Ragged Clothes Were a Way of Life

Stranger in ragged clothes becomes true neighbor and friend.

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My grandmother and her four little children lived alone in a dugout on their homestead while Grandpa worked in the coal mines in a different state. The family was wearing ragged clothes, as they had worn out every stitch of clothing they’d brought from the old country.

One day Grandma saw a man with a blanket over his head coming toward their dugout. She was sure he was an Indian and was afraid. She could speak no English, so she told the oldest boy to stand by the door and hand the Indian a loaf of rye bread when he came to the door. She prayed as she gathered the infant in her arms, pulled the younger ones near her and braced herself to fight to protect them.

What a shock when the man opened the door and asked in Grandma's own tongue, "What are you doing with this bread, little boy?" The children fell on the stranger and hugged him. He turned out to be a neighbor from the nearby hills out looking for his sheep. He wore an old skirt over his head to protect his eyes from the midsummer heat.

When Grandma inquired about his strange garb, he replied, "Wait until you've been here a few years, you'll be ragged, too!" They were; when Grandma lost her needle, she had to write to her mother in Europe to send her one. That day was a good one for Grandma because it was the day she met a true neighbor and friend.

Anne Wesely
Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska


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.