From the Fortress of Solitude
Today we spend some time on the Mattson Ranch in Montana.
This is the old Mattson Ranch House seen from the side. The front door faced the small grove of willow trees. The old garage sits closest to us. You can see the front gate. The family well sat in the grove of trees. Yes, I said a well. The Mattson home didn't have indoor plumbing. They used an outhouse and fetched water from the well. It is hard to believe isn't it. It was the 1940's and people in the United States still lived without electricity or indoor plumbing.
The water well was the only well that didn't go dry during the dust bowl and drought of the 30' and 40's. Luella remembers the neighbors coming to the house to draw water from their well.
Grandma Mattson was a fan of the willow trees. They supplied the switches she used to spank the Mattson children when then were naughty. Of course she'd make them fetch their own willow switch for their spanking. How very kind of her.
Luella remembers one year they had a bull snake living under their front porch. They didn't bother it because it had its use. The snake was good for killing mice. One day though the snake got into one of the trees in the front yard. It was after the eggs in the bird's nests.
"We heard the birds going crazy in the trees," Luella remembered. "We ran outside with Grandpa (John Albert Mattson) to see what was wrong. We saw the bull snake was in the branches after the eggs. Grandpa got the can of DDT and sprayed the tree to try to get the snake to come down. Can you believe it. We all stood under the tree letting the DDT rain down on top of us!" Luella remembered.
"My grandparents were the hardest working people I've ever known," Luella said. "They worked from sun up to sun down. Even at night they had something in their hands they were working on. Grandma Ida said the mark of a lazy woman was a woman sitting with nothing in her hands. If you had time to sit you had time to sew, or mend, or clean the kerosene lamps."
Great Grandpa John Albert could repair just about anything. Luella said he fixed all their shoes from his work bench. "He loved to work," she said.
John Albert and Ida spoke Swedish to each other and broken English when the rest of the family was around.
Luella was three or four year old when this picture was taken. She is showing off her new robe given to her on her birthday. Luella had many dolls because, as she says, she was adored by everyone and always was given gifts. She told me that everyone adored her - her parents, grandparents and neighbors. "They adored me because I always acted like a grown up. I never gave anyone trouble."
Luella at two years old in the front yard of the ranch house. She is wearing her dad's cowboy hat. Luella's mother Violet and grandmother (Ida) made the pants. Luella refused to wear the pants for quiet awhile. Her reasoning made sense. Her grandmother Ida never wore pants, no not once. And if Grandmother didn't wear pants then why should Luella? Eventually Luella was talked into putting them on (as seen in the photo above).
Luella remembers being a picky dresser. She once refused to wear a nice new nightgown sewn by her mother and grandmother because she thought it had a stain on the front. The stain was actullay an iron on transfer of a little Dutch Girl.
Luella was born with dark hair that turned blond. She remembers wanting blue black hair like her mother's. She would pray at night for her hair to change color to match her mother'. Her prayers were answered when her hair started to change color as she grew older.
Luella (born in 1939) and her younger sister Linda (born in 1941). Linda had a rough start in life. For some reason Grandma Mattson couldn't nurse her so they tried to give her cow's milk. The milk upset her stomach, causing her to scream for her first year. Grandpa Mattson (Walter) was the only one that could put Linda to sleep at night. He'd lay her on his chest to calm her down. Today, Linda says she'd like to be buried over her dad because of the close bond they had with each other. Her illness was eventually cured when the family bought a goat and gave her goat's milk instead.
Linda was the first baby born after baby Walter Albert died, Walter and Violet's second born child right after Luella. She came out a fighter and tough cookie and remains one to this day.
Branding time on the Ranch. Alec, the hired hand, is the one branding. Walter Mattson is holding down the calf. The neighbors always came to help on branding day (Densen's, Rosencraz's and the Cambells). The men branding the cows and the women worked in the house preparing a large meal for everyone. It was like a community barn raising. Everyone pitched in and helped. There was a real spirit of community in Easter Montana.