Chapter 2 - Tillie
Tillie Cummings lived on a farm next to ours. When she went to town she would dress in a long Victorian dress and a large hat. There seemed to be an aura of royalty or wealth about her. I had heard that she had a cousin who was a federal judge. That was one view of Tillie.
The other Tillie was an unmarried woman who lived with Joe Krepps in an old shed made into a house. The old stone house on the property that dated back to 1800 had burned down when I was very young. I can still visualize the sandstone shell standing with weeds growing around it. The shed in which Tillie lived was divided into three rooms. She did her best to make it into a home. Besides Joe living with her, there were five dogs and numerous cats. Tillie was a lover of animals. Outside the shed, there were chickens of many breeds and an old turkey named Bill. He was really a mean creature. Whenever I came near him, he would fluff up his feathers and spread his wings while running after me. His gobbling noises also used to intimidate me. When Bill saw me coming, he knew he had someone small enough to challenge.
Everything and everyone seemed to be in retirement at Tillie's place. Other animals on Tillie's farm included many cows and two old horses. The horses were never used. The old cows seemed to be skinny, but she would not let them go. She was too kind to get rid of the old animals. We sometimes had to supply her with hay to get through the winter. One day I went with my father to cut hay near Tillie's home. She gave me a nickel to keep her chickens away from the mowing machine. That is the first time I remember having a coin of my own.
Once, one of the horses broke out of pasture and wandered over past Mount Tabor Church. Elmer Briley caught it and rode it around before heading back toward Tillie's farm. He must have driven it too hard because it fell over dead of an apparent heart attack. Tillie was very upset when one of her beloved animals died. Another time my brother John and sister Helen upset Tillie by going into her field and picking some wild strawberries. These were the only two times that I heard of Tillie displaying anger.
In the early nineteen thirties, the farm was sold to the Santo family by the Pittsburgh Coal Company. I do not know how long the coal company had owned the farm, but Tillie was living there rent free. It had apparently been sold to the company by her family so the company could control the mineral rights. When the Santos bought the farm, Tillie had to move out. That was a sad time for her; she had to get rid of everything.
Tillie gave me an old buggy that had been sitting outside for many years. I hitched our horse up to it and brought it home. It wasn't in very good shape, so I stripped it down and made a large go-cart out of it. I tied a large rope to each side of the front axle. It could be guided while sitting in the back. A little hill in the pasture made a good race track.
Tillie went to live with Joe Krepp's family in Twilight. I lost track of her from that time on.
Continue on to
• Chapter 1 - Long Branch
• Chapter 3 - Those War Years
• Chapter 4 - The Post-War Era