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Recalling chores on the family farm

How pleased I was to find two people there when I stopped by May Borg's room to hear her story. Her daughter, Wanita Pilcher, was visiting.

May was born on a farm in Egan, S.D., in 1914, to Fred and Molly Bemis. There were six children in the family. After graduating from high school, May moved in 1940 with her family to a farm in the Sebeka-Nimrod area -- Meadow Brook Township, to be exact.

There was always someone in the neighborhood who needed extra help for a time, so that is what May and her friends did. She liked housework and especially cooking.

When the family moved to this area, May entertained thoughts of perhaps becoming a beautician since she was a natural at fixing hair. After some training in that area, May met Edwin Borg, who owned a farm, and they were married. They have five children. Edwin died in 1979.

I enjoyed listening, while I was scribbling notes, to May and Wanita relive a bit of those years, memories urged out of the shadows and into the light, dusted off, and enjoyed one more time.

Those long garden rows that always seemed to need to be weeded. Butchering day, followed by meat stacked in piles all over the kitchen table while it was decided how it was to be used. Cleaning eggs after gathering them from a flock of more than 100 hens.

We recalled that after rendering lard, even if the odor of boiled fat clung to curtains and everything else until it was washed in good Pels Naphtha brown soap, the payoff was all those golden brown donuts. Like Bo Peep's lamb, they were sure to follow.

Talk of feed sack garments came next. What with four little girls to dress (and one son), May made good use of them. We remembered how fancy wedding dresses took days to make and were cherished afterward, wrapped in black tissue.

A special event that still makes May smile was her graduation dress. It was made of some flowered material, exactly right for this spring occasion. A pretty feed sack, maybe?

No ma'am. Not a feed sack! Pa paid for it by the yard.

May can think of many quilted and tied quilts sporting her handiwork. She liked to read, also. "The Farmer." "Country Gentleman," and hard cover books were passed from one to the other, almost never thrown away, paperbacks having still not sneaked their way onto the shelves.

As a family, the Borgs visited relatives in other states. In later years, May climbed into a big 747 Boeing invention all by herself, when she was 80, to spend a Christmas with Wanita and her husband Philip Pilcher, in the Grand Cayman Islands in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. Wanita taught school while Philip, a photographer, took pictures of missionary efforts along with many other assignments.

Following their session on the Caymans, the Pilchers filled similar jobs in Quito, Ecuador. Wives of the doomed missionaries, and Rachel Saint, the sister of Nate Saint, became friends of Wanita after the five missionaries were murdered by Iquito Indians.

A conch shell, one of those big beauties picked up on the beach, where you can still hear the ocean, supposedly, by holding it up to your ear, is as close to Ecuador as Wanita wanted her mom to be, so she sent her a shell. Philip passed away several years ago.

Again, the nursing regime takes over. It is time for me to scurry back to my apartment where that voracious computer awaits, anxious to gobble up my words.

There's one more thing, After climbing into that huge plane to be hurtled through space, after visiting a place where venomous snakes abound, lurk at every turn, what was worst? What scared May most?

The dark, even if it's a corner of her own living room.