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Hear That Whistle Blow XV – Katie Living on the Farm

Jackie tells of the many adventures and emotions of a little girl growing up in a large family in the fifties.

Life gets very serious for Katie. Her two baby brothers become seriously ill at the same time. Both are in the hospital at once and the face of her mother tells a different story than her words.


Getting Started

Katie and her little brother had started school in the fall and made it through the winter. It had been fun walking through the falling leaves. It was hard to hurry on such beautiful mornings. Squirrels were everywhere, after acorns and so entertaining to watch. Unless there was rain this was a daily occurrence.

Winter started out being fun. First, the snow flurries were nothing but fun. They would almost fall trying to catch them with their tongues. Even the light snow was fun to kick and try to slide on. But after Christmas and New Years the weather got very serious.

Even hurrying because of the cold Katie and her brother would sometimes miss the bus and this would mean walking on to school which was made even harder by the snow banked by the snow plows. They could walk in the road some. Once they heard a car they must step into the deep snow. It was hard and would cut right through to their ankles. They would freeze long after they got to school and then their ankles would burn from the chaffing.


Teacher's Helper

Going to the new school was very strange to Katie after being in such a big school. This one was just one large room with four classes. Katie’s parents did not like it at all in this day and age. How could one teacher teach four classes at once? She did have each class turned toward their own wall, but still. They liked the teacher and she reassured them she could do it and had done.

As it turned out she did indeed and any problem that did turn up she quickly solved. She kept the children involved and it really was so much fun. Katie along with others got to help her making out copies to be colored and pinning leaves or photos around the walls for holidays. It was almost as much fun as doing things for her mother.

She did not have the responsibility of her brother except to get to school and home again. He had his own friends to play with lunchtime and recesses.

Katie did get to see her ballerina friend at her grandparent's house next to the school. They were Spanish and had the accent still which was very unusual. Especially to Katie, who had never heard another language or accent. They were very nice to Katie and she liked them very much.


Summer Magic

Summer came again and all the bitter cold was forgotten. Everything was budding or in bloom. Katie was growing and so were her adventures. There were so many places to go and so many things to do. Still, she only had to spend a part of the day with her three younger brothers outside near the house. The baby was too young and she never had to care for him.

There was the road that came to the farm and then another road never used that kept going. Katie had only this summer started to explore it. It had been used many years ago and eventually came out on a main highway miles down from her old school. It was not in good shape so no cars would ever be on it and she was free to be on it all she wanted without fear.

Trees she climbed here showed all new horizons. It was like a new world so full of new unimaginable beauty. There was even a railroad track with a train in the far distance. It reminded her of the train at the river she had not seen now in about two years. She did not miss it anymore but she knew she could never forget it.

This summer was so full of new and wonderful adventures. There were never ending places to go and animals to run upon. Katie would sometimes stay frozen until it hurt watching a herd of deer crazing or playing in a field. Once she was spotted they were gone in a flash!


Winter Brings Sickness

Here Christmas was right around the corner and the new baby was sick. When he was born he was jaundiced and had to have a blood transfusion but he had been doing well since then. Katie's mother watched over him so well and no one sick could ever get near him. She still slept with him most nights until Katie's dad got home in the early morning hours.

He just was getting worse and so they took him to the doctor. When they came home the baby was not with them. All the brothers cried and Katie almost did. But she knew her mother's face and the baby was not dead she knew. Her mother looked worried but she had not been crying.

The baby though was in the hospital with pneumonia. Her mother would cook up food to do awhile and Katie and her older brother would have to look after things for a while. Her mother would go back to the hospital when her dad went to work. He worked at that hospital. When her mother had to come home her dad could look in on him as often as he could. Since her mother did not drive most days that went into mornings she had to spend the same hours at the hospital as Katie's dad.

Katie's brother would have to heat up meals for she was too small and short to do that. He would have to help some with the boys too. She would keep them entertained and minding. Her brother would also have to look after the two younger that did not go to school on days Katie and her little brother had to go.

They could not miss school. She worried because her big brother had never looked after the little ones before. He did lay in the floor and play with them sometimes and that always made them rowdy. She supposed that is what he would have to do all day while she was gone. Not even the biggest baby took naps anymore.

How does one baby and no others in a family of nine (including adults) contract polio?


Another Seriously Sick Baby

One day Katie came home from school and noticed the big baby was not looking quite himself. When she felt him he was very warm and he let her know his throat was sore. She did not know what to do but when she told her older brother he said to hold a cold cloth on his head. He would not eat and their mom and dad would not be home for many hours yet.

Their mom came home when their dad did from work. She would work and cook and go back with him. She slept little at home but slept some and then more in the chair by the baby's bed in the hospital.

Although Katie was keeping a cold cloth on her brother's forehead he still grew hotter and seemed to be hurting all over. By the time her mom and dad got there, he was in bad shape and they took him straight to the hospital.

Everyone was scared but their older brother told his siblings that it was probably just a bad cold and not pneumonia as the new baby had.

He was right, it was not pneumonia but polio. This was a very serious disease that could cripple or kill but Katie knew nothing about the danger until it was all over.

Her mother had two babies in the hospital now seriously ill and she looked very ill herself. When she was home she never cried or talked negatively in front of her children. She said the babies would soon be well. Katie heard sobs from her mother's bedroom although that told a different story. Her mom and dad both were very worried.



Ignorance of Innocence

With her mom trying her best to put on a good face to her children she still fooled none of them. She had lost weight and dark circles were around her eyes continually. Katie's parents gave reports from the doctors that were hopeful. But what she heard when they thought they were speaking low told another story. Even her older brother told her polio was a very serious disease and they suspected the well water. No one was to drink from it ever again so he went to the springs and brought back buckets for them to use. To be extra cautious her mother boiled all water they would be drinking.

After what seemed like such a very long time first the small baby came home and then the second baby. Both were very lucky to be alive. The older baby was even luckier that he was not paralyzed in any way. He was affected slightly in clumsiness, to never be as steady on his feet. He was alive and well, that was all that mattered.

Katie's mother did not look any happier and she made it clear she was not living on this farm past spring. Katie knew this made sense and she wanted no one else in danger from the water. Still, it made her so sad to give up this place that was the joy of her days and very life.

The winter was especially harsh and there were many days off from school in addition to Christmas vacation. Only the four little brothers enjoyed Christmas although everyone did their best to put on a happy face. They had no idea what was going on, Katie knew. Was there ever a time she didn't know what was going on?

She didn't think so.

© 2017 Jackie Lynnley

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