I love poetry, probably because of my Grandma Ricks. When the family would get together she would often recite a poem.

Apparently memorizing poetry was a requirement when she went to school. She retained the memory of those poems throughout her life. One poem I remember her reciting was Sam Walter Foss’ poem

“The House by the Side of the Road”

“There are hermit souls that live withdrawn

“In the peace of their self-content.

“There are souls, like stars that dwell apart

“In a fellowless firmament.

“There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths

“Where highways never ran.

“But let me live by the side of the road

“And be a friend to man. …”

There have been many people that have stepped in to help me when I have needed support. I wonder, are people in smaller communities and farmers living out away from big crowds more prone to help those in need? Or is it because I am aware of their good deeds because these are the people I live around?

I think of Nora and Thoralf Winther, neighbors at the ranch who lived about a mile east of us. One morning, my husband, Boyd, was stung by a bee and his hand swelled double in size within a short time. The nearest doctor was 20 miles away and we didn’t have cellphones then. I packed Boyd’s hand in ice, had him lay on the couch, loaded the kids in the car and drove to Nora’s home for help. I didn’t know how dangerous this was or even what to do. Nora had some Epson salts and told me how to mix it with warm water and sent that home to have Boyd soak his hand in. Later that day, we did end up going to the valley to see a doctor, but I believe the Epson salts and soaking his hand helped keep this from becoming any worse than it was. Yes, Nora lived in a house by the side of the road and was a friend to me.

I think I’ve told story of Sharon Rockwood visiting me at our ranch home. They lived a mile north of us. I felt overwhelmed as a young bride and not knowing what I was doing feeding a bunch of men, Sharon stopped by with a recipe for pie dough. Not only did she give me the recipe but she stayed and visited for quite a while, which was so good as the men wouldn’t be in from the field until almost dark and the days seemed extra-long when alone! Yes, Sharon lived in a house by the side of the road and was a friend to me.

I remember as a child, my dad coming into the house right at noon with someone I didn’t know. He had invited this gentleman to eat with us, with the comment, “Don’t worry, we can always add more water to the soup. There will be plenty.”

I don’t know how Mother felt about that, but I’ve always remembered the situation. Did he even know the man? Maybe not; maybe he was a homeless man he picked up on the road. Whatever, Dad was more than willing to share what food we had. Yes, my mother and dad lived in a house by the side of the road, and were friends to man and woman and stray dogs.

Oftentimes Boyd or one of our sons have taken a pickup or even a tractor down to the road that goes past our place to pull out a stuck vehicle. They have helped get cattle in and fixed fences. Yes, they live in a house by the side of the road, and try to be friends to man.

It is interesting how we learn from watching others. Did our parents and grandparents do more of this helping than we do? Are we so involved with everything available in this day and age that it is hard to see the wants and needs even right next door to us? Are we able to help someone who needs it: open a door, make a phone call, or give someone a ride? Every day is not too often to help someone.

“…Let me live in my house by the side of the road

“Where the race of men go by.

“They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong

“Wise, foolish — so am I.

“Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat

“Or hurl the cynic’s ban?

“Let me live in my house by the side of the road

“And be a friend to man.”

Jean Schwieder is a writer who has spent her life involved in eastern Idaho agriculture. Her books, including past columns, are available by calling 208-522-8098 or by email at straddlinthefence@gmail.com.

Load comments