Depression Era: Stove Wood 'Borrowed' in Exchange for Delicious Vegetable Soup

Missouri woman remembers finding wood when fuel was short, only to have it vanish, and then be replaced with a much-appreciated basket of vegetables.

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During the depression era winter of 1932 my sister and I lived in a small Nebraska town. Only infrequently could we find employment. We mended, patched and re-patched our old clothing, our cupboard was oft-times nearly bare and our house cold for lack of sufficient fuel.

One drab and dreary December evening as we walked homeward from visiting a friend, we spied a large chunk of stove wood laying in a ditch. To whom did it belong, we wondered. It must have fallen unnoticed from a passing truck or wagon. What a fine warm fire it would make! Should we take it or not?

Our Puritan upbringing caused us to hesitate, but briefly.

Together we lifted it, carried it home and deposited it on our front porch for the night.

The night was far spent when a slight noise from outside awakened me from sound slumber. I arose and very cautiously peered through the front door curtain.

In the dim half-light of early morning I observed the dark shadowy figure of a man hastily departing from our front yard. In his arms he carried our large chunk of wood.

For several days we pondered the theft of our "prize."

Someone other than us needed it, we surmised.

Then one morning we discovered a battered old basket setting on the porch. It contained a generous supply of potatoes, carrots and onions. Attached to the basket was a brief note. It read: "1 was passing by and saw the wood. Being out of wood I borrowed it. Am replacing it with these vegetables." There was no signature.

"Well," laughed my sister as we sat down to a noon meal of delicious vegetable soup, "cast the wood upon the waters and ere many days it will return to you in the form of carrots, potatoes and onions."

"For which," I added, "we are truly thankful."

Bonnie Holcomb
Urbana, Missouri

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.