Havre Daily News - News you can use

Wisdom and Grace: This Old House

Having a place to go is HOME. Having someone to love is FAMILY. Having both is a BLESSING.


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Life is a journey. When we pray "Not my will but Thine be done" we never know where life's journey will take us. We pray for wisdom and guidance for each day. We make choices but very often life ends up not being the way we had planned or hoped it would be. Life can be filled with "What Ifs" instead of "What Is."

For instance, I never planned to live in the house that my husband and I live in now. We live in the house where I was raised. Don't get me wrong, I've always wanted to return to the farm where I was raised but ... to the house where I was raised ... not really. My mother called it "Three homestead shacks put together to make a home."

Allow me to share a bit of history about our "three homestead shacks" home. Originally, the land was filed on by a Reverend Rasmussen who put his one-room house on the highest hill in the area, just north of the present house, hoping it would be used for a church building. A Mr. Pelton moved that house to the present location and purchased a three-room house from a newly married couple by the name of Rhodes from the south side of Red Rock Coulee, east of the Amos Trail.

Harry and Helen Slyter bought the place from Pelton and used the one-room house nearby for a wash house, and later for their cream separator and bunk house. In 1928, the Slyters bought the two-room Oswald homestead house for $95, moving it eighteen miles from where it was near the present day old Radar Base. It was used as an extra bedroom for their four sons until the Slyters decided to have all their family under one roof, so they combined the three houses into one. Mrs. Slyter insisted the combined houses be all on the same level, which often was not the case when homestead houses were combined.

My parents, Wesley and Gertrude Whaley, moved into the house when Slyters returned to Kansas in 1944. The year 1952 brought electricity and with it an electric stove, wringer washer and dryer. In the early '60s, the house was modernized and the living room enlarged. Mom inherited a small house in town, sold it, and used the money to add an inside bathroom.

In 1996, our family of four daughters (Beth, Lynn, Amy and Laura) moved to the farm from Wyoming. We built a five-bedroom, four-bathroom house about 100 yards south of the original house. We enjoyed two years of living close to mom. We visited often and our girls loved spending time with her. She passed away August 24, 1998.

Since 1998, the house has been lived in for a short time by our daughter Beth and briefly by renters. Daughter Lynnette lived in it for six years from 2007-2013.

Time marches on and the journey of life continues. As retirement and slowing down neared, we asked our daughters if any of them might want to move out and help with the farming and cows. Laura and her husband Tim Scheele said they would like to. It just seemed right that they and their five children would move to the five-bedroom, four bath house and that Rod and I would move to the two-bedroom, one-bath house.

Did I mention that this house is old? And when I say "old" I mean "pretty dog-gone old." There is no insulation. The house was built forty years before electricity was added. The plumbing is an add on to an add on to some more add on. The living room, that I thought was large as a kid growing up, has shrunk! And the kitchen that hosted so many holiday, neighborhood and family gatherings isn't as big as I remember it to be. We bought a new gas dryer but it's not hooked up yet. I'm grateful for the clothes line - our laundry smells so fresh and clean.

Thank goodness for the gas heat that replaced the coal, oil and propane stoves that we used when I was growing up. Rod has added on another room to the west which will be used for a bedroom and larger bathroom ... but it's not finished yet.

Friends ask, "Are you sure it was a good idea to move to the old house?" My heart felt answer is, "Absolutely!"

As I sit in this house, my mind reclaims memories of the past and I can smell mom's famous Fudge Squares baking in her electric oven. I can see my dad reading the Bible and or listening to the 45 rpm record player. I recall long winter nights playing Monopoly with my sister Myrna and brother Delbert at the kitchen table. I can hear our precious kitty Muff purring on the rare times she was allowed to come inside and visit.

"Are you really sure it's a good idea to move to the old house?"

And then a knock comes to the door and my mind returns to reality. It's one of the five nearby grandkids stopping by to say, "Hi Grandma. Do you have something to drink?"

It's watching Kami come down to the barn every morning and evening to feed her 4-H steer. And watching Karter haul water jugs in the wagon for their 4-H pigs.

It's Kace's excitement over the bull sale flier that came in the mail. And seeing Kord mesmerized by the farm implements in the Trader's Dispatch. And it's Knox playing in the dirt... the very same dirt that I played in.

"Are you really sure it's a good idea to move to the old house?


"The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Psalm 23 NIV


Ila McClenahan is a retired chaplain and activity director living on the farm where she was raised in the Amos community north of Havre.


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