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Day: August 8, 2016

“Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman” by Mary Mann Hamilton


Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman” by Mary Mann Hamilton

c.2016, Little, Brown
$27.00 / $32.50 Canada
319 pages


Your toast was burnt this morning.

It was the first in a tsunami of irritation you had to endure today: the house WiFi was down, your shirt got wrinkled, the cat threw up on the carpet, humid weather, your coffee got cold. What next? Read “Trials of the Earth” by Mary Mann Hamilton, and review your day again.

The “wild country of Arkansas … was just beginning to settle up” when Mary Mann’s father brought his family from Missouri down to buy a home. He didn’t live long enough to enjoy it, however – he died ten days after they arrived, leaving Mary’s mother with six children to feed.

There was work in Arkansas , though, so Mary’s brothers got jobs at the sawmill, while Mary and her sisters took in boarders. One of them, a roguish Englishman named Frank Hamilton convinced Mary’s brothers that he had romantic intentions for the seventeen-year-old, though marriage wasn’t what Mary wanted. Still, she agreed to it as her mother and eldest brother lay dying.

Married life was a challenge. Unbeknownst to Mary before the wedding, Frank was quite the drinker, which greatly embarrassed her. He couldn’t seem to hold a job for long, or jobs didn’t last for him, either. She hoped her first child would help glue their marriage, but the baby died and Frank drank harder.

She was in a different country, in a different home when her second baby died.

And then, despite a lot of moves that uprooted their growing family, life smoothed. Mary became a mother again, a dressmaker and a county-renowned cook, learned how to keep house in a tent (though she always dreamed of a real home), how to feed a crowd, and what signs to heed when a storm or flood was imminent. She was brave. She was a good wife but a lousy widow. Life was “an adventure.” And at some point, she “quit looking back in my mind and looked forward.”

Wait. Did I say this is all true? – because it is. Author Mary Mann Hamilton was a real person who really homesteaded in the south from roughly 1882 to the early part of the last century, and “Trials of the Earth” is her tale.

Here, the word “pioneer” takes on new meaning: covered wagons and prairies tend to come to mind, but Hamilton makes it clear that, a mere hundred years ago, there were still wild parts to this country and settling them was no picnic. Life was tough for our forebears, really tough: as quick deaths rack up, readers will be shocked; likewise, over the casual racism. Overall, you’ll never whine about your cold coffee again.

Be aware that this “direct and simple autobiography” can be confusing: the Hamilton family moved often, and that’s hard to follow. We meet many, many scamps and even more kind folks and neighbors, and it’s hard to keep track of them, too. The trick is not to try too hard, enjoy the journey, and “Trials of the Earth” is a book you’ll toast.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin

Boys of Summer

Keizer Cubs won the Boys of Summer Classic 9U bracket last weekend in Eugene by coming from behind to defeat the West Valley All-Stars 13-12. (Submitted)
Keizer Cubs won the Boys of Summer Classic 9U bracket last weekend in Eugene by coming from behind to defeat the West Valley All-Stars 13-12. (Submitted)

Of Keizertimes

Down six runs in the final inning, the Keizer Cubs rallied to win the Boys of Summer Classic July 30-31 in Eugene.

Keizer defeated West Valley All-Stars 13-12 in the championship game of the 9U bracket.

Trailing 12-6, Aiden Garcia and Derek Jones started the bottom of the sixth inning with bunt hits.

Jake Allen hit an inside the park home run and Dylan Cuff scored the winning run on a passed ball.

“Our kids just started hitting the ball,” Cubs coach Tim Jones said. “We had base hit after base hit.”

Kyle Argue, who didn’t allow a run in the top of the sixth inning, was the winning pitcher.

Keizer defeated the WV All-Stars A-Team, ranked fourth in Oregon, Washington and Idaho and 98th in all of Northwest Nations Baseball, twice in the tournament.

The first win was also a one-run game, 9-8. The Cubs also topped West Valley’s B-Team 12-4 and throttled Central Lane Knights 16-1 to advance to the championship game.

The Cubs, which includes players Garcia, Cuff, Argue, Derek Jones, Jake Allen, Ben Allen, Jayden China, Cash Martin, Mason Splonski and Bryson Springer; and coaches Tim Jones, Chris Argue, Tony Cuff, Brandon Martin and Chris China have been together since T-Ball.

They play in the Junior Baseball Organization.

The Boys of Summer Classic was their highest finish in a tournament.