|6||Company for Supper|
Jeannie watched wonderingly as Betty cranked the old-fashioned telephone. No one had used it since she had been on the ranch. She had never seen a telephone without a dial. She was amazed at the way Betty deftly turned the little handle at the side to ring one long and three shorts.
"Mamma said we could stay as long as we wanted to," said Betty, as she turned from the telephone.
Daddy came in from the other room, and Jeannie introduced him to Betty and explained about Jack and the hay, and that Betty and Jack were going to stay for supper. Then she wanted to show Betty the piano and her dollhouse and dolls, but she could tell there was something Daddy wanted to say.
"I know you girls want to play," said Daddy slowly, "but I'm thinking about how tired Mom is, and wondering if maybe we could get supper ready so she won't have to cook when she comes in."
Jeannie looked doubtful; she didn't know anything about cooking, but Betty liked the idea.
"I'll help!" she said. "I help Mamma get meals all the time, and sometimes I get them by myself."
"What shall we have?" asked Daddy rather helplessly.
"Let's see what you have in the cellar," suggested Betty.
Betty took a basket from the pantry, and Daddy thoughtfully lit a lantern to take along. Then they all put on their boots and waded outside through the slush to the cellar door behind the house. On the way Daddy borrowed the tune from Yankee Doodle and sang,
"Betty Bergstrom went to town, a-carrying a basket, When people asked her, 'What's in there?' She said, 'You shouldn't ask it!' "
"I guess you'd better engineer this thing, B. B.," he said. Jeannie knew that would be Daddy's nickname for Betty from now on. But Betty didn't seem to mind it any more than Barbara Ware minded being called Barb Wire.
"We'll need potatoes," said Betty, putting some in the basket. "Maybe we can bake them. That's the easiest. And here's some meat." She took a quart jar of canned beef off the shelf. "Mrs. Peterson canned a lot of meat. We can warm it up and make gravy. And here's a jar of tomatoes and some green beans. Shall we have peaches for dessert?"
"I wish we had some doughnuts left to go with them," said Jeannie.
"I could make some cookies," suggested Betty.
"We'll have to have something for bread, too," said Daddy. "Mom is going to bake tomorrow, but that doesn't help us now."
"You made cornbread once before," Jeannie reminded him, "and it was good. Why don't you make some more?"
Back in the kitchen, all three of them hunted for flour, baking powder, mixing bowls, and cookie sheets. Daddy built up a hot fire and moved the shelf in the oven higher. Jeannie watched, fascinated, as Betty measured out the ingredients. She tried to help but was so awkward at creaming the sugar and shortening that Betty laughingly took over and asked her to stir the dry ingredients together. Jeannie helped cut out the cookies, but Betty had to put them into the pans. Jeannie decided that she must learn to cook. It would be fun, and besides it would help Mom.
While the cookies were baking, Jeannie set the table. Daddy found the place in the cookbook and studied the cornbread recipe. When the last pan full of delicious cookies had been taken from the oven, he put the oven shelf back on a lower level, and Betty put the potatoes in to bake. Then Daddy went to work with measuring cups and mixing bowls.
"Oh, the eggs!" said Jeannie suddenly. "I have to feed the chickens and get the eggs. Do you want to come with me, Betty, while Daddy makes the cornbread?"
So the girls pulled on their boots again and went to the barnyard. It did not take long to take care of chickens and gather eggs. The cows were already in the barnyard, since the snow had been too deep for them to find anything to eat in the pasture. Jeannie coaxed them into the barn, and Betty helped her tie them up.
When they got back to the house, Daddy had just put the pan of cornbread into the oven. He opened the jars they had brought from the cellar, and Betty put the meat, beans, and tomatoes on to heat.
"Mamma says it's safer to boil these things for at least twenty minutes," she said. She found a slice of dry bread, broke it up in the tomatoes, and added a little sugar. Jeannie had never eaten them prepared like that.
Jeannie decided to wash the baking dishes. That way there wouldn't be so many dishes after supper, and perhaps she and Betty would have a little time to play after all.
"It's getting dark, and the cornbread is done," said Daddy. "I hope Mom and Jack get in pretty soon."
Just then there was a stamping of feet outside, and the kitchen door opened. Jeannie noticed that Mom looked very tired; but when she saw the table set and smelled the food, her face brightened. Jeannie was glad that she and Betty had helped get supper instead of playing.
Supper tasted good to all of them. No one minded that the larger potatoes hadn't gotten quite done in the middle, that the gravy was slightly lumpy, or that Daddy's cornbread was burned a little on one side. "Please pass the butter, B. B." said Daddy.
"Why did you call her that?" asked Jack.
"B. B.? Short for Betty Bergstrom," said Daddy.
"Daddy abbreviates me too," said Jeannie. "He calls me J. J. some of the time, for Jeannie Johnson. And I call him J. J. for Jim Johnson. And we call Mom J. J. for Jane Johnson."
Jack looked surprised. "Are your cats named?" he asked. "Do their names start with J too? What about the cows?"
"No," Jeannie's daddy told him, "but I think we ought to call the cats Johanna and Juniper. Johnson, of course. We'll see about the cows later on."
"So Betty's just a BB!" said Jack. "She isn't a big shot."
"A BB can hit the mark just as well as a big shot," Mr. Johnson reminded him.
"But it won't make as big a dent!" Jack told him.
"Jack Bergstrom! You're going to talk just like Mr. Johnson if you're around him very much!" scolded Betty teasingly.
"Is that bad?" asked Mr. Johnson, trying to look hurt.
Betty thought a minute. "Not really!" she said. "It's lots of fun. But Jack never did say things like that before. Do you folks talk that way all the time?
"Well, no, not when we're asleep!" said Jeannie.
They talked about school, about moving the hay, and about the flood they would probably have. Jeannie promised to telephone Betty and Jack if the creek did flood, so they could come over and see it.
"I'll help you milk, Mrs. Johnson," said Jack after supper. Jeannie wanted very much to go along, but she knew there was work that she should do in the kitchen.
"You girls run along if you want to," said Daddy. "I'II clean up and wash the dishes."
So Jeannie and Betty went with Mom and Jack to the barn. Betty could milk and wanted to help, so Mom gave her the easiest cow. Jeannie tried, too, since the cow was gentle, and surprised herself by getting a few drops.
Jack carried the first full pails to the house, then suggested, "Why don't you go in and start to separate, Mrs. Johnson, and I'll finish up?"
Mom waited for two more full pails, and then went to the house.
It seemed no time at all until all the cows were milked. Then Jack started carrying out milk for the calves, and soon all the evening chores were done.
When the last milk pail was washed, the tired family and their visitors gathered around the piano. Daddy got out his violin, and he and Mom played, while Mom, Jack, and the girls sang. Betty's eyes and ears were all for the piano, but Jack watched every move of the bow on the violin strings.
Soon Jack decided that they must be getting home. Jeannie watched them ride over the hill in the moonlight. She was glad that they were her neighbors. Neighbors, but they lived more than three miles away!
Jeannie woke in the night with a roaring sound in her ears. At first she thought it was thunder, but there was no rumbling, just a roar. It seemed to grow louder and louder. Finally she felt that she could not lie there and wonder about that sound another minute, so she slipped into her parents' room. Mom was wide awake.
"I've been listening to that noise for some time," she said. "It's the creek. It sounds like a bad flood. I hope it doesn't do any serious damage. As soon as it's daylight, we'll go out and look at it; but you'd better go back to sleep now."
Jeannie went back to sleep, but she woke up again before it was light. The roaring was louder now. She went to her parents' room again. Mom woke up when she came in.
"It won't be light enough to see anything for another hour, Jeannie," she said.
"Couldn't we get up now and get breakfast over with, and then we won't have to stop for that when it does get light?" wondered Jeannie.
Mom needed to rest but got up and built a fire in the cookstove. Then she mixed pancake batter and had Jeannie beat it while she kneaded flour into the yeast mixture she had prepared the night before.
As soon as breakfast was over, all three put on their coats and boots and went out to see the creek. Their peaceful little trickle of water had become a swirling, muddy river. As they stood at the edge of the bank and looked down, the water was not more than two or three feet away. But Mom warned that it was not safe to stand too close, since sections of the bank were sometimes undermined and fell into the roaring water.
All sorts of things were being carried along down the creek. There were boxes and barrels, shingles' and siding, small trees and a telephone pole, and all sorts of trash.
Jeannie watched the flood a little longer, then suddenly exclaimed, "Oh, I promised to let Betty and Jack know if the creek flooded!"
"You should call them," said Daddy.
"But I don't know how to dial that funny telephone!" objected Jeannie.
"You'll have to learn," said Mom. "I'll help you this time. I have to milk now, anyway. I can't just stand here and watch the water. You and Daddy can tell me if anything interesting floats by."
Jeannie told the Bergstroms about the flood and then went back to watch beside Daddy. She was impatient for her friends to get there, but she knew it would take them some time to ride three miles through the mud and slush. At last they came, and soon Mom was able to join the watchers on the creek bank.
"We really get a good view here," said Mom. "If only we had some benches!"
"May we sit on your wash tubs?" asked Jack.
"I don't think it would hurt them," Mom answered. So Jack took them from their nails on the little wooden lean-to shed at the back of the house. Betty and Jeannie sat on the little tub, Jack and Daddy on the big one, and Mom was enthroned on the washboiler.
"Oh, that's our bridge!" exclaimed Jack, looking as far as he could up the stream. "That must be the bridge that we cross on the way to school!"
As it came closer, they were all positive that it must be the bridge that spanned the creek between their homes and the schoolhouse. A few days ago Jeannie would have been delighted to see it go, but now it seemed like a friend. She hated to think of never seeing it again.
"Can we get to school any other way?" she asked Jack.
"Creek'll probably be down by Monday," he said, "and our horses can wade through it. The next bridge is ten miles down the creek."
Jeannie was the first to see the chicken coop. It bobbed along slowly in midstream, turning around now and then as if to bow to anyone along the bank who might be watching its progress. On the peak of the roof were five bedraggled red hens and a rooster.
"Oh, the poor things!" exclaimed Mom. "I wish we could help them!"
"That bend in the creek might send them over to our bank," said Jack. He hurried to the barnyard and looked around for a long pole. The one he found had a nail driven into it, near the end. Sure enough, the chicken coop swung close to the bank, and Jack reached out with the long pole. Daddy jumped up and held tightly to Jack, fearing that he would be pulled into the water. Mom took hold of Daddy, and Jeannie and Betty took hold of Mom. Jack hooked the nail into a crack in the coop and pulled. For just a moment the coop rested against the bank. That was enough for the hens. They fluttered gratefully to the shore. But the rooster took one look at the people playing tug-of-war with his coop, and shook his head disdainfully. Then the current carried him away again, and he floated on downstream.
"He wasn't taking any chances!" laughed Daddy. "I guess he thought we wanted him for dinner!"
"Let's go and feed these poor hens, Betty," said Jeannie. "Then we can see what else comes by."
Mom went to the house to take care of her bread. When she returned to the creek bank, a telephone pole had lodged across the creek and all sorts of things were piling up behind it.
"If that makes a dam, and the creek keeps on rising," she explained, "it may come up over the bank and flood some of the high land here."
So Daddy and Mom and Jack poked with poles until one end of the long pole was free, and it floated off downstream.
"I guess Betty and I had better be getting home!" said Jack suddenly.
"Oh, I forgot to tell you," explained Mom, "that I phoned your mother, and she said it would be all right for you to stay for dinner. If we eat a little late, we can have hot rolls. And your mother thought your father might ride over to see the flood after dinner."
At the dinner table Mom told Daddy and Jeannie, "Mrs. Bergstrom has invited us to eat dinner with them tomorrow."
"Oh, goody!" exclaimed Betty.
"But that isn't all," Mom went on. "It's too muddy to drive the truck. If we go, we must go horseback. That's all right with me, but what about you two city folks?"
Jeannie looked at Daddy. He was looking at her. Suddenly she laughed. "I'll do it if you will!" she said.
"It's a deal!" said Daddy. "If we fall off, that mud ought to be nice and soft to land in. Or maybe there'll still be some snow left. That would be cleaner!"
"Will you play your violin for my father if he comes over?" asked Jack. "I'd like to have him hear that violin, and the piano too."
"I wish we had another instrument for Jeannie," said Mom.
"Oh!" said Betty. "Isn't Kay's organ here somewhere? I think they just shoved it off in the storeroom."
"Let's look!" said Jeannie.
So after dinner, while Mom did the dishes and watched the rest of the bread, Daddy and Jeannie and Jack and Betty moved things in the store room until they found the organ back in a corner. Daddy and Jack rolled it out into the room with the piano.
"Now if the piano is tuned to the same pitch as the organ, we can all three play," said Mom, when they told her. So Jeannie played the piano, and Mom played the organ. They harmonized fairly well.
"Now let's go back to the creek," said Jeannie. "We may be missing something."
Just as they reached their station on the bank, a piece of the opposite bank caved in. But the water seemed a little less angry now, and they could see that it had stopped rising.
Mr. Bergstrom rode in and joined the group on the bank. But there wasn't much to see now except muddy, swirling water.
"I guess most of the things that were loose and in reach of the water have already been washed down," suggested Daddy.
When they grew tired of watching the water, they hung the tubs and boiler back in their places and went into the house. The bread was done, so Mom was free to take her place at the organ. Daddy tuned his violin, and he and Mom and Jeannie played for an hour. Then the Bergstroms went home, wishing that they could make music at their house.
In the night, Jeannie dreamed that she was an Eskimo living in an igloo, but she had lost her fur clothes and was very cold. She woke up as Mom laid a warm quilt over her.
"It's turned cold again," Mom explained.
In the morning the ground was frozen solid. Snow still lay in patches, but the roads were clear of it. The creek was only a little higher than usual. Daddy said that he would help with the chores, and they all shivered as they stepped out into the cold air.
"Couldn't we drive the pickup over to the Bergstroms?" asked Jeannie. "The ground isn't muddy now."
"I'm sure we could get there all right," agreed Mom, "but if the ground should thaw before we come home, we'd have trouble. And besides, you city folks need to get used to riding sometime!"
"It might as well be now!" said Daddy, making a face.
After breakfast was over, Mom rode her horse into the pasture after little Bud and a horse for Daddy. Jeannie and Daddy watched while she saddled up. They would have to learn how to do that, too. Then Mom showed them how to mount. It would have been much easier, it seemed to Jeannie, to grasp the saddle with both hands and climb up. But Mom made Jeannie stand on Bud's left side, facing away from his head, with the reins in her left hand. Mom showed her how to turn the stirrup toward her and put her left foot in it, grasp the saddle horn with her right hand, and swing herself up. It was easier for Jeannie than for Daddy. After they were all mounted, they walked the horses around the barnyard several times. Then they put the horses in the barn while they went into the house to rest for a little while and change their clothes.
Nothing exciting happened on the way to the Bergstrom ranch. Daddy kept joking about falling off, but neither he nor Jeannie did it. They just sat on their horses and guided them in the right direction. Mom suggested that they travel at a walk until they got used to riding, and Daddy and Jeannie both thanked her for that. Mom had to get off to open and shut the gates.
"Look!" said Jeannie, as they came to the second fence. "There's a place to ride through without opening a gate!"
"Look again!" laughed Mom. "That's a place for cars to go through without opening the gate, but not horses! See those pieces of pipe laid a little way apart across the road? That's called a cattle guard. Cows or horses won't cross it. There's a gate at the side, and we'll have to go through that."
The Bergstroms were glad to see them. Mrs. Bergstrom was a small, friendly person with graying, brown hair.
"I can't get used to not going to church on Sundays," said Mom, while they were eating dinner.
"Oh, I meant to tell you before this," said big Fred Bergstrom. "There's to be a church service next Sunday at the little church on the River Cheyenne. We have a service there every time we can get a preacher to come out from town. It's only about ten miles down the river. We'd like to have you folks go with us."
After dinner Betty took Jeannie to see her pet calf and the new kittens. Then they played with Betty's dolls. Jeannie noticed that the dolls had a great many clothes, and most of them looked as though Betty had made them herself. Mom played the Bergstroms' organ, and Mr. Bergstrom showed Daddy the ranch buildings. Before they knew it, it was late in the afternoon. The ground was thawed enough to be muddy on top, and the horses went along slowly.
"Mom, our house is a lot nicer than Bergstroms'," said Jeannie. "Especially the kitchen! They have to carry clean water in, and carry the dirty water out. It just isn't handy at all!"
"Mrs. Bergstrom told me about that," explained Mom. "She would rather have a nice car to go places whenever they can and get along with the house the way it is. Cousin Emily preferred to stay at home most of the time, so Cousin Will fixed up the kitchen for her, and they got along with the old pickup."
Next morning the ground was frozen hard again, and Jack and Betty came by for Jeannie before she had finished her breakfast. Jack saddled Bud while Jeannie was getting ready, and tied her lunch to the saddle for her. The creek was low, and they had no trouble crossing. Jeannie began to think that she could enjoy riding Bud.
|8||The Church on the River Cheyenne|
Jeannie liked school better every day. She felt more a part of it now that she rode her own pony to school instead of having her mother bring her. She learned to open the gates after Jack had put a longer loop of wire at the top of the one that had been so hard to open and shut. She even learned to saddle her own pony. It was nice to have Jack and Betty for company to and from school, but it gave her a feeling of independence to know that she could get along without them. She played the organ for singing, too, and practiced at home until she could pump it herself.
All week Jeannie wondered about what Mr. Bergstrom had said about the church. Home was so different on the prairie, and school was so different. What would the church be like? When she thought of the stained glass windows, the big organ, the robed choir, and the Sunday school classrooms all beautifully furnished in the church in Atlanta, she felt a bit homesick. Surely a church in the country would not be anything like that!
Sunday came at last. The day was clear and cool, and the roads were dry enough for easy traveling. The Johnsons got up early and hurried with chores and breakfast. Each family was to take a basket lunch. All would eat together at noon and have another service in the afternoon.
Daddy looked handsomer than ever in a good suit. It seemed like a long time since he had worn one. Mom wore the dress that Jeannie liked best and Jeannie wore her favorite outfit, the blue suit. She even put on her blue gloves, although Mom told her that gloves were worn in the country mostly to keep one's hands warm.
As the Bergstrom car drove into the yard, Daddy dashed back to the bookcase and took out a Bible. Then they all settled down in the big car. Daddy rode in front with Mr. Bergstrom and Jack. Mom and Jeannie climbed into the back seat with Mrs. Bergstrom and Betty.
After they reached the main road, it did not take long to get to the church. It was a somewhat battered white frame building, only a little larger than the schoolhouse. Inside were two rows of rough wooden benches. At the front was an old organ, a stand which served as a pulpit, and a long bench. Jeannie could not understand why anyone would want to sit on a bench directly in front of the pulpit. That bench had no back, either.
The little church was almost full when they arrived. There were a number of boys and girls whom Jeannie had never seen before. They attended different schools. She and the Bergstroms were the only members of their school but soon their teacher, Miss Williams, came in.
Mr. Bergstrom seemed to be the leader of the group. He glanced at his watch, saw that it was almost time for Sunday school to begin, and asked Jack and another teenage boy to pass out the songbooks. There were not enough to go around, so two or three people had to use one book.
Mr. Bergstrom stood behind the pulpit. "It's time to begin our Sunday school," he said. "Let us all bow our heads in prayer." Then he thanked God for letting them meet together that day, and asked Him to bless in the services that would follow.
After prayer he asked, "Mrs. Johnson, will you play the organ for us? The Peterson family has moved away," he explained, "but we are glad to have the Johnson family to take their place. We are glad, too, that Jane Johnson is able to fill the place at the organ that was left vacant by Kay Peterson."
Jeannie tried to sing but found that she did not know most of the songs. Mom had no trouble playing them, and Daddy's voice rang out clear and true. Most of the people sing as though they would rather sing than do anything else, Jeannie thought.
Jeannie was near the back, so she saw a tall man with a Bible in his hand slip in the door and into a back seat. That must be the preacher, she decided. Maybe he had a hard time finding his way and couldn't get here on time.
After the singing Mr. Bergstrom announced, "The classes will now take their places."
Jeannie looked around, wondering where there was any place for different classes. The little church seemed to be full, and there was no other building in which classes could be held. Then Betty pulled her sleeve.
"Come on!" she said and moved toward the front of the room.
Mr. Bergstrom had set the pulpit in front of the long bench. Then he pulled the bench nearer to the front of the building, and drew a curtain across the room between it and the pulpit. Jeannie found herself behind the curtain, seated on the long bench. Miss Williams was the children's teacher and sat on the high organ bench. Behind them, on the other side of the burlap curtain, the preacher stood behind the pulpit and taught the adult class. Jack had stayed with the adult class.
Since Easter was only two weeks away, the lesson for the day was the story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It had always seemed like some strange fairy tale to Jeannie before, but Miss Williams made the story so real that most of the boys and girls present felt as though they were part of that great crowd lining Jesus' path. They could almost feel palm branches in their hands and hear themselves shouting "hosanna!"
All too soon the Sunday school ended, and the boys and girls took their places with their parents for the church service to follow. The preacher led the singing this time and called on a man that Jeannie didn't know to pray.
Then the preacher said, "Let's have a good testimony meeting before we have the message from God's Word. If you are saved, stand up and thank the Lord for it. Praise God for everything He has done for you. 'Let the redeemed of the LORD say so'!"
What is he talking about? wondered Jeannie. What is a testimony meeting? What does it mean to be saved?
But she was soon to find out. People all over the building began standing and telling, in turn, how thankful they were that God had taken over their lives and made them a different kind of people. Some told of answered prayer. First Jack and then Betty stood and said they thanked God for saving their souls.
In her home church Jeannie usually had daydreamed during the sermon, but this was so different that she decided to listen, for a while at least.
"I am using an old familiar text this morning," began the tall preacher. "It is found in 1 Corinthians, the fifteenth and the third verse. 'Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.'
"We are approaching the Easter season," he said, "when we turn our thoughts to how Christ died, and when and where. But this morning I want to be sure that everyone in this building knows why Christ died, why He was crucified."
Jeannie leaned forward in her seat. She had wondered many times why Jesus, who never did anything wrong, had to die such a horrible death.
The sermon that followed was different from anything that Jeannie had ever heard before. The preacher explained how Adam and Eve were created perfect and sinless; but they disobeyed God, and sin then became a part of the human race and the world.
Then he explained that God is such a holy God and heaven such a holy place, that heaven would be ruined if sin were allowed to enter. The only way that sinful man could enter heaven would be for Someone who had never sinned to take the punishment for man's sin, and then man could go free and enter heaven. Jesus, God's only Son, was that Someone. He was willing to leave all the beauty and glory of heaven for a time. He was willing to come to earth and live as the poorest of men lived. He was willing to be killed in one of the most horrible ways that man has ever invented. And He was willing to suffer far more than that; for, as He hung on the cross, it was as though all the wrong things that people had ever done or ever would do were heaped upon Him, and He was guilty of them all.
"Yes," the preacher went on, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He died to buy a gift for us, the gift of salvation from sin. This gift includes the privilege of being God's children while we are on this earth and of sharing the glories of heaven after death. But when you are offered a gift, it is not yours unless you accept it. No matter how wonderful it is, it does you no good until you take it for your own. So it is with the gift of salvation. If there is one here who has not yet accepted that gift, won't you think just now of your sins that were laid upon Jesus on the cross? Won't you take the gift of salvation that He offers so freely?"
Jeannie glanced at Daddy. His hands were over his face, but she could see tears trickling between his fingers. Mom looked as though she wanted to cry, too, but was biting her lip to keep from it.
"Let us all stand," the preacher was saying, "If there is anyone here who would like to accept the gift of salvation, won't you come down to the altar, and make your peace with God just now?"
Daddy slipped from his place and knelt at the bench at the front. Mom hesitated just a moment, then she followed him. Miss Williams slipped in beside Jeannie. "Jesus died for you, too, Jeannie," she said. "It would make Him so happy if all your family would take the gift of salvation that He died to purchase for you."
But Jeannie shook her head. Somehow she didn't want to admit that she needed to be saved.
After what seemed a long time Mom raised her head, and her face was radiant. The preacher was singing, "There's a new name written down in glory," and Mom and Daddy stood as all the rest joined in.
After everyone had shaken hands with everyone else, and all the men had hugged Daddy, and all the women had hugged Mom, they went outside. The men took long planks and sawhorses from a shed and made them into tables. Then the women spread out the food while the men and older boys carried benches from inside the church. The sun felt warm, but the wind was chilly, and people put their coats back on. Everyone formed a long line, then the preacher prayed, and they all marched along the food tables. There were so many good things to eat that Jeannie tried to take a little of everything, but for some reason she didn't seem to be hungry.
When the meal was finished and cleared away, and the benches carried back inside, it was time for the afternoon service.
"Before Brother Bergstrom leads us in singing, I'd like to hear a word from those who were saved this morning," said the preacher. "Tell us what the Lord has done for you."
Daddy got up first. "I thought I was all right," he said. "The church I attended taught that if we tried to live right, and if we worked in the church, we were right with God. I was Sunday school superintendent for years. I served on the church board and on all sorts of committees. But I never had a real peace of heart until I knelt at this altar this morning. Then I asked God to forgive my sins and make me His child, and I received God's gift of salvation that Jesus paid for."
Mom got up then. "I was saved when I was a child," she said, "but when I went to college and got away from the influence of my Christian home, I stopped reading my Bible and praying. Soon I told myself that there was no God, or if there was, He wasn't concerned about me. Although I did get back into the habit of going to church, it didn't mean much to me. But this morning I realized again that God is real, that He cares, and that He has a right to my life. By His help I intend to live for Him always."
The organ seemed to sing that afternoon as Mom's fingers flew over the keys. Then the preacher announced that his text would be "Grow in Grace."
"A baby grows," he said, "when he gets plenty of food, fresh air, and exercise. Christians need the same for spiritual growth. Our spiritual food is God's Word, the Bible. Prayer is as necessary to a Christian as air is to the baby. And our spiritual exercise is telling others about the Lord, what He has done for us, and what He can do for them.
"I wonder how many of you have a family altar," he went on, "a time when the whole family gathers for Bible reading and prayer, and perhaps sings together and talks together of what God has done for them."
After the sermon the preacher suggested, "Why don't you folks organize a Sunday school? You could have that every Sunday, whether you could get a preacher or not."
Everyone agreed, and Jeannie's father was asked to act as superintendent, since he had so much experience. Fred Bergstrom was appointed to teach the grown-up class, and Miss Williams to teach the children as long as she would be with them.
Back at home, Daddy said, "I guess today would be the best time to begin our family altar. When I was a child and visited in my grandparents' home, they always had Bible reading and prayer just before they went to bed'
"My family always had a morning worship right after breakfast," said Mom. "They said it was the best way to start the day."
"Maybe we'd better do it both times," suggested Daddy. "I'm sure it wouldn't hurt us!" Mom answered.
"Oh, Betty, they're so good!" said Jeannie. Betty had made cookies the evening before and brought some for Jeannie. The girls were eating their lunch on the sunny side of the schoolhouse.
"I want to learn to cook," went on Jeannie. I'll have to get Mom to help me. But it would be more fun if we had a cooking club. Why couldn't just you and I be a cooking club, and we could tell each other what we've made and exchange samples? We could ask Miss Williams to be our sponsor, until school is out."
"Why not ask Alice to belong too?" asked Betty.
Jeannie frowned just a little. "Do you s'pose she'd want to? She's older than we are and two grades ahead of us, and she might think it was little kid stuff."
"I don't think so," said Betty. "We had sort of a sewing club right after Christmas. Alice hadn't had a doll since she was a baby, because her folks were too poor to buy anything they didn't really have to have. But last Christmas she and Joanne both got dolls. I had a new one too, and so did Virginia, and we all brought them to school and made clothes for them at noon and recess. Even Kay made doll clothes. She made most of them for Joanne, because she's too little to sew much, but she made a dress each for Alice and Virginia and me. Those are the nicest dresses our dolls have."
"What did the boys do while you sewed?" asked Jeannie.
"Oh, they had a sawing club," answered Betty. "Our fathers brought home wooden apple and orange boxes from town, and the boys made all sorts of things out of them--bookcases and bird houses and doll furniture. Poor Miss Williams was trying to help the sewing club and the sawing club at the same time, and it kept her pretty busy. Kay helped the girls, and Jack helped the boys, though; so we got along pretty well."
Jeannie snapped her lunch box shut. "Let's go ask Alice and Miss Williams right now," she said.
The boys had finished their lunches and were pitching horseshoes. Miss Williams, Alice, and Joanne were in the schoolhouse and were not quite through eating.
"Miss Williams," said Jeannie, "we want to have a cooking club."
Betty looked at Alice. "And we'd like Alice to be in it, if she wants to," she said.
"And we want you to be our sponsor," added Jeannie.
"Can I be in it too?" asked little Joanne.
Jeannie frowned a little. "Aren't you too little to cook?" she asked. "You might get burned or something!"
"Perhaps she could learn to make different kinds of sandwiches," suggested Miss Williams. "Of course, someone else would have to slice the bread for her. I'm sure she could learn to make other things, too. Alice could do the baking and cooking for her."
"Maybe we could take turns meeting at our different homes," said Betty, "and have our mothers show the whole club how to cook something."
Miss Williams shook her head. "This is going to be a busy time of year for your mothers," she said. "I think it would be better if each of you did your cooking in your own home. You could keep a record of the different things you cook and share the recipes with each other. Perhaps sometimes you could bring samples of your cooking to school and pass them around."
Jack had come in for a drink while they were talking. "Where do we come in?" he asked. "Do we get a sample too?"
"You don't come in!" Alice said with a grin. "You stay out! This is just for girls!"
Miss Williams looked thoughtful. "Who carries in wood so we can be warm and comfortable?" she asked. "Who saddles your horses when it's cold and snowy? Who carries water from the well?"
"The boys!" said Alice.
"I guess we'd better bring enough for them too," said Jeannie.
When school had begun again, Miss Williams suggested, "Let's have a health study period all together and talk about planning meals. Some of you boys may be sheepherders, or do some other kind of work where you will have to do your own cooking. So you need to get in on this too. You probably won't do such fancy cooking as the girls, but you can't be strong and healthy unless you eat the right foods. You need to learn more about what they are now. Let's make a list on the blackboard of the kinds of food we need to eat every day." "We need milk," said Betty. "We need meat," said Alice. "We need vegetables," said Jeannie.
"Let's write leafy, green or yellow vegetables," said Miss Williams. "Those vegetables are very important. What else should we eat every day?"
"Hot cakes with lots of syrup!" Joanne said, and everyone laughed. After the list had been finished and corrected, all took turns suggesting how to put foods of all types into a day's meals.
"Jack, if you were a sheepherder, what would you probably eat for dinner and supper?" asked Miss Williams.
"Beans, cooked with bacon or salt park, cornbread, and coffee," said Jack.
"I know it would be hard to get much variety in that case," said Miss Williams, "but I think, if you tried, you could add some things to make that meal more nutritious."
"I could put a lot of canned milk in the coffee," said Jack, "and I could open a can of tomatoes. I don't know whether they're fruit or vegetables, but I guess they'd help to take the place of both."
After school Jeannie told Mom about the cooking club. Jeannie was thinking about tall frosted cakes and fluffy meringue pies, and Mom seemed to know it.
"I'll be glad to help you cook," she said, "but remember, we can't live on dessert! You can make fancy things sometimes, but you need to learn to cook potatoes and meat and beans. We're out of bread, and I didn't have time to bake today, so how would you like to make cornbread for supper? I'll find you a recipe."
Cornbread didn't sound very interesting to begin on, but Jeannie knew that Mom was busy. She agreed to bake potatoes, too, and open some jars. Daddy was feeling stronger and would help with the chores, so he had no time to make cornbread.
"One cup of sifted flour," Jeannie read, and measured it into the sifter. Then she sifted it, measured it again, and had to put some back into the canister.
"One cup of cornmeal." She put that in another dish. Then she got more dishes and measured soda, salt, and sugar into them. She was about to break the egg into still another dish when Mom came in. Mom looked a little annoyed at first, then she tried to hide a grin.
"May I offer some suggestions?" she asked. Jeannie nodded. "Maybe it would be quicker to show me," she said. "Then I can make it by myself next time." She knew that Mom needed to be working outside.
So Mom dumped the flour, cornmeal, soda, salt and sugar all into the sifter and sifted them together into one bowl, then stirred them with a spoon. Next she measured the shortening, put it into the baking pan, and slid it into the oven. She beat the egg, stirred in the buttermilk, and added them to the flour mixture. She took the pan from the oven, tipped it until the inside was well coated with shortening, and poured the rest into the batter. After a few quick stirs she poured the batter into the pan. Jeannie slid the pan into the oven. Then she sat down and laughed. Mom had mixed that cornbread in such a few minutes! There wouldn't be much dish washing, either. Jeannie ran the dish towel around the insides of the dishes into which she'd measured the dry ingredients, then set them back in the cup board. She would know how to make cornbread next time!
After supper Mom suggested, "Jeannie, why don't you make some fudge? I'll wash the dishes this time, and I'll be right here to tell you how. You can take some to school tomorrow, to pass around."
It took a long time for the fudge to cook, but finally it was done. It was only a little sugary. When it was cool, Jeannie cut it in neat squares; and she and Mom and Daddy ate the little, uneven pieces around the edges. She lined a box with waxed paper and packed the nicest pieces to take to school.
Next morning at breakfast Daddy announced, "The sugar bowl is empty."
"Fill it from the canister, please, Jeannie," said her mother.
"But that's empty!" Jeannie told her. "I used the last of the sugar to make the fudge!"
"And Mom told me to get sugar when I went to town, but I forgot," said Daddy. "So I guess we're out of sugar."
"Remember back in wartime when sugar was rationed?" Mom asked Daddy. "I wasn't very old, and about all I can remember about the war is going without sugar much of the time, and eating corn bread instead of white bread because we couldn't get much flour either. Oh, of course I remember seeing a lot of soldiers in uniform, too."
"How long ago was that?" asked Jeannie.
"You figure up," Daddy told her. "This is 1939. The World War ended in 1918."
Jeannie thought for a minute. "It ended twenty one years ago," she said. "How old were you when it ended?"
"You can figure that up too," her mother told her. "I'm thirty now, and Daddy is thirty-two."
"You were nine and Daddy was eleven," Jeannie told her. "Were a lot of men killed in the war?"
"Yes," said Daddy. "I hope we never have another war!"
"That was supposed to be the war to end all wars," Mom told them. "But we'll have to wait and see if that is true or not."
That morning the Owens children got to school just before Jeannie. "You girls go on in," she heard Sidney say, "and Billy Bob and l will take care of the horses."
"And bring in the lunch pails," added Billy Bob.
They seemed to be doing something to the lunch pails when Jeannie took off Bud's saddle, but she was too anxious to get into the schoolhouse with her box of fudge to pay much attention to them.
Betty had made a different kind of cookie and brought some to pass around at lunch time.
"I didn't bring anything to pass around," said Alice sadly.
"It's a good thing you didn't," laughed Miss Willaims. "Betty brought cookies, and Jeannie brought candy. That's enough for one day."
"I made cookies too," said Alice, "but they didn't turn out very good, so I just put them in our lunches."
"I helped make the sandwiches!" announced Joanne proudly.
"Perhaps we can make a club recipe book," Miss Williams told them, "and copy your recipes into it. Those that turn out well, at least. Then each one can copy the recipes she doesn't have and make her own cookbook. You may make covers for them in art period today."
At lunch time Jeannie wasn't interested in her sandwiches. She just wanted to finish eating and pass out her candy and taste Betty's cookies. As she opened her lunch box, she heard an angry exclamation from Alice and a wail from little Joanne.
"What happened to our lunches?" asked Alice. She reached into her lunch pail and pulled out a big, brown, raw potato. Joanne's lunch pail held only a raw potato too. Sidney and Billy Bob were grinning.
"Our lunches are all right." said Sidney.
"I guess they are!" said Alice, looking into their pails. "You have ours, too!"
So Miss Williams made Sidney and Billy Bob empty their lunch pails, and Alice and Joanne got their share of lunch.
The school yard was finally dry enough so running games could be played at recess and noon. Jeannie found herself playing games that she had never heard of before. Andy-over was one. She decided that it was fun, and it was certainly a game that could never have been played at her school in the city! Betty explained it to her the first day they decided to play it.
"The boys go on one side of the schoolhouse and the girls on the other," she said. "One side has the ball, and someone throws it over the schoolhouse and hollers 'Andy-over!' or just 'Andy' If no one on the other side catches it before it hits the ground, whoever picks it up throws it back over and hollers, too. If someone catches it, his team runs around the schoolhouse and the person carrying the ball tries to touch the players on the other team. That team tries to run around to the other side without being caught. Anyone who is caught has to go on the other side. The side that gets all the other team's players, wins."
Jeannie was sure she could never get that ball clear up over the schoolhouse, but when it was her turn, she tried anyway. The ball got almost to the peak of the roof then came bouncing back down. "Pig's tail!" shouted the other girls, and Betty took the ball and threw it neatly over.
"Maybe Jeannie knows some games we would like to play," Miss Williams suggested one day.
"How about Japanese tag?" suggested Jeannie. "We stand in a circle, and the one who is It runs around outside the circle and touches someone, and then runs on around and tries to get into the place where the person he touched was standing. That person has to hold his hand on the place he was touched and chase the one that's It around the circle. If he catches him before he gets to the empty place, the same one is It again. If he doesn't, the other person is."
That was fun for a couple of recesses.
"Do you ever play dodge ball?" asked Jeannie. "We don't have enough for half of us to make a circle, but we could stand in a square."
So the boys made a square, with the girls inside, and the boys threw a big, rubber ball across the square, trying to hit the girls below the knees and put them out. When the girls were all out, they formed a square and threw at the boys.
One day it was Jeannie's turn to count out for a game and decide who was to be It. She counted, "Eenie, meenie, miny mo, catch a nigger by the toe," but Miss Williams shook her head.
"I don't like that word 'nigger,"' she said. "It makes it sound as if colored people aren't as good as white people, and that isn't so. Maybe we can still use the rhyme but put some other word in that place." "We could say, 'catch a white man'," suggested Jack.
"Maybe we could use the name of some kind of animal or bird," said Betty. "Catch a turkey by the toe."
So each one thought of words that could be used in the rhyme. Tiger, lion, eagle, monkey, chicken, sparrow, kitten, and puppy were all suggested. Billy Bob couldn't understand why everyone laughed when he said, "Catch a donkey by the toe."
Before school on Friday, Billy Bob got down on his left knee to tie his right shoe, and Miss Williams saw a red spot on the bottom of his left foot.
"Billy Bob, come here and take your left shoe off for a minute," she said. Then she cut out a piece of cardboard the same shape as his shoe and slipped it inside his shoe, over the hole in the sole. "Now maybe you won't wear a hole in your pretty red sock," she said.
"I'm going to get new shoes when we go to town tomorrow!" Billy Bob told her.
On Monday Billy Bob had his new shoes. They were cute, little cowboy boots. Everyone admired them except his brother and sisters. Billy Bob sat around instead of playing at recess time. Jeannie thought the boots must be uncomfortable, but Billy Bob seemed to think they were the nicest thing he had ever had.
At recess Sidney had something to show too. "Paw got a new throw rope and gave me the old one," he said. "I thought maybe the girls would like to jump rope with it."
Miss Williams admired the rope. "Did you know that men jump rope too?" she asked. "Prize fighters and some other athletes use a jumping rope for exercise all the time. So it wouldn't be out of place for you boys to jump too. But I guess you wanted the girls to have the first turns, didn't you?"
It was decided that the girls would take turns jumping, beginning with the oldest, and all insisted that Miss Williams take the first turn. She tried to get out of it, objecting that she was too old and fat, but finally gave in. Jack and Sid turned, and she jumped ten times before missing.
"Count for me, Jeannie," said Alice. Jeannie was surprised, but she chanted, "Cinderella, dressed in yellow, went downstairs to kiss her fellow, made a mistake, and kissed a snake. How many doctors did it take? One, two-"
Cinderella needed about a hundred doctors before Alice missed. Then it was Betty's turn, but she wasn't as good a jumper as Alice.
"I want to count for Jeannie!" announced Sidney. Jeannie didn't like it, but since it was Sidney's rope, there wasn't much she could say. Instead of a jumping rope count-out rhyme Sid started chanting, "Jeannie, go Beannie, go allego Deannie, tee-legged, tie-legged, bow-legged Jeannie," and kept it up all the time she was jumping. Jeannie was furious but tried not to show it.
I'll get even with him when I get a chance! she thought. She had no idea how soon that chance would come.
They said that Joanne jumped well for a second grader and then talked about how well Alice could jump. "We ought to give her a medal or something!" Jeannie said.
Sid came up with an old barrel hoop he had found somewhere. It was bent to the size of his head. "I now pronounce you Kangaroo Queen!" he said, as he placed it on Alice's head. Alice pulled it off and flung it over the fence.
At the end of afternoon recess, Jeannie was the last one back into the building. She noticed that the gate of the school yard was open. Then she saw the horse that Sidney and Billy Bob rode to school, wandering around in the yard. He was nibbling at the few tiny green blades of grass that had poked their heads up. Jeannie started toward the gate to close it. Then she thought of Sid chanting "bow-legged Jeannie" and changed her mind. Let him walk home if his old horse gets out! she thought. I'm not the one who forgot to shut the gate. Why should I do anything about it?
After school Sid discovered that his horse was gone and that the gate was open. Since he and Billy Bob rode with only a saddle blanket strapped on the horse's back and no saddle, he swung the blanket and strap over his shoulder and started for home. Billy Bob limped after him. "I'll tell them you're coming!" Alice called over her shoulder as she and Joanne rode off.
The next day Billy Bob wasn't at school. "He got blisters on his feet from walking home in those new cowboy boots," explained Alice. Jeannie didn't think Alice sounded very sorry.
But Jeannie was sorry! If she had only shut that gate, Billy Bob wouldn't be suffering with those sore feet! When he wasn't in school on Wednesday either, she felt even worse. He came back on Thursday with a pair of his mother's old bedroom slippers tied on his feet and had to wear them on Friday, too.
Saturday morning Mom said, "Jeannie, you were talking in your sleep last night. You said something about cowboy boots and blisters, but I didn't understand what it was all about. Were you dreaming that you were wearing cowboy boots that blistered your feet?"
Jeannie shook her head. "I don't remember what I dreamed," she said and was very glad she didn't.
After that, Jeannie tried to stay awake until she thought her parents were asleep. She was afraid she might tell too much if she talked again, and she didn't want her mother or anyone else to know how much trouble she had caused just because she wanted to get even for a little teasing.
When she thought about it, it didn't seem right that Sid's teasing should bother her when Daddy teased her all the time, and she liked that. "But Daddy teases me because he thinks so much of me, and Sid teases me because he doesn't like me!" she tried to tell herself. But boys were so hard to understand. Maybe Sid really liked her, and just teased her to get her to pay some attention to him.
Jeannie resolved that, after that, when someone teased her, she'd tease right back instead of being grumpy about it. She shouldn't have a hard time thinking of something to say after all the experience she had with Daddy!
Billy Bob had always adored Jeannie, but she hadn't paid much attention to him. But it was different now. She was sure she'd die of shame if he ever found out that she had neglected that open gate. And she felt that she had to make up to him for those blisters. She took time to talk to him and show him how to do things and to listen to the ideas that he seemed just bursting to tell someone. I wish I had a little brother just like him! she thought.
One day Jeannie heard Miss Williams say, "Billy Bob, I wish I could find more time to work with you on your reading."
She asked, "Miss Williams, could I help Billy Bob when I have my work all done?" After that she spent at least half an hour every day working with the little boy, and very soon she could see that he was learning faster.
Joanne complained, "Miss Williams, if Jeannie helps Billy Bob all the time, he's going to get ahead of me!" So Betty offered to help Joanne. Miss Williams called Jeannie and Betty her "FTA Class." "Future Teachers of America," she explained.
|10||Spring at Last|
It didn't seem like spring to Jeannie until most of the days were warm and there was a lot of green grass. There were tiny white flowers that grew on a moss-like plant. Then there were fragile looking six-pointed white stars that had no green stems at all.
"Let's go over on the hill and look for crocuses," said Betty, when school was dismissed one noon.
"Let's all take our lunches over there," suggested Miss Williams.
So they all washed their hands, put on their coats, and took their lunches out to the hillside near the schoolhouse.
"I see a crocus!" shouted Joanne.
"Lunches first, crocuses afterward!" announced Miss Williams.
As soon as their lunches were finished, they all scattered over the hillside to look for the lavender flowers.
"Betty! Jack! Miss Williams! Everybody! Come quick!" shouted Jeannie. She seemed so excited that some of the others thought at first that she had seen a snake, but they knew it was too early for snakes to be out.
Look at those rocks!" cried Jeannie. "What are those funny things in them? They look like some kind of teeth!"
At first she was disappointed because they were not as excited as she was, but then she realized that they had probably seen those teeth many times before. She tried to pry one out of the rock, but Jack was looking around on the ground.
"Here are lots of them on the ground," he said. "You can pick up all you want."
"What are they, and how did they get here?" said Jeannie. "They are said to have belonged to fish that lived long ago," said Miss Williams.
"But fish don't live on dry land!" exclaimed Jeannie. Then she thought a moment. "I remember now! My science book back home said that all our country was under water millions of years ago. That must have been how the fish got here."
"My Bible says it was under water, and it wasn't that long ago, either," said Jack. "Remember, there was a hood over all the earth, and Noah and his family and some of the animals were saved from drowning because they lived in the ark?"
"I guess I never really believed that," said Jeannie thoughtfully, "but I suppose that's as good a reason as any for all these teeth being here. All the fish and sharks would die when the water dried up, wouldn't they?" She picked up a number of the little teeth and put them in her pocket, to show Mom and Daddy. Then there was time to find only one crocus before they went back to school.
When Jeannie got home that evening, she discovered the breakfast and dinner dishes in the sink, waiting for her to wash them. There was a note on the cabinet, telling her to feed the chickens and gather the eggs and get the cows and then get supper. Mom was working in the field and Daddy had gone to town for seed to plant.
Jeannie looked at the clock. If she hurried, she could bake a pan of gingerbread. She had made it once before, and it would not take as long this time. She mixed the gingerbread, then washed the dishes while it was baking. The house seemed strangely lonesome and still. She was glad when the gingerbread and dishes were done, and she could take care of the chickens and get the cows. She noticed that one of the red hens was clucking. She fussed at Jeannie and didn't want to be taken off the nest so Jeannie could get the eggs.
Daddy drove up just as Jeannie reached the barnyard with the cows. He unloaded the seed, then helped her tie the cows up.
"I'm not much good at milking yet," he said, "but I think I'll start. Then there won't be so many cows for Mom to milk when she gets in. She's been plowing all day, and she's pretty tired. You get supper, Jeannie. Maybe you can put the separator together, too."
Jeannie was glad that there was so much canned food in the cellar and that they all liked baked potatoes. But when she looked in the bread box, she sighed. She'd have to make cornbread or something. She decided to make biscuits this time and surprise Daddy and Mom. But the dough stuck to the rolling pin, to the board, and to her hands. She was still struggling with it when Daddy came in with two pails of milk.
"I think you need more flour," he said and washed his hands and helped her.
Supper was late, but so was Mom. Daddy had finished the milking when she came in. Jeannie saw her look of relief when she saw the full pails of milk waiting to be separated.
"I hope I can get the ground ready and the seed planted before it rains and I can't work it," she said wearily, as she sat at the table. "But I'm not making much progress."
Jeannie told her about the queer behavior of the red hen.
"She wants to set," said Mom, "but it's too early to set a hen yet. I don't want to have to worry about little chickens through a cold spell. We'll have to shut her up somewhere away from the eggs. Either she'll have to get over it, or we'll set her a little later."
"I wonder whom those hens belong to," said Daddy. "No one has answered our ad in the paper, so I guess we'll just keep them."
Daddy insisted that Mom go to bed right after supper. He separated while Jeannie washed the dishes, and then she washed the separator while he fed the calves. When she had finished the last milk pail, she felt that she had done a whole day's work since school was dismissed. She looked forward to Sunday when they would just do chores, go to Sunday school, and perhaps visit with some of the new friends they had met at the church.
Next morning, which was Friday, Miss Williams announced, "Since this is such a busy time of the year for everyone, we're going to change our school schedule for the rest of the term. We'll start at eight in the morning instead of nine, just take half an hour for lunch, and get out at two-thirty. That will give you more time to help your parents with the spring work. We'll begin on Monday. I've talked to your parents, and they all agree that that's the best thing to do."
After school that day Jeannie and Jack and Betty found Mr. Bergstrom talking with Jeannie's father. Jeannie noticed that her daddy did not look as worried as he had the last few days. Mr. Bergstrom smiled at his children. "I'm going to work my tractor over here tomorrow," he said. "Jack, maybe you can work it over here after school a few evenings next week. I think we can get our ground ready and planted, and theirs too, since you'll be getting out of school early. Only trouble is, he wants to pay me, and I don't think a man ought to have to be paid just for being a good neighbor!"
Jeannie looked at Betty. She had an idea. "Betty wants to play the organ," she said. "Maybe Mom could teach her."
"Well now, if she'd like to give her a few lessons and that would make you feel better, it would certainly be all right with me," agreed Mr. Bergstrom. "But of course we'll wait until the spring rush is over. Betty wouldn't have time to practice right now, anyway, unless we have a rainy spell."
Betty was jumping up and down, and Mr. Johnson looked happier but glanced questioningly at Jack.
"I'm sure my wife would be more than glad to give Betty lessons for your part in helping with the farm work," he said. "I'm worried about her; she gets so tired plowing with that team. But since Jack will help, too, we should make some kind of bargain with him."
Jack was writing his name on the ground with the toe of his shoe. He looked up and asked hesitantly, "You wouldn't teach me to play the violin, would you?"
"I'll do the best I can," said Mr. Johnson. "Only we'll be getting the best of the bargain. Farming's a lot harder work than giving music lessons!"
"Not for us!" laughed Mr. Bergstrom. "You see what your wife says, but we'll help work your fields anyway."
He started toward the car, then turned back. "By the way, if your wife is out there plowing now, we'd better go and tell her to stop. I'm sure she's worked enough for one day. Jack and Betty, you don't have to go home until I get back."
As Jeannie watched her father and Mr. Bergstrom start off in the Bergstrom car, she felt glad all over that Mom wouldn't have to work so hard anymore.
"Look, Jeannie!" said Betty. "You're going to have company!"
Jeannie looked back over the road toward the schoolhouse. The man who was ambling toward them looked like a tramp. She was glad that Jack and Batty had stayed.
"What do you think he wants?" she asked. "I didn't think tramps ever came out into the country like this."
"We don't see many tramps out here," said Jack. "He probably wants some supper. Why don't you just tell him that your daddy will be back any minute and to wait until he gets back?"
"I wish you'd talk to him," said Jeannie. "I'm scared to. Can't you just pretend you live here?"
So Jack tied the horses in the barn, and they all went into the house. In a few minutes there was a loud knock at the door. Jack opened it.
"I lost some chickens in the flood last month," said a whiney voice. "I heard some got off at your place."
"How many were there, and what kind?" asked Jack, in his most businesslike manner.
"I had quite a few," said the man, "and they were all kinds. So I can't tell you how many got off here or what color they were."
Jack studied for a minute. Jeannie could tell that he thought the man was lying. Then the tall boy looked up smiling. "With so many chickens of all kinds, I suppose you had them marked. Did your chickens have metal leg bands with the initials A. F. on them?"
"Sure did!" said the man. "I didn't say anything about it, because I thought probably you wouldn't have noticed that."
"Well, I'm sorry," said Jack, "but your chickens must have gotten off somewhere else. The ones we rescued didn't have any leg bands on them at all."
Jack hoped that the girls, farther back in the house, didn't hear the words the man used as he turned away. They all watched him stamp out of the gate, and in a few minutes Mr. Bergstrom and Jeannie's father drove up. Mom was bringing the horses and the plow home.
All three tried to talk at once as they told their fathers about the tramp. Mr. Bergstrom looked concerned. "I wonder if anyone has ever talked to that poor man about his soul," he said. "I think I'll try to find him and take him home to supper."
As her father went into the house, Jeannie stood watching Mr. Bergstrom drive down the road. "He sure is a big man!" she said.
Jack nodded. "Years ago, before he was saved, he could lick any tough in the county, and he did it pretty often. Betty and I used to hide when we heard him coming. We never knew when he would come home drunk and beat us."
"I don't remember much about it, because he was saved when I was only three years old," said Betty. "But I do remember Jack dragging me under the bed and holding his hand over my mouth to keep me quiet."
"He's really changed, hasn't he?" asked Jeannie.
Again Jack nodded. "Now he wants to tell everyone else how God has changed him and that God wants to change them too," he said.
"My daddy was nice to begin with," said Jeannie. "There isn't such a big change in him. But he's happier now. He goes around singing a lot of the time. I don't mean just the silly songs he makes up to tease me. I mean church songs."
Betty looked puzzled and said, "Jack, what do the letters A. F. stand for?"
"April Fool!" said Jack. "I know that was last week, but that was the best I could think of right then. Anyway, I'm sure those red hens would rather live on this ranch than be chicken dinners for some tramp!"
As Jack and Betty rode away, Jeannie decided that she'd give an extra good supper to those red hens. They didn't realize the terrible fate they had missed!
All day Saturday Mr. Bergstrom worked the 2-Bar-A fields with his tractor. Every day the next week Jack hurried home from school, brought the tractor over, and worked with it until it was too dark to see. Mom always sent Jeannie out, just after he started, with fresh doughnuts, or a hot cinnamon roll, or a piece of pie. And she usually talked him into staying for supper, so he wouldn't have to wait so long to eat.
Mom still worked just as hard, even though she wasn't plowing. She was planting a garden down by the windmill. Daddy helped all he could. Mom always stopped in the early afternoon to bake something; but after school was out, she worked in the garden again. And Jeannie always had to wash the day's dishes, take care of the chickens, and get the cows.
By the end of the week, the fields and much of the garden were planted. Some plants, which could not stand cold weather, would have to wait until later. Jeannie heard her father and Mr. Bergstrom talking on Saturday evening. They were glad the crops were in. Now a rainy spell would not hinder the farm work.
It was cloudy and chilly when they went to Sunday school. Sunday afternoon it began to rain. It got colder and colder, and by Monday morning it was snowing. Mom assured Jeannie that the cold and snow would not hurt the seeds that had just been put into the ground. If this had happened after the little plants had started to grow, many would have been killed.
At lunch time Jack came into the schoolhouse with a meadowlark that was cold and stiff. All the children watched anxiously as he worked with it, warming it and trying to revive it. Everyone was happy when the poor bird showed signs of life.
"It's not the cold weather that's so hard on them," said Miss Williams. "Their food is covered up. Birds have to eat so much so often that a spring snow like this kills many of them."
So a bird feeding station was set up at once on the school grounds. Scraps and crumbs from the lunches were spread out on the roof of the shed. All the girls and boys promised to put out food for the birds when they got home.
After school, Mom and Daddy suggested that Betty and Jack stop for their first music lesson. Betty was excited, but Jack looked sober. He called his mother to ask permission, but he added, "I guess I'll come on home, though. We all promised to put out some food for the birds when we got home. I don't want any of them to starve because I didn't keep my promise."
"Go ahead and take your music lesson," said his mother. "Your father and I thought about the birds just after you left for school this morning, and they've been eating at our feeding station all day."
Jeannie didn't know what to do for the next hour. Mom and Betty settled in the room with the organ. Daddy and Jack took Daddy's violin to the old sofa in the far end of the kitchen. Mom had spent most of the day working in the house, so there were no dishes to wash. Finally Jeannie decided to make a cake. Perhaps Petty and Jack would stay for supper.
The spring days seemed to fly by. In no time at all it was the end of the school term. On the last day there was a picnic. Miss Williams and her pupils rode their horses to a pleasant spot by the river and played games all morning. When it was time for lunch, Daddy drove up in the pickup with hot fried chicken. A few minutes later Mr. Bergstrom came with a big freezer of homemade ice cream. He stayed to dish it up and to take the freezer back home. After another hour of fun they all rode back to the schoolhouse for their report cards.
"As of now, Jack, you are a freshman in high school," said Miss Williams with a smile as she handed him his report card. She went down the line, telling each one that he was now in the next grade. Jeannie felt strange, knowing that a minute ago she had been in the fourth grade, and now she was in the fifth. And school was out until next fall. She would miss it. She knew that Miss Williams would miss the school too and was trying to be extra jolly so they would not know how she really felt.
Jeannie would miss Miss Williams as a Sunday school teacher, too, although it had been decided that Betty's mother would teach the children's Sunday school class now.
A few mornings later Jeannie woke up realizing that it was the first of June. She had always been glad for June to come before, for on the sixteenth she would be a year older. She could hardly wait. But this year was different. Daddy must leave for a checkup at the clinic. He would be gone for several days and might not even get back until after her birthday. She wondered if the doctors would find that he was getting along all right. She didn't like the thought of just Mom and her alone on the ranch, either. Another tramp might visit them.
"You ought to have a dog," Mr. Bergstrom said the Sunday before Daddy was to leave. "You'd feel much better about leaving your womenfolk if they had a good watchdog there."
"We just haven't gotten around to getting one," said Mr. Johnson. "I guess we should have. Cousin Will took their dog with them. Several times I've looked at that empty doghouse and thought perhaps I should do something about it. But we seem to have a habit of putting things off."
"They could borrow one of our dogs," said Mrs. Bergstrom. "We don't need three dogs on the place all the time. Skippy is a good watchdog. They'll have to keep him tied, though, or he'd run right back home."
On Monday morning Jeannie, Mom, and Daddy climbed into the pickup and set off for town. Daddy was to catch the train at nine o'clock. Jeannie had had only hurried glimpses of the town. They had driven in on Saturdays a few times, when something was needed quickly at the ranch. But they learned that the train was two hours behind schedule, so they had time to look around.
All the stores were along the short Main Street. They looked small and dingy to Jeannie. The few large houses in the small town were not very pretty. There was a small, neglected park near the train depot. Again Jeannie had that old feeling of strangeness. This was so unlike the city where she had spent most of her life! She wanted desperately to hurry back to the ranch. At least that seemed like home by now.
It was a relief to see the train come puffing in. She didn't want Daddy to leave, yet she felt that the sooner his examination was over, the better. Perhaps the time would pass quickly, and he would soon be back. And--she hardly dared to hope--maybe he would be well enough so they could move back to the city!
After the train was out of sight, Mom and Jeannie climbed quietly into the pickup and started for home. They stopped at the Bergstrom ranch for Skippy. He was a big, yellow collie that seemed to understand all that was said to him. He rode happily in the seat beside Jeannie, and it seemed a shame to tie him up when they reached home. Jeannie got him a pan of water and put fresh straw in the doghouse. She wanted to feed him, but Mom said he should not be fed until evening.
Mom and Jeannie warmed up some leftovers for dinner: then went out to work in the garden. It didn't seem so lonesome when Jeannie could work with Mom. But the weeds between the plants seemed to be endless. By the time the afternoon was over, Jeannie's back ached from bending over to pull them out. Mom already had big callused places on her hands from using the hoe. But the weeds always seemed to grow faster than they could get rid of them.
"It's a shame the garden plants don't grow as fast as the weeds," said Mom, as she leaned on her hoe and looked down the green rows where they had been working.
Jeannie started after the cows but soon came running back. "Come here, Mom!" she called excitedly. Then she ran back down the path, and her mother could see Jeannie searching for something.
"I thought it was right here. I was sure I'd remember the place!" she said.
"Thought what was right here?" asked Mom.
"A nest!" said Jeannie. "I think it belonged to a meadowlark. I almost stepped on it, but now I can't find it!"
Mom laughed. "You can look right at a meadowlark's nest without seeing it," she said. "They hide them so well, it will be a wonder if you find it again." But they both looked, and soon Mom spied the nest. Jeannie had seen the eggs, but now the mother bird was there, looking for all the world like the ground around her. She was nestled down between a sagebrush and a cactus plant with yellow flowers on it. Only her beady eyes showed that she was a living thing. Mom stood a stick up in the sagebrush so they could find the nest again.
Big thunderheads began piling up around the horizon, and by bedtime there was a steady rumble of thunder. Mom suggested that Jeannie sleep with her, and Jeannie was glad. It wouldn't seem so lonesome that way.
Jeannie had been asleep only a little while when she was awakened by a loud clap of thunder. Mom had the covers pulled up over her head, but Jeannie had always loved to watch lightning. So she crawled over by the window, pulled back the comer of the shade, and lay watching the bright flashes across the sky.
Soon Mom threw back the covers and laughed a little. "I've always been afraid of lightning," she explained. "But I just got to thinking that the Lord has promised to take care of us, and there's really nothing to be afraid of. Put t he shade up, Jeannie, and I'll watch it, too."
They watched the lightning until they both went to sleep, but then it started to rain and they had to get up and close the windows all around the house. The wind howled around the corners, and the rain seemed to be coming down by bucketfuls. There was so much noise that it took a long time to go back to sleep.
Next morning the ranch seemed lonelier than ever without Daddy at the breakfast table and helping with the chores. The day seemed longer than any Jeannie could remember, except perhaps the days just before Christmas! But evening came at last. Just as dusk began to settle down, Jeannie ran to find Mom.
"Mom! Skippy's gone! He's chewed his rope in two and gone home!"
Mom looked at the chewed rope, and Jeannie looked toward the Bergstrom ranch. Just beyond the gate stood Skippy, looking as though he couldn't decide whether to go or stay.
"Here, Skippy! Here, Skippy!" called Jeannie and Mom. They ran toward him. He stood where he was until they had crawled under the gate, then he darted away.
"We'll have to catch him!" said Mom. "We really need a watchdog on the place."
But Skippy did not intend to be caught. He would stand still until Mom could almost reach the trailing end of his rope, then dart away again. Darkness was settling down fast, and soon Skippy was lost to sight. Jeannie was ahead, running along the rutty road as best she could in the darkness. She had to follow the ruts, because she could hardly see the road. Mom was walking at the side of the road, where the ground was smoother, and not hurrying as fast. All at once she screamed and caught up with Jeannie.
"I think I jumped right over a rattlesnake!" she said. "I almost stepped on him. He rattled just in time. I jumped, and I suppose he struck at me. I believe God kept me from being bitten!"
"I wish we had the car," said Jeannie.
"We should have taken it," answered Mom. "But I thought we could catch Skippy right away and wouldn't need it. I don't want to go back after it now. That rattlesnake may still be there. And anyhow, we're almost there. We can go on and get the dog. I'll feel safer walking back with him."
The Bergstroms insisted that they come in for a little while. Mrs. Bergstrom had baked a cake that day, and they all had big slices of delicious chocolate cake and glasses of cold milk. Then Jack found a chain for Skippy, and Mr. Bergstrom took Jeannie, Mom, and the dog back in the car.
Jeannie thought Mom and Daddy had forgotten about her birthday. She knew they couldn't afford an expensive present this year, and Daddy might not be home until after her birthday. So she was very careful not to mention the day to her mother. Perhaps it was better if Mom did forget, since she couldn't do much about it this year anyway.
The day finally came, just as every other day did. Jeannie got up and helped with the chores and ate breakfast, pretending all the time that she was taller and more grown up, because now she was ten years old.
"Would you like to go over and spend the day with Betty?" her mother asked after breakfast. "You've worked so hard lately and had so little time for play, that I think you should have a day off."
"But what about you?" asked Jeannie. "Won't you get lonesome, here all by yourself?"
"Oh, I'll miss you," said Mom, "but there's so much work to be done around this place, with Daddy gone, that I won't have time to get very lonesome. You ride Bud over there and stay until it's time to help me with the evening chores. I'll call you up when I want you to come home."
Maybe Mom does remember, thought Jeannie, as she climbed on Bud, and going to play with Betty is my birthday present.
Jeannie and Betty played house in an empty woodshed all morning. After dinner they washed the dishes. Then they played games and worked puzzles all afternoon. Jeannie began to wonder if her mother had forgotten to call her. Perhaps she had better ride on home. Then Mrs. Bergstrom called her to the telephone.
"Jeannie," she heard her mother's voice, "would you like to ask Betty to come home with you to eat supper and spend the night? I've already asked her mother if she may."
Betty didn't seem surprised when Jeannie asked her to go home with her. She poked her pajamas into a paper bag--quite a large one, it seemed--tied it behind her saddle; and they were off.
As Jeannie and Betty stepped in at the door, Daddy came out of the other room.
"Happy birthday, Jeannie!" said Daddy and Mom and Betty all at once. Why. Betty must have known it all the time! Daddy gave Jeannie a big hug, then she looked at the table. It was covered with the best white tablecloth, and there were wild roses at each place and down the middle. In the very center was a big white-frosted angel food cake. In the hole in the center was a vase with more wild roses. Jeannie saw an ice cream freezer standing by the sink. No wonder Mom had wanted her out of the house all day, with all that to do besides the trip to town after Daddy!
"Here comes your birthday present from me!" said Daddy.
There was a scurrying and scratching sound from the other room and in bounded the cutest, wooliest, brown and white puppy that Jeannie had ever seen. "You cute little scamp!" she cried, as she picked him up and hugged him and buried her face in his soft fur.
"That's a good name for him!" said Daddy.
"What is?" asked Jeannie.
"Scamp! He really is one!" Daddy told her. So, Scamp he was from then on.
While Jeannie was busy with the little dog, Betty slipped a package from the paper bag she had brought with her and laid it by Jeannie's place at the table.
Then Jeannie and Betty washed their hands, and they all sat down at the table. It was so good to hear Daddy ask the blessing again. Of course, Jeannie had to open her packages before she ate. There was a new dress from Mom. There was a box of homemade candy and a dress for her favorite doll from Betty. There was a book and a game which Barbara had sent, and handkerchiefs and hair bows from several aunts and cousins.
Jeannie was so excited she could hardly eat. Then she thought of something else. "Daddy," she asked, "how did you get along at the clinic? What did the doctors say?"
"They said I'm getting along fine," said Daddy. "As long as I stay in this dry climate, I'll make it fine. It won't be long until I can do a man's work around here, and Mom can settle down and be a lady of leisure!"
"Fancy being a lady of leisure on a ranch!" laughed Mom.
While they were eating angelfood cake and fresh strawberry ice cream, Jeannie thought of other birthdays. There had been parties and many more gifts. But somehow there seemed to be so much more to be happy about now, even though they couldn't move back to the city.
"This is the nicest birthday I ever had!" she said.
|12||Jeannie's Happy Day|
It was the first day of July. Jeannie sat on the doorstep, digging the toes of her scuffed brown oxfords into the sunbaked ground. Inside, Mom was baking bread. The smell of the fresh baked bread reached Jeannie through the open door, and so did the heat from the oven. Mom was singing at the top of her voice, "Oh happy day, that fixed my choice, On Thee, my Savior, and my God!"
Outside on the doorstep, Jeannie was not feeling happy. Just after her birthday, her parents received a letter from the parents of Barbara Ware, her best friend back in the city. "We're going to Yellowstone Park," they had written, "and would like to come to see you on the way, if you want us to."
Of course Mom had written that they all wanted the Wares to come. But Jeannie wasn't really sure that she did. She sat on the step, thinking about the Wares' lovely home in the city. Suddenly the ranch seemed as poor and dingy as the first time she saw it. She thought of the Wares' shiny big car and of their old, battered pickup. She wished Barbara didn't have to see where she lived!
"Jeannie! Run and get the calves out of the garden, quick!" called Mom.
Jeannie dashed down the hill to the garden and began to chase the stubborn calves. She had to drive them out one at a time; and while she drove one out, another was likely to pop back in. At last she got them all out and off to another pasture with a tighter fence. Calves were so hard to manage! She hoped there would be no calf-chasing while Barbara was there!
As she plodded unhappily back to the house, a little gray lizard slithered across her path. Usually she liked to catch them, play with them a little while, and then let them go. But she was too miserable to chase this one. Even Scamp, circling around her feet, failed to cheer her up. Barbara and her parents were coming this evening! They would stay until after July 4, then go on to Yellowstone. And there was to be an all-day meeting at the church on July 4! Jeannie wished that her friends didn't have to see that little, white church down by the river. It was bad enough for them to see where she lived!
"Suppose you help me get the house ready for company," suggested Mom, when she got back. So Jeannie swept and dusted and got out clean dresser scarfs. Barbara would sleep with her. Barbara's father and mother would use Daddy and Mom's room. Daddy had built shelves up one side of the storeroom. With the trunks under the shelves, and all the odds and ends on them, there was just room for a bed to be set up. He and Mom would sleep there. The room with the piano and organ had been made into a living room.
Jeannie knew that Barbara and her parents would like a nice warm bath after a hot day of travel. How she wished for a modern bathroom! But all they could offer was a washtub behind a curtain in the kitchen.
Jeannie fed the chickens and got the cows in a little early. Then she put on the new dress she had received for her birthday. Mom put on a better dress too, and a clean apron. It was no use for Daddy to clean up. He had to milk the cows and feed the calves.
"I'll just let them see what I look like, now that I'm a farmer," he said, laughing.
Daddy was milking and Jeannie was helping Mom get supper when the shiny, blue car drove up. Jeannie was so glad to see Barbara that, for a minute, she forgot about the squat, sod house and the battered, old pickup. Barbara didn't seem to see them either. First she saw the rollicking puppy, chasing his tail around her feet. Then she saw Bud, standing in the barnyard.
"Oh, Jeannie!" she cried. "Is this your puppy? Is that your pony? You lucky, lucky girl!"
"My, how Jeannie has grown!" said Mrs. Ware. "She looks so brown and healthy!"
"Mm! I smell fresh bread!" said Mr. Ware. "There's nothing I like better than homemade bread!"
Daddy had heard the car drive up and came from the barn.
"How well you look!" exclaimed Barbara's father and mother at the same time.
Jeannie looked at Daddy. He didn't look pale and tired like he used to. The change had come so slowly that she hadn't noticed it.
Soon Mr. Ware went to the barn to visit with Daddy while he did the rest of the milking. Mrs. Ware went in to visit with Mom while she finished getting supper. And Jeannie couldn't show Barbara around the place fast enough. She wanted to see everything at once. When they looked in the barn, Mr. Ware was milking a cow too.
When the milking was done, the two families settled down around the supper table.
"We always thank God for our food before we eat," Daddy explained, as he and Mom and Jeannie bowed their heads.
Afterward they were too busy filling their plates and eating to talk much for a few minutes.
"When I think of that stuff we ate in the restaurants the last two days," said Mr. Ware, reaching for another slice of the fresh bread, "just ordinary cooking would be delicious by comparison. But this isn't ordinary. This is super!"
Mom was a good cook! Jeannie hadn't thought much about it.
Jeannie wished desperately that her parents would leave out their usual Bible reading and prayer while their visitors were there. But Mr. and Mrs. Ware seemed to enjoy it. Long after the girls had gone to bed, Jeannie could hear their parents talking about the Bible.
The next day Mr. Ware wanted to see how everything was done around the ranch. He had lived on a farm when he was a boy, but it was quite different from the big western ranch.
Mrs. Ware was interested in how housekeeping was done in the country. She had used electrical appliances all her life and couldn't imagine how work could be done without them. But she didn't act as if she thought the ranch house was poor or dingy.
Barbara wanted to try everything Jeannie did. She liked to feed the chickens and hunt for eggs. She liked to drive the cows to pasture and bring them back. She learned to ride Bud. She even thought it was fun to chase the calves out of the garden. She wished aloud many times that she could live on a ranch, too, until Jeannie almost forgot to be homesick for her old home in Atlanta.
The second and third of July flew by. On the morning of the fourth, everyone was up early. There was so much to do! Daddy and Mr. Ware killed and plucked chickens. Mom and Mrs. Ware fried them. They made potato salad, pies and cakes, and sandwiches. Jeannie and Barbara did Jeannie's chores and kept the cooking dishes washed up. At last all the food was packed in baskets and everyone was ready. Again Jeannie wondered what the Ware family would think of their church, but it did not bother her very much now.
"You can see for miles out here!" exclaimed Mr. Ware, as they drove over a little hill. "It seems so crowded back home, even when we drive out into the country. But here there's so much room! It all seems so calm and restful. Even the silver colored plants seem to rest the eyes."
It was almost time for the morning service to begin, and there was a crowd at the little church. Everyone made the visitors feel welcome, and then they all went inside and found seats on the rough benches.
Jeannie was surprised at the interest Mr. and Mrs. Ware showed in the minister's sermon. She could hardly keep her mind on it, thinking of the good dinner they would be eating soon. At the end of the sermon there was an invitation for those who wanted to give their lives to God, and Mr. and Mrs. Ware stepped forward quickly. Jeannie felt uncomfortable, as uncomfortable as she had the day her parents knelt at the altar. She tried to tell herself again that she was only a little girl and had never done anything very wrong. Surely she was all right! But that didn't work. A picture came to her mind of Billy Bob wearing his mother's old bedroom slippers, and she knew that she was at least partly to blame for his poor sore feet. And she knew that, if she gave her heart to God, she would have to tell Billy Bob about the open gate and that she was sorry. She just couldn't let him know about that gate!
"This is truly an independence day for me," said Mr. Ware, when he rose from his knees.
"Me, too!" echoed his wife.
Jeannie didn't enjoy the dinner. She was glad when it was cleared away, yet she dreaded the afternoon service.
After the singing, the minister announced that his wife had something to show the boys and girls, and the grown-ups would be permitted to see it, too. It turned out to be a little book without words. Each page was a different color, and each color had a message of its own.
First she showed a gold-colored page at the back of the book and explained that the gold represented heaven. She told about heaven's golden streets. She said there would be joy and happiness in heaven. There would be no sin, sorrow, or night in heaven. It all sounded so wonderful that Jeannie wanted more than anything to go to that beautiful place someday.
Then the minister's wife showed a black page at the front of the book. She explained that it represented sin and that all have sin in their hearts.
"Not me!" thought Jeannie, and then remembered Billy Bob's blisters.
Then the speaker explained that sin is not just the big things like murder and stealing and lying; sin is thinking unkind thoughts about others, being selfish, and proud. Self-righteousness, or thinking that we are all right without coming to Jesus, is sin too. Jeannie felt smaller and smaller.
The next page was red and represented the blood of Jesus. The speaker explained about Jesus' death on the cross, that He died to take the punishment for all. Now He was offering salvation as a free gift to all who would accept it. Then she showed a white page, representing a heart cleansed from sin by accepting Jesus as Savior. Then there was that wonderful gold page again, to represent the future home of those who are saved.
Before she had finished, Jeannie had made up her mind that, as soon as she had a chance, she too would fall on her knees and ask God to forgive her sins. Perhaps Barbara would think she was funny, but Jeannie didn't care. She wanted more than anything else to know that her heart was not dark with sin anymore but washed white and that she was, ready for a home in that wonderful place called heaven. She was willing to go and apologize to Billy Bob.
"Would any of you boys and girls like to ask God right now to take the darkness of sin out of your hearts and make them white and clean, so that you can live for Him now and be ready for heaven someday?" asked the speaker.
Without looking at Barbara, Jeannie slipped into the aisle. She heard footsteps behind her; and as she knelt at the altar, she saw, through her tears, that Barbara was kneeling beside her.
When the girls stood up, with tear-damp eyes but smiling faces, they saw that many of the congregation were kneeling in prayer. Others sat with bowed heads. Then the minister began singing, "There's a new name written down in glory," and everyone joined in. He asked the girls to remain at the front, and the others came and shook hands with them. Then they all took their places again for the sermon.
After the service, the tables were spread with the remains of the picnic dinner. Jeannie didn't fill her plate very full, remembering that she hadn't cared much for dinner. Soon she found herself going back for more. "I guess my stomach is happier, as well as my heart," she said, laughing, to Barbara and Betty.
After the meal, supper things were cleared away quickly, and all the families started home to do their evening chores. Most of them would come back after dark and shoot off all their fireworks together, so there would be a bigger display for the children. Mom and Daddy invited the minister and his wife to go home with them and suggested that the girls should ride in their car. Then if the cars became separated, Jeannie could show the way.
"There's something I have to do, and I'd like to get it over with," said Jeannie, as they started down the road. She explained about the jumping rope counting and the open gate and the horse that got away and went home. She told about Billy Bob's blistered feet and that she felt she must ask him to forgive her.
"That's right!" said the minister. "You show us where to go, and we'll take you over there right now. The sooner you go, the easier it will be. I don't think your folks will worry if we're a little late."
So Jeannie told them the way to the Owens ranch. Billy Bob was out in the yard. Jeannie went to talk to him while the others waited for her in the car. She explained about seeing the open gate. She said she was sorry that she hadn't shut it and that he had to walk home. Alice had come around the corner of the house when Jeannie started talking. Jeannie thought Alice had a strange kind of grin on her face.
"I don't know why you feel bad about it, Jeannie!" Alice said. "I'm the one who opened the gate and turned that horse loose!"
"Daddy gave her a whipping for it, too!" said Billy Bob.
"Hardest whipping I ever had in my life," said Alice, as she remembered it.
"But why did you do it?" asked Jeannie. "Why did you want the boys to walk home?"
"Because Billy Bob got new shoes when it was my turn!" said Alice.
"Well, if I had shut the gate, Billy Bob wouldn't have had to walk home, and he wouldn't have had blisters, and you wouldn't have had a whipping!" said Jeannie.
"You're funny, Jeannie! I don't understand you," said Alice, and she whisked away around the corner of the house.
"I ain't mad at you, Jeannie," said Billy Bob. "Alice did it, not you!"
"I'm glad you still like me," said Jeannie. "I have to go now."
She went back to the car and told the minister how to find her home.
Everyone pitched in and helped with the chores. What fun they had! The minister's wife went with Jeannie and Barbara to take care of the chickens. The three men went after the cows. Mom and Mrs. Ware washed the picnic dishes. When all three men finished the milking, Mom and the minister's wife separated it while the men fed the calves. It was still early, so they gathered in the living room to sing for a while. Mom played the organ, Jeannie played the piano, and Daddy played his violin. The minister took a mouthharp from his pocket and played some songs, while the rest sang. When it was time to go back for the fireworks, Jeannie and Barbara rode with the minister and his wife again.
"You know, Barbara," he said, "I was glad to see your father and mother give their lives to God this morning. But I was happier still to see you girls come to Him. You have so much of your lives left to live for God. You have so much longer to work for Him. Don't ever forget that He wants you to tell others about Him."
I'll! invite the Owens to Sunday school, thought Jeannie.
It seemed to Jeannie that fireworks had never glowed and sparkled brighter, although she had seen bigger displays of them. When the last rocket had gone soaring into the sky, the minister stepped to the middle of the circle.
"I've been thinking," he said, "how these fireworks have burned themselves out this evening to give us a little pleasure. That is a lesson for us. We need to be willing to bum out for God, to surrender our lives to Him so completely that He can use us to bring the greatest joy and blessing of life, a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, to a lost and dying world. If you mean for your life to be completely surrendered to God, please join me in singing 'Take my life and let it be, Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.' "
As they finished the beautiful old hymn, Jeannie realized that she had sung it many times before but never with the meaning it had now.
As they rode home, Jeannie finally put into words the thought that had been in the back of her mind ever since Barbara came. "I wish you could stay with me the rest of the summer, Barbara," she said.
"I wish I could too," said Barbara. "May I, Mamma and Daddy? I'm sure I could get home on the train by myself when it's time for school to start again."
"We'll have to talk it over," said her father.
Jeannie and Barbara heard them talking it over, in tones too low to be understood, after they went to bed.
"Let us know what you decide," called Barabara. "We can't get to sleep anyway until we know."
"We've decided that, if Jeannie's father and mother will let her come to Yellowstone Park with us, we'll come back this way and leave you until school starts," said her father.
"Oh, goody!" cried the two girls together; and Jeannie asked, "Did you hear that, Mom and Daddy? You'll let me go, won't you?"
"I guess so," said Daddy.
Mom added, "I hope we can talk them into staying another day. I don't think I can get your clothes ready for a trip in only an hour or two!"
Supper was early the next day. Everyone planned to go to bed early and get a good night's sleep, then get up early in the morning. The Wares wanted to start for Yellowstone Park soon after sunrise.
"We have another idea," said Mrs. Ware, before they separated for the night. "Why couldn't Jeannie come back with Barbara at the end of the summer and go to school with her this year?"
Barbara was jumping up and down, but Jeannie looked at her parents. She had been thinking how well Daddy looked, but now he suddenly looked ten years older. Mom had lost some of the sparkle out of her eyes, too.
Daddy thought a few minutes, then spoke slowly, looking at his wife.
"I guess we ought to let Jeannie decide," he said. "She's been so good to help, and she hasn't complained about having to work so hard."
Mom nodded, but she looked as though she was trying to keep from crying. "Yes, she helped when we couldn't have gotten along without her," she said. "Now that things are better here, she should get to go if she wants to."
Jeannie looked at her father, then at her mother. Then she stared at the floor. Here was the chance she had been wanting! It was up to her! She looked at her parents again and shook her head.
"Thank you for asking me," she said to Mr. and Mrs. Ware. "I know I'd have a good time at your house, but I think Mom and Daddy would be awfully lonely without me. Anyway," she surprised herself by saying, knowing that she really meant it, "I like Wyoming!"
Moody Press, a ministry of the Moody Bible Institute, is designed for education, evangelization and edification. If we may assist you in knowing more about Christ and the Christian life, please write us without obligation to: Moody Press, c/o MLM, Chicago, Illinois 60610.