July 15, 2021

SOMETIMES A GIRL NEEDS A BIG BROTHER

As the eldest of the four Cate siblings, Clifford held a special place in the family.  Della and Harriett, his younger sisters, thought he was the finest, handsomest boy anywhere around and always looked to him for “big brotherly” advice. This is a favorite photo of Clifford with his wife Abbie (left) and sister Harriett (right).  They look so relaxed, happy and young. 

Abbie and Clifford were a real “power couple” in their local farm community.  She was petite but worked just as hard as he did to make their dairy farm successful.  Their days were long and exhausting but together they kept acquiring land and cattle.  All that in addition to raising three sons and a daughter—and then in their forties, twin sons.  

As a young widow with a son, Harriett also worked hard—but in a different area.  She was in retail sales at a downtown department store. But she also found time to sew and help her parents with gardening and canning. 

The energy and determination of these sisters-in-law were phenomenal. Abbie cooked for her family and the “farm hands,” had a huge garden, canned vegetables and fruit, and found time to turn out original oil paintings.  Initially she painted on the reverse side of oilcloth tablecloths. 

Their two households were very different—although they lived on adjacent property. Harriett struggled to make ends meet, while the Cates were more prosperous.  The Cates had a busy home filled with their growing family, Harriett just had her one son. She often turned to Clifford for advice and encouragement.

Years later, Harriett had a most important issue about which to ask her big brother’s advice. A certain widower had paid several visits to her church. His late wife had been a member there and it probably seemed like a good place to meet someone else. Harriett had known his late wife and several of his children had been in high school with Glenn.  When he asked her for a date, she hesitated and told him she would let him know in a few days.  She had been a widow for about 15 years and had really not dated during that time.

She went to see her brother and asked him what his opinion was about this prospect.  “He’s a fine man,” Clifford assured her. “You need to give him a chance.”  Thankfully, she did.  Within another year, she and Arley Eaves married, and two years later, I was born! 

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