Authors: Jeanette Gilge
wind howled around the corner
sending a shiver down Emma
s back and
fingertips. She stretched
to light the
lamp high on the bracket, against the log wall.
Must be ten below,
as she pulled on
her heavy woolen coat and
bert. He shuffled toward
intent on fastening
two clothespins together.
You watch baby George,
t let Fred climb on
keep Ellie out
of the water pail.
She bent closer.
Take good care
of them and Saturday, when Papa comes home, I
tell him what a big boy you are.
after I sleep?
No. This is Thursday. Two more sleeps and it
And Papa comes home!
She hugged him.
s right! Now you watch
the little ones real good,
ll be back in a little while.
Casting a furtive glance at three-year-old Fred
Ellie, seventeen months, who
like two puppies under the table, Emma tied her
snug, picked u
p the l
ntern, and slipped out the door. Baby George, three months old, had just finished nursing.
d sleep —unless Ellie rocked the cradle
t mind doing chores while Al was away
working all week in the
lumber camp. The barn with its
warm-animal smells was a welcome change from the
dark cabin, though it, too, was dark. But it was leaving
the three little one
s in five-year-old Albert
s care three
times a day
knotted her stomach.
The taunting wind tore at her coat
toward the barn. It wrenched the door out of her hands
s she unlatched it. She tugged
the door shut be
her, her heart thumping, and
groped for the
lantern in the
dusk. She lit it and hung it on a nail covered
with sparkling frost crystal
Another time she would
a moment to admire the diamond
adorning every nail, bolt, and hinge, but not tonight.
he hurried to give the noisy chickens their steaming
hot water, it, would be cold in seconds and frozen before
they could finish drinking it,
Poor things, with their
winter as I am,
s only the
She grunted as she d
ragged a pitchfork full of hay
ward the ox.
For a moment Emma wished they were living in
town again, so Al could be home every night, and she
t have to leave the little
ones alone like this.
But only for
a moment. She hadn
t forgotten what liv
ing in town had done to Al.
In the early days of their marriage,
rthern Wisconsin homestead, Al had
always been full
of bright-eyed banter, no matter
hard he worked.
After they moved to Phillips
in hopes of
saving enough money for taxes and
a team of horses for
farm it was as though the day
barely enough energ
y to drag himself home, dull-eyed and sullen. And month after month, the cost of necessities ate up all but a few crumbs of his wages.
Now, as she dragged hay to the cows, Emma
February day a year ago when Al had sat
on a sheet of
He had thrown his stub of a pencil across the table
Emma? What say we move back home?
er what she had answered, she
been so t
aken by surprise, but they had talked way past
sual bedtime and decided that, if they were going
move back, they should
do it in the spring.
next day, pictures had flashe
d through her mind
She could see the little o
nes hunting across the slope of
the field toward the cedar swamp, the curve of the river
below the ho
use, blue-green cabbage leaves
drops dancing on
them, dew-covered grass sparkling in
e morning sun.
That day she had ad
mitted to herself how much she
despised the clatter of he
avy boots on the board sidewalk
the front window, the dust that rolled up from
the alley and settled on her, nice, clean wash each time a
buggy went by, the constant scolding of the gravel—
voiced woman to the east and the whining of the one to
the west. And worst
of all, the constant, fear that one of
the little ones would get out of the fenced-in yard and
into the busy street.
The more she thought about
more she wanted to go back. Were the forget-me-nots
still there under the south window and the Wind Lake,
roses still alive? In town t
here was little she could do to
help Al, except care for the house and children and tend
a tiny garden in summer. On the farm she could do
She would miss
to church, of course. She
miss being with people who loved the Lord, and she
certainly miss the singing, but most
of all she
having the pastor
s words to think about during the
week. But Al said he planned to get the neighbours together and see about finding a pastor to come
once a month at first. She
d keep praying,
one day they
d have their own little church.
0h, and it would be good to
be near her
r and Winnie
and Walter and Dick
had helped deliver Albert and Fred, but
had been born in town. The doctor who had
a hurry, because he had another
oman in labor on the other end of town. He
say the least. It would be good
to have Mrs.
help with the next one.
Emma had been ready to start packing immediately
to glance across the street and
the Riley children cavorting in the snow.
do without Mrs. Riley?
she had said right out loud.
When Fred fell downstairs and cut his chin, when Al
sliver under his thumbnail, when Ellie, cried so
hard she turned blue, and goodness knows how many
other times, Emma had called for Kate Riley. Each time,
s light-hearted wisdom had set Emma
straight again. And it wasn
t just in times of crisis.
t count the times the two women had
run across that street to share some comical or touching
incident as well.
g, Emma leaned on the pitchfork a mo
ment. What she would give to hear Kate Riley
right now, and to see that warm glow of approval in her
eyes. She cou
ld picture Kate as
told her they were moving
back to the homestead, the
light from the kitchen window catching the coils
you, girl. But
tis back with
the river you should
she had said, all
hile, tucking stray locks of Em
s hair, into her
Emma were one
of her daughters. Emma
had wanted to bury her hea
s shoulder and sob
she had mustered
a smile instead and filled the: teapo
s the matter with me!
Here I stand daydreaming while the little ones are
She hurried back for
again, as she dragged more hay to the cows,
slipped back. It
was just such times as these winter days
that Al had warned her about that night over
ue, checked oilcloth. They simply
had to have
so he would have to work in the lumber camp in win
ter. It would mean he
d be gon
week, every week
she would have to do the milking and take care