From 'Fanning the Embers', published 1971, Range Rider Reps, Miles City, Montana
Estelle Baker
Bernard Baker with Chief and Queen. Bill in the background.
In May of 1919, I went to the Horse Creek community in Treasure County to teach a summer term of school. It was here I met Bernard Baker who later became my husband. Bernard came with his folks from Olympia, Wash. While I was teaching this term, Bernard was struggling with the homestead. Soon I heard the children whispering and caught the sentence, "Bernard is going with out teacher."
The spring and summer of 1919 was dry; grain and grass dried up and the hoppers came. In early October, a drenching rain came which turned to snow; it turned cold and the snow kept coming and covered all forage left. In spite of the weather, Bernard and I were married Dec. 22, 1919 as we had planned. Many stockmen went broke that winter, but Bernard and I didn't go broke, although we were prevented from getting started. The summer of 1920 was a fairly good one crop wise and people began to take courage. We ranched on two places, the Horse Creek place and our own place on Bear Creek 12 miles away.
Bernard gave up farming the Horse Creek place and we improved our Bear Creek place. One time when Bernard was away, the children all got sick, and from my doctor book it sounded like scarlet fever. The school nurse came and yelled, "Scarlet fever and I haven't had it." She dashed out to her car and me after her to ask her to call Dr. Alexander at Hysham. He came out and quarantined us for three weeks.
When the famous 1930's arrived, Bernard and I had six children. We were more experienced ranchers than in 1919, and survived the drouth and grasshoppers and seemed none the worse for wear. After the drouth broke, the seasons have been fairly good ever since.
By 1945, four of our children were through high school, two of them were in the service; Nadine was a Spar stationed in Florida. Bill was in the Army in the South Pacific theater of war. Bernice had married Howard Criswell, who was also in the service. She accompanied her husband whenever possible. He was sent to Guam. Betty was planning to teach.
The teacher shortage had become acute, so I went back to teaching. I did not teach while the family was growing up, but I have taught 30 years since I started in 1916.
My youngest boy, Bob, married Maybelle Slough of Hardin; Edith married Paul Jones.
When I look back over the years I do not think of the hardships and disappointments. It is the pleasant things and triumphs that are remembered. The Christmas programs were delightful, the children felt their responsibility and tried so hard. After the tree and gifts, the children played and the adults visited. If Whistling Rufus came with his fiddle, there would be dancing. The Christmas gathering was the high point of the year.
Bernard passed away in March of 1964. He and I had 44 interesting and happy years together. Things will never be the same again but I feel that I am fortunate for I have a fine family, wonderful friends, happy memories and good health. One cannot have everything.