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By Ruth Montague

When I was asked to tell about my mother, so many things came to my mind. She was brave; she was gentle; she was stern; she was kind; she was generous. I thought that she could do anything. She never had fits of temper. I do remember one time when she was angry. She saw a man beating his horse; she dashed out of the door towards him. I was scared. When the man saw her, he quickly got on his horse and rode away. Mother was very patriotic; she loved God and country. She was much more tolerant of different people, such as blacks, than Father was. She was not a very demonstrative person; the only time she hugged or kissed us was when we came home after being away at school. She had a good sense of humor but did not approve of practical jokes and certainly was not giggly. I do not think of Mother as being quiet, but around Father she did not always get much chance to talk, especially when he had an audience. She was somewhat dark skinned as I am. Perry Hilton, a neighbor once said to me: You talk like your father, but you look like your mother. She was a happy person; although I can't see why because of the rugged life she lived and all the hard work she had to do.

Omie had a special friend at Lewiston Normal named Clarabel. [See Pioneer Days of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, by John Eakin Cochran, pages 110 and 111.] Clarabel's mother died when she was 18 or 19 years old and so she came to live with us for several summers when school was out. Soon she became one of the "Cochran Girls." In Father's book she wrote a tribute to Mother. She said, "Mrs. Cochran was the power behind the throne. She was staunch and true. She lived what she was every minute of the day. The most wonderful woman I ever knew." Clarabel expressed all our feelings.

Mother had been a teacher until she married Father; she had to quit because in those days married women weren't allowed to teach. Mother graduated from the Colfax Academy and passed a test to qualify as a teacher. Cushing Eells was the Whitman County school superintendent and was important in the early Washington church and school history. He signed her teaching certificate as school superintendent and her wedding certificate as a witness.

Mother was an avid reader; she read every book that came into the house, even some which we thought a bit risqué. Books were often given as gifts. When Uncle Lewis, one of Mother's older brothers who had been a next door neighbor on the Doumecq, came back to visit he brought The Little Overall Boys to Sid and Sunbonnet Babies to me. When Mother bought books they were likely novels by Zane Grey or similar. [No Harlequin romances here.] Books lined the wall in our living room. I remember some of the books we had: The Pru and I, The Little Peppers, The Little Minister, Going Back to Eden, The Prince and the Pauper, and Mrs. Whigs in the Cabbage Patch. There were also some big books like encyclopedias in which we pressed flowers; that was all that they meant to me. If a writer was popular, we had his series: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Zane Grey, James Fennimore Cooper, William Shakespeare, and others. Louise McCoy Kimble says that Mother loved to read. Louise would always bring home two books from the library so that her grandmother would have one to read. We had many magazines: Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Youth's Companion, and Comfort. This last one was a little cheapie which everyone took. We always took the Spokesman Review, and read the newspapers with great interest.

There was no school on Doumecq when we moved there. I was born in White Bird and came to Doumecq as a babe in arms. Robert can remember when he was three years old sitting at the table while the girls had their lessons from Mother. Uncle Sam McCroskey, the husband of Father's sister Maggie, said, "Emma will see to it that all her children can read, write and cipher." Very soon the neighbors got together and started a school. Once when Mary was getting ready for a history test she and Mother read a school history book aloud. All of her daughters became teachers, excepting Inez who was a nurse. She believed that her daughters as well as her sons should have an education.

Mother made our dresses, underwear, coats, caps, and mittens. She knit our stockings and they were always black. She knit, crocheted, embroidered, tatted and did lots of quilting. Not all of the women in the community did these things. Of course she taught all of us girls to do these things. I had a wooden box in which cans of coal oil came. I put pieces of material that Mother gave to me in the box; I made doll dresses from these pieces. Occasionally when Mother was short of needles, she would go through my box to find some needles. Once I made stockings for my doll by knitting the strings which came from flour sacks; I am sure that Mother did most of the work. The "Girls" meaning my older sisters, liked to copy the pretty dresses that we saw in the Comfort magazine. They would take apart an old dress or blouse and spread it out on newspapers on the floor. They were able to duplicate what they saw in the pictures by making a pattern on the newspaper by adjustments to the old dresses. For the men, they used the old shirts for patterns for the new shirts. Material was ordered through mail order houses: Sears Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, and a store in Spokane, Bergan Brothers. There was also a dry goods store in White Bird. Mother made insulated gloves from the legs of worn-out trousers; she cut out the shape of a hand, lined them with material from stockings, and sewed them together. Father had several pair so that he could change pairs to keep his hands warm during wet weather. I remember how smelly the gloves were as they were drying in the evenings.

Mother was not an outdoor person. Her work was in the house preparing and preserving food as well as making, mending, and washing our clothing. She had to cook on Sunday because she never knew who would be coming to dinner. As for help from the men, Ray Shinn was awful good about washing the dishes! If someone's house burned or if they were needy, Mother had an extra quilt or a few jars of fruit to give them. Mother made a house a home, and a meal out of whatever was at hand. Mother could hitch up the team if it was necessary, but she did not like to do it. As I remember, Omie was the gardener which means that Mother must have done the gardening before the Girls were old enough to do such chores. Father tilled the ground and Mother and the Girls did the planting, weeding and harvesting. The Girls also did the milking. Mother sold eggs, cream, butter, and other produce to the neighbors; especially, I remember that she sold canned raspberries to the neighbors who were bachelors.

Mother and Father were devout Christians. We were taught to love and revere God. Members of any denomination were welcome at our house. Maxeys were our neighbors on the Doumecq. Mable Maxey said that we got the preachers while the Maxeys got the peddlers and the politicians. There were always lots of relatives, old friends, and new found friends at our house. We loved company and were eager to hear about the outside world. Father always invited a crowd of people home for dinner after church. We had a family motto: "FHB," which means Family Hold Back. This was whispered around the table when it seemed likely that there wouldn't be enough of the special dishes. Room was made for everyone to sit at the table, even if it meant that boxes were used for seats. Louis Shinn says that Mother and Father always had cloth napkins and a cloth tablecloth at their meals. But we had an oilcloth for just family.

We had an organ, but Ethel was the only one who learned to play it. Zenna did learn to play the organ, but that was probably later at Normal school in Lewiston. Ray Shinn's mother could play very well and was an organ teacher. Mother sang at group sings, but like me did not have a very good singing voice. She did sing around the house during the day as she worked. Bob McCoy says that Mother played Old Maid with Margaret McCoy Perkins, but that they hid the Old Maid card so that no one would get it. There were never any poker cards in our house. On Sunday there was no Old Maid or other games.

When the Canfields left the Doumecq, Mother was appointed postmaster. Her salary was the value of the stamps that she canceled. Postage for a letter was 2 cents then; perhaps this is what established the extensive letter writing which has carried on to this day in our family. Money was always a problem; Father would give his last nickel to anyone who he thought needed it more than he did. It would have been better if Mother had managed the finances, but father always handled the money. Mother supplemented their finances by selling produce as well as by using the money from the post office. We always said that the post office money was hers, but I am sure that it was used for other needs. When Edna started to teach, she would give Sid and me little jobs for pay so that we could earn money for gifts at Christmas time and birthdays.

Years passed, we all grew up and graduated from the eighth grade and had to go away to school. During 1916 Mother, Sid, and I lived in Clarkston so that we could go to school there while Father made arrangements to move. In 1917 we moved to the Horse Heaven Hills; Sid and I boarded during the week in Kennewick so that we could go to school. The grade school teacher in the school near our ranch left in the middle of the year and Mother finished teaching that year. In 1920 the folks moved into a house that they had built on seven acres in Hover.

Mother and Father always had lots of company and much of that company was relatives. When we were in Hover, Uncle Billy Cochran, Father's brother, and Aunt Nora lived close by in Finley and came often. Roads were good so Aunt Maggie and Uncle Sam would drive down from Colfax. Uncle Evans Kelly, husband of Aunt Georgia, Mother's half-sister, had died so Aunt Georgia and her grown children came from Spokane by train. Once Mother's oldest brother Robert Pickard came to visit. He was an old man with long gray whiskers. No one ever smoked in my parent's house. But when Uncle Robert took out his pipe and smoked, nothing was said. Father's parents came out to visit but he had never been back to Tennessee. So Mother and Father took a train trip back to his old home. We had great fun planning the trip; there soon was a family joke that she would bring back a "pickaninny" for two and one-half year old Leo. Mother said to us before she left, "I'll bring you a little pickaninny." So she brought a picture of herself holding a little black child. Mother said that she wanted to do two specific things in Tennessee, go on a possum hunt, and hear the Gospel singers; she got to do both. She also wrote descriptions of people, camp meetings, and the fall foliage colors.

Mother and Father were active in the work of the community. There was a lively Ladies' Aid Society in the church. This group was always making quilts and having bazaars to raise money to support the church. Mother loved to make quilts and was a good worker. A man from the Children's Home in Spokane came and asked for help so the women made quilts and clothes for them. Mother was always busy and Father was never on time for meals. In order not to waste time, she kept piece work such as knitting, tatting, or crocheting on a shelf in the kitchen for something to do while she waited. When she had time to sit down she preferred to work on quilting. Leo Montague says that he thought that his Grandma was very patient, because his Grandpa was never on time for meals so that the food was often overcooked.

There is no doubt that Father was a Democrat. Mother never discussed politics, but Father did. Mr. Ashby was a Republican; he and Father argued over many issues to the point where I thought that they would never speak to each other again. However, the next day they were on friendly terms. Mother always tried to stop their violent arguments. I am sure that she had opinions, but didn't express them as loudly as Father. She was opposed to war, but supported World War I because she did not think that the Kaiser should rule the world. Mother's family was active politically although not politicians. A biography written about 1900 about Grandpa Pickard states that he "votes the Prohibition ticket;" he was likely a Republican. She was definitely for Women's Suffrage; she was an adult when women were allowed to vote. Mother was ahead of her time. We all voted when we were old enough.

Father liked to whittle; he made little mules out of empty thread spools. One time he made a little gun; Mother burned it. She said, "Guns are not toys." Her family, the Pickards and the Luthers, were Quakers. We knew that Mother's family had been Quakers, but we had a different view of the Quakers than merely as being pacifists. Mother belonged to the United Brethren church and Father belonged to the Cumberland Presbyterian church. They were not strong in their loyalty to their denomination and supported all churches. Circuit riders came through Doumecq on a regular basis. Some drunkards came through on their way to settle in Joseph. They stayed with us a couple of times, once for two or three days. There were enough Methodists in White Bird to form a strong congregation and Edna joined them with the blessing of both Mother and Father.

Aunt Georgia's son George came to Hover to work and died while there. Aunt Georgia came to take his body back to Spokane to be buried next to his father, Uncle Evans. George's death was a very traumatic incident, so Mother wouldn't let Aunt Georgia go back alone and so accompanied her. Gradually, Mother's health had been failing since the trip to Tennessee. She had an operation for gallstones before their trip to Tennessee. She made reference to her ill health in letters to Inez during the trip. The years and hard work had taken their toll. On the trip to Spokane and back, Mother caught the flu and never fully recovered. Mother died on December 23, 1931; she was laid in the company bedroom. It was the custom for someone to sit up all night with the body so Sidney and Jack Wortman sat up. The funeral was the next day and the church was full. She was buried in the Kennewick cemetery.

Nancy Emmaline Pickard Cochran
Reprinted from Cochran Chronicles, Volume 19, Number 1, October 1996

© JECFA 1996

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