Life History of Leah Hale Fifield
Life History of Leah Hale Fifield The horizon is flat except for a small hillock where the Groveland cemetery rises gently. One mile from the cemetery was Pine Tree Farm where Leah Hale spent her first 13 years exploring her talents, forming her values, and shaping her hopes and dreams. In the cemetery are gravestones for Ernest Frederick Hale (Papa), Mary Ann Amanda Peterson Hale (Mama), Parley Hale (brother), and other beloved family members.Groveland was a grid of farms one mile wide and one mile long bordered by gravel roads and a web of irrigation ditches. It lies along the Snake River near Blackfoot, Idaho where winters are severe and summer breezes are cool at night. Leah left Groveland with her family at age 13 when her father suddenly died of a heart attack. She carried through life memories of Groveland and a dream that she could one day have, as a mother, the ideal family her childhood had been to her. That dream, that vision has enriched all the lives she touched. Here is her story of those first 13 years, the only part of her story, with a few exceptions, that she carefully recorded. Leah’s record I was born of goodly parents under the eternal marriage covenant, June 12, 1908, Wednesday. I was informed as soon as I could understand it, that Wednesday’s child was full of woe, and envied a younger sister who was born on the Sabbath day [who was to be “bonny and blithe, good and gay”]. I was Mother’s first child but my Father’s 10th, so I was welcomed by 9 brothers and sisters. The eldest sister [Drusilla] was married when I was a year old. She informed me later that she had to hold me on her lap during her wedding dinner—no one else’s lap would do. Mother told me after I grew up and could take it, that she had cried when I was born because I was not a pretty baby. I was fat, no hair, white eye lashes and brows, and prominent blue veins across my forehead. The midwife informed her that the prominent veins meant I would not live long. She looked up a baby picture to show me, and I didn’t think I was that bad. But I’m sure it only took moments for her to accept me, because I never in all my life questioned my Mama’s and my Papa’s love for me. Early memories of my older brothers and sisters are sketchy. Druey soon had a boy, Vernal, who I loved to play with. He was the first playmate I can remember. They lived out near the lavas and had a big potato cellar, as everyone did. We would hunt for mushrooms and dig and dig, expecting to come out on the other side of the world—China, I think. Druey could make the best ice cream. [Once when] I was just getting over the mumps, Papa drove us out to spend the evening with Druey. I have always held to the conviction that she gave us warm ice cream. Anyway, it was sure good.I don’t remember much about Grace. She was married soon after Druey—I know she wasn’t very fond of being bothered when Jess came courting. They lived in Blackfoot. Pearl was the next sister. She was blond like me. I thought she was very pretty, and I always knew she loved me. She lived about a half mile from us. We knew the day she baked bread, and that was our visiting day. She had a pantry with a window into the kitchen. I was definitely going to have a pantry in my house. She would break off big crusts of hot bread and spread them liberally with butter and honey. We sat on stools in front of the window eating and visiting with her. She soon had babies for me to love and play with.My oldest brother, Grant, I thought quite dashing and handsome. He went courting in a beautiful buggy. We loved to sit in it and play that we were going exciting places, but we had to be very careful not to scratch or get it dirty. Golden was the next brother Golden was a lot like Pearl. He was so good to Mama, and we knew he loved us. He liked to tease, be we enjoyed his teasing. I think I was always closer to Golden throughout my life than any other of my older brothers and sisters.Then there was Mannie. She was the youngest girl, and we had some growing up years together. I thought there was no one as romantic as Mannie. She was kind and thoughtful with Mama and a good worker. Mannie and I generally paired off against Gladys and Ross in outdoor jobs or in spats. Mannie was in lots of melodramas which were our one bit of outside entertainment. She was always the maiden that was chased around the table by the villain. She had many beaus, and they always brought her huge one-layered boxes of chocolates. I loved watching her get ready for a date. She burned a match to darken her eyebrows, pinched her cheeks, and used a bit of wet red crepe paper on her lips. We thought she had beautiful clothes and loved to dress up in them.I was very much interested in the dramatic, and used to direct plays whenever I could get my younger sisters and friends together on a Sunday afternoon. We had a large wardrobe of all Mannie’s clothes, and I’d use them for costumes. She came back early one day, and we made a dive behind the wardrobe. It tipped over and landed on the foot of the bed. Gladys was under it and could have been killed. Ross was the youngest of my older brothers. He was 4 years older than me. He was a tease too. He could make me more miserable at times and happier at times than any of my brothers and sisters. He introduced me to my fear of mice. He’d hold out his closed hand and ask me if I wanted what was in it. Sometimes it was a nickel or something I really wanted, and sometimes it was one or two baby mice. Once when he did this, I remember having a cup of water, and I chased him out the barn, up over the hay stack. When he finally let me catch him, there was no water left in the cup. Although he was a tease, I admired him and liked his attention, even if I got it with mice. He and a cousin rode horses to school and told us they could ride their horses up the school house stairs into the hall. They were not afraid of cops. Later I heard someone threaten to send for the cops, so I ran home, a good mile, so out of breath I could hardly stand up, to warn Ross that the cops were after him. He just laughed. He said they didn’t go up the steps. They were just having fun with us. This made me cry. He knew that I had cared about him, and I think he recognized it because there was no more teasing for awhile. When there were street dances in Blackfoot, Ross would let me come along and sit in the buggy and watch while he danced. I was a fat, rolly poly, and along came Gladys—tiny, wiry, and full of the devil. I was very bashful and worried about everything. She had a blast. I had to walk alone two miles through the fields to first grade. We didn’t start till noon. I always left home in tears and Mama would call Aunt Nellie and ask her to walk across the road to the school and check up on me. After awhile I began to get teased for this, and I decided to grow up. Coming home I had Ross to walk with, and soon my cousins. From the second year on, I had someone to walk with, sometimes Papa or Ross would take me on the horse. Then as my other sisters came along, we got a ride in a sleigh. The ruts were deep from hay wagons, and often we would go into a rut, and the sleigh would flop over. Out came kids, lunch pails, and hay. Ross would run after the horse, bring him back, load us up again, and off we would go to school, usually late, and our hands would be frozen around our dinner pail handles. There was a huge pot-bellied stove and buckets of snow waiting for us. We’d sit around the stove, and the teacher would rub our hands with snow. I loved my teacher. She taught me to read “The Little Red Hen” and to tat lace to go around hankies.When the snow began to melt a bit, then freeze overnight, we used to like to walk along the fence. There would be a huge bank of snow to climb, slide down and across a pond of ice. We always had fun, at least coming home. We’d ride huge tumble weed coaches. I had a wild imagination and had fun using it to make up games or dramatics for the kids. We took trips to foreign lands on the potato sorter, acted out Grimm’s fairy tales in the potato cellar, and laid eggs on the haystack. We climbed mountains over the barn, sliding down the other side and landing in the hay. We would swing on the derrick rope, off the stack, over the barn and chicken coop, and land back again on the haystack.After Gladys came Edna, the very serious little peacemaker of the family. She was a surprise waiting for us on our return home from a 24th of July celebration. She had a curl on top of her head, and I really fell in love with her. I was old enough to hold her and help take care of her. Gladys and I were old enough now to start our fight for existence. She was what we call today hyperactive. I was just fat. She was wiry and quick and always got the best of me. We had to sleep together, and we’d draw a line down the middle of the bed. If one of us put a finger over that line, there was a fight. Only once did I win. I gave her a bloody nose. I was happy. She broke my doll deliberately. But Mama never allowed us to go to bed with a grudge. We always had to say we loved each other. There was Mother to love us and teach us with endless, beautiful stores, make us pretty new dresses for the Forth of July and other occasions, put our hair up in rags so we’d have curls or ringlets on Sunday. Papa was always so proud of us. He told lots of exciting stores of his boyhood. There was a small horse shoe above the door in the dining room. I asked him why he had it there. He said he put it up soon after he and Mama were married for good luck, and when I was born he thought that was such great luck he left it up. No one will ever know what those few words and the hug he gave me did for me. That was my Papa! How I loved him. How we all loved him.Every two years along came a new baby, and the former baby became mine as soon as he or she was weaned. Mama gave me the baby with a glass of milk, and I took over. I loved it. I had the hardest time with Larry. I finally found out that the easiest way to get him to go to sleep was to walk him through the orchard and pinch him so he’d cry himself to sleep. He’d cry and frighten Edna. Once I found Edna in the crib with him. Edna was yelling, “I told Larry we should say our prayers.” A cat was in the crib.After Larry came Parley, a beautiful baby. He had white hair and brown eyes. How I loved him. His first winter he had pneumonia. He fought for his life all winter. How we all prayed for him. We would hold him on a pillow on our laps watching him every moment. Our prayers were answered, and he got better, but was white and weak. Papa kept him out in the sunshine as much as possible. He fixed a basket on the plow, harrow, leveler, or other equipment, and Parley spent part of each day in the fields. I loved being out in the fields too, helping Papa.One day I was harrowing and Papa was following with the leveler. Parley was in his lap. As I got to the end of the field and had to make a sharp turn, I lost control of my team. They picked up speed on the turn, and the harrow turned up on edge. Papa noticed, threw Parley, made a jump for my team with one hand, and threw me off with the other. My first concern was Parley, and I made a dive for him. I was pretty upset and bruised. Papa took me to the house. I didn’t cry until I got to Mama.Parley got better, and that fall won the prize for the healthiest baby. He was such a joy to take care of and so special to us. Larry took advantage of his good disposition at times. We emptied the soot from the stove in the box back of the house. After a quiet hour or two, here came Larry and Parley from back of the house. Parley was blacker than any negro I had ever seen. When Parley was four he became very anemic, and we lost our little brother. We are sure now that he died of leukemia. It took me a long time to get over his death, and it took Mother years. She just couldn’t accept his death. We would have to ride a horse or walk to the cemetery every day during the summer and put flowers on his grave. She finally had a dream about Parley. She visited him in the next world and found him so happy. That helped her feel better. Metta was my next baby to take care of. She won a baby contest too, for being the prettiest baby. Papa teased Mama a lot about naming Metta. He said he was going to name her Bessie, which was the name of our cow. Metta was Grandmother’s name. Golden came home from his mission about this time and gave her a middle name, a Samoan name, Lalovie. My birthday came on a sunny, beautiful summer day, June 12th, so we sort of celebrated all the birthdays then—games on our big lawn, peanut butter sandwiches. We had a huge yellow rose bush—a good hiding place for games and for hide-out when there was work to be done. Each birthday we searched for the first yellow rose and always found at least a bud. Yellow roses have always been my favorite flower and bring back so many fun memories. In the summer we finished our supper just as the sun swept our front lawn. It was a large lawn, and we could hardly wait to be excused so we could chase each other, tumble and do our stunts for a half hour on the lawn before doing the dishes. We loved to dress up. We put some of Dad’s pants of Gladys and stuffed her with pillows to play Fatty R. Buckle. Ross came along on his horse and chased her. She rolled under the fence, and by the time she got under, he was there to chase her back under again. Once to scare us Ross and Mannie ate some sugar beets and pretended to go crazy. We loved to go to parades. Once Papa was the grand marshal of the parade. We loved to swim in the ditch. Our neighbor above us got all of us out of the water by washing dirty diapers or cleaning chickens in the water. We like to make hay houses, and we enjoyed making winding paths in the hay and grain, which made it hard to cut and slower to get on the wagon. So that fun had to be stopped. I also got to drive the derrick horse that helped scoop up bunches of had and deposit them on the stack. It was a bit monotonous, back and forth, but gave me time to day dream. I had some glorious dreams. I didn’t care too much for tromping hay on the wagon and on the stack. I was too hot and dusty. I enjoyed haying season—especially riding the rake that made ***** of hay to be made into piles that were thrown up on the wagon. I liked being in the big hay field, all alone with my horse. I would sing, make up stories, and dramatize them. I could always have the lead part. We leased Dr. Baker’s field one summer. It was huge. Golden and I worked together. He would pile after I raked. We rode a horse out to the field, me behind Golden on the horse, and I held a bucket of water for us. One day the horse made a quick start, the bucket tipped and splashed water on old Claud. Away he went through the field at a fast gallop. I held on for dear life, but we were clear across the field before Golden got him stopped. We could laughed about it later, but then it wasn’t funny. I loved working in the hay, even tromping high. The guys threw snakes and mice up. That spoiled some of the fun. How I hated mice, and they were everywhere. There was always Ross to make our lives miserable at times and a lot of fun at times. The reason he has so little hair is that the only times we won a fight was when we could get hold of his hair.Every evening was a home evening. After the dishes were done, we all sat around the dining room table, and Mama read to us. Papa enjoyed the reading as much as the rest of us. Papa had never learned to read well. Mama read Porter’s, Alcott’s, Anderson’s, and John Fox Jr.’s books to us. Santa always brought us a book, and they were read and told to us. We never got tired of the reading. Papa sat at the other end of the table and peeled big greening apples for us to eat. We were fascinated by his art of apple peeling. Books were shared with other families in Goveland, sort of a traveling library. Then we had our special home evening once a week. Papa took charge. If the older brothers and sisters had dates, they joined us till home evening was over. We talked about family problems, religious teachings, and ended with stories of when Papa was a little boy. His favorite story was “It Must Be Done.” We never failed to become tense as the plot grew, and were greatly relieved and surprised at the outcome. It was the story of a very poor family that had very little to eat. There were six children to feed and only part of one loaf of bread. If there just weren’t so many mouths to feed. One less mouth would make the bread slices come out even. He had a big knife he kept sharpening as he looked at the six children and the loaf that could be cut into only five pieces. As he tried to make his decision, he would keep muttering, “it must be done.” We all understood that he must either cut the bread thinner or get rid of a child. We always go so tense, and then “he brought that big butcher knife down and cut off another slice of bread.” We all sighed in relief. What a beautiful audience we were. Mama and Papa made each Christmas memorable. For weeks before Christmas, we made presents for our cousins and books of poems, illustrated. We threaded squares of paper with one-inch pieces of shiny straw in long strings to drape on the tree. Popcorn and cranberries were another garland. We ate more popcorn than we threaded. We popped corn by shaking the corn in a wire basket on the round dining room stove. Mama shined up red apples to tie on the tree. Then we had real candles. Someone had to always be watchful when the tree was lighted. Chains criss-crossed the ceiling. There were Christmas stories of the first Christmas, childhood Christmases of Mama and Papa, and all our favorite retold Christmas stories. Papa would get us all excited on Christmas Eve. He draped himself in a white sheepskin rug of some sort, shaking bells as he walked around the house. All our gifts were homemade. The Santa myth was punctured when we found bodies of dolls under Mama’s pillow. I felt so bad, but Mother said Santa was so busy he sometimes had to have mothers and fathers help him. Our farm was named Pine Grove Farm. There were lots of beautiful pine trees, and our Christmas tree was made of branches from these pines, unless there was one the right size to be cut. Sometimes we would bring a tree back from Yellowstone Park, plant it, and use it later for a Christmas tree.Christmas Eve Mama read and told the Christmas story to us, and then we’d try to go to sleep. What a miserable, long, long night. Our gifts were not wrapped but always to be found somewhere on the tree. Our stockings always had a piece of coal in them with a bit of fruit. Then we had to wait till the chores were done. I think there was always an orange in our stocking we could eat while waiting. Christmas ended with a sleigh ride to see what our friends got. One gift was always a good book we could share with each other. When Papa died Ross and I took care of the farm, milking 15 cows. When we got to the 15th cow, he’d get busy feeding the calves or taking care of the bull. I’d have to milk the last one. Ross was called on a mission. His older sister, Pearl, did washes to help support him, and Mama helped all she could. We sold the farm, took four cows with us, and moved to Smithfield, Utah.This ends Leah’s longest history.