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Hannibal Hamlin Garland was a Pulitzer prize winning American novelist, poet, essayist, and short story writer, Georgist, and parapsychology skeptic/researcher. He is best known for his fiction involving hard-working Midwestern farmers.Collection of 24 Works of Hamlin Garland A Pioneer MotherA Son of the Middle BorderA Spoil of OfficeCaptain of the Gray-Horse TroopCavanaugh Forest RangerDaughter of the Middle BorderLittle NorskMain-Travelled RoadsMoney MagicOther Main-Travelled RoadsPrairie FolksRose of Dutcher's CoollyThe Eagle's HeartThe Forester's DaughterThe Light of the StarThe Moccasin RanchThe Shadow WorldThe Spirit of SweetwaterThe Trail of the GoldseekersThe Tyranny of the DarkThey of the High TrailsVictor Ollnee's DisciplineWayside CourtshipsPrairie Gold
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The Premium Complete Collection of Hamlin Garland
The Detailed Biography of Hamlin Garland
A Pioneer Mother
A Son of the Middle Border
A Spoil of Office
Captain of the Gray-Horse Troop
Cavanaugh Forest Ranger
Daughter of the Middle Border
Other Main-Travelled Roads
Rose of Dutcher's Coolly
The Eagle's Heart
The Forester's Daughter
The Light of the Star
The Moccasin Ranch
The Shadow World
The Spirit of Sweetwater
The Trail of the Goldseekers
The Tyranny of the Dark
They of the High Trails
Victor Ollnee's Discipline
Hamlin Garland, in full Hannibal Hamlin Garland (born September 14, 1860, West Salem, Wisconsin, U.S.—died March 4, 1940, Hollywood, California), American author perhaps best remembered for his short stories and his autobiographical “Middle Border” series of narratives.
As his farming family moved progressively westward from Wisconsin to Iowa and then to the Dakotas, Garland rebelled against the vicissitudes of pioneering and went to Boston for a career in 1884. Self-educated there, he gradually won a place for himself in the literary set of Boston and Cambridge and was influenced by the novelist William Dean Howells. Garland recorded the physical oppression and economic frustrations of pioneer life on the Great Plains in the short stories that were collected in Main-Travelled Roads (1891), one of his best works. The short stories he published in Prairie Folk (1892) and Wayside Courtships (1897) were later combined in Other Main-Travelled Roads (1910). In 1892 Garland published three lacklustre novels. His next novel, Rose of Dutcher’sCoolly (1895), tells the story of a sensitive young woman who rebels against the drudgery of farm life and goes to Chicago to pursue her talent for literature. Garland’s critical theory of “veritism,” set forth in the essay collection Crumbling Idols (1894), called for the use of socially conscious realism combined with more individualistic and subjective elements.
Garland next turned to the “high country” of the American West and to romantic melodrama for materials, producing a series of mediocre novels that were serialized in the popular “slick magazines.” He grew increasingly critical of the “excesses” of the naturalists, and in 1917 in a mellow autobiographical mood wrote A Son of the Middle Border, in which he described his family background and childhood as the son of pioneer farmers. This book won immediate and deserved acclaim. Its sequel, A Daughter of the Middle Border (1921), won a Pulitzer Prize. Less successful were Trail-Makers of the Middle Border (1926) and his last historical and autobiographical novels.
A Pioneer Mother
CHICAGO THE BOOKFELLOWS1922
Five hundred small paper and twenty-five tall paper copies of this monograph have been printed for The Bookfellows in September, 1922. It is the first edition.
Copyright 1922 by Hamlin Garland
THE TORCH PRESS CEDAR RAPIDS IOWA
HE was neither witty, nor learned in books, nor wise in the ways of the world, but I contend that her life was noble. There was something in her unconscious heroism which transcends wisdom and the deeds of those who dwell in the rose-golden light of romance. Now that her life is rounded into the silence whence it came, its significance appears.
To me she was never young, for I am her son, and as I first remember her she was a large, handsome, smiling woman—deft and powerful of movement, sweet and cheery of smile and voice. She played the violin then, and I recall how she used to lull me to sleep at night with simple tunes like “Money Musk” and “Dan Tucker.” She sang, too, and I remember her clear soprano rising out of the singing of the Sunday congregation at the schoolhouse with thrilling sweetness and charm. Her hair was dark, her eyes brown, her skin fair and her lips rested in lines of laughter.
Her first home was in Greene’s Coolly, in La Crosse County, Wisconsin, and was only a rude little cabin with three rooms and a garret. The windows of the house overlooked a meadow and a low range of wooded hills to the east. In this house she lived alone during two years of the Civil War while my father went as a volunteer into the Army of the Tennessee. My memory of these times is vague but inset with charm. Though my mother worked hard she had time to visit with her neighbors and often took her children with her to quilting bees, which they enjoyed, for they could play beneath the quilt as if it were a tent, and run under it for shelter from imaginary storms. I feel again her strong, soft, warm arms as she shielded me at nightfall from menacing wolves and other terrible creatures. When the world grew mysterious and vast and thick-peopled with yawning monsters eager for little men and women, she gathered us to her bosom and sang us through the gates of sleep into a golden land of dreams. We never knew how she longed for the return of her blue-coated soldier.
Our stove was a high-stepper, with long bent legs, and bore its oven on its back as a dromedary his hump. Under its arch I loved to lie watching my mother as she trod to and fro about her work in the kitchen. She taught me to read while working thus—for I was constantly interrupting her by asking the meaning of words in the newspaper which I had smuggled under the stove beneath me.
Y father’s return from the war brought solace and happiness, but increased her labors, for he set to work with new zeal to widen his acres of plow-land.
I have the sweetest recollections of my mother’s desire to make us happy each Christmas-time, and to this end she planned jokes for herself and little surprises for us. We were desperately poor in those days, for my father was breaking the tough sod of the natural meadows and grubbing away trees from the hillside, “opening a farm,” as he called it, and there was hardly enough extra money to fill three stockings with presents. So it came about that mother’s stocking often held more rags and potatoes than silks or silverware. But she always laughed and we considered it all very good fun then. Its pathos makes my heart ache now.
She was a neighborly woman. She had no enemies. I don’t believe any one ever spoke an unkind word of Belle Garland as she was called—she was always sunny—her little petulances passed quickly like small summer showers and then she laughed—shook with laughter while the tears shone on her face. I can see now that she was only a big, handsome girl, but she was my mother, and as such seemed an “old person.”
Her physical strength was very great. I have heard my father say that at the time he went away to war she was his equal in many contests, and I know she was very deft and skillful in her work. She could cut and fit and finish the calico dress purchased in the morning of the same day. She cooked with the same adroitness, and though her means were meagre everything she made tasted good. She liked nothing better than to have her neighbors drop in to tea or dinner.
After all, I do not remember very much of her life while we lived in this Coolly—nor while in Winnesheik County, Iowa, whereto we moved in 1869. She remained of the same physical dignity to me, and though she grew rapidly heavier and older I did not realize it. My second sister Jessie came to us while living in an old log house in a beautiful wood just west of Hesper, and I now know that my mother never recovered from the travail of this birth—though she returned to her domestic duties as before and was to her children the jolly personality she had always been. While living on this farm smallpox came to our family and we were all smitten with this much-dreaded disease, but mother not only nursed her baby and took care of us all, but she also smiled down into our faces without apparent anxiety—though some of us lay at death’s door for weeks. Shortly after we recovered from this we moved again to the newer West.
DON’T know what her feelings were about these constant removals to the border, but I suspect now that each new migration was a greater hardship than those which preceded it. My father’s adventurous and restless spirit was never satisfied. The sunset land always allured him, and my mother, being of those who follow their husbands’ feet without complaining word, seemed always ready to take up the trail. With the blindness of youth and the spirit of seeking which I inherited I saw no tear on my mother’s face. I inferred that she, too, was eager and exalted at the thought of “going West.” I now see that she must have suffered each time the bitter pangs of doubt and unrest which strike through the woman’s heart when called upon to leave her snug, safe fire for a ruder cabin in strange lands.
HE had four children at this time and I fear her boys gave her considerable trouble, but her eldest daughter was of growing service in working about the house as well as in tending the fair-haired baby, but work grew harder and harder. My father purchased some wild land in Mitchell County, Iowa, and we all set to work to break the sod for the third time. A large part of the hardship involved in this fell upon my mother, for the farm required a great many “hands,” and these “hands” had enormous appetites, and the household duties grew more unrelenting from year to year.
Our new house was a small one with but three rooms below and two above, but it had a little lean-to which served as a summer kitchen. It was a bare home, with no touch of grace other than that given by my mother’s cheery presence. Her own room was small and crowded, but as she never found time to occupy it save to sleep I hope it did not trouble her as it does me now as I look back to it.
Each year, as our tilled acres grew, churning and washing and cooking became harder, until at last it was borne in upon my boyish mind that my mother was condemned to never-remitting labor. She was up in the morning before the light cooking breakfast for us all, and she seldom went to bed before my father. She was not always well and yet the work had to be done. We all worked in those days; even my little sister ran on errands, and perhaps this was the reason why we did not realize more fully the grinding weight of drudgery which fell on this pioneer’s wife. But Harriet was growing into a big girl and began to materially aid my mother, though she brought an added expense in clothing and schooling. We had plenty of good wholesome things to eat in those days, but our furniture remained poor. Our little sitting-room was covered with a rag carpet which we children helped to make, tearing, sewing and winding rags during the winter nights. I remember helping mother to dye them also, and in the spring she made her own soap. This also I helped to do.
Churning and milking we boys did for her, and the old up and down churn was a dreaded beast to us as it was to all the boys of the countryside; and yet I knew mother ought not to do such work, and I went to the dasher regularly but with a wry face. Father was not niggardly of labor-saving implements, and a clotheswringer and washer and a barrel churn came along and they helped a little, but work never “lets up” on a farm. There are always three meals to get and the dishes to wash, and each day is like another so far as duties are concerned. Sunday brings little rest for housewives even in winter.
UT into those monotonous days some pleasure came. The neighbors dropped in of a summer evening, and each Sunday we drove away to church. In winter we attended all the “ly-ceums” and church “sociables,” and took part in occasional “surprise parties.” In all these neighborhood jollities my mother had a generous hand. Her coming always added to the fun. “Here comes Mrs. Garland!” some one would say, and every face shone brighter because of her smile. She was ever ready to help on the gayety in any way, and was always in voice to sing, provided some one else started the song to give her courage. She loved games, practical jokes and jesting of all kinds. Her natural gayety was almost unquenchable; not even unending work and poverty could entirely subdue her or embitter her.
Death touching her eldest daughter threw the first enduring shadow over her life. She never entirely returned to the jollity of her former years, though she regained a cheerfulness inseparable from her life. She had been youthful to that moment; after that she was middle-aged—even to her sons.
Her two boys and her baby Jessie comforted her and she had no time for unavailing grief. As she had sent her daughter to school, so now she urged her sons to study, for though a woman of little schooling herself she had a firm belief in the value of learning. She took strong ground in my behalf, and I have many dear recollections of her quiet support of my plans for an education. In this I owe her much. My father felt the need of my services too keenly to instantly grant me leave of absence, but together they made sacrifices to send me to school as they had sent my sister before me, and as they were willing to send those who came after me. At sixteen I began to attend a seminary in the town, six miles away.
These were my happiest days, and I hope I carried something of my larger outlook back to my mother. I boarded myself for several terms in a fashion common among the boys of the school, and mother’s pies and doughnuts and “self-rising” bread enabled me to sustain life joyously from Monday morning till Friday night. She never seemed to tire of doing little things for my comfort, and I took them, I fear, with the carelessness of youth, never thinking of the pain they cost. I did not even perceive how swiftly she was growing old. She still shook with laughter over my tales of school life and sent me away each week with the products of her loving labor.
She heard my graduation address with how much of pride or interest I do not know, for she never expressed her deeper feelings. She seldom kissed her children, and after we grew to be boys of twelve or fourteen, too large to snuggle in her arms, she never embraced us, though I think she liked to have us come and lay our heads in her lap. She still continued to threaten to “trounce” us, a menace which always provoked us to laughter. “Mother’s whippings don’t last long,” we used to say.
Our home remained unchanged. The expense of opening a farm, of buying machinery and building barns, made it seem necessary to live in the same little story-and-a-half house. The furniture grew shabbier, but was not replaced. My mother’s dresses were always cheap and badly made, but so were the coats my father wore. Money seemed hard to hold, even when the crops were good. I cannot recall a single beautiful thing about our house, not one. The sunlight and the songs of birds, the flame of winter snow, the blaze of snow-crystals, I clearly call to mind, but the house I remember only as a warm shelter, where my mother strove to feed and clothe us. But as nearly all other homes of the neighborhood were of like character I don’t suppose she realized her own poverty.
T last a great change came to us all. The country was fairly filled with settlers and my father’s pioneer heart began to stir again, and once more he planned a flight into the wilder West, and in the fall of 1881, when I was twenty-one years of age, we parted company. My parents and my sister and brother journeyed westward into South Dakota and settled in the little town of Ordway, on a treeless plain, while I turned eastward, intent on further education.
I mention this going especially because, when it became certain that my people were leaving never to return, the neighbors thronged about the house one August day to say good-by, and with appropriate speeches presented mother with some silver and glassware. These were the first nice dishes she had ever owned and she was too deeply touched to speak a word of thanks. But the givers did not take so much virtue to themselves. Some of them were women who had known the touch of my mother’s hand in sickness and travail. Others had seen her close the eyes of their dead—for she had come to be a mother to every one who suffered. Those who brought the richest gifts considered them a poor return for her own unstinting helpfulness.
I shall always remember that day. I was about to “go forth into the world,” as our graduating orations had declared we should do. My people were again adventuring into strange lands—leaving the house they had built, the trees they had planted and the friends they had drawn around them. The vivid autumnal sun was shining over all the lanes we had learned to love and sifting through the leaves of the trees that had grown up around us. The familiar faces of the bronzed and wrinkled old farmers were tremulous with emotion. The women frankly wept on each other’s bosoms—and in the hush of that golden day I heard the sound of wings—the wings of the death-angel whose other name is Time. I knew we would never return to this place: that the separation of friends there beginning would last forever. The future was luminous before me, but its forms were too vague to be delineated. I turned my face eastward with a thought in my brain beating like the clock of the ages. In such moments the past becomes beautiful, the future a menace.
HIS story does not concern itself with my wanderings, but with the life of my mother. When I saw her again she was living in a small house beside my father’s store in Ordway, South Dakota. She had not changed perceptibly, and she had won a new and wide circle of friends. She was “Mrs. Garland” now, and not Belle—but she was the life of every social, and her voice was still marvelously clear and vibrant in song. She was a little heavier, a little older, but her face had the same sweet curves about the mouth and chin. Life was a little easier for her, too. She was clear of the farm and its terrible drudgery at last. She could sleep like a human being till daylight came, for she had no one to cook for save her own small family. She saw and was a part of the village life, which was exceedingly jolly and of good report. Her son Franklin and her little daughter were still with her, and she did not much miss her eldest—who had gone far seeking fair cities in intellectual seas. The home was still poor and shabby of furniture, but it was not lonely. Mother missed, but no longer mourned, her vanished friends.
I did not see her again for nearly four years, and my heart contracted with a sudden pain at sight of her. She was growing old. Her hair was gray, and as she spoke, her voice was weak and tremulous. She was again on the farm and working as of old—like one on a treadmill. My father, too, was old. He had not prospered. A drought had swept over the fair valley and men on all sides were dropping away into despair. Jessie was at home—the only one of all the children. The house was a little better than any my mother had owned before, but it was a poor, barren place for all that.
Old as she was, and suffering constantly from pain in her feet and ankles, she was still mother to every one who suffered. Even while I was there she got up on two demands in the middle of the night and rode away across the plain in answer to some suffering woman’s call for help. She knew death intimately. She had closed the eyes of many a world-weary wife or suffering child, and more than once a poor outcast woman of the town, sick and alone, felt the pitying touch of her lips.
SAW with greater clearness than ever before the lack of beauty in her life. She had a few new things, but they were all cheap and poor. She now had one silk dress—which her son had sent her. All else was calico. But worse than all was the bleak, burning, wind-swept plain—treeless, scorched and silent save for the song of the prairie lark. I felt the monotony of her surroundings with greater keenness than ever before.
I was living in Boston at that time, and having heard many of the great singers I was eager to test my mother’s voice with the added knowledge I had of such things. Even then, weakened as she was and without training or practice, she still possessed a compass of three octaves and one note, and was able to sing one complete octave above the ordinary soprano voice with every note sweet and musical. I have always believed that a great singer was lost to the world in this pioneer’s wife.
One day as I sat writing in the sitting-room I heard a strange cry outside—a cry for help. I rushed out into the yard, and there just outside the door in the vivid sunlight stood my mother, unable to move—a look of fear and horror on her face. The black-winged angel had sent her his first warning. She was paralyzed in the lower limbs. I carried her to her bed with a feeling that her life was ended there on the lonely plain, and my heart was bitter and rebellious and my mind filled with self-accusations. If she died now—here—what would she know of the great world outside? Her life had been always on the border—she knew nothing of civilization’s splendor of song and story. She would go away from the feast without a crumb. All her toilsome, monotonous days rushed through my mind with a roar, like a file of gray birds in the night—how little—how tragically small her joys, and how black her sorrows, her toil, her tedium.
It chanced that a physician friend was visiting us at the time and his skill reassured me a little. The bursting of a minute blood-vessel in the brain had done the mischief. A small clot had formed, he said, which must either grow or be re-absorbed. He thought it would be re-absorbed and that she would slowly recover.
This diagnosis proved to be correct and in a few days she was able to sit up, and before I returned to Boston she could walk a little, though she could not lift her feet from the floor.
UR parting at this time was the most painful moment of my life. I had my work to do in Boston. I could earn nothing out on the plain, so I must go, but I promised it would not be for long. In my heart I determined that the remainder of her life should be freer from care and fuller of joy. I resolved to make a home for her in some more hospitable land, but the cling of her arms to my neck remained with me many days.
She gained slowly, and a year later was able to revisit the scenes of her girlhood in Wisconsin. In two years she was able to go to California with me. She visited the World’s Fair in Chicago, and her sons wheeled her about the grounds as if to say: “Mother, you have pioneered enough; henceforth fold your hands and rest and be happy.”
She entered now upon another joy—the quiet joy of reminiscence, for the old hard days of pioneering on the Iowa prairie grew mellow with remembered sunshine—the storms grew faint and vague. She loved to sit and dream of the past. She loved to recall old faces, and to hear us tell of old times and old neighbors. Beside the glow of her fire she had a keen delight in the soughing of the winds in the grim pines of Wisconsin, the flame of lightning in the cyclonic nights in Iowa, and the howling blasts of stern blizzards on the wide Dakota sod. She came back to old friends in “the Coolly Country of Wisconsin,” and there her sons built a roomy house about her. They put nice rugs under her feet and new silver on her table. It was all on a very humble scale, but it made her eyes misty with happy tears. For eleven years after her first stroke she lived with us in this way—or we with her. And my father, was glad of the shelter and the comfort, for he, too, admitted growing age and joined with his sons in making the wife happy.
HAVE a purpose in this frank disclosure of my mother’s life. It is not from any self-complacency, God knows, for I did so little and it came so late—I write in the hope of making some other work-weary mother happy. There is nothing more appealing to me than neglected age. To see an old father or mother sitting in loneliness and poverty dreaming of an absent son who never comes, of a daughter who never writes, is to me more moving than Hamlet or Othello. If we are false to those who gave us birth we are false indeed.
Most of us in America are the children of working people, and the toil-worn hands of our parents should be heaped to overflowing with whatever good things success brings to us. They bent to the plow and the washboard when we were helpless. They clothed us when clothing was bought with blood, and we should be glad to return this warmth, this protection, an hundredfold. Fill their rooms with sunshine and the odor of flowers—you sons and daughters of the pioneers of America. Gather them around you, let them share in your success, and when some one looks askance at them stand beside them and say: “These gray old heads, these gnarled limbs, sheltered me in days when I was weak and life was stern.”
Then will the debt be lessened—for in such coin alone can the wistful hearts be paid.
A SON OF THE MIDDLE BORDER
* * * * *
Dear Mrs. LeCron:
In the spring of 1898, after finishing my LIFE OF ULYSSES S. GRANT, I began to plan to go into the Klondike over the Telegraph Trail. One day in showing the maps of my route to William Dean Howells, I said, "I shall go in here and come out there," a trail of nearly twelve hundred miles through an almost unknown country. As I uttered this I suddenly realized that I was starting on a path holding many perils and that I might not come back.
With this in mind, I began to dictate the story of my career up to that time. It was put in the third person but it was my story and the story of my people, the Garlands and the McClintocks. This manuscript, crude and hasty as it was, became the basis of A SON OF THE MIDDLE BORDER. It was the beginning of a four-volume autobiography which it has taken me fifteen years to write. As a typical mid-west settler I felt that the history of my family would be, in a sense, the chronicle of the era of settlement lying between 1840 and 1914. I designedly kept it intimate and personal, the joys and sorrows of a group of migrating families. Of the four books, Volume One, THE TRAIL MAKERS, is based upon my memory of the talk around a pioneer fireside. The other three volumes are as true as my own memory can make them.
* * * * *
A SON OF THE MIDDLE BORDER
Grosset & Dunlap Publishers by arrangement with The MacMillan Company
Printed in the United States of America
Copyright, 1914 And 1917 by P. F. Collier & Son
Copyright, 1917 by Hamlin Garland
Set up and electrotyped. Published August, 1917. Reprinted March, 1925, December, 1925. Reissued, January, 1927, February, 1928.
I. HOME FROM THE WAR 1
II. THE MCCLINTOCKS 14
III. THE HOME IN THE COULEE 27
IV. FATHER SELLS THE FARM 42
V. THE LAST THRESHING IN THE COULEE 50
VI. DAVID AND HIS VIOLIN 59
VII. WINNESHEIK "WOODS AND PRAIRIE LANDS" 68
VIII. WE MOVE AGAIN 79
IX. OUR FIRST WINTER ON THE PRAIRIE 85
X. THE HOMESTEAD ON THE KNOLL 99
XI. SCHOOL LIFE 107
XII. CHORES AND ALMANACS 116
XIII. BOY LIFE ON THE PRAIRIE 125
XIV. WHEAT AND THE HARVEST 144
XV. HARRIET GOES AWAY 161
XVI. WE MOVE TO TOWN 173
XVII. A TASTE OF VILLAGE LIFE 189
XVIII. BACK TO THE FARM 204
XIX. END OF SCHOOL DAYS 221
XX. THE LAND OF THE DAKOTAS 234
XXI. THE GRASSHOPPER AND THE ANT 248
XXII. WE DISCOVER NEW ENGLAND 267
XXIII. COASTING DOWN MT. WASHINGTON 279
XXIV. TRAMPING, NEW YORK, WASHINGTON, AND CHICAGO 287
XXV. THE LAND OF THE STRADDLE-BUG 301
XXVI. ON TO BOSTON 318
XXVII. ENTER A FRIEND 333
XXVIII. A VISIT TO THE WEST 353
XXIX. I JOIN THE ANTI-POVERTY BRIGADE 375
XXX. MY MOTHER IS STRICKEN 396
XXXI. MAIN TRAVELLED ROADS 410
XXXII. THE SPIRIT OF REVOLT 421
XXXIII. THE END OF THE SUNSET TRAIL 433
XXXIV. WE GO TO CALIFORNIA 440
XXXV. THE HOMESTEAD IN THE VALLEY 455
A SON OF THE MIDDLE BORDER [Illustration]
A Son of the Middle Border
Home from the War
All of this universe known to me in the year 1864 was bounded by the wooded hills of a little Wisconsin coulee, and its center was the cottage in which my mother was living alone--my father was in the war. As I project myself back into that mystical age, half lights cover most of the valley. The road before our doorstone begins and ends in vague obscurity--and Granma Green's house at the fork of the trail stands on the very edge of the world in a sinister region peopled with bears and other menacing creatures. Beyond this point all is darkness and terror.
It is Sunday afternoon and my mother and her three children, Frank, Harriet and I (all in our best dresses) are visiting the Widow Green, our nearest neighbor, a plump, jolly woman whom we greatly love. The house swarms with stalwart men and buxom women and we are all sitting around the table heaped with the remains of a harvest feast. The women are "telling fortunes" by means of tea-grounds. Mrs. Green is the seeress. After shaking the cup with the grounds at the bottom, she turns it bottom side up in a saucer. Then whirling it three times to the right and three times to the left, she lifts it and silently studies the position of the leaves which cling to the sides of the cup, what time we all wait in breathless suspense for her first word.
"A soldier is coming to you!" she says to my mother. "See," and she points into the cup. We all crowd near, and I perceive a leaf with a stem sticking up from its body like a bayonet over a man's shoulder. "He is almost home," the widow goes on. Then with sudden dramatic turn she waves her hand toward the road, "Heavens and earth!" she cries. "There's Richard now!"
We all turn and look toward the road, and there, indeed, is a soldier with a musket on his back, wearily plodding his way up the low hill just north of the gate. He is too far away for mother to call, and besides I think she must have been a little uncertain, for he did not so much as turn his head toward the house. Trembling with excitement she hurries little Frank into his wagon and telling Hattie to bring me, sets off up the road as fast as she can draw the baby's cart. It all seems a dream to me and I move dumbly, almost stupidly like one in a mist....
We did not overtake the soldier, that is evident, for my next vision is that of a blue-coated figure leaning upon the fence, studying with intent gaze our empty cottage. I cannot, even now, precisely divine why he stood thus, sadly contemplating his silent home,--but so it was. His knapsack lay at his feet, his musket was propped against a post on whose top a cat was dreaming, unmindful of the warrior and his folded hands.
He did not hear us until we were close upon him, and even after he turned, my mother hesitated, so thin, so hollow-eyed, so changed was he. "Richard, is that you?" she quaveringly asked.
His worn face lighted up. His arms rose. "Yes, Belle! Here I am," he answered.
Nevertheless though he took my mother in his arms, I could not relate him to the father I had heard so much about. To me he was only a strange man with big eyes and care-worn face. I did not recognize in him anything I had ever known, but my sister, who was two years older than I, went to his bosom of her own motion. She knew him, whilst I submitted to his caresses rather for the reason that my mother urged me forward than because of any affection I felt for him. Frank, however, would not even permit a kiss. The gaunt and grizzled stranger terrified him.
"Come here, my little man," my father said.--"My little man!" Across the space of half-a-century I can still hear the sad reproach in his voice. "Won't you come and see your poor old father when he comes home from the war?"
"My little man!" How significant that phrase seems to me now! The war had in very truth come between this patriot and his sons. I had forgotten him--the baby had never known him.
Frank crept beneath the rail fence and stood there, well out of reach, like a cautious kitten warily surveying an alien dog. At last the soldier stooped and drawing from his knapsack a big red apple, held it toward the staring babe, confidently calling, "Now, I guess he'll come to his poor old pap home from the war."
The mother apologized. "He doesn't know you, Dick. How could he? He was only nine months old when you went away. He'll go to you by and by."
The babe crept slowly toward the shining lure. My father caught him despite his kicking, and hugged him close. "Now I've got you," he exulted.
Then we all went into the little front room and the soldier laid off his heavy army shoes. My mother brought a pillow to put under his head, and so at last he stretched out on the floor the better to rest his tired, aching bones, and there I joined him.
"Oh, Belle!" he said, in tones of utter content. "This is what I've dreamed about a million times."
Frank and I grew each moment more friendly and soon began to tumble over him while mother hastened to cook something for him to eat. He asked for "hot biscuits and honey and plenty of coffee."
That was a mystic hour--and yet how little I can recover of it! The afternoon glides into evening while the soldier talks, and at last we all go out to the barn to watch mother milk the cow. I hear him ask about the crops, the neighbors.--The sunlight passes. Mother leads the way back to the house. My father follows carrying little Frank in his arms.
He is a "strange man" no longer. Each moment his voice sinks deeper into my remembrance. He is my father--that I feel ringing through the dim halls of my consciousness. Harriet clings to his hand in perfect knowledge and confidence. We eat our bread and milk, the trundle-bed is pulled out, we children clamber in, and I go to sleep to the music of his resonant voice recounting the story of the battles he had seen, and the marches he had made.
The emergence of an individual consciousness from the void is, after all, the most amazing fact of human life and I should like to spend much of this first chapter in groping about in the luminous shadow of my infant world because, deeply considered, childish impressions are the fundamentals upon which an author's fictional out-put is based; but to linger might weary my reader at the outset, although I count myself most fortunate in the fact that my boyhood was spent in the midst of a charming landscape and during a certain heroic era of western settlement.
The men and women of that far time loom large in my thinking for they possessed not only the spirit of adventurers but the courage of warriors. Aside from the natural distortion of a boy's imagination I am quite sure that the pioneers of 1860 still retained something broad and fine in their action, something a boy might honorably imitate.
The earliest dim scene in my memory is that of a soft warm evening. I am cradled in the lap of my sister Harriet who is sitting on the door-step beneath a low roof. It is mid-summer and at our feet lies a mat of dark-green grass from which a frog is croaking. The stars are out, and above the high hills to the east a mysterious glow is glorifying the sky. The cry of the small animal at last conveys to my sister's mind a notion of distress, and rising she peers closely along the path. Starting back with a cry of alarm, she calls and my mother hurries out. She, too, examines the ground, and at last points out to me a long striped snake with a poor, shrieking little tree-toad in its mouth. The horror of this scene fixes it in my mind. My mother beats the serpent with a stick. The mangled victim hastens away, and the curtain falls.
I must have been about four years old at this time, although there is nothing to determine the precise date. Our house, a small frame cabin, stood on the eastern slope of a long ridge and faced across a valley which seemed very wide to me then, and in the middle of it lay a marsh filled with monsters, from which the Water People sang night by night. Beyond was a wooded mountain.
This doorstone must have been a favorite evening seat for my sister, for I remember many other delicious gloamings. Bats whirl and squeak in the odorous dusk. Night hawks whiz and boom, and over the dark forest wall a prodigious moon miraculously rolls. Fire-flies dart through the grass, and in a lone tree just outside the fence, a whippoorwill sounds his plaintive note. Sweet, very sweet, and wonderful are all these!
The marsh across the lane was a sinister menacing place even by day for there (so my sister Harriet warned me) serpents swarmed, eager to bite runaway boys. "And if you step in the mud between the tufts of grass," she said, "you will surely sink out of sight."--At night this teeming bog became a place of dank and horrid mystery. Bears and wolves and wildcats were reported as ruling the dark woods just beyond--only the door yard and the road seemed safe for little men--and even there I wished my mother to be within immediate call.
My father who had bought his farm "on time," just before the war, could not enlist among the first volunteers, though he was deeply moved to do so, till his land was paid for--but at last in 1863 on the very day that he made the last payment on the mortgage, he put his name down on the roll and went back to his wife, a soldier.
I have heard my mother say that this was one of the darkest moments of her life and if you think about it you will understand the reason why. My sister was only five years old, I was three and Frank was a babe in the cradle. Broken hearted at the thought of the long separation, and scared by visions of battle my mother begged the soldier not to go; but he was of the stern stuff which makes patriots--and besides his name was already on the roll, therefore he went away to join Grant's army at Vicksburg. "What sacrifice! What folly!" said his pacifist neighbors--"to leave your wife and children for an idea, a mere sentiment; to put your life in peril for a striped silken rag." But he went. For thirteen dollars a month he marched and fought while his plow rusted in the shed and his cattle called to him from their stalls.
My conscious memory holds nothing of my mother's agony of waiting, nothing of the dark days when the baby was ill and the doctor far away--but into my subconscious ear her voice sank, and the words Grant, Lincoln, Sherman, "furlough," "mustered out," ring like bells, deep-toned and vibrant. I shared dimly in every emotional utterance of the neighbors who came to call and a large part of what I am is due to the impressions of these deeply passionate and poetic years.
Dim pictures come to me. I see my mother at the spinning wheel, I help her fill the candle molds. I hold in my hands the queer carding combs with their crinkly teeth, but my first definite connected recollection is the scene of my father's return at the close of the war.
I was not quite five years old, and the events of that day are so commingled with later impressions,--experiences which came long after--that I cannot be quite sure which are true and which imagined, but the picture as a whole is very vivid and very complete.
Thus it happened that my first impressions of life were martial, and my training military, for my father brought back from his two years' campaigning under Sherman and Thomas the temper and the habit of a soldier.
He became naturally the dominant figure in my horizon, and his scheme of discipline impressed itself almost at once upon his children.
I suspect that we had fallen into rather free and easy habits under mother's government, for she was too jolly, too tender-hearted, to engender fear in us even when she threatened us with a switch or a shingle. We soon learned, however, that the soldier's promise of punishment was swift and precise in its fulfillment. We seldom presumed a second time on his forgetfulness or tolerance. We knew he loved us, for he often took us to his knees of an evening and told us stories of marches and battles, or chanted war-songs for us, but the moments of his tenderness were few and his fondling did not prevent him from almost instant use of the rod if he thought either of us needed it.
His own boyhood had been both hard and short. Born of farmer folk in Oxford County, Maine, his early life had been spent on the soil in and about Lock's Mills with small chance of schooling. Later, as a teamster, and finally as shipping clerk for Amos Lawrence, he had enjoyed three mightily improving years in Boston. He loved to tell of his life there, and it is indicative of his character to say that he dwelt with special joy and pride on the actors and orators he had heard. He could describe some of the great scenes and repeat a few of the heroic lines of Shakespeare, and the roll of his deep voice as he declaimed, "Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York," thrilled us--filled us with desire of something far off and wonderful. But best of all we loved to hear him tell of "Logan at Peach Tree Creek," and "Kilpatrick on the Granny White Turnpike."
He was a vivid and concise story-teller and his words brought to us (sometimes all too clearly), the tragic happenings of the battlefields of Atlanta and Nashville. To him Grant, Lincoln, Sherman and Sheridan were among the noblest men of the world, and he would not tolerate any criticism of them.
Next to his stories of the war I think we loved best to have him picture "the pineries" of Wisconsin, for during his first years in the State he had been both lumberman and raftsman, and his memory held delightful tales of wolves and bears and Indians.
He often imitated the howls and growls and actions of the wild animals with startling realism, and his river narratives were full of unforgettable phrases like "the Jinny Bull Falls," "Old Moosinee" and "running the rapids."
He also told us how his father and mother came west by way of the Erie Canal, and in a steamer on the Great Lakes, of how they landed in Milwaukee with Susan, their twelve-year-old daughter, sick with the smallpox; of how a farmer from Monticello carried them in his big farm wagon over the long road to their future home in Green county and it was with deep emotion that he described the bitter reception they encountered in the village.
It appears that some of the citizens in a panic of dread were all for driving the Garlands out of town--then up rose old Hugh McClintock, big and gray as a grizzly bear, and put himself between the leader of the mob and its victims, and said, "You shall not lay hands upon them. Shame on ye!" And such was the power of his mighty arm and such the menace of his flashing eyes that no one went further with the plan of casting the new comers into the wilderness.
Old Hugh established them in a lonely cabin on the edge of the village, and thereafter took care of them, nursing grandfather with his own hands until he was well. "And that's the way the McClintocks and the Garlands first joined forces," my father often said in ending the tale. "But the name of the man who carried your Aunt Susan in his wagon from Milwaukee to Monticello I never knew."
I cannot understand why that sick girl did not die on that long journey over the rough roads of Wisconsin, and what it all must have seemed to my gentle New England grandmother I grieve to think about. Beautiful as the land undoubtedly was, such an experience should have shaken her faith in western men and western hospitality. But apparently it did not, for I never heard her allude to this experience with bitterness.
In addition to his military character, Dick Garland also carried with him the odor of the pine forest and exhibited the skill and training of a forester, for in those early days even at the time when I began to remember the neighborhood talk, nearly every young man who could get away from the farm or the village went north, in November, into the pine woods which covered the entire upper part of the State, and my father, who had been a raftsman and timber cruiser and pilot ever since his coming west, was deeply skilled with axe and steering oars. The lumberman's life at that time was rough but not vicious, for the men were nearly all of native American stock, and my father was none the worse for his winters in camp.
His field of action as lumberman was for several years, in and around Big Bull Falls (as it was then called), near the present town of Wausau, and during that time he had charge of a crew of loggers in winter and in summer piloted rafts of lumber down to Dubuque and other points where saw mills were located. He was called at this time, "Yankee Dick, the Pilot."
As a result of all these experiences in the woods, he was almost as much woodsman as soldier in his talk, and the heroic life he had led made him very wonderful in my eyes. According to his account (and I have no reason to doubt it) he had been exceedingly expert in running a raft and could ride a canoe like a Chippewa. I remember hearing him very forcefully remark, "God forgot to make the man I could not follow."
He was deft with an axe, keen of perception, sure of hand and foot, and entirely capable of holding his own with any man of his weight. Amid much drinking he remained temperate, and strange to say never used tobacco in any form. While not a large man he was nearly six feet in height, deep-chested and sinewy, and of dauntless courage. The quality which defended him from attack was the spirit which flamed from his eagle-gray eyes. Terrifying eyes they were, at times, as I had many occasions to note.
As he gathered us all around his knee at night before the fire, he loved to tell us of riding the whirlpools of Big Bull Falls, or of how he lived for weeks on a raft with the water up to his knees (sleeping at night in his wet working clothes), sustained by the blood of youth and the spirit of adventure. His endurance even after his return from the war, was marvellous, although he walked a little bent and with a peculiar measured swinging stride--the stride of Sherman's veterans.
As I was born in the first smoke of the great conflict, so all of my early memories of Green's coulee are permeated with the haze of the passing war-cloud. My soldier dad taught me the manual of arms, and for a year Harriet and I carried broom-sticks, flourished lath sabers, and hammered on dishpans in imitation of officers and drummers. Canteens made excellent water-bottles for the men in the harvest fields, and the long blue overcoats which the soldiers brought back with them from the south lent many a vivid spot of color to that far-off landscape.
All the children of our valley inhaled with every breath this mingled air of romance and sorrow, history and song, and through those epic days runs a deep-laid consciousness of maternal pain. My mother's side of those long months of waiting was never fully delineated, for she was natively reticent and shy of expression. But piece by piece in later years I drew from her the tale of her long vigil, and obtained some hint of the bitter anguish of her suspense after each great battle.
It is very strange, but I cannot define her face as I peer back into those childish times, though I can feel her strong arms about me. She seemed large and quite middle-aged to me, although she was in fact a handsome girl of twenty-three. Only by reference to a rare daguerreotype of the time am I able to correct this childish impression.
Our farm lay well up in what is called Green's coulee, in a little valley just over the road which runs along the LaCrosse river in western Wisconsin. It contained one hundred and sixty acres of land which crumpled against the wooded hills on the east and lay well upon a ridge to the west. Only two families lived above us, and over the height to the north was the land of the red people, and small bands of their hunters used occasionally to come trailing down across our meadow on their way to and from LaCrosse, which was their immemorial trading point.
Sometimes they walked into our house, always without knocking--but then we understood their ways. No one knocks at the wigwam of a red neighbor, and we were not afraid of them, for they were friendly, and our mother often gave them bread and meat which they took (always without thanks) and ate with much relish while sitting beside our fire. All this seemed very curious to us, but as they were accustomed to share their food and lodging with one another so they accepted my mother's bounty in the same matter-of-fact fashion.
Once two old fellows, while sitting by the fire, watched Frank and me bringing in wood for the kitchen stove, and smiled and muttered between themselves thereat. At last one of them patted my brother on the head and called out admiringly, "Small pappoose, heap work--good!" and we were very proud of the old man's praise.
The members of my mother's family must have been often at our home during my father's military service in the south, but I have no mental pictures of them till after my father's homecoming in '65. Their names were familiar--were, indeed, like bits of old-fashioned song. "Richard" was a fine and tender word in my ear, but "David" and "Luke," "Deborah" and "Samantha," and especially "Hugh," suggested something alien as well as poetic.
They all lived somewhere beyond the hills which walled our coulee on the east, in a place called Salem, and I was eager to visit them, for in that direction my universe died away in a luminous mist of unexplored distance. I had some notion of its near-by loveliness for I had once viewed it from the top of the tall bluff which stood like a warder at the gate of our valley, and when one bright morning my father said, "Belle, get ready, and we'll drive over to Grandad's," we all became greatly excited.
In those days people did not "call," they went "visitin'." The women took their knitting and stayed all the afternoon and sometimes all night. No one owned a carriage. Each family journeyed in a heavy farm wagon with the father and mother riding high on the wooden spring seat while the children jounced up and down on the hay in the bottom of the box or clung desperately to the side-boards to keep from being jolted out. In such wise we started on our trip to the McClintocks'.
The road ran to the south and east around the base of Sugar Loaf Bluff, thence across a lovely valley and over a high wooded ridge which was so steep that at times we rode above the tree tops. As father stopped the horses to let them rest, we children gazed about us with wondering eyes. Far behind us lay the LaCrosse valley through which a slender river ran, while before us towered wind-worn cliffs of stone. It was an exploring expedition for us.
The top of the divide gave a grand view of wooded hills to the northeast, but father did not wait for us to enjoy that. He started the team on the perilous downward road without regard to our wishes, and so we bumped and clattered to the bottom, all joy of the scenery swallowed up in fear of being thrown from the wagon.
The roar of a rapid, the gleam of a long curving stream, a sharp turn through a pair of bars, and we found ourselves approaching a low unpainted house which stood on a level bench overlooking a river and its meadows.
"There it is. That's Grandad's house," said mother, and peering over her shoulder I perceived a group of people standing about the open door, and heard their shouts of welcome.
My father laughed. "Looks as if the whole McClintock clan was on parade," he said.
It was Sunday and all my aunts and uncles were in holiday dress and a merry, hearty, handsome group they were. One of the men helped my mother out and another, a roguish young fellow with a pock-marked face, snatched me from the wagon and carried me under his arm to the threshold where a short, gray-haired smiling woman was standing. "Mother, here's another grandson for you," he said as he put me at her feet.
She greeted me kindly and led me into the house, in which a huge old man with a shock of perfectly white hair was sitting with a Bible on his knee. He had a rugged face framed in a circle of gray beard and his glance was absent-minded and remote. "Father," said my grandmother, "Belle has come. Here is one of her boys."
Closing his book on his glasses to mark the place of his reading he turned to greet my mother who entered at this moment. His way of speech was as strange as his look and for a few moments I studied him with childish intentness. His face was rough-hewn as a rock but it was kindly, and though he soon turned from his guests and resumed his reading no one seemed to resent it.
Young as I was I vaguely understood his mood. He was glad to see us but he was absorbed in something else, something of more importance, at the moment, than the chatter of the family. My uncles who came in a few moments later drew my attention and the white-haired dreamer fades from this scene.
The room swarmed with McClintocks. There was William, a black-bearded, genial, quick-stepping giant who seized me by the collar with one hand and lifted me off the floor as if I were a puppy just to see how much I weighed; and David, a tall young man with handsome dark eyes and a droop at the outer corner of his eyelids which gave him in repose a look of melancholy distinction. He called me and I went to him readily for I loved him at once. His voice pleased me and I could see that my mother loved him too.
From his knee I became acquainted with the girls of the family. Rachel, a demure and sweet-faced young woman, and Samantha, the beauty of the family, won my instant admiration, but Deb, as everybody called her, repelled me by her teasing ways. They were all gay as larks and their hearty clamor, so far removed from the quiet gravity of my grandmother Garland's house, pleased me. I had an immediate sense of being perfectly at home.
There was an especial reason why this meeting should have been, as it was, a joyous hour. It was, in fact, a family reunion after the war. The dark days of sixty-five were over. The Nation was at peace and its warriors mustered out. True, some of those who had gone "down South" had not returned. Luke and Walter and Hugh were sleeping in The Wilderness, but Frank and Richard were safely at home and father was once more the clarion-voiced and tireless young man he had been when he went away to fight. So they all rejoiced, with only a passing tender word for those whose bodies filled a soldier's nameless grave.
There were some boys of about my own age, William's sons, and as they at once led me away down into the grove, I can say little of what went on in the house after that. It must have been still in the warm September weather for we climbed the slender leafy trees and swayed and swung on their tip-tops like bobolinks. Perhaps I did not go so very high after all but I had the feeling of being very close to the sky.
The blast of a bugle called us to dinner and we all went scrambling up the bank and into the "front room" like a swarm of hungry shotes responding to the call of the feeder. Aunt Deb, however shooed us out into the kitchen. "You can't stay here," she said. "Mother'll feed you in the kitchen."
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