Raising Little Savages

My mother never lived on a farm until she married Dad.  The rolling, treeless prairies where one could see for miles, under big skies and puffy white clouds, were all new to her.  She came from Iowa in the mid-west USA – an old established area where the trees were many and old, where the corn grew 6 feet tall, and there were no coyotes howling in the night.  Moreover, she had lived her whole life in small cities or large towns.  She took to her new life like a duck to water, and never regretted her choice of husband, farm life, or new citizenship.

Despite all that she remained a town girl living on a farm.  Everyday life continued to hold surprises for her.  At the top of the list was raising two daughters who knew only the life that was so new to her.  Years later she confessed to me that many times she despaired, “I thought I was raising little savages!”  That remark surprised me.  I could not see anything so strange, and certainly not savage, about the childhood Doris and I had lived.  We were just ordinary farm kids on the prairies!  It is some 40-odd years since that conversation with Mom, and I view things somewhat differently now.  My clearest memories of my pre-school years are, of course, of the times I got into trouble…   

There was the time that, while playing near the barn, I found a little mouse nest complete with newly born baby mice.  I was fascinated by those tiny creatures.  Picking one up by its tail I held it up against the light.  One could almost see through it.  My dog Trixie mistakenly thought I was offering him a treat, so sat down on his haunches, opened his mouth wide and waited.  Giving in to the temptation, I dropped the little mouse into his open mouth.  Down it went in one swallow – and just as quickly came back up!  I tried again with the same results.  The dog seemed unable to believe the next one wouldn’t taste better, and so it went on.  My laughter caught my Dad’s attention.  He turned up – saw what I was doing and the game immediately ended!  Big lecture — the gist of it was it was bad, bad, bad to hurt any living thing for your own amusement – even a mouse.  Dad took the nest with the remaining babies away from me and stomped off.  I was startled at the intensity of his disapproval, but then the bell rang.  I remembered a short while before he came across my sister and me viewing a bat we had found on the barn floor.  Doris had poked it with her toe – it squeaked.  Then she jumped on it and to her amusement – even louder squeaks.  Doris’s laughter was cut short by Dad’s arrival.  A few good swats across her bottom and a lecture (much like the one I just heard) followed.

It took two tries before Dad’s words sank in – but sink they did.  Two days ago Doris, now 90, and I, now 89, were having a visit and reminiscing.  These two incidents came up and were still very clear in our memories.  Dad’s message of respect for and kindness to all living life including people, became part of who we became and how we live.  So young parents with lively kids, don’t despair!  They may be absorbing more than you think.

However, in retrospect, perhaps Mom did have a few challenges with her prairie kids!


Filed under Prairie Childhood

18 Responses to Raising Little Savages

  1. Marjorie:

    Thanks again for a very interesting look into your past.


    • Marjorie

      You came from a rural background Wayne – did you ever play with baby mice? Surely I’m not the only one! MMG

  2. Well written and good story!

    • Marjorie

      Glad you liked it Mary. This is like opening a can of worms – the memories keep crawling out! If readers are interested, I am pleased. MMG

  3. Mike Taschuk


    Did you use this as a defense for the gopher tail incident?

    Mike T.

    • Marjorie

      In no way! That incident will be covered later in an “Ethics vs Greed” posting. MMG

      • Rosemary Gibson

        What’s the gopher tail incident?! I love the stories, Gram!

        • Marjorie

          Rosemary – Great to hear from you and glad that you enjoy the stories! As for the gopher tail incident – you will have to wait a while! I thinking about it and trying to present it is the best light possible! Gram

  4. Barry

    Aunt Marj
    Fantastic reading. If we could just get your sister to follow suit you might stir each other’s memories.

    The bat part was interesting as I remember an incident when I brought home a cookie sheet of baby mice. Mom climbed the counter while steadily stating that she was not afraid of mice. Oh yeah!

    • Marjorie

      Barry – So good to see your name, and get your comments! Somehow I missed it for a while as I got behind in responding to comments coming in. I am very much enjoying this Blog adventure, and find more and more memories surface as I write. Doris and I shared a lot of laughs about those events so long ago, when we were together last week. I am prepared for the fact that she is apt to remember things one way, and I another – that’s just the way people are! Thanks to Ralph for suggesting this, and to Isabel for making it possible. MMG

  5. Doreen

    I used to have to stomp the hay that my father would throw onto the wagon and with it came mice. One crawled up my pant leg. Now I am very afraid of MICE…..

    • Marjorie

      Yep Doreen – that would do it all right! Did I tell you I had a wee visitor in my suite about a year ago? It was not a “baby” but a juvenile. It was in the corner by the front door. I sat and looked at it, and it looked at me – then hastily wiggled out under the door and fled! Last seen or heard of mice on our floor (but who knows?). MMG

  6. Alison Uhrbach

    Marj – ( or should I say Mrs. Gibson?) I’m behind in my reading.. so am just now getting to your blog. I love the idea that you are documenting the events of your life! As a “city” girl, I didn’t have much experience with mice till I was married.. but over the years I’ve had to deal with more than a few .. my most memorable one was working Home Care, and looking down as I drove to see what was squeaking in my car… only to be eye to eye with a mouse! I drove the rest of the day with my pants tucked into my socks!

    • Marjorie

      Alison – Good to hear from you – and I chuckled over your mouse encounter. The poor wee thing was at least as scared as you were! And it is high time you shook the Mrs. bit. Marjorie

  7. Another lovely look back for us out here in Cyberville. The stories obviously bring back memories from your readers. My old Hungarian friend Yolly would tell me stories of her childhood and said once, “I remember it like it was yesterday — no, TODAY!” Memories are like that: the years fall away as we look into middle distance and remember…

    • Marjorie

      Barbara – Yes – The interesting thing is that I remember the events of long ago, and now see them through old eyes and learn again! MMG

  8. Claire Tunney

    Gram, this was very interesting (and surprising) to read. Thanks!

    • Marjorie

      Claire – Thanks for the comments. Glad you enjoyed it, and surprised that you were surprised! Gram