Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A November Drive


My father and I enjoy going on drives.  Sometimes, we go to familiar places and other times, we try a new direction.  I've had people look at me in puzzlement when I talk about our latest adventure.  It is something that I enjoy and probably take a bit for granted.  It is an easy ride in a car especially with the heater running, comfortable seats, and protected from the wind.  I've often thought about the drive my great grandmother made in a wagon back in 1910 traveling to her new home.

Wedding Picture - December 1908
My great grandparents decided to leave Tennessee upon the encouragement of my great grandfather’s brother, Albert.  There was no land to be had for an inexpensive price in Tennessee and no opportunity for a young couple to start a new life.  So, Pop (David Carl ) Friddle traveled west and found a job working for the railroad and set up a homestead.  Mom (Sophia) Friddle followed a few months later.  It must have been frightening for that 16 year old girl to leave everyone she knew and loved behind and travel clear across the country to a place that was foreign with small child to care for.  Mom Friddle boarded a train probably near Mountain City, TN – possibly Damascus or Abingdon, VA and began her long journey.

I doubt she had much in the way of luggage – only her clothes and that of her son, Jack.  He was only a year old and Mom Friddle was 16.  The train ride took several days while I’m sure she slept in the seat and kept her young son in line.  She arrived in Enterprise, OR on a cold November day.  Mom Friddle still had a two day wagon ride to get to Troy, OR which was where her husband was to meet her.  She stayed at a boarding house that first night, before she began the next part of her trip.  The lady who ran the boarding house must have thought that this girl was ill prepared for the trip.  I’m sure Mom Friddle didn't have a warm coat that was meant for the weather out west, just what she was used to in her Tennessee Mountains.  The woman gave Mom Friddle a coat and heated up rocks to keep around her and her baby’s body as they began their journey to Troy, OR. 

I don’t know all the specifics as the story was related in a letter written by my grandmother telling the story to a relative.  However, Dad and I've made that trip from Enterprise, OR to Troy, OR in a nice warm car on a nice paved road – I’m sure there was nothing nice about that particular trip.  The trip is about 50 miles, so Mom Friddle would have probably traveled about 25 miles each day probably in near freezing temperatures.   She must have been incredibly weary and cold by the time she reached Troy, OR and finally met up with Pop Friddle.  The only relief that she must have felt was that he could take over the driving, because they still had at least another 10 to 15 miles to reach the homestead.  The trip from Troy, OR to Grouse Flats today is a bit of a bear.  It is an extremely steep and winding road that even in a car takes about 10 minutes to go from the bottom to the top.  By that time, it was a matter of reaching their destination on what I’m sure was a bumpy road that probably had already had seen some snow.  When they reached their new home, I’m not sure if Mom Friddle was happy or frightened. 

It was a very simple house that probably wasn't more than a shack.  It probably only had a single room and when the wind blew, the house rattled with it.  It was built a few miles from the nearest water.  Since, Pop Friddle was away during the weekdays working for the railroad, Mom Friddle and Jack would have to walk to get their water every day.  Their nearest neighbor was Pop Friddle’s brother, Albert, who ended up being a mentor to Mom Friddle.  My grandmother used to tell us about Mom Friddle being alone in that shack in the mountains during the winter with the cougars screaming and all other sorts of wildlife right outside the door.  I can’t imagine how isolated she must have felt.  Perhaps Pop Friddle was home often during these first few months, but the experience for that 16 year old girl must have been overwhelming.  She didn’t know how to cook much, make soap or any of the other housewifely skills needed.  Mom Friddle had lived her short life, spoiled by an adoring step grandmother who had taken care of her almost since birth.  Here she was – a young mother and wife who had to learn how to survive because there was no other choice. 
Pop Friddle teaching Mom Friddle how to shoot in the spring of 1911.
When I think of the long wagon ride back on the November day in 1910 – I think about that girl who had no knowledge of the life that was before her.  I wonder at how frightened she might have been, but I suspect that under that fear was the determination and steel of the impressive woman that she became.  When I knew her, she was an old woman with a constant tic probably from Parkinson’s disease.  She had a crutch because of a broken hip….but oh the stories that she could tell.  I wish I had known enough to ask her the details about that long ago trip from Tennessee to Oregon.