Remembrances of Christmases Past
By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — One of Dorothy Young’s late husband’s favorite flowers was an Amaryllis.
“He would go to a store and come home with an Amaryllis to bloom for Christmas,” she said.
In fact, even now, Dorothy has two Amaryllis plants in her apartment in Colfax.
On the day of the interview, the Amaryllis plants each had a couple of buds, giving promises of flowers to come.
“I like to have them because Dad liked them so much,” Dorothy said.
Dorothy and Wilfred Young lived on a farm out on 970th Street.
In 1978, they built a house across the field from the farmhouse, and Dorothy lived there until almost two years ago. Then she moved to Colfax.
“Dad always said if he went before I did, I was to sell the house out there and move to town. We had an acre to mow, and he thought I wouldn’t be able to take care of the maintenance for too many more years by myself. I miss him so bad it’s terrible. We had 55 years together,” Dorothy said.
Dorothy and Wilfred had two boys: Jeff and Duwayne.
Dorothy recalls one year when Wilfred hid their Christmas presents above the milk house.
“There was a door in front, and he went up the ladder and laid them in there while the kids were in school,” she said.
“When Christmas Eve came and we were opening gifts, Dad told the kids that they had to go out and put the ladder up to the milkhouse. ‘Your gifts are out there,’ he said. But the boys said, ‘Dad, it’s cold out.’ Anyway, they finally got out there and opened the door and there was a pair of skis for each one of them, laid across the beams,” Dorothy said.
“They got them out, and the next day, Dad was out in the barn and he went out the back door of the barn and looked up on the hill, and here come them two boys on those skis. I thought sure they were going to go right through the barbed wire fence around the barnyard,” she said.
The skis were not the only time the two boys gave Dorothy a few gray hairs.
“That one night, I don’t remember what they did, but they were both grounded and got sent to bed. We went out and finished chores. And I went up to bed about 10 o’clock. I went in to check on the boys to make sure they were covered up. And there was nobody in Jeff’s bed and nobody in Wayne’s bed. I looked in our bedroom. Nobody up there. I came flying downstairs. I said, ‘Dad, where’s the boys?’ And he said, ‘why, they’re up there in bed.’ I said, ‘No they are not. There’s not soul upstairs. Their beds have not been slept in,’” Dorothy said.
“So then he went out hollering their names. No one answered. Our little beagle hound, Smoky, was sitting out by the driveway, looking down toward the creek (and baying). We went in the barn and hollered. We went out to the machine shed and hollered. No boys. So I said, ‘Well, let’s go out and see what Smoke’s got up his sleeve. We can follow him.’ He took us right down to them,” she said.
“They had taken a tarp and a lantern and a hatchet and they each took a blanket. They went down there and spread out the tarp and fastened down all four corners, and they crawled under it. When we got down there, we had to crawl through the line fence. They were back in the pines. Dad pulled up the stakes on one end of the tarp and threw it back, and there they laid, sleeping. Dad went over and got hold of an ear … they left all their stuff laying there. The next day, Dad made them go back and get their stuff. They were probably eight or ten,” Dorothy said.
One other time, Jeff was supposed to be up in the haymow, throwing down hay so they could feed the cows.
“We waited and waited, and there was no hay coming. Dad went over (and looked up at the hay hole in the ceiling) and said, ‘Where’s that hay? We’ve got to get started feeding the cows.’ But there was still nothing. I said I would go to the house and call (neighbors) to have them come and help us look. It was dark,” Dorothy said.
“When I started for the house, I heard somebody say, ‘Ma, is that you?’ The first space in the shed is where the car sat. I went over there, and I said, ‘What are you doing out here? You’re supposed to be putting hay down. ‘But Ma, I fell,’” Dorothy recalled.
“He was standing with his back to the hole where they put the elevator to put hay up in the barn. He got hold of the strings on the hay bale, and when he lifted it, both of them broke. He went out the window, right out the hole. When he hit the ground below, he missed a cement block by about that much. From that time on, he had epilepsy, from getting his head bruised,” Dorothy said.
“I always told Dad if I ever wrote a book, from the time they shook off their diapers until they left home, everybody would say I was crazy, that it was fiction. But it’s far from fiction,” she said.
Wilfred and Dorothy were married in 1952. Wilfred served in the military and was discharged in 1948.
“When Dad was in the service, he was a mechanic for the Air Force. He worked on all the planes. He said the worst part, when he got done with a plane, him and the pilot went up to make sure everything was all right. He said he hated that,” Dorothy said.
Dorothy lived in a foster home for a while when she was growing up, and she and another girl had to pick corn by hand in the fall. When they got it picked, they would have to harness the horses and go out and pick up all the piles.
One year when Dorothy and Alice were with their foster family, the snowplow came and plowed snow while Dorothy and Alice shoveled.
When the snowplow was done, the piles of snow were as high as the roof, she said.
“By the time I left there, I had such a hatred of farming. So then what did I do? I married a farmer,” Dorothy said.
“Alice and I were walking into Colfax one night. Every Saturday night, we went into town to run the popcorn machine. We were walking into town on a Saturday night to get some corn popped. Dad and his cronies came by and asked if we wanted a ride. Alice said ‘yes,’ because we would be on our feet all night. He stopped about halfway up Main Street. We got out and thanked them for the ride. Between there and the drugstore corner, I told Alice, ‘You know that guy who was driving? He’s mine! He’s not going to get away.’ And he didn’t either, not until we made 55 years,” Dorothy said.
Wilfred Young grew up on a farm near Colfax.
“I told him on our way (to Menomonie to get married) that he had between here and Ninth Street (where the church was located) to make up his mind if he did not want to make it a lifetime deal,” she said.
Dorothy used to make silk wedding flowers, and in fact, she has a photo album of flowers.
“We’d go to Silk Flower City and (the bride) would pick out flowers, and I’d put them together,” she said.
Nowadays, Dorothy is spending much of her time working on a crocheted American flag afghan.
“The hardest part is those five points (of the stars) and sitting there with a needle, and pick, pick, pick. It takes about two days to put them all on,” she said.
Dorothy was used to working hard on the farm, and during haying season, would stack as many as 7,000 or 8,000 bales of hay in the hay mow.
When she and Wilfred retired from farming, “I didn’t have much to do with my time. I started a bedspread way back when we were on the farm. When we left the farm and got up to the house, Dad said, ‘You’re not going to make anything until you finish that bedspread you started 20 years ago.’ So I got it done so I could get going with something else. I made a lot of table toppers, those big doilies that sit in the middle of the table,” Dorothy said.
During the interview at her apartment, Dorothy went into her bedroom and pulled out one of her most cherished Christmas gifts that she received from Duwayne, who now lives in Alaska — a bear skin.
Dorothy says she would like to have it put up on the wall, but so far, no one has volunteered to help her.
Another cherished gift is a brightly colored red and blue foil picture of flowers she keeps up on her wall that Jeff had given her years ago.