My Aunt Allie Tyrrell

In picture: Arden Tyrrell (my father) Aunt Allie, my sister Mabel Tyrrell

I should explain who I am and how I got to know and love my Aunt Allie ‘Tyrrell’ Farlow and the Lake Creek of the early forties even though I spent less than a year in her home.

World War Two was raging across Europe and our nation was swept into the battle. The area now known as White City was preempted by the military and called Camp White. New army personnel were given a taste of battle training there.

Arden Tyrrell, my father and Allie’s brother spent some time logging timber and cutting it into usable lumber for construction at the army camp.

1945 holds for me more memories than all the other growing up years combined. I stayed there with my dad that year and experienced life as though I had lived fifty or more years in the past. She, Aunt Allie, taught me how life would have been fifty or more years ago.

Things remembered about Aunt Allie: Aunt Allie, my Dad’s (Arden Tyrrell) older sister was a very small woman. She suffered from a weak heart and used ‘digitalis’ (made from fox glove, I believe) drops when involved in any exertion. She had been told by a doctor that she must get help to do her house work. However, during the time I was there, the only help I saw was ME. Splitting and keeping the wood box filled, rinsing and drying dishes the ‘old fashioned’ way.

I am certain she was teaching me and chose to do many of the tasks of life as they had once been done. I recall those months as experiences in living history and still treasure them!

She, during those days, chose to make her own soap. Remember ‘Grandma’s Lye Soap’? Yes, she made her own and used it. Making soap was a real eye-opener to this flat-land ‘town’ boy! She saved all animal fat, rendered it down and later mixing it with slack lime, placing it in a trough made by splitting a ‘v’ in an oak log. I don’t remember about the liquid that was used, but when it was collected we had prime ‘Grandma’s Lye Soap’ that could clean anything.

Aunt Allie knew wild grains of all sorts that could be used and taught me how to find and ‘hand harvest’ them and would then make a motor of me turning the grist mill until the product was exactly right for that use, cereal required just the slightest ‘cracking’ and flour took many more turns.

She also knew all the wild greens suitable for both raw salads and cooked dishes, Though my Dad, Arden, had taught me much of that even in my younger years, Aunt Allie offered the ‘college course’.

Allie and her brother, Jack Tyrrell (of Dead Indian Soda Springs),  were both ‘instinctive shooters’ with both hand guns and rifles, ignoring the sights and simply ‘pointing’ the gun at the target and most always hitting the target. I certainly did not learn that!

Even after all the years she and Frank had spent in their lovely hand-crafted home, she had no running water inside other than by pails lugged up from Little Butte Creek. During my dads spare time he installed a ‘pump’ up-stream. A large wagon wheel left propped up near the open ‘smithy’ and forge was pressed into service with longer extended spokes, each holding a gallon can fixed to the paddle and at the top and spilled the water into a V-shaped trough which guided most of the water all the way down and into the screened porch where it poured into a drain allowing it to reenter the creek. She then had running water in the house and welcomed it as a great gift.

Allie was proud of the hand-built fireplace, telling often how she laid the stone polished by a neighbor who I believe had water powered rock saw and hand-polished surfaces which made for a wonderful finish. Allie worked on one side and Frank, her husband, on the other. There had been no plans or drawings made. After it was considered safe they lit a small fire, they sat back to admire their work. They were amazed to see a very detailed Dutch boy on one side and a Dutch girl on the other. They each had placed stones in no special order. They were both amazed at what had been created! I loved to sit there in front of the fireplace and admire the artistry.

Allie pointed with pride at the plumbing running from a generator to ceiling lamps and a chandelier in the living room allowing for carbide lighting. They had never been charged or lit! It was just too ‘new’ and their fear was too strong! We all thought the fear of an explosion was the reason.

Lighting was provided by single chimney coal oil fueled lamps in each bedroom and the kitchen. A lovely twin chimney lamp graced the large round table. It seems odd now, but the combined odors of sulfur matches having been lit, the coal oil burning in the lamps, the wood burning kitchen cook stove all combined (in memory at least) to fit me with a ‘hunger’ for them, all these years later!

My aunt Allie also loved her ‘chewing gum’ and one of my tasks was to locate CLEAN amber build-ups in certain branches of certain types of pine trees. Her eyesight had by that time started failing and I would point out just where on the tree rosin was located and try to guide her gun. The plan was to hit the bark just behind the gum, knocking it down. Wild spearmint was located, the blooms stripped from the stems and then the crushed stems were cooked down, mixed with the amber ‘gum’, cooled and the ‘chew quality’ judged. Woe to me if any little cloud of pitch contaminated her gum!

Uncle Frank Farlow had a forge a few yards south of the house. It was roofed over with open sides. He was an expert in heat welding iron and I loved being allowed to turn the crank to create draft to heat the coals. Joining the ends of iron cut to length for tire irons (for wheels) was one I especially loved to watch.

The details regarding the construction of their house near the creek provided hours of entertainment as Aunt Allie, Dad and I sat around the large round ‘all purpose’ table and listened to Aunt Allie’s recollections. One hi-light for Allie was remembering sitting in front of the fireplace as they lit the fire for the first time.

At some later time a screened porch was added and Aunt Allie loved to sit there ‘resting’ in her rocker while sewing, mending and the many tasks we no longer bother with. The porch sets the stage for one memorable event!

The area around the house was infested with rattle snakes and though, I feared them, the fear never kept this eleven year old boy from running wild around the yard and entire mountain side. A bantam hen had chosen an old wash tub for her nest. She and I had become good friends and I spent lots of time patiently waiting for the baby chicks to hatch. One time, after spending more time then normal, (the chicks were starting to hatch) and I felt a light tickling on my bare stomach. A large rattle snake was coiled, also waiting for the chicks to hatch, and fortunately intent on those hatchlings simply wanted me out of the way. The snake got it! I threw myself backward, landed running and stopped only when my legs, wrapped in what had been a screen door on either side of the rocking chair where Aunt Allie was sewing. Her comment, “What’s the matter, Johnnie?’ still rings in my memory’s ears! She calmly picked up the 22 rifle always near by, forced me out then close to the sight. With the normal aplomb she shot the snakes head off. And adding insult to my shattered pride told Dad he needed to fix the screen door and why!

~ John