Fishers by the Dozen

A Family on the Move

By Lena G. Hall

Photos courtesy of Helen Wood

The Fisher family of Eagle came to Idaho by wagon train from Iowa via Kansas in 1889, after so many moves that their descendants now say, “When the chickens saw the family packing up, they came to the kitchen door, lay down on their backs, and stuck their legs up in the air waiting to be tied.” The family lived on several rural properties in the Eagle area over the years. George and Ella Fisher (“Pa” and “Ma”) had fifteen children, the fourteenth of whom was Lena, born in 1901. She wrote a short unpublished manuscript of the family’s history, from which the following excerpts are taken with the permission of Lena’s daughter, Helen Wood.

There is a saying around the small town of Eagle: “Don’t gossip about a Fisher, because if you aren’t related,  you will be.”

* * *

Pa chewed tobacco but didn’t smoke. He had white hair and long, white whiskers all the years I knew him. He never owned a toothbrush, but had perfect teeth. Ma lost hers early. Some of us inherited this trait from Pa and some from Ma. Ma’s one vice, if it can be called that, was coffee. It was boiled in a pot on the stove and kept simmering. When the bottom of the pot was emptied, the coffee was stout enough to stand alone. I never cared much for coffee until after I married and had a percolator.

Not by choice but of necessity, Ma was the disciplinarian of the family. Pa was easy-going and always ready for a good time. He could and did administer punishment if the crime was severe, like the time we threw dust at the neighbors’ team and caused them to run away. We were lined up and all received our just dues. I remember Ma saying, “If you get sassy with me, young lady, I’ll slap your teeth clear down your throat.” I always controlled my tongue in fear she would carry out her threat. Ma wouldn’t have done such a thing, but it was a good respect-getter. We were always told if we got a licking at school, we would get two when we got home. Bryan found out the hard way. The news of his misbehavior beat him home.

Ma was quite devoted to her belief in religion. Pa wasn’t. Ma was a Dunkard, later called Brethren. Since the only church of her denomination was quite a distance away, she, along with the rest of the family, attended the Baptist church in Eagle. As long as I can remember she taught the adult Bible class at Sunday School. Ma never owned a dress hat but always wore a bonnet. I don’t believe we ever saw her arms above the elbow or her legs above the ankle. She would never allow regular playing cards in the house, contending that if the boys didn’t know how to read them, they would never be able to gamble. We played pit and rook [card games] with special decks, which was all right with her. Nothing stronger than sweet cider was allowed on the home front. The older boys did their share of imbibing at the dances they attended, but it was unheard of for a lady to touch liquor of any kind.

Two memorable incidents happened to me when we lived north of Eagle. When I was about four years old, I was flogged by a gander. One of my brothers won a big white goose at a shooting match and he was being fattened up for Thanksgiving dinner. Like all other fowl he had the run of the barnyard. I guess, because I was small, he would chase me every chance he got. One day I bravely sauntered into his vicinity, and seizing the opportunity, he grabbed my left arm in his beak and began flogging me with his wings. My screaming brought assistance and he was disengaged. I carried the scar he left on my arm into adulthood.

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Lena G. Hall

About Lena G. Hall

Lena G. Hall was the mother of Boise resident Helen Wood, the keeper of a manuscript Lena wrote that describes her family’s settlement in the Eagle area in 1889, from which the story in this issue is extracted. Born in 1901, the fourteenth of fifteen children, Lena died in Boise in 1985.

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