Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Empty Flour Barrel

Margaret Crawford Houston (1825-1912)

my third great grandmother

me-->Ruth Rasmussen Buchanan-->Alice Houston Rasmussen-->John Cooper Houston-->James Houston, Jr.-->Margaret Crawford Houston

The white-washed wall wasn't the only miracle Margaret Crawford Houston saw in her lifetime.

After Margaret was baptized into the LDS Church and married James Houston, they came to America to live with the Saints who eventually settled in Utah.

One day Margaret bent over the flour barrel to get some flour out with a pan.

Her husband said, "I saw your stockings when you stooped to get flour from the barrel.  That tells me that it is getting low and we will be needing more."

Margaret retorted, "Well we wouldn't need more if you would stop giving away all the bread I bake.  I baked three loaves yesterday and you gave one loaf to Brother Black because his wife is sick and another to Pete Perkins because his family had gone to bed without supper."

James said, "Brother Brigham told us last night at our Priesthood meeting that if we divided our food with those who did not have any, we would never miss what we gave away.  I promise you, as long as we divide our flour with our friends, flour will always be in the barrel."

"When the flour is gone, it's gone," said Margaret.  "I scraped all there was in the barrel."

Margaret used the last of the flour to make some hot cakes.  She piled them on a plate.

Her daughter Libbie came in.  "Can I have a hot cake?"

"Yes," said Margaret, "but only one.  Father and John haven't had dinner yet."

Libby said, "Oh, maybe I'm not hungry for I had breakfast this morning but Maggie Jones didn't.  Maybe I give this to her if I don't eat it?"
Margaret said, "Yes of course.  Take second one for yourself."

Libby grabbed two hot cakes and ate one of them and gave the other to Maggie.

Then John and his friend Billie came in. John asked, "Mother, we are hungry.  Got anything to eat?"

Billie said, "Them cakes sure do smell good.  Ma can't make any.  She hasn't had flour for a long time because Pa is sick in bed."

"If your Pa is sick you should take some cakes over to him and your Ma," said Margaret.

"Thanks Sister Houston.  I know this will make Pa feel better."

Margaret looked at the empty plate.

"Whatever will I do for bread for James?" she wondered.

James came home and asked, "Is supper ready?"

"Yes," said Margaret, "when you milk the cow, because that is all there is."

Were farmers really that happy to milk a cow?
"But where is the bread?" asked James.

"You gave the bread away so I used the last little bit of flour to make hot cakes.  Our neighbors' hungry children ate them." Margaret said.

"Have you looked in the barrel since you got the flour?"

"James, how stupid you are!"  Margaret then went to the barrel to show him that it was empty.  She was surprised as she scooped out more flour.  "James, your faith is a wonderful blessing.  We will have supper after all."

Just then Mary Brown came over.  "Brother Houston, I hear you are the only one in the neighborhood with flour.  Can I have some and pay you back as soon as we get paid from Brother Knight?"

"Sister Brown, if we have some, you may get it.  Margaret, get Sister Brown some flour."

"But James, you saw me scrape the barrel," replied Margaret.

"Margaret, there is flour in that barrel.  Get it!"

Margaret went again to the barrel and scooped out more flour.

James said, "We shall never want as long as we divide with our neighbors."

This story was adapted from a skit "The Empty Flour Barrel" written by Gladys DeLong Banks. It is based on a true incident.  

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