Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Sept. 4, 2009

A year in the life of a 14-year-old

The diary was written in pencil in a five-and-a-half-inch wide by thirteen-and-a-half-inch long "order book."

The first entry was routine.

"Jan. 1, Monday. New Year's Day. High 48, low 28. Partly cloudy, cold weather. Got up at 4:40 a.m. and did chores. Went to Shoughs for dinner. Came home about 5:30."

"(47 eggs)" was written in the margin of that day's entry.

I carefully turned the pages. The 14-year-old boy had written something for every day of the year.

During the first week of January, he recorded the high and low temperatures, which ranged from 48 to12 degrees. He did history, algebra and literature homework. Highlights included his older brother Robert and his father going to Marion to get hogs and a friend coming over to have some taffy made. He cut wood on Saturday and took a bath that night after supper.

The diary is stained. Some pages are torn; all are brittle to the touch. But I wanted to absorb every word.

Why? Because the 14-year-old boy who wrote the diary was Edgar Merl Freeland - my Dad. Had he lived, he would have been 90 last week.

Sister Gaila and I discovered the diary - which ran from Jan. 1, 1934 through June 30, 1935 - this past summer when we were cleaning Mom's house. Out of all the things we "found," the diary was one of the most precious to me. I have read Dad's diaries from his later years, but didn't know that he had kept one at such a young age.

Dad was a quiet, introverted man, preferring to listen to others. So any insight I could glean from the words in his diary would be a bonus in my quest to know what he was like as a youngster.

I learned that he called his mother Ethel "Ma" or "Mama." I had always heard him call her Mom. The pages in his diary confirmed what he had told me many times - that his mother suffered from severe migraine headaches that would incapacitate her for several hours or a day at a time.

I learned that his family had cows, hogs, chickens and sheep.

In the margins of each day's entry, Dad recorded the number of eggs gathered, which ranged from 0 to 249.

I even learned the names of some of the family's sheep. Uncle Stan, Dad's younger brother, often joked that their father could never understand how he could tell which ewe to watch when birth was imminent.

"He could never figure how to pick out the one I had given a name," Stan said. "He always thought that all the sheep looked alike. As I look back, I think he was right."

But Dad could tell them apart.

On Jan. 25, 1934, he noted that the first lamb of the season was born to "Black Face" ewe. Three days later, a second lamb was born to "Monkey Face" ewe. Twin lambs were born on Jan. 29 to "White Face" ewe. In the margin of that day's entry, Dad noted that it was Kansas Day and that the state was 73 years old.

Day after day during lambing season, Dad noted the births and the names he'd given the ewes: "Wooly White Face," "White and Black Face," "Wheezes," "Little Cut Ear," and "Small, Light-Brown Face."

Most of July 1934 was hot and, from July 31 through Aug. 15, the temperatures ranged from 104 degrees to 112 degrees. To emphasize the heat, Dad underlined "Clear, windy hot weather" or "Partly cloudy, awful hot," or "Very windy, very hot weather"

The heat broke around Aug. 19. On Aug. 20, the high was 90 and the low was 56. "Cloudy, windy, awful cool weather," Dad wrote that day.

Along with recording the number of lambs born, the number of eggs gathered and the high and low temperatures each day, Dad also noted who visited, what chores he did, what he was doing in school and when he went to "picture shows," most of which cost 25 cents.

He also noted younger brother Stan's 11th birthday on Feb. 10, 1934, his mother's 49th birthday on May 2, his own 15th birthday on Aug. 27, his father's 50th birthday on Oct. 21 and older brother Robert's 19th birthday on Nov. 17.

On Aug. 27, he wrote: "Monday - High 78 and low 70. Played around all day. Made ice cream in eve. Pt. cloudy cool weather. " And, in the margin: "(no eggs); 'my 15th birthday.'"

As I was reading the diary, youngest daughter Katie came into the living room. I read some of Dad's entries out loud.

"Wow, I can't see Grandpa being young," she said. She leaned down to get a closer look at her Grandpa's handwriting. "That is SO your writing," she said.

"Is not," I countered.

"Is so," she said.

"Is not . . . really?" I asked. I looked more carefully at Dad's penmanship. It looked just like his handwriting in later years. But I had never looked at it and seen my own.

Husband Art has often said I look like my Dad and have his introverted nature. Maybe there are more similarities than I thought. And, as I read more of Dad's diary, I will get to know the young boy who became my father.

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