ARNOLD - - If you have ever doubted the adage, “age is nothing but a number”, you need to meet Miriam Brower. Soon to be 106-years-old, she most certainly proves that saying is true!
Miriam lives in Arnold, where she has resided for the past 75 years. She raised her family here, taught Sunday school here, and proudly calls the Custer County community her home.
Miriam Leach was born Nov. 11, 1906, in Emmett, Idaho. She was the only girl in a family of seven - four older brothers, and two younger.
As a young child, her family moved first to Wyoming, then to Nebraska. They moved to Arnold in 1918. Miriam says her father was a bit restless, and liked to travel - so they moved fairly often.
Miriam has fond memories of the years she spent growing up with her brothers, who she admits spoiled her.
“I had a good time with my brothers. We liked to go ice skating on the big pond up in South Dakota. But I could never go swimming with them because they didn’t have suits!” she laughs.
She says she and her brothers liked to fish in the creek, and always ate what they caught - mostly bullheads, she recalls.
“I loved to ride horse back. My girlfriend and I rode 17 miles one afternoon,” she fondly remembers, her eyes twinkling as she tells the story.
She graduated from high school in Dupree, S.D., then taught school herself for a couple of years. Her brother, Conrad, introduced her to a young man named Gerrit Brower, and on May 22, 1928, they were married.
The young couple made their home in South Dakota, where Gerrit farmed. They started their family soon after getting married, and had five children before moving to a ranch north of Arnold in March 1937.
“But that (the ranch) didn’t really work out,” says Miriam.
They were on the ranch only six months before moving into town, where they added four more children to the family.
Wife & Mother
Miriam devoted herself to being a wife and mother. She grew a big garden and did lots of canning. They butchered pigs for meat - a not so fond memory for daughter, Ruth. Though she never fancied herself a good seamstress, she did sew clothes for the children.
“I never could crochet, but I liked to embroider,” she remembers.
During the summer months Gerrit did a lot of harvesting work, and traveled with the harvest crew. That left Miriam to tend to the kids and everything at home, something she never complained about - except during the Great Depression.
“Oh I remember the dust storms! And hanging wet blankets over the windows to keep the dirt out.”
Church has always been an important part of Miriam’s life. She can remember as a young girl walking two miles to church with her dad. She says her mom didn’t usually go because she had things to take care of at home, but her dad always took her and her brothers to church. Two of her brothers went on to become preachers.
Her faith and love for the church has remained with her, and created some fond memories for her children and grandchildren. One of her granddaughters fondly recalls as a child at grandma’s house, that a “scripture box” was always kept on the kitchen table.
Before eating a meal, they would take a card from the box and share the scripture, then pray, then they could eat. It is a memory this granddaughter cherishes.
She has been a faithful and active member of the Church of the Nazarene in Arnold since 1943.
Like her father, Miriam has always loved to travel. But between raising children and a working husband, opportunities to do so were few and far between.
Gerrit passed away in 1990, and since that time Miriam has been able to do the traveling she has always wanted to do. Each year she and daughter, Ruth, Ruth’s daughter and granddaughter, take a trip together - four generations of girls.They have visited several states, and this past summer went to South Dakota on a “reminiscing” trip.
Growing up with all boys in the house gave Miriam a bit of a competitive spirit. She loves sports, particularly baseball and basketball, and had two sons that did well in basketball.
“I always had to work for my board in high school, so I couldn’t participate in sports myself,” Miriam says.
That competitive nature is still apparent though, in the way she loves to play games. Some of her favorites are the old card game Flinch, dominoes and Scrabble. In fact, when preparing to take the picture of her and Ruth playing Scrabble, Miriam told me to be sure and mention that she won!
She also says she enjoys eating. When asked her favorite thing to eat she does not hesitate; “fried chicken!”
Ruth explains that Miriam is known for her wonderful fried chicken among family and friends. And though fried chicken might be her favorite thing to eat, it is not the only weakness she has. She jokes that when on her trips with the girls she always makes them stop so she can get ice cream and french fries.
Two years ago, on her 104th birthday, Miriam’s daughter, Ruth Yanken, invited her to spend the night after her birthday party. The two then decided it would be a good idea for Miriam just to stay. She is quick to point out that she still has her house though, just a stone’s throw from Ruth’s.
While Ruth was present for this interview, she did not interject except to help jog Miriam’s memory about something. This remarkable lady is able to recall dates, places and events that even some of us in our 50s have a hard time remembering!
As the interview concluded, Ruth called from the dining room, “Come on momma, let’s play Scrabble.”
With a grin from ear to ear, Miriam hopped up from the couch and quickly made her way to the dining room table - prepared to enjoy one more of life's victories.