Farm Town Chronicles 9-12

 Roamin' Holiday or 'Hare today, gone tomorrow'

I'm missing my friend Betty Sue. Oh, don't get me wrong she ain't dead or nothin'. But she did get herself into one heap o' trouble this past week. And now she's got extra chores and ain't got time to come and play with me. What kind of trouble you ask? More than you can shake a stick at!

She and her folks have a small farm next to ours. It really tweren't big enough to be makin' money so her daddy also raised rabbits cause them city ladies paid big dollars for fur coats made out of rabbit skin. And they were all soft and fluffy cause Betty Sue and I got to hold em once in a while. 

Betty Sue also had to feed them every day. Her pappy raised a small crop of lettuce and even some carrots to feed his rabbits. So she had to go out in the field and pick some lettuce each day to feed them. 

She gave them names just like in those books by that Miss Beatrice Potter. There was Fluffy and Peter Cottontail and lots more. I know cause our schoolmarm gave us the books to read - said they  came  all the way from some place called England. Well anyways Betty Sue really loved those rabbits and one day noticed a bunch of them were gone. She ran crying into her daddy and said, "Someone took our rabbits!"

Her pappy then up and told her that he'd sold them to a 'furry ear' and that they'd be made into  coats and slippers and other things. Well now Betty Sue really began to cry because she knew that Fluffy and Peter and her other friends would meet the same fate. Betty Sue, though, was determined not to let that happen and that very evening she snuck out and opened all the cages and let the rabbits out.

The next morning she knew she'd be in big trouble but it was even worse than she thought. When she opened all the hutches she expected the rabbits to run away - after all that's what she'd have done. The rabbits however had other ideas.

Did I tell you that Betty Sue's mom had the most beautiful flower garden in Chickenlick?                                                                                                                                                                              


Well she used to until Betty Sue decided to liberate the bunnies. When those bunnies got out they done thought they'd died and gone to rabbit heaven. And the next morning found them contentedly munching away at her mom's petunias, daisies, the roses and to top it all they'd nibbled her county-fair winning lilacs down to the branches.

The worst thing was her pappy simply rounded them all back up so that her effort went to naught. And now she had to spend all her free time helpin' her mom prune and replant her flowers. But then she really wasn't going to be sittin' down anytime soon after the switchin' her pappy gave her. Now her days were filled with whines and roses.

The next time she fed them and saw them smile at her like they'd played one big joke on her she screamed at them, 'Silly rabbits, tricks are for kids!"




 

Bonnet and Pride

Every year come Easter we kids would look forward to the Easter egg hunt. The first year they'd done it in an old cow pasture but the boys decided it was more fun flingin' cow patties at each other and the girls than lookin' for eggs. I don't think any of the boys sat down for a week after but a few of us girls gave as good as we got - and looked all innocent when our kinfolk came to put a stop to things.


So from then on we hunted for eggs in the Newman's alfalfa field and Auntie Muriel and the other ladies of the church guild served cookies and milk on the veranda after the hunt. The girls had a contest to see who had the prettiest easter bonnet but none could match the elegance and beauty of Auntie Muriel's.


No-one looked forward to Easter more than Auntie Muriel for she loved wearing hats ever since the year she went away to the big city and got her first Easter bonnet. In fact that's where she'd met her Edwin. He'd noticed the beautiful girl in her elegant hat in the hotel dining room where she'd come with her parents. Ever the gentleman he'd sent her parents a note asking if he might have the pleasure of their company at his table. 

Auntie Muriel just loved tellin' all us girls how Edwin courted her, even traveling all the way to Chickenlick to come callin'. Some of us might swooned it were so dern romantic and all! But auntie couldn't leave her parents and the farm as they had come upon parenthood late in life and depended on her to look after things.

It would seem there was no hope for Edwin was city-born and bred. And so the courtship appeared doomed. But memory of the sweet girl in the bonnet overcome his city pride and he came and asked her pappy for her hand in marriage. Though he was a city boy he came to love the farm and when her parents passed on he and Muriel stayed on and ran the farm.

 Auntie Muriel cherished the memory of their first meetin' and so every year    they returned to the big city and she went to the finest millinery and Edwin  bought her the prettiest bonnet in the store. And Easter Sunday she'd wear her  new hat to the sunrise service and it was a tossup to which were prettier,  Muriel in her hat or the morning sun.


 And all of us hoped one day we too might find a pretty bonnet and a    handsome swain to go with it.


 

Chicken(f)lick

The old Jensen Farm had become a real eyesore. When Jens Jensen died none of his kinfolk even showed up to pay their respects. All they did was have a feller come out and put a 'For Sale' sign up.It had been sitting neglected for the better part of three years before the young Ludis scraped together enough cash for a small down payment. The folks up north were so glad to finally get a buyer that they agreed to carry a note for the balance.

                                   


The farmhouse was in such bad shape that the Ludi's camped out in the barn while they started to fix up the place. It was a real labor of love as they hoped to build their own family while they built the farm.


It was quite a struggle and at times it almost seemed hopeless. Most of the land had been leached of topsoil and only parts of the farm could be planted. Cathy and her husband were barely able to make enough to buy seed much less nails and lumber to repair the house.


Well as Cathy said, "if the good lord gives you lemon trees you make boards." And while Cathy picked the lemons her husband sawed planks - one by one. He squared and sanded the boards til they shone. The wood smelled sweet and gave a cozy feel to the house. Because he couldn't afford nails he made pegs instead.


 The neighbors pitched in with utensils and lent  tools and their labor because that's what  neighbors do in Chickenlick! The women knit  blankets and made curtains. They had a quilting  bee and made a beautiful quilt for their bed.  The real labor of love was the cradle for the  hoped for baby. Yet the house was nearly ready  and there was no sign.


 While Cathy hadn't given birth to a child she did  give birth to an idea. Back home her family had  started into a new business - movin' pictures.  They called it nickleodeon and it was the latest  rage. Cathy convinced her husband to take the seed money and go off to the big city and buy one of these new-fangled machines. 


He came back a week later with a machine and reels of funny looking stuff that he said were the movin' pictures. At one end of the barn they hung a large sheet and put bales of hay in rows fer the folks to sit on. There was a lantern-like contraption and a crank to roll the pictures in front of it. And dadgum it if there weren't pictures up on that sheet! And when the crank was turned the folks began to move. What will they think of next?

Well the Ludi's invited everyone in town to see the first picture free. And it was a big hit. The next Saturday they charged a penny each and the folks just kept coming. In fact the word had spread so far that folks was coming from as fer as Rusty Forks and Swine Hollow to see the movin' pitchers. they oohed and aahed and a couple who'd been into the corn squeezin's a might too much tried to touch the folks on the sheet like they was real people.

So that's how movin' pictures came to Chickenlick and it tweren't but nine months later that Cathy gave birth to a son. The money they made allowed them to finish the farmhouse in fine fashion and it became the talk of Chickenlick! Almost as many folks came to see the house as came to see the pictures!






Sunny won so true


Sunny was the fastest horse in Chickenlick and Rosey had been there when she came into the world. She had bottle fed her and gave her her first handful of oats. Sunny used to follow Rosey everywhere. It was like she was Rosey's shadow. Even when she came to play at our place Rosey would follow and wait patiently outside grazing on the front lawn until Rosey went home. Well that's what she did now. 


The first time Rosey come by Sunny came right into the house with her.  Maw was frightened near as white as the pinafore she was wearing when Sunny leaned over her shoulder and helped herself to a carrot from the pile she was cleaning. She had murder in her eyes but Sunny just kind of looked sheepish which is a funny thing cause Sunny didn't look nothin' like a sheep! She nickered like she was sorry but the gleam in her eye said otherwise. 


Rosey took her back outside and told her in no uncertain terms that if she didn't stay put there'd be hell to pay. And there she stayed. Rosey could make her do about anything but the day she put a saddle on Sunny we thought that friendship was over. When Rosey got in the saddle Sunny just stood there trembling. Things seemed under control until Sunny start to buckin 14 ways from Tuesday. Next thing you know Rosey was flat on her back while Sunny nudged her as if to say, "I didn't hurt you did I?"


Well Rosey got up and looked Sunny right in the eye and told her that was enough of that and jumped back on. This time Sunny just looked back at Rosey and waited. She leaned over Sunny's neck and nudged her with her heels and said. "Run!" And Sunny took off like there was a passel of wolves on her tail. Rosey whooped for joy and let her run.

 And from that moment on it was if the two were  one and there weren't a horse in the county that  could hold a candle to them - not even that  mustang Diablo from over in Rusty Fork. It was  there that Slymon Legreed first cast eyes on the  filly.


 And now Rosey was really worried. She told me  that Slymon Legreed was pressing her folks for  payment on the note that they'd taken out with him  to finance the stables and buy the breeding stock.  What he really coveted though was her filly Sunny.  He told her folks that if they gave him Sunny he'd  forgive the note. Her folks told him flat out that  Sunny was Rosey's and not theirs to give.

Rosey couldn't bear to part with Sunny but she didn't want her parents to lose the stables either. The only thing she could think of was to challenge Slymon to a horse race. Any horse and rider he wanted to bring in to challenge her and Sunny. If he won he'd get Sunny but forgive the note her parents owed. If she won he'd forgive the note and she'd keep Sunny.

Slymon agreed too readily for Rosey and her parents' taste and they suspected he had somethin' up his sleeve. It was agreed that the race would be to the old flour mill  by way of the mill road and back by the bridge road. Two weeks later Legreed showed up with a pure-bred arabian. Black as night and looking fast just standing there. And a professional rider too, who looked Rosey and Sunny over like they were sheep and he was a wolf.

                      

Now folks came from miles around and many a dollar changed hands that day as the folk bet their favorite. The mayor waved his hat and the race was on. That arabian took off like a bolt of lightnin' had nipped it's rear-end and he was several lengths in front as they reached the old mill and turned to race back. Now Rosy had a thought. Usually when she rode the bridge road she just forded the creek as it was an old covered bridge, narrow and with a very low ceiling. But that Arabian was several hands taller than Sunny. 

She urged Sunny to catch up and with a burst of energy she wrested the lead from the arabian. The rider was rising up in the saddle urging his mount on when they got to the bridge. Rosey ducked down as close as she dared without falling off and thundered across the bridge. The other rider, concentrating on urging his steed on never saw it coming. They hit the bridge full stride but that was as far as he got. Head met bridge and he was lying in the dirt as his horse ran free. And Rosey trotted home as we whooped and hollered for all we were worth.

 Slymon looked like he was swallowin' his shoe as he passed over the note marked paid and  departed as fast as he'd come. Doc Butcher rode off in a wagon to see to the poor rider who  was wanderin' in circles back by the bridge.  And Rosey and Sunny pranced as proud as  could be. Folks would repeat the story for years after whenever they had fresh ears. It was  definitely a 'Sunny' day in Chickenlick.

 

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