Andrew and Molly Part 9

img_1779WhilesWharton had other matters to attend, Andrew and Bartles worked for hours that afternoon sawing trees with a cross-cut saw, chopping off branches with an ax, then piling the brush for later burning.  Andrew’s back ached and the muscles of his arms screamed.  At the end of the day, they were rewarded with a half-dozen stumps, a huge pile of brush, and a stack of logs.  The timber would be transported to a nearby sawmill for processing into lumber.  Wharton told Andrew he could take what he needed to fashion a room in the barn.  The remainder would be used on the place or sold in the colonies or shipped back to England.  Timber was one of the most important crops shipped back to England since her forests had been stripped.  Ship-building, an important trade, was always hungry for lumber. During a brief break, Bartles told him they usually worked the crops in the early morning, then split the afternoon between lumbering and blacksmithing as the need and weather permitted.  Blacksmithing was illegal in the colonies, but since their product was not great enough to impact the demand from England, they’d not had a problem yet.

Aggie sent Molly out with a pewter pitcher of beer and the men paused for a short break.  Battles spoke to the two of them.  When she turned to leave them, Bartles bade her stay. ” I came here as a bondsman almost four years ago.  I’d done blacksmithing on an estate in England.  Like you, my master died and I had to move on.  We’d have starved if we hadn’t bonded. It was a devilish passage we made, more than twelve weeks.  That’s when we met Master Wharton, but he warn’t no master then.  He was a sailor what broke his leg two days out and couldn’t work.  We took care of him or he’d have never lived.  When we got here, ship’s captain bound him over for lost work owed.  We was all bound to Mistress Ipswich when we landed, the woman that owned this farm. She was a hard, God-fearing woman, the meanest Christian I ever knew.  She took a fancy to Master Wharton not long after.  Once she was set on marrying him, he had no choice.  She meant to have him, one way or another.  He give up and married her after awhile, even though he didn’t have no fondness for her.  It was a hard bargain with never a minutes’ peace.  After a year or so, she fell out with a fit and died three days later.  He was Master after that.  When he found out I could smith, he got me a forge and helped me get a start.  I get to keep half I make.  He don’t have to let me keep nothing.  My time will be up in a few months and I’d be proud to teach you.  I’m telling you this so you’ll know you’ve got a chance.  Didn’t me nor Wharton have nothing when he got here.  Now he’s got a fine farm and soon, me and Aggie will be worked our time out an able to make a living.  Do right by Wharton and he’ll do right by you.  He don’t need to know we talked.  Lots of bondsman die before they finish their time, but you got a good place.”

Molly and Andrew were greatly heartened by Bartle’s story.  “I thank you for telling us, Bartles.”  Andrew told him.  “We are grateful.”  Molly flashed him a smile as she turned back to the house with the pitcher.

“I’d best get back in the house before Aggie skins me.”

“That she will,” chuckled Bartles.  “She don’t tolerate no slacking in herself nor nobody else, but she’s a good woman.”

Hard Time Marrying Part 21

Emma tapped on the door, explaining before she even got in. “I can’t stay.  Me and Rufus is on the way to town.  Nellie Mason told me your cow was dry, so I brung you some butter and two gallons of milk for the youguns.  If it turns before they finish it, you might have enough for a churning.  Can I bring you anything from town? ”

“Thank you, but no.  This milk and butter are sure welcome. Are you sure you cain’t set awhile?  I wouldn’t mind a cup of coffee with a friend.  It gets mighty quiet with Joe gone all day.”  Anya longed for the comfort of a woman’s company.

“No, Rufus is a’waitin’ in the wagon.  I better get on, but I sure wish you’d ride over with Joe Saturday when he comes to help Rufus fix the windmill.  I could kill a chicken an’ make some dumplings.  We could have some good woman talk.”  Emma’s eyes crinkled.  “Is Joe proud about the baby?”

“Oh, I ain’t told him yet.  I been spottin’ some and I’m afeared I may not carry it.  I don’t want him to worry if they ain’t no need.”  Anya had no idea how that spilled out.

“”I’ve sorrowed over that.  I lost two between Martha and Melvin.  I’ll pray for you.”  She gave Anya a warm hug.

Tears sprung to Anya’s eyes at her friend’s kindness.  “I thank you, Emma.  I’d be proud to see you on Saturday.”

“That will be something to look forward to.  See you then.”  Anya followed Emma into the yard and waved as the Menlo’s wagon rattled off.

 

Cool Water

Half empty

Since I frequently mention Mother in humorous stories, I thought perhaps I should tell you more of her true nature. She lives in a quiet neighborhood on a corner lot, always busy working in her yard, which over the past thirty years, she has landscaped lovingly. For more years than I can remember, she has kept a cooler of ice water on her back porch, with cups, for any passerby, who needs a drink. She washes and reuses the cups, discouraging waste. Most days, she is on hand to greet the kids when they are getting in from school to ask about their day, encourage them, or just talk. Should she hear unkindness, she reminds them, “You can’t talk like that. How would you feel if someone called you that?” If a child tells her of being bullied, she says, “Tell your parents or teacher. If they don’t help, come back and let me know. We’ll figure something out.” She has become so well-known, that walkers of all ages in her neighborhood stop for a drink, carefully returning their used cups to the bin for rewashing. Many times I’ve seen kids tap on the back door or hunt her up in the yard to let her know she has fallen down on the job by letting the water cooler run dry. So many stop by that she can’t possibly know them all by name, although they certainly know hers.

Mother loves light, so when she isn’t working outdoors, she usually keeps her backdoor open, often privy to interesting exchanges between the kids.  They feel perfectly free to talk in front of her, like she is part of the landscape.  Recently, she passed on this conversation between a couple of boys who were taking a break on her back steps, about ten feet from where she sat.

Jason started out.  “This place is old.”

“Yep.” Amos agreed.

“This house is old.”  Jason offered.

“Yep.”  Amos was the king of “Yep!”

“That truck is old.”

“Yep.”

“Mrs. Swain is old.  Old people are so full of wisdom and uh, uh, uh…..”  Finally Jason was at a loss for words.

“Oldness!”  Quipped Amos.

Over the years, many of her “children” have grown up and moved out of her neighborhood. It is very common for her to be in a restaurant, on a parking lot, or anywhere in town and have a young police officer, store clerk, nurse, or bag boy call out, “Heh, Mrs. Swain, remember me? I used to get water at your house?” What a positive way to see how many lives she has touched over the years.

A Cool Drink of Water is a Good Thing

Since I frequently mention Mother so frequently in humorous stories, I thought perhaps I should tell you more of her true nature. She lives in a quiet neighborhood on a corner lot, always busy working in her yard, which over the past thirty years, she has landscaped lovingly.  For more years than I can remember, she has kept a cooler of ice water on her back porch, with cups, for any passerby, who needs a drink. She washes and reuses the cups, discouraging waste.  Most days, she is on hand to greet the kids when they are getting in from school to ask about their day, encourage them, or just talk.  Should she hear unkindness, she reminds them, “You can’t talk like that.  How would you feel if someone called you that?”  If a child tells her of being bullied, she says, “Tell your parents or teacher.  If they don’t help, come back and let me know.  We’ll figure something out.”  She has become so well-known, that walkers of all ages in her neighborhood stop for a drink, carefully returning their used cups to the bin for rewashing.  Many times I’ve seen kids tap on the back door or hunt her up in the yard to let her know she has fallen down on the job by letting the water cooler run dry.  So many stop by that she can’t possibly know them all by name, although they certainly know hers.

Over the years, many of her “children” have grown up and moved out of her neighborhood.  It is very common for her to be in a restaurant, on a parking lot, or anywhere in town and have a young police officer, store clerk, nurse, or bag boy call out, “Heh, Mrs. Swain, remember me?  I used to get water at your house?”  What a positive way to see how many lives she has touched over the years.