The Broken Furrow

The Broken Furrow part 2

by Leroy N. Keim of New Castle, PA

Betty stirred, and bumping Paul’s shoulder, she came partially awake, opened her eyes against the darkness, sighed, and settling carefully against Paul’s side, she drifted back into the darkness of her sleep. The next time she woke there was a rooster crowing in the henhouse east of the house, and a faint light showed in the window, only visible against the darker wall. Coming fully awake, she reached over to Paul’s side of the bed, and though there was a faint warmth there, Paul was gone. She listened to hear whether he was still in the house, and hearing nothing for a couple of minutes she knew he must be at the barn, probably watering the horses in the tie stalls, about now, turning each horse loose in turn and allowing it to go to the trough by the back wall, and cleaning out the soiled bedding and manure while the horse was drinking, putting it into the tub of the litter carrier behind the stalls. He would collect it all and put it onto the pile under the manure shed just off the end of the barn. She knew his routine by now, and also knew that unless there was some sort of emergency in one of the livestock pens or paddocks, he would follow that routine each morning according to the seasons.

A faint smile creased the corners of her mouth as she thought of this. Such an orderly man she thought, so regular in his ways, and yet spontaneous like yesterday, when the kitchen door had opened and he had come to where she was standing at the sink and gathering her into his arms had kissed her firmly and whispered into her hair, “how beautiful she was and how much he loved her!” The next minute he was gone, and in a few minutes she saw him and the gray mares going around the corner of the barn with a loaded spreader. She smiled as she thought, I know now he’s going up to the long slope along Finch’s woodlot where he will plow the manure into the slowly greening soil of that long curving field in a week or so. She thought, I know nearly everywhere he’ll be and what he’ll be doing there, now, and the thought was like the warmth of a closely held blanket on a cold night. She suddenly threw back the covers of the bed and stepped onto the carpet, and slipping her arms into her house-dress she went quickly through the morning’s activities of washing, and brushing her hair, and tying it into a loose bun on her neck, she went through the intersecting rooms to the kitchen.

Betty paused briefly at the door, and having turned on the light she looked across the room that was now the epicenter of her life. There were the accoutrements found in such places nearly everywhere in those days, cabinets ranked along one wall, an electric range, cast iron sink under an east facing window looking towards the barn and the long annex that housed the sheep when they were not on pasture, the long low chicken house bordering the garden to the north, and the long sweep of hillside going up toward Jack’s mountain.

But this room was different too; it still contained the wood fired cook stove, with its enameled sides, used by at least two generations of Wilson’s before Paul’s tenure here, and which she was learning to use on brisk mornings. Also this was a big room, only separated from the living room by a large archway and on the side opposite the cook stove a broad, shallow, fireplace, capable of receiving four-foot long logs, and with its two iron cranes still in place, held the warm ashes of last night’s fire. On one side and out a little ways, were two hickory rockers, and near at hand to each one, a copper boiler pressed into service as a book and magazine holder. On the other side of the fireplace a very old, deeply creased, high backed wooden settle sat across the corner. Paul said that it had been new when the house was built, and that the story was that sometime in every generation of Wilson’s who had occupied the house, its deep seats had been covered with several layers of quilts and a sick child or older person had been cared for there by the fire through the long nights and days of their illness. He remembered waking up there and seeing his father or mother asleep in the rocker beyond the fireplace and the light of the fire throwing their faces into sharp relief as it flickered brighter and dimmer from its bed of coals. Once, when he was small he had come awake there, and had seen his grandmother in the shadows peering at him over her wire rimmed glasses, and she had come and gathered him up in his covers and sat for awhile holding him in one of the rockers while telling him that “his parents had had to go to the doctor in town after he fell asleep, and she would watch him until they could return.” He went back to sleep then, and when he awoke it was bright day and his mother was there, and told him that his father had had to stay in town because his heartbeat was irregular, and the doctor had made up a bed for him in a back room of his office and wanted him to stay for observation.

Betty raked the warm ashes apart in the fireplace and laying some small strips of kindling on the red coals underneath, she soon had a small blaze started, to which she added a few larger pieces of dry wood and going across to the wood fired range she stood by its warmth a minute before deciding to go to the pantry for some potatoes and sausages to add to the eggs she would be frying when Paul came in for breakfast.

These huge breakfasts were something she was beginning to come to terms with, but she remembered how shocked she had been in the very early days of her life here, at the amount of food Paul ate after doing chores for a couple of hours!

In those early days she had still been working as weigh master at her brother’s mill in the village, and so she had to be gone by seven thirty in the morning, and Paul would insist that she not bother to make breakfast for him, but only look after herself each morning. He said, “I’ve been feeding myself for so long, it’s no longer a problem for me, and just having you here, and knowing you’ll be here this evening makes it seem like a pleasure to do for myself!”

She smiled again as she thought how she and her whole perspective were so changed in the two years she had been married to Paul. Setting a heavy iron skillet on the broad surface of the wood fired range, she, after greasing it lightly, began slicing thin pieces of potato into it. Her mind began going back over the events of her life as she stood at the stove and she became lost in her thoughts as her hands went through their familiar routines.

She thought again of how, now nearly thirty years earlier she had first noticed Paul at school in her sophomore year of high school. Her family had moved into the village the week before school started that year, and she had been busy helping her mother get the new house arranged and all their belongings put away. Then it was the first day of school and she had felt considerable apprehension at the thought of meeting all of the new kids, and was sure she wouldn’t like either the village or the rural atmosphere of a school made up mostly of farm children. She had been born in a mid-sized eastern city, where her father had managed a large feed and seed company on the edge of town, and when he had announced to his family at dinner one evening that he and their mother were going to spend a few days visiting a small place further west where a feed mill was going to be sold, and he was thinking of setting up in business for himself, and he thought maybe that would be a good place to start!

Betty had thought of villages and rural areas as picturesque places to drive through and pretty scenes to put on a wall, but certainly not a place where one would want to spend one’s life! She had felt that only going to a larger city could be more exciting than where they lived, and she and her friends spoke often of university towns and of careers in New York or Boston. Betty had been told many times that she could model or enter some profession; she herself was sure she would be capable of whatever she eventually chose to do, and she had been sure none of it would ever include anything remotely rural!

She could smile wryly now as she thought of how her parents had come home a day later than they had planned to, with a glowing report of the village and business they had looked at, and of how they were sure they could sell their house in town and with their savings and the proceeds from the sale of the house have enough money to make the down payment on both the mill and a small house in the village! Betty and her younger brother objected strenuously, but her older brother, already out of high school, and working at the same business as his father, thought it sounded wonderful! It had happened just as her parents had hoped and Betty had gone to her first day of school at the new place still sure it had all been a big mistake, but sure also that for her it would only last two years, and she would join her former friends at university somewhere! She had been a little curious about rural young people, and felt sure that a lot of them must have the same aspirations as her, especially if she could enlighten them to the advantages of a more cosmopolitan lifestyle!

Betty had been concerned that a rural school might not prepare her sufficiently well to go to an Ivy League school in the future, so she was gratified on the first day of school to realize that at least the curriculum seemed compatible to what she had been used to in her urban school. The students too seemed quite normal in their interests, although most of them seemed to need to go home immediately after school, partially because they lived too far up or down the valley to walk home, but mostly because they seemed to need to go home to work on their parent’s farms. Betty was shocked to discover that a girl who sat next to her in cafeteria and who was interested in some of Betty’s ideas about school, helped to milk her parents’ cows every morning before school and every evening after school again. When Betty expressed her surprise at this, she only laughed and said that, “she imagined at least half of the girls, and most of the boys, had chores to do and were expected to help out at home as a matter of course!” Betty began to look at the students more closely and realized that some of them actually came to school with a few signs of the morning pre-school activities still clinging to shoes or other clothing as they sat in class or passed her in the hall! Once in the first week of school a tall boy she had noticed at a distance came over to introduce himself at the end of a class and there was something definitely unusual to Betty, in a smell, which seemed to surround him as he stood a minute and stuck out his hand. “Hi, I’m Jerry,” he said, “Never mind the smell, I ran my trap line this morning on the way to school and got a little too close to a skunk in one of my traps. Though it was already dead, those guys stay pretty smelly for a good while!” Chuckling, he had walked away as Betty had placed her hand over her nose and mouth to avoid breathing what seemed to her to be an awful and embarrassing odor. A few students chuckled at her reaction but a number of them thought it awful too!

In her second week at school the students were given their study hall seat tags, and it was then that Paul had walked into the room as she was laying out her books and papers, had paused briefly and then said quietly “Hi, I’m Paul,” and looked quickly away. She realized she had noticed him as he passed in the hall, but he had not looked at her and she had not known his eyes were so blue and direct until he looked at her there and then sat down quickly in the seat next to hers and opened a book and began reading. She had not realized his hands appeared so strong, or his shoulders were so broad, or that there was a sense of quietness about him that was reassuring somehow. When the bell rang, he got up nodded briefly to her and strode quickly from the room. She sat still for a moment and realized that the back of her neck felt warm and she must be blushing a little. Her new friend Erma slipped into the seat Paul had vacated and whispered in her ear, “He’s really something, isn’t he, half the girls in the school are crazy about him and the other half are dating someone or they would be too! He’s already in love though, not with a girl, he’s never dated anyone, he’s in love with a farm! I’m warning you they’re the worst kind those guys that are tied to a piece of land. My mother’s married to one of them, ask her sometime!” Erma had giggled, patted her hand and left to meet her bus.

Betty had spoken to a teacher about an assignment and then walked slowly the three blocks to her home. Usually she would have had a snack upon arriving home, but that day she had dropped her books on the hall table and walked out the back door to sit on the swing under the arbor by the back fence. Immediately behind their property, the country opened up into fields and there was a tractor working slowly back and forth along the sloping field to the north. Its distant drone as it worked its way across the field grew gradually louder as it came closer, and Betty suddenly saw that it was the trapper from school driving it. When he got close to the fence he stopped his tractor and waved at her. Climbing down he walked over and leaned on the fence. “Hey Betty,” he said, “How about making a couple of rounds with me?” “Rounds?” she said, “What sort of rounds do you have in mind?” “Back and forth across the field,” he had said. “You know, I’m discing this field to prepare it to sow wheat,” and then looking intently at her he had said, “you don’t know do you! Where in the world have you been to miss out on the stuff every little kid would know?” She had gotten up quickly saying “she had to do something for her mother in the house” and went inside. She had come to like Jerry and even enjoy his humor and direct ways, but he never allowed her to forget how little she knew about country ways, and she always reminded him that he probably wouldn’t last a half-day in a real city!

Sitting in study hall three days a week next to Paul became the highlight of her week and she began to talk to him a little after the bell rang, before he would go out to meet his bus to go down the valley to his home. A few times she thought he had seemed happy to listen to her and once he had said, upon her exasperation with a certain passage in English Literature, “that he believed that Collis was simply expressing his delight in the countryside, and that there was no hidden meaning to find! Of course I may be biased you know, feeling that way myself!” he had said and nodding to her had gone to meet his bus.

She remembered so well the afternoon, when after talking to Erma a minute she had gone out to walk home and Paul had stepped onto the sidewalk beside her and said, “my Dad’s bringing some grain to your dad’s elevator this afternoon and I’ll meet him for a ride home after a while. May I carry your books?” And that it had become their routine every Thursday, which was the day Mr. Wilson seemed to pick to haul grain to town to sell, and how Paul had seemed to look forward to it as much as she did and would gather up her books and wait at the door for her to be ready to go. She smiled as she thought about how she had begun making a special dessert after school on Wednesday afternoon to share with Paul on Thursday when he walked home with her and how always at precisely four o’clock Paul would jump up and say, “Those animals are waiting and Dad will be ready to go anytime now.” He would thank her for the delicious food and stride quickly away!

After a few weeks Paul told her that all the grain they could spare had been hauled, and that he had discovered that one of the buses that went north after school came back through the village and he had arranged for a ride to Clingan Corners with the driver who was a friend of Paul’s father. From there it was only a half-mile across the field to Paul’s home. He had said that he would like her to be his girl if she would, and that he could see her on Saturday evenings if she liked!

Hearing a step on the porch, and checking the sausages in another skillet, she turned from the stove just as Paul stepped through the door. Going to him she threw her arms around him and said, “Paul, I was just remembering how you asked me to be your steady girl all those years ago!” and kissed him. “Now you really are,” he had said, and I’ll never let you get away again!”

Later when Paul had gone out and she had finished the morning’s work in the kitchen, she pulled a rocker into the sunshine by an east window and began perusing a contract which had arrived in yesterday’s mail and which she was appraising for a client. Betty had been a contract attorney for fifteen years before returning to the village after Nick’s accident and she had retained two of her oldest clients even now, and most weeks she spent a few hours working her way through the legal logjams in the interests of one of them. Paul had set up an office for her in one of the small rooms off the kitchen, building shelves along one side for her books and records and installing an old walnut desk, once his grandfather’s, at one side for her use. He had had a private telephone line installed for her, and she had brought filing cabinets and office equipment she had used in the city. She thought now looking around her that she had developed the habit of bringing her work into the kitchen, especially in the reading stages, and often found herself working at the oak table in the center of the room, books and papers spread out around her as she wrote out her recommendations for the client.

And now she looked up at the room around her and out the window, which was spilling its sunshine and warmth on her face, and she thought, my attachment to this room is so much indicative of my change of attitude towards a way of life I didn’t understand and couldn’t imagine!

Getting up she stood by the windows and looking down the valley to the south she became lost in her memories again, and the paper she had been perusing dropped unnoticed to the floor.

She and Paul had grown very close quite quickly that first year of her life in the village, he was so handsome and strong; she would never forget how fragile she felt when he first hugged her and she felt the strength of his body! He never forced himself on her but when he would take her hand as they walked, or when they sat together talking, she had felt such security in his touch as she had not imagined possible!

She would talk often of her aspirations for herself as a career woman in the city somewhere after university and gradually she noticed how he would become silent and remote from her somehow and it worried her a little but she could not imagine any other way of life for herself. Once in the spring of that first year in the village, shortly before Paul’s graduation, Paul had told her that she had become very special to him and he believed that he loved her, but that he just couldn’t see himself off at school with her, he really didn’t think he could leave the farm, both because of his father’s health, but also because he felt it was what he wanted to do with his life. He said, “I’m the fourth generation of Wilson’s to live there. My family has made it what it is, one of the best livestock farms in the valley, and I just don’t believe I can give it up! I really love that place!” And now she grimaced as she remembered how she had determined to convince him to see it her way, and after that she was careful to include him in her talk of the future. She would say how well he would do in college sports and how they could take a career track together, or maybe be in a profession together or at least work in the same town. She would see him grow quiet and distant at such times, and she began to be more careful and to include generous time in the valley with their parents as part of her vision for their future. And gradually any talk of the future became too difficult and though she began to apply at several universities in her senior year, she never said much about it to Paul. They still remained close though and she remembered how happy she would be to see Paul occasionally as he passed the school on his way to the Border’s Feed and Seed, or auction, or hardware store in the farm truck. He would pull over to the curb if she was outside and she would lean on his door and they would share a few happy minutes and sometimes he would tell her how pretty she was, and then would grow quiet and squeeze her hand as he drove off.

Then, and now she still had trouble allowing herself to think about it, she remembered the day of their breakup. She had received an acceptance letter from a school in Philadelphia which she had brought to school with her to show to Erma, and which she hoped to share with Paul on Saturday evening when he would come to see her, that he had come driving towards the school as she and some friends reached the sidewalk to walk around the block as they often did on morning break. Only that time he had been driving a big team of black horses, sitting on a high wagon, loaded with a full load of wheat. Something she could not have explained broke in her then, and as the wagon had approached where she was standing with her friends, and Paul had raised his arm to give the school salute, a happy smile, the smile she loved so much on his face, all the frustration of the past year had burst out of her in an angry wave as she had, she felt now, insulted Paul and his choice of lifestyles before half the student body, and though Paul had laughed about it when she apologized for it all those years later, she still remembered the shock on his face and the quick rush of red on his neck as he had hurried the horses and wagon away, she felt then, out of her life forever!

And so it had been too until she had come back to the village three years ago and Paul had driven up to the scales at Borders Feed and Grain on the first day of her position there, and she had nearly fainted when she heard the rumble of steel shod wheels on the concrete leading up to the scales outside her window, and had looked out quickly to see, she felt then, the same black horses, pulling powerfully on the slight slope up to the scales and her eyes had followed up the lines to Paul’s hands holding them loosely, but firmly, with just enough pull on them to remind the big horses he was expecting their best on the hard pull. Then he was stopped outside her window, and she saw the muscles in his jaw tighten and a bit of darker hue began to creep up his neck. Their eyes met and for a long minute all she could think was, I’ve got to say something, when Paul said, “Hi Betty,” and the old smile, she thought she had forgotten, began to transform his face, and the blue eyes crinkled a bit as he smiled at her. Catching her breath she had said, “Hi Paul, for a second there I thought I was dreaming! You haven’t changed at all, and that’s reassuring, everyone else seems to have…” “You have, Betty,” Paul had said, and added quickly, “it’s only improved you though!” And here Paul looked quickly away and she had said, “I’ve got your weight, Paul, come back when you’re unloaded, I’m sure Roger is at the pit to unload you.” And he had nodded, told the horses to “get up,” and pulled away. In the fifteen minutes until he had returned she had managed to quiet her heart a little and smiled as he pulled back onto the scale to get his empty weight. When she had leaned out to hand Paul the weight slip she had said only that “he should go to the front office to pick up his check,” and he had nodded and driven away.

She had not seen him for another week after that, but on Saturday evening when she heard a knock at her mother’s front door, he had been standing there, holding his hat in his hands and smiling a little as he said, “I needed to come to town for a few things and I wondered if there’s still a swing out back and if we might sit for a few minutes. I can’t be long, I’ve got sows farrowing, but I’d like to hear something about your life if you could spare me a minute.” And she had said, “Yes, of course, come around back. You probably remember the way, and she had turned away and took a minute to check her hair in the mirror before going out back to join him. He had been leaning on the fence looking over the field to the east where a good crop of wheat was just breaking through the soils surface in its long narrow rows, and he had said, “You probably remember Jerry, the trapper from all those years ago at school. He’s farming this land now, perhaps you’ve seen him out here, his father’s still living but I believe he’s in his mid eighties and has turned all the operation over to Jerry sometime in the last ten years. You know, when he was young, Jerry was quite a happy go lucky guy, always joking, we liked him, but nobody thought he’d ever tie himself down to a farm; but he married a farm girl from out west someplace who he met at Ohio State when he was taking a two year course there, and after a few years at some research farm he came back to work for his father and has been here ever since. He has a nice family, I guess a couple of his youngsters are in high school now.” And then had said quickly, “but I wanted to hear about what you’ve done since we last met!”

And she had stammered a bit as she said, “I don’t know how interesting that would be to you, and truthfully, I hardly know how to feel about a lot if it myself anymore.” And she had looked away, and then said, “Sit down and I’ll tell you a little, you said you don’t have much time and I’d really like to hear about your life too! You know my family sometimes mentioned a few things that were happening in the valley when we talked during the years I was away. And of course I was back sometime during most of those years for short visits, so I probably heard more about you than you have about me!”

When Paul had left a half hour later she had agreed to meet him for dinner soon, when he could be away for an evening, and he had said “I’ll call you,” and she had nodded and watched him go in his long strides around the house to his truck out front, and she had sat until well after dark listening to the sounds of the evening and allowing her mind to travel back over the events leading her back here.

Now Betty heard the mantel clock strike ten o’clock and suddenly breaking into her memories was the thought of her chickens, and after stepping into a pair of rubber boots and donning a floppy hat from the rack by the side door, she picked up two baskets and took the path to the long low house which housed the laying flock. Paul would have fed and watered them before coming to the house for breakfast, but a few months back Betty had insisted that she be allowed to gather the eggs in the morning and again in late afternoon. She had surprised herself by becoming fond of the busy flock and by now looked forward to her twice-daily trips to gather their eggs. There were two long fenced areas leading away from the back of the house and when Betty went out to gather their eggs in the morning she would open the door into one of them and the birds would rush out to spend their day picking up insects and eating some of the grass and scratching in the dusty areas under a couple of apple trees. The chickens were white Wyandottes, and Paul’s family had been raising them for a long time, and every February Paul would begin to save hatching eggs from the two year old flock and by March the incubator in the east end of the basement would contain two hundred of the big brown eggs and three weeks later the brooder house would resound with the cheerful chirping of the new hatch. The little birds would be raised together until the cockerels began to stand out by the development of their combs and more aggressive attitudes, at which time they would be separated from the pullets, and when the weather became warmer in May they would be taken to a range shelter in one of the pastures where they would spend the summer let out on pasture each day and fattening for the fall market. The pullets would be raised in a movable shelter in the orchard and every few days Paul would hitch one of the grey mares to the end of this building and move it fifty feet further along the row of trees.

Betty had been surprised at the amount of management it took to keep the chicken enterprise going, and had against Paul’s remonstrations taken on more of the work of the young chickens as well as the laying flock. Hens were kept for two years and there was always a group of new pullets in one end of the long layer house and the two year olds from which the eggs for hatching were collected occupied the other end. Betty had studied the flock as she went about the work among them and had developed a keen eye for a superior bird which she would band as one to keep for a future breeder to keep the line going. She had been surprised too by her growing interest in the birds; she had offered to gather eggs to take some of the livestock work off Paul’s hands and had almost immediately been captivated by a real interest in their management. She could tell Paul was pleased by her interest, though he often urged her to let him or his hired man do the heavier work.

Betty carried the two loaded egg baskets into the back porch where there was an egg washer at one end of a long worktable and set first one basket into it and then the other. Setting them down to drain on the shelf by the sink she opened the closet where the stacks of egg flats were stored. Paul’s grandmother and mother had done this same work for many years into the past and Betty wished now she would have paid attention to how Paul’s mother had managed it all in those times when she had visited there as a young person! But in those days she had been sure she could never be interested in such things and certainly would never spend her days as a farmer’s wife doing what she had thought were mundane and even disgusting tasks! Now she realized how much the chickens contributed interest to her life, and how she looked forward to placing the last flat of clean brown eggs into the thirty dozen crate which was picked up every Saturday morning by a young woman in a step van. Paul had insisted that if she were going to be a chicken wrangler, that the monthly check from the sale of the eggs go into her account, and though she reflected how the price of eggs compared to her hourly rate as an attorney, she smiled now to think how that check seemed to mean more to her than the large checks she received from her clients in the city! She had calculated too how much the chickens had contributed to the overall economy of the farm over the past fifty years and had been agreeably surprised to discover that their contribution had been substantial! Paul’s mother had kept a complete record of egg and chicken sales for all the years she had been in charge of them, and the neat rows of figures stretching back, almost to the turn of the century, impressed Betty greatly. She had taken up the record keeping now, and following Paul’s years of records, there were already several columns of her own neat figures.

As so often happened when her hands were busy with familiar tasks, her thoughts began again to go back over her life and the circumstances that had brought her back here to the village, and finally to the Wilson’s farm as its mistress. Her prejudice against farms and farmers had begun a long time ago, she realized now, and she smiled ruefully as she remembered how she had thought that only those unable to engage in a profession or education or business were farmers! She and her friends in the city had imagined that farmers were mostly illiterate, always dirty, and some of the smells resulting from their associations, with what they called the lower animals, were appalling! When her family had moved to the village Betty was prepared to have her feelings about farmers confirmed, and in many ways they had been! Some of her fellow students did come to school with “cow on their collars”, and some didn’t seem especially bright by her standards at that time. But Betty had noticed that many of them seemed to be unusually athletic and most were very capable at anything they did with their hands. Many of her fellow students seemed to think their way of life was superior to that of “city folks,” as they sometimes described them! Some of the village kids, mostly the girls, thought themselves a notch above the farmers, but most of the village boys worked on farms at busy times during the summer and there was no real division among them.

After her breakup with Paul, Betty had thrown herself into preparation for her first year at college and she seldom went out that summer to such activities as the village offered. From her friend Erma she had learned that Paul never came to town that summer unless it had been to the mill or other farm establishment. He never came on Saturday evenings when many folks came in from the country to shop or socialize. She had written and destroyed a dozen notes to him, finally convincing herself that if he didn’t come to her, she would never reach out to him, but the summer had passed finally and a day before she left for college she had sent him a brief note.

Betty had never thought of Paul as inferior, except in his commitment to the farm; she had been unable to understand that about him in those long ago days. She had assumed then that anyone with his intelligence and drive would want to better themselves by getting away from the drudgery of long days of work with livestock and the land. She remembered how Paul had been the leader of the debate team and how in the times she had been pitted against him he had been the equal of any opponent she had ever had in the city, with the addition of such common sense approaches to a problem as was often missing there. In her work with the chickens and gardens she had come to see that the farm actually offered the possibility of reward for, not only hard work, but to the powers of observation and study of one’s subject, equal to anything she had experienced in her career as an attorney. Of course the returns were not equal in purely economic terms, but she had become convinced that pure economics was only one measure of one’s life’s worth! Betty had come to feel the importance of the seasonal flow of growth and accumulation among the flocks, and on the land, as it was realized by the generations of Wilsons and many of their neighbors up and down the valley. She still marveled that a steady, if slow, accumulation of assets was possible without driving ones competitors from the field, as was so often the way it was done in the city. Oh, she had read in the farm press about the need for expansion and change on the farm, but she had observed Paul’s stubborn adherence to the lessons from the past, passed down through the generations of his predecessors and his careful observation of his work, which allowed him to continue to show a regular profit through the improvement of his lands and livestock, while encouraging the young folks in the valley to consider farming as a vocation and actually helping a number to start out with good livestock and the use of a machine or his own physical help on their places. Paul had assured her that, it seemed as though the more he helped the young folks get their starts, the more his own life seemed to work out well. He said, “we don’t need more to do, we just need to do a better job with what we have!” And he had said, “Think about young Ervin and Judy up on the ridge. I could have used a couple of those fields that run along our south edge if I wanted to work harder and buy a bigger tractor than my old Case, but I’m OK, and I’d rather have them up there than to own that land! They’re doing a good job and you know that someone will have to take this place over sometime. The son I never had, won’t be here and the one I thought might be him,” and, here he had paused, and looking closely at her said, “I’m sorry Betty, not everyone wants to be a farmer, or can be, and the boy can do alright at something else,” and she had said, “No, I’m sorry Paul, it was me who turned him away, but Paul, if anyone can make him see it as I’m coming to, it will be you and this place, he’s coming for the summer next year. Didn’t your father say something about a broken furrow being put right?”

– to be continued –