Recently, I was fortunate to meet my Mom’s cousin Patti, and spend time learning about her childhood and her love of the river and living off of the land. Their home on the island was surrounded by shallow waters that offered fish, muskrat, and plenty of good stories remembered well by Patti.
By the time Patti was four, a dam upriver was destroyed, which caused their island to be flooded, house and farm destroyed. The Smith family was forced to move to the mainland, but chose to stay close to the river that fed them so well. They made their home in a small fisherman’s shack, which Patti’s son still owns today.
At age 83, Patti has decided to write her memoirs of growing up there for her grandchildren to know of her life. Despite growing up in poverty, she reports a life well-lived and rich in stories and experiences. She says she wouldn’t trade it for anything, and wishes her grandchildren had some of her skills - like poling a boat, and strength - like climbing a rope to her bedroom loft, and endurance - like surviving cold winters.
Some of her stories tell of her experience going to school in a one room country schoolhouse. Patti gave me permission to share her writing and also gave me permission to illustrate it. So, the following graphic essay is just that. I hope you enjoy it as I do. Patti’s spirit and memory is as crystal clear as the waters of the Fox River from her youth, and I am grateful for her generosity in sharing these stories.
Above is an excerpt from an excerpt from the Fall Issue of Woolgathering. Enjoy!
Learn more about Woolgathering and get your free sample issue here!
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.