Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chapter 11: Harvest

"Pa and Uncle Henry were out in the field, cutting the oats with cradles. A cradle was a sharp steel blade fastened to a framework of wooden slats that caught and held the stalks of grain when the blade cut them. Pa and Uncle Henry carried the cradles by their long, curved handles, and swung the blades into the standing oats. When they had cut enough to make a pile, they slid the cut stalks off the slats, into neat heaps on the ground....It was very hard work, walking around and around the field in the hot sun."

Harvest has come to the Big Woods. To make the work lighter, the families trade labor; Uncle Henry helps at Pa's and Pa helps Uncle Henry. The wives work in the house and the children have a wonderful time playing in the yard.

It's a wonderful system that everyone enjoys but the men working in the field...until it develops a fatal flaw for one selfish boy. There is a storm threatening, and Cousin Charley is told he must leave the frolicking children and help the men in the fields. He can fetch them water and bring the whetstone when the blade needs sharpening. Charley is not pleased.

Out in the field, Charley gets in the way as much as possible. He hides the whetstone so they can't find it, and doesn't bring the water jug until his father shouts several times for him. But then he gets an even better idea on how to punish his father. He goes across the field and screams loudly.

Pa and Uncle Henry drop everything and sprint across the oats to where they heard his cries, only to find Charley laughing and saying, "I fooled you THAT time!" This was repeated three more times.

Then Charley screams one more time. Uncle Henry says to Pa, "Let 'im scream." But the screaming goes on and on. Charley jumps up and down and screams and screams. At last Uncle Henry decides to see if there is really something wrong.

Charley is covered in yellow jackets and has been stung from head to foot. Pa and Uncle Henry help him get the yellow jackets off, then send him back to the house for some first aid from Ma and Aunty Polly.

This was a very enjoyable chapter for me. At last we find out that not all of the sturdy pioneer children were complete angels (even if none of the naughty ones lived in the cabin with Pa and Ma). In fact, some of them acted a lot like naughty children I happen to know personally! How refreshing.

For this chapter, I have chosen to bring in a guest blog participant. For no particular reason. I just randomly thought of him as someone who could fill the roll of Charley as I recreated the frontier remedy for acute wasp stings. I invited Young Devon out to my house to be the first featured guest in my blog!

When he arrived, he strode through the door, singing out, "Oh, Aunty! I have come to model for your blo-og!"

We drove down to the nearest slough where I was sure to find a plethora of mud just ready for any wasp sting victims that might happen by. Devon was still a little puzzled as to what his role would be. Just to add spice to his life, I didn't tell him ahead of time, nor did I tell him why I was doing it when I started. "You will get to read the blog and be surprised."

We walked down to the water and chose a nice swampy spot. "What are you doing, Aunty?"


"Never mind, Aunty, I've changed my mind!" Devon tried to hurtle to freedom, but wasn't quite fast enough to escape his destiny.

"But Devon, think of the honor! You are the first guest in the whole blog!"

Devon was unimpressed by the honor. I was unimpressed with Devon's lack of impression and went to work with a will, though in the interests of hygiene and kindness, I did leave his face free of muck.

After a thorough coating of mud to take the poisons out, it was time to wrap the squirmy little bundle. I think the real Charley was in too much pain to hop around and squeal quite as much as Devon. Plus he kept trying to tip over backward every time we wrapped a little too vigorously.

Tempting as it would have been to leave him for several days until the "poisons" were completely gone, Laura and I set him free after taking his picture. Then it was time for the fun least, the fun part for Devon. My fun part had happened several moments before!

I'm not sure that Devon would appreciate this as a treatment for bee or wasp stings, but when there's no ER or antihistamines for, oh, a hundred more years or so, it's a better alternative than dying. The chapter ends before we find out if Charley learned his lesson, but let's hope so. I'd hate to see what it would take to get his attention of this experience failed to do so.