|Source: NMHS Newsletter Aug 1996
Irene Hoover Beery
In 1992 Irene Hoover Beery completed MY HOOVER FAMILY
STORY which she wrote especially for her grandchildren.
Included are some delightful stories of life in an
earlier time which she has agreed to let us all share.
Here are some she called "Childhood Episodes."
Going to the Ice House
"Fred - Irene!" my dad called. "Want to go along to
the ice house?" My mother had just looked inside the
icebox which sat in the corner of the back porch and
discovered there was just a sliver of ice left. It was
hot summertime; food would soon spoil without ice.
Grabbing the ice tongs Dad headed for the car (our
1915 Maxwell) while we tagged along. We crawled into the
back seat and soon arrived at the ice house which was
located at the next farm north. Going after the ice was
a treat, especially when Dad let us climb the ladder and
go into the house with him. Raking off the sawdust and
searching for a cake of ice was somewhat like looking
for a treasure-or, maybe, exploring a cave. The place
was dark and damp and had a queer odor, all of which
gave one a bit of an eerie feeling. Finding a nice big
cake, Dad brushed off the sawdust and with his tongs
lifted the ice to the door and threw it out to the
ground below. Then he carefully covered the spot with
sawdust, so that no ice would be exposed to the air
which would melt it.
Fred and I scampered back into the rear seat while
Dad put his block of ice on the running board of the car
and we headed for home. He had to drive slowly and keep
an eye on the ice, lest it fall off. That happened
occasionally. Down the steep driveway and around the
curve we went. But at the curve the left rear door came
open and Fred went tumbling out to the side of the road.
Meantime, Dad was diligently watching his cake of ice on
the running board, completely unaware of what was
happening behind him. I was scared-in fact, speechless
for a few moments. Then I poked Dad in the back and
said, "Fred fell out. He's a way back there!"
Dad hurriedly pulled the car over to the side of the
road and ran back to get my poor little brother. He was
crying and his leg was bleeding, but his only injury was
a bad knee abrasion. This was an incident none of us
would ever forget. In fact, "Fred fell out. He's a way
back there." became household words in our family,
especially when they wanted to tease me. We laughed
about this incident years later.
Eggs in the Haymow
The Shanahans had gone on an overnight trip and we
had agreed to do the few daily chores on their farm. My
job was to gather the eggs. I would find most of the
eggs in nests in the chicken house, my Aunt Audra
informed me, but a few of the hens insisted on laying
their eggs in the haymow. Hens were not confined to one
building in those days; their territory had no bounds.
One would hope they would do their pecking and
scratching in the barnyard, but it was not unusual to
see one in the front lawn scratching in a flower bed,
perched on the front step, or crossing the road. For
obvious reasons it was best to be a little careful about
where one stepped. When evening came I took my little
bucket to the hen house and discharged my duties there
and then headed for the barn to finish my task.
Cautiously climbing the ladder, I reached the mow and
began searching in the semi- darkness for eggs. I had
not gone far when I suddenly came upon a sleeping man
who appeared to be a tramp. Terrified, I scrambled back
down that ladder and headed for home, running most of
the way, I think. It turned out the man I almost stepped
on was Billy, a vagrant the Shanahans had befriended.
Apparently he was just sleeping off a drunken stupor.
Playing on the Strawstack
It was midafternoon. The threshers had left our place
and gone on to the neighbor's. Perhaps Fred and I and a
couple playmates were looking for something to liven up
our day after the excitement of threshing had ceased. We
became intrigued with the huge clean strawstack the
threshers had just made. Often all our straw could be
blown into our roomy barn, so a stack was somewhat novel
to us. We decided to look for binder twine strings-to
pull them out of the stack and see who could collect the
most. This grew monotonous in a short while.
Eventually one of us, probably Fred, climbed to the
top of the stack and dared the rest to follow. Finally
we reached the top and marched around all over the top.
Then someone dared to slide down-so we all slid down,
getting that itchy straw inside our clothes and dragging
some off the stack every time we came down.
Evening came. The threshers returned, hot and tired,
to their homes. I have no memory of the details of my
dad's discovery of the ruination of his beautiful
strawstack, but I remember the end of the story very
well. I have seldom seen my dad more disappointed in the
actions of his kids or more angry with them. "Surely you
should know better," he chided us very emphatically.
"You walked all over the top making holes. Now every
time it rains the water will fill those holes and funnel
down through the stack, rotting all that nice straw." By
the time he was through I felt very stupid and penitent.
But the truth is, I had no idea that what we were doing
would be unacceptable in the eyes of my father.
Going to the Gravel Pit
One of the many places I liked to go with my dad when
I was a little girl was to the gravel pit. He went there
often with his team of horses and gravel wagon when he
needed gravel for filling up holes in the lane or doing
cement work. The Gilberts, who owned the gravel pit, had
a large family of eight children, one of whom was my
little classmate at school. So the attraction there was
to play with the kids while dad went on back to fill his
One day when it seemed to take a bit longer than
usual, it came time for the Gilberts to eat their noon
meal. As the ten of them gathered around their big
stretched-out table, Ina, the mother, said to me, "Now
come on, Irene; you just sit down here and eat dinner
I quickly looked over the situation and replied, "Oh,
no, you have too many already." Ina could hardly wait to
tell my parents my response to her kind invitation.
A Case for Gun Control
I'm not sure how my brother acquired his BB gun. I do
remember that most boys at a certain age became the
proud possessors of such arms. My father tried to
impress upon my brother that the owner of a gun had
certain responsibilities in regard to the use of that
weapon. He should never point it toward another human,
for instance, or shoot toward a window. He could shoot
cans off a fence post or shoot at a cardboard target. I
even enjoyed trying my skill at that. Then, too, there
were certain pests in the bird and animal world he could
try to eliminate, like pigeons in the barn, and rats.
These things should provide sufficient target for any
young marksman, my parents thought.
One day as I was walking about the barnyard minding
my own business I thought, I felt a sharp sting in the
back of my leg. Looking around, I quickly spotted Fred
with his BB gun. It didn't take Dad long to respond to
this young gunner's break in etiquette. I don't recall
the penalty as vividly as Fred probably does, but I
think it included a few stings in a different place
administered by the hands of his father as well as
confiscation of the gun for a period of time. My
brother's assessment of the incident was that the
punishment was way out of proportion to the seriousness
of the crime.
Learning to Drive
It was early fall, before I was quite fourtten. Dad
had started husking a little corn and throwing it in
piles on the ground. One day he called to us, "Come on,
both of you. I've got a little job for you back in the
new ground. Let's go get that corn picked up while
you're home from school"
Dad had transformed our first car into a kind of
pickup truck which he used for this kind of work. Fred
had already learned to drive it, so he made a dash for
the driver's seat. "No you don't-not this time," Dad
called to my brother. "Your sister has got to have a
chance to learn to drive, too. But go ahead and drive
back to the field, and then you can help me pick up the
Back at the field, Fred reluctantly crawled out of
the truck and Dad motioned me into the driver's seat. I
was apprehensive, but I did want to learn. I knew
nothing about driving, so he had to tell me
everything-how to start the motor, how to stop, how to
go forward, go slow, speed up. "Now we're ready. You
start up and keep going until you come to the next pile
of corn. I'll yell 'stop'." "Good girl!" he yelled when
I stopped promptly at the signal.
Soon that pile was tossed on and he signalled me to
drive on. This procedure continued for several piles
with varying degrees of jerkiness in starting up and
promptness in stopping. Finally I was beginning to feel
a bit confident that I knew what I was doing. Once more
I heard my Dad's voice ring out, "Stop!"
My mind seemed to have gone suddenly blank. I
couldn't for the life of me remember how to stop that
truck. I panicked. I just kept going with Fred and Dad
running after, trying to shout instructions which I
couldn't hear. I had a quick vision of just driving that
truck all around that rough field until it ran out of
gas. I started pushing bottons and pressing pedals and
suddenly it stopped. What a relief! I can't remember
whether I finished the job that afternoon. I do remember
that, in spite of my blunders, Dad continued to give me
opportunities to drive and before long I was able to
take the car on my own. At this time there was no age
limit for driving. In many ways Dad gave me
opportunities equal to my brother's, so I never felt
that I was discriminated against for being a girl.