By Laura Thomas
Memories are stirred as I gaze at the button collection that was once my grandmother’s. While they are not a valuable treasure anyone else, they are a treasure nonetheless to me. For in my mind’s eye I remember not the joy those buttons brought to me, but also memories of my grandparents and of the land I called home. I grew up in Southern Idaho, a desert country full of sagebrush cactus and farming country. This land was brought to life by the canals that brought water, dug not only by shovel and man but of horse power. These canals were and are the life blood of the area and the people that came as pioneers to this arid land, full of promise and cheap land.
My roots run deep in this country, for my grandparents, both maternal and paternal had come as early settlers, forging a path for others to come, to make Idaho one of the top potato producing regions. My father’s father was instrumental in the construction of the canals, working with his shovel and teams of horses, to make not only farming possible but to support his family as well. By the time I came along, my Father’s parents were retired from the farm and living in town. However, my Mothers parents were still on the farm. Their farm consisted of ten acers, down from what they had originally bought. Here they not only raised pigs, but bought and sold baby dairy cattle. Grandma also had her menagerie of fowl: chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and her prized peacocks, beautiful birds with all the colors a peacock is known for.
Their house, the original home was comprised of only two bedrooms and one bath, a small kitchen and main room. In later years, my grandparents would add a family room, added as a log cabin to the main house. I remember this room as a gathering place for the family and watching TV, a rare treat. This was a large room with an upstairs room to sleep in. Here we kids slept with the window open, not only bringing in cool air, but also the lonely cries of the coyotes out on the desert. The family room was also where she kept her bucket of buttons, they served a purposes, to be serviceable and for her grandchildren to play with.
We spent a lot of time out at our grandparents’ farm and while all of us kids, seven in total, have different memories, I remember always loving the farm. I got to help feed the baby calves, and taught them to drink from a bucket, their warm, moist but rough tongue on my fingers as they sucked the milk. The rides on the hay wagon as grandpa fed the pigs–and boy were they big pigs, as I recall. Now maybe it was because I was much smaller at the time, but I remember grandpas words, “Don’t get into the pens with the pigs, they are mean!” While I took this as serious, I was allowed to go into the sows pens as they gave birth to their young, with my grandmother as she assisted the sow.I was fascinated by this whole process, the baby pigs so tiny and pink, especially compared with their mom, and razor sharp teeth as I found out.
As I gaze at the buttons, I also remember the porch where the runts of the litter were kept and bottle fed till they grew to a size to be back out with the rest. The activities of the family as we came together, for home grown meals and as grandmother canned or made her famous fruit cobbler; and of the general hustle and bustle that a small country kitchen holds as people gather, a family. My grandmother has since passed, yet the memories of my grandparents are alive, for I inherited the bucket of buttons and each time I see them, they take me back to not only my grandparent’s farm, but to my childhood.