(Tiefengrund, Laird, Sask., Canada)
14 At breakfast this morning John asked whether he could now go to California. Peter and Lieschen, who are in school at Rosthern, were home too. He had started out once before, a month ago, on 15 October.
I had taken him to the highway where he soon caught a ride to Moose Jaw. He arrived there at dusk. He was still on the highway, but already in the city, hoping to catch another ride, when he was run down by a car. Eleven hours later he regained consciousness in the hospital. That was on a Saturday. Not until the following Friday did we receive a letter from him in which he reported the accident and that he would soon be well again. He planned to continue on to California after a few days. I called him by telephone and he said everything was fine. The following Friday we received another letter in which he told us more about the accident and we realized that it had been pretty bad. So I called him again and said he should first come home.
Monday morning he was here. How fortunate that we did not let him go on. Because he had lost so much blood he was still very weak. His nose had been broken, his mouth torn open, and he had a laceration from his chin to the neck. Oh our dear boy. How easily it could have been his death; or he could have been crippled. God graciously spared him from the worst. His name be praised. The reason why John was going to California was because we had a crop failure and he was going to earn some money. P. Penner in Wasco had invited him to come and promised him work at his son’s place.
So now he asked whether he could leave again on Tuesday. And just like that Peter suggested that Mama and I go with John in our car because the cold winters are so hard on me and some months in a warmer climate would also do Mama good after her operation.
At first that seemed quite impossible to me. But Mama said that as far as she was concerned she was strong enough for the trip. Then Peter said that he would come home and take care of the farm, together with Cornelius. He said he would continue his studies at home, and when we returned in April he would go back to school. And John remarked that surely he could earn enough money in California to pay for our trip and the stay there. We went to church and in the afternoon we actually did decide to go to California.
I took Peter to Rosthern where he needs to make all kinds of arrangements tomorrow. I borrowed $100 from D.P. Enns in order to be able to show at the border that I had sufficient funds. Monday Isaacs came over. I went to Laird to get letters of recommendation from the postmaster and the bank director in case we needed them at the border. In the evening Walter and Anna came over; Anna and little Alfred stayed here to help us get ready tomorrow.
16 Last night I took Lieschen to Rosthern where she is studying at the Bible School, and I brought Peter home with me. Very busy today getting ready. It is difficult for us to leave. Again and again we brought the matter in prayer to God to be sure that it is his will; we don’t want to go our own way. The children encourage us and say that we have often talked about sometime spending a winter in California for our health; now is the golden opportunity, why hesitate. And it is true, many a winter, when it was cold so long, I was sick in bed for months, sometimes so seriously ill that I thought I would never get up again.
Here’s the reason why this decision is so difficult for me: because it is primarily for my sake that we are going. But it is also for the sake of Mama, and John won’t be alone in a foreign land. So the decision is firm: God willing we will leave tomorrow. Borrowed another $50 from D. M. Epp. Had another letter from P. Penner in which he gives John some more information that sounded encouraging. Tomorrow we will see Dr. McDonald in Saskatoon. If he thinks the trip could hurt Mama, or that her cancer could return again before we are back in spring, then we’ll turn around and come home.
17 Dundurn. We left at 9:30 this morning. We left with a heavy heart. The hardest for both of us was to leave our dear Rena behind. She is only fourteen years old. Mama missed her terribly during the two months that she was in the hospital in Saskatoon, and now to go away for so long. Oh may it really be God’s will what we are planning and doing. May he bring everything to a successful conclusion. Oh Lord help! Clara is coming along also. In this way she, too, gets to see the big wide world and perhaps she, too, can earn some money.
In Saskatoon we had to wait a long time for Dr. McDonald. He said he didn’t need to see Mama, we should just go, it would be good for her. The sickness would not return, she was cured. So we continued! We had to get some repairs done on the car and by the time we left it was evening. Shortly before Dundurn the car didn’t function right, so we stopped here at Elder J.J. Klassen’s for the night. Had some minor repairs on the car done at the garage.
18 Hawarden. We left at seven a.m. and at eight o’clock we arrived at Sheldon Farm where our Irma is teaching. She has her room with the Nick Peters. Naturally she was very happy and surprised to see us. The dear child. She is always so alone among strangers, and now, when she comes home for Christmas, her parents won’t even be there. Dear Lord, take care of us all.
At 10 o’clock we left for Swift Current. Rev. Klassen suggested we take the road through Outlook and Rosetown, and not through Hawarden. Everything went well for 135 miles until we reached the Saskatchewan River, there we discovered that the ferry wasn’t taking cars and passengers across because of the ice. So we had to return all that long way. Stayed the night with Thompsons in Hawarden. They received us most graciously. Now it’s getting colder and beginning to snow. Too bad we lost that one day; winter is coming.
19 We left Thompsons at eight a.m. It is very cold. Arrived at Swift Current at one p.m. Mama was very tired. Took her immediately to a hotel. Suddenly almost all the oil in the car was gone. Couldn’t find a leak. By 5 o’clock the car was checked, Mama had rested well, and so we started off again. The car worked poorly. After seven miles we turned back again. Had the spark plugs cleaned and found the oil leak. This was our last city in Saskatchewan where we could get a good hotel.
20 Great Falls, Montana. Very cold. Arrived at the border at nine o’clock. No problems. They estimated the value of the car at $50 and demanded 10%, that is $5 deposit, which we will get back again if we return within six months. Up to the border we had driven 631 miles, 270 of them for nothing. Soon we were on a good paved road all the way to Havre, Montana. We stopped to eat and I mailed a letter returning the $100 and the $50 that I had borrowed from D.P. Enns and D.M. Epp. From Havre we followed Rt.29 to Great Falls where we took a room in Nickol’s Cabin for $1.50.
21 Butte, Montana. We read a passage from the Bible, prayed, ate breakfast and left at 10 o’clock. Soon we were in the mountains. Often there were signs along the road that read, „Warning“ and „Danger,“ or „Very Dangerous.“ Suddenly we seemed to be out of gas. We discovered that the gas pipe had broken. We fixed it. Then we discovered that the oil leak was back again. That too was fixed.
Yesterday we paid twenty five cents for gas and today twenty cents a gallon. When we left Swift Current and had car trouble, the muffler was broken, and today the exhaust fumes started coming into the car, especially in the mountains. Mama got quite sick from them, she vomited and had a big headache. I had a headache too. We came here at 4:30 and found a wonderful motel with hot water, gas heating, a bathtub, for $2.00. Wrote a letter to Peter last night and a card to Irma. We drove only 160 miles today.
22 Pocatello, Idaho. Since Mama had felt so badly yesterday we got up late, then bought a used exhaust pipe and muffler, and by the time all that was fixed and we left it was 11 o’clock. Went through a 30-40 mile desert. Lots of irrigation and lots of traffic along Rt. 91. Found a motel for $1.50 but not as good as last night.
24 Las Vegas, Nevada. Covered 363 miles today. The last 130 miles nothing but desert. Almost had an accident today. John was driving slowly as we came upon a boy on horseback driving sheep. His horse backed up and almost into the car. Motel nothing special; cost $1.00.
25 Barstow. More car trouble but nothing serious. Mama is very tired and has pain. Desert all day. It is 300 miles long. Motel $1.50.
26 Wasco, California. Arrived here safe and sound at 12 o’clock noon. God be praised for protection on the way. We were received very gra ciously. It feels good.
27 Wasco. Otto came in the morning to fetch John. He came back briefly in the evening and reported that he didn’t think we would be able to live at the Carmel Ranch the way we had thought. The place is dirty and in a mess. He was not asked to work today, but I suppose he has to pay for his meals. I wonder how it will all turn out; it doesn’t look so promising. P.Penner had written that the wages were 30 to 50 cents an hour, depending on the kind of work and the performance. Now it sounds as if he is going to pay only 30 cents an hour and subtract $1:00 for food, which means he will work for only 20 cents an hour. With that we won’t be able to pay for our trip expenses. How will it turn out?
And then there is the question of a place for us to stay. They charge $20 to $30 per month for rooms, and some are not even furnished. Friend Penner has looked around but was unable to find anything suitable. We had to buy about ten dollars worth of clothing for John, Clara and myself. Everything costs money and the prospect of earning some is not good. Mama finds all this difficult and is not feeling good. The weather is wonderful, warm and calm.
28 Wasco. Mama not feeling so good. Penners, Clara and I went to church. Sermons in English and in German, both good, especially the English, in which he emphasized not to lose hope. Later we went to Otto Penner’s and Clara stayed there, to work for $25 a month. Also met Emil Penner there. First impression: а Yankee in the real sense of the word.
30 Another letter from home. Mama, Penner and I gleaned grapes, about 180 pounds, which had not been harvested. We want to dry them into raisins and can them. Bought a dozen large jars and sugar.
1 Cleaned grapes. Slow work pulling off stems. Started to rain. Our grapes won’t dry that way.
2 Went to the Carmel Ranch. John was irrigating. Emil is a clever fellow.
4 Fetched four pails of grapes. I think I eat no less than three to five pounds daily. Visited John Epps.
7 After breakfast a John Lichti from Upland here. Also Abr. Toews, all friends of Penners. Interesting. In the afternoon we went to town to buy Christmas gifts for all our children.
8 Cloudy, so that our raisins are not drying. Processed two more buckets full of grapes. Clara was here; she is enjoying her work and Mrs. Penner is satisfied with her. That’s great. The shopping yesterday was too much for Mama, so she is not well today, has a lot of pain.
9 Letters from Peter, Lenchen and Lieschen. Everything is in good shape at home; the Lord be praised. It is cold in Saskatchewan, forty degrees below zero!!
10 Wonderful weather, sunny and warm, almost too warm. Visited a dairy farm. They have about 400 cows. Cow #181 produced 15,806 lbs of milk and 890 lbs of butterfat in 305 days. They have 13 workers, pay them $100 a month and give free lodging.
11 John was here this afternoon. Is not very happy. His manager, a Mr. Swain, apparently is not used to dealing with decent and respectable people. John was to have a chance to go to church when he did not have to work on Sunday, but when he asked for the car he would not give it to him. So he was going to go along with Swain, ran into the house to fetch something, but when he came back Swain drove off and left without him. Had to go to the highway in the mud and hitch a ride. The wages are poor and the accommodations with those people leave much to be desired. Our good boy wants so much to earn money for us, but he also wants to be regarded as a human being and not as an animal.
12 All four of us went to church in Shafter. Good sermons, especially the English one. In the afternoon we showed John and Clara the gifts we had bought for the children at home for Christmas.
They liked what they saw. We wrapped it and put it all into a package for the mail. Then we sang songs.
13 At 8 o’clock we left with Penners for Paso Robles, 90 miles from here. We visited John Neufelds. He has a good farm. Offered that we come stay with them for nothing. But there is no work for me. Said I would think it over. Fine people. In the evening we went to Otto Toews, a jolly fellow, apparently very hospitable and good natured.
16 Wrote many Christmas letters home. Helped with butchering. Heinr. Wiebes invited us for coffee.
19 Mama didn’t feel good and because the sermon was to be in English she stayed home. Rev. Neighbor spoke. It was awful. For three-quarters of an hour he talked about money. Then he asked how many had won souls for Christ? Nobody raised a hand. He would not stop, so finally three persons raised their hands. Then he really got going about such a large congregation and only three people concerned about saving souls. Finally he asked those to come forward who wanted to serve the Lord. He was very obtrusive and impertinent. Put people under a lot of pressure so that finally several went forward and he prayed with them. I sat way back and had a good opportunity to observe the congregation. I had the feeling that most of them were embarrassed about the whole thing.
After church we went to Joh. Bergmanns. They wanted to talk again about Russia and were especially interested in my grandfather, John D. Dyck (the 49er) about whom they talk a lot here. They say that a Mr. Klassen, who died only two years ago, knew him and often talked about him.
| 20 This afternoon we moved into the house of Jantzen’s deceased parents; we are to pay $2.00 rent a month. That is as good as nothing. It is fully furnished, even the kitchen, utensils and all, everything in perfect order. It’s more than we could ever expect.
21 Went along with the son of Janzen’s, who drives a milk truck, to H. Wiebes where I gathered a box of pears. Many are dropping off and lying on the ground, apples too. It doesn’t pay to take them to the market. Too bad for all this waste. Then I went to Paso Robles to buy groceries and a shirt for John.
22 Gathered black walnuts that are lying on the ground and rotting. Then I sorted apples for Jantzens. Too bad that they let them rot. I gathered and sorted them three ways: the good ones into boxes for them, the partly spoiled for ourselves, and the rotten ones for the pigs. I took ours home and Mama cooked them into jelly.
23 Mama baked bread, peppernuts and other things for Christmas and I helped a bit. Then cracked walnuts. I do that during the day in a vice and then I clean them.
24 Mama and I hurried with various preparations so we would be ready when the children come. At 11 o’clock our car drove on the yard, both John and Clara came. There was much to talk about. Clara has a good place to work, but John certainly not. The work is not too hard, but the environment is raw. No Sunday. They brought a whole pack of letters along. So right after supper we had our Christmas Eve and gift presentations. It was a most delightful evening. The Lord has been so good to us to let us have such a good time so far away from home.
25 Christmas. How lovely to be here with at least two of our children. We had so much to talk about. Then we went to church. Rev. Jantzen preached in English and Rev. Schulz in German. Very good. For lunch we went to Erh. Schroeder’s. Their children came home and we joined them in their Christmas celebration. Just like we do it at home. When the big door opened to go into the room where the Christmas tree was, Ruth played „Silent Night,“ and we all joined in singing. The giving of gifts was also just the way we do it: everybody had a plate that was filled with goodies to eat (but nothing bought), and behind the plate the gifts. Mostly useful things that they needed. It was like that also at Schroeder’s. The love that the children showed their parents was touching.
When we saw all this, and when we thought about our own children that are celebrating Christmas this year without us, we were overcome with sadness. First Mama left and went into our little house to be alone, and soon I also followed her. But everything was very lovely. Our two children enjoyed it and the people made an effort to let them have a good time. Hans Wiebe, from Nebraska, who is also working here, came to us for the night.
26 Lunch with Jantzens. And then our children had to leave. It would be so nice if we were closer together. We read Ps. 121, prayed, and parted. It was a difficult parting, especially for John.
27 Had lots of letters from home: from Peter, Cornelius, and Rena. Everything is just fine at home.
28 Otto Toews gave me photos for Christmas: the one with the four of us from Am Trakt is an enlargement-Otto Toews, Peter Penner, Johannes Neufeld and I.
29 Worked with apples and nuts. Later Mrs. Schroeder and her girls visited us. When they entered our house Ruth immediately opened all the windows and doors, just like our Lieschen and Rena do it at home. There has to be air!
30 Letter from Peter. All is well at home. Mama’s health is a big concern for me. She fears cancer is coming back. Worked with apples and nuts. Gathered about 30 buckets of nuts so far.
31 Our last evening of this momentous year. Here I sit in California, far away from home. God has been so good to us: Mama had surgery for intestinal cancer; we had a safe trip; received a lot of love here; have a nice house to live in; the weather is balmy; and we experience a lot of love from our children. All this is God’s grace.
But I am concerned about Mama’s health. Wrote to Dr. McDonald. Is it time to see a doctor here? Or is it time to go home? She has a lot of pain. She wrote to all the children today. We brought the day, and the year, to a close in prayer. Mama’s last words were: The Lord will provide! God grant it. Amen.
1 After a bad night Mama felt better in the morning so she came along to church. The German sermon by Schulz and the English by Jantzen came from their hearts and went to heart. For lunch we accepted an invitation to Jantzen’s, and then I went along to church for their annual meeting. It was very interesting to observe the brothers at work. Among other things they decided to buy German hymn books for the young people that sing in the choir in order to keep the German language alive. They also decided to have Vacation Bible School, but it was emphasized, „all in German“, and not mixed up with English like in 1936. There was harmony in all discussions and decisions.
Near the close the question was raised why they had juice instead of wine at the last communion service? Rev. Jantzen replied that some members are offended when wine is served, and they will not take it. The response was that only a few objected, and why should everybody now, for the sake of the few, abandon the old tradition of drinking wine at communion? Rev. Jantzen would not yield. This incident was a bit sad. Finally the matter was postponed; they were to pray about it.
2 H. Wiebes came to take us with them to Paso Robles where the first sermon of the month is always in German. It was good, only a bit long, 50 minutes. The congregation is not large; they pay their pastor about $800 a year, or $60 per family. Visited old Mr. Franz Claassen, who was very happy for our visit. His wife, who died about 15 years ago, was a sister to Cornelius Isaac in Koeppental, Am Trakt. He wanted to know all about the Isaacs. His deceased wife and the wife of a Mr. Mickel from Germany, were all Neufeld girls and cousins of our father Peter Mathies. At 6 o’clock we were back at Neufelds for supper. Mama is feeling better.
3 Worked with nuts and gathered firewood. Letters from home and from John and Clara. Everything well.
6 We used to celebrate the Feast of the Three Kings on this day. Wrote a long letter home; got one from Peter.
7 Spending a week among ourselves. Cooked a lot of apple compote. Eat it with our meals morning, noon and night.
8 Cracked more nuts. We have firewood for two months that didn’t cost us a penny. In the evening with Jantzens.
9 Both to church in the morning, and lunch with Franz Hamm’s. J. Bergmanns and H. Wiebes were there too.
10 Letter from Dr. McDonald: he says if Mama is not feeling well, „I am sure it has nothing to do with cancer.“
23 Annual meeting of the Young People’s Society. You can tell that these young leaders, like the chairman and the secretaries of program and music committees, have a high school education, or more. They did their work well. Spent the evening again with Jantzens. Other visitors were there too. A relaxed and cozy evening, and yet when they go to the table they observe strict rules, like absolutely observing age first, or according to rank or reputation, and all remain standing behind their chairs until asked to be seated.
24 Mama is not feeling well. I am so worried.
And she is, too, but not about herself but about our dear Rena. She needs a mother. So we knelt down and prayed, remembering the words of our Lord when he said: „Where two or three are agreed on something in my name, I will hear them.“ Oh that our dear Mama might be able to return home in spring to Rena and all of us in better health. Lord hear our prayers. Letters from home. Lieschen and Peter write such nice letters.
25 H. Wiebes and their son Edgar took us to the Pacific Ocean today. The ocean was calm. We went to Louis de Obispo and registered our car with the Highway Patrol office. And suddenly Mama got into a shopping mood: she bought sheets, stockings, material for dresses for the girls, and a lot more. Spent over $20.00. We ate in a restaurant. Went home by a different road. We saw a lot of lovely nature today. How much I have already seen of God’s beautiful world! A lot of protection and
28 I was told that Abram Toews in Upland, who has a large orange orchard, is selling 150 oranges for 25 cents.
31 Storm. It blew down our outhouse. John was here to help us right it again. Then he came in for a little lunch. A good fellow; 24 years old.
1 Otto Toews near Upland has an orange orchard; sells his oranges for 20 cents a box of 150. He pays 13 cents for picking, which leaves him exactly 1 cent per dozen.
3 G. Claassen told us of an absolutely sure cure for horses that have colic: cut the roof of the horses‘ mouth so that it bleeds. The horse will swallow the blood and that cures it. If necessary repeat after a few hours. Can also be done with other sicknesses. It’s an old Indian recipe.
5 John and Clara spent the day with us. It was lovely just to be among ourselves. He is discouraged because he earns too little. I tried to cheer him up.
17 Received detailed and loving letters from Peter and Irma. Mama is not feeling well. I said we would need to shop for food soon. After breakfast Jantzens brought us a large piece of meat; after lunch Alvin Bergmann brought us two pounds of fish; in the evening Catherine’s sister brought us a chicken. Now we have meat for a long time. We have been fed like Elijah when the ravens brought him meat.
21 Abr. Claassens came over. Their four children all married Americans!! He signed a note for a $1,000 for the preacher Neighbor. I think he has fallen into a trap.
26 Read in the Mennonite Lexicon about Rev. Johann Donner, born 1771 in Schoensee, West Prussia. „He was the speaker for the Berlin Menn. congregation in five deputations. His gentle manner and authentic piety contributed a great deal to reducing the conflict between the Frisian and Flemish Mennonite congregations.“ My grandmother on mother’s side, Maria Froese, was his niece.
27 It is almost two a.m.! What is going to happen? My nerves are shot, like in 1930. I can’t stand the constant irritations and tensions. This could have been such a lovely vacation, a time of recovery, and what is happening?
First the difficult decision whether we should leave home; then on the trip the worry whether it was too much for Mama; then the worry after Havre whether the two mailings of $100 and $50 actually got there; then the difficult start for John on the Carmel Ranch, which was a great worry; and then we had no place to stay-I almost tried desperately to be happy: the balmy weather, the grapes, etc.,
But all the things just mentioned were always there, and most of all there was Mama with her problems. Either she was homesick, or when that had passed there was to be instant housing. There was always something to worry about. And then we finally got this place on Dec. 14. Peace at last? It seemed that way. Mama was feeling better and was more satisfied. We had a few lovely weeks, right through Christmas. But when John and Clara left for Wasco it had was too late and I had forgotten to give them the flashlight. Again had to worry whether they arrived home safely. Then a few days before New Year’s Mama became seriously ill; most likely inflammation in her lower abdomen. She thought her cancer was coming back.
Many nights I did not sleep. I struggled and prayed that God would grant it that in spring she would be able to return home in better health. I wrote to Dr. McDonald and he replied promptly that it could not be cancer. In the meantime Mama’s health was improving. Often I felt like just living-live and be thankful! Actually all through January we had a wonderful time together, but in between there were always three to five days when she had such severe pain and the constantly wearing concern if I would bring her home again to the children. But it was so lovely, often a happy time, I wanted to rest, just rest.
At the beginning of February we both came down with the flu, and consequently no rest at night because one or the other was coughing or something else. Then Mama started to cough so badly; oh how dreadfully sorry I was for her. I can hardly describe it how worried I was about her; and that is how it has been for almost a month, and why I have been able to sleep well only the last two nights. As often as five times I’d get up to put more wood on the fire so that the room would be warm; or I would get some medicine for Mama; or bring her a drink or whatever else needed attention. As soon as I lay down I began to worry how it would all end. If I did at last manage to go to sleep Mama would have one of her frequent coughing spells, and that would be the end of my sleep. Now she has not coughed for almost three days. I hope I will get some rest, for God’s sake I need rest! I feel like shouting into the world: „I have to sleep!“
But now there is something else again. Yesterday and today it has been so difficult with Mama, she is so depressed, in part, I suppose, because she doesn’t feel well, but mostly because she is homesick. Everything looked so dark and she was in such turmoil, so restless. I don’t want to call it being dissatisfied, but nothing could make her happy or put her in a loving mood. Never lives in the present, only thinks what could happen and what should happen. Nothing but concerns and restlessness. Never relaxed and at ease.
And there is Rev. Jantzen who is constantly bringing up difficult topics, such as, „if you are saved once, if you are really born again, are you saved for ever, no matter what sins you may commit after that?“ Or he asks if we have sinned among ourselves but have forgiven each other, will that be accepted in eternity or will we have to be judged for it? If the dear man would only know how difficult all this is for my nerves he wouldn’t always talk about things like that. But I can’t brood, I just want to believe, have the faith of a child, but not like that.
Then there is John with so many days in which he has no work. And now Mama is feeling badly again and consequently is so restless and says things that I’m sure she doesn’t mean the way it sounds; but then I get upset and now I am terribly sorry for that.
At last I was able to go to bed. I wanted so desperately to sleep. Only sleep. And at last I was almost asleep, and just then Mama groaned in her sleep, which startled me and woke me up again. Now I just can’t go back to sleep and will spend another sleepless night. But my head feels as if it is going to burst, my nerves twitch and I am afraid I am going to break down. What is going to happen to me?
I can’t go on anymore. When Mama was sick I asked God again and again to give me the strength to provide her with all the loving services she needed and which I wanted to do for her. And the Lord gave me strength, it went for a while, but now I am irritated because of her groaning precisely at the time when I am about to go to sleep. Now I can’t go back to sleep, it is seven o’clock in the morning; with the help of aspirin pills I dozed off for a few hours, but it wasn’t a real sleep. My head is so confused, the back of my head is dull; I want to be quiet. I would like to pray. I want to sleep and not care about anything. Oh Lord have mercy on me and don’t let me have a complete breakdown here among strangers.
Outside there is that awful rain again, wind, rain, and more rain. Everything depresses me. The goal for this winter was to take care of my dearest Renate, to love her and do everything possible to have her restored to health again for our dear children. And now I am at the end of the road. I can’t go on. My head, oh my head! And Mama cannot understand how I feel; she thinks if I have slept once, and try to be strong and happy, then I am well. But my nerves are shot because of those many sleepless nights. Being constantly awakened from sleep has ruined my nerves. It takes time.
And rest. To be relaxed and not having to hurry. Rest. Rest for my heart and soul (Gemuet). And above all, love. Love and gentleness, not only when I feel good, but especially then when I need it so desperately. Like now. But I will stop, it’s no use. Just thought I would write all this down to get it off my chest. And now rest, sleep, and peace.
2 Mama’s birthday. We read for the second time all those lovely letters from our children which had arrived yesterday and today. At ten o’clock both Jantzens came over to congratulate Mama. At eleven o’clock Edwin Schroeder came to fetch us for lunch. When Mrs. Jantzen said: „Edwin, be sure to have the Dycks here at 2:30,“ I told Mama that they were planning something, possibly guests. She thought that wasn’t very likely. And that’s exactly how it was. Among the cars in the yard we saw one that we recognized at once, it was ours. It had rained in Wasco, so there wasn’t work in the fields, and consequently Otto had offered John and Clara to take the car and go to the celebration of their mother’s birthday. He even filled their tank with gas. When we entered the room Mama saw at once what had happened.
On the first Monday of every month the women meet for their Sewing Circle; now they had changed that to Wednesday in order to surprise Mama. After the coffee Rev. Jantzen had a brief meditation, based on the words of Psalm 73:23a „Nevertheless, I am continually with you!“ After that the Sewing Circle presented Mama with a beautiful silk quilt. For Mama, as well as for me, it was, of course, a total surprise. At the close I said a few words, a sort of summary of our life: how in Russia we had lived on the sunny side of life, how in Canada it had been just the opposite, with many accidents, but that the Lord had always averted the worst. He had carried us through all the vicissitudes of life. I mentioned especially that Mama had always been so selfless in all circumstances. It was a beautiful afternoon. In the evening we were together with the children; alone, oh how wonderful! Once again the Lord spoke gently with us. I was very tired.
3 Rain, rain. Edwin Schroeder came and together with John they worked on the car, new rings for the pistons, etc. Clara went with Jantzens to choir practice; she enjoyed it.
4 Edwin and John worked all day on the car. Can’t get it started. Hans Wiebe and I cut some wood.
6 All went to church. German sermon. Clara and John went to Schroeders for lunch, Mama and I to Abr. Klassens. At 3 o’clock they left to go back to Wasco. I hope they have a safe trip and get more opportunity for work.
7 I had a terrible night. Yesterday Abr. Klassen almost talked me to death. Talked and talked without end. And while he talked he kept coming closer and closer to me; and such piercing eyes; it was such a strain on my nerves. At 5 o’clock we finally asked him to take us home, I couldn’t stand it any longer.
Then came the night. I always saw him, close to me, talking and talking. Oh my nerves and my head! I couldn’t think anymore, only sigh: Dear Lord, let me die or get well, whatever is your holy will, only please don’t let me lose my mind. It was a terrible night; and today several times, too. In the afternoon I went to chop a bit of wood but it jarred my head. I am so sorry that I cannot do anything for Mama, but my head is numb, everything is dark. Oh Lord help!
11 Sorted, weighed and packed the nuts I had gathered. I want to sell them.
12 Finished with the nuts. Made 100 packages of 4 oz. each. I put a lot of effort into this project. I hope it pays. The police stopped John on the road; wanted to send him to Bakersfield, but Otto Penner intervened. Oh Lord, what next? The worries and excitements of this winter are ruining my health. Today, when this worry had hardly left Mama, and I had tried to talk her out of it, she stood by the kitchen window and was in the same mood as the weather outside depressed. I suppose she is homesick. I feel like pleading: enough is enough! There has to be an end with all these irritations that we don’t want but bring upon ourselves. There has to be rest and rejoicing if I am to regain my health again.
13 In church today. The sermon was in German, based on the text: „Do not be mismatched with unbelievers.“ (2. Cor.6:14). Very severe, only law: do’s and don’ts! Nothing about love or grace. At noon we were at Schroeder’s and found that they took the sermon very personal, he had meant it for them. The matter was this: Last Friday Doris’s high school class had a program in which she didn’t participate, but she sold tickets at the door. And that is what Rev. Janzen meant by „working together with unbelievers.“ His own daughter, Ruth, had not been allowed to go to the program, which was hard on her but she obeyed and remained happy. But then she was allowed to make candy for the benefit of the school. So you ask yourself: what is the difference between selling tickets for the school or making candy for the school?
Mrs. Schroeder told us that Rev. Jantzen had managed to pass a resolution in church, much against the wish of her father, Rev. Aron Wiebe, that the clause forbidding members to marry outside the Mennonite church, be deleted. But the sons of Claassen’s could not find suitable Mennonite girls in the area and so they wanted to marry English girls. And that’s the reason for all this ruckus.
15 Sold nuts for $8.25. Want to sell more. I am so happy to be able to earn a little money that way.
18 Went to Wasco, stopped at P. Penners before going out to Otto Penner’s ranch. John was cutting grass. Otto doesn’t have much work; he has already dismissed John Wiebe. But he has promised to keep John and Clara employed.
22 During the first nine weeks here in Willow Creek I gained a pound every week; I always weighed myself every Tuesday at Hibbard’s Grocery Store. Then came Mama’s coughing and consequently my disturbed sleep, because I just couldn’t stand it, and so my weight has gone down again about two and a half pounds every week. Now I am back to 163 pounds, which is one pound less than what it was last fall. Now it is going up again.
23 Hans Wiebe from Wasco was here. Said both John and Clara are well. Mama somewhat better today. I am not well. My heart is not working right. It seems that every now and then the aorta closes up and then I feel terrible. And I am so easily irritated, sometimes over almost nothing. Once when I got so excited I just collapsed and fell down, a second time almost.
25 The wind penetrates through all the cracks of our otherwise so lovely little house. We had a difficult night. Since I had slept poorly several nights I took sleeping pills, and was able to go to sleep quickly. But then at 11 Mama had such a severe and long coughing spell that I woke up with a start. Immediately I had those severe pains in my head; I said that’s how it must be when lightning strikes, like a crack through the head. We both stayed up until almost one o’clock, then Mama wrapped herself in blankets, sat up in her bed in the kitchen where it was warmer, and I stayed in the bedroom. I slept for about four hours.
During that time Mama had coughing spells but at each spell she quickly left the house and went out into the nearby chicken coop which was heated day and night. Oh if only our house were as airtight as that chicken coop! Then she lay down in the living room because the wind was coming from the north and really blew into the kitchen. So I went and lay down in Mama’s bed in the kitchen. I actually slept a bit. Mama slept with interruptions until 10:30. All day she coughed a lot. Now she soaked her feet in warm water and I rubbed her back and chest with medicine. We prayed to God for relief. He has answered so many of our prayers this winter. Oh Lord, don’t let Mama get seriously ill, and help me to get more sleep that we may both recover and be strong for the imminent trip home. Lord help! Amen.
26 Went to church and to Bergmann’s for lunch. The sons were home and we had a lively discussion about their projected trip to visit us in Saskatchewan. I don’t think they’ll come. They also talked a lot about the Rev. Neighbor who is supposed to have said in a Baptist church in Paso Robles recently that he wanted no silver on the collection plate, only paper. And when he goes to heaven he’s going to take a trumpet along so that from up there he can blast down once more to wake up the Paso Robles „rascals.“
30 Mama is real sick today, headache and a weak heart. In bed all day. I tried to take care of her.
1 Worked with nuts. Mama is still coughing. Wrote to Wasco and asked John and Clara to come here next week, the 7th. The following morning we want to go to the Pacific Ocean and Saturday, the 9th, early in the morning leave for home. D.V.
2 Took in about $16.75 for nuts, and we are taking 18 lbs home with us. Used and gave away 31 lbs. or a total of 58 lbs. I bought a watch and chain for Peter for $23.20 as a remembrance of this winter. Oh how gladly I do that, also the cloth for the girl’s dresses. If it is God’s will we will buy a bicycle for John and Cornelius together on the way home in Saskatoon.
3 Sunday. A German sermon. We were included in the closing prayer. Many people shook our hands warmly and wished us well. For lunch at Schroeder’s. Had a good time. Supper at Jantzen’s. Others came too. Rev. Jantzen had a brief meditation for us on the text: „In my Father’s house are many rooms.“ I also had a brief response, based on the text: „Lord, I want to see.“ May God help us see his will for us.
4 Mama went to the Sewing Circle. She took the gift that Irma had made, the wall motto: „My Help Comes From The Lord“, along and gave it to them as a mission offering and a gift from us. It was a beautiful surprise. I think Mama enjoyed herself.
5 All day with Otto Toews. He took me around and showed me many things. For supper we were with Jantzen’s. Probably our last time. We gave them the wall motto that Irma had made: „Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.“ (Ps.55:22) For John I had bought a brush, comb and mirror set. For Anna and Ruth Mama had crocheted small, round table cloths. We were under the impression they accept everything gratefully. And so we took our leave and a very pleasant eve ning came to a close.
6 A number of us went to Los Angeles today. Much to see. Bought a pen and pencil set for $9.25
for John. Then went to Upland to John Rahns, real „Am Trakt“ people. Mrs. Rahn had been a classmate with my Renate.
7 Visited the orange plant „Sunkist“. Very large.
8 Willow Creek. Our last day here. Many, many people came to say goodbye. John and Clara came back from the beach at five p.m.; they had enjoyed it. Mama and I had done a lot of packing. So now we are ready to leave. We had many happy hours here, but also sorrow. The Lord helped. Now we ask for safe travel home. Almost 80 degrees today.
9 Barstow. We left at 7:15 this morning. In the last minute I could not find my glasses. Can’t explain it. We stopped briefly at Hamms, H.Wiebes and Bergmanns; bade hearty farewells, received a few more small gifts, lunch for the road, they filled our gas tank, and then we were off. Stopped in Paso Robles at Otto Toews’s. He gave Mama a gift. I took the watch back that I had bought for Peter because it only runs 19 hours after it is wound up. At 11:45 we were in Wasco and I reminded Otto that he had earned $93 in three weeks when he had worked for me in Canada, while John had earned only $200 in four and a half months while working for him. I did not criticize him for paying only thirty cents an hour, nor for the fact that on many days he could not work because of the weather; but his father had written that the wages would be between thirty and fifty cents, or perhaps forty cents average per hour, and that he would have steady work. He had also said John would work twelve hours a day, but now it had been only ten hours. The way it had been written John would have earned not 200 but 400 dollars. I asked whether perhaps they could give both John and Clara an additional $25 each. He talked it over with Emil and both agreed to do that. I was very thankful and let them know it. Had a good trip so far, only regret that we could not take the preserved grapes along, but the car is loaded to capacity. More would have been impossible.
10 Cidar City, Utah. A little car trouble, but a good trip.
11 Preston, Idaho. Shortly before Salt Lake City the bags of oranges and apples that we had tied on the running board of the car got rubbed through and all fruit was lost.
12 Helena, Montana. Did 425 miles today inspite of the fact that there was a lot of snow; in some places by the side of the road it was higher than our car.
13 Swift Current, Sask. Had an early start and are back in Canada. No serious problems at the border. Car trouble on the poor road to Swift Current. Had to take a hotel room because the motels are not yet open for the summer.
14 Laird, Sask. HOME! Oh what a lovely word, „home“. God be thanked for the safe journey. Got stuck on our Saskatchewan roads, John had to get a team of horses from a farmer to pull us out. At 12:30 noon we arrived at the Sheldon Farm school. Irma was surprised to see us so early. We had lunch at Gustav Froese’s, and then took Irma along with us. By four o’clock we were in Saskatoon; bought a bicycle for John and Cornelius, bought an Elgin watch and chain for Peter, then called home and said we were coming. We drove onto the yard at about 8:30.
We were gone five months and two days. When I think back of all that happened in this time: how it happened that we went; how we had problems over there; how we feared Mama’s cancer had come back; how my heart and nerves almost collapsed because of Mama’s coughing and my sleepless nights; how much concern and worry we had over John and Clara; how much could have happened here at home—when I think of all that, I must confess everything has been an undeserved gift from God. He protected and kept us, and he brought us safely home. We can only believe and confess: it was the Lord who led us. We are confident he will also lead and bless in the future. All praise and thanks to him.
15 Good Friday. Got up early. The fields are dry. The air is mild. After Easter we can start field work. After breakfast we gave the children picture postcards, leaves of various trees, sea shells we had picked up on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, various rocks, and photos. Then we went to church.
Elder John Regier preached. A serious and moving sermon. How good it felt to be back home in our own beloved church in Tiefengrund. Anna and Walter came over for lunch. After lunch and our usual nap we had, what the children called, a „Bescherung“, giving the gifts. Everybody received a souvenir of this winter: the girls material for dresses, Peter a watch and chain, John a pen and pencil set, John and Cornelius together a bicycle. They were all happy. Our dear children.
The suggestion for this trip came from them. They earned the money for it over there, and those who stayed home took care of everything with diligence and faithfulness. So we spent the money that was in excess of expenses for them to make them happy. And now when we see how thankful and happy they ALL are, we are not sorry. Dear Lord, I am not worthy of all the steadfast love and faithfulness which you have shown to us.—Amen