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Lest I Forget

Lest I Forget

The rapidly fading letters, the notes, the bits and pieces of information written on cash register tape, pamphlets, and a few faded pictures and old slides depicting the years spent scraping out a life are stuffed into an old shoebox and crowding an even newer plastic container. These are the scraps left from the Alaska homesteading experience my father and mother provided as a piece of history for their young children.  There is an old license plate from the car driven from Alaska to Louisiana on the long trip back to the states. It is dated long ago. My memory fails me of the exact year, but I know its old – older than my children.

This piece of family history is important. Maybe not to strangers but to the descendents of Vernon Enoch Knowles and Helen Deville Knowles it is important. Evidence of this adventure must be recorded so it’s not forgotten. I don’t want my children, grandchildren, or second, third, and forth cousins to shake their heads when questioned, not knowing the answers.

“Yes, I do believe PaPa Knowles homesteaded in Alaska at one time.”

“Uncle Vernon and Aunt Helen? Oh, I think they were the ones who decided to pick up and move off into the wilderness with four young children.”

“How many children were there? I believe the youngest (the fifth child) was born in Alaska.”

My shoebox and plastic bin is filled with the past. The letters I spoke of earlier were written by my mother as she unknowingly recorded history by pouring her heart out to my fathers sister back in Louisiana, keeping her informed of our day to day lives. They sometimes make me cry when I read them. “We were ever so poor,” as my youngest sister says. She was so young she doesn’t even remember this adventure. She needs to know.

There wasn’t much  else to do enclosed in the Alaska wilderness with her young family gathered around her in the evenings. Her husband and father of her children and as yet unborn child, was off weeks at a time, working to support the family and to make enough to prove up on the homestead.  So she wrote and she read to us. I’m so glad she did!

Our homestead was eleven long miles from the town of Homer and the primitive dirt road running from the highway to our home was a mile and a quarter “of treacherous mud or snow”  (as Mother would sometimes describe it) depending on the season. The majority of the time our vehicles sat at the end of this usually useless road, abandoned until the need arose for a trip into town. These trips were few and far between.  Gas was high, groceries were expensive, and money was tight. The Salvation Army was our one and only department and clothing store at times. Entertainment was found in our own back yard and with our siblings who were then our best and only friends. We couldn’t have been happier from a child’s point of view.

My mind is filled with memories of picking cranberries and moss berries, filling our buckets with the ripe fruit while eating two of every three picked. The deep woods surrounding our home was our playground. The wonders of the small animals scurrying around leaving footprints in the snow were a delight to our young eyes. The delicate footprints of rabbits on the snow covered ice of the spring we drew our drinking water from were pointed out by our father to our amazed minds. It was like a fairy land at times.

The spruce chickens perching in the top of the tall trees were a nice target for some gumbo for supper. I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that is what my mother did with this game. She was a Louisiana girl after all! We spied moose from far away and kept cautious watch on bears roaming through the yard on their way over to the other side of Berry Hill.

This picture is of poor quality and we don’t have many. I’m really surprised it is even in color. The year it was taken was probably 1958 or 1959. I was four or five years old. I’m the cute one on the sofa on the far right! The only one with dark hair just like Daddy’s. I can remember this room of the trailer we pulled on that long trip to Alaska many years ago so well.

On sofa - left to right - Debbie, Naomi, Lindy My mother and brother, Chip on her lap in the foreground.

On sofa – left to right – Debbie, Naomi, Lindy, my mother, and brother, Chip,Years ago  on her lap in the foreground.

My mothers description of the picture on the back in her handwriting - Priceless!

My mothers description of the picture on the back in her handwriting – Priceless!

There are other pictures in my mind – one of Daddy digging the well, a picture of Mother holding Chip’s hand, the wind blowing through her hair as they stand on top of Berry Hill. They are safe, stored with the letters, the mementos, and the journal she once started writing.

I intend to record it all in book form so the family will always know the intense story of their past family members. At one time I did start the process of putting it in order. I lovingly typed the letters one by one deciphering each as I was on the phone with my mother firing question after question to her about dates and events and “What in the world is this word I can’t read?” She knew the answers – all of them – and I’m ever so thankful I got it down when I did because she is not around anymore to help me through this process. I so wish my father had been alive when I did this. That is my one regret.

Years ago I bound these letters into a book for my immediate family. But… there’s more – lots more –  and I know I can do better. I must get this down soon, lest I forget. Images from childhood fade quickly as we age and our memories don’t always last a lifetime for others to inherit unless recorded in hard copy.

~Elle

April 18, 2015 – The book has been started.   I am having the most wonderful time as I am writing this book. There are so many forgotten memories as I once again read through the letters and notes. So the journey begins…

PUBLISHED IN DECEMBER, 2016

COFFEE -DRUNK OR BLIND has been published! You can find it on Amazon here  in paperback or kindle, or read for free on Kindle Unlimited. Please leave a review on Amazon after reading. I’d love to hear your opinion about our Alaska homesteading adventure. You can read the reviews already left here.

REVIEWS HELP INDIE AUTHORS

 

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About Elle Knowles

Elle Knowles lives in the Florida Panhandle with her husband and off-at-college-most-of-the-time son. She has four daughters, one son, and eleven beautiful grandchildren. 'Crossing the Line' is her first novel. The sequel 'What Line' is a work in progress. Recently published is Coffee-Drunk Or Blind - a nonfiction story of homesteading in the Alaska wilderness with her parents and four siblings, told through letters by her mother and remembered accounts from the family.

33 responses »

  1. plaguedparents

    I love the idea of preserving your families’ memories this way! So often we forget, or alter our memories then end up regretting. This is fantastic!

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    • It’s all coming together. Hopefully I do my mother justice in this writing adventure. Check out my author FB page for daily updates on the book and pictures. Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you often! ~Elle

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  2. As I read your words, I couldn’t help thinking of a similar story I’d heard when I was growing up. Of course, I wasn’t even a twinkle in my mother’s eye, as she, herself, would have been in your little girl shoes. Across Canada from where your family adventure took place, on The Rock of Newfoundland, my mother grew up in a wilderness much like what I read in your blog.

    You’re right. Our histories must be remembered. In my own family, there are only two of us left who remember the life and times of a family in a far away land, at a time before all this technology, gave us the ability to memorialize the Who’s Who of our ancestors.

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  3. I was just thinking this morning that I need to carry my voice recorder in my handbag for the times we visit with the in-laws and also my mother. My MIL is always telling stories and I would love to capture them and put them in a book for the GG’s family.

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  4. I liked your story. I have similar family histories that I am going to “fictionize” by mixing and matching events and smashing time lines together to make a more exciting piece of fiction. Similar to what I did with “A night at the Ranch” The thing I have to get from my family is their understanding that although it may mention events that happened, it is a made up story. I may get a good story, but they may not like me afterward. Ah, choices, choices. Good luck with whatever approach you will take.

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  5. Lovely memories should be kept and shared. How wonderful that you are doing this. Best wishes for a wonderful New Year! Thank you for stopping by my blog and the like. I liked your back and will follow.

    Liked by 1 person

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    • I can’t wait to really get into it! Thanks for stopping by.

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    • Peanut(John Aymond )

      Hey Miss Elle,
      I haven’t seen or spoke to you in the longest time. I do keep up with everyone through the grapevine. We can’t wait to read your story about the homesteading years.
      I do remember one story Uncle Vernon told us about the adventure. He said that one time he and someone was camping in a tent and it got so cold that their bottle of vodka froze. I thought that was the coolest story, also literally! I wish I could remember the other stories he told us. I remembered this story during one of the many Sunday visits to Oakdale when we were young. What great memories. We loved and love your family so much. Your Mom and Dad were so kind to us and it was so much fun to visit y’all. When Chip was there, he would sometimes let me tag around with him through the woods. It was a blast. Nothing but good memories. Good luck with the book. We can’t wait to read it.
      Take care
      Love
      John and Kayla

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      • How you doing Peanut! And I do tell all my kids the story behind your name! LOL! Can Vodka freeze? I never knew. Well this story is in the works, but it may take some time. I may get some of those stories you know down for print. haha! Take care and hope to see ya’ll soon!

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  6. This is lovely and a great primer to your book. The passion regarding your ancestors is quite evident and I’m certain they’d appreciate being remembered. Alaska…omigod. I can barely be here at 20 degrees let alone100 below zero.

    It’s a very moving story. And 220 followers must make you feel good 🙂

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  7. I see myslef in that picture of you. 🙂

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  8. Get it written! THIS is the book you need to publish! 🙂

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  9. You’ve got to do something with this! Every time I read about your experiences in Alaska I’m captivated by the story,

    Liked by 1 person

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    • There’s nothing wrong with working on two books at once is there? Except for the hours in the day!

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      • It is nice to meet a fellow writer. I am a fairly new writer though, having started my first nonfictional book in May of 2013. Although I got a great discount for publishing two books at one time, I can’t help feel that I lost touch with why I’m writing int he first place. Writing should be for enjoyment. I started another book while writing my first one (nonfiction) in late summer of 2013. If one is really creative and greatly experienced, it helps. The reviewing and proofreading (corrections/revisions) the manuscripts are very time-consuming. I spent every waking moment and late nights (up to 2:00 to 3:00 a.m.) researching for my books. It is not an experience tackled easily. Just giving a friendly word of advice. The decision is yours but the frustration of writing two books together is not worth it I believe.

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        • I know it may be a hard process to work on two different books at one time, but I don’t feel I can give ‘What Line” the attention it deserves right now. My thoughts are on other subjects I’d like to write about. I feel if I wait until I can focus better on that project it will be a better book. This feeling may last a month – it may last a year – however, ‘What Line’ will be finished one day! 😉 ~Elle

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  10. This is indeed amazing story! I wish I could read more about your Alaskan childhood.

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  11. Oh wow, what an amazing story. Looking forward to reading more of your blog.

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  12. Yes, I am awaiting that book. Those memories are etched in my brain too. It does make me cry to read this. Those were glorious, but also hard times… Let us not complain about our lives today! What luxuries we all enjoy!
    Please don’t forget about poor little Friskie’s little broken neck…my fault…I thought he would love to fly free… And our pet duck Thanksgiving Dinner… Chip was so kind to give up Honker for us… As I remember, Licker is the one who enjoyed that…
    Anyway….I shall not ruin the story…you little poison ivy girl! Get started!
    Debbie

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Let’s not think about that poison ivy! I am relying on all of us to come forth with memories to make this happen. Start making some notes and I’m serious!
      I want to start this project immediately but have an un-finished book in process!

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  13. Thank you for visit and “Liking” my blog today at Needle on Sea Bottom. Hey look it’s there on your side bar! 🙂

    Interesting read here. I moved from London, England to the West Kootenays in British Columbia almost 40 years ago. We lived out of town, though nothing like your childhood experience. Had to look it up, http://www.homeralaska.org/ If it’s anything like interior B.C. it’s likely changed? I would say for the worse, but that’s a matter of opinion I guess? Still when my Ex. and I owned our rural property – a hobby farm we enjoyed all those small and not so small creatures too.

    Thanks once more for your like and follow … Cheers Jamie.

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  14. I’m fascinated already! What a brilliant idea, so many of us just store our memories in our mind or through photographs and the occasional exchange with others but to have it all documented would be absolutely wonderful for future generations. Good luck in telling the story.

    Liked by 1 person

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  15. Hello there 🙂
    There are only 2 pictures, and each one is separate. So it is not part of gallery

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