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Historical Novels -Bobi Andrews

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Ice Cream Genes - Charles J. Ellis

If you clicked on the previous post, the image enlarges. 
Here comes the first Ellis true story.  Hope you enjoy.


I just finished reading James Patterson’s, The Murder of King Tut, which is an amazing story of the life of Egyptians circa 1500 BC. His research, descriptions, and story were possible because of the practice of Egyptians to bury their Pharaohs and their belongings in sealed, secretive underground vaults which preserved the information and artifacts, and when later discovered, told of their lives thousands of years ago.

Most family lore is lost because no one bothered to record it, or the people who knew the stories died before passing it down to their descendents. To be truthful, we probably didn’t ask our grandparents soon enough. Obituaries tell of death, not life.

Communication between generations got me wondering what our descendents one hundred years from now (let alone thousands of years) will know of our everyday living. Will Facebook archives and “buried” blogs be accessible? Will there be libraries of genealogy information? Or will little green men and women from Mars think we were a funny species who lived in an old-fashioned Internet age?

Although not as profound as King Tut, my thoughts reminded me of a snapshot of events recorded by early prairie newspapers telling of Grandpa Ellis’s life on the prairies in western Kansas.

                                          The Ice Cream Gene

Charlie Ellis liked ice cream and broncos. So says the Cheyenne County Democrat, the Cheyenne County Rustler, the Weekly Review, the Cheyenne County Herald, and the People’s Defender of Cheyenne County, Kansas from 1890 to 1893.*

Soon after their marriage in 1890, Grandpa Charlie and his wife, Minnie moved from Pilger, Nebraska, to St. Francis, in Dent Township, Kansas, to be near her parents, the Montgomery’s. Cheyenne County, established twenty years earlier in 1873, supported five prairie newspapers which followed the practice of contacting the country folks and townspeople every week for “news” of themselves and their neighbors. Here is what they said about Charlie:


March 1 - Charlie Ellis of Dent, team ran away with harrow.
April 19 - Charlie Ellis of Dent killed a rattlesnake with 7 rattles.

July 13 - Charles Ellis held an ice cream supper on Saturday night
July 20 - Charles Ellis hosted an ice cream supper Tuesday night.
Jan 5 - Charlie Ellis, sports a new buggy, bought it of Henry Bowers
Jan 19 - Charlie Ellis riding a bronco, reminded us of Humpty Dumpty
      on the wall
Feb 2 - Charles Ellis is riding that bronco again.
Feb 16 - Charles Ellis sold a gray mare and bought a team of broncos.
Mar 2 - Charles Ellis and John Merrell took part in a rabbit hunt.
Apr 6 - Charles Ellis sold a team of broncos to N. B. Woodruff.
Apr 20 - Charles Ellis prairie fire burned some feed; it started from a
      lighted cigar from someone’s buggy.
Apr 27 - Charles Ellis and wife were sight seeing on Cherry Creek.
Jan 26 - Charles Ellis was seen riding his bronco again. Be careful, Charles.
Feb 16 - Charles Ellis has another bronco. Now Charlie, be careful.
Feb 23 - Charlie Ellis and Charley Burnham captained the squads for the great
      wolf hunt.
Mar 2 -Charlie Ellis has built a nice chicken house, or his neighbors built
       it for him, rather.
Apr 13 -We hear Charlie Ellis is hauling back the water W. T. Atkinson
       borrowed last winter.
Apr 8 -Charlie Ellis hosted a grand affair for the birthdays of Chas. Pritchet,
       Jud Tedrick , Mrs. Pearson, and himself. Number present – 70.

Jan 25 -Charles Ellis and wife prospecting over on Cherry Creek.

*The newspaper accounts above were generously shared by Cindy Anderson, Cheyenne, Wyoming, during my genealogy searches.
For the bronco riding, it appears that it was a fling of his youth, the ice cream an addiction for life. Here’s how Grandpa made ice cream:

As soon as the ice disappeared from the horse tank in the spring, Grandpa threw the wooden ice cream bucket in the tank so that the wood would soak and swell closing the cracks between the wood slats in the bucket. Periodically through the summer, he soaked the bucket for at least three days before he intended to use it.

He invited his friends and relatives to come by late in the afternoon on Sunday. Before he went to church, he skimmed the cream from the top of the milk pails and made sure he had enough fresh eggs. On the way home from church, he stopped his buggy to pick up a block of ice from the town’s wood-framed storage,  packed deep in sawdust, taken from the Republican River in February. After changing from Sunday clothes, he chipped into a burlap bag the ice and rock salt while Minnie whisked the cream, sugar, eggs, and vanilla into the gallon canister, closed the lid, and locked in the wooden paddle.

He planned the time so that he barely started cranking the bucket when his guests arrived. “Here, I have to tend to my horses, (or chickens, or whatever excuse he thought of) and pass the cranking of the bucket to a young nephew or friend to continue the cranking. The cranking started out fast, but then slowed to a tedious chore as the ice cream slowly froze. Most of the time, men folk watched and told stories under the tree, pausing only long enough to turn the crank once or twice to see if the handle was getting hard to crank, or to unplug the hole at the bottom of the bucket to let the brine drain, or to pile on more ice and salt. When Grandpa was satisfied the handle would no longer crank, he announced the ice cream would be ready in a half hour. He removed the paddle, left the canister in the bucket with the brine, packed more ice around it, and covered the bucket with an old heavy quilt to season. ( I would hope whoever cranked the bucket the most got to lick the paddle.)

Only if you have had ice cream home-cranked with real cream, would you know what you wanted in heaven. Although scientists have not yet found an ice cream gene, I am sure there is one. Grandpa passed his ice cream genes to my father, who not surprising operated a creamery and manufactured ice cream. Growing up, my brother, sister, and I ate our fill of broken ice cream bars. We had beet sugar stored in our basement during World War II, and an abundance of cherries, butter brickle, nuts, chocolate, and other goodies stored in large containers upstairs in the creamery. A pint of ice cream sold for 25 cents, a quart for 50 cents.

When my father sold his creamery, we graduated to Blue Bunny ice cream from Sioux City, Iowa, and of course in Texas, Blue Bell ice cream reigns.

The other day, I was clearing out my garage and found my old ice cream bucket with its crank. On the shelf in the laundry room is its matching canister and paddle, and in the pantry a box of rock salt.

Hm-m-m-m-m-m! I think I’ve got the gene.

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