Herald-Journal Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, March 23, 1998

City life leads to big changes


My name is Joe. My family and I live in Alaska where my dad hunts for a living. Every six months we all go into the city so dad can sell his skins.

Ruth, my sister, likes to see all the new clothes in the stores in the city and she and my mother buy some new things. I think the people in the city wear funny clothes and they cut their hair too short. I asked my mother why they cut it so short and she said that it's the way they wear it in the city because it is warmer there than out where we live. Well, I will never have my hair short like that.

Dad said, "I think we will have to stay in the city tonight." Mother suggested that we spend the night with Uncle Sam as he lives only two miles from town. We loaded the sleds and got the dogs ready.

I was very glad to go to Uncle Sam's because he has a boy my age and we can go out and play. But my sister wished we could stay in the city where the girls wear pretty dresses and it is warm enough not to have to wear heavy pants, boots, and jackets.

We were on our way to Uncle Sam's and it was starting to get dark. All of a sudden the dogs started to act crazy and Dad stopped his sled. He took his gun out and walked down the road. We heard one shot, and then we heard some more shots, but he didn't come back to the sleds.

Mother said, "I hope he is all right. It is getting very dark, I wish he would come back." I decided to take our other gun and go to look for him. I had never really been taught how to handle a gun, but I was sure I could use it, if I had to.

I walked a short way down the road and then I saw my dad. He was on the ground and right in front of him was a wildcat. He shouted to me, "The cat came after me and I shot him, but before he died, he bit my leg. My leg is bleeding too hard to walk, and that is why I shot two more times, so you would come and help me."

I went back to get mother and the dogs and the sleds. As we started back to where dad was, we heard another shot. I was really getting scared. There was my dad on one knee. He said, "Let's get out of here. There are many cats and they are looking for food. It is getting dark fast." We all piled onto the sleds and Dad took the lead. He said, "Hang on!" And, boy, did we go. We turned the corner and we could see Uncle Sam's light.

Then dad said, "Give me the gun." He fired a shot and Uncle Sam came running. Dad told him what happened. We went in the house and mother and Sam's wife cleaned up dad's wound and bandaged it.

Sam took care of the dogs. He showed me his son's new gun and told me that he was teaching his son how to use it. He said that he would teach me how to handle a gun, too.

The next morning at breakfast, Sam said he was moving into the city so that his children could go to school. He had found a job at the mill in the city. Ruth said, "Dad, let's move to the city. I want to go to school, too." I told dad that all she really wanted was to have the fancy dresses. But dad said, "That is a good idea. You should know how to read. Maybe I could get a job at the mill, too." He asked Sam to let him know if he heard of any jobs for him and we would try to move to the city in the spring.

Spring came too fast for me. We moved into the city and Dad got a job. We got a big house with four rooms. Mom loved it. We only had two rooms in our house in the woods and we had to melt snow for water; in our new house we have a pump.

Mother said, "Tonight we are all going to take a bath." "I've already had my bath for the summer," I said.

Mother got the big tub in the kitchen ready and my sister got in. "Mother," she said, "this is the first time I've had water all over my body at once."

Mother went next and then she sent for me. I still said I didn't need a bath, but Dad said, "Go. I have to take one too." I got in the tub and mother gave me some soap to use. I was sure my skin was going to wear out and fall off from washing it. Mother said that now we can take a bath every week.

When fall came, we started school and I got my hair cut. Our neighbors had a girl and boy to be friends with and we were able to go to school together. One day the girl said to me, "I like your hair short." "Oh, it was time for me to change it," I said. She was very nice to talk to.

I did learn to read at school. The years passed and the little girl became my wife. And now I teach school to other children.

So, don't forget what a bath has done for me. I still have the same skin I was born with; it didn't wear out or fall off from washing. So take your baths - you will smell better.

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