Memories of my Youth #7
by Hendrik Smid
At the end of the sixth grade I was deemed to have sufficient education. Father said that I had now two or three times the schooling he’d received and besides he couldn’t afford to have me go to school anymore. I dearly had wanted to go to high school, but it was out of the question, father needed me.
He landed a contract of transporting milk from the farmers to the dairy. That was done by boat. He got fl. 8.50 per week during the winter and fl. 10.50 in the summer, when there was more milk. He needed me to help him, which I didn’t mind, except, we had to work on Sundays as well.
I belonged to a bible study club that held that only the most essential work was allowed on the Sabbath, and then came to mind such things as nursing the sick, feeding animals and milking cows. Hauling milk didn’t fit that category at all.
I too felt that way but father had his obligation to honor the contract he had, was any of the church fathers providing him with money to feed a family with now nine children?
I helped make farmland out of the heather fields by removing the heather, pulling it, roots and all, by hand out of the ground. Then turn the bare ground over by shovel. It was dreary and tiresome but also very hard work. We did our own fourteen acres and after that many more for neighbors. This we did mainly in the winter and early spring. If there was frost in the ground we might thresh rye or oats or make fire wood out of tree roots. We worked for for other farmers in the summer as well.
Once a year there was a feast evening. It was organized by the young men’s bible study society combined with the young women’s society, and attended by the entire congregation. It was the most glorious part of our life. Sketches were done, a play was staged, poems were recited, it was an evening were all young people looked forward to with anticipation. The best thing of all, the young men [fifteen and over] were allowed to bring a girl home afterwards.
On my first date I was tongue-tight
But I was young then, fifteen, I think.
The biggest shock I received when I was sixteen, was the news that one of my friends had died. Hendrik Wolter Heida, the one I faithful visited when he had a broken arm. I knew he was very sick and prayed for him. In a dream that night I got a message - Hendrik passed away.
The following morning I heard the church bells of Donkerbroek toll and then I knew. My brother, coming from town, confirmed it. I was depressed and scared. Why was that message given to me? My faith of being indestructible was shaken to the core. I cried and cried and didn’t want to be consoled. I remembered my eighty-year-old grandmother once saying,
“O, if only I would have died instead of him.” I had a similar feeling. My brother Sipke was invited to the funeral because he had worked for the family, I was not.
Much later I visited the cemetery by myself, but could not find his grave. It did not matter then anymore. His last words were, “I’m going to Jesus.” His last words imprinted me deeply. Long after they comforted me. Hendrik was with Jesus and I was going there too. From there of on I knew my life was in God’s Hands.
We lived in the most beautiful place imaginable wherein a lot of small wildlife had their home, rabbits, hares, ducks, geese, the plovers, the grutto’s, and in the evening we often heard the melancholic cry of the cuckoo. Sometimes we spotted a deer.
Roads were nothing but narrow sand paths twisting through the beautiful wilderness of unending heather, seemingly going to nowhere.
My older brothers had walked to Donkerbroek. On the way back they got lost in the dark. It got to be very late and the whole family was worried.
Father lit a lantern and started to search.
Mother went up stairs and started to pray.
The brothers got scared when they realized they were lost, and then they saw a light in the distance, they set out for the light and eventual met up with father. Everybody was happy.
It made me think of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son except here were two lost sons.
Our family more or less stayed together until 1921, but the little farm could not sustain all of us and one after the other left, and things were never the same again.
Sipke and Jan were hired out to farmers in Wolvega, Anne wound up in Donkerbroek and I went to a farmer in Bakkeveen, by the name of Herro van der Veen. Their son Albert managed the farm, but after a few years he married a young widow who had been his sweetheart one time. We had a good time together but now I had to move on since he followed the young widow and I was not old enough to manage the farm by myself.
I watched the ads in the paper and found one that came from Tynje. I biked to Tynje and found Sjoerd Mulder, the farmer. I noticed quite quickly that they were stingy. They were not prepared to give what I wanted, so I told them, “then we are not a match,” and went back home. Father, who didn’t want me home, said that he could probably make a deal with them and by himself biked to the Mulders and succeeded.
I said goodbye to my friends in Bakkeveen and Haulerwijk, knowing I would probably never return. I stayed two years there, and with pleasure. I learned how to milk and to cut grass, which helped me a lot later in life. In wintertime the work was slow. Every day I cleaned the cows whit scraper and brush, while the farmer spend most of his time in the house with his young wife.
After two years I left for Boven Knijpe to a family with a lot of children. I made three-hundred and fifteen guldens a year, which was not the greatest, even in those times.
Then I hired myself out to Bate Aukema. His wife’s name was Minke. It was there that I had an accident. I was on my way with a heifer to a steer to have her bred. I slipped and fell. The heifer jumped on my shoulder resulting in an arm - shoulder separation. A few farmers tried to fix it. They did hurt me but didn’t heal me. Finally I was taken to the hospital in Heerenveen.
It took quite a while before I could use my arm again.
Since I still couldn’t do much with the injured arm the good relationship we had soured a little. I left, and as things have a way of going sometimes, a relationship I had with a young woman there deteriorated as well, and we broke up.
In 1928 I left the Aukema’s, who were childless for Wolvega. This farmer had ten children, seven girls and three boys. It was a lively household and I had a great time. We sang a lot around the organ, which I really enjoyed. This farmer was a little too tight though, and after one year I went to his brother in law in Oosterhaule. Here I was chosen secretary of the Bible study club. I felt really at home at last. I taught him the “Mill” game, a board game that seems to have had its origin in Egypt, way back in history.
While I was there I got to know another young woman from Langezwaag. I liked her and sent her a letter asking her permission to have a cup of coffee with her. She accepted as she seemed to like me too. For two years I traveled every second Sunday from Oosterhaule to Langezwaag to spend the evening with her. I had to find a replacement milker every time I visited with my fiancee and that cost me money, 75cts.
But things were going good for me, I was now president of the bible study club and quite proud of it.
In 1929 I took my fiancee to my parents in the heather fields of Waskemeer, where she got instant approval from father, because she wore black stockings and not the worldly, flesh colored, ones.
We also visited her parents in the Maren by Hemelum.
And we were seriously thinking about marriage.
Her name? She was Jacobje Roelevink, daughter of Leffert Roelevink and Dirkje Roelevink Koopman.