Contributed by and used with permission of Mark Dolce.
by Dorothy Freudenthal
For my three daughters, who, when they were small, enjoyed hearing tales of "when Mother was a little girl".
I was born in Sunshine Valley and that was my home until I was about 13 years old. I was born during a March blizzard, something that the state of Wyoming does up in a grand manner. The doctor couldn't get through the storm until two days later! However all was well- my Dad knew just what to do.
So I grew up on a dry land farm which was homestead land of Mother and Dad's. Their property was adjoining. How nice! Of course that is how they met, because they were neighbors. Dad filed in 1913, and Mother and her brother Archie about the same time. My Dad lived about 2 miles south of their places. He lived in a snug little house which became the honeymoon cottage after he was married and the home where I was born.
Money was scarce for the homesteaders, and my mother said she had 12 diapers for me made out of flour sacks. Those flour sacks the ladies saved were always put to good· use, for dish towels , kids bloomers, and when the printed one came out many little girls wore a new dress made out of flour sacks. They make good aprons too.
At one time Sunshine Valley was a lake bed- perfectly flat and very fertile soil. Most of the were built on the low hills that surrounded the valley and the lake bed was used for the fields. There were no trees, except the cottonwoods the homesteaders planted in their yards. The valley and the surrounding hills were covered with thick prairie grass and, the small blue-green sage that was feathery and soft to the touch. There was also plenty of small cactus, wild daisies and wild yellow sweet peas, a red blossom plant we called sour dock and patches of the loco weed with a purple blossom. The loco weed was poisonous to the horses...the cattle either wouldn't eat it or it had no effect on them.
Every farm house had a windmill. We had plenty of wind in the valley so it was very seldom we had to use the hand pump to get water. There was a big wooden barrel for the water to flow into. Then a trough led from that to the stock tank...a big wooden tank. Our garden was on the other side of the well and water was piped to it for irrigation. The gardens were the only- crops that were irrigated. The oats, corn, wheat and beans were planted in the fields and depended on the rains to grow.
The pastures were thick with natural grass. We had 3 of them. Two pastures Dad used for the animals to graze...rotating them so the feed would stay good. The other one, which was too far away for the cows to graze, Dad kept for raising wild hay.
My Dad smoked a pipe, and one tine when he was mowing the wild hay, a spark from his pipe set the field on fire. This was a real disaster. Neighbors come to help put the prairie fire out. They hauled barrels of water to the fire and used wet gunney sacks to beat out the flames. After that, when in the fields, Dad used a pipe with a perforated metal sheild that would slip over the top of the pipe bowl
We had a big barn on the other side of the water tank that was divided into 3 parts on the ground floor. The south part was for the cows with stanchions and feed bins. We milked from 1 6 - 23 cows...separated the milk and sold the cream. A corral for the cows also on that side of the barn. The middle of the barn was partitioned off with stalls for the horses and an inside stairway leading to the haymow above. The north side of the barn was used for the pigs, with a grain storage room at one end. The whole area around the barn was fenced to hold the animals so they could go to the water tank from there.
Ah, that water tank. How well I remember it! It was the biggest pool of water we kids would ever see on that dry land farm. It had a lot of green moss growing on the wooden sides, both inside and out. Dad would have to clean it periodically. And then when it was first cleaned we 3 girls could use it for a swimming pool. Only once of course. Then it went back to being water for the stock. I can remember once when it was so very hot we girls got in without permission, thinking Dad wouldn't know the difference because he was way out in the field and Mother was in the house. Did we ever get scolded good that evening! We had stirred up the moss and the horses wouldn’t drink . So Dad had to carry buckets of clean water to them after a day in the hot field.
MY FIRST MEMORIES
My first memory is lying in bed with small pox. It was before my sister Marjorie was born. I was in bed with Mother and amusing myself by looking at a Sears and Roebuck catalogue. I suppose Mother was sick too. I don't know if Dad became ill. The small pox was all over and then you either got over it on your own or died. There wasn’t any treatment for it. If a whole family was sick they just had to take care of themselves as everybody was so afraid of it. One of our valley neighbors, Gertrude Shaw lost her. husband Nat in the flu epidemic of 1918 for the same reason. Not much they could do for the flu either and if it turned into pneumonia that was usually fatal.
Several years later when the school children were to get small pox vaccinations, Mother and Dad took we kids to the Dr. in Lusk to be vaccinated. Mother kept saying I wouldn't need it because I'd already had the disease. In fact I had scars from it on my forehead until I was in my teens. The Dr. would make a series of needle pricks in a circle on your arm ending up with a circle as big as a dollar. Marjorie and Betty had theirs and then it was my turn. Why my Mother didn't say anything I don't know. I looked at her with pleading eyes and fin ally she told the Dr. I'd already had small pox. So he said I didn't need the vaccination. What a relief for me! I have never figured out why my Mother didn't speak up.
My other memory is when my sister Marjorie was born. Auntie Blanche my Mother's sister who also lived on a homestead in the valley was there to look aft er Mother. It was in June and our yellow rose bushes we had by the garden were in full bloom. They smelled so good and were so beautiful. I picked a bouquet and brought them in to Mother who was lying in bed with my new baby sister. To this day, when I smell yellow roses, I think of that time.
I have vague memories of "war talk" and the first airplane I ever saw fly over our valley I was sure the Germans were coming although the war was over by then. I remember eating lots of corn bread, I guess white flour was hard to get then...of the ladies knitting wool socks for the Red Cross. ..and my Mother worrying about her brother Lester who fought in the trenches in World War I. He came home safely and years later died by choking on a chicken bone!
My Dad was born in Metlika, Austria. His family came to the U.S. when he was quite young. They settled in Omaha, Nebraska. His father worked for a meat packing plant. His parents died when he was still a child and Dad ended up living on a farm with a family by the name of Hall. They did not adopt him. The other children in the family were parceled out to various relatives or friends. So he grew up learning to farm and used to hard work. Mr. Hall had a son about Dad's age. When the boys were old enough for college, Mr. Hall gave them a choice of a college education or a stake to buy a farm. Dad chose to farm. So that is how he got enough money for his homestead venture.
As a result, he was better off financially than many of the homesteaders. He was able to build a better barn than most of the neighbors and a good solid house with a shingled roof. Most of them lived in a tar papered shack. The barn is still standing today...the only building left in Sunshine valley. The house was moved to Lusk and is still being lived in.
He was raised Catholic. All his relatives were Catholic. He gave up his religion when he married Mother, but I am sure that deep inside he kept his faith. With all the farm work he had on the homestead, Sunday was a day of rest at out house. Only the necessary chores were done. Dad once said to me that God had a plan for all of us on this earth and when that plan was completed, then God would take us to be with him.
He was a strict disciplinarian. His word was law! We girls never questioned his discipline. In· fact we wanted to please him, where as concerning Mother we were always figuring ways to get around her without getting caught. If Dad was displeased with us, and we got a scolding, we would be absolutely crushed. I only got one spanking from my Dad and that was not for what I had done… but because I had lied about it. This lesson stayed with me forever. If you do something, you suffer the consequences, but you do not lie about it.
He was hard working, honest, willing to help anyone in trouble and earned the respect of his neighbors. So he may not have been a churchgoer, but he lived his religion.
He was a reserved person, not into displaying affection. He loved my Mother so very much...I believe he would have done anything possible to make her happy. Yes, they had their quarrels … and afterwards Dad would go out to the barn and cry, giving Mother time to get over her temper tantrum.
He built our new house, replacing the homestead house... built the big barn. He had a forge and did his own blacksmith work, had a cobblers shoe last and half soled our shoes. People were really self sufficient then.
Dad did have neighbors help in building the barn. I am sure that Mother also helped on the building projects. Mother was not lazy and worked just as hard as Dad did. He also butchered the beef and pork. Neighbors came to help on that. He had a small smoke house where the hams and sausage were cured.
How glad I am that Mother and Dad’s last years were spent in Cody, Wyoming. They had a snug little house with all the modern conveniences. He could go to work in his shoe shop and he and Mother could enjoy their fishing and camping trips in the mountains.
(Click on links above for the entire article which includes family photos and an area map of Sunshine Valley, Wyoming. )
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|Historical||Dolce, Frank and Inez||View Record||Obituary||Dolce, Frank (01/09/1888 - 12/24/1957)||View Record|