Susie Tall White Man Cain Visits Her Childhood Home
Like it was just yesterday . . .
When Susie Tall White Man Cain was born, her parents and nine others lived in a tent. Her father was a ranch hand and her mother took in washing. One summer when Susie was a young girl, the family moved into a rough log cabin that had once been used as a schoolhouse, built soon after the Northern Cheyenne first came to their reservation. It was a big, wonderful step up from the tent.
Their new surroundings were glorious pine-covered hills and valleys. The children played games on the prairie where great horse herds once roamed. The land was lush with flowers and berries. Then the Great Depression of the 1930s arrived, and with it came a decade of drought. The land dried up and dust filled every nook and cranny of their cabin, their clothes and hair.
Susie watched her hard- working mother tan deer hides – rubbing our into the leather to make them white. These she sold along with beaded moccasins. Susie helped her mother carry loads of washing down to Lame Deer Creek. After a garment was washed and wrung out, Susie’s job was to lay the clothing on top of nearby bushes and tall grass to dry in the hot sun.
When winter came, the snow was often too deep to get around in by horse and wagon. Always industrious, the family cobbled together a homemade sleigh. The children loved the sleigh rides, Susie remembers, riding in it to church and after services eating cookies made by a white lady named Mrs. Schmaus. Naturally the little ones took to calling her “Mrs. Mouse.”
Early one morning the children heard someone yelling, “Yoo-hoo. Anybody home?” They ran outside. There was Mrs. Mouse with a big bowl of eggs and fresh baked bread. Susie’s mother was so grateful to have wholesome food for her children. The farm wife had walked down the long road from her ranch house carrying the food she knew her neighbors would gladly accept. For years afterward, the generous, devout woman’s calling card – “Yoo-hoo”- would be heard, announcing to Susie’s family she had brought them fresh foods. Susie fondly recalls the memory of Mrs. Mouse, and how she seemed to always come by and call out just when they had completely run out of everything.
Susie now lives at HLC. Recently she said she knew where her old log home was and if we wanted to see it, she would take us there. The road to the homestead is now paved, until we turned onto a rutted dirt road with tall grass growing down the middle. The chinked log structure was built by strong hands more than a century ago – it still sits solid – though it’s missing windows and half of the roof. Across the rural highway sits their old wagon, now a roadside ranch decoration. Susie was quiet as she peered in the doorless entrance of the old home to see what remained – things she might recognize and remember. Then she turned back and smiled. I wondered if she heard Mrs. Mouse calling.
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