Jack and Lizzie Landon Written by Melba Pratt Anderson of Kimball
Contributor: TreeClimber Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago
The world seemed to have shed its gloomy shroud. The long hard winter had given way to spring. Robins were carrying straw and feathers to build their nests. A single purple lilac bush, dominating a corner of the front yard, hung heavy with clusters of fragrant purple flowers. It was a rare and beautiful day and one that motivated the homebound to get outside and take advantage of the good weather. With sun pouring overhead and a soft spring breeze ruffling tender young leaves, chores that had been set aside because of bad weather now seemed like a series of pleasant undertakings.
Beneath a budding shade tree, Jack Landon straddled a makeshift seat on a grindstone where he sat sharpening his shovel in preparation for spring work. With a steady motion, he rotated the foot-pedal up and down to keep the round flat grindstone spinning. A thin steady stream of water dripped over the stone from a tin can nailed to the tree. The sound of stone grinding against metal ran chills up his spine, but time was already crowding in on him and sharpening tools was a job that had to be done. It was good to be working for himself. He'd learned over the time he'd been farming on his own to support an ever-growing family that he needed to make every day count.
From the corner of his eye, Jack watched his wife Lizzie take wooden clothes pins from between her teeth as she hung square flannel diapers up on the clothesline. It was a perfect day for washing and drying clothes, and one of the first clear sunny days they'd had. On washday they rose at five o'clock to get a hot fire going in the kitchen stove to heat wash water carried in from the well. After the copper boiler was filled, Lizzie measured out a heaping spoon of lye and stirred it in the water. Later, when it was steaming hot, she skimmed off a thick curd of foam that rose to the surface. She poured a pan of homemade soap, sliced and melting in boiling water, into the boiler to finished dissolving it. On a day such as this, Lizzie could wash outdoors. The steaming water had to be dipped out of the boiler into buckets to be transported to the washtub where Lizzie would set the whitest clothes to soak before she scrubbed them on a washboard.
Jack filled the boiler a second time, and again Lizzie treated it with lye to rid it of hard water minerals. After the white things were washed on the washboard, she dropped them along with more soap, into the hot water and let them boil until they were sparkling white. Later, she lifted them out of the boiler with a sawed-off broom handle and carry the steaming load outside to be rinsed in two tubs of cold water tinted with ball bluing to make them blue-white. After each piece was wrung out by hand, she dropped it in a bushel basket then hoisted the load to her hip and carried it to the clothesline, where she hung them up to dry. It took a lot of walking back and forth, a lot of lifting wet clothes, and a lot of elbow grease to scrub them clean.
Jack was aware of all of his wife's movements. Periodically, she brushed stray wisps of hair out of her eyes that had escaped from the tight bun she wore at the crown of her head. When she had finished filling the first line with clothes, she stopped and leaned back squeezing her back at the waist. She tired more easily than usual. She was with child. It seemed that Lizzie was always with child.
Jack couldn't visualize life without Lizzie. She was the center of all that mattered to him and their children. Hers was the first face he saw each morning, the last he saw at night. She was there to smooth out the rough spots; she made sense out of impossible situations. She was his strength—the axis around which he revolved.
He looked once more upon the work before him. He'd been cutting weeds and grass out of the ditch with the shovel so the water could run through it. The dulled edge had had to be resharpened to cut gaps in the ditch bank to release the water so it could run on the dry land between the dikes. After he'd finished sharpening the shovel, he reached for the hoe and later the axe to put an edge on each of them. After the irrigating, there'd be a garden to plant with the hoe and rake, and as always, he'd be needing a sharp axe to cut firewood to heat wash water and to cook the family meals. There was an on-going need for firewood— cut and split—and having a sharp axe made the job easier.
Lizzie went back to her washboard, working her way from dish towels and hand towels to underwear. Then she washed little girl's dresses as well as her own along with the front aprons that seemed so much a part of her. Working through the whitest to the darkest, the wash water clouded as she washed chambray shirts and little boys pants. With an aching back and fingers rubbed raw from scrubbing on the washboard, she emptied the pockets of Jack's bib overalls of wooden matches, a stub of a pencil, and lengths of string, before she threw them into the tub along with the family's brown and black stockings. She consoled herself that at least this was the last batch. It was backbreaking work and each week she wished that some day there might have an easier way.
Jack felt her presence and her fatigue as they moved within close proximity to each other. He thought about their younger days when they took time to express their love for each other, when they talked about things that really mattered—things near and dear to their hearts. Before life got so complicated, he told her often how much she meant to him as she told him. Why did married people with children gradually revert to communicating only in terms of children, chores, and the mood of a changing sky. Talk of muddy tracks after a rain, or much ado about cutting kindling to start a morning fire, and seeing that the woodbox was filled each night. Wind and weather filled much of their conversation as did the color of the crust of the numerous loaves of bread Lizzie took out of the oven. Often they concerned themselves about milk cows and their new-born calves. As Jack ground away putting an edge on his tools, he felt the need to go to Lizzie to offer sympathy and gratitude to her for all the work she did for him and their family. He wanted to her tell her how empty his life would be without her. While he was thinking about it, two little girls-¬one blonde, one redhead—came flying out of the kitchen door. They raced to the orchard where they swung from apples trees with skirts and petticoats flying. Long flour sack bloomers covering their legs. His attention was diverted by their squeals and childish games, and he felt a flush of fatherly pride as he watched them. In spite of all the work and worry, life for him and Lizzie was very full and rewarding.
"Don't you girls git too close to them gooseberry bushes or you'll tear your
dresses," Lizzie warned.
"We won't, Mama," Juanita answered.
"Mama, there's pie plant a-growin' out here. Can you make us a pie out of it?
Please? Can you?" Leoata begged.
Wearily; their mother answered, "One of these days."
Inside a baby cried fretfully. Lizzie grew tense with the sound of it and scrubbed all the faster.
"Mama, the baby won't quit fussin’," Alverda complained, jostling the little one on her hip. A young toddler, clinging to the door frame, teetered on the threshold and whimpered for his mother.
"He's teethin'. I can't stop now or I'll never git done before dinner," Lizzie said to her oldest daughter. "Fix him a bottle of sugar water and try to rock him to sleep. I'll get to later. And take Acel in the house. He's a-goin’ to fall there." Drying her hands on her
apron, Lizzie moved toward the line filled with billowing white diapers. With nimble fingers, she picked off the clothespins, gathered the diapers over her arm, and took them into the house. She needed the empty line to hang up the next batch of clothes.
"I'll be back pretty quick to help empty the wash water," Jack said. "I've got'ta go up 'n' open the head-gate to let the water down to start irrigatin' the hay field."
"All right," Lizzie said wearily. "I should be done starchin' these colored things and have them on the line by then." Lizzie had made boiled starch earlier, which she now poured into a dishpan of water. She sloshed the dresses, shirts and front aprons around in it, wrung them out and carried them to the line. When the overalls were finished, she threw them over the fence and went in the house. Without stopping to rest, she peeled a pan of potatoes and set them on the stove to boil. Breakfast had been early that morning and they were all getting hungry.
Jack picked up a canvas dam, hoisted it his shoulder and headed for the main ditch that carried the irrigation water down through his and the neighborhood farms. Each farm had a given number of shares of water, depending on the size of the farm, and each fanner took a turn irrigating his land before it went on to the next in a regular rotation. Jack stopped a distance short of the head-gate in the canal and threw the canvas dam across the smaller ditch that watered his farm.. A pole nailed to the long edge of it held it in place from one ditch bank to the other. With the canvas down in the ditch, he shoveled a heavy layer of dirt over it to form a dam to hold back the water. Moving on to the big ditch, he pulled up a board in the head gate. The water gushed through the wooden flume into the field ditch. Jack watched it as it bubbled and rolled along toward the canvas dam.
He liked being his own boss—of being the master of all he surveyed. It was a good feeling. They'd been making progress, slow as it seemed, since moving to Kimball. When the water reached the dam, it backed up and filled the ditch. Jack shoveled out two or three gaps in the ditch bank to release the water onto the field. He watched as it spread out over the dry land from dike to dike, and moved on toward the far end of the field. Dikes were plowed about every hundred feet lengthwise of each patch to control irrigation water. After each section was watered, the gaps in the ditch would be dammed off and new ones dug out to allow the next land to be irrigated. With the ditch burned free of dry weeds and grass beforehand and cleared of obstructions with a shovel, the water moved along smoothly. A plugged ditch could cause breakouts and flooding as well as a sorry waste of water. Satisfied with its progress, he stuck the shovel in the ditch bank and went back to the house.
Jack had been the last of the Landon brothers to move to Idaho. They were the sons of Utah pioneers born before the turn of the century in Woodruff, Oneida County, on the Utah side of the Utah-Idaho border. After the others had left, Jack moved his family to Bancroft, Idaho, southeast of Pocatello, where he managed a ranch and worked as a blacksmith. Caribou County was a picturesque part of southeastern Idaho, and was surrounded by low-lying hills with mountains off in the distance. The land was productive and water was plentiful. While living there, Jack and Lizzie's married life took shape. Their family grew and thrived—three daughters, Alverda, Leoata, and Juanita, and two sons, James and Acel, came to blessed their home.
But for Jack there was something missing. Coming from a family that stuck together and helped each other through thick and thin, Jack missed his brothers. Even though he liked working on a large productive ranch, he wondered about having a place of his own as his brothers did. Communication between families didn't reveal a lot about Kimball and the kind of land they owned or what their circumstances were. All Jack knew was that they owned their own farms and worked for themselves. That sounded good to him.
Finally Jack and his family made their move. Kimball didn't quite look like Bancroft, and the gravely soil must have been disappointing, but it was good to be there. The people of Kimball, the Anthonys, the Taylors, the Nielsens, the Jorgensens, the Pratts and the Ingrams and others, greeted them like long lost relatives. There were offerings of food and places to sleep until Jack and Lizzie could get settled. There were cousins grown beyond recognition, and new ones they'd never met for their children to play with. Jack and Lizzie fit right in, taking their place among them at church and in all the things that went on in the close-knit community.
With the help of the family, Jack found a job running a farm located on river-bottom land between the Snake River and one of its channels. It was a distance to the west on the far side of the Yellowstone Highway on an extension of the road brother Frank Landon's blacksmith's shop was on. There was an adequate home on the place and the children had good memories of their time spent there. Transportation being what it was, however, they felt distanced from church and school as well as from the friendly people of Kimball.
With the lack of many things, it was a hard move for the family. It took time to gather the necessities around them to make a living—cows, for both milk and butter, and for cream to sell. They waited for pork and lard until pigs grew big enough to butcher in the late fall. Over the summer, they waited for baby chicks to grow into roosters to eat and hens to lay eggs. It took time to raise a garden for summer vegetables with enough to put away for winter. Wood needed to be gathered for the fire, and any number of processes had to be taken care of before they could be assured of a comfortable living, even though Jack did have a job. After the first year, things began to settle down to a regular routine.
Eventually there was a farm available at the other end of Frank Landon's road. It was on the Kimball road and less than a mile south of the church and school. Although the living conditions were better by the river, they'd be closer to the family and the center of things, and Jack would have his own place to run. They felt they were making progress.
During that time, the First World War was raging in Europe. People were making sacrifices while America was fighting alongside the Allies. Soldier boys returned home, maimed and broken from the battlefield and brought the influenza plague with them. The epidemic was to take the lives of more people in Europe and America than had been killed in the war. And like so many others, Jack and Lizzie came down with the flu along with all of their children except Leoata, their second daughter. It fell to her, a girl of thirteen, to do what she could to help the family, and to milk the cows, feed the animals, and all else she was able to do.
Lizzie was pregnant with a third son when she took to her bed with influenza. Their situation was getting desperate when, finally one of Lizzie's nieces, Mamie Rhode, heard of their plight and came to do what she could to help them. She left her own family with her mother who was Lizzie's sister.
After Lizzie was able to sit up and help some with the others, word came that Mamie's family was fighting the same epidemic. She gathered her clothes together and caught the next train out, but before she reached home, one of her sons had died and was buried, and they were on their way to the cemetery to bury the other son when she arrived. Sadly, the flu epidemic left a trail of sorrow and despair wherever it struck.
The Landon family managed to survive, but the disease had taken its toll. The sickness that laid so many low was the first in a series of misfortunes and tragedies that were to plague the Landon family after they moved to Idaho.
On May 12th Lizzie gave birth to another son they named Lloyd. The flu had left her in a very weakened condition. Consequently, her newborn baby was very weak and developed an asthmatic condition, which he suffered from throughout his life.
With it all, the older children were growing up. They attended school and found new friends, and the family blended with their relatives and neighbors. Life moved along with the usual ups and downs. The house they moved to sat in an apple orchard surrounded by shade trees. Here Lizzie mothered her growing brood while Jack tried to produce a decent crop on soil that soaked up water like a sponge. The results were not like those he'd known in Bancroft.
Maybe Jack was less patient with difficult conditions than his relatives, who had learned over the years to work and sweat for everything they had. Farming rooted them all to the earth. Farming and the produce thereof assured them of survival. Growing feed for animals and food for the table was an on-going responsibility. Their garden and orchard on the new place helped fill a root cellar with vegetables and bottled fruit and vegetables to help see them through the winter as planned. The expected hams and bacon were preserved in salt brine. There were buckets of lard, dried beans, and bins of flour. Milk cows finally produced enough cream to sell each week and life was moving along. But Jack still had hopes of doing better.
Lizzie never regained her full strength and vigor after the flu and the birth of her child. And though she was tired and weak most of the time, her workload only seemed to grow heavier. With a growing family, there were always hungry mouths to feed, clothes to sew and wash, bread to bake, floors and beds to keep up, and fires to keep. With six children to mother, Lizzie's health was in jeopardy.
Jack began looking around for a better way of making a living. He'd always wanted to be a butcher, and finally his chance came. Charlie Allen, the butcher in Firth, approached Jack about becoming his partner. He was ready to make the move. He bought a piece of land below the fledgling town of Firth, which he planned to move a house onto as soon as he was able. In anticipation of owning their own home, they rented house in Firth. They were kept busy going back and forth preparing a place to set the house, with planting a garden and keeping it watered and weeded. Over the summer, Jack planted his crops between shifts at the butcher shop. When the anticipated house was moved onto the place, there'd be another move to come to terms with, but the future began to look promising.
With a toddler still learning to take his first steps and another too young to go to school, Lizzie found she was "expecting" once more. Big families were to be expected, and women often gave birth up until their mid forties. Babies didn't wait until the time was right, they came at regular intervals. Lizzie carried on making the best of what they had. It meant a lot to her that her that her husband was happy and was looking forward to being a full-time butcher.
Soon after Jack did become a butcher, he lost a finger in a meat grinder. Business fell off with the news of it, although Jack brought the finger home intact and preserved it in a bottle.
In late April, before the house was moved onto their own land, and three months before her baby was due, Lizzie knew things were not right with her. The busy life they'd led, trying to get settled in Southeastern Idaho, along with the birthing of babies with no rest in between, complicated by her deathly bout with influenza, all took their toll. The doctor told Lizzie she had to rest more. She was showing symptoms of kidney trouble.
As her condition worsened, she was taken to the L.D.S. hospital in Idaho Falls, where she stayed for three months until Emmil Clifford was born on May 1, 1920. Lizzie's kidney predicament progressed to a full-blown case of Blight's disease, not uncommon to birthing mothers. At that time, little was known about kidney trouble except that it was very serious, and that there was little they could do to cure it. Lizzie never recovered from her illness. On August 4, 1920, she passed away, leaving a broken hearted husband and seven motherless children.
After Lizzie's death, Jack's sister, Annie Poulter, of Idaho Falls took Emmil Clifford home and took care of him until other arrangements could be made in the possible distant future.
Lizzie had a sister named Delilah who lived in Logan, Utah. She had lost her only son as a small boy from eating lye (caustic), which destroyed his throat. Soon afterwards her husband died and she was left a widow. She was as stunned with her great loss as Jack was with his. When she came to her sister's funeral, Jack pleaded with her to come and live with them and help him raise his children. They could help each other, he told her. Still broken with grief, she felt incapable effacing a task of such proportion and went back to Utah.
Jack threw himself across the bed and cried out in despair: "I can't live without Lizzie. My funeral will be the next."
All of Kimball and the Landon family were shocked and grieved at Lizzie's passing. Being separated by six miles or more, it was difficult for the relatives and former neighbors to be on hand as often as they were needed to look after the needs of the bereaved family.
The burden of caring for all of them fell mostly to Alverda, the oldest daughter, who was fifteen years old. Leaota and Juanita did all they could to help, but sadly, they were all bewildered by the heartbreaking loss of their mother.
Somehow life went on. Jack planted his crops and continued to work at the butcher shop. The children went back to school in the fall, while Alverda was left to take on the adult burden of cooking, tending the house, and doing the washing for the family.
In the fall after the crops were harvested, Jack stepped on a rusty nail. The doctor, knowing the seriousness of the situation, cleaned the puncture with turpentine, and later he bandaged it with iodine, but the wound was deep and infection set in. Soon a small red line inched it way up Jack's leg toward his groin. He soaked his foot in hot Epsom salts water and in carbolic acid water. The wound continued to fester and refused to heal. He packed it with bread and milk poultices, soap and sugar poultices, and ground flax seed poultices to draw out the poison, but the red line persisted telling its worrisome tale. Blood poisoning had set in, and in all probability, it would be fatal. There were no known cures for blood poisoning. Jack was a sick man.
Why had everything gone so wrong? He felt overwhelmed at being an only parent of such a large family. He wasn't able to go to work. He'd moved away from the relatives and friends who would have gladly shared their burden. Firth was primarily a Protestant town and he wasn't acquainted with many Mormons. He felt cut off from most of his resources. He was saddened that such a heavy burden lay upon his older children.
Finally, one blustery wintry day there was a knock on the door, and the knob turned. In walked Bishop Taylor and Tony Jorgensen from Kimball. They shook hands and slapped each other's backs again and again, and after an exchange of greetings, they visited with the motherless children and wiped away the tears.
"Brother Jack," the bishop said, "we have come to administer to you. We need to invoke the help of the Lord to make you well again." Jack felt a deep gratitude at having old friends come to share his sorrow.
They seated him on a chair between them and reverently poured a few drops of oil
upon his head. They lay their hands upon his head and Bishop Taylor intoned the words:
"John Porter Landon, by the power invested in me by the holy Melchizedec Priesthood
which I bear, I anoint your head with this oil which has been consecrated and dedicated to
the healing of the sick…."
Miraculously, Jack Landon's life was spared and he was able to go back to work.
That spring Juanita faced a bleak birthday with no mother to make her a cake or give her a party. Unbeknown to Alverda or Leaota, Juanita invited two teachers and all the school kids to her house for a party. They all came trooping in after school. Alverda was washing clothes. This, to her, was definitely not a good time to have a party She fumed over her wash water. All the same, the kids went ahead and played Steal Sticks and Annie-I-Over and had a wonderful time. Juanita's father went along with the fun and bought a big sack of peanuts as a treat for all of them, and they had a memorably good time. It didn't take a lot to entertain country kids and make them happy. The teachers each brought Juanita a length of gingham for her birthday, enough to make two new dresses. It was the first birthday party she'd ever had and one she would never forget.
Jack was miserable without Lizzie. The light had gone out of his life. It was as if the earth were teetering under his feet. Nothing was the same or ever would be again. He missed her sleeping next to him. He missed seeing her working around the kitchen. He missed her and was at a loss when the children cried or were sick. It was hard to leave them when he had to go to work. He missed the feel of her—the sight of her. He missed hearing her voice and the sound of her laughter. Lizzie—Lizzie!
In the fall, fifteen months after her death, Jack contacted typhoid fever and was a very sick man. On Thanksgiving Day, as the family gathered around the dinner table to eat a dinner the relatives had helped to prepare, Jack slipped away (November 29, 1921). That night both Alverda and Lloyd, the next to the youngest son, were also strickened with typhoid. After their father's death, they were taken to the Idaho Falls hospital where they stayed for three months until they recovered.
Jack's oldest brother, Frank (the blacksmith), was appointed executor of the estate. Following Jack's funeral, while the relatives were still all together, it fell to Frank to make arrangements to have the children taken care of. He had to match each of them with a relative or friend willing to take care of them, which they did, then and there.
Leoata went to live with George and Almira Merrill of Idaho Falls, who had been friends of Jack and Lizzie's. Juanita was sent to Logan to live with Delilah, (Aunt Lile). James, the oldest son, went to Deer Lodge, Montana, to live with Jack's brother, Charles. Acel joined the family of his Uncle Jim and Aunt Mandy Landon and their seven children in their little log house. After a short time he was sent to live with his mother's sister, Annie Fredricks, of Richmond, Utah.
When Lloyd was released from the hospital, he was adopted by a happy couple named Del and Zelda Jones of Idaho Falls. Jack's sister, Annie, of Idaho Falls, continued to take car of baby Emmil. Alverda had always been a friendly and popular girl, and was well liked by the people of Kimball. She had been keeping company with one of Kimball's favorite sons, Daniel Nielsen. When she was released from the hospital, she stayed with his family until she and Daniel were older. On March 2nd in 1923 they were married, and she brought her youngest brother home to stay with them until they moved to Long Beach, California, in the fall of 1924. In the meantime, Leoata had married Al Smith of Blackfoot, and when Alverda and Dan moved away, they took Emmil to live with them. Eventually, Al and Leoata were divorced and Emmil was uprooted again. He went to stay temporarily, with Aunt Delilah and Juanita in Logan, Utah, until Alverda and Dan could make arrangements for him to live with them again. When he was twelve years old, Leoata married the kindly Noel Dockery, and Emmil lived with them until he was grown. Although his sisters all loved him, he'd lived a very disrupted life. In 1941, he joined the Navy at the beginning of World War II.
Those were difficult years for all of them, and for some, they didn't get a lot better. Few families had homes big enough nor the means to support their own, as they would have liked, let alone taking another child to raise. And even though Jack and Lizzie's children lived with families, they still felt detached from one another and suffered the pangs of being orphans without the close-knit support of a father and mother to stand up for them during the bad times.
Kimball and the people who lived there went on with their lives, saddened and ever-mindful of the loss of Jack and Lizzie. They grieved for the children who would be so widely scattered they would possibly grow up strangers to each other. Their faith was shaken as they wept for their orphaned cousins, nieces, and nephews. Why, with all the hardships and trials they had all endured since they homesteaded that sparsely settled part of Idaho to make Kimball what it was, had Jack and Lizzie been the ones who suffered the most?
Only time could ease their loss, but they never forgot a family whose lives had taken such an unhappy turn. Through it, they all learned that life and love and happiness are fragile blessings that can never be taken for granted. With the memory of that loss, they looked to each other for comfort, support—even their own survival.
Jack and Lizzie's children were separated over the years by the miles and by lack of communication—some growing up like strangers to each other. Ironically, after all of their individual struggles toward becoming grown men and women, it was the war that brought them together.
In the fall of 1941, Lloyd and his adopted family moved to Long Beach to find work. He found Alverda's number in the phone book and called her. James, who rebelled at the heavy hand of an uncle who made his life miserable, became a run-away boy at fourteen, "riding the rods" of freight trains during the Great Depression and his teenage years. He was home from the Army on a weekend pass. Emmil was also in Long Beach, where he was to report for duty to the Navy the following Monday, and joined the others. Acel had eventually moved to Long Beach to live with Juanita and her husband Dean Cash. They moved there from San Francisco where Dean had been a conductor on a trolley car. Meat was rationed, among other thing^, because of the war. Happily, with putting their ration stamps together, the family was able to buy a big roast. After twenty years, Jack and Lizzie's children celebrated a belated Sunday dinner together with all the brothers and sisters trying to catch up on everything that had happened to each of them over the years. There were nine grandchildren among them. A photographer was called to take a picture of the happy reunion. Strangers no more—the family had found each other and from that time on, they would keep in touch.