The Western Mother

[floral bar]

[saskatchewan road near mckague]

Florence Jane Stuart (1887-1941), wife of James Hedley McKague, was a teacher in Ontario until she married and moved west to homestead with her husband. You can find out lots more about her in our family tree for the McKagues of County Cavan. Florence wrote this poem.


To waste in no way must she try,
Or leave the household budget shy.
So she never thought to shirk
A single task of all her work.

Soap she made from bacon chips,
Quilts she pieced from rag bag snips.
She ground the dried up parts of bread
For puddings: Sheets upon the bed
Were laid the wrong way up with care
(Except when company was there)
To save the hemstitched tops from wear.

The meat she canned, the chickens, too,
The vegetables did the season through.
For fruit used citron, squash and marrow.
She cut old clothes to fit if narrow.
Shirt and aprons from flour sacks
Were worn upon her children's backs.
Paraffin from jellies clear
Was saved and used from year to year.
Made coffee out of barley browned,
When extra cash was not around.
Papers, magazines and string--
Bottles, boxes, everything
That could be used again, she kept.

The floors she covered with rag mats,
Made comforters of woolen bats.
The sheep if passing near the door
Knew by her smile she wished for more.
And even yeast cakes square and yellow
Were made by her and dried till mellow.
Butter, bacon, bread and buns
She made to feed her hungry sons.
Cheese, too, she tried with great success
And spoiled the market in the west.
The picture frames upon the wall,
The vases, flour pots, jugs and all
Were made of salt and other stuff
That looked like they would cost enough.
Mitts and toques were knitted new,
Sweaters, socks and booties too.
Vinegar was brewed in jars.
I tell you what she beat the cars.

And once when all the others slept,
She rose--because--the moon was bright
And put her pantry shelves aright.
She could not bear to waste that light.

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