I have spoken often of how much of my youthful happiness is owed to my wonderful departed sister, Nonie. She was one in a million. She a teacher, mother, and sister to us, especially to my younger brother, Wayne, and I.
On one of the events that still hold a vital place in my memories, is the time when my sister bridled the big old work horse that we owned, and we road out for lunch. Nonie was famous for her lunches, not sandwitches, potato chips, or any of the familiar things that perhaps you may have in mind for a lunch today. We had none of those things. The things that she packed were a small amount of flour, some salt (though it was costly), an egg or two, a portion of lard, and some matches. This was our extent of lunch packing.
But I want you to know, and I refuse to tell more than exact facts, that little girl could prepare a most delicious meal, and tastey, too.
My younger brother and I always carried a little fish line wrapped on the tip of a discarded shoe sole and a supply of hooks, so that in case we were ever stranded some where in the wilds, we could at least catch a fish or two to keep us from starving.
Well, getting back to the trip on poor old Jim horse, when I used to sit on his back my little legs stuck almost strait out to the sides. We used to get on his big old back and go for miles, my sister, Nonie, in front, me in the middle, and my younger brother, Wayne, on the tail end.
We traveled for several miles along the old Peshtigo River, where it wound its way across the sand plains and wooded areas, some so desolate that few men had ever seen it. Nonie located a spot that suited her fancy. She stopped the big horse, and staked him to a small tree. The poor old horse busied himself at scrounging on the short grass that was in his reach. We couldn’t turn him loose, as we knew darn well that he would be the first to leave the spot. Then it would be our problem to get home on our own two feet, better known then as “Shanks Horse”.
Nonie then proceeded to build a fire and prepare our meal. Us kids, as I recall, were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, always hungry, always ready to eat, always ready for what ever our dear sister wanted us to do. So it was no more than right that we should get the wood for the fire.
We quickly gathered enough wood to do the trick, with Jack pine knots galore, it took hardly no time at all till we had more than the efficient amount desired. Then it was off to the river, which we could see from where we stood at the fire place. Our dear sister advised us not to be gone too long, so we agreed, and with this arrangement, away we went to the river to see what kind of luck we may have at getting fish for the lunch.
On the way to the river I cut us each a fine little sapling for a fish pole. This was indeed super, as the first toss of the line brought my brother a lovely big, fat speckled trout, and he pulled it in with the hands of an expert. When we returned to the fire place, our sister was so happy to find that we had had such good luck.
My sister was a great one to go on long jaunts, taking a little flour and stuff to make a lunch. We would travel way off some place and build a fire and cook stuff, and the funny part of it was, with so little, everything tasted delicious.
One time we took an old boat that was tied up on the bank of the river, and paddled up river to a little island where we camped. With this raft, we used a pole to navigate the thing, most generally we let the current in the river take us the way it went, but if we went very far down river, then we would have to tie it up, and walk back and leave the raft for stronger people to return it to it’s proper place.
We built a fire and she cooked a meal for us. This all took time, and she could very well of been doing other things for herself, but it seemed that us kids’ happiness came first with her. In honor of the meal she made for us, we named this spot Pancake Island from that time on.
I recall plainly how my young brother danced around the fire pit on Pancake Island like a young Comanche Indian, yelling to the top of his voice, trying to imitate the Indians that we had known up on the reservation.
My sister soon quieted him do down with a notice that the wood supply had diminished, and that more pine knots would soon have to be supplied, other wise NO LUNCH. Well, you may well be assured that it didn’t take long for us two to gather up more than was necessary for the balance of the meal, including the cooking of the trout.
Now, let me inform you truthfully, and to the best of my recollections, my dear mother was an expert at cooking, and the little old gal I married is also a fine cook, and is actually to my knowledge unsurpassed in the act. But the meal that our dear sister prepared for us kids, that day, will forever be remembered, as it was as far as I can recall the most elegant, perfect seasoned, highly relished, and and actually best tasting meal I ever had the pleasure of partaking of.
On another of these events, my dear sister was cleaning some fine trout that my younger brother Wayne and I had managed to catch. As she was using a pearl handeled jack knife that belonged to an older brother, she went to toss the guts of the trout over in the river, but instead, she tossed the knife, and kept the guts in her hand.
Needless to say, this was quite a revolting act, and we three felt very badly over this. I’m sure it would mean nothing today, but in those days, it meant very much as this knife was prized very dearly by the owner. The knife was never again seen, but the memory of its loss was long remembered by our older brother. He took pains to remind her of the act often.
The neighbor kids were so jealous of our life that they tried to make out as though they didn’t even notice it. We didn’t care too much about that, as we were having too much enjoyment just living.
Most Recent Articles by Robert F. Knapp (1913-1994)
- Poem: Evenin' by Robert Knapp
- Poem: The Little Kids (Robert and Wayne Knapp)
- Knapp Family: Our Introduction to the West in 1930
- Poem: The Good and the Bad by Robert Knapp
- The 1967 Trip Back to Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin