Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter 105

written 2 September 2007

Andy was glad to be home. He had spent a week up in the forests with Father, Uncle Peter and Daniel, cutting down trees for trimwork in the new section of the house.

He loved spending time with Father, hearing the stories he had brought back from his years away, learning to use new tools, hearing Father tease Uncle Peter -- who seemed a lot less formidable these days, Andy thought.

He looked around as he heard a scuffling along the edge of the windrow that ran along the field... it was the dog most likely, going after some burrowing critter. He stopped a moment and whistled, and the dog came out wagging its tail a bit self-consciously, caught in the act once again. Andy laughed and hunkered down as the dog came up and rolled over to get its belly scratched. He noticed the grizzled muzzle and wondered if it was turning gray like his father's beard.

The wind caught the tops of the grain, bending slightly before the gusts and springing back quickly. It was starting to turn color. A few more sunny, dry days and everyone would be called out to harvest. Their farm was always the first, being the closest to the valley floor and the largest, but within a few weeks all the fields would be empty again, and the skies would be filled with smoke as they burned off the stubble to get ready to plant a winter crop.

Andy would be old enough this year, and big enough, he mused as he flexed his arm muscles, to work alongside Daniel or his father...

A loud chuckle sounded alongside, and he looked up sheepishly, to discover his father had come up behind him.

"Well Andy!" Paul smiled, "I suppose you're going to try to be the strongest at this year's harvest fair?"

Andy shook his head mournfully, "Afraid I have a ways to go yet before that happens, Father. Otto has been tops three years in a row!"

They sauntered along in companionable silence until they reached the back gate to their garden.

Paul put his hand on Andy's shoulder, "I am pleased at how much you have grown, just since I have been home. Not only your body, which ripples with muscles - " Andy squirmed a bit and blushed, "but in the way you carry yourself and do the hard work without complaint. I wasn't sure, until we worked together this week, whether your mother was right, but it appears she is."

Andy waited, holding his breath, hoping the next words from his father's mouth would free him from books and school.

Paul looked Andy straight on.

" I know you are not fond of the book learning, but I think your mother knows what she is talking about, son. I want you to stay in school this year," Andy struggled to keep the tears out of his eyes, "But I will speak with the teacher and we will see if we can arrange to have Meg or Doris tutor you in the arithmetic and the other subjects you actually need."

Andy looked away and swallowed, waiting.

" I want you to come work with me full-time starting next planting season. But," Paul warned as Andy's feet lifted off the ground, "I need you to be able to do the figuring and writing well enough that I don't have to come along behind you every time. I know you're a hard worker and can manage the tools. You need to show me -- and the teacher -- and your mother -- that you can keep the books. Without that, you may end up when you are older not knowing either what you have, nor what others owe you."

Andy looked eagerly into his father's face, "I can do it, Father! I know I can!" and he opened the gate and hurried through.

Paul watched his son dash into the shed with his tools and then race across the yard, whooping with glee, slipping through the gate to his grandmother's house. He hoped they were making the right decision.

Gilly looked up as Paul came in, hair and arms wet from the quick wash he had given himself. She paused briefly as she scrubbed the still-damp root vegetables at the sink and gave him a peck on his grizzled cheek.

"I suppose you told him?"

Paul grinned, "I remember when Adam told me the same thing. Of course, I was a bit older... Andy is quicker at the books than I ever was."

Gilly nodded, "Well, he does have my brains..." and sidestepped as Paul tried to catch her with the end of his towel.

The old cat looked disgustedly at them as she stalked out of the kitchen to find a quieter spot in the little bedroom on the other side of the chimney. Gilly and Paul watched her go, then stood side-by-side, washing and peeling the vegetables, rolling out pastry and filling it to bake in the outside oven for a late supper.

Soon, the girls would come in from helping the neighbors, and Cathy and Ava would bring Andy back with them, probably carrying a pie as their contribution to the meal. Paul commented how quiet mealtimes seemed with most of the children gone, and Gilly nodded.

Gilly mentioned how the laundry didn't seem to take as much time as it used to, and Paul glanced down at his rather lived-in trousers.

"Those," Gilly remarked, "are your problem!"

And the long, lazy afternoon wore on...