~ Chapter Two ~
Breakfast over, Louisa outlined the work for the day, the most important of
which was sowing oats.
"You boys get Frank and Charley hitched up and I'll be out in a few minutes,
Capable, energetic Phene, as usual when her mother worked in the fields, was
put in charge in the house. Today, besides getting meals, she would start
As for the other three..."Now, Nett and Nell and Coad, you help Phene and do
what she says," Louisa instructed, tying on a blue checked sunbonnet that
matched her apron.
They nodded their heads and chorused, "We will!"
Louisa hoped they would, but one never knew. With a stern backward look
intended to reinforce her expectations of good behavior, she went out the
Robins, busy at nest building, chirped joyfully as Louisa hurried through
the orchard toward the barn. In spite of her haste, she couldn't help
appreciating the scene that spread before her this spring morning; the green
splendor of the hills that stretched out beyond the barn, and off to the
west, the gray-black of the newly harrowed field where they would work today
"One hundred and sixty acres of cockleburrs and ditches," had been Harvey's
assessment of the farm where they began their married life. Hard work and
time now challenged that statement, though there were still some cockleburrs
and ditches...not to mention a heavy mortgage.
Harvey was not a born farmer. When, after nearly ten years of toughing it
out, he was offered the opportunity to buy a slaughter yard and butcher shop
in the town of Chariton, eight miles north of Freedom, he took advantage of
it. They had rented the farm out and moved to Chariton.
The trouble with living in town was that it was too easy for Harvey to
pursue his only vice: He couldn't leave liquor alone. Not only was the
demon stuff readily accessible, there were too many friends with the same
True, Harvey had died from farm accident injuries, but it could as easily
have been liquor that killed him. Those close to him knew that he was
drinking himself to an early grave.
The necessity for doing something about Harvey's drinking had come one day
when Louisa had dropped in at the shop with the year-old twins. It was
early afternoon and Harvey had spent a long noon hour drinking with his
friends. He staggered from behind the counter to greet Louisa and the
babies, gaily brandishing a meat cleaver as though it were a flag and
narrowly missed beheading little Nett who had toddled forward to hug her
papa. Horrified beyond words, Louisa snatched up the twins and escaped out
When Harvey was himself again and realized how close he had come to causing
a terrible tragedy, Louisa had no trouble convincing him that something must
be done. Soon after, they had moved back to the farm at Freedom.
The barn door creaked open and the boys emerged with the horses, harnessed
for the morning's work. Faithful Frank and not-so-faithful Charley were a
poor team, but they were all there was as far as horsepower on the Tuttle
farm, except for a young filly Walter was training.
Old Frank was a big, dappled Percheron work horse, "moth-eaten gray", Bill
described him. Charley, on the other hand was part Morgan, a rather
handsome animal, chestnut with white legs and blaze, but smaller than Frank.
Harvey had bought him for herding cattle, and Charley didn't seem to
consider himself a draft animal. Whoever took on the task of driving them
as a team, had to be continually urging Charley on and holding back Frank.
If it were not enough, Frank was given to swooning spells. Sometimes he
simply went to sleep in his tracks, but occasionally he fell down. "Botts,"
one of the neighbors had diagnosed the ailment, caused by an infestation of
the larvae of the bot fly in the stomach of a horse.
The "team" was a sore spot with Louisa. When Harvey died, well-meaning
relatives had taken it upon themselves to advise her in the management of
her affairs. One bit of advice that she had ever after regretted following
was selling a pair of matched young bay Belgians because they would bring
more money than Frank and Charley.
At least she hadn't followed another piece of advice during that hard time:
Give away some of those young'uns. How can you manage with all them? Maybe
you could adopt 'em out."
With clenched fists Louisa had declared, "I'll work my hands to my elbows
and my feet to my knees, but I'll keep my family together!"
Though there had been plenty of hard times, she hadn't gotten to elbows and
knees yet. It did, however, take extra time and patience to get the farm
work done with only Frank and Charley.
Louisa and her sons put in a morning of hard work, with the usual struggle
to keep the horses pulling more or less together. Twice they had to stop
and wit while Frank recovered from a spell. Louisa, feeling the effects of
her early morning vigil at Cliffords, welcomed the chance to rest.
At last the clang of the dinner bell summoned them to the house. Unhitching
the horses, Bill jumped on Charley and, whooping like an Indian on the war
path, headed full speed for the barn. Louisa and Walter plodded across the
To Be Continued. . . Chapter 2; part 2.
Shared by Bill Tuttle
April 27, 2008