Written and Copyright 2009 by Isabel Walker
I was born in Eggiwil, County Bern, Switzerland, on the 29th of January, 1890. My father's name is Christian Aeschbacher and my mother's maiden name is Barbara Frei, or Frey. I was the eleventh of twelve children. Five of them died of different causes before I was born.
When I was three and a half years old, I had an experience that has affected my whole life. My big sister was asked to get some bread at the bakery and I knew they always gave the little children a piece of candy before they left the bakery.' My sister, Lena, just one year older than me, and I, wanted to go with Marie. Mother asked me to look for my little brother, but she didn't insist so off we went to the store to buy a four pound bread, and as I figured, the lady gave us each some candy, but when we got home I was awfully sorry I didn't obey my mother. There she sat, in front of the house, with our little brother, Gottfried, dead on her lap. He had fallen into a water hole. All she could see was his little hand above the water. How I wish Lena and I would have gone to look for him when our mother told us to. Not quite a year later, a wonderful 12 year old brother, Friedrick, we called him Fritz, died of pneumonia. With a sweet feeling I remember our good brother. I always thought, and still think, the Lord took him home for a special good purpose. A year later we lost our older sister, Anna Elisabeth. She was working in Bern. One day she came home sick and a few days later she died.
I got my schooling in Eggiwil, a small town, where we were taught for nine years. We had two lady and two men teachers. One of them, Fritz Steiner, taught 7th, 8th and 9th grades. He taught reading, arithmetic, geography, history, nature study, grammar, music and drawing. Every morning we started the day with prayer. Once a week we had religion (Bible class), which included stories from the Old and New Testaments. We had to know the books of the Bible off by heart. In music the teacher had us beat time together when learning the songs. This teacher was a strict and religious man. He used to punish us severely with a stick if we did anything wrong but he was still a good man and had a good heart. We were fortunate to have him for a teacher. Punishment is not bad if we deserve it.
In Switzerland it was law that all children get religious training under Lutheran ministers so on Sundays after church we had another bible class. The 13, 14, and 15 year old children had to attend. At the end of that time they received a certificate of completion. We had to show this certificate before we could get a job.
In the year 1896, our home burned down. We kids were asleep but Father was still awake. He heard a noise and thought it was a wagon traveling on the road past our house. When he got up to investigate, he saw the house was on fire. It started in the huy stored under the roof. We did not save anything. We were taken in by a neighbor where we stayed two days and then we were able to get a place close by.
It was a little community. The teacher now was Fred Dreyer who taught all 9 grades. I was not old enough to go to school yet but Lena took me with her. I still remember part of a song I learned there. I never did forget it because it thrilled me so.
The teacher was good to Lena and me. He gave us bread and milk during the noon hour. That is another thing I've never forgotten,--how good it tasted. I hope that someday I shall meet him in the hereafter so I can thank him for being so kind. I don't remember if I thanked him then or not.
My father was an adopted boy. In Switzerland there used to be a law that when adopted children were needed at home, the foster parents did not need to send them to school. That made it so that Father never learned to read or write. I remember well when I came home from school and did my lessons, how happy it made him feel, and often he would study along with me.
The people that adopted Father were farmers. In summer when the folks worked outside, Father's work was in the house, to wash the dishes and prepare the meals so they could eat when they came home from the field.
Our next move was to a place that was in a clearing of a forest. It was a beautiful, peaceful place with tall pine trees all around and all summer long it was covered with beautiful wild flowers. I think it must have looked a little like heaven looks. The name of the place was Steinbodenschwand.
Our new home was a double house. Our part of the house had two bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen. There was enough room for hay under the roof of the house and a place for the goats. In the other part of the house lived two elderly people. We loved them very much. They invited us once for Christmas and I remember well, after we had waited a little while, a charming personage came into the room dressed in white. She looked like an angel. She said some nice words to us and we sang a Christmas song. We each got a present and then she left. It made an unforgettable impression on me.
Another time they invited a few couples for a dancing party. One of them played the accordion. My sister was 9 and I was 8 then. It was so nice to listen to that happy music.
Father and Mother worked for the man the house belonged to. In the summer time they helped cut and carry in the hay. In the spring and fall they helped do the family wash. This took at least a week because everything in the house had to be washed; even the things that had not been used were washed again. The linen sheets took a long time to dry because of the moisture in the air and then they had to be ironed. There were other women who were hired to do the ironing.
In the wintertime Mother would spin flax for people of the town. They made linen tablecloths, sheets, handkerchiefs, well, all kinds of things, out of the linen Mother spun. Father made wooden soles for shoes to put on leather uppers after the soles had worn out. These wooden soles were almost an inch thick and were much warmer in the winter time than the leather soles. He would cut the shape of the shoe and then make a groove with a special instrument, about a half inch up the sole clear around the sole, then he would fit and tack the leather shoe top into this groove with small shoe nails so the wood would not split. Big headed nails were then driven into the bottom so the soles would not wear out. He did that for Lena and me as well as for other people. He was a good basket maker too.
I have to say something about Father and his shoe making business. I don't know when he learned that trade but he was a very good shoemaker. I don't think he made a lot of money at it because he spent so much time with each pair of shoes. They had to be perfect in his eyes before he would give them to his customers, but one thing I know, it brought him a great deal of satisfaction and joy to give people his best. He did this work in the winter time and after he came home from work in the fields during the summer.
We always had a garden by the house in which we usually had pole beans, carrots, lettuce and peas, the kind one can eat with the pods on. In another clearing, about a half hour from the house, we planted potatoes and soy beans. Mother would cook the soy beans and put them on top of potatoes that still had their jackets on. That is what we had for supper. We liked to take the beans out of the pods as we ate them. In the fall when we had pears Mother cooked them and put them on top of the potatoes too. That tasted so good. In the spring when the nettles were three or four inches high, we cut them and used them for spinach. After cooking them we cut them up fine and added a milk gravy to them. In the pine trees grew lots of yellow mushrooms. We called them "Wood Henely" Hens, because they looked like the combs of a hen, only they were a light yellow color and roundish and a lot bigger. We gathered them and cooked them with a gravy. They were good too.
In the spring we had to prepare the potato ground. The sod had to be cut with oval hoes and dried because there was so much rain. We gathered dry wood and Father cut it in about 25 inch lengths, then bound it into bundles and we put them about ten feet apart down a row. We then covered the bundles with sods and lit a fire to them. The smoke and heat dried the sods. Lena and I liked to set fire to them. When the sods were dry, we scattered them again and pulled them down into the furrow. Then we put the fertilizer and the potato sets into the furrow and Father covered them up with dirt. In about three weeks the potatoes were up and we started weeding. In the fall when the potatoes were ripe, Father dug them and Lini (Lini Swiss for Lena) and I sorted them, the big ones went into one basket to sell, the medium ones in another for our use and the goats got the little ones. Father carried all those potatoes home on his back.
Lena wrote in her history that we were very poor, and I guess we were poor but I didn't really realize that we were. We had milk from the goats, we took the cream off the milk and made butter. Some of the butter Father sold to a man that came to buy it. This man made expensive salve out of the cream. In the fall we gleaned wheat from the neighbors’ fields. We threshed the wheat by hand, ground it and made mush and bread from the flour. Often Father took garden vegetables, a piece of meat or other food in exchange for a pair of shoes. Sometimes he made shoes and gave them to people who couldn't afford to pay for them. He was a kind, generous father and we loved him and respected him. In the summertime we picked berries that we sold to buy cloth to make our clothes, so I can't say we were so terribly poor and we had each other and a roof over our heads. What more did we need?
In the summer time my childhood was spent herding our seven or eight goats in the ales. Lini and I started for the mountains as soon as Father was through milking them early in the morning. We took potatoes and apples along for our dinner which we roasted on hot coals. Sometimes we were so hungry we couldn't wait for the potatoes to finish cooking so we ate them half raw, but they were good anyway.
We ate lots of potatoes because we were able to raise them in our garden. Sometimes we even fried and ate the peelings, even the water the potatoes were cooked in was used to make soup. We never wasted one thing. We had to pull the grass from around the trees and put it in piles to dry so we could put it in the barn for the goats. If we had any crusts of bread we never threw them away. We would warm some goat milk, pour it over the bread and eat it for our supper. When I came to America and saw how much food was thrown away every day, I could not understand such terrible waste.
We never ran out of things to do so the days went by fast. Each of us had a pocket knife which Santa Claus brought us. This we used to cut little willows from wild hazelnut bushes to make whistles. When one would not whistle any more, we made another one. You have to make whistles from the willows in the springtime when the fresh sap is going up the limbs.
I remember well, how on cloudy, wet days, snails that carry their houses on their backs would crawl around in the wet grass. We cut sticks and made fences, lined them with moss and got busy doing what we thought would make the snails comfortable and happy then we hunted snails, big ones, little ones and middle sized ones, and put them inside the fence, then we gathered the most tender grasses we thought they would like. We thought we were being good to them. At night we made a roof with more sticks and covered them with grass to keep them warm. One morning we were surprised--they had all escaped but two and they were dead. Oh yes, we felt sorry for them. We did not fence them in any more but we still played with them.
One wonders sometimes what gets into kids heads. One day while taking the goats home, Lena and I picked our apron pockets full of snails. When we got home we put them on the floor and mashed them with a hammer. It made a crunchy sound when the shell broke and at the time it seemed a lot of fun, but it wasn't much fun when we were punished and afterwards had to clean up that terrible, slimy mess.
One of my memories takes me to another place with the goats. A young baby goat scrambled after a clump of green grass up on a high Cliff. It did not know that getting down was harder than going up. After it was through eating the grass it was ready to get back down to where the other goats were eating but it did not dare go down. The rocks were slippery and the little kid tried many times, thinking, "Now this time I must not be scared to go down," but still it was afraid. Finally, the goat stepped back and forth searching for a way down loosened the sods and stones and they rolled down the cliff, sods and stones and behind came the little goat. There it stood, safe but trembling all over and I bet it did not forget that experience for a long, long time. We were so glad to have it safe with the other goats.
We usually had a few matches along so we could start the fire to bake our potatoes and apples. One day we decided to light a match to the tar on a pine tree. Yes, we knew that the tar burns but we did not worry about a forest fire. In Switzerland it rains a lot. The fields and hills are always green. Well, we lit a match to the tar. It burned happily and quickly, then we noticed there was a string of tar that reached way up into the tree and we started to get scared. There was no water close by and we didn't have a bucket anyway. Then we thought of the dirt in the cave near by. We always wore aprons over our dresses and it is lucky we did. We filled them with dirt in the cave and with our bare feet ran back and forth, over sticks, gravel and rocks, from the burning tree to the dirt in the cave as fast as we could. The fire had gone up the pine tree so high we could hardly throw the dirt high enough, but finally succeeded in putting the fire out. We were very tired and relieved. We never forgot that experience and we never put a match to a pine tree again.
We loved to sing as we herded the goats. The sounds would travel through the cliffs for miles and echo back at us. It was so beautiful. When the berries were ripe we would sing all day as we picked them and watched the goats. We picked wild strawberries, raspberries and what we called bushberries. After we took the goats home we took the berries down into the town to sell them. We bought cloth with the money we got and Rosette, our older sister made clothes for us. As I said, we always went to the village with the berries in the evening. It was a 45 minute walk. I remember once, my sister Lena had a headache when we got home with the goats and I had to go to the village alone with the berries. I asked Lena to come meet me but she said, "No, I can't come." Well, on the way home I had to pass by a half tumbled down barn. People said it was haunted by ghosts. It was getting dark and I wished my sister was with me. I was terribly afraid to pass that place and suddenly the thought came to me to sing, so I started to sing, it was more like hollering, as loud as I could, to quench that awful feeling and to drive the thought of ghosts out of my mind and I ran as fast as I could past the old barn. I made it alright, and did not see any ghosts.
A wagon road led half way up a hill and then a foot trail took me the rest of the way home. I passed pine trees and bushes, then came to a clearing. I saw something crouching around, zigzagging here and there. It had something white around the head. It was dark, only a trifle of the moon was out. I was thinking of running the opposite direction but there was a steep cliff below. There I stood like one petrified. The thing kept zigzagging around at a slow speed and then it came toward me. Lena handed me the bouquet of flowers she had been picking in the near dark. She gave them to me with kindly thought, I know. I never did tell her how she had scared me because she would have laughed and I did not want to hear that. We had quite a way to go yet to get home and I was still trembling inside when we got there. I didn't stop shaking until I finally went to sleep. It was an awful, frightful experience for me.
The next spring, Lini and I had the job of herding goats again but later in the summer we were able to take them to a wooded hillside where we could leave them for the day. They usually came home at milking time. There were times though, when we had to go for them. There were several big caves they could get into and they loved to stay there in the shade. We took cooked potato peelings along with us and when we called them they would answer and come running because they knew we had something good for them. We usually had enough to give all of them some of the peelings, and then they always beat us home. They jumped and ran and kicked up their heels, playing all the way home, having a happy good time.
I helped Father milk the goats. He would tell me, "Ida, you are a better milker than I." I don't think that was true but I liked to hear it anyway and I liked to help him milk.
It was springtime so Father took the storm windows off the house. He kept his tobacco between the windows. Soon a big wind blew the tobacco out of the window on to the ground. Right away I went to get it but a goat had happened to be right there and ate it up. I never was greeted like that goat greeted me then. She stood straight up on her hind legs and I was afraid she would knock me down. I was always a little afraid of her after that. I don't know, but I think all that tobacco put her out of her right mind.
Mother used to read the prayer book to us. We loved to hear her read the nice prayers. It gave us such a fine feeling. Every morning she would take the Bible from the shelf and she or one of us would read a chapter and we could not begin to eat breakfast until we had recited the Lord's Prayer and a short blessing on the food.
Our dear sweet mother got very sick. She was taken to the hospital and the doctors said she had cancer of the stomach; they could do nothing for her. She was in terrible pain for a long time. Father brought her home and in three days she hemorrhaged and died. It was hard to have her leave us but we were glad she didn't have to suffer any more. She was a wonderful, loving, religious mother.
Mother died when she was 45. Lini was eleven and I was ten. We had two other sisters, Marie worked in a hotel and Rosette learned the sewing trade. My brother Christian, worked for Mr. Widmer, the man we rented our home from and later went to another town to work.
Most of the people in Switzerland belonged to the State Church, which was the Lutheran Church, but some belonged to the Stundeler church, a nickname given to any other church that was not the State Church. Those who belonged to the Stundelers were looked down on by the State Church members. Rosette, my sister who was 17 years older than me, went to a "Stundeler" church. They were a very humble people.
One evening when we came home from school, there was an open book on the table. On one page it showed a picture of what happens to bad people. The picture showed a deep hole in the ground with fire in it. In the flames were bad men with outstretched hands, pleading fur someone to pull them out of the fire. Outside the hole were devils with horns and with pitchforks, pushing the men farther down into the fire. I'm sure our sister, Rosette put that open book there for us to see what happens when we are not good. Rosette never said a word. She thought that picture could tell the story better than she could. Rosette was "mother" to us after our dear mother died.
It was three years later, while Rosette was sewing for some of our neighbors in their home, that a clock and watch repairman went to the home to fix a clock. While there he talked about religion to the lady of the house. Rosette listened and liked what he was saying. She invited Br. Winterberger to come to our home on Saturday night when she returned home from work. He arrived before she did and when she saw he was there she was so afraid that father would be mad at her for inviting a Mormon to come to our home. She didn't have to be afraid though, because we all enjoyed hearing what he had to say and we listened until after midnight. The next morning we got up very early to go to the Sunday meeting with him. We left home at seven o'clock so we could be at the church at ten. We went to three meetings that day and then we had to walk home, but it was glorious. The message the missionaries gave us seemed to be just what we had been waiting for.
We had to walk up over quite a steep mountain. When we got to the top of the hill our older sister, Rosette said, "Now let's sing," and we sang all the way down the mountainside, the songs that were most dear to our hearts.
The trail down the mountain was real hard on our knees. After we had walked about an hour, every step was painful. We thought we would not be able to go to church the next time, but by Sunday we had forgotten how tired and hurting we had been the week before and at seven o'clock we were again on our way so we wouldn't be late for Sunday School. We belonged to the Lutheran Church and sometimes we went to the Evangelist Church but what we found in the Mormon Church made us very happy. The missionaries came again and again to teach us the gospel. They explained it so beautiful we could not hear enough. We knew it was right from the very first time we listened to Br. Winterberger.
Rosette got baptized in Langnau where our meetings were held, just two months from the time we went to our first meeting. Two days later, she came home unhappy and very angry. She said to Father, "You should have had more sense than to let me get baptized into the Mormon Church." To us she said, "I'm not going to let you go to any more of their meetings." Lena wrote in her history, "We felt bad but we knew we had to mind her because she was like a mother to us after our mother died. She said to Father, I read in the Bible, 'He that believeth and Is baptized shall be saved; but he that believed not and is baptized shall be damned.' "Well," she said, "I am damned now because I got baptized and did not believe," and she cried and cried. After a few days the missionaries came again and Rosette was very rude to them. One of the missionaries said to her, 'Rosette, go and get your Bible, open it to St. Mark, chapter 16, and the 16th verse.' She read it aloud, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned." After she read that, she felt better and we knew that we could go to church again. It was Satan that dictated that verse to her wrong, thinking he could prevent us from joining the true Church of Jesus Christ but the truth won out." We listened to the missionaries as they taught us the gospel and on the 30th of September, 1903, Father, Lena and I were baptized in a creek called the Geisbach which was just about a quarter of a mile from our house. Father and the missionaries built a dam across the creek so the water would be deep enough and there we were baptized. What a happy day it was. As soon as we got home, we changed our clothes and then were confirmed. Now we belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ, the only true church on the earth.
The missionaries that first taught us the Gospel were Elders Winterberger, John Schwendiman, David Hirschi, and Emil Kohler. Emil Kohler was the one that baptized us. I shall never forget that wonderful experience. My dear mother died three years before. I was so sorry that she was not there to share this glorious experience with the rest of us.
Some of our friends were not very nice to us after we joined the church. Many people tried to make us change our minds and to deny the gospel, especially our minister,, but Heavenly Father was with us. We knew that what we had done was right and that the church is true.
Father smoked a pipe and liked it. When the missionaries taught us about the Word of Wisdom, Father smoked that pipe all the more but in about two weeks he threw his pipe into the fire and did not smoke again. We threw away the coffee and in its place we roasted barley for a good wholesome drink..
Close to our home grew lots of wild strawberries that we could pick and sell in the village. When they were gone, the huckleberries were ripe and on top of an aim, (hill) were berries that looked like mountain grapes but the berries were red and grew in clusters. It was a charming sight to behold. They grew on abandoned ant hills that were two or three feet apart. There wasn't a single ant to be seen. Maybe they died for want of food or went some place where there was food. There must have been two or three acres of those ant hills, all covered with those red berries which were very good tasting and the people in town liked to buy them. The Lord was good to us, to give us something to do that helped to keep us happy and busy.
The elm belonged to a cheese maker. There were 6 boys and G girls in the family. The oldest girl walked to school with Lini and me. She told us of a mean heifer that was in with a herd of cattle. As we were on our way to pick berries, we saw the cattle a long way off. They were all eating but we noticed one with her head high, watching us and then coming toward us. We were scared and decided to lay down behind the bushes. Still with head high the critter kept coming. When she could not see us any more she went back to where the herd was eating. We surely were relieved and glad that we had been warned of the danger.
When she was fifteen, Lini went to Bern to work and I did the same a year later. We worked for different families doing housework for a year and then Lini had a chance to go to America. We saved our money, so when she was ready to go, I gave her the money I had saved. Emil Kohler, the man who baptized us, sponsored Lena so she could go to America. She went to Midway, Utah where the Kohlers lived and then got a job in Salt Lake. I'll never forget how I longed for my sister. We were doing everything together, working, singing, playing... I almost felt like part of me was missing, but it didn't last long. In two years I had the good fortune of going to America too. Lena sent the money for me to join her in Salt Lake. Oh, what a happy day that was, when I saw my dear sister again but at the same time I was sad leaving my father and brother and sister behind.
Now both of us worked and saved so our father and sister, Rosette could come to us, but it was not to be. When we sent the money for them to come to America, the Mission President told them they should stay in Switzerland because they needed strong saints to keep the work going there. We were afraid in our hearts that we would never see them again in this life, but after Rosette married, she and her husband, Hans Hofer, immigrated to America, settling in Logan, Utah, so we had the joy of seeing her again. She was only with us a year and then she died of cancer.
Father died in March of 1920, of the flu. Our brother Christian, married and had a family in Switzerland. He was away from home working when the missionaries taught us the gospel and he never did join the church or come to America.
My first job in America was with a Christian Scientist family named McIntire. They were very good to me. It was hard to come from my homeland, not knowing any English, to work for people who couldn't understand me or I them, but Mrs. McIntire was patient and kind and I kept their home clean and their meals prepared. Because we couldn't understand each other very well, a lot of the time we played guessing games. One day the lady sent me to the cellar to get what sounded to me like 'wash basin'. I looked for a wash basin, found what looked like a wash basin and took it to her. The lady smiled and shook her head and she motioned a big circle with her arms so I went back down and brought up a big wash tub this time. I thought they were all going to be sick from laughing, then she went to the cellar and brought up a large cooking kettle that we made soup in.
The next place I worked was for a Bailey family. This experience I had about three weeks after I started working for them. The only child was in school and Mr. and Mrs. Bailey left early one morning. I was alone in the house when I heard the door open. At once I went to see who it could be and there stood a man with the receiver of the telephone in his hand. I thought he must be fixing the phone. He said something but I could not understand. I went back to the kitchen to finish scrubbing the floor. It was a little while when he came in the kitchen. He looked suspicious to me then. I got up from the floor and then he put his two hands around my neck like he would choke me, when right then there was a scratch on the door. That scared him. At once he put his hands up in the air and of course, I did not lose a second in going to open the door and like lightening, the dog--a big purebred English bulldog, tore into that man. It sounded and looked like he was going to tear him to pieces. It was awful. Even though the man had threatened to harm me, I did not want that dog to tear him to pieces. I kept telling the dog to quit but he wouldn't. Finally though he did stop and the man was able to go out the door. I thought about calling the police but I could not speak English. Many times I was at a disadvantage because I wasn't able to speak English.
I had another bad experience. I was walking home from a Christmas party. A negro, or a man that was painted black, held me up with a pistol and took a nice purse away from me that my sister Lena had given to me. It had a dollar and my house key in it. I had to ring the bell for someone to let me into the house when I got home. I'll never forget how awful that experience was.
I can't separate my life from Lena's because we did so many things together from the time we were little children at home in Switzerland. Lena and I were asked to sing in the ward choir for which we were very grateful. We always loved to sing and that was real nice, to learn and sing the beautiful songs from the hymn book. I think singing those hymns helped us to learn English faster. We also sang in the German choir. There we got acquainted with a fine Swiss family that had two singers that asked us to sing quartets with them. We never got tired of singing. We practiced a lot and soon were asked to sing for parties and missionary farewells all over the Salt Lake Valley. Lini and I learned to yodel at home in Switzerland and we yodeled with Gottfried Jaggi and Br. Weiler. 'We enjoyed those experiences, entertaining with our yodeling, and oh, we made so many wonderful friends during this time.
One time when Lini and I were on a program where there was a big crowd of people, we were singing some Swiss songs and yodeling. Lini made a funny sound while we were singing and it made her laugh. She had such a funny look on her face that I had to laugh too. We stopped singing, then started again, but we would burst out laughing again. Each time we thought we had control, Lini would turn to me and say--"Now this time" and we would start laughing again. The people were laughing along with us and each time Lini would say, "Now this time" there was a roar of laughing. Finally we just sat down, there was no use going on. We sang later in the program with success.
It was at one of these parties that I met Alfred Durtschi, the man that was to be my husband. It was several years later before I saw him again and he asked me to be his wife and go to Teton Basin, in Idaho, to live.
Fred Duersch, an immigrant from Germany who was converted to the church in his homeland married Lena in June of 1911. For a short while I lived with them. It was at this time that some slicker land salesmen sold us each a piece of land in Raft River, Idaho. There were so many people who were drawn in by the smooth talk of those land salesmen. They described the land as beautiful, flat, fertile farming ground. Many bought without seeing, hoping they would sometime have a piece of land they could call their own. Fred bought 80 acres and I bought 80 at $15 dollars an acre. We had no money to go to Idaho to see what we were buying, but the sales talk sounded so good. Every month we made a payment out of the little money we made.
After Lena got married I joined the Tabernacle Choir. This was at the time Evan Stevens was choir leader. He gave one so much inspiration that we just couldn't help but sing our very best. This was a very beautiful and happy time of my life. I sang with the choir two years when in June of 1915, Alfred came back to Salt Lake. He asked me to go out to Salt Aire with him. We had such a good time together. The next day was Sunday and we went to the German church. I was working at that time in a laundry so on Monday I had to work. We made some plans that night and the next morning Alfred left for Idaho, with the understanding that I would go to Teton Basin to see if I would like to live with him, in that country, as his wife.
I had talked to Alfred about the land I had bought and I wanted him to see it so on his way home he went to Raft River, west of Pocatello. He found that the land we had bought was really a swindle. In the place of beautiful, fertile farming ground he found that the land was rocky, hilly and no good for farming. He told me to stop paying on it and save my money. I felt bad because I lost about $300 dollars and Fred the same. There was nothing we could do to get our money back. That was a good lesson to me.
In September I took a 16 hour train trip to Driggs to see Alfred. I loved it there. The mountains were so close and the farm was a nice farm. It looked good to me but I still had a big decision to make. I would have to leave those dear friends in Salt Lake, singing in the German Choir, the yodeling quartet and singing in the Tabernacle Choir, but I chose Alfred and Idaho. I felt we could have a good life together.
Three weeks later, on the 7th of October, 1915, I was married to Alfred Durtschi in the Salt Lake Temple and went to live on the farm east of Driggs, Idaho, which was to be our home for most of the rest of our lives.
When we arrived in Driggs and Pratt Ward, I was accepted. The first Sunday we went to church we sat behind Br. Morgan who was the choir leader. He turned to see who that was singing alto behind him. The next Sunday I was invited to sing the alto part in a young ladies quartet. This was a busy but happy time. Alfred took me to many of the practices we had. Sometimes when he was busy he would saddle up the nice, gentle saddle pony and I would ride to the practices on her. He didn't dare let me ride "Old Pack" a fast race horse, for fear he would run away with me.
We were asked to sing all over the valley and many times Alfred took us to the places we had to go, in the winter time in a sleigh and in the summer in a buggy.
In the fall and winter of 1914 and 15, Alfred had built a house on the farm. It was a nice lumber home with a kitchen and bedroom downstairs and two bedrooms up stairs. We were happy in our home.
A church wide quartet festival was to be held at the June Conference in Salt Lake in 1916. The ladies in our quartet, Erma Wilson, Grace Green, Luella Dalley and I, decided to enter this event which was a contest. First we competed with all the ward quartets in our stake, then we went to the district contest and the regional, then the final contest was held in Salt Lake. We were competing with the best women's quartets in the church. The last quartet we had to meet was from the BYU, a very wonderful quartet of young women. Each contest was won by our quartet. We were so proud and so happy to think that we could do such a thing. To be the winning ladies quartet over the whole church was beyond our fondest dreams. But I felt sorry for those who had practiced so hard and didn't win.
We can't take the credit for our good fortune even though we did spend hours, days and weeks of practice to perfect our singing techniques. Evan Stevens told us when we were practicing in the Tabernacle Choir, "In order to make a success of anything, you must give it your undivided attention, and while doing so, your aim must be fixed constantly on the goal which you desire to attain. Rome was not built in one day, neither can the voice be trained in one day." I kept thinking of that as we practiced. Another thing he told us, that I wrote in my notes was, "You must have confidence in yourself if you want others to have confidence in you."
Life on the farm was not easy. I was used to hard work because Father and Mother taught us to work. Father told us that work always comes before pleasure and there were chores that had to be taken care of every day and 160 acres of land to be farmed, cows to milk, horses and pigs to care for and a coop full of chickens to feed was more than Alfred could do alone. He worked from early morning until late at night. At irrigating time he would irrigate all night. He often took the lantern and a blanket out in the field with him so he could rest an hour on the ditch bank between water changes. We took water turns with the neighbors and good management of the water was very important. It meant the difference between a good crop or a poor crop. The children and I often milked the cows so he could spend his time irrigating when it was our turn.
I love the country, the hills and mountains. We live in a nice community. My husband was a bishop for twenty five years and went on a mission to Switzerland. Our children all married in the temple and served missions. We have 43 grandchildren. I pray the Lord to help us all to be true to the gospel and give us strength to help build up the kingdom of God. May we live so that we may be worthy of his blessings.
I'm so grateful that our Mother did write memories of her youth, and thanks to Walter and Joan, those experiences, written on all sorts of scraps of paper, were saved when Mama and Papa moved from their home on the Wyoming, Idaho state line in Pratt to come to Sugar City to live near us, Wilson & Isabel. In her youth, Mama learned thrift. She used the backs of used envelopes, the backs of year old calendars,, the backs of our old school note books, anything that had some space to write on, she wrote the experiences of her youth as she thought of them. Some she wrote several times, having forgotten that she had written them, sometimes adding something that she had not written on a previous one. These notes were placed under the oil cloth table cover where they would be safe. It has been an exciting and somewhat emotional experience for me to put those treasures together as she might have done herself. In a few instances I had to change a word or add a word or phrase because I couldn't make out what was written, but hopefully not the meaning of what she wrote.
I'm sorry Mama didn't write more of the experiences she had here in the United States. Her story so far is so sweet and so much like her that I hesitate inserting memories we children have of our mother for fear it will detract from the beauty of what she wrote herself, but I shall take that risk because these memories should be preserved for future generations so that they will know of the beautiful virtues of their Grandmother, Ida Durtschi.
From this point on the story is told by various members of the Durtschi family, not so much in personal quotes but in a story form as we remember incidents in her life.
Community parties were a great help to Mama in getting acquainted with the people of 'the area after she came to Teton Basin. Ruth Waddell Garner, a very dear friend of our mother's said that Mama and Papa seldom missed a party. They had been married only a short time when they were invited to become part of the community group on Spring Creek. Even though she might have been in the middle of the wash when it was time for the party, she would leave it, the clothes could wait until tomorrow. Those were some very happy times. Ruth said, "Your mother could be counted on to do anything that needed to be done. She was eager to help anyone that needed help." In later years, Ruth Garner and Mama were visiting teacher companions and became fast friends and Ruth showed her respect and love for our mother by visiting her whenever she and her husband, Henry, who had later moved to Salt Lake, came to the area to visit their families.
Mama was expecting Arnold when the ladies quartet took the honors at June conference in Salt Lake. He was born on the 11th of January, 1917. The doctor didn't get there in time and Arnold was delivered by a midwife, Sister Isabelle P. Morgan. It was thought in those days, that women needed to stay in bed for 10 days after giving birth to help the body repair and Sister Morgan helped during that time. (That practice has since been found to be a harmful practice because after 10 days in bed the mother had lost so much strength that it took quite some time to regain it back again.)
It was about this time when Uncle Fred Duersch and Aunt Lena left Salt Lake, at the invitation of Papa, to work on our farm. They, with their four little ones, Fred, Mary, Henry and David, stayed with Papa and Mama until they could find a place to live. Having Uncle Fred working for him was a great help to Papa and to Mama too, for she didn't have to spend so much time helping on the farm and could spend more time with her little son. Mama was so happy to have Aunt Lena close to her again.
It wasn't long until Uncle Fred and Aunt Lena took up a homestead about a mile and a quarter east, up Spring Creek Canyon. There they built a little log home and started clearing land for themselves so they could plant a garden and a patch of alfalfa to feed the cow Papa had sold to them. Papa wanted to give the cow to Uncle Fred but he was too proud to accept that offer. He wanted to be on his own and paid for the cow with work. This cow had three steer calves and that was all the calves she had so Uncle Fred butchered her for food and traded the 3 steers to Papa for another milk cow which in 7 successive years produced 7 heifer calves, giving the Duerschs a beginning of a dairy herd.
Papa finally gave "Old Pack", a fast moving, little race horse, to Uncle Fred, along with a buggy so their family could have a means of getting to church which was almost four miles away. That frisky race horse would often take them for a merry ride when they had a long straight strip of good dirt road to run on, giving all of them a real fright, as they hung on to the buggy and each other for dear life.
I found the above interesting bits of information in the history Uncle Fred Duersch wrote.
I was born on the 12th of July 1919, adding a little girl to the family. That fall Aunt Lena had Alma, on the 3rd of October. Mama cared for her and the baby, at our home, along with her own two and Aunt Lena's four older ones, during the ten days she had to be in bed. Sister Morgan was midwife at that birth too. Our community could not have gotten along without that dear sweet sister. She was the second wife of Fredrick W. Morgan and was never able to have children of her own so lavished her love on all the children of the community.
Walter was born on the 29th of July 1921. It was not that easy for Mama to have children. She was sick and weak quite a while after each child. She had two quite serious problems before Lucy and Lucile were born February 13, 1924, just a month and a week from the day Aunt Lena had a pair of twin girls. Both pair of parents were so proud of those little baby girls that were "the talk of the town." They grew up together in the same community until they graduated from High School.
Martha Kaufman was hired to help for some time after Lucy and Lucile were born which was such a blessing to Mama. The older children were so small that they weren't very much help, only more work.
Mama lost another baby after the girls were born and after that she was plagued with terrible headaches that would last for days. Nothing seemed to relieve them. Mama was not one to run to the doctor over every little thing, but finally the headaches were so bad that she asked Papa to take her to Driggs to see a Dr. Redner. He checked her over, then suggested that she go to the dentist to see what he could do about her teeth. The dentist told her that her teeth were in very poor condition. His suggestion was for her to have them pulled, which she did, but the headaches persisted. She would lie down and use a cold, wet cloth on her head to help ease the pain. I remember wringing out those cloths in the cold water and putting them on her head. I also remember how appreciative she was, taking my hand and expressing her thanks to me. Her system was so full of poison that it took months before she began to feel better. After that she had headaches occasionally but not as severe as before.
When Lucile was two, she became ill with pneumonia. Mama spent days with her in the hospital. There was fear for Lucile's life. The doctor did all he could but Lucile kept getting weaker and weaker. Men holding the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood were called to help give her a blessing. Papa blessed her and pleaded with the Lord for her life. That was the turning point and soon she and Mama were back home with the rest of the family. Papa and Mama both had great faith in the power of the priesthood.
Mama was observant of everything in nature, from the smallest insect to the tallest mountains, the whispiest, feathery cloud to the melody of the singing bird. To her there was a lesson in all of God's creations, and beauty even in the soil of the earth, for without the soil she said, there would be no beautiful flower, no food, no trees and shrubs. Although she didn't care for spiders and was terrified of snakes, still she taught us that there was a good reason the Lord created them.
At one time Arnold and Mama were behind the barn. They were just going to the house after pulling weeds from the potato patch in the acreage behind the barn. Arnold had found a little water snake that Mama didn't know anything about, playing with it as he walked along. She was about thirty feet ahead of him, going down the little hill toward the house. He picked up a stick and twirled the snake on it and let it fly, not realizing the consequence. It hit Mama on the neck, wrapping itself around her throat. It frightened her so bad she fell to the ground in a faint. Arnold ran toward her as fast as he could, thinking he had killed her but before he reached her she started getting up, trembling and frightened. Arnold always said the experience taught him a lesson, "Think before you act." I've often wondered if that experience was the reason she was so dreadfully frightened of snakes, even though she knew a little water snake would do her no harm.
One day when Arnold d was a very small boy, he was playing in front of the house when Mama heard a terrible squealing coming from the pig pen where several pigs were kept. She ran outside to see what was going on. A dog had jumped into the pen and was chasing and biting the pigs. She picked up a buggy whip laying near by as she ran toward the noise. Just as she reached the door of the pen the dog, frothing at the mouth and bloody, jumped out of the pen. She could see the foam oozing from the dog's mouth and the terrible realization came to her of what could happen if this vicious dog would attack her or even worse, her precious Arnold, playing nearby. She raised the buggy whip over her head intending to drive the dog away. The dog watched her for a moment and then slowly advanced toward her, steadily coming closer. Mama sent a prayer upward, asking the Lord to protect them, while slowly the dog advanced yet closer to her. The dog barred his teeth and snarled, as he drew near. Something told her not to strike but rather to slowly lower the whip. Immediately she obeyed. As the whip came to rest on the ground between her and the dog, he suddenly turned and ran off toward the road. She and her dear baby were safe. Latter they heard that many pens in the neighborhood had been entered by that rabid dog and many animals had to be destroyed, including the best sow Papa had. Mama always told us that it was the Holy Spirit that whispered to her to lower that whip or the dog would have attacked and bitten her and perhaps Arnold too. She believed sincerely in the promptings of the Holy Ghost and listened and acted on those promptings.
On the 21st of March, 1926, Papa was sustained to be the Bishop of Pratt Ward. It wasn't easy to be a bishop's wife but Mama never complained about burdens that became hers because Papa had to be gone so much. He was gone a lot especially during the time the new church was being built because he went to the timber to help get out logs for lumber. He went to the rock quarry to help get out the rock that was used on the outside of the church. Often he went from house to house in the ward to solicit money which at that time was so hard to come by because it was during the great depression, from 1929 to 1937. Mama, with the help of her little family, that was probably more hindrance than help, for none of us were older than 8 years of age, did the milking, took care of the horses and dry cattle and many other necessary things when needed.
A more tender and thoughtful person never lived than our mother. In the early thirties Papa and Uncle John bought a band of sheep, about 1200 head. Late February and early March the ewes began to have their lambs. It was still very cold at that time of the year, the temperature sometime going from 15 degrees to below zero but the lambs were born in spite of the cold and would often chill and die. I remember the times Mama brought those little frozen lambs, wrapped in a blanket or a gunny sack, into the warmth of the kitchen to revive them. Some of the lambs were worse off than others and these she would put into a bucket of cool water and then gradually make it warmer. Then she would tenderly dry them off and feed them from a bottle. The others she laid on the oven door until they got lively, then put them in a box by the side of the warm Majestic stove until they could stand on their feet and soon they were ready to take back to their mothers, who by that time had been put into a small pen in the shelter of the sheep shed. Mama saved the lives of hundreds of lambs this way in the years we had the sheep... She wasn't able, by any means, to save all the lambs she treated with such care, and she felt so bad when one didn't make it.
The little pigs that were born in the cold weather were treated the same as the lambs if they were born in the winter and became chilled at birth. Sometimes there were as many as 12 or 13 little pigs in a box, lined with rags, on the oven door enjoying the warmth.
If there happened to be a little runt in the bunch it was because he wasn't strong enough to get his share of the milk from his mother because the other little pigs rooted him away from the source of supply, so Mama would bottle feed him until he got strong enough to take care of himself. She often had little lambs and pigs following her around at the same time. They loved her because she loved and cared for them.
Mama had a coop full of White Leghorn chickens with a few colored roosters mixed with them. In the spring there were always hens that became broody. They wanted a family of baby chicks, so Mama marked the eggs after there were a dozen or so in the nest where the hen was setting. Every day she took the unmarked eggs out of the nest so only the eggs that were brooded for 21 days would hatch. Some hens would steal away and make nests under the eaves in the barn or under a bush where they thought they would not be found. There were always three or four hens with little chicks scratching around in the yard. Mama enjoyed watching them as they scampered around. The chicks would stand in a circle around the mother hen as she scratched the soil and brought up grubs, bugs or seeds that the chicks hungrily ate.
Good care was taken of the chickens. The eggs were gathered, washed and taken to the mercantile store in exchange for sugar, salt and other groceries that were needed, so it was important to feed the chickens well so they would lay lots of eggs. Oyster shells were broken, giving the chickens the calcium needed to make strong shells so the eggs would not break. Mama saw to it that we fed and watered the chickens every day.
On Thanksgiving there was always roast chicken with dressing on the table. Mama knew that many people serve turkey so she decided she was going to have turkey for Thanksgiving too. Somewhere she bought two hen turkeys and a gobbler--a perfect start for a flock of turkeys. In the spring one of the hens produced 13 eggs and began setting. 11 of the eggs hatched. Mama watched those 11 chicks with great care. We had a creek running to the south of the house that was 5 to 6 feet across and that dumb hen turkey would fly across the ditch, expecting her little ones to follow her. The bank dropped a foot and a half or so, into the water. The poor little chicks tried to follow their mother. It was impossible for them to fly across the ditch and in their attempt to do so would fall into the water and most of them were drowned. Mama watched carefully, but she couldn't be watching all the time. Time after time she pulled one from the water to save it's life. Finally the hen ended up with a couple of chicks that grew to mature turkeys. It really hurt Mama to see those little baby turkeys destroyed in the water so one try was enough for her--no more turkeys, but that year we had several turkey meals.
Every year at harvest time the thrashing machine with a threshing crew of men would pull into our place to thresh peas and grain. Many of the neighbors and friends who helped, would look forward to eating dinner at Mama's table. Jess A. Edlefsen mentioned many times how well Mama could cook a piece of meat to make it deliciously tender. No one could cook meat like she did. It was always an extra special treat to eat a piece of mutton steak, roast or mutton chops, (Mama knew how to cook the mutton so it didn't stick to the top of the mouth) mashed potatoes, gravy, home grown vegetables, salads, and usually apple, lemon and huckleberry pie, as much as one could eat. We never ran out of food during threshing time which usually lasted from three to five days. Some of the men came for three meals every day. We children always looked forward to this time too, because we enjoyed the good food as much as the threshing crew did, not that we didn't have good food all the time, only more of it.
A delicacy at our home was our mother's delicious fresh homemade bread with strawberries picked fresh out of the garden, mashed with a little sugar and spread generously on the bread.
Nothing was ever let go to waste. Mama always had a way of fixing leftovers so they tasted good and different from the meal before. Our evening meal was usually homemade bread crusts soaked in milk. When the apples got ripe she peeled even the very small ones and canned them for our winter's supply or sliced them thinly and dried them in the oven to be munched on through the long, cold winter months.
In the spring when the fields were being plowed, Mama sent us out to the field to follow the plow and pick up dandelion roots. These she would carefully scrub with a brush, then put them through the fine grinder of the food chopper. After this was done she put those finely ground roots into the oven to roast. When they were dried out well and toasted just right she put them into jars with a lid and all winter long we had a delicious warm drink, using some of the toasted roots, milk and a little sugar.
Another spring activity, as the snow receded from the quaking aspen groves and the earth was still wet, Mama and her brood were found out in the hills hunting mushrooms. They were fairly plentiful and so fun to look for. She taught us how to fry them, dipped in an egg batter, dipped in flour with salt and pepper or chopped into small pieces and scrambled with onions and eggs. That was a delicious springtime treat.
Spring also found us out with gloves on and a pair of scissors, cutting nettles that were about 4 inches high, which were used for greens. Mama cooked them, made a gravy sauce with milk, adding the cooked nettles and a little salt and pepper. They were delicious.
Huckleberrying in August came as sure as getting up in the morning. (I think this activity brought to our mother many happy memories of home in Switzerland.) She took all us children with her after we were old enough. The older ones had a can tied to their waists and were expected to fill it with huckleberries. She always made it fun by running races to see who could fill the can up first. She made it fair by having the size of the can equal to the ability of the child.. She filled a gallon bucket quicker than we filled a small tomato to can. In order to keep track of us, there on the mountain side, she would give us a "Yu Hoo" call occasionally and we would answer with a "Yu Hoo". As we each answered, she knew where we were.
One afternoon our mother went huckleberrying alone. She was picking in the bottom end of a large clearing, going about, picking berries with her mind on what she was doing when she happened to look up. There, not more than 150 feet from her, in the top edge of the clearing was a big brown bear, pulling his tongue along the huckleberry branches, harvesting the fruit as he ambled up the hill, not noticing her. Fear gripped Mama's heart. When she finally was able to think clearly, she turned and as quietly as she could, left the hill. She never did go huckleberrying alone again.
She loved having fun with her children. In March, when the snow was crusted and before the sun softened it, we pulled our little sleighs to the top of the hill behind the barn, Mama with us. After we were seated on our sleds, she gave us a hard push so we could go farther and then she followed us down on her sled or jumped on behind one of us, always laughing her happy, fun filled laugh or talking to the sleigh to go faster as we went down the hill, or yelling "whoa" as we got to the end of the ride. The hill wasn't very long but we had a good time with Mama. Soon she'd say, "Well, it is time for me to go get breakfast for Papa," and off she'd go, happy in the thought, I'm sure, that she had spent a few fun moments with her children.
A part of Mama's Patriarchal blessing says, "Thou shalt not lack for the comforts of life and none shall be turned from thy door hungry. She never did. Her heart was full of compassion for every living soul. During the depression many men came to the house looking for work. She would ask them if they had had anything to eat that day and most of the time the answer was "no." She would say, "If you'll go chop a little wood for me I'll fix you a meal." Some of them went to the wood pile and chopped wood with a will, until they were called to eat. A few chopped a few pieces, then sat on the chopping block and waited until she called them. She felt that everyone should be willing to work for what they got but she gave them a generous nourishing meal regardless of whether they chopped wood or not. It was not in her nature to be unkind or uncharitable.
It wasn't unusual to have peddlers come down the dusty, dirt road in the summertime, selling their wares. Some sold blankets; others had their back seats stuffed with clothing. In the fall they came with wagon loads of apples, peaches and other fruits. Mama was always kind to them and if she needed something and had the money she bought.
Our pasture had thistles that plagued our mother continually. She went out early in the morning, chopping off the thistles. All summer long she waged war on those thistles. Finally she realized that it doesn't do much good to chop off the thistle except that it can't go to seed. The root must be killed in order to permanently destroy those noxious weeds.
One time a caravan of Gypsies came into the community. They quickly scattered through the neighborhood. The women wore long dresses with large pockets covered with aprons. Many things disappeared from many homes. One Gypsy lady came to our place. She asked if she could have one of the chickens that was loose in the yard. Mama was agreeable so she, Lucy and Lucile ran around the yard, finally cornering one. The lady took the bird, felt it all over, lifted it for weight and said, "My, this is a little chicken, won't you catch me a fatter one?" So they scurried around catching another one. She took the second chicken, felt it and said, "This one is small too, can I have both?" Mama gave her both chickens not even realizing that she was being taken advantage of.
Our mother never said an unkind word about anyone. In all my life I never heard her say anything but good about people. If someone said something that wasn't exactly nice, she would respond by saying something complimentary about that person. This taught us children a great lesson on kindness. She always said, "If you can't say something good don't say anything." She was just incapable of seeing any bad in anyone because there was none in her.
The garden was her joy. Every morning, from spring till fall, as soon as she could see, she was out in her vegetables, strawberries and flowers, cultivating, weeding and caring for her precious plants. When planting, she planted the rows about 18 inches apart. She made a harrow out of 15 inches of 2 by 12 board with several rows of long spikes driven through it. This piece of equipment worked well as she pulled it up and down the rows. Often she tied a large rock to the top of it to force the nails deeper into the soil. It served the purpose she had made it for, eliminating the weeds and a lot of back breaking work with the hoe. She took special pride in having a weedless garden and all in the community envied her for having such a lovely one. Around the edge of her garden she planted a border of hollyhocks, oriental poppies and columbines that bloomed all summer in their season. She brought starts of wild hollyhocks and wild columbines from the mountains to plant, for they reminded her so much of Switzerland. She loved the violas and pansies, with their cheery little faces that always brought a smile to her face. She would look at them with tenderness and say, "See how happy they are, they are smiling at us." All those flowers still grow in her garden, seeding year after year, bringing joy to children, grandchildren and all who pass by.
Arnold and Marian brought 3 pretty pine trees from the mountains, planting them on the north side of the new house for Mama. Every day she religiously watered those trees. She had to keep them alive for they were given her with lots of love. All three grew and are now taller than the house.
The Lilac bush too, was a treasure. Its fragrance in June was a little bit of heaven. We all admired it and enjoyed its sweet aroma. Every plant our mother put her hand to, it seems, turned out beautiful. The California poppies were gorgeous, and even the cabbage she dusted with ashes to discourage the cabbage moths, matured to nice heads of cabbage. I must qualify that statement somewhat, because she tried to raise corn year after year but year after year the frost got it just as it came out of the ground or in July or August before it had a chance to mature. Finally she quit planting corn, the climate in Teton Valley was not for growing corn.
When Lucy and Lucile were about 8 years old, a terrible lightening and thunder storm raged through Teton Valley. Mama, Lucy, Lucile and Walter were in the house as the lightening flashed and the thunder rumbled. Suddenly there was a deafening crack and a ball of fire, the size of a baseball, came out of the telephone mouthpiece. It seemed to bounce on the floor, then back into the mouthpiece. Mama gathered the children together in her arms and prayed for their safety. It didn't take long for the storm to die down and calm was restored. Prayer was an important and stabilizing force in her life.
Mama was a master at reading aloud to us. The story of Daniel in the Lion's Den became a reality to us as she read. We were right there when David put the stone into his sling shot and hit Goliath between the eyes with it. Bible stories were a priority but she read other stories too, among which was "Heidi", a story which she loved because it reminded her so much of her dear homeland, the goats and the ales of her youth. She read and reread that story to us, until it was almost indelibly engraved on our minds. I have thought many times that the reason Mama spoke English so well, with only a slight accent, was because she read so much to her children. I thank our Heavenly Father for a Mother who read to us.
"You may have riches and wealth untold, Baskets of jewels and baskets of gold, But richer than I you will never be For I had a mother who read to me." Author unknown
On long winter evenings we sat around the warm Majestic stove practicing our instruments, Mama singing the tune as it should go, then we would play. She was so patient as she taught us the principles of music. I remember how she worked with Walter so he would put his mouth on the mouthpiece just right to get the purest tone from his trumpet. She wanted each one of us to do what we were doing, right and patiently she taught us.
Singing was no exception. She enjoyed teaching us new songs and oh, how she loved those Swiss songs so dear to her heart. From her we learned many that are still in our memory bank. She was so happy when Aunt Lena came to live in Pratt Ward and they were able to sing and yodel together again. Many a ward and stake party was entertained by those two sisters yodeling. People who were young at that time, still remember and talk about the two Swiss Modelers.
Mother's Day never came but what Mama sang "Mother McCree" or another appropriate song on the Sacrament Meeting program. There was something heavenly about the way she sang, always with a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face. Some other songs I remember her singing on different occasions were, "Memories of Galilee," which she sang with a quartet, and "Whispering Hope." Aunt Luella, Uncle John's wife, sometimes sang the lead for duets and often accompanied Mama when she sang as did LaRena Christensen Waddell and Iris Dalley.
For as many years as I can remember, Mama was a visiting teacher and the chorister In Relief Society. She often rode a horse to take care of these two assignments because she never learned to drive a car, but her main role was being a supportive Bishop's wife. No one could have been more diligent in this service.
Our mother was a very saving person. She usually kept a five cent package of gun so when the grandchildren came she'd have something for them. It was one of Arnold's boys that remembers his grandmother giving him a stick of gum when he arrived, with the understanding that when he was through with it he was to give the gum back to her telling him what she was going to use it for. With this "used" gum she mended many a hole in dog dishes or chicken watering pans. She had another unique way of mending leaky pans. Threading a darning needle with a heavy piece of cord or a rag, she put the needle through the hole, pulling the cord through until it was tight, then cut it off on both sides of the pan. That kept the pan in service for quite some time longer. The cats, dogs and chickens didn't mind the mended holes at all. Thrift was the name of her game. To waste anything was a sin. Her children and grandchildren got an impressive lesson from her example.
Our parents were so thrilled when Arnold accepted a call to go to Switzerland on a mission in 1937. They had not forgotten those missionaries who had brought the gospel to them in their homeland. Their hopes were that Arnold would be able to touch the hearts of some of their countrymen and relatives with the message of the gospel that had brought so much joy and comfort to them after their conversion.
Mama was diligent in writing letters to him, encouraging him and letting him know of what was going on at home and of our love for him. She watched for the postman every day, hoping there would be a letter from him. How excited she was when each one came.
Arnold made good use of the musical talent that Mama had instilled in each of her children. He led the singing in branches where he worked and played the organ for the congregational singing when there was no one else to play and if there was an organ available. If there was a piano but no organ, he played the piano.
There was great concern at home as World War 11 progressed in Europe. Arnold had not quite put in his 2 1/2 years as a missionary. All the missionaries were transferred out of Europe. It was such a relief to know that he had arrived back in the United States safely. That was some time in 1939. Arnold finished his mission in the United States, was released and came home but the joy of having him home was short lived. On the 7th of December, 1941, war was declared on Japan and all the young men that were physically able to serve in the Armed Forces were called. Arnold was called to serve, even though Papa needed him at home on the farm. Again Mama wrote letters of encouragement and love. She felt a great need to keep in touch with her children, no matter where they were or what they were doing, and oh, how the receivers of those letters waited for and appreciated them.
I was next to leave for a mission, going to the Spanish American mission with headquarters in El Paso, Texas, and again Mama was happy to have one of her children serve a mission. Walter was called to the Eastern States mission and soon after, Lucy and Lucile were called to the Northern California mission. Walter played his trumpet at the Hill Cumorah Pageant and sang with a male quartet that toured the mission, making friends among members and non members alike. Lucy, Lucile and I also were able to use our musical abilities, leading the singing in branches, singing in duets, trios, quartets and choruses for Sunday Services and Missionary conferences. Lucile made good use of her talents playing the violin. How happy it made Mama when mention was made of musical activities that were participated in. Through it all, the letters kept coming.
Her great success was bringing 5 children into the world and teaching them principles of the gospel and music, to be honest in their dealings, to be thrifty, to work hard, to love this beautiful world, to be understanding and kind to others.
Papa didn't sing too well but he loved to hear good music. He enjoyed hearing the children perform and always gave Mama the credit for the time she spent teaching and rehearsing, not only in singing but in playing musical instruments and learning talks we had to give on various occasions. Arnold started playing the trumpet in grade school, under the direction of "Prof" Murdock, as he was lovingly called. When Walter started school the trumpet was passed on to him and Arnold learned to play the clarinet. Lucy played the clarinet and saxophone and Lucile learned the violin. I played at the alto and baritone horns. We couldn't have accomplished what we did without the help and encouragement of our dear mother.
In the year of 1946, Papa decided to build a new home for Mama. She had lived in the house he had built for her in 1914 and 1915, for thirty one years. Electricity and a cold and hot water tap had been put in the house but there was no indoor plumbing. It was time for a change. So for almost ten years our mother enjoyed her new home which Rex Rigby, with the help of Papa, built from the plans that Uncle Fred Durtschi drew up.
The house consisted of a kitchen with the luxury of built in cupboards, a refrigerator and an electric stove, a living room and two bedrooms and a bathroom. Up stairs were two more bedrooms and the basement had a washroom, a fruit room and the furnace room.
Mama missed her wood burning range in the kitchen. She could never quite get used to the electric stove for cooking. One day she was rendering out some lard in the oven. The grease was to be used to make home made soap. The big aluminum kettle was on the stove with the electricity turned on. While it was heating she noticed some cattle coming toward the house so she ran out to drive them back to the pasture so they wouldn't get into her garden. While she was gone the grease caught fire. How she ever got the fire out without burning the house down, and even worse than that, to be burned herself, is a miracle.
Wilson and I were living in Driggs at the time. The feeling came over me that we should go see Mama and Papa. When we arrived home Mama was sitting on the step outside the house with a most tragic look on her face. She had been crying and she could hardly talk. I didn't have to be told something was wrong. When I wanted to go past her to get into the house, Mama kept saying, "Don't go in there, please don't go in there." When we went in, the sight that met our eyes was horrible. The ceiling and walls of the kitchen were black with greasy smoke which had even filtered into the closed cupboards, covering everything in the cupboards with that sticky smoke film. There was a hole burned above the stove where the flames had reaching the ceiling. The smoke penetrated the entire main floor. Sleeves were rolled up, sudsy water put in the sink and the cleanup task began. What a chore that was, but things looked pretty decent when we finally left that night. The next day Wilson came with his painting equipment to put fresh paint throughout the house. I don't think our mother ever fully recovered from that experience.
1953 came and Papa and Mama were making plans to go on a mission. They had worked hard long enough and wanted to serve the Lord teaching the gospel, hopefully in their homeland of Switzerland. Walter and Joan were living upstairs, they would live in the house and run the farm.
The mission papers were filled out---they went to get their physicals, Papa passed but the doctor told Mama she was not in a condition to go on a mission. This was a great heartache for her but she insisted that Papa go anyway. Then when Papa received his call to go to Switzerland it was almost more than she could bear. She longed so to go back to see her homeland again and to be with him. None of us really realized the feelings she had inside her as she faced the next two years.
Papa had always taken care of all the business of paying bills, the lights, taxes, insurance and all the other business transactions that needed to be taken care of regularly. This burden weighed heavily on our mother, not being accustomed to this responsibility and not being acquainted with business dealings and even though Walter was there to help her, the burden was still hers.
During the time Papa was on his mission, Mama wrote more missionary letters. She kept him aware of activities at home. He appreciated those letters so much and she anxiously waited for the postman to leave her letters from him. We really don't realize how important letters can be to the happiness of our loved ones.
Mama loved her grandchildren. She was always so glad when they came and had something for them to make them happy. She taught them to observe the beauty of nature as she had taught her own children. She took them hunting mushrooms in the spring and let them help her weed the garden. Sometimes it wasn't much help but she liked having them with her. It was a common sight to see her walking, with a little hand held lovingly in both of hers and two or three little people following behind, walking to the barn, to the garden, or where ever there was something to take care of. She enjoyed the company of the children so much.
Mama loved family gatherings. She was just like a kid when we took her to the sand dunes. One of the fun things we did was take a running jump over the edge of a large dune to see who could jump out the farthest. A sweet visual memory is seeing her, flying through the air, with a straw hat tied under her chin and her dress ballooning in the wind. She was not to be outdone by any of her children or grandchildren.
Gradually her health deteriorated to the point that Papa had to be called home after about 17 months in the mission. There were ups and downs after that. However, they were able to spend parts of two winters in Logan working in the temple where they lived with Walter who was going to the Utah State University and had an apartment just across the street from the temple. Papa got up early and spent all day working at the activity he had been looking forward to for so many years. Mama tidied the house, then went for some sessions at the temple herself. When she got tired she was able to go to the apartment and rest. It was a comfort to Mama to know Walter was there because he helped her in so many ways.
The next four years were spent in the Idaho Falls temple. Papa never tired. He became impatient with those who seemed not to feel the importance of the work they were doing at the moment. Lee Fullmer related an incident that describes the urgency Papa felt about what he was doing. Between sessions there was a group standing in a hallway, more or less visiting, a General Authority among them, while Papa was getting ready for the next session. He said, rather impatiently, "Would you men please move over so I can get through, there is work to do." President Fullmer heard him and said to him, "Do you know that was an apostle you were speaking to?" Papa replied, "That doesn't matter, he's holding up the work of the Lord." At another time Br. Yearsley and his wife had just been called to be ordinance workers at the temple. He was struggling to memorize the things he had to know and voiced his concern to Papa. Papa said to him, "You are doing fine Br. Yearsley, you just practice on me all you want. It just takes practice."
Papa often was in the temple from early morning till the temple closed at night but Mama couldn't take that schedule. Her body was weakening and finally she wasn't able to go to the temple at all. A nice house trailer had been purchased and put on our property in Sugar City where they came to live. Kind neighbors took Papa to the temple two or three times a week and Mama, when she was able, pulled weeds in the garden or worked among the flowers. This seemed to be good therapy for her.
June 5th of 1976, the flood ruined their home and many of its contents. Lucile and Jess took Papa and Mama into their home in Rigby, for about four months, until the government furnished them with a trailer which took its place in "Trailer Town" Sugar City.
The time came when Mama was unable to walk by herself or to use her voice anymore. Papa cared for her with all the tenderness he knew how to express, in word and deed. Lucile and Jess often took them to their home to give them a welcome change, which was very much appreciated.
When we built our new home after the flood, we had a bedroom and bath prepared next to the kitchen for Mama and Papa, so it was convenient for them. It was in that bedroom where Mama passed away, February 17, 1978, her mission on earth completed.
Mama loved and appreciated her sons and daughters in-law. They were more like her own children than in-laws. She was always happy to see them and help them in any way she could. That love and appreciation was mutual.
Our mother was a loving, patient, cheerful, neat, kind and resourceful lady, always exerting a positive influence on those around her. She asked so very little from life, yet gave so much. Someone has said, "Behind every good man is a good woman." This was certainly true of Mama. Papa would not have been able to accomplish what he did as a farmer and as a bishop, had it not been for a faithful companion who bore many of his burdens in order that he would be able to take care of his responsibilities. She certainly exemplified strength of character, love for her family and fellow men and lived a Christ-like life.Papa and Mama were devoted to their family, friends and church and to each other.
To finish our Mother's history, I would like to repeat the last paragraph she wrote herself in her history, so characteristic of her.
"I love the country, the hills and mountains. We live in a nice community. My husband was a bishop for twenty five years and went on a mission to Switzerland. Our children all married in the temple and served missions. We have 43 grandchildren. I pray the Lord to help us all to be true to the gospel and give us strength to help build up the kingdom of God. May we live so we will be worthy of his blessings."
Compiled by Isabel Durtschi Walker
Durtschi.com Admin: firstname.lastname@example.org
Page Updated: 9 Jan 09