1881: Christmas in Bozeman

Christmas brought a little life into the small town, where celebration was usually rare. On Christmas Day we drove to the farm where we ate lunch. Mrs. Gottschalk gave me a nice silken scarf as a present, which made me very happy. In this country, such scarfs replace collars and ties. No man wears button-down shirts or even collar and cufflinks. A woolen shirt with a woolen or a silken scarf make up the underclothing of the hillbilly. Even on the second day of Christmas (Dec, 26) when we went to the Christmas Ball in the large Ballroom at the Spieth’ Brewery, only a small amount of the guests was dressed in a white shirt – a piece of clothing which they rescued from an former life in the city. Some men wear poorly ironed shirts with tattered sleeves. That indicates the end of this piece of clothing which reminds one of ‘civilization’. It soon will be replaced by a woolen shirt of the hillbilly.

As a result of one of the letters I received from Barmen, in which a soon return of mine was asked for in order to partake in leading my father’s business, I have my brother sign and notarize an affidavit so that I can represent his interests back home.

On December 29, a pastor from Helena reads a mass at the Kopp’s house. That is only how I find out that Kopp is a Catholic. At this occasion I’m being invited to find out about some secrets and establishments of the Catholic church: I receive the order to make sacramental bread! For a free-thinking Protestant like me, this is an awkward task which I soon dispose of as good as I possibly can. Wheat flour is mixed well with some water. Then the mash is pressed between two hot flat-irons which are coated with white wax. Thereupon, after I had formed round cookies with the help of a water glass, I deliver those to the pastor. The ‘sacred addition’ by the pastor raised the rather little value of the cookies to the lofty status of sacramental bread.

After I had proved my skills as a baker, later in the day I would fill the position as a water carrier. In the course of the afternoon a young girl came – in this country a rare appearance – from the neighborhood in order to get water from the well that was located in our courtyard; in the frosty cold the well at her house froze up. Since the girl was first of all not a maid and secondly looking very pretty, I could not let her carry the water buckets by herself. However, I did her the service with great pleasure. For the next eight days this was required two to three times a day. During that time, I was able to meet the married sister, Mrs. Barker as well. She now came to visit the Kopp’s. Was she curious to find out about the water carrier? After I had walked her back home I find out that her husband is my lodge brother. That fact cemented the already existing friendship. When I get to the house with the two water buckets, the pretty girls always thanked me with the words: “I’m ever so obliged to you”. Then after one week I received notice that my water carrying services were not required anymore. What a pity! It was so enjoyable!

translated by Julia Strehlau-Jacobs

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