Thanksgiving 1890 🦃Part Four

Part Four

November 1890, Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving

I picked up Lilly from her crib and strolled into the sitting room. “Where are Lottie and Ellen?” I asked Sarah, who sat in the straight-back chair, sewing a sampler.

Sarah looked up, a bemused expression on her face. She looked around in surprise. “Oh, I don’t know,” she answered, going back to her embroidery.

I frowned and stepped into the kitchen. Ellen was not there, but her husband, Harold, sat at the table. He was sipping a cup of coffee and glancing over a week-old edition of the Fresno Expositor newspaper. When he saw me, he glanced up. “Have you nothing more current than last Saturday’s newspaper?” he asked. “After all, it does say the ‘Fresno Daily Expositor.‘”

“No,” I told him. “Riley usually brings home Saturday’s paper after Sunday dinner. If you’d like, you can ride over to the Circle C and find today’s paper. Chad pays a boy to ride out with the paper about three times a week.”

Harold stared at me blankly. Then he harrumphed and went back to the editorial. I shifted Lilly to my other hip. She was beginning to fuss. “Have you seen Ellen? Did she have Lottie with her?”

“I did see them,” Harold said, not looking up. “Ellen said she was headed outside for a breath of fresh air.”

“Thanks.” I slipped through the back door and stepped off the porch. In the distance, I saw Riley, along with his father, Sid, and our ranch hands, digging four roasting pits. But Ellen and Lottie were nowhere in sight. When I checked the barn, Dakota was missing. My heart leaped to my throat. “No, she wouldn’t take the baby for a ride. Surely not.” Ellen was an accomplished rider, for all her city ways. Her father had made sure of that on her visits to the Circle C. He’d also paid for horseback riding lessons at her school, so she could ride both astride and sidesaddle. But still? Take the baby for a ride? Why?

I ran toward Memory Creek, bouncing Lilly along and gasping for breath. Where was Lottie? Tears stung my eyes. What was going on? When I couldn’t run any farther, I collapsed to the fresh green grass that had sprouted up after a fall rainstorm a week ago. By now, Lilly was crying so I fed her, praying all the while that Lottie was all right.

When I stood up and rested Lilly on my shoulder, I saw a small speck of black round a hill, coming from the direction of town. As the speck grew closer, I heard wailing. Lottie! Was she hurt? Had Ellen slipped off the horse and spilled my baby to the ground? Oh, please, God, no! I took off running and met Ellen. She was riding Dakota one-handed and trying to shush and bounce the baby with her other arm. She rode bareback, slipping and sliding but keeping her seat.

“Oh, Ellen!” I cried, reaching out to snag the bridle. “Dakota, whoa.” Riley’s appaloosa stopped short. “Why did you take Lottie on a horseback ride, for pity’s sake? You scared me half to death.”

Hearing my voice, Lottie cried louder, which set Lilly to howling. I let go of Dakota and reached for my baby girl. Ellen kept her arm around the baby. Lottie wailed. “Give her to me,” I ordered. I had to yell above the twins’ crying.

Ellen shook her head and clutched Lottie tighter.

My stomach turned over, and I raised my voice. “Give me my baby!” By now, Lottie was red-faced and screaming. She must have been mighty hungry. Of the two girls, Lottie is much more insistent about having her needs met and not as patient as Lilly.

Just then, Ellen burst into tears. She squeezed Lottie one more time then released her. With a baby on each hip, I headed home. She’s crazy. Down-right crazy, I thought.

Ellen trotted Dakota to my side and slowed him to a walk. “Can you ever forgive me?” she asked through rivers of tears.

Huh? I stopped. Dakota stopped. Ellen dismounted. Her eyes were red and swollen from crying. “I’m s-sorry, Andi. I was half out of my mind with envy and desperation. The doctor back east just told me and Harold that we probably can’t have children. I s-saw that you had two identical babies, as alike as two peas in a pod. Why should God give you two and me none? Then I thought that perhaps God had given you two babies so that you could share one of them with me. I decided to take Lottie and go home, back east. I had train fare and reasoned that by the time anyone figured out Lottie was missing, I’d be halfway to town and soon aboard the train. By the time Harold gave up looking for me here, he would return home and then I could tell him all about . . .” Her voice trailed off.

My mouth dropped open. I had no words to express, and for sure I wasn’t ready to forgive her. I sat down on the grass right there and quieted Lottie with a quick snack. Lilly cooed on the grass beside me.

Ellen took a deep breath and finished. “Then Lottie started crying. I knew she was hungry and I didn’t have anything to give her. No bottle. No sugar-tit, no nothing. I got so scared. I thought she would cry all the way to town and that would bring attention to myself. Nothing I did calmed her.” She looked down at me and shook her head. “Only her mother would know what to do, and you did. She’s awfully quiet now.”

I nodded, too angry and frightened to respond.

“That’s when God told me I’d best get back and not go through with what looks now to be a lamebrain scheme.” She sighed. “It was my desperation and the recent news about my inability to have children. I guess I lost my mind for a moment. Will you forgive me?”

Maybe, I thought, but I sure wasn’t going to trust her. Did she have a mental condition? No doubt. I nodded stiffly, rose, and walked home. “I think you’d better have a talk with your cousin Riley about all of this. He will know what to say and do better than I,” I finally said.

She nodded, clearly ashamed. I squeezed my eyes shut and thanked God that Ellen had come to her senses before she took my baby away for good. It was so easy to “disappear” in the west or even back east.

Ellen reached out her arms. “Let me help you carry them. You look tired.”

You bet I’m tired, I thought, but I shook my head and held the babies closer. “No. I can manage.” And that was that. We walked back to the house in silence.

Thanksgiving Day, 1890

I barely slept last night. I was still so upset about what Ellen had tried to do–kidnap Lottie! I kept waking up to check the twins every hour to make sure they were still in their crib. Riley tried to comfort me. He reminded me that Ellen and Harold, along with Uncle Sid and Sarah, had left to spend the night at the Circle C. Jared was safe. The babies were safe. I think I finally drifted off to sleep a few hours before dawn.

My heart wasn’t in the early-dawn Thanksgiving turkey preparations. Mama Carrie, clearly sensing my mood, tried to cheer me up by telling funny stories about Riley when he was a little boy. Together, we stuffed the four turkeys, smeared them with oil and lots of herbs and salt, and then wrapped them securely in four layers of clean cheesecloth.

In the old days, Mother would have then wrapped the turkeys in damp burlap sacks to keep them moist and clean. But these are modern times. Mother had brought over a roll of the new-fangled “tin” foil (note: not to be confused with today’s aluminum foil). “Try this,” she suggested. “I think it will hold the heat better and keep the juices in far better than the old burlap bags.”

I am always happy to try something new, so Carrie and I wrapped them in the tin foil and then bent chicken wire around them. I showed my mother-in-law how to fashion wire handles that attached to the chicken wire cage. “This is so we can lower the turkeys into the pits and then find them again when they’re cooked,” I explained.

When all four turkeys were wrapped and ready, Riley and his father hauled them out to the four pits they had dug, one for each roasting bird. The oak logs had been burning all night long. Carrie and I followed. I felt the heat when I was still a few feet away. The coals had burned down just right. Robert spread the coals apart and Riley lowered the wire-wrapped turkey into the pit. Then the two men heaped coals all around the bird, covering it completely. After that, they shoveled dirt to fill the pit. When all was said and done, only the wire handles peeked out above the surface. We would let the bird cook until the middle of the afternoon.

The roasting pit is ready for the turkey!

The rest of Thanksgiving Day passed pleasantly. Both Ellen and Sarah were eager helpers and aside from baking all those pies yesterday and the day before, I didn’t have to do anything! Ellen’s horrible act was out in the open by then, but nobody condemned her, and I found I couldn’t either. I remembered how sad and sometimes angry Melinda had become when she could not have a baby. My heart melted enough to let Ellen take over the twins’ care most of the afternoon. Then we women–Mother, Sarah, and Carrie–prayed over Ellen that God might bless her with a little one. She was in tears by the time Mother finished praying.

So, like Joseph in the Bible said when his brothers had wronged him, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good,” I think it all ended well, and I look forward to hearing someday that Ellen has her own baby.

The sun shone down warm and bright. We had our Thanksgiving dinner outside just like the Pilgrims, and the turkeys turned out perfectly. The meat fell off the bones and everyone stuffed themselves on all the good things Mother and I had prepared. Nobody wanted to leave, so we stayed up well past sunset (and it gets cold after the sun goes down), the men and children sitting on the rug in our only “sitting” room, and we women in the chairs and on the settee. Our ranch hands called it a day when our clock struck ten, but Mother, Sid, Joseph, Ellen, and Sarah didn’t leave until midnight. The rest of us fell into bed a little later. I was very tired but happy that my first experience hosting a “small” Thanksgiving (ha-ha!) had turned out better than expected!

Come back on Saturday for the Story Behind the Story of Butchering a Turkey.

Published by Andi Carter

I'm the main character in the Circle C Adventures series. I live on a huge cattle ranch in 1880s California. These are my adventures.

30 thoughts on “Thanksgiving 1890 🦃Part Four

      1. Hi Jenny!
        I just checked and saw your comment! 😀
        The chat group is a place were me and a bunch of other Andi friends talk about pretty much anything! Its google hangouts and by email. So if you don’t have a gmail account no worries!
        Feel free to contact me thought my blog if you have any questions or would like to join! (or comment here!) We’d be more than happen to have you join us!!!


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