I can identify with how Clora and Mark are feeling. With schools closed for the rest of the year I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that I’ll end up with the 2 youngest grands ... both are very active little boys. Sigh. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
Breakfast the next morning found hearty eaters chowing down on pancakes, a treat that didn't happen on the trail. From her magic box of unknown charms, Clora had sugar and maple flavoring to make a syrup with. The syrup made the pancake meal an over the top treat.
"I've got to get the seeds finished today, and get some potatoes cut." Mark was laying out his morning. "I don't know if they will have a long enough growing season, but we can try a few, see what happens. Milo is on his way over, he and Toby have been talking to Millie, Seamus and Trish about growing crops in your field Andy, and he thought they might be agreeable. You had better be thinking about the charge you should make; say at least a third, and better would be half. There will be negotiations over the amount, so be ready." Mark told Andy.
"Ok, but I'm not a tough bargainer," Andy said sheepishly, "I find it really hard to dicker with people that are my elders. But, I do understand that we will need the food, and the way we eat; that will be quite a lot." Andy stood up and looked out the window, "Milo's coming," he announced. "We'd better get to work. Dad, I'm thinking about trying to plant some oats, what else can we grow in about 60 days?"
"Oats," Mark spoke up. "Does Milo have Robbie and Ricky with him?"
"Yup, both of'em," Donny stopped at the back door to pull on his boots, opening the door for Robbie to come dashing in.
"See, I told ya Dad, I could smell'em all the way outside. Grandma, have you got any more pancakes, I'm starving."
Milo came in with Ricky riding on his shoulders. "Down you come sport, we don't fit through the door with you topside," Milo was holding four year old Ricky straight out in front of him. "Ok, down you go, that really pulls on my shoulder more than it should."
Clora turned around with two plates full of small cakes and pointed to the chairs Andy and Donny had just vacated. "Go wash your hands," Grandma said and Ricky clouded up and turned a mulish look her way.
"I'm clean," he protested, "don't need to wash Don't wanna, ain't gonna.""
Clora looked at Ricky and picked his plate up from the table and scraped his cakes into the 'chicken bucket'.
"Hey," Ricky protested, "those are mine, I want them."
"No, they aren't yours. This is my kitchen and I told you to do something. You said no that you wouldn't, so I figured you didn't want the pancakes. The next time you come visit and I tell you to do something, perhaps you will remember today and the consequences that happen when you don't mind." Clora finished her reprimand.
Both Milo and Ricky were staring at Clora like she had lost her mind. "Ma?" Milo questioned in a low voice.
"Ricky is a spoiled brat," Clora said a touch acidy. "He tells you when and where and what to do, and I will not have him act that way here in my house. I love him as a grandson but I will not allow him to act as king."
Robbie was eating, as he had returned from washing his hands. He was smiling behind the fork he was using to stuff his face, he knew Grandma meant exactly what she said. Robbie had learned that lesson a long time ago. He had told Ricky not to mess with Grandma, but the little snot was determined to do things his own way.
Milo looked like he had a rug pulled out from under him and he landed hard on his patootie.
Mark took one look at the situtation and quietly left, leaving Milo to face his mother's determination.
The rest of the clan got on with their soon to be usual morning routines, while Clora, Milo and Ricky had a little 'heart to heart'.
"Milo, you and Honey are level headed, responsible and loving parents. Why have both of your children started out acting like Honey's brother and sister? When you're called on your actions, you normally respond by straightening out the situtation; but I have to say that I am disappointed and confused as to why it has to come to that."
Clora called Milo and Honey out for lax discipline and the entitlement of their boys. "Robbie used to be as spoiled, and when Dad and I 'changed his behavior' he has become a wonderful young man to have as a grandchild." Clora patted Robbie on the back.
Clora bragged on Robbie and he preened behind his busy fork. Robbie knew that he might have been an idiot at one time, but he was smart enough to know which side his bread was buttered.
He had tried to impart this valuable gem of wisdom to Ricky, but Ricky was stubborn and stupid, and privately Robbie thought there might not be any cure for his brother. Robbie was almost, but not quite successful at hiding his smirky grin, and it made Ricky madder and madder.
Milo sat silently as Clora gently flailed his hide. "Yeah," he finally said. "I don't know why it takes an out side observer to call out the obvious for us to see. I was proud of Honey for 'seeing' exactly what her brother and sister had become, and for discarding Jillian and her tactics. Now, I find we have fallen into the same trap. Ricky," Milo told his youngest. "You are to apologize to your grandmother and then sit quietly at the table. I don't care if you are hungry or not," Milo sternly enforced, holding up his hand to stop Ricky's indignant howls. "You are wrong, and foolish to boot."
While Ricky Linderman's 're-education' was taking place, Mark was down with Toby and Seamus dividing up the seeds and discussing Punky and Max.
"My Phebes, she's a-wanting the boys, boot is afraid Miz Clora vood be mad." Seamus was dividing seed potatoes into family piles.
"I believe Clora is willing," Mark looked at Toby for more expertise. "If it is done, it would have to be legal with papers; and there is no going back. Clora has had far too much heartache with children coming and going. She want's the children's happiness and family stability held together in love, more than she wants to be a parent."
Toby nodded, "that is a fairly simple exchange to do. Normally there would have to be a home study and a lot of other unnecessary legal fol de rol done; but we are all acutely aware of the type of home Seamus and Phoebe can provide. There should be papers drawn up for Calvin also; we don't want a stranger coming in and disrupting the balance we have achieved in these children's lives. I realize these are different times, but children grow better when their not worried about their future." Toby was scooping out corn seed into the different family piles, as he spoke.
"Have either of you," Mark asked, "been out and around to see if there is another small place that might be suitable for Donny to homestead. The boys are making long range plans into the future. and I am proud and confident in their abilities to claim a place."
Seamus shook his head no. "Haven't been out and around much, Phebes has me cleaning a place in town to use as a house. I'm afraid I'm not a farmer; I'm an engineer and I make things, that's about the extent of me talents."
"Well that and the bagpipes," Toby laughed. "But seriously Seamus, how are you going to feed that many children if you don't have a garden?"
"Probably garden at Andy's place, he and Donny talked to me this morning about sooch a deal. Those two boys are going to be dandy laddies here soon. Good level headed thinkers, they be." Seamus praised.
"Your red headed brother is getting an enforced education about becoming a level headed parent," Mark grinned as he tattled on Milo. "He was squirming in his chair when I left. Ricky told Clora no this morning that he wouldn't wash his hands and she took his plate off the table."
The thought of what that would cause, had all three men shivering in their shoes. Toby gave a small whistle of amazement. "Not me," he said quickly, "even at my age, I don't sass Ma. I know better than that, by painful experience."
The three men were thankful it wasn't them that had crossed Clora, she had an awesome reputation, justly earned and deserved.
Toby scratched his ear and swatted away a fly buzzing around the pile of corn seed. "There is a place," he started to say, "back behind Milo's far field. But it's got a house on it big enough to be a orphanage. There's a good barn and outbuildings, fairly decent fields and fences; awful big house for a young kid however. Maybe he'll grow up and marry a woman with ten kids." There was general good natured laughter at the thought, no one at the time understanding how prophetic the words were to be.
It was late afternoon before Andy and Donny finished the plowing at Milo's place. The tall redheaded man and his boys were back home, wandering the fields with the turned over ridges of fresh brown dirt.
"Hey Dad, lookit what I found," Robbie called out, picking something up from the dirt. The small, sharp, translucent pink and white colored arrowhead was tiny, even in the boy's open palm.
"I want one," Ricky demanded, holding his hand out for Robbie's prize. Robbie looked at Milo, clearly unwilling to give such a magnificent find to his brother, but waiting for Milo's decision.
"Not this," Milo told his youngest. "If you want to find such a wonderful thing, get busy and look for one."
"I don't want another one, I want that one."
"No, that one is Robbie's. You may look at it in Robbie's hand, but it is not for touching. That arrowhead is Robbie's, not yours, do you understand?"
Ricky walked close to inspect the arrowhead, halfway turned and brought his hand up sharply and knocked the stone from Robbie's hand. It went sailing in an arc, and both boys scrambled to reach the arrowhead before the other.
"I found it," Ricky crowed, "now it's mine." and as his hand went to close around the prize, Robbie was there first. Ricky started screaming in rage, Robbie stuck the stone in his pocket and turned around and used his fist and socked his younger brother in the jaw.
Ricky turned astonished eyes at his brother and Dad. "He hit me," Ricky was crying for real, as he got up from the dirt.
"It's mine, you are not to touch the arrowhead," Robbie reinforced. "You have broken every other thing I have of value, but not this. I will hit you again, if you don't believe me."
It was news to Milo that Ricky had been careless with Robbie's things, breaking the older brothers treasures. Milo had a flash back to the small car toys he had as a young boy and how precious they had been to him.
"Ricky," he said sternly, "stay out of Robbie's things. I will spank you in a way you won't forget, if you misbehave."
Ricky was checking out both Milo and Robbie, and then nodded his head. "Ok," he said between big sobs of put on innocence. "I won't touch it."
Andy and Donny trudged up to Andy's place, dragging their back pockets in tiredness. The mares walked quietly as the boys wrestled keeping the plow upright on the hard road without digging in.
"We've got about two hours until darkness, let's get started on plowing the front pasture. If we plow for an hour and then clean the horses, we should be right on time for supper. I think one of us should go hunting tomorrow, maybe we can get some frying meat." Andy smiled in anticipation.
"Man, that would really taste good, wouldn't it. My mouth is watering, just thinking about it. Do you want to go, how about taking Dad with you. I think he needs a little R and R from all the problems we seem to have."
"Good idea," Andy approved. "If we could get a deer, there are enough of us to eat the whole thing up in one day. Maybe a little left over for Ma to can. What are you gonna do tomorrow?
"Cut and split wood for Ma. We're about out of stove length, then I'm gonna go look at the place that Milo told me about. It's back behind his place, sounds like a big one, so if you want a bigger place than this one, let me know."
"Ok, I'll have a look later, but I don't think so. I like this one just fine." Andy was positive that he didn't want a big place.
The boys finished an hour of plowing and additional time of cleaning the sweaty harness and horses. "I sure wouldn't mind a cooldown," Andy remarked as they headed for the house and the supper they could smell. "It must have been way over a 100 today, and it feels like the humidity is climbing. I suppose that will trigger a thunderstorm. Maybe tomorrow you should have a look at the root cellar, in case we get some severe weather."
They stopped by the back door and shucked their boots, washing up, combing their hair and presenting themselves to the table. The ever present stew in it's large Dutch oven sat in the middle of the table, and a wonderful platter of cornbread.
Donny took a deep sniff of the wonderful smells, "boy am I hungry."
Mark smiled and started the blessing. For a while there was no talking as hard working people sated their hunger. Physical labor required a lot of calories to keep bodies going.
The next morning, after breakfast, Andy and Mark rode off to go hunting, and Donny went on a walk about to inspect the property that he might call his own.
It had been a long time, ….. long enough to lull all the important people in Clora's life into a false sense of security. Clora went walking toward the back of their property, simply investigating the land, fences and scouting for possible fruit trees, nut trees, berries, vines, wild grapes, anything that might be turned into food.
At the back fence line of the deeply rectangular farm, Clora smiled to find the fence linefilled with mulberry trees. There were occasional berries still hanging on the trees, and thousands of prints under the spreading, shady green branches.
There was a wire gate that could be opened to have access into the woods beyond the pasture, and Clora was not the least bit surprised to hear the tinkle of a small bell. Waiting patiently, Clora smiled when the unlikely trio came into view.
A dirty, shaggy, off white Great Pyrenees dog was slowly and with careful intent herding a small flock of banty type chickens straight toward Clora and the gate. There was a rooster and five hens, the sixth hen had three trailing chicks.
Clora slowly and carefully went to the gate and unlatched the wire bound stick, lying it on the ground. The dog nosed the chickens calmly, and they responded by hopping over the wires and coming to rest at Clora's feet. The dog pushed itself through the tight opening, the space big enough for the smiling goat that brought up the rear.
"Oh how wonderful, look at you all," Clora gave the dog and the goat a friendly pat or two. The dog was wearing a collar that said 'Ivory,' and the tag was at least five years past expiration. "Hello Ivory," and Clora got a tail thump or two.
"And you sweetheart, what's your name?" Clora asked the nanny, and was rewarded with a friendly 'baaa.' "Are you all looking for a new home? If so, follow me."
Of course they were. They were hungry, thirsty and footsore, needing the protection of a big empty barn that needed a batch of critters to complete the homesteading experience.
Clora opened the wire gate to the chicken yard and Ivory pushed the small flock inside. There were some left over dusty corncobs scattered in the dust, and Clora closed the gate and pulled some clumps of grass to throw in the enclosure.
In the cool shade of the barn, Clora started working the pump handle, intending to fill the water troughs. She pumped and pumped, and no water came gushing out. Finally she told the thirsty dog and goat that she needed to get a pitcher of water from the house.
The pitcher of water helped to prime the pump, and eventually rusty colored water dribbled out, gaining volume. The dog stood back and allowed the thirsty goat to drink first, ever the lady in charge.
The goat drank her fill, and finally allowed the dog to have water. Ivory was in bad emaciated shape, and Clora pumped and pumped the pitcher pump handle. It took a long time to fill the big trough and the overflow to dribble down into the low trough. Clora dipped a bucket and took it to the chickens. In a back stall, there were flakes of hay; some went to the chickens and goat.
"Sweetheart, I need to go cook you something to eat. Do you want to come to the house?" Clora asked the dog, and Ivory started for the back door, leaving Clora chuckling.
The only thing Clora had for Ivory to eat, was the remmanents of oatmeal in the container. Cooked up, it was a pitiful amount of food for such a large dog. "I am going to pray that the men are successful in the hunt; if they are, there will be innards and bones for you to chew." Clora took the pan of oatmeal out to the barn, to let the dog eat and be brushed clean. There were many ticks and other assorted unknowns living and lurking in the matted fur.
Both the dog and the nanny were cleaned and brushed, lying in a patch of sunshine in the barn door, sleeping in their tiredness. A hen sounded in the distance, and soon another joined with her. The cackling a welcome sound to a gentle farm woman. Clora managed to slip in a nap, protected by the shade of the barn against the hot and brutal noonday sun.
Donny came riding back, stopping in sight of the barn and sleeping Ma and animals. He was pretty certain when he saddled up this morning there hadn't been any other animals in the barn; so something interesting must have happened.
The goat was watching him, giving a short bleat as a way to welcome him. The dog's head came up, she watched him, not unfriendly, but not friendly either.
"Ma?" Donny called out several times, until Clora came awake. "I don't think the dog will let me go in the barn, she's really protecting you."
"Ivory, come." Clora called the dog to her side. "It's ok, he's our boy, he belongs here." and she petted the dog, and touching Donny on the arm at the same time. Ivory sat on her haunches, eyeing Donny with calm regalness.
"Howdy Ma'am," Donny doffed his hat in a parody of meeting a princess, "welcome to the farm."
Donny walked his horse in and unsaddled, intending to throw his saddle on the stall wall. When the goat walked over, he reconsidered, and unlooped the rope hanging from the ceiling. Threading the rope through the throat and over the saddle horn, Donny spread the saddle blanket over and hung the bridle from the horn. Pulling on the rope, he hoisted it high into the rafters and tied the rope off on the cleat attached to the wall.
The goat gave him 'the eye', as if to say, 'you think that's gonna stop me do ya, HAH!' Donny wiped his horse down, turning the gelding out in the pasture.
"Thanks Ma, for pumping water. That's what I came home early to do, and instead, I'm gonna give myself a drink, would you like some?" Donny reached for the dipper and gave the pump handle strong strokes. He drank his fill, and gave Clora a dipperful.
"Tell me about the place you looked at," Clora sat back in the old barn chair, smiling at Donny who flopped down next to Ivory and started petting the dog.
"It seems good enough, has a monster house. I counted ten bedrooms, and all the rest of the spaces a house needs. The ground is level and goes down into a creek to the southwest. It still has a fair amount of water running, so that's a plus. It's mainly pasture, there's a good sized garden area, and has a lot of woods. I like it good enough, but the size of the house really spooks me."
"Donny," Clora said with a smile, "I really think you should take house, you might have need of it someday."
Donny, for his young years, was perceptive to what Clora said when she said oblique sounding announcements.
"So you're telling me that I'm gonna get married and have ten kids," he joked, that young man's look of utter impossibility on his face.
Clora, for her part, just smiled, "with God, nothing is impossible," she finally said, chuckling.
Ivory sat up, her ears perked, listening for what her acute ears could hear.
"Must be the guys coming back, I hope they were successful," Donny went to stand up and see.
Thank you Pac.
Very gripping, with the no more "gathered up children" and a white Inky with an entourage.
I can't wait to see what he starts gathering up in that ten bedroom farmhouse?
Still hooked on your story; since Clora was the little girl from the house next door..
I hope all is well with you and yours, Ms Pac.
Mark and Andy were indeed victorious in the hunt. Each man had a deer slung over the back of the saddle, and Andy had a couple of prairie chickens hanging from the saddle horn.
"For Tess and her boys," Andy called out, "would you like to take them up to her?" and Clora smiled her thanks.
Mark, when he came around the corner of the barn, immediately spotted the dog, sitting protectively in front of Clora. The head honcho scowled at the dog, but said nothing. The rooster sounded, and his head whipped around, Mark narrowing his eyes at the calm and serene Clora, who was petting Ivory.
"Humph," was all he said. Ivory watched the newcomers, until Clora spoke to her quietly, the large dog turning adoring eyes on her new mistress.
Mark stopped at the entrance to the barn; he and Andy carefully hoisting the deer from the back of Mark's horse. The big gelding was none too proud of his rider for procuring the doe, and even less pleased when he had to haul the spooky animal.
Andy's gelding was somewhat more easy going about the situtation, but heartily happy to be rid of the dead floppy animal. The deer piled in the shade as Mark unsaddled.
Mark looked at Clora, "It's not bad hunting, there are a lot of woods back behind us that seen to have a good deer population. Clora, we need to carefully inspect the deer. I shot a rabbit that's liver was full of nodules and lumps. There's a chance the deer might be infected, it's pretty hot outside."
Mark went to walk further into the darkness of the barn. a rustling noise alerting him to the presence of another animal hidden in the deep shade.
Suddenly, from the depth's of the shadows came a chilling, evil sound that made the normally sane and reasonable man's blood run cold with instant fury.
'Baa, baa,' the nanny was looking forward to having company in the huge empty barn. Trotting from the darkness toward the startled horse and man, the nanny ran under the gelding to get to Mark, wanting and needing adoration from a human.
As the goat ran under the spooked horse, her ears and back hair tickling the underbelly of the horse, the gelding came unglued. That was simply beyond what a reasonable horse would expect to find in his barn.
With a squeal of terror, the bay reared, tearing the reins from Mark's hand. The goat, feeling and fearing impending doom, skittered around behind Mark for protection. Mark got roughly pushed by the horses shoulder, to the back of the stall. The problem that soon presented itself, was the fact that the goat was behind Mark. In the most undignified way, Mark was toppled over, topsy, turvy with goat legs and goat breath flushing his face.
Roaring at the top of his lungs, Mark frightened the horse and the goat, the gelding rapidly rushing backwards, colliding with Andy's horse as the young man was leading his horse to the stall just beyond Mark's.
Mark's horse kicked out with both hind legs, barely missing Andy and thumping his stable mate in the belly. Andy's gelding whipped his head around and took a healthy bite out of the rump that was just getting his legs and feet stabilized underneath him.
Mark's startled horse once again lunged forward, slamming Mark into the wall of the barn. The goat, having sized up the situtation in an instant, sprang upward and landed in the manger. Frightened, she did the one thing that goats do when they are scared. She emptied her nanny berries all over the human underneath her.
Mark weakly grabbed for the stall board, shedding goat poop by shaking his pristine white hair violently. Gaining his feet, Mark used almost superhuman strength to push his mount backwards, and came stomping out of the stall, ready to kill.
His hand on his pistol, Mark was swearing and frothing at the mouth. Andy and Donny were staring, open mouthed at the commotion, frozen in place.
"That was a goat!" screaming rage made the words almost unintelligible, but Clora heard him loud and clear. Mark had his pistol drawn and was aiming at the nanny, and the goat was smiling and watching Mark with her evil, goat yellow eyes.
"Dad," Andy protested, "what are ya going to shoot the goat for, she didn't do nuthin."
"She's a goat, that's all the damn reason I need. The only thing missing is Helga." Mark slowly backed up until he was next to Clora at the barn entrance.
Ivory, feeling the hate emanating from Mark, growled at him in warning, thrusting herself between Mark and Clora.
"You shut up," Mark snapped, causing Ivory to growl louder.
"Ivory," Clora called out sternly, "NO!" and the dog sat down but never took her eyes off Mark. "Sit down Mark, you're going to get either bit, kicked or butted. I don't want you hurt."
"Why for the love of God, didn't you say that there was a goat here. I would have shot her before I went to put my horse away."
"Umm, yeah, that's probably the reason I didn't." Clora was trying not to laugh.
"Don't you laugh," Mark warned his wife of many years; "and get rid of that goat."
Going to the horse trough pump, Mark pumped and stuck his head under the streaming water.
All the roaring, swearing, horse neighing and goat bleating, dog barking and laughing brought Tess and the triplets to the shared fence between Clora and Andy's place.
The three young ones were bouncing on the wooden rail shouting "doggie, doggie," mistaking the goat for an unusual dog. The nanny, had slipped out of the barn, heading toward the childish voices without a second, backward look at Clora.
As the goat passed close by Mark bent over the water trough, her foot slipped and one dainty little hoof may have come in contact with Mark's leg; purely unintentionally, of course.
Clora had come over to work the pump handle for Mark, and as he started to swear violently at the goat, Clora pumped faster and faster, fairly drowning Mark in the process.
Tess, Andy and Donny had their hands clamped firmly over their mouth's, turning away to the side so Mark wouldn't catch them laughing at his expense. Ivory was right there, standing firmly between Clora and Mark, least the loud man forget his manners and need a nip or two.
The goat, for her part in the unsettled situtation, gave loving bleats as she hurried toward the three young boys, who were urging her to hurry. Jumping down, they pulled handfuls of grass to entice the nanny and she responded by running full speed ahead.
"Oh, a nanny, just what we need for the boy's to have milk." Tess was thrilled with the new addition. She was supposed to be in the rotation lineup for the cow's milk, and it rarely got to her. A side problem of living so far above the families with all those hungry boys.
The nanny chose her family right there and then. If she hadn't, the clan might have been eating BBQ goat for supper the next night. When Mark finally got Clora stopped from flailing her arm like a possessed woman on the pump handle, the nanny had jumped the fence and was luxating in the adoration of the three young boys.
"Thanks Ma," Tess called out. "I think she likes us, I'm going to try milking her tonight, and we need to be getting back to the house so I can fill the trough and get down some hay."
"Hey, Miz Tess," Andy called out, "we got you some Prairie Chickens, I forgot to give them to you." and he went dashing for the fence with the two birds corded together by their feet.
"Oh, bless you," Tess returned to the fence and accepted the birds, giving Andy a sly wink that made him laugh. "Save me some of that venison, I'm longing for some chewing meat."
"Will do," Andy tried to swallow the rest of his amusement, and wound up sputtering.
"All right you smart alecs, lets get the deer processed," just in a flashing nano second Mark was back to his normal self; the disappearance of the goat restoring his usual good humor.
Andy looked soberly at Donny and the two boys shrugged their shoulders at each other. They had never seen Dad in such a wild display of rage, and to be sure they weren't going to bring it up again by asking about it. They'd ask Ma later, when Dad was out of earshot.
Ivory barked, letting the group know that Seamus, Phoebe, Suisan, Calvin and Punky and Mx were walking up the driveway. The dog looked to Clora and she gently stroked the dog's head and told her "good girl." That was all the encouragement the dog needed to bark whenever someone approached.
Seamus and his family had come to ask Clora and Mark if they would be willing to give up the guardianship of Punky and Max. Taking one look at the work before the elder Lindermans, Seamus handed the baby to Phoebe, rolled up his sleeves, drew his knife and went to work on the carcass Donny had hoisted up to bleed out.
The boys gathered around Ivory, petting her softly. Clora went to the house for bowls and Phoebe kept a sharp eye on the unknown dog as she accepted the children's touches.
Clora came back with the bowls and moved the kids to the back yard, to play. Calvin was explaining to the younger boys, he liked dogs. "Iffen you gets a nice dog, you knows sumthin; a dog don't care what color ya are. Me, I'm dark and youns are white and that dog is gonna like us all the sames." Calvin with his philosophy wisdom, carefully gave his announcement to the younger boys and they nodded as wisely as he had given his wisdom.
The men hided and cleaned the deer. cutting up chunks and haunches, and Ivory sat watching, drooling a little, but never making a move toward the bowls of meat.
"Mark, please leave a little meat on that leg bone, Ivory needs something to eat in the worst way." Clora asked quietly, smiling at Mark when he cut the bone loose and handed it to Clora. Calling Ivory to her, Clora gave the dog the bone and nodded when Ivory looked up to make sure it was alright.
Clora and Phoebe put Suisan down for a nap and went out to gather up the filled bowls. "Let's set aside some of this for your supper," Clora smiled at Phoebe, "tell me this," Clora gently interrogated the nurse. "do you feel like you have the energy to raise Punky and Max? They are good boys, but they are boys," Clora stressed firmly.
"Seamus and I have discussed this at length, and I feel we do have the energy and ability. The three boys get along well. Together, they do mind better with the addition of Calvin. He seems to have the knack for keeping the other two in line. Clora, I always wanted a houseful of children, and this family makes my heart sing."
"That's all I need to know," Clora patted the new mama to Punky and Max on the arm. "I want to do this right, legally binding and such. Neither Mark or myself are getting younger, so we need to have all the loose ends tied up. I'm assuming Toby will do the paperwork?"
"Clora, I want to be right upfront about our intentions to change the boy's last name to MacCleary. We feel it's very important to have a tight family unit with the same last name." Phoebe sort of blustered, wanting Clora to understand how important the situtation was to her and Seamus.
Clora nodded, smiling gently to ease Phoebe's fears. "Good," was all Clora said.
As life got sorted out on the farms, the fall gardens planted, the oat crop planted, up and growing strong green shoots; the clan helped those that needed help.
Millie was one that needed a lot of extra help; the clean store project a much larger job than Millie anticipated. For Millie, the days and then weeks flew by, until she woke up one morning and realized it had been four weeks since George had gone south to get supplies.
In the evening, after the day's work, Millie went in search of Clora and her mysterious talents, for reassurance about George.
"He is on his way, Because it is getting so late in the season, George double bought most of his inventory as Corbin wasn't sure he could get another supply trip in before winter weather. Millie, they are heavily laden and traveling slow." Clora said as she focused on a cloud, seeing in her mind's eye the lumbering wagons slowly making their way across the bumpy prairie.
"Almost half of what he is bringing in, will have to be put in the basement, and it would be better if there were shelves. Millie, you need to get the basement ready, talk to Seamus and Milo about lumber and building shelves."
Millie nodded, as if what Clora had just announced was the most normal thing to happen in everyday life. "I hear them running the sawmill during the day, I know George will be good for the money when he gets here. He told me to get or do anything I needed to do to make the store ready. Having the shelves in place will be a great help, rather than trying to build them with the basement full. Thank you Clora, I will speak with Milo tomorrow." Millie let her self out the back door to scamper home in the twilight.
Milo and Seamus were agreeable, and the duo started work the next day. Andy and Donny were the teamsters once again to bring in logs, they learned to run the mill, sticker the lumber to dry and move the heavy planks on a low sided wagon. The whine of the saw created curious onlookers and potential customers interested in lumber.
"Good morning Bruce," Trish opened the curtain and window to let in the semi cool morning air. As she did every morning, she greeted her comatose husband with a positive and cheery word. This particular morning, Bruce growled back, "what's good about it?" and Trish about flew out of her shoes.
It was so wonderful to have Bruce back, even if he was grumpy and out of sorts, that Trish smothered him with kisses.
"That's more like it," his hoarse whisper told Trish, "I always did like a properly appreciative woman."
"You behave," Trish lightly scolded as her lips were kissing Bruce's ear. "Behave or I will bite." and she made growly, kissy noises against his ticklish ear.
"What happened and where did you find me and where are we and where are the boys? My head feels like mush and how long has it been since I've been....where ever it is that has happened to me." Bruce tried to think and process when he got sick. "The fire, did it reach the wagons ? Was anyone hurt and what happened to that crazy old coot that was by my fire?"
Trish slowly and carefully recounted all the details for Bruce, telling him that he had essentially lost a month of his life to a new cancer that had been removed.
"You did the operation?" Bruce grabbed and held Trish's hand tightly. "I thank God for you and your talents. No man has been better blessed than I have, thank you sweetheart."
Bruce and Trish sat and talked quietly, bringing up and discussing every detail Bruce wanted to know. They talked about his recovery, and what he needed to do to get well.
"I want you to wait to get out of bed, until I have some help to steady you. Bruce, I can't stress this strongly enough, don't fall and tear your stitches open. I don't have any suture material left. There are supplies coming in on the supply wagons, but I'm not sure when they will be here."
"And the boys, where are they?" Bruce questioned, looking around to see them.
"They are working as carpenter's helpers with Milo and Seamus. Bruce, they are growing so much and were straddling the fence between being rotten kids and really rotten kids, I put them to work.
Now, I want to tell you, they are very proud of what they have done and are doing. As long as they are being productive, we are going to have them work, and you are not to say a word against it."
Mama bear Trish, laid down the law to a weak and trembling Bruce; the man deciding that Trish could do whatever she wanted to do. He didn't have enough oomph to fight his way through a wet tissue. and if his rowdy boys were behaving, then that made him happy.