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Bundle of Yarns
Me an' Ed an' Jane
When me an' Ed an' Jane was just little fellers (I was two years older than Ed, and Ed was two years older than Jane), we didn't have the fancy toys to amuse ourselves with that children have now-days. Why, I don't believe we ever received a present except at Christmas, and you must remember our father was a good Christian man and class leader to boot.
We used to set our caps for Christmas, the whole pasel of us. Set 'em on the center table in the parlor and go to sleep expectin' to find marvellous things in them in the mornin'. We usually found a few bulls'-eyes and a dozen or so nuts and raisins. But we were happy just the same, and enjoyed ourselves about as well as the average.
Jane was always with us, and a clip she was. I remember once, just after threshin' — you know, we lived on a farm, three hundred acres it was, twenty miles from the nearest city, in a typical country neighborhood. Well, as I was goin' to tell you about Jane: One time just after threshin', me an' Ed an' Jane crawled up on the roof of the barn and jumped down on the big straw stack in the barnyard. Any of you that ever saw a straw stack, knows it is built like a cone — big at the bottom and little at the top. Well, we jumped down on the straw stack, and then it occurred to Ed that it might be an interestin' experience to slide down the stack. He tried it, and came out all right. Then I tried it and landed fair, and right after me came Jane with a whoop and her petticoats flyin'. It was fine, for you see, about five feet from the ground the stack was built up straight like a wall, and when we came to this point in the slide we shot out into the air like as if we was on a toboggan slide.
We hadn't found anything for many a day quite equal to that stack as a fun producer; so up we goes on the barn again, down we jumps on the stack, and away we goes on the slide to the ground.
Now it happened that there was some cows feedin' in the barnyard, but we hadn't noticed 'em, and these cows kept edgin' 'round the stack toward our slide-way. Well, now you know, after we had been up and down half a dozen times or so, we got to yellin' like wild Injuns and seein' who could get 'round first. The last round, Ed struck fair and jumped aside; I followed him and also jumped, for I expected Jane was right after me, but she wasn't. She was standin' on top of the stack, holdin' both hands above her head and shoutin': "Watch me come, boys! Watch me come!"
Now, just as she said those words, a fat mulley cow walked leisurely forward directly in front of us, and as Jane came down she struck kerflop right on top of that mulley cow. Yes, sir, fair on top as you ever see; and with a wild blat, the cow started for the lane, Jane hangin' on and yellin' for all she was worth. Ed laid right down in the straw and shrieked with laughter, and I was grinnin' from ear to ear, when who do you think we saw, just as Jane and her mulley cow disappeared over the hill in the lane, but father, stand-in' in the drive-house door.
"What are you boys laughin' at?" he said, stern as a judge.
Ed only laughed the louder, but I began to feel mighty serious.
"Nothin' particular, sir," I said.
Then he asked, sudden like: " Where's Jane?"
"She's gone over the hill in the lane," I said.
"What in the world has she gone over there for?" he asked.
Ed was now lookin' solemn, too.
"Please, sir," he said, "will we go and fetch her back?"
We didn't wait for his expression of permission, but streaked it up the lane as fast as our little legs could carry us. We found Jane pickin' a thistle out of her foot, near the sheep pond.
"Say, boys!" she cried, the moment she saw us, " you missed the best part of it!
"You ain't hurt?" I asked.
"No," she said. "I jumped off when I'd gone as far as I wanted to. But, say, boys, did you watch me sail out of the barn yard?"
I tell you, Jane was a great girl. Another time I remember, me an' Ed an' Jane raised a pet steer. It was really Jane's steer, for father was mighty fond of her, and he'd let her do what he'd whale us for doin'. This steer grew up to be very tame, and Sime Snider, who was our hired man, rigged up a harness for him, and we used to hitch the steer to a big red hand-sleigh, which had always been in the family, and make it haul in our firewood from the wood pile to the kitchen door. That was our regular work each day, fillin' up the big wood box behind the kitchen stove, and what we had once hated like sin to do, became a pleasure when we had taught the steer to haul the sleigh.
Well, one night after we had heaped up the wood box, we thought we would see what the steer could do as a trotter, so we piled on the sleigh, and I took the reins and away we went up the road. The steer trotted fine, and we was havin' a big time, when it occurred to Ed that this was too much fun to be enjoyed by just us three, so I hauled up at a neighbor's and Ed went in to get a boy and girl he had, and who was about our age. Pretty soon they came out, muffled up well, and their father with 'em. He looked our rig over with a grin on his face, and then he looked at the steer. His face grew solemn at once.
"Why, boys," he said, gravely, "don't you know that you can be arrested and fined for drivin' on the highway without bells?"
My jaw fell. I never thought of bells. " We ain't got any bells," I returned, "except our best double harness bells, and we couldn't use them."
"Well, I think I can fix you out all right," he said, and went into his drive house, comin' out presently with an old string of bells that must have been made in the year one. They started with a bell as large as your fist in the middle of the string and tapered up both ways, and they was a whole brass band when they jingled. He tied these bells around the body of the steer, our invited guests snuggled down between Ed an' Jane, I chirped to the steer, and away we went up the road past the schoolhouse. I said we went, but if I'd said we flew, it would be nearer the truth, for the minute the steer heard that string of bells strike up in wild melody, it gave one blat and lit out for all it was worth. A scarter steer you never saw. I hung on to the lines with all my strength, but it was no use; the steer was runnin' away!
It was one thing to be run away with by a steer which found itself suddenly transformed into a musical machine, and another to live under the bombardment of snow balls shot back at us from the steer's flyin' hoofs. The others turned their faces and hung on, but I kept one eye open ahead.
Well, now you know, we hadn't gone the width of a farm when what should I see comin' toward us but old Henry Simmonds and his wife in a cutter! There was only one track, and the snow was three feet deep on either side. In such a case, the way to pass is for one to turn out as far as possible and wait while the other crept slowly past. Our steer was not standin' on ceremony, and he needed the middle of the road. Old Mr. Simmonds had turned out as far as he dared in the limited time at his disposal, but it wasn't far enough, and as we flew by we just took one runner off his cutter as pretty as anything you ever saw. We didn't stop to ask how badly the old lady was hurt, but we saw her flyin' into a snow bank. On up the road we went, until the poor steer run himself to his limit, and then he flopped down in the road with one hopeless blat. When he recovered his wind I unhitched the bells and we turned the sleigh around and came home, the steer trottin' as gentle as a lamb.
It cost father $40 for repairs on Mr. Simmond's cutter, but he made the neighbor who had given us the bells pay half, as he claimed it was his fault. No, I don't know what became of the bells. I never saw them again.