The dog would pull the wagon.)
Glen’d sit in the hand wagon. He was about three years old – little fat, red headed, cute little kid. And I was about seven. Mama would put the milk up in quart jars – the regular milk bottles and put the top on ‘em and put Glen in the wagon with the milk in a box in front of him. And we’d go deliver our milk. And then we’d come home and get another load.
And that’s how we used to make our living.
Becoming a Writer
The question, “When did you know you wanted to become a writer,” has been on my mind.
To me “writer” and “story teller” are synonymous. So, I never thought to become one, it was just part of who I am.
The becoming part for me is “scribe.” Translating my stories into written form has been a challenge.
Mechanics, spelling and grammar have never been easy for me.
However, it is in that translation process that my story evolves and becomes more than it was in the beginning.
I am constantly working to polish my skills and to get as much education as I can.