Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Little White Penrose Blood Family House

I lived the first nine years of my life in the little brown house, across the field to the north from the location of this home.  Dad built this house in 1944, I think, during the war when he received dispensation from the government for building materials because he was coming to Penrose to raise sugar beets and farm Grandpa Wasden's farm.  I lived in this house for only five years, the other three years making up my seventeen-year-old age when I left home being spent in our Ralston home during WWII.

Burchell Hopkin and I paced off the width and length of the house one summer when I was in Penrose and we determined the original dimensions before the addition to be 960 sq. ft., which was how big it was during my five years there.  Our little home in St. George has 1474 sq. ft., and we think that is small.  But the Penrose house seemed like a mansion when we moved in during the spring of 1944, riding the school bus from Powell to Penrose for the first time in several years to reach our new house.  We had a grand door handle on the front door, glass doorknobs on the inside doors, lovely hardwood floors, glass light globes in the ceilings, closets in the bedrooms. Mom and Dad had their first private bedroom with a real bed since their marriage thirteen years before, having slept on a fold out couch in the living room all those previous years.  Now their bedroom had space for Mom's linen chest, her treadle sewing machine, and their priceless dresser, plus barely enough room to walk around the bed.

I remember my bedroom, luxuriously spacious compared with my sister's bedroom, since they had the good fortune to arrive in multiples whereas I was the only male until Steve made his appearance that first summer back in Penrose.  I had the corner room on the near corner looking at the photo above, with a real bed, and not just a cot that I had slept on until then, a closet, and a corner to stash keepsakes.  Two of my sisters shared a double bed, one a cot at the end of the bed, and the other the tiny room originally planned to be a bathroom, a luxury that did not materialize until several years after I left home.  Our tiny living room had space for a couch, Dad's pole chair, and another chair or two, with a wonderful spinet piano added the last year I was home, too late for me to learn how to play.  The lamp stand stood in the corner with one of Dad's masterful six-sided lamp shades on a cedar base and the perennial Soils and Men USDept. of Agriculture yearbook gracing the shelf.

I remember the doors, and the windows, and the kitchen table and chairs as we moved the table out from the wall to make enough space for six kids and two parents to sit down at the table for meals.  I remember hauling water bucket by bucket for wash day and the water bucket on the small stand just inside the door where we all drank out of the same dipper.  I remember the cream separator which stood just inside the door to separate the cream from the milk.  I remember hauling buckets of skim milk back out to feed the calves as Dad always admonished that drinking skim milk "would make you pot-bellied."  I remember trying not to track manure in from milking cows and from the barnyard and cleaning off traces of manure from the milk buckets before they were washed in dishpans on the small kitchen counter.  I remember the one cupboard that didn't have a door but which had a perennial supply of small candies like lemon drops.  I remember the big coal kitchen cook stove which Mother miraculously turned out endless loaves of bread, cinnamon rolls, stacks of pancakes, dishes of "invalid eggs" baked in cream, cakes, pies, fried potatoes, and everything else, her experience in gauging temperatures in the temperamental old black beast always impeccable.

I remember the comforting sounds of the nearby Shoshone River and the choir of crickets and the sweet smells of summer.  I remember the howling winds around the corner of my bedroom in winter and going out to check the snowfall and snowdrifts in cold and frosty mornings.  I remember Dad getting up at 4:00 a.m. to go change water in the summers and coming home for breakfast and then working all day in the fields and then milking cows and doing chores at night.  I remember Mom and her bib overalls tending our huge garden of potatoes, tomatoes, peas, beans, beets, gladiolus, corn, and whatever else would grow in the Penrose soil, liberally doused with manure from the barnyard with the first loads from the cleaned corral each spring.  Our garden was our lifeline in those subsistence days of getting by, eking out.

Above all, I remember the love and closeness that we shared in that tiny house, the sense of safety and security, the feeling that we were protected and kept from danger.  We went without many things, if not most material things and conveniences, but what we did have formed the character of our lives and the bonds that we six Blood siblings still tightly and warmly share after eight decades of life.  For many of us, we have never left Penrose and our hearts remain forever in the little white house.


Ann said...

I have just had a most wonderful experience. As I read this post, I found myself safely tucked in the little white house full of love, with warmth from the coal stove in the winter and somewhat cooled by the soft Wyoming winds blowing through the open windows in the summer. My Saturday has come to a very sweet end with your shared memories to help me sleep. Thank you.

Ann said...

PS. The photo in the blog heading is perfect. Would you also post it at the top of your writing so that when I copy this post over to my Word document(s), I can include this photo? All heading photos that have been posted over the years disappear as a new one appears. I would love to have this photo with your writing. Thanks a bunch.

Elizabeth said...

If we could pour some blue paint over the red roof, and add the cobalt blue trim around the windows and door, it would be perfect. During the two school years of 1971-73, I rented the house from Burchell for my brood of five, and to help pay the rent, Brig and I painted the exterior of the house, and Burchell didn't want us to waste time or paint putting the blue trim back. The house was a mess when we moved back in in the summer of 1971, after being left by Mother and Daddy only three years previously. The folks came back and helped me clean it up, cleaning filthy hardwood floors, and scrubbing and painting over fly-specked walls and ceilings. My children still think that the two years spent there were the best in their young lives - for me, it was still such a safe place, and I hated to leave it. I was in the third grade when I got to ride the new bus home to Penrose on George Washington's birthday. Talk about excitement. The house wasn't painted as yet, so the raw wood exterior was our first greeting. The house looked huge, and seemed spacious. I remember the grape light fixtures in the bedrooms - it was the first time since we had gotten electricity in 1939 in the little brown house that there wren't bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. We embraced the house and it embraced us. Life was good, and we felt safe. The bonds formed in childhood have lasted us all of our lives, and we have been blessed for that.