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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Maw's Vacation, by Emerson Hough

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Title: Maw's Vacation
       The Story of a Human Being in the Yellowstone

Author: Emerson Hough

Release Date: January 2, 2008 [EBook #24126]

Language: English


Produced by D Alexander, Barbara Kosker, Irma pehar and
the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images
generously made available by The Internet Archive)

Transcriber's Note:

Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved.

Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document.

in the



AUTHOR OF: The Sagebrusher, Hearts Desire, The Covered Wagon,
Curly of the Range, etc.


J. E. HAYNES, Publisher




Times has changed, says Maw to herself, says she. Things ain't like what they used to be. Time was when I worked from sunup to sundown, and we didn't have no daylight-saving contraptions on the old clock, neither. The girls was too little then, and I done all the work myself—cooking, sweeping, washing and ironing, suchlike. I never got to church Sundays because I had to stay home and get the Sunday dinner. Like enough they'd bring the preacher home to dinner. You got to watch chicken—it won't cook itself. Weekdays was one like another, and except for shoveling snow and carrying more coal I never knew when summer quit and winter come. There was no movies them days—a theater might come twice a winter, or sometimes a temperance lecturer that showed a picture of the inside of a drunkard's stomach, all redlike and awful. We didn't have much other entertainment. Of course we had church sociables now and then, or a surprise party on someone. Either way, the fun no more than paid for the extra cooking. I never seen nothing or went nowhere, and if when I was down town after the groceries I'd 'a' stepped into the drug store and bought me a lemonade—and they didn't have no nut sundaes then—they'd of had me up before the church for frivolous conduct.

Of course Paw kicks about the crops and prices, but I've been living with Paw forty years, and I dunno as I can remember a time when he didn't kick. He kicks now on the wages he pays these city boys that come out to farm; says they're no good at all. But somehow or other, things gets raised. I notice the last few years we somehow have had more clothes and things, and more money in the bank. When Paw bought the automobile he didn't ask the minister if it was right, and he didn't have to ask the bank for a consent, neither. Cynthy's back from college, and it's all paid for somehow. Jimmy's in a mail-order store in Chicago. I've got a girl to help me that calls herself a maid, which is all right enough, though we used to call Judge Harmsworth's help a girl and let it go at that, law me! My other girls, Hattie and Roweny, are big enough to help a lot, and Paw reasons with them considerable about it. I've always been so used to work that I think I can do it better myself. I always like to do for my children.

But Paw, ever since I married him, has been one of those energetics. They call him an aggressive business man. Some of them call him a dominant man, because of his whiskers, though he knows well enough about how scared of him I am. Only time I ever was scared of Paw was when he got the car. I thought he would break his fool neck and kill Roweny, that had clim in with him. He did break down the fence in front of the house and run over the flower beds and all.

The Park-Bound Throng of Maws

But this summer we allowed we all would get in the car and take a big trip out West—go right into some of the parks, if nothing happened.

We borrowed our tent from the Hickory Bend Outing Club that Paw belongs to back home. The poles go along the fenders and stick out a good way behind. I could always cook without a stove, from experience at picnics when I was younger. The dishes goes in a box. Paw nailed a rack on top of the fenders, and we carry a lot of stuff that way. Cynthy always has her suitcase on the outside because it's the newest one. The other girls set on the bedding on the rear seat, and I ride in front with Paw. We mostly wear overalls.

Yes, times has changed, says Maw.

As a dispassionate observer in one of our national parks, expressing the belief in modern speech, I'll say they have. I have met Maw this summer, ninety thousand of her, concentrated on a piece of mountain scenery about fifty miles square—Maw on her first vacation in a life of sixty years. Dear old Maw!

Ninety thousand replicas of Maw cause the rest of us to eat copiously of alkaline dust and to shiver each time we approach a turn on the roads of Yellowstone Park, which were laid out on a curling iron. You cannot escape seeing Paw and Maw, and Cynthy in her pants, and Hattie and Roweny in overalls and putties. I have seen their camp fire rising on every remaining spot of grass on all that busy fifty miles. I have photographed Maw and Cynthy and the other girls, and Cynthy has photographed me because I looked funny. Bless them all, the whole ninety thousand of them—I would not have missed them on their vacation this summer for all the world. They are, I suppose, what we call the new people of America, who never have been out like this before. They've been at home. Maw has been getting the Sunday dinner. Paw has been plowing, paying the taxes which this Government has spent for him. But now Paw pays income tax also; and both he and Maw construe this fact to mean that they can at last read their title clear to a rest, and a car, and a vacation. So they have swung out from the lane at last, after forty years of work, and on to the roads that lead to the transcontinental highway. They have crossed the prairies and come up into the foothills—the price of gas increasing day by day, and Paw kicking but paying cash—and so they have at last arrived among the great mountains of which Maw has dreamed all her long life of cooking and washing and ironing.

Studies in Mountain Pants

I shall not inquire by what miracle of grace Paw has learned to find his way about on these curling-iron mountain roads. I am content to eat a barrel of dust a day rather than miss the sight of Maw, placid and bespectacled, on the front seat of the flivver. Without her the mountain roads would never be the same for me, and my own vacation would be spoiled. Frankly, I am in love with Maw; and as for Cynthy in her pants——

Times has changed. Maw also wears pants today. She says that they are convenienter when she sits down round on the grass. Sometimes her pants are fastened round the ankles with large and shiny safety pins, apparently saved from the time when Jimmy was a baby. Sometimes they hang straight down au naturel, and sometimes they stop at the knee—in which case, as Maw's au naturel is disposed to adipose—they make a startling adjunct to the mountain scenery. But, bless her heart, Maw doesn't care! She is on her way and on her vacation, the first in all her life. There rest on her soul the content and poise which her own square and self-respecting mind tells her are due her after forty years of labor, including the Lord's Days thereof. I call Maw's vacation her Lord's Day. It ought to be held a sacred thing by all who tour our national parks, where Maw is gregariously accumulated in these days. I used to own this park, you and I did. It's Maw's park now. Forty years of hard work!

Has she earned a vacation? I'll say she has. Is she taking it? I'll say she is.

Maw has company in the park—not always just the company she or I would select, were it left to us. Some of these do not go out by motor car. Of course Abe Klinghammer, of the Plasterers' Union, Local Number Four, being rich, goes out by rail on a round trip. He can go to the tents and log cottages of the Camps Company. He does not kick any more than Maw kicks. To tell the truth, in spite of the front he throws, Abe is a little bit scared at all this sudden splendor in his life. He is a little uneasy about how to act, how to seem careless about it, as though he had been used to it all his life. Abe takes it out in neckties. Having bought a swell one of four colors and inserted a large cameo in it, he loses his nerve and begins to doubt whether he is getting by. You will always see Abe looking at your necktie.

And there is Benjamin D. O'Cleave of New York—with a flourish under it on the register. He and his wife take it out in diamonds. You would never see one of the O'Cleave family at a roadside camp fire such as that where Maw fries the trout and Rowena toasts the bread on a fork. The original O'Cleave came over in the Mayflower, as I am informed—but, without question in my mind, came steerage. You will find Mr. O'Cleave in the swellest hotel, in the highest-priced room. He is first in war, first in peace, and first in the dining room.

Mr. O'Cleave pays a plenty a head for all his family, for rooms with bath and meals. The hotel company would gladly charge him more, and Mr. O'Cleave gladly would pay more. He confides to the hotel clerk—who is a Y. M. C. A. secretary back East—that he should not care if it was even fifty dollars a day, he could pay it. But, if so, he would already want for his money more service, which he waits five hours and not enough cars to get him over to see the Giantess Geyser play, which the Giantess maybe didn't play again for eight days, and should a business man and taxpayer wait eight days because of not cars enough by a hotel, which is the only place a man has to go with his family? Is it reasonable?

Maw in War Paint

The highly specialized hotel clerk admits that it is not reasonable, that nothing is reasonable, that he has spoken to the Giantess a dozen times about her irregular habits; but what can he do? “I would gladly charge you one hundred dollars a day, Mr. O'Cleave, if I had the consent of the Interior Department. It isn't my fault.”

I wish I had a movie of the Y. M. C. A. hotel clerk when he is off duty at the desk. I wonder if his faith upholds him when he recalls the threat of Benjamin D. O'Cleave to go to Europe next year. Ah, well, even if he does, Maw will remain.

I know that next

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