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Actually there would have been no Alaska without Daddy either because it was his wild idea to homestead in the first place. I doubt Mother would have dreamed that excursion up all on her own. Mother’s the one who put the words down on paper and she was usually the one who told us the stories even though we all had great memories of our own.

Finishing this Alaska book really matters to me. Some days I accomplish more than I set out to. Other days I feel as though I’m backtracking. I’ve even let it rest for weeks at a time because I was so busy there was no time to sit down and write.

I’ve never gone a day without thinking about it since I started the project. This especially happens if I’ve worked diligently on it during the day and then the letters invade my sleep. Maybe because I counted letters instead of sheep?

I was certain my mother had already finished most of the work for me by writing the letters that were saved by my aunt, keeping a journal on the trip, and beginning the writing at one time. All that was left for me to do was to fill in the blanks.

It didn’t work out quite as I had expected though. I had typed the letters up years ago while my mother was still with us so I was thankful she was there to answer some of my questions. We always said she wrote like a doctor, scribbling words out in longhand and using abbreviations and codes we weren’t always sure of.

Funny story. When we were in school, back in the time you had to have a note if absent or tardy, she hurriedly wrote one out for whichever child needed it. This was usually as we were backing out of the driveway or stopped at a stop sign. She always signed her name to these notes as Helen Knowles, RN. It was almost as if we were getting our own special doctor’s excuse. I think the school got used to that after all those years. Most of the time she had just gotten home from working night duty and had not clicked back into the Mother role. Being a nurse was just an extension of herself.

Her nursing degree came in handy many times while traveling to Alaska and while we lived on the homestead. Out of four kids, I was the one who came down with poison ivy and poison oak when we ALL romped through the roadside picking the pretty flowers, while stopped for lunch one day. (It was probably Ritz crackers and potted meat. For some reason that’s all I remember eating on that trip.) She knew just what to do to make me feel better. The first was to cut my long hair short which probably made us both feel better because I hated having the tangles brushed from my hair as much as she hated doing it. Then she lathered me with Calamine Lotion which was about all you could buy over the counter then. I don’t remember the itch. I only remember the smell, but it worked.

While on the homestead, Chip pulled a pan of hot bacon grease off the stove on himself. She doctored him up with Phisohex  and gauze and he was as good as new except for the scar he still carries on his side from the accident. I’m sure it wasn’t all that simple and there were probably many tears from Chip as well as from Mother, but they survived and she had the know-how to make that happen.

She doctored our cuts,  scrapes, and bruises as long as she was living and we even called her years down the road for advice when our children were sick. Dr. Granny we used to jokingly call her.

In one of her letters to Aunt Letaine she wrote, “We’ve decided, tell Rigsby, to start going around with a shoestring and pair of scissors, but I doubt that Vernon would ever be able to deliver this baby if he had to.”

I think she could have delivered her though!

And BTW – Happy Birthday to Tish-Tosh! She was born – I won’t say how many years ago – on this day, in Homer Alaska. (In the hospital)  😉




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.

27 responses »

  1. Pingback: Alaska Tugs At My Soul | saneteachers

  2. Oops! It isn’t a reblog, it’s a link to your blog, your post and I tagged you. Tag…you’re it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been frequently reminded lately of Alaska and my roots there. I was born in Anchorage (in a hospital, lol) and at every turn I encounter people, stories and references about Alaska. I’ve wanted to return, and now feel compelled to return. Our name, our state….

    Liked by 1 person

    • We were there for only five years homesteading in Homer and I was very young, but the memories are vivid. More so as I work on this book from my mothers letters – the one she should have written years ago. Check out my author FB page – Elle Knowles – to keep up with more on Alaska. I tend to post more about the book on there, though the last few weeks have been insanely busy and I’ve slacked a little. There is a link on my blog sidebar also. So glad to know we have a name connection and a state connection now! You will have to tell me more about Alaska. How long were you there? ~Elle

      Liked by 1 person

  4. She must have been quite a woman, and beautiful as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I sure miss her! Thank you for the birthday wishes. You should publish the only letter Daddy wrote announcing my birth. : )

    Liked by 1 person

  6. OMG…LOOK AT THAT PHOTO…I think paying homage to your mother in this way is truly awesome. I didn’t have a very happy relationship with mine, though I use her often as silly material…so I’m envious at this love and admiration you hold for yours. I know the end of this labor of love will be in a way, your life’s work. Am looking forward to the completion of Alaska.

    Liked by 1 person


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