We belonged to St. George's Catholic Church in New Baden, attending Mass every Sunday with few exceptions. The road from our farm was composed of the slickest yellow clay I have ever seen. When it rained it was hard to keep a car on the road. It would stick to the tires and ball up under the fenders. You had to get out and dig it out with a shovel. Often we went to Church like this, Dad digging the mud out from under the fenders quite a few times until we got to the rock road a half mile away. When we'd get to New Baden we would stop at Margaret Kuhn's house and he would change and clean up before we went to the church, which was a half block away. It took years of hauling loads of coal ashes and rock to make the road half way passable in wet weather. It was a county road, but with only two families depending on it all the county did was grade it a couple of times a year.
We had a Church Picnic at St. George's every year, It was the biggest, and I think only fundraiser we had. I recall one year they netted $3,400, a great sum for that time, because most people couldn't give more than a nickel or dime at the time. They did also have a pew rental at the time. We donated $8.00 a year per seat and sat directly behind the Sisters (Nuns). We also had a school with all eight grades staffed by the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood, whose Motherhouse is still in Ruma, Illinois.
Dad was always generous with his food, He would give 10 to 15 chickens, several bushels of potatoes, dozens of eggs, tomatoes, green beans, and cabbage. I remember going with our Mother to take something to the picnic -- it seems to me it was pies. I guess I remember because it was just the two of us. I was sitting in the front seat next to her and couldn't see out the window, so I was pretty small.
There was a man who lived in a clubhouse along the Okaw, several miles away who had an eight gauge brass barreled shot gun, which he used to shoot ducks. It had a distinctive sound, a rolling boom. We always knew when he fired into a flock of ducks or geese. Sometimes one of these men who lived in club houses along the river got lead poisoning from eating too much wild game. Even if you got all the lead shot out of the meat, the lead pellets left traces behind as they passed through the meat.
In the late 1800s in the American Bottoms near Granite City at lakes like Horseshoe Lake, there were fantastic flocks, and hunters made long barrelled shotguns, like 9 ft. long barrels, using about one lb. of powder. They mounted one of these in a small skiff, and aiming the whole boat, fired into flocks of ducks. They made large kills which each shot, selling the ducks on the St. Louis market.
My Dad remembered when Passenger Pigeons were so numerous in flocks they would black out the sun passing over. They would descend on a grain field and wipe it out in short order. They started harvesting them for the market and in a few years they totally disappeared. I remember seeing a picture in a book saying the last one died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1912.
My Next Adventure
When I was 17 years old WWII was in progress. I had always wanted to be in the Navy so I enlisted.