Evelyn Brown loves to sit and rock on her little front porch on Maiden Street in Bismarck. She will shoot the breeze with a neighbor and watch as the action in her little corner of the world unfolds.
The bench and two rockers were a Mother's Day gift from her children several years ago.
On Monday, she was basking in "God's glory," as she called it, as the sun shone brightly and a slight breeze kept her resting spot from getting too hot.
The 78-year-old widow raised eight children on a farm and now lives in a small house those children – Daniel, Donna, Darrell, David, Dennis, Darlene, Duane and Douglas – bought for her in 2000.
"The kids bought this house, and it's just perfect for me. They call themselves the D. Brown Partnership. Don't know how they came up with that," she said, laughing.
"When I would be pregnant, people would joke with me about running out of 'D' names. I told them, 'Oh, no, there's lots of names left.' "
This open, friendly woman has jokes for a number of things in her life, which now includes 16 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Floyd and Evelyn both hailed from the Bismarck area and attended Bismarck schools. They rented 320 acres of farmland north of the village on Bowman Avenue, raising corn, soybeans, hay and livestock.
Daniel, her oldest, came along in 1949. Douglas, the baby, was born in 1967.
"Eight didn't seem like a lot," Evelyn said. "I was the oldest of 15. Our older ones helped take care of the younger ones, just like I had to. We took what God sent us. Back then you didn't know what you were having."
Brown said all of her children were active at school and at home.
"She definitely gave us a lot of brothers and sisters," said David Brown, child number four of eight. "We only had a baby-sitter once that I can remember."
Several of the children played sports and were active in Future Farmers of America and 4-H.
"At home, they all had projects and chores," Evelyn said. "The boys took care of the livestock and the yard. The girls helped me with cooking and canning."
The stay-at-home mom said the family's large garden helped a lot with expenses.
"I canned green beans, tomatoes, apples, peaches, and made tomato and grape juice," she said. "We had two big freezers in the basement. It gave us food for the winter. With our own meat, pork and beef, we were OK."
"Mom was always a good cook," David Brown said. "She'd cook up a big pot of something, and when she said, 'Time to eat,' we came. There were no microwaves, no warming it up – and usually no leftovers."
The couple married in 1948 and spent 46 years together – before Floyd's death in 1994 – in their eight-room farmhouse. The four bedrooms were upstairs – one for Floyd and Evelyn, one for the girls and the other two for the boys.
"We only had the one bathroom upstairs with the tub. The boys got up early and had chores to do," Evelyn said. "The girls had to get up and get ready for school and be out of the bathroom by the time the boys were done with chores."
"You didn't have time to pamper yourself," daughter Darlene Van Pelt said.
Brown said she tried to treat her children as individuals.
"She never expected us to have the same grades and encouraged our various interests," Van Pelt said.
The importance of education was tantamount for the Browns.
"All my children had perfect attendance in high school, and David and Douglas had perfect attendance for all 12 years," Brown said. "My husband's theory was he never wanted to take them out of school just to farm.
"I never thought any of my children ever actually went to school sick. Daniel was the oldest, and he just never missed school because he considered that his responsibility. The others just fell in line, I guess."
She theorizes that her children stayed healthy because they never went to school without breakfast.
"They always had juice and cereal, boxed or hot oatmeal. I think that helped," she said. "The boys said they thought having to get up early and get out in the fresh air helped, too."
When asked what she thought made her a good mother, Evelyn described herself as loving and dependable.
"Every family has their squabbles," she said. "But our children were taught not to hold a grudge. We encouraged teamwork."
As second oldest, Donna Light helped take charge of her younger siblings.
"We knew we had chores," she said. "They weren't specific; we just knew what needed to be done and did it. I helped with the cooking, cleaning, canning and laundry."
Light said she knew her mother was good at her vocation because she always was "there when you needed understanding. Both my parents always made time to attend everyone's games and other activities. There was never a feeling any one of us was a favorite.
"I feel like she taught us a great deal of respect of life as a whole. She gave us a good work ethic because they said that's how life would be."