Frugal Lessons From The Past: Old Mike

History can provide some of the best lessons to help us figure out solutions to today’s problems.

Concerning finances, thrift, frugality and simple living there are tried and true bedrock principals that we should never forget.

This post is part of a series that focuses on some of those principals by going to source materials for inspiration.

In her book “Little Heathens – Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression” author Mildred Armstrong Kalish devotes a chapter to describing many of the ways she and her family practiced thrift. After describing such things as homemade cleaners and health remedies and the many life cycles of socks she ends the chapter with a recycling technique probably not used by many anymore.

“The clincher for thrift is what became of the horse, Old Mike, after his death. It happened around 1912, long before my time. Apparently he had been retired and was allowed to graze in the orchard and on the grasses of the woods, generally living a well earned life of leisure. He’d become a family pet; his only real job was to take my mother in a surrey to the rural school where she was teaching.

Then, at the age of twenty-nine, in the middle of an exceptionally cold winter, which caused him to grow a luxurious coat to protect against the brutal weather, Old Mike died. Grandpa skinned him and sent his hide to a tanner in Muscatine, Iowa, who made it into a truly handsome robe backed by black wool and trimmed with green felt. Grandpa told me he had paid fifteen dollars to have this done. That robe was used in the car in the winters by Grandpa and Grandma until after their deaths, by Mama wherever she needed it, and then by me to place on the floor in front of the living room fireplace after I grew up, married , and had children. Sometime around 1980 it started to shed a lot of those lovely dark brown hairs, and I finally had to abandon Old Mike.”

Related Reading:

Frugal Lessons From The Past: College During the Depression

1 comment:

  1. Horsehide blankets were quite popular as laprobes for passengers in horse-drawn vehicles as they are windproof. Just a little trivia! Thanks for the story!


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