Aunt Margaret

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

doubled it back, and twisting it, pushed it down in the grease for a wick. It made a light, but a very poor one.

"The next light was a tallow candle in a candle stick with a small base and a long hook that could be stuck in a crevice between the logs, or between the stones of the chimney. We would melt beef tallow, put in a little beeswax to harden it. We had a candle mold. First we placed a wick in the mold, then poured the melted tallow and beeswax around, leaving it to harden. Then the candles were ready to pack away for winter use.

"My father often sat making shoes for the family by the poor grease light."

Aunt Margaret's memories of pioneer life were not romanticized. But on one subject, they seem idyllic - her description of the wild things.

"I remember one morning when mother got up, the fire was out. She wakened me, and I started on the run to borrow Uncle George Thomas's place. On the way, the wild turkeys were coming off the roost and running out into the road ahead of me.... There must have been 75 or 100 in the bunch, maybe more.

"There were so many wild turkeys then. We had turkey salted down in the smokehouse with the [hog] meat, and mother would slice the breast and roll it in flour and fry it for breakfast. You can't imagine how deliciously good it was.

"Some families caught so many quail they saved the feathers and made feather beds of them. I have watched mother and grandmother make traps. Quail were driven into them until the birds filled the pouch, at times hundreds of them. Brother Jimmie and I made traps and set in the cornfield for prairie chicken, sometimes catching four or five of them in one night. Mother made a snowbird pie from snowbirds we caught by the haystack near the barn. One morning we had 25 of them in the trap. The small breasts were tender, sweet meat."

Passenger pigeons were the first wildlife species to become extinct that received wide public attention. The end of the big beautiful birds occurred in Aunt Margaret's middle age. She remembered her experience with them as a child:

"Passenger pigeons had a roost on our place. They came from the west and the noise of their wings was like a distant thunder. They came

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