By Barb Hauge
Auntie Kirkhoven came to The Ranch to take care of me when our baby girl miscarried. I had been traveling with my husband for three months on the West Coast while Frank took invasion training. This happened two days before he was shipped out to the Pacific where he was killed.
Auntie spoke with a British accent, which I attempt to mimic when reciting my poem about her life: Born in England, Auntie's feet turned in, but she clumped right along. She'd learned to be a nurse over there. She was brave and good and strong. "Make do with what you have, dear lass, for youth and perfection will always pass."
Auntie started to America a long time ago on a ship called the Titanic. She survived the horrible journey. In life's struggle Auntie never did panic. "For those survivors who seemed that they would, I helped them in every way that I could."
One day a young girl came to her door, pregnant though still unwed. The man she worked for had left her this way when he stole at night to her bed. "Make do, no matter what happens, my dame, for the child within you is not to blame." Auntie kept the girl until the child was born. A retarded boy came out. The girl disappeared one summer day. Auntie raised the poor little lout. "Every child needs love," she said. "I cannot think he should be dead."
Her nursing took her far and wide. She rode Montana's land helping the sick and lonely; giving everyone a hand. "We all need to know that someone cares. Doesn't matter if you're mine or theirs." Her horse swam rivers to be at a birth. Her gun kept a drunk from his poor wife's bed. If he had his way with her the poor wife would be dead. "You may think as a man you can do as you please, but I'll cut you off above the knees."
Doctors today would have a fit if they had to make Auntie's house calls. Nothing every slowed her down. Not snow nor mud nor summer squalls. "My club-feet never did me in. I learned to get up and begin again."
Auntie's retarded foster son, Ronald, was a classmate of mine when I attended Chinook School. My friend Marion Johnson and I helped protect Ronald from boys who pulled cruel pranks. Ronald was really a gentle soul, but one day when we were absent, he retaliated against his tormentors by throwing rocks and was expelled from school.
Before Auntie died she established a trust to take care of Ronald and appointed Maida McCartney, who had a radio program "The Chinook Hour," to administer the trust. "I love those dear hearts and gentle people who live and love in my home town" was "Chinook Hour's" theme song.
By that time I was remarried and living on the Big Flat. Ronald started attending our Blaine County Farmers Union pot luck dinners dressed in rags and so hungry he ate everything in sight. I met Maida on the street with some of her friends one day, told her of Ronald's plight and asked what happened to his trust money. She said he must be spending the money she gave him foolishly. He died a few years later.
Auntie Club-Feet was the only person I knew who had been aboard the ill-fated Titanic Ocean Liner, sunk when it struck an iceberg, April 15, 1912.