The Pacific Northwest Forum
Volume VIII, Number 1, Pages 8-11
On September 19, 1980, Sandra Brightbill interviewed Mamie Sasse about her early life in Pine Creek, Okanogan County, Washington. This is one of many oral histories conducted as a part of the Washington Women's Heritage project. In the 1982 Summer-Fall issue of the Pacific Northwest Forum We published the first part of the interview covering Mrs. Sasse's life from her birth in 1902 to her marriage in 1920. The following exerpts from Sandra Brightbill's interview describe Mamie Sasse's married life on an Okanogan ranch.
"Before we were married I always had a dream that I was going to be a cattle rancher, and I had always loved cattle and riding horseback…I met Lloyd, and he was the same as I was. He had a few cattle; he had fifteen cows when I married him, and he had a hundred and fifty acres of land ... And then my brother gave me when we got married - for a wedding gift -he gave me a cow...And so we started out in the cattle business on this little ranch."
Lloyd Sasse bought some of his father's land. They built their herd to thirty cows. Not having enough pasture to run thirty cows, they got a range permit on Mucky-Muck Mountain above Conconully. They drove their cattle from home to the mountain, a long day's ride.
And then about once every ten days we would ride and take a pack horse and put salt on-we had to take salt for our stock…In the meantime. we was farming, putting up hay, raising corn. We got some hogs and had a few pigs then and a few sheep, and I had turkeys and chickens. I got into the turkey business, which I would raise about a hundred turkeys every year...That was a chore. And we milked fifteen cows, and Lloyd and I, that was our chore, every morning and night to milk those fifteen cows. I'd milk seven of them or eight, and he'd milk seven or eight...We'd get two dollars and fifty cents for a five gallon can of cream…There was a cream wagon came by once a week. We had to go this mile down to Grandpa Sasse's. I had to haul this cream down with a little cart and my little pony I had…The second year after we were married Lloyd bought a car…That was our first car, and then we had a car to drive back and forth. And I learned to drive it, to take our cream and stuff, and we could go to town. Otherwise we had to go by wagon and team clear to Riverside for our groceries.
In the fall of the year Lloyd would haul grain. We would have the thrashers come, and that was a big thing. You had to cook for all those men, about twenty or thirty men. My mother would always come up and help me cook...We thrashed our grain. Then Lloyd would have to haul it in his spare time clear to Riverside, and take an all day trip down there and back to sell the grain. We always got a little check, you know, then for the cream and the eggs, trade eggs for groceries when we went to town-now you can't take an egg to town, they won't buy it 'cause it isn't candled or something like that.
Mrs. Sasse delivered her first child, Quentin, when she had been married eleven months. Late in her pregnancy when she was "big as a mountain," she still helped her husband shock the grain. She took a bath every night in a washtub in their shack. A single room, about 14 by 18 feet, served as their bedroom-living room. The kitchen was in a lean-to shed to the side. As a Christmas present Mrs. Saase's mother-in-law had a carpet made out of old rags - a "ragrug" that was big enough to cover the whole floor - "and, oh, was that nice."
She said she didn't want the baby to freeze to death…You know when the wind would blow in the winter time, and it got down to twenty-five and thirty below zero in those days, and the wind would blow, Lloyd would bank it all up with snow around the edge to build it up so it wouldn't blow underneath the house. But still that rug would raise up like this, you know…We'd be setting there, and here the rug would raise up.
And the baby, I had a baby buggy…And he was sleeping in that, and you know, his little hands would be stiff in the morning…I nursed him, and I had to take him in bed with to get him all thawed out. I'd think he was going to perish in that-cover him up, and snuggle him up. We had those old fashion home comforters, home-made comforters, they were wool inside, and they were warm...We slept warm, [but] around our faces in the morning where we exhaled there was icicles. Believe it or not, there was.
Mrs. Sasse was in labor for twenty-four hours and gave birth to Quentin in the little shack where she lived. The baby weighed nine pounds, and the doctor had to take "a lot of stitches" leaving Mrs. Sasse "so sore". She stayed in bed for nine days, which was customary in those days. Her mother helped out during Mrs. Sasse's confinement.
And then it wasn't long, and I was back out in the field digging potatoes. And we had our chores to do, you know, our milking and all. And then my sister came up, Lena, and stayed with me when mother went home. She was just a girl about twelve, I guess, and she came up and stayed and helped me, you know, helped a lot, taking care of the baby and everything...I didn't want to leave him alone in the house, you know,…in case he would choke or something. So she took care of him while I went and did my chores…”
It was in the winter time then. I didn't have that much chores to do. Lloyd wasn't as busy outdoors. So he could help me in the house, carry water…We melted snow, and, oh, I loved to wash clothes in that snow-soft snow water. It didn't take hardly any soap, and it was so good for the baby's clothes, you know, made them so soft and fluffy…I had two big clothes lines put across the end of that big living room, on the end, and then that's where I dried my clothes. Of course, the little heating stove would keep it warm, and it wouldn't take long to dry diapers and things, you know, then, and clothes. I dried all the clothes in the house in the winter time that way. But they always said, well, that damp house would give the baby a cold and everything - he never had no cold…”
They continued to add to their cattle and their range and bought Mrs. Sasse's mother's ranch-about 2,000 acres-when she died. Three year's after Quentin's birth Mrs. Sasse delivered another boy. Her mother and sister helped out again. They had lots of work. Mrs. Sasse would plow behind four horses all day when her husband was busy with other things. They raised their own meat and made their own bread and butter.
I washed on Monday and Friday-I did twice a week so I wouldn't have so much at one time. And we'd have a lot of clothes, and I remember Lloyd went to town to a sale one day, and he came home and he had the first wringer; it was a wringer that you fastened onto the tub. And, oh, you could put the clothes into that and turn this crank; and he would turn the crank, and I would put the clothes in...And, oh, was that a help. That was really something. You know, all this twisting, you know, wringing them out by hand. My wrists would just give out on me ... So we had this wringer, and, oh, was that a beautiful thing…
I don't know when I got my first washing machine…It was a Maytag, and it was one with a gasoline engine on it. You had to keep it outside on the porch to run it, you know, the exhaust and everything.
Lloyd Sasse helped out with the wash by carrying cream tubs of water up to the house for rinsing. "I worked with him through everything that he did-we were side by side. And he'd come in the house and help me do everything that I did in the house, where I needed help." He peeled the peaches when she canned them. When they bought Mrs. Sasse's mother's house-which had running water inside-Mrs. Sasse "just said we're goint to move."
The Sasse's raised three of their own children and two nephews whose parents had died. At the age of forty their second son, Lloyd, Jr., was killed in a hunting accident, leaving four children. "Oh, we never hardly ever got over that," said Mrs. Sasse. Another son, Quentin, was almost killed when a horse bucked him. Injured so badly that he had to give up farming, he moved to Moses Lake, where he ran a motel. She and her husband had been married for over fifty years when he died suddenly of a heart attack.
Sandra Brightbill asked Mrs. Sasse about her relationships with other women - were they able to get together?
Oh, yes, we had more togetherness then than we do now…Whenever we wanted to go someplace, there was no phones or nothing, we just got in the buggy (or car then, we had, the old car) and we'd drive up to-'Let's go visit Ray and Carol, let's go visit Lee and Harry, let's go visit Joe and Eva, let's go visit Bill and Madeline: you know, our neighbors all around us. And we'd drive up to the house. If they were busy working, they'd drop everything, and she'd go in and I'd help her, and we'd get a big meal and we'd have a big, you know, get together, and talk about things, you know, on the ranch and things, and gardens, and chickens…and children.
The next Sunday the neighbors might come to their house. They made their own wine and beer. They "cooked what they had." They cured their own meat and preserved butter and cream by hanging it in a well.
And then in the winter time we would butcher hogs, and we'd cure our own meat. We'd salt it, and smoke it in the smoke house-outdoor smokehouse-and then we would take this meat, and in the summer time there was no way of keeping it. You couldn't put it in refrigeration. Probably it would spoil if it wasn't salted enough. But what we would do-we had big bins of wheat in our grainery. And Lloyd would dig a deep hole way down in that wheat. We put cheesecloth around this meat,…and then we'd put it down and bury it in the wheat. And whenever we wanted a ham or bacon, we'd go dig out a slab of bacon. And that was just as fresh and good as when we put it in there…
The women in the neighborhood organized the Pine Creek Sewing Circle. Every two weeks they went to someone's home. They brought baked cookies as a snack and worked at patching socks and overalls.
Mrs. Sasse described some of the activities involved in raising cattle: innoculation, branding, castrating. They kept the cattle near home until mid-May and took them off the range before the hunting season (October).
We made a lot of sausage,…and seasoned it the way we like…We cleaned out the guts. You just take them out of the hog, and then you strip them…and they're full of grain and all of the stuff the hogs eat. What we used to do then is strip that all out, you know. But you want to keep them clean because you turn them…We used to turn them and start water through them. And then they'll just keep going and turning and turning inside out, sometimes fifty yards, or whatever is in a hog, you know ... And then the inside of the gut, you have to scrape it.
They scraped the mucus of the hog guts and then blew air into them to be sure that they were clean. Sometimes there would be fifty or sixty feet of the gut in one piece. The gut was "as thin as tissue paper". They mixed meat in a big washtub to stuff the sausage, seasoning it with garlic water. They hung the sausage for about 24 hours in the smokehouse. It would last all winter hanging outdoors.
In the summer time when it got hot, and the flies started coming, why we would put it in burlap or in a flour sack, and we'd bury it in our wheat bins…That would keep so good in there.