Rev. Edgar F. Wheeler: 2 Early Years

We boys loved going barefoot during the summer heat, and were always eager for warm weather to come so that we could shed our shoes. Of course, Dad and Mom were pleased as well, for these were depression years and the budget was cramped to buy many shoes. When I was eight or nine years old, I had the job of bringing the cows in from the pasture for morning milking. The pasture was to the southwest of the barn, across a large field. I remember walking through a dew-drenched field of young wheat, my feet cold and wet, singing “In the Garden.”

In the summer rush season of haying and harvesting, we would be up by around 4:30, and it was semi-dark for the walk to the pasture. There were willow trees along a winding creek, and sometimes a huge owl would swoop down over me from the trees. Quite some time later, Charles and I were down that way during the day, and here was that great bird perched on a fence post. The two of us ‘rushed” him, and he was so startled that he fell to the ground. We caught him and stretched out his wings, a spread of over three feet!

One of the benefits of country life was to enjoy the wild life, and we did enjoy it. A source of income for us boys was the sale of pelts–muskrat and opossum. Muskrats had the habit of leaving the creek to forage for food. Returning to the creek they would make wet slides down into the water–probably for playing as well. We would set traps at the base of the slides, and we caught many muskrats. I expect the pelts brought fifty cents each. We skinned the animals, stretched the hides over a shaped wood shingle, and salted it. Partly because of the present emphasis on ecology and partly because of growing sensitivity, I cannot imagine doing that now. Certainly the conservation people would frown on it, to say the least.

We boys loved to climb the pine trees around the house. For me it was the higher the better! Until one day Mom, who was always uneasy about our climbing so high, called me when I was at the highest point, “Be careful, or you will fall.” I made the mistake of looking down from the dizzy height and was almost too paralyzed to climb down. High places have never appealed to me since, except as a vantage point for a distant view.

Next Chapter: 3 This Old House

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