The Old Fatted Goose

I’ve been reading a book called Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart to my mom at the nursing home.  It’s a series of actual letters written in 1914 by a woman who moved out to Wyoming and these letters are just delightful.  They give a fascinating glimpse into the day-to-day life of ordinary people living out in the secluded ranches tucked away in the canyons and prairies of Wyoming.

Yesterday there were two incidents that caught my attention.  The first involved a bobsled ride in the middle of winter.  Mrs. Steward, her husband and several houseguests were preparing to head out cross-country to a remote ranch for a dinner party.  This trip would involve a day’s ride by bobsled over the snow-packed terrain and then a stay of several days before heading home.  To help them stay warm on their journey, the husband heated up rocks in the fireplace and then packed the bottom of the bobsled (which was a wagon bed set on bobsled runners) with straw.  He placed the heated rocks on top of the straw and then placed more straw on top of the rocks.  Next came a layer of blankets.  The people sat on top of the blankets and piled more blankets on top of themselves.  That is how they set off, using the hot rocks as a form of our “heated leather seats” in cars today.

I asked Mom if her family had ever employed this heated rock technique to stay warm when they traveled by bobsled.

“Oh, yes,” she replied.  Since Mom lived out on a farm in Minnesota where it gets mighty cold and snowy, I have no doubt that she was remembering correctly.

The other thing that caught my attention was the fact that one of the houseguests, a German lady, insisted on greasing up Mrs. Stewart’s baby with goose grease to protect it from the cold before they headed out on their trip.  Ugh!  Goose grease?

“Mom, did anyone ever do that to you?” I asked.

“They sure did,” Mom answered.

“Whatever for?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” she replied, “but I’m glad that didn’t do it when I got older.”

Must have been a German thing, I thought.  I’m just glad that goose grease went out of fashion by the time I came along.

“So I guess Vick’s Vapor Rub was YOUR version of goose grease and that was why you were always smearing it on me,” I teased.

“Probably,” Mom laughed.

Thank Heaven for small favors.

© copyright 2012 – All rights reserved

Hot Flashed Funk

  • I cannot imagine how goose grease would protect a baby from cold. And why only a baby? Why not the older children – or the adults?


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