THE WAY I REMEMBER MY GRANDPARENTS
*Lorena Rambo Fields was born in Dale, Hamilton Co., IL.
This story is from my mother Thelma (Shorty) Fields Spivey, daughter of Clifford & Viola Glascock Fields. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
This is a story about memories of my grandparents on their island on the Snake River. It used to be Fields Island, but when my grandparents died the government took over and handed the island over to the Deer Flat National Refuge for nesting for the Canadian goose, and then the name of the island was changed to Goose Egg Island.
My grandparents, Arch & Lorena Rambo Fields, Island home was located on the Snake River between Adrian and Nyssa, Oregon on the Snake River & near where the Boise River goes into the Snake River. The Snake River divides the Oregon and Idaho boundary line. The island was near the Idaho Bank, which made them Idaho residents. The Island was a beautiful place. It was called the Fields Island for many years. It is now called Goose Egg Island because it was turned over to the Deer Flat National Wildlife after my grandparents passed away. It’s used for nesting purposes for the Great Basin Canada goose. The island was a Shangri-La type of island with rush trees, rush bushes, yellow willow trees, wild roses, currents, and hollyhocks. The center of the island was cleared and plowed up for pasturing, along with raising hay. They planted fruit trees at both ends of the island. The island contained 4.62 acres on the Oregon side and 16.90 acres on the Idaho side.
They grew all kinds of berry bushes. They also grew a large garden every year and they sold their products and used the rest for themselves and their sons' families.
ARRIVING AT THE ISLAND
My fondest memories were of my Dad, standing on the hill above the shore of the Snake River honking his horn to let them know that we had arrived. We excitably waited for our grandmother’s appearance as she climbed the steps that went to the one-room house that was built on the side of the hill. At first, you’d see the little rat terrier dog she always had around her. The dog would always dash up the small incline barking at the sound of a horn to let my grandmother know that someone was on the other side waiting for someone to come over after them. In a short while, you’d see Grandma's beloved statuette appear. She’d wave some kind of object to let you know that some would be directly over to get you. She’d disappear quickly to put her hat on. In the summer it would be a sloppy brim hat and in the winter it would be a turban ribbon hat. I loved the sight of my grandmother in her hats and always she’d have a Mother Hubbard apron on which she’d quickly snatch off and put her hat on to come over after you. If Grandma came over after you, which most of the time it was her, she’d row her boat over. If Grandpa came over after you he’d bring the boat with the motor on it. But no matter which one came after you, you’d have to bail the water out of the boat on the way over as the boats always had a small leak. There is a special art to balancing eight people in a rowboat, especially when you’re dealing with a homemade boat that my Dad had built. It had a flat bottom, pointed at both ends with low sides, Dad would row and Grandma would hold some of the smaller children. My mother would hold the others. My sister Jackie and I would sit on the bottom of the boat and bail out water. I know my mother always said a silent prayer before we started across the river, as we never had life jackets on as you didn’t have the modern convenience that you have today, and on top of that a leaky boat. All of us kids thought it was a lot of fun and laughed all the way over to the island. Our Dad would curse all the way over as it took acquired knowledge of the river to row the boat so as to come at the boat dock on the other side. We always felt safe with Dad, as he knew the Snake
We loved going to Grandma's house. It was a delight and a special treat to go to her house. She was the best cook; she could make gooseberry pies that would melt in your mouth. For some reason, everything tasted better at Grandma’s house. My Dad always loved to get in her breadbox, get a biscuit with a glass of milk and dunk it in the milk. Her hot cereal with cow’s milk was out of this world. When we’d go home and Mom would make the same kind of cereal, but it didn’t taste like Grandma's as we used canned milk instead of fresh cow’s cream. She had a special cupboard that had bins that held flour and sugar. She always had goodies there for you to eat.
My Grandparents had a herd of cows on the island. My sisters and brother and I would dash through the trail to the house fearful of her cows, as we were not used to being around them. We’d hang onto Grandma to make a dash to the gate. To show how much we knew about cows, my sister, Jackie, spotted the bull and yelled Grandma, Grandma, look at that mother cow she doesn’t have nipples. My Grandmother just grinned from ear to ear and explained the difference between a milk cow and a bull cow. Grandma built her a barn all by herself for the cows. Some of it still stands today.
MY GRANDPARENTS HOME
My grandparent’s home was a little different than most homes. One part was built in the side of a hill; it served as a bedroom, living room, and kitchen. It was just one big room. A porch was added on where in the summertime you could eat out there but you couldn’t in the winter. From this was a stairway built out of the hillside that linked the one-room house to the other one-bedroom cabin that my Dad had built for them. There was a bed, closet, a couple chests of drawers, a dressing table, a wood heater, and a desk, all in this one-room cabin. To her grandchildren, this room my Dad had built was a treasure house, of beautiful keepsakes, costume jewelry, collections of buttons, photos and etc.
My grandmother sold Xmas, occasional cards, beautiful stationery, flowers, and garden seeds for extra money. I think she gave more away than she sold. She’d let us look through her sample cards, which she used to show her customers. We’d look through all her photo albums with the past and present members of her family. Her bright shining, glass pearl-like buttons, were a treasure to us. Still today, my sister, Jackie, and I dream of being in this wonderful treasure house. Going through Grandma’s treasures with everything so colorful and beautiful.
I loved to sleep in my grandma's bed, as it was a goose-feathered bed. She always used flannel sheets that felt like you were protected being cuddled and loved. We’d lie there listening to Grandma tell about her life, sad and happy times. She’d blow the light out and we’d lie there listening to the frogs croaking and the noise of the river. It was such a soothing sound; you’d just drift off to sleep. In the morning you’d hear the roosters crow, birds chirping and the magpies chattering away. You’d see the sunrise that you knew you had found your Shangri-La. You’d go downstairs to the other one-room cabin smelling Grandma cooking breakfast. We’d always have hot cereal with fresh cream and lots of berries. It was such a happy spot in my childhood when I was visiting her.
In my grandma's room which was a treasure room to me, was an old-fashioned typewriter that she plucked away for hours telling about her lovely Island home, in poetry, stories, books, and songs. Her songs and poems more or less tell the type of person she was. One of her songs “Let Your Rainbow Come Smiling Through” tells about dark cloudy days but Grandma always said to overlook these kinds of days. And to just let your rainbow come smiling through. Grandma was always that way even though she lived poorly; she seemed to find riches in her island home. She wasn’t always poor as she came from a well-to-do family from Dale, Illinois. Grandma left a legacy to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She left her special understanding of what being rich really means. Most of her grandchildren called her "Grammy". I don’t remember when she started being called Grammy. We spent hours making dolls out of hollyhocks & cut paper dolls out of her magazines, which she showed us how to do.
Grandma must have had the patience of a Saint, as soon as we got to her house, we’d beg her to let us go gather eggs. To us, it was like an extra Easter egg hunt. As Grandma let the chickens scratch for food, we’d look around for their eggs. We’d look in the bushes, boxes, buckets, nests that were built in the trees, and old tubs that were tucked away in the bushes and vines. Once in a while we’d find a sitting hen, chase her off the nest, get her eggs, and dash into the house to tell Grandma we had found eggs all in one nest and she must have missed these eggs. She’d say “Oh my, where did you get them eggs?" We’d tell her where we got them and she’d tell us "Oh my dears, you’ve disturbed my setting hens, we’ll have to put them back and hope the hens would come back on the nest and finish setting". Grandma never raised her voice to any of her grandchildren. One early spring there was a hailstorm that hit the area and Grandma's chickens and turkeys ate some of the hail. They died shortly afterward. Grandma sent one of her chickens to the nearest government agency. They came out after all of that had died, but they never did let my grandparents know what caused them to die after eating the hail.
TAKING THE MILK TO BE SOLD
Grandma sold milk to the Dairy to help with the expenses. She’d carry the milk down to the boat dock, put the cans in the boat, and take them across to the other side of the river. She had to take them up a steep hill and sit them down by the side of the road for the dairy to pick up the cans of milk. A lesser woman couldn’t have done this, but Grandma was a big-built woman and was very strong. She had always worked hard all of her life. About the only time, Grandpa helped her take the cans of milk across the river was when the check was there waiting for her to pick it up.
Grandma had built a cellar into the side of a hill. She used it for storing her fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, canned vegetables, fruits, and jams and to get away from the heat in the summertime as she didn’t have the convenience of electricity until 1957 when they got the power company to put a line over to the island. In this cellar were a couch, an icebox, and a lamp. I can remember her making a fan out of paper to fan herself and her grandchildren. We’d sit down there and drinks lots of lemon aid, as she always had lemon aid on hand as the water on the island wasn’t that good.
PIONEER LIFE OF MY GRANDMA
Grandma lived a pioneer life on the island. She did her washing with a gas motor washing machine that had a wooden wringer; the kind that you had to wind the handle to wring out your clothes. She made her own soap. Before she got a gas motor washing machine she had a tub with a scrubber that you had to use by hand. They had a well and hand pump to pump their water. They used kerosene lamps for lights. My Grandpa had a car battery hooked up to a radio so he could listen to the radio. Sometime in the 1960s their son, Hank, had the phone company put a line over to the island so they would have the convenience of a phone. My grandmother never complained about their 33 years on the island, as she loved her island home. She loved listening to the frogs croaking, doves cooing and the chirping of other species of birds. There were always geese and ducks with their little ones that were hatched on the island. The sunsets and sunrise were out of this world. My Dad was always taking pictures of the sunsets and sunrise when he was there, as he loved to see the sunset and the sunrise. I can still remember sitting in an old chair with grandma watching the sun go down. It was just like you were in paradise. She was a believer in the Almighty. A song she and my Dad wrote, “Somewhere There’s A Beautiful Dream World,” more or less tells about her belief in God. Even when she was so sick she wouldn’t let them take her off the island. Only at the last, she did let them take her off of the island, just a few hours before she passed away.
Grandpa was a nice-looking man in his young years; you could see why my grandmother fell in love with him. He had this hair that stood out like wire and his top part stood up on ends. Grandpa was a mountain of a man and he was about 6 feet tall.
Now Grandpa loved to play cards. It was his favorite pastime. He used to play cards in the back of a pool hall in Parma, Idaho, even in his seventies. Grandma always had it in her mind that he was making eyes at the women instead of playing cards. I can still hear Grandma talking about his fillies. Grandpa would just grin from ear to ear with a twinkle in his eye as he really enjoyed getting Grandma riled up. I don’t think he felt he was ever any older than he was when he was a young man.
Grandpa would take off in the spring to other places to shear sheep. He belonged to the Sheep Shearer’s Union of North America.
Now Grandpa sometimes had a bad temper. One time Grandma sent him out to see why the milk cows hadn’t come in to be milked. Grandpa took the old tractor (that had been built from an old car), down to the other end of the island and found the milk cows. He tried to round them up with the old tractor, but it proved to be unsuccessful. After an hour of running the cows around in circles trying to herd them home bought him storming into the house, throwing things right and left searching for his shotgun and shells, and found his gun and shells. He roared off with Grandma running behind him calling “Archie,” Archie, you’ll have them cows to where they won’t give any milk, please don’t go out there with that gun". Grandpa yelled back, “By god, they will come the next time I go after them". He went rounding up the milk cows with birdshot, peppering them in the behinds. Grandma just stood there wringing her hands.
I used to listen to Grandpa talk because he always got so excited telling the stories that happened to him. He couldn’t contain himself, he jump every few minutes and raise his hands. Every other word was a curse word, but he’d explain himself. Grandpa would get caught up in his story so much you’d think you were there when it had happened.
The Fields had a laugh that couldn’t be missed. When there was a house full of Fields there was a house full of laughter. Most of the Fields had good humor. But Grandpa, god bless him was devious. He was a mixture of characters and enjoyed cards, games, and people. But it didn’t take very much to set him on a rampage. Sometimes we were scared of him, other times we were happy to be around him. I know occasionally we’d break one of his tools. We’d hide them for he couldn’t find them while we were there visiting. One time we broke a hoe of his, we were scared to face him with it so we stuck some chewing gum on it so it would stick together. Later he found it and came into the house yelling about it.
Grandpa was the type of person that engineered his work to satisfy himself, which was to make an easier job out of his work. For instance, he had an old car made into a tractor with a flatbed on the back of the tractor. On this flatbed, he had a couch on it so he could relax while he was irrigating.
Grandpa was always trying to make wine, but the wine sometimes never came out right. Sometimes when he made wine, it tasted like it had turpentine in it. He was always trying to get someone to sample it but never could get anyone to do the sampling
Grandpa always fixed the gates, doors, and toilet doors with Beaver tails for hinges.
Grandma had been begging Grandpa to dig a new toilet hole but he always had an excuse so she decided to do the work herself. She told Grandpa to stay close by so he could help her out of the hole when she got it finished. But as usual, he left her to do it herself. She dug too deep and couldn’t get out and she thought he was nearby. She yelled and yelled but couldn’t get any answer from him. So she dug some steps up the dirt wall to get herself out of the hole. When she got out she went looking for him and to no surprise, to her he was in his room sound asleep. To say the least she was quite upset with him. One time his grandchildren broke his hoe & glued it back with gum hoping he wouldn’t notice it while we were there. Nevertheless, before we left, he had to use the hoe. When he found out it was broken, he did yell at us. He showed his grandchildren how to make boats out of cucumbers.
GRANDPA’S HUNTING TRIPS
Grandpa always went hunting every year. One year he went hunting and as he drove down this road, the road had ended, and there were two tall trees where the road ended. He never likes to walk to hunt his deer. He always drove around in his car hunting. Well, he didn’t want to get out and walk so he drove between the two trees. He just verily made it between the trees. The next year with two of his grandson, Gary, and Rick, he went to the same place to hunt. To the shock of his grandsons, he started to drive between these two trees and got stuck. He ended up tearing his bumper off and putting quite a few dents in his car, but he finally got the car out. He later came by to see Dad. Dad asked him, "What in the world did you do to your new car?" Grandpa said, “Well, you know, I went hunting the same place I did the year before and them two trees were still in the way so I drove through them and got stuck, and I just can’t figure out what went wrong this time”. Dad told Grandpa, any damn fool could figure out why in the first place you didn’t have the same car and the two trees had grown bigger.
My Dad wasn’t a bit like Grandpa. He was a hard worker, serious, no-nonsense, and honest person. My Grandpa never believed in God and my Dad told him he’d better start believing there was a God. Dad made him set down and read the Bible. It was the only time my grandfather read the Bible that I know of. I don’t know if he still was not a believer at the time of his death. He was living by himself in a small cabin in Parma, Idaho, he became very ill, and he got worse as the day went on so he drove himself to the hospital in Caldwell, Idaho which was about 20 miles. Grandpa never left the hospital alive.
GRANDMA’S PET COW DAISY
Love For My Grandparents
I loved my grandparents very much & miss them very much. I taped this on a tape for my sister, Bonnie, who could type it up for me. I hope you find this story interesting. I know that some people didn’t think people lived a pioneer life in 1935, but this family did. I live close to this area & I go out in my yard & hear the same kind of birds & the noise of a river as I live next to the Mahleur River & I feel at home. The Island was a joy to my sisters & brothers, especially my sister Bonnie & me.