A letter written by Josiah to his nephew Ray,
August 29, 1960.
Dear Nephew Ray,
Your Aunt Katy and Josephine are up to their elbows in pickles so Katy said for me to write to you this week. They've been pickling for two days now and seem to have no end in sight. You wouldn't think there was so many things a woman could do with a cucumber and some vinegar.
Katy comes from a family that hated to waste anything and Josephine takes after her mother that way so when the cucumbers came ripe they had to get to work. Well, my Ma and Aunt Em were the same way. I can remember when I was a boy waking up to the smell of vinegar and spices boiling on the stove and knowing I'd be busy picking cukes for the next few days.
Years ago women spent a good deal of time in the kitchen doing up vegetables to last the winter. You couldn't go to a market and buy them fresh, canned, or frozen at reasonable prices all winter then, so you had to depend on your own stock. Store food tastes just as good (but don't let your Aunt know I said that cause I'll never admit it to her) except for pickles and maybe corn and it's a sight easier on the women.
You take pickles tho - your Aunt Katy is a good hand at them! Those sliced sweet pickles she makes - she got the receipt from my Aunt Em while we lived with her and Uncle Joe after we were first married. Those are the tastiest, crispest slice pickles I ever eat. And a good dill, now, you can't beat them home-made with a sprig of dill floating in the jar. Course you have to put them down in a stone crock first, layer by layer as the cukes get ripe and the right size.
My Ma used to pickle other things beside cukes too - green tomato for relish, beets,and cauliflower and onions in mustard sauce and watermelon rind. They all helped make our winter meals tasty and there's nothing like a good dill pickle with a piece of apple pie to my way of thinking.
Katy's been peering over my shoulder and says I'd better talk about something beside pickles. No question, tho, women do have an easier time cooking these days. Good thing, too. Men have all kinds of improvements in farming and other ways of making a living so it's only right women should have help with their jobs. These automatic washers and dryers - how my Ma toiled over a boiler and scrub board and made her own soap too. Katy says imagine scrubbing farmers overalls by hand! And say, aren't those dish washers grand? Yes, sirree, I say progress is a good thing - gives young folks a chance to get out and do something and old folks a chance to take it easy.
Say, we did enjoy the postcards you sent us while you was on vacation. Picture postcards were quite a fad years ago. They made all kinds, comic ones and Christmas, Easter, and Valentine cards, and series of flower, bird and scene cards. We've a great box of them in the attic somewheres. Katy had two or three albums full. Folks kept them on the parlour table to look at along with the photos and stereopticon. Now we watch television. I enjoy that tho there isn't as much of a feeling of sharing as there was in passing a viewer back and forth or pouring over an album together.
Why I recall when I was courting Katy and visiting her at her boarding place, we'd sit in the parlour and look at the stereopticon on the center table with the oil lamp lit and the kitchen door open where the family sat with one eye on us. We managed to hold hands a bit but I had to snatch my kisses when Katy saw me out or when we went riding in my rig.
We couldn't court every night the way young folks do today. I'd manage to see her once a week, sometimes twice if the weather was good or there was a social or dance to take in. We had square dances a few times and box socials and school entertainments and church suppers I could squire her to. Course she was busy with correcting papers and making plans for teaching her scholars a good deal of the time. Goll, that was a long winter! I'd made up my mind the day we met that she was the girl I wanted to marry but she'd contracted for another year teaching and wouldn't break her word.
I was farming with Uncle Joe - he and Aunt Em didn't have any children and I was the youngest of ten so Pa and Ma could well spare me, especially since I was named for Uncle Joe and stood to inherit the farm from him. We had a good dairy herd and grew some grain to sell as well as fodder and a piece of truck garden. At times we had two hired hands and Aunt Em had a girl to help in the house until Katy came. They got on real well, Aunt Em and Katy. Lucky thing for a man when his women-folk agree.
Mine still do - Katy and Josephine both think I've gone on long enough. It's been quite a while since I've wrote a letter and my hand feels quite cramped so guess I'd better end. Will be looking for your next letter.
Aunt Katy sends regards as do I,