Fiddle Player And His Wife on the Family Farm

A Missourian remembers her fiddle player father, musically-talented mother, and Christmas on their family farm

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Our family farm was a musical one. Dad was a natural fiddle player and Mama read music and could play for hours too-without the notes. We five kids all sang and harmonized 'round the piano. Often times neighbors would call and want to hear our folks play, and they would listen on the old-time telephone. They would visit us too and join in the music. We kids were all in music at school, as well as the big plays.

Mother would walk up to the church house before Christmas to teach the musical parts of a cantata to the children. Other ladies would help with the speaking parts.

The tree would be a huge one that touched the high ceiling. Its ornaments wouldn't be fancy. Gifts were simple, such as 10-cent silk hankies, 5-cent cotton ones, beads, color-books and crayons, combs, brushes, necklaces, books and other items that cost a fraction of what they would now.

A big plump Santa Claus always thrilled us all with his bag of oranges and candy. He came in with a big, "Ho, Ho, Ho."

We kids still believed in Santa until a girl from the city told us it was our parents. I remember how the little girls cried.

The school Christmas program was a delight. We practiced it over and over again so it would be good for all the parents to see. As at church, we drew names and always bought our teacher a gift too. The only money we had for buying gifts was from picking up, hulling and drying the black walnuts on our hillside. Our hands would really be stained-but how proud each of us would be with our 85 or 90 cents to buy gifts for the names we drew, our teacher, parents, and our brothers and sisters.

It was usually a bad day when we went to Christmas shop. Dad would load up our walnuts in the wagon. Mama would heat bricks so our feet would keep partially warm under the heavy quilt. After we got our precious little coins, off to the dime store we went to buy our gifts. We were cautious not to spend all of our cash before each gift was bought.

Mama would take the five of us to Heer's basement, where she treated us each to a delicious bowl of vegetable soup and crackers. My, I think I can still see those bowls of 5-cent soup. Yum, yum.

The ride home was chilly-but we were happy with the small pleasures in life.

Ruth Marie McMillan
Buffalo, 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.