Saturday, September 11, 2010

Book review: Voices From the Bottom of the Bowl, Thomas Edward Cheney

This book is a compilation of stories by the author, Thomas Cheney, dealing with his growing up in the Teton Basin. In this case the "bowl" is the Teton Basin and the bottom of the bowl is Victor, ID. I find this book enteresting as it is the community where my great grandfather homesteaded in the early 1900s and at times family members are part of the stories.

The author talks about how he was baptized by my Great Grandfather William Wardle at age eight along with William's daughter Delilah. The baptism took place in the winter, and there was ice at the edge of the creek. Afterwards, after going into the house, Grandfather Wardle told him to get out of his wet clothes and warm himself by the fire. He had already seen Delilah naked doing this, and then put himself on display in like manner against his will.

He tells a school story about Uncle Leo (my dad's uncle.) This was a story about his school: "That year I hated Leo Wardle, a classmate; a retention and therefore a bigger, older, stronger boy. He teased me by yelling, 'Tommy, Tommy titmouse/ laid an egg in our house/ egg was rotten good for nothing/ so was Tommy titmouse.' He wrestled my marbles away from me and never returned them. He sat behind me and poked me in the back. Like a botfly in a horse's nose he stung me. I declared I hated him, which amplified my hate. When he spurred me in the back and whispered, 'loan me some paper,' I searched my vocabulary for the meanest words I could write to repulse him. On a sheet of my tablet I wrote in big, underlined, illuminated words, 'Kiss My Ass!' and held it up for him to see.

On another occassion, he writes than when his stepfather was sick, many neighbors came to pay their respects. He was swinging with Delilah Wardle (my Dad's aunt) when he noticed they were carrying a bed out of the house. It was then that he discovered that his stepfather had died from typhoid fever.

Earlier in this story, when his stepfather was sick and couldn't work, they indicate a Jim Shaw was working in his place for his stepfather. This would be my great grandfather, father of my grandmother Melissa Shaw Wardle.

Finally the author talks of the last time he smoked. Marion Thompson was one of the boys who smoked with him. Marion married my dad's aunt Mary Wardle.

I have also enjoyed the stories because it talks of things in which my family also participated. It talks of the school, the town, the train, the farms and the homes. It also talks about the people he related with as he was growing up. There are many interesting characters in a small town. He concludes the last story quoting his mother, who was responding to her son about the difficult life in the Basin, "Ease is not a virtue to seek for young, vigorous people. The pursuit of easy things makes people week...Pleasure comes through striving and surviving."


  1. Billy,
    My Grandfather was Reed Wardle, Leo and Delilah's brother. As a boy, I remember visiting at reunions with most of my Grandfathers brothers and sisters. They all seemed a million years old to me. I love these real life recollections.


  2. Ross Park reunions were great. I missed meeting Grandpa William or Grandma Annie by a few years. I hope to p My brother had them available at the Isaac Wardle reunion.