Laura Belle Monroe lived across the field from my home when I was a boy. No one called her Laura; she was “Belle” to friends and family. I always called her Mrs. Monroe because she seemed ancient to me.
She was born in 1865 while Lincoln was president. Her husband died young and she raised their four young children. My father had been in her Sunday school class when he was a boy, and he often took me with him when he visited Mrs. Monroe. She was of fine, pioneer stock, he would tell me. Her back porch was filled with crocks, canning jars, and other items she had used in the past. Mrs. Monroe knew all there was to know about being self-sufficient.
There were hedge rows around her farmstead and it was a haven for an out-of-control rabbit population. When I was given my first rifle, she gave me the task of reducing their numbers when hunting season came. There were two stipulations — hunting had to take place on Sunday mornings when she was at church, as she didn’t like to hear gun shots, and the coveys of quail that lived in the hedge rows were off limits. Mrs. Monroe had a soft spot in her heart for the quail.
Hunting on Sunday morning was fine with me. It meant I would walk across the field with my rifle and spend the morning hunting while other family members were at church. It was a sacrifice a boy could make.
I enjoyed hunting rabbits at Mrs. Monroe’s place, but the real attraction in her home was her Chicago Lakeside pump organ. Her daughter, Grace. played the organ and I believe Mrs. Monroe bought it when the Lake Shore E.U.B Church, that once stood on the old State Road, closed. Over the years she showed me the organ’s fundamentals and allowed me to struggle through a few tunes on it when I visited her.