Live life to the fullest — Eat dessert first

My mother wants me to see the farm in Nebraska where she was raised. I am 8 or 9-ish and we live in Hollywood. We take the train and eventually make our way to the farm. It’s in an area called Yankee Hill, just outside of Lincoln. My aunt and uncle still live next door to Mom’s old house and we stay with them. The owners of Mom’s old house give us permission to see the house and farm. Mom, whose name is Lily, turns me lose and I collect eggs, pull a few radishes, and see real peaches and apples hanging on trees. She tells me of her trepidation and need to take cover in the storm cellar before a tornado hits. Old Rarus, their horse, is no longer alive, but the buggy he was hooked up to is still in the barn. The next day I collect dandelion greens and go fishing in Salt Creek and catch some bullheads (catfish).

Life is so different here in Nebraska than back home in Hollywood. At home, I have my own bedroom and a bathroom just across the hall. In Mom’s old farm-house home, she and her three sisters share one bedroom, all sleep in one bed, and use a chamber pot and an outhouse. On Saturday night, they all take a bath in a metal tub in the kitchen. Daisy used the water first, because she’s the oldest and, by the time Iris, the youngest, has her turn, the water is cold.

Talk, talk, talk. That’s they all kept doing. But at least I get to hear about Scovy, my great-great grandfather.

Scovy lived life by his own metronome, and ate his pie first at dinner, when his appetite was best. Besides farming, he played fiddle for a dance held at Yankee Hill Asylum. He played the fiddle there for 50 consecutive years. The inmates came and danced with the nurses. Of course, the “flower girls” (Daisy, Violet, Lily, and Iris) were part of the show, as was Carrie Tyrer, their mother. My Mom played the violin, Violet the piano, and I don’t know what Daisy and Iris played. I can just imagine the fun they had every Saturday night.

I still have a cousin living in Lincoln, who is an historian of the Yankee Hill area. She says Yankee Hill was, for a time, known as Scovyville, but reverted to Yankee Hill. She also just came across Scovy’s “gig book.” Sometimes he made as much as $4 when he played for a party.

I recently learned that I have a new second cousin out here in the West, and she has done a whale of an amount of genealogical work on our roots. What caught my eye in her email were her words about my Mom. “Your Mom was very special to me. At a young age, she really shaped my life in a positive way, towards travel and to embrace different cultures.”

I wish I had met Scovy and had a chance to dance to his music. He did leave me with one legacy, however; I have a piece of pie for breakfast when we have one.

Ron Walker can be reached at


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