Emmetsburg, Iowa, May 1928
Cecil groaned and straightened, her hand on her back where she ached the most. This pregnancy was hard on her, but her time was growing near. She and Clarence had been homesteading for 6 years. It was backbreaking work to grow crops in the hard, rocky soil. Building a house. Although, for Clarence, the building came easy. Their white clapboard house was solid and well-built.
Farming was harder. They grew corn and wheat for hay to feed the animals and trade with neighbors. Cecil had a vegetable garden Where she grew string beans, cucumbers, potatoes, and flowers. Cecil couldn’t resist her flowers.
Merle was nearly 5. He wasn’t sure he wanted a baby brother. He liked running and wrestling with his dog Sam and helping his mother with the planting and harvesting. Merle was fascinated with growing things. He loved to watch the tender green leaves sprout on the beans and the wheat waving in the breeze. Watching corn stalks grow taller than he was fascinating. He checked the growing ears daily.
Cecil looked at the sky. Nearly time to make supper, she thought. Best finish up with the weeding and corral the old hen who wasn’t laying anymore. It was her time in the stew pot. Cecil didn’t like to kill her hens, but she was pragmatic about it. Burning and pulling the pin feathers was a chore. But Clarence liked chicken. She’d serve mashed potatoes and some of the green beans Merle had just picked. Maybe a chocolate cake for dessert, if she had enough milk and butter.
Where is the Cecil who put on a bathing suit and frolicked in the lake with Christine? Where was the Cecil who hung from the trellis with a smile wearing her wedding dress and black boots? Gone in the face of necessity. But still in her imagination.
“Mama, mama look,” called Merle, showing off his pail full of freshly pick green beans.
“Nice” Cecil told him, breaking from her reverie of fond remembrances.
With a sigh, Cecil caught the biddy hen and with a snap, broke her neck. She looked up and saw Clarence walking from the barn with a pail of milk. I’ll have to separate the cream and churn the butter she thought. But they would have cake that evening.