Flash Narratives are a way to share my current work in progress, a book based on the Great Plains diaries of my great-aunt Hattie, which she kept from 1920-1957. For more background information on the project, go here, This week’s flash narrative is the second of three parts, the first of which was titled “A Nice, Bright Day.” The conclusion to “Memorial Day Weekend 1933” will be a guest post on Christi Craig’s blog on May 25Header photo credit (cropped from the original): “Pork rind2” by Biso – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.


Harriet E. WhitcherMemorial Day Weekend 1933: Cracklings

Her dress buttoned and her hair smooth, Hattie goes to the kitchen. She slips a full-length calico apron over her head and ties it behind her back, starts a cob fire in the cook stove, and fixes breakfast of hamburger and pancakes for her brother William and their hired hand, Narvin. The men come in from morning chores, rubbing the late spring cold from their hands, grateful for hot food.

She asks them about their plans for the day, hoping they will finish the partly dug toilet hole they had begun earlier in the week, but learns that when Will comes home from Valentine, he will take Narvin to the town of Bad Nation to get Narvin’s dress hat and suit for the next day’s Memorial Day celebration. William, who lives with them and whom she always refers to by his full name in her diaries so as not to confuse him with her husband, is going to work in the garden and do the evening chores.

Once they leave, she puts the dishes in the sink and wipes the table. She wishes her youngest sister Louise were still living with her. Not only was she pleasant company, but she also was a hard worker and a good helper in the kitchen, in fact, all around the house. But Louise is now married with a family of her own, and here it is just Harriet and the men.

The air pops with the noise and aroma of frying lard. While cutting and cooking the butchered hog, Hattie also prepares roast pork, bread, cake, milk and butter for tomorrow’s picnic lunch. Will arrives mid-morning and almost immediately leaves again with Narvin. At some point in the day a neighbor comes on horse-back and stays for noon dinner. Another neighbor arrives to breed two mares. When the sun sets, Will and Narvin are still not home from Bad Nation, and William is reading by gaslight in the front room. Hattie has just two more pans of meat to cook.

At 10 p.m., sharp pains in her stomach send her outside. She chides herself for sneaking so many of the salty cracklings. The night is cold and still, and clouds partially cover the moon like a lace shawl. She worries about Will and makes her way in quick steps across the back yard.

She knows what will happen only a moment too late to stop it. The next moments not only prevent Hattie from attending the Memorial Day celebration she so looked forward to, but change her daily life for months to come and will play a role in her final illness twenty-five years later.

To be continued…