Friday, February 1, 2013

Of Cabbages and Things, or

The Farmer Takes a Wife


The Spouse, the lady of the house, quirked her way around a corner, conversationally speaking, and went into a nostalgic mode. She regaled me for an hour with memories of things as they were, or might have been. I don’t question her accounts; I just listen. Until, that is, she says, “Are you listening to me?” or “Did you hear me?” Well, yeah, I heard you. How could I not? Oh, you said “listening.”

There is an abundant number of stories of family members and acquaintances long gone down the river of time, and the interrelationships among them.

For instance, sister Donna married when she was fifteen. The twenty-six year old farmer to whom she was espoused moved her into his grandmother’s old farm house. Its most modern conveniences were hinges on the doors, for there was no indoor plumbing, no washing machine, no refrigerator. It was almost instantly clear that slopping the hogs and milking the cows was part and parcel of this city girl’s life as of immediately. Churning the butter and bottling the milk was also on the list of chores, and butchering the hogs and beeves would show up on the list in due time. Also, bearing children was a crucial part of her role, and by the time she was nineteen, she had three of them.

Arnold was not a violent man. His measures of “correction” were much more subtle and less likely to leave marks or scars of the physical kind. For example, when Donna had failed to measure up to expectations in some area, Arnold seated her in a kitchen chair in the middle of the floor and would not allow her to get up until he was ready for her to do so. I mean, a Chicago girl needs discipline, yes, sir, that is what she needs. “Think on your shortcomings, Girl. Think hard, and realize how you can fix them.”

Dawn to dusk, chores, kids, scrubbing and so on. Then supper ready and on the table when Arnold got in from the fields. The string snapped. It was just after their sixth anniversary, not that it was mentioned by the loving husband.  Arnold was in the field with the old Oliver, the day was stifling, muggy and hot. The kids were whining, the flies making an ungodly buzzing throughout the house. “That’s it. I am out of here.”

Donna crammed what few possessions she considered to be “hers” into an old cardboard suitcase,  fastened it with a belt, stuffed the kids’ clothes into two old flour sacks. She loaded this and the children into the decrepit old DeSoto, got in, and started the thing. She rested both hands on the top of the steering wheel, the kids, the oldest in back with the baby and the middle child in the front seat beside Mama.  “Now what? The jackass went to the north field right along the main road. Okay, I’ll take the road to the west and run less risk of his seeing me leave.” 

 Which she did. She had driven scarcely three-quarters of a mile before she saw the tractor in the middle of the road headed straight toward her. She pulled as wide to the right as she could without putting the car into the barrow pit, but Arnold saw what was coming and would not yield. She stopped. He stopped. He climbed deliberately down from the high perch atop the machine and walked slowly up to the driver’s side of the DeSoto. Donna rolled the window up to within three inches of the top.

 “Whut the hell you think you’re doin’?” the man hollered.

“I,” the woman sweetly replied, “am going to town.”

“The hell you say.”

“I won’t be back. This is the end of the line, right here, right now.”

It was as though a straight pin had punctured a child’s balloon. All the bluster was gone. The realization that Donna meant what she said penetrated Arnold's awareness that quickly.

“Leave the boy here,” he pleaded.

“No. You will only make of him the slave I’ve become. We are going. Move that piece of crap so I can get around.”

Arnold climbed up on the tractor and jerked the levers that put it in motion. He swung aside and Donna drove past, on down the road, the dust cloud roiling behind. No one saw the tears rolling down Arnold’s cheeks, muddy rivulets in the creases around his mouth.

8 comments:

Shelly said...

Good for Donna! Arnold rather sounds like he should have been pulling a plow instead of driving a tractor. I do hope Donna had good things happen to her~

Lin said...

Go Donna! I like people with "spunk."

Grace said...

Well yes, good for Donna tho one wonders why it took so long and yet that last sentence lingers in my thoughts...So what happened?

vanilla said...

Shelly, sometimes one has to take charge. Donna did have a successful career.

Lin, oh, that woman has spunk, all right, even to this day as an octogenarian.

Grace, what happened? Donna eventually married again, had another kid, carved out a very successful career for herself in retail management. She is retired, lives in south Florida.
The boy went back to the farm to live with his dad. He still lives there.

Secondary Roads said...

It almost like a horror story.

vanilla said...

Chuck, I believe the girl did live a horror story for a few years.

Sharkbytes said...

Quite a story, well told, but good for her.

vanilla said...

Sharkey, thanks. Donna did what she had to do.