By Jim Harmon

Yesterday was Mother’s Day.

Early attempts at creating a holiday to honor mothers take us back to the 1800s. Most historians agree that Anna Jarvis’ creation of a “Mother's Friendship Day" during the Civil War led to today’s modern holiday.

President Woodrow Wilson made it official with a Mother's Day Proclamation on May 9, 1914.

It’s important to note that Mother’s Day is singular, not plural. It was created to honor your own mother, not all mothers.

In that context, I honor my late mother, Vesta Jane (nee Knoke) Harmon, who wrote her own story of growing up on the Huntley Project in Montana in 1908.

“I was born on November 16, 1910 at our farmhouse there. The Huntley irrigation project, located east of Billings, Montana was the first Federal Irrigation Project in the USA.

Albert & Effie Knoke
Albert & Effie Knoke

"My parents were Albert and Effie Knoke. I remember sitting on Papa's lap and playing with wooden toys which he had made for me. I remember all the good fried chicken and strawberry shortcake that Mama made for us as we grew up.

"This is a story told to me by Mama when I was old enough to understand it. When I was a baby my mother wrapped me in blankets and took me with her in the buggy. This light wagon was pulled by a gentle old horse.

"At the gate, Mama got down to open it and left me lying on the seat of the buggy. The horse did not wait for Mama to get back into the buggy and I rolled off the seat and fell to the ground.

Vesta & Horses 1910
Vesta & Horses 1910

"The buggy wheel ran over me. I was not hurt, as I was so well wrapped in blankets. Mama was very frightened, but was happy when she found I was not injured.

"I recall the dresses my mama made for me when I was old enough to go to school, and the dolly I got for Christmas in a cradle handmade by my Papa.

"I remember gathering eggs and carefully bringing them into the house. I remember watching Papa milk the cow and later I got to turn the handle of the cream separator; this was fun. I also went with Papa to the creamery in Worden when he delivered the large cans of cream.

"Our garden furnished may different kinds of vegetables and fruit for us to eat.

"Our first car was called a little 'Red Rambler'. Later on, we had a Reo touring car. Every year on the Fourth of July, we went to Pompey's Pillar (a huge sandstone rock formation down by the Yellowstone River a few miles from Worden).

"The Lewis and Clark Expedition had stopped near there and we would climb 'the rock' to see the signature, 'Wm. Clark July 1806' carved there by Clark's party.

Vesta Knoke and baby sister Dena
Vesta Knoke and baby sister Dena

"I remember my first day at school. I lived about three miles from school and most of the time I was allowed to ride the 'kid wagon,' as it was called (a covered wagon with bench seats along both sides, pulled by two horses).

"I graduated in 1928, ranked fifth in my class of twenty-eight. In September, I entered Eastern Montana Normal School in Billings.

"The good old days on the Huntley Project really were just that - we had all we needed (not all we wanted some of the time), but the days and the years were happy ones and I do not feel cheated that I did not have all of today’s conveniences that you have.

"Enjoy each day and maybe one day you’ll write your memories for your children.”

Vesta J. (Knoke) Harmon (1910-2008)

Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at His best-selling book, “The Sneakin’est Man That Ever Was,” a collection of 46 vignettes of Western Montana history, is available at