A Farmer's Wife
By Mollie Dowdle
My Best Loved Stories

      I was a novice to farm life when I moved with my family to this "stump ranch." The old house was dilapidated and over run with mice and green flies. The first thing I did was try to get rid of them. All of my dishes and food I put in boxes which I securely covered. We bought a dozen a dozen red hens and turned them loose because there was no pen. Before I knew what was happening my two sons and husband came driving in nine old cows. That meant we had to have a barn so the house was forgotten until one was built. The shakes for the roof were split from old growth cedar blocks and that also meant I went along with the men folks and carried blocks down off a steep mountain side. In time the cows were housed and put into stalls.
      A small income form a milk check would in no way make a living for us so when spring arrived and the snow melted off the hills my men went to work in the logging camps. I was left alone with fences down and cows wandering down the road. The hens laid eggs everywhere - some I found, and some I didn't. The ones that stole out their nest in the bushes around the place brought in fluffy baby chicks to grace the yards. I loved everything about this forlorn looking place. It had a legion of possibilities!
      The soil began to warm up and I hired a neighbor to plow up a garden. I was reckless picking out seed and planted a bit of everything. And they grew and grew. I planted annual flower seed in the few bare spots around the yard and later it became a Jacobs coat of multi-colored blooms. I ordered lilies and daffodils and stuck them everywhere.
      In the meantime I worked on my house. The living room was small with a bedroom at one end. No big problem there! One night when my family was in bed asleep, I took a sledgehammer and knocked down the separating wall. All at once everybody rolled out of bed to see what was going on. "Oh, nothing much. I just batted down that crazy wall." The ceiling sagged and the bedroom floor upstairs swayed. Now, many years later, it looks much the same. But I do have a large living room just like I wanted.       Fall came and had my vegetable garden produced? I put up dozens of jars for winter use. The gnarled old apple trees provided enough for apple butter. We were becoming established. And we were happy.
      Winter snows closed the logging operations and there were three more pair of hands to help me. We had a cement foundation put under the house and a front porch with wrought iron railing. Before spring came the boys built a lovely glassed-in back porch and a breakfast nook.
      One day a huge bulldozer moved in and the stumps began to be uprooted. That meant they must be burned and many nights the boys and I would be poking fires and toasting marshmallows at midnight. After the fields were burned off and cleared, they were planted in grass seed.
      Deer and elk began to come down from off the hill in back of the fields and it wasn't unusual to see them grazing with the cattle. An old mother coyote brought her pups out from the timber to search for mice in the grass. From my kitchen window it looked like a Currier and Ives picture card.
      Still, I was carrying water from a hand pump too many yards away. It had become a drudgery that I hated. Every farm wife should know that priority is given to animals and their needs. Imagine how I felt when an electric pump was installed and a bathroom was put in.
      In time the fences were mended and outside buildings erected. The stump ranch wore a new face. White shakes were put on the sides fo the old two story farm house. Hardwood floors and picture windows were put in the living room and lovely cupboards were built in the kitchen. My dream house was becoming a reality.       That was thirty years ago. In the meantime I had become a versatile woman. I could build fences, nail on boards and milk a cow. Not to mention baking bread, churning butter and operating a small tractor.
      Circumstances changed over the years. Both boys were drafted and served overseas in the Korean war. Their father was injured in a logging accident and after being hospitalized for eighteen months he passed away before the boys got back home. I was left alone on the place all of us loved so much. For want of something to do I began to landscape the yard. Now, there are hundreds of spring blooming bulbs and plants everywhere. The dozen or so trees are big now and they shade the house against the summer heat and winter cold. There's a cinnamon vine over the front porch and wisteria against the wood shed. Rhododendrons are banked along the edge of the garden and against the fences.
      The house still wasn't furnished so I began to pick up discarded junk that no one else wanted. I refinished all of it and in time it began to be called antiques. My entire house is now furnished with it. I have house plants everywhere and braided wool rugs. There's an old fashioned wood stove in the kitchen, which is also in the family room. A big dog lays under the stove and two cats lay anywhere they like.
      There is everything on the stump ranch that I have ever wanted. On still summer and spring nights I can stand on the back porch and hear the singing frogs in the fond back of the meadows.
      Farm life has been good for me and I've loved every minute of it. There are no more cows and calves, but horses instead. In this peace and quiet I hope to die.

      "Mollie was born in Haywood County, North Carolina, she came to the Hamilton area with her family and her grandfather, Malcolm Wood, who also brought his three daughters and their families in 1908. She spent most of her younger days iwth her grandfather. Just a scrawny little red headed hanging tightly to the gnarled hadn of an old man, whose secret ambitions were just short of reaching the moon. He couldn't read or write, he had no checking account, and being in Washington now he had no worries. Mollie was with him when he slashed out trails into Grandy Lake so they could go fishing. She learned to fish, set traps and shoot a gun before she was barely five years old. She was 14 when he passed away, but no teacher on earth could have taught the things she learned from Grandpa Wood.
      Mollie graduated from Hamiton High School in 1925 with Ellen Steen, Howard Wolfe, harry Tatham, Wesley Bloom, Francis Freeman, Orray Snider, Martin Steen, James Savage, Cyrus Cooper, Lester Hunt and Jack Stephens. She then married Ralph Dowdle whose family had been around Hamilton for many years. To this union two sons were born, Barney is a teacher and professor and Wallace lives with his mother. Ralph passed away in 1953. Mollie is well known in the Skagit area for her vignettes, friends and neighbors and her customs of her "By Gone Years" which have been published in the Skagit Valley Herald for a number of years. She is almost 90 now and nearly blind but she loves to reminisce of the days in the Dempsey camp and fun she has had around Hamilton." Profile written for Mollie by Carol B. Bates Hamilton 100 Years

      Mollie Dowdle, a resident of Hamilton, for the past 55 years, passed away Jan. 10, 2002, at the Mira Vista Care Center in Mount Vernon at the age of 97 years. She was born Oct. 3, 1905, in North Carolina. She resided in Darrington for many years prior to moving to Hamilton in 1948 and was married to Ralph in 1929. He preceded her in death in 1953.
      Mollie enjoyed gardening, fishing, and she also wrote articles for the Skagit Valley Herald and Redbook magazine for many years. She is survived by her sons; Walley Dowdle of Hamilton and Barney Dowdle of Seattle; four grandchildren and a half sister, Phyllis Boulton of Twisp, Washington. graveside services will be Jan. 17, 2003 at the Hamilton cemetery with Pastor Ron Schenk of the Lyman Baptist church officiating. Mollie Dowdle Obituary, Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, Jan. 16, 2002

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