My grandparents, Joseph W. and Sadie (Harbaugh) Ream, lived on a farm adjoining Jersey Hollow Road and Draketown Road near Confluence, PA.
They had 16 children, six girls and 10 boys, which were all single births. Grandfather and the boys ran the farm and were loggers. My mother Alma and her sisters, along with their mother, took care of the household chores, which consisted of scrubbing wood floors, washing clothes on the washboard, baking bread and preparing all the meals each day for the whole family. On occasion they would spend their evenings visiting their neighbors.
One particular evening, grandfather and the boys were visiting the neighbors and my mother and her sister, Tish, were in their bedroom lying on the bed talking. It was just after dark as they looked out the bedroom window toward the barn. They notice a dim light coming from the barn and decided to check it out. The path to the barn was long and narrow with long boards laid along the path to walk on when the rain made the path muddy. As they were quietly making their way to the barn, they nearly tripped each other as they stepped on the boards, which were curled up at each end in rocker fashion from the sun. When they got to the barn they looked through an opening down into the bottom part where the light was coming from and they saw a man. He had killed grandfather's largest pig and was preparing to take it with him. This man was a bum or "pigman" as they were called at that time.
My mother and her sister ran to the neighbors to tell their dad and brothers what they had seen. Grandfather and the boys scrambled to get their shoes, which they had taken off at the door before entering the house. On returning to the home grandfather grabbed his gun and headed for the barn. By the time he got there the pigman was climbing up through an opening from down below the barn where he had killed the pig. He had everything in a sack over his back. Grandfather shot up over the barn. When he did, the pigman dropped his sack and ran out from under his hat, dropped his gun and took off behind the barn, ripping through barbed wire fences as he went. Grandfather was so mad, he took the pigman's gun and wrapped it around a tree. The man got away, but grandfather got the pig which was later butchered and canned. The pigman was later sighted in other barns, but never returned to grandfather's barn.
My grandparents raised most everything they needed to live on the farm. They would take produce and eggs to town and trade for what they didn't have, such as flour, sugar, salt, etc. Grandma would can and dry most everything she could. She was 17 years old when she had her first child. She was pregnant 15 more times in the next 25 years. Her last child was born when she was 42. As the oldest girls grew old enough, they took over the chores. The older girls, Ethel and Bertha, got married and my mother and her sister, Tish, took over a lot of the chores. When Bertha or Ethel had a new baby, my mother or Tish would go help the new mother for awhile. Bertha lived about two miles from her parents.
My mother told of a time when some of the brothers and sisters decided one day to go visit Bertha. By the time my mother got to the barn, all that was left for her to ride was an old mule. Everyone took off up the big hill to visit Bertha. My mother got on the old mule and kicked and prodded to get him to move. It was quite an ordeal. By the time she finally got him to the top of the big hill, which was about two-thirds of the way there, everyone was coming back. When the old mule saw them coming, he turned and headed home with mother on his back. When he got to the barn, he ran right past it to the old watering trough. He got a drink and headed back to the barn as fast as he could go. Running right into the barn, narrowly missing the top of the door and whipping mother off his back.
Copyright © 1999 Doris (Sands) Hawker. Republished with permission.