By the Shores of Solon Pond (6)

“He who tills his own land has food in plenty, but he who follows idle pursuits is a fool.” Proverbs 12:11

Despite his whole-hearted belief in vegetarianism, Waldo’s father possessed not even the slightest hint of a green thumb. Each spring Joel Potter sent his sons to smooth the fields of stones. Piles stood like sun-bleached corpses in the ongoing battle of man against nature. One day someone would throw together these figures as fences, pierced with wood stakes and trod upon by boys playing at war. In the meantime, the boys buried seed potatoes in the cold spring soil only to have beetles crawl from their haunts in late spring to tear down a farmer’s sunny hopes.

Never mind the worry, when Phylander’s potatoes were so easily gotten. He’d inherited the better land though it lay just across the road, the division being man made only, yet the soil rewarded Phylander unfairly, it seemed to Joel.

When the earth warmed soft enough for burial, the boys were sent to plant all sorts of seeds. Dan, once out of their parents’ sight, acted as overseer, lounging on the moss beneath his favorite dying chestnut tree with a book propped open before him. The nettle, plantain and dandelion had always run amok by the time the boys were ordered to take the field. With dull hoes, they hacked and cursed. Their bellies ached from hunger. Wild edibles from the forest called to them long before the lunch bells and horns they could hear ringing throughout the valley and hills, but still they worked until Dan strolled up, well-rested, to hand them their boiled eggs and lard sodden bread.

“I will so tell that you hain’t helped us at all,” Waldo complained, flicking a crumb at Dan as they all sat swatting gnats.

“Then I’ll tell how you let the fox out of the trap Pa set,” Dan replied.

Waldo glanced at Bertie.

“If you would a seen him… right Bertie? A great big silver fox with them golden eyes…”

Bertie nodded.

“Wall, now we only got a few hens though,” Bertie said.

“You turncoat!” Waldo said, shoving Bertie with a laugh.

The Potter boys soon tired of this work and realized that as long as they came home with sacks emptied of seed and dirt under their nails, their father would bother them no more and leave them to milking and mucking. They cast the seed wherever the wind would take it.

In recent years Waldo learned other men took far more interest in what their sons and daughters got up to during seeding time. Yet he hadn’t questioned why his family should be so different. As a youngster, he had been happy to scatter seeds uselessly, but now he wondered about curses. Generational curses. An admiration (and jealousy) had germinated suddenly into being and Waldo felt uncertain if it was meant to be weeded out.

“Pa, mebbe you’d come with us one of these days to watch…” he’d ventured one evening.

Albertus and even Dan looked up from their supper, aghast at the suggestion.

“Hain’t, I seen plenty of seeds by now?” Joel had said. He settled into his thoughts a moment before pointing the fire poker at Waldo. “One day you’ll learn it, Waldo. Some people are lucky. and nothing ever goes wrong for them. God grants some of us to lives of suffering.”

“Some make their own suffering,” Waldo said quietly, turning back to his meal.

“Some have smart mouths and hain’t too old for a good thrashing,” Joel replied, but with little enthusiasm.

“Waldo, ye know how ye father suffers,” Fanny scolded, with the nervous, jerky movements of a sparrow caught behind a glass window. “He trusts that his very own sons should do a good job even when they hain’t bein’ minded close. Whose fault be it if the rows hain’t minded proper or did we raise boys with no sense of direction?”

Dan and Albertus glared at Waldo now. Joel flipped through the old newspaper with a look of smug superiority from his spot by the fire.

Hope you enjoyed this sneak peek at my current work in progress about a New York farmer boy who goes to war to keep his family’s farm afloat.

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