Neighbors came to the rescue when fire destroyed our home

Dad planted corn with the mules, and none of the hired men was a smoker. No one else had been on any part of the farm.

Jim and I had been at school from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., and Mom drove her Ford T to Columbia to get us from University Elementary at 4 o’clock - as usual.

She and Dad went over and over the events. The facts were that our home burned to the ground in the short time it took Mom to drive to Sixth and Conley streets in Columbia to get Jim and me. She made a quick stop at a seamstress’ workshop - to pick up the hem-stitched sash for the Easter dress she made for me. There had been no smokers, no fire in the home that day.

Now there was no home, no Easter dress - just the hem-stitched sash in the car.

The hired men milked and fed the cows for their exhausted boss, and neighbors sent supper and the invitation for us four to come for the night - and they’d chosen clothes for us for the next day. Jim and another boy had played with varnish stain and ruined the only shirt not burned in the fire.

Mrs. Crouch and her girls laid out gowns for us Meyers. By morning, a large Army tent had been offered, a plan was made about borrowing money at the Columbia Savings Bank and other money from Mr. Furtney.

The dairy customers were calling to neighbors, offering help to Mom and Dad in this great time of need. A few neighbors and friends had been through burnouts and survived.

Edna Pace brought me her very best doll - to keep. Mrs. Pace was inviting friends and neighbors to her home, to share food from their own cellars. Soon a shower date was set to help replace household items: kitchen tools, utensils, canned fruit and the like, sewing supplies - wonderful gifts, but no place to keep them.

Dad and other men began to evaluate the six big maple trees in the yard. Two were chosen to be safe for tent poles, and one of those was trimmed flat for the dairy telephone. The phone company lost no time in helping get Mom and the customers in contact again.

The six big maple trees looked like money to Mom and Dad, who had to be in contact with the milk customers, most of whom were relaying offers to help.

Friends and strangers came, and the hired men’s work went on: milk the cows, strain the milk as always, cool it in metal cans in the cistern, be ready to deliver milk to customers in the morning in time for their breakfasts.

These chores took place far from where stanchions held the milk cows’ feed. Their feed was Dad’s special mixture - different mixtures for high producing animals and those already dry or soon to be put out in the woods pasture to await their fall calves.

The fire happened in May. Summer school students came in June, and the cows were bred to be fresh and in full milk flow by the time most of the MU students were settled in their boarding houses; most of those were owned and operated by single women - widows mostly.

Suddenly Mom came in, yelling, "I know what started that fire!"

Click here to return to the index
Copyright © 1994-2010 Sue Gerard. All Rights Reserved. No text or images on this website may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author, except small quotations to be used in reviews.