Saturday, January 14, 2017

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents Mrs. Frank Noble The Pioneer Woman Who Persevered

Mrs. Frank Noble, in 1664, proved herself worthy of her surname. She and her husband, with four small children, had established themselves in a log-cabin eight miles from a settlement in New Hampshire, and now known as the town of Dover.

Their crops having turned out poorly that autumn, they were constrained to put themselves on short allowance, owing to the depth of the snow and the distance from the settlement. As long as Mr. Noble was well, he was able to procure game and kept their larder tolerably well stocked. But in mid-winter, being naturally of a delicate habit of body, he sickened, and in two weeks, in spite of the nursing and tireless care of his devoted wife, he died. The snow was six feet deep, and only a peck of musty corn and a bushel of potatoes were left as their winter supply. The fuel also was short, and most of the time Mrs. Noble could only keep herself and her children warm by huddling in the bedclothes on bundles of straw, in the loft which served them for a sleeping room. Below lay the corpse of Mr. Noble, frozen stiff. Famine and death stared them in the face. Two weeks passed and the supply of provisions was half gone. The heroic woman had tried to eke out her slender store, but the cries of her children were so piteous with hunger that while she denied herself, she gave her own portion to her babes, lulled them to sleep, and then sent up her petitions to Him who keeps the widow and the fatherless. She prayed, we may suppose, from her heart, for deliverance from her sore straits for food, for warmth, for the spring to come and the snow to melt, so that she might lay away the remains of her husband beneath the sod of the little clearing.

Every morning when she awoke, she looked out from the window of the loft. Nothing was to be seen but the white surface of the snow stretching away into the forest. One day the sun shone down warmly on the snow and melted its surface, and the next morning there was a crust which would bear her weight. She stepped out upon it and looked around her. She would then have walked eight miles to the settlement but she was worn out with anxiety and watching, and was weak from want of food. As she gazed wistfully toward the east, her ears caught the sound of a crashing among the boughs of the forest. She looked toward the spot from which it came and saw a dark object floundering in the snow. Looking more closely she saw it was a moose, with its horns entangled in the branches of a hemlock and buried to its flanks in the snow.

Hastening back to the cabin she seized her husband's gun, and loading it with buckshot, hurried out and killed the monstrous brute. Skilled in woodcraft, like most pioneer women, she skinned the animal and cutting it up bore the pieces to the cabin. Her first thought then was of her children, and after she had given them a hearty meal of the tender moose-flesh she partook of it herself, and then, refreshed and strengthened, she took the axe and cut a fresh supply of fuel. During the day a party came out from the settlement and supplied the wants of the stricken household. The body of the dead husband was borne to the settlement and laid in the graveyard beneath the snow.

Nothing daunted by this terrible experience, this heroic woman kept her frontier cabin and, with friendly aid from the settlers, continued to till her farm. In ten years, when her oldest boy had become a man, he and his brothers tilled two hundred acres of meadow land, most of it redeemed from the wilderness by the skill, strength, and industry of their noble mother.

Compiled from sources in the public domain.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

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