L- .-_ i
Meditations by a streamside.
TEXT AND ILLUSTRATIONS BY
AUTHOR OF THE COUNTRY SCHOOL IN NEW ENGLAND
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
By D. APPLETON AND COMPANY.
ELECTROTYPED AND PRINTED
AT THE APPLETON PRESS, U. S. A.
IN what this volume tells of the farmer's boy, readers will
find that many episodes and interests in the life of the boy are
not even mentioned. One book, indeed, would not contain them
all. There is, however, one important omission that is intentional
-his school life. The reason for this is that the writer treated the
subject in detail in a volume uniform with this, published last year.
Its title is The Country School in New England, and its pub-
lishers are D. Appleton and Company, of New York. It is also to
be explained that, while the present volume is primarily about the
boy on the farm, it is intended that the rest of the family, in par-
ticular the girl, shall not altogether lack attention either in text
r pictures. CLIFTON JOHNSON.
HADLEY, MASS., June, 1894.
COUNTRY CHILDREN IN GENERAL.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Meditations by a streamside .
The morning scrub at the sink
Late to supper
In the January thaw-wet feet
Sliding by the riverside .
Comfort by the fire on a cold day
Bringing in wood .
Winding the clock
On the fence over the brook
Rubbing down old Billy
A drink of sap
A new picture paper
A hillside sheep pasture
The opening of the fishing season
Leap-frog in the front yard
A blossom for the baby
Playing "Indian" .
On the way to pasture .
Discussing the colt
A little housekeeper
Some fun in a boat
Advising the hired boy .
Waiting for the dinner horn.
Eating clover blossoms .
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
In swimming 51
Cutting their names in a tree-trunk Facing 52
Weeding onions 54
Working out his "stent". 57
A faithful follower 60
Two who have been a-borrowing 63
The Fourth of July 65
Getting ready to mow. 67
On the hay tedder 68
The boy rakes after 71
A summer evening game of tag Facing 72
Waders-they wet their "pants" 73
A voyage on a log 76
A chipmunk up a tree. .81
Baiting the cows by the roadside 82
The boys and their steers 85
Shooting with a sling 87
A corner of the sheep yard. 89
Helping grandpa husk Facing 90
Out for a tramp .
A drink at the tub in the back yard 92
Over the pasture hills to the chestnut trees Facing 93
A mud turtle 95
Weeding the posy bed 98
Grandpa husks sweet corn for dinner, and tells a story at the same time .oo
A game of croquet 102
Afternoon on the front porch 104
A sawmill 07
Going up for a slide I. Io8
A winter ride I. . .
Washing the supper dishes Facing 112
Sliding on the frost 114
THE FARMER'S BOY.
ON New-Years morning the first thing the boy hears is the
voice of his father calling from the foot of the stairs,
"Come, Frank-time to get up!"
You may perhaps imagine that the boy leaps lightly from his
bed, and that he is soon clattering merrily down the stairs to the
tune of his own whistle. But the real, live boy who will fit so
romantic and pretty an impression it would be hard to find.
Our boy Frank is so unheroic as to barely grunt out a response
that shall give his father to understand that he has heard him, and
then he turns over and slumbers again. It is six o'clock. The first
gray hints of the coming day have begun to penetrate the little
chamber. The boy's clothing lies in a heap on the floor just where
he jumped out of it in his haste the night before to get out of
the frosty atmosphere and into his bed. In one corner of the
room is a decrepit chair, whose cane-seat bottom had some time
ago increased its original leakiness to such a degree that it had
been judged unsuited to the pretensions of the sitting-room below
stairs, and been banished to the chambers. An old trunk with a
THE FARMER'S BOY.
cloth cover thrown over it, and a stand with a cracked little mirror
above, are the other most striking articles of furnishing.
The walls of the room are not papered, and where the bed stands
the bedposts have bruised the plaster so that you catch a glimpse
or two of the lath behind. Yet the walls are not so bare as they
might be, for the vacant space is made interesting by a large, legal-
looking certificate that affirms that the boy's father, by the payment
of thirty dollars, has been made a life member of the Home Mis-
sionary Society. The boy is rather proud of this fact; for, though
he does not know what it all means, he feels sure it is something
good and religious. He often reads the certificate, and ciphers out
the names of the distinguished men who have put their signatures
at the foot of the document; and he likes to look at the Bible scene
pictured at the top, and takes pleasure in the elaborate frame, all
made out of hemlock and pine cones. He is tempted to the belief
that he is blessed above most boys in having a father who has the
honor to be a life member of the Home Missionary Society, and
who possesses such a certificate in such a frame. Indeed, he has
gone much further than this upon occasion, and has complaisantly
concluded that his folks were pretty sure of going to heaven in
the end-at any rate, their chances were better than those of most
of the neighbors. He knew very well his folks were more religious
than most, and wasn't his father a life member of the Home Mis-
sionary Society ?
Our boy did not think these thoughts on New-Year's morning.
Getting-up time came while it was still too dark to make out much
besides the dim shapes of the articles about the room. Even the
gayly colored soap advertisement he had hung next to the mis-
sionary certificate was dull and shapeless, and the garments depend-
ing from the long row of nails in the wall at the foot of the bed
could not be told apart.
The morning is very
cold. The window panes
are rimed with frost, so
that hardly a spot of
clear glass remains un-
touched, and there is a
cloudy puff of vapor
from among the pillows
with the boy's every
The boy's father,
after he had properly
warned his son of the
approach of day, made
the kitchen fire and
went out to the barn to
feed the cattle. When -
he returns to the house The morning scrub at the sink.
he appears to be aston-
ished that Frank has not come down, though one would think
he might have got used to it by this time. He stalks to the up-
stairs door and says, in tones whose sternness seems to prophesy
dire things if not met with prompt obedience: Frank don't you
THE FARMER'S BOY.
hear me? I called you a quarter o' an hour ago. I want you to
get up right off!"
Comin'," says Frank, and he rubs his eyes and tries to muster
resolution to get out into the cold.
"Well, it's 'bout time!" returns his father, "and you better be
spry about it, too."
When you sleep on a feather bed it lets you down into its
yielding mass, so that if you have enough clothes on top you can
sleep in tropical contentment. There is no chance for the frost to
get in at any of the corners. Frank felt that his happiness would
be complete were he allowed to doze on half the morning in his
snug nest, but he knew it was hopeless aspiring to such bliss, and
a few minutes later he appeared down-stairs, and the way he ap-
peared was this: his hair was tumbled topsy-turvy, his eyes had still
a sleepy droop, and he was in his shirt sleeves and stocking feet.
He had no fondness for freezing in his room any longer than was
necessary after he was once out of bed, and he always left such
garments as he could spare down-stairs by the stove. Of course,
he had not washed. That he would do just before breakfast, at the
kitchen sink, after the outdoor work was done.
The half-dressed boy, as soon as he gets down-stairs, hastens to
make friends with the sitting-room stove, where a fire, with the aid
of "chunks," has been kept all night. A light is burning in the
kitchen, and his mother is clattering about there, thawing things
out and getting breakfast. The boy hugs the stove as closely
as the nature of it will allow, and turns himself this way and
that to let the heat soak in thoroughly all around. Then he puts
Late to supper.
on the heavy pair of shoes he left the night before in a comfort-
able place back of the stove, gets his collar on, and his vest and
coat, pulls a cap down over his ears, and shuffles off to the barn.
Frank is thirteen years old, but he has been one of the workers
whom it has seemed necessary to stir out the first thing in the morn-
ing for years back. He knew how to milk when he was seven, and
he began to bring in wood-a stick at a time-about as soon as he
could walk. He did not grumble at his lot nor think it a hard one,
nor would he had it been ten times worse. Indeed, children, unless
set a bad example by the complaining habits of their elders, or
because they are spoiled by petting and lack of employment, accept
THE FARMER'S BOY.
things as they find them, and make the best of them. Even the
farm debt, which may burden the elders very heavily and keep all
the family on the borders of shabbiness for years, makes but a light
and occasional impression on the youngsters. Then as to those acci-
dents that are continually happening on a farm, and that are so
heart-breaking and discouraging to the poorer ones-the collapse
of a wagon, the sickness of the best cow, the death of the old horse,
the giving out of the kitchen stove so that a new one is absolutely
necessary; the children may shed a few tears, but work, and the
little pleasures they so readily discover under the most untoward
conditions, soon make the sun shine again and the mists of trouble
melt into forgetfulness.
Boys on small farms which have only two or three cows do not
milk regularly the father or an older brother does it; but if the
rest of them are
away from home or
too busy with other
:!' work, the boy is
called upon. Per-
haps the father has
to go so many miles
over the hills to
market, that he will
not get home until
Int the January thaw-wet feet.
well on in the even-
ing. In that case you find the boy at nightfall poking about
the glooms of the barn with a lantern, and doing all the odd
jobs that need to be done before he can milk. When these are
finished, the little fellow gets the big tin pail at the house, hangs
his lantern on a nail in the stable, and sits down beside one of the
cows. He sets the milk streams playing a pleasant tune on the reso-
nant bottom of the pail, and from time to time snuggles his head
up against the cow for the sake of the warmth. If the cow gives a
pailful, his knees begin to ache and shake with the weight of the
milk before he has done, and his fingers grow cramped and stiff with
their long-continued action. However, the boy always perseveres
to the end; and if, when he takes the milk in, his mother says he
has got more than his pa does, he grows an inch taller in conscious
pride of his merits.
There is a difference in cows. Some require a good deal more
muscle than others to bring the milk; some are skittish. One of
these uneasy cows will keep whacking you on the ear with her tail
every minute or two all through the milking, and at the same time
the coarse and not overclean tuft of hair on the end will go stinging
along your cheek. Then the cow will be continually stepping away
from you sidewise, and you have to keep edging after her with your
stool. These unexpected and uncalled-for dodges make the streams
of milk go astray, and you get your overalls and boots well splashed
as one of the results; another is that you lose your temper, and
give the cow a fierce rap with your fist. That makes matters worse
instead of better. The cow seems to have no notion of what you
are chastising her for, and gets livelier than ever. It sometimes
happens, in the end, that the cow gives the boy a sudden poke with
a hind foot that sends him sprawling-pail, stool, and all. Then the
THE FARMER'S BOY.
boy feels that his cup of sorrow has run over; he knows that his
pail of milk has.
When a boy gets into trouble he always feels that the best thing
he can do is to go and hunt up his mother. That is what our boy
who met disaster in the cow-stable did. He left his lantern behind,
but he carried in the pail with the dribble of milk and foam that
was still left in the bottom.
His mother was cutting a loaf of bread on the supper-table.
"Are you through so soon?" she asked. "Why, Johnny, what's
the matter?" she says, noticing his woe-begone face.
"The cow kicked me!" replies Johnny.
His mother gets excited, and steps over to examine him. Well,
I should say so!" she exclaimed. You're completely plastered
from head to foot. Spilt all the milk, too, didn't it? Well, well,
what's the matter with the old cow?"
I don' know," replied Johnny tearfully. "She just up and
kicked me right over."
"Well, now, Johnny, never mind," said his mother soothingly.
" You needn't try to milk her any more to-night. You better tie
her legs together next time when you milk. She's real hateful,
that cow is. I've seen the way she'll hook around the other
cows lots of times. Here, you run into the bedroom, and I'll
get your Sunday clothes for you to change into. Wait a min-
ute till I lay down a newspaper for you to put your old duds
A little later Johnny went out to the barn and brought in the
lantern. Then he sat down to supper, and by the time he had
Sliding by the riverside.
eaten ten mouthfuls of bread and milk he felt entirely comforted
and blissful after his late trials.
The boy's usual work at night was to let the cows in from the
barnyard where they had been standing, to get down hay and cut
up stalks for them, water and feed the horses, bring in wood, not
forgetting kindlings for the kitchen stove and chunks to keep the
sitting-room fire overnight, and, last but not least, he had to do
all the odd helping his father happened to call on him for.
The boy enjoyed most of this, more or less, but his real happi-
ness came when work was done and he could wash up and sit down
to his supper. The consciousness that he had got through the day's
labor, the comfort of the indoor warmth, the keen appetite he had
won- all combined to give such a complaisancy, both physical and
mental, as might move many a grown-up and pampered son of
fortune to envy.
The boy usually spends his evenings very quietly. He studies
his lessons on the kitchen table, or he draws up close to the sitting-
room fire and reads a story paper. There is not so much literature
in the average family but that the boy will go through this paper
from beginning to end, advertisements and all, and the pictures half
a dozen times over. In the end, the paper is laid away in a closet
up-stairs, and when he happens on dull times and doesn't know what
else to do with himself, he wanders up there and delves in this pile
of papers. He finds it very pleasant, too, stirring up the echoes of
past enjoyment by a renewed acquaintance with the stories and
pictures he had found interesting long before.
Evenings are varied with family talks, and sometimes the boy
THE FARMER'S BOY.
induces his grandfather to repeat some old rhymes, tell a story, or
sing a song. When there are several children in the family things
often become quite lively of an evening. The older children are
called upon to amuse the younger ones, and they have some high
times. There are lots of fun and noise, and squalling, too, and some
Comfort by the fire on a cold day.
energetic remarks and actions on the part of the elders, calculated
to put a sudden stop to certain of the most enterprising and reck-
less of the proceedings.
The baby is a continual subject of solicitude. His tottering steps
give him many a fall, anyway, and he aspires to climb everything
climbable; and if he doesn't tumble down two or three times getting
up, he is pretty sure to do it after the accomplishment of his ambi-
tion. Then he makes astonishing expeditions on his hands and
knees. You feel yourself liable to stumble over and annihilate him
almost anywhere. The parents realize these things, and is it any
wonder, when the rest of the flock get to flying around the room
full tilt, that they become alarmed for the baby, and that their voices
get raspy and forceful?
Blindman's buff and tag and general skirmishing are not alto-
gether suited to the little room where, besides the chairs and lounge
and organ, there is a hot stove and a table with a lamp on it.
You need some practice to
get much satisfaction from a
conversation carried on amid
the hubbub. You have to
shout every word; and if the ..
children happen to have a
special fondness for you, they
do most of their tumbling
right around your chair.
Some of the children's best
times come when the father
and mother throw off all other -
cares and thoughts, and be- -
come for the time being their
companions in the evening en-
joyment. What roaring fun
they have when papa plays
wheelbarrow with them, and Door-sp ;ts.
THE FARMER'S BOY.
puzzles them with some of the sleight-of-hand tricks he learned when
he was young; or when mamma becomes a much entertained lis-
tener while the oldest boy speaks a piece, and rolls his voice, and
keeps his arms waving in gestures from beginning to end! The
other children are quite overpowered by the larger boy's eloquence.
Even the baby sits in quiet on the floor, and lets his mouth drop
open in astonishment.
The mother is apt to be more in sympathy with these goings on
than the father, and I fancy it is on such occasions as he happens to
be absent that they have most of this sort of celebration. At such
a time, too, the children wax confidential, and tell what they intend
to be when they grow up : this one will be a storekeeper, this one
will be a minister, this one a doctor, this one a singer. They all
intend to be rich and famous, and to do some fine things for their
mother some day. They do not pick out any of the callings for love
of gain primarily, but because they think they will enjoy the life. In-
deed, when Tommy said he was going to be a minister, the reason he
gave for this desire was that he wanted to ring the bell every Sunday.
Bedtime comes on a progressive scale, gauged by the age of the
individual. First the baby is metamorphosed and tucked away in
his crib; then the three-year-old goes through a lingering process
of preparation, and, after a little run in his nightgown about the
room, he is stowed away in crib number two, and his mother sings
him a lullaby, or a song from Gospel Hymns, and that fixes him for
the night. These two occupy the same sleeping room as the parents,
and it adjoins the sitting room. The door to it has been open
all the evening, and it is comfortably warm.
Girls and boys of eight or ten years old will take their own lamps
and march off to the cold upper chambers at eight o'clock or before.
Some of the upper rooms may have a stovepipe running through,
which serves to blunt the edge of the cold a trifle, or. there may be
a register or hole in the floor to allow the heat to come up from
Bringing in wood.
below; but, as a rule, the chambers are shivery places in winter,
and when the youngsters jump in between the icy sheets their teeth
are set chattering, and it is some minutes before the delightful
warmth which follows gains its gradual ascendency.
The boy who sits up as late as his elders is usually well started
14 THE FARMER'S BOY.
in his teens. The children are not inclined to complain of early
hours unless something uncommon is going on. They are tired
enough by bedtime. Even the older members of the family are
physically weary with the day's work, and the evening talk is apt
to be lagging and sleepy in its tone, and the father gets to yawning
over his reading, and the mother to nodding over her sewing. Many
times the chiefs of the household will start bedward soon after eight;
and as to the growing boy, he usually disregards the privilege of late
hours, and takes himself off at whatever time after supper his tired-
ness begins to get overpowering.
It would be difficult to say surely that the boy's room I described
early in this chapter was an average one. The boy is not coddled
with the best room in the house. In some dwellings the upper
story has but two or three rooms that are entirely finished. The
rest is open space roughly floored, and with no ceiling but the rafters
and boards of the roof. There are boys who have a bed or two in
such quarters as these, or in a little half-garret room in the L.
These unfinished quarters are the less agreeable if the roof happens
to be leaky. Sounds of dripping water or sifting snow within one's
room are not pleasant. On the other hand, there are plenty of boys
who have rooms with striped paper on the walls, and possibly a rag
carpet under foot, not to speak of other things no less ornate.
In the matter of knickknacks, most boys do not fill their rooms
to any extent with them-the girls are more apt to do this. But a
boy is pretty sure to have some treasures in his room. He is not
very particular where he stows them, and he is likely to have some
severe trials about house-cleaning time. His mother fails to appre-
ciate the value of his special belongings, and is not in sympathy
with his method of placing them. They get disarranged and thrown
away. If fortune favors the boy with the drawers of an old bureau,
he is fairly safe; but things he puts on the shelf and stand, and espe-
cially those he puts right along there in a row under the head of
the bed-oh, where are they?
A winter breakfast on a farm is over about sunrise. All the
rolling hills near and far lie pure and white beneath the dome of
blue, and they sparkle with many a frosty diamond, and sunward
gleam with dazzling radiance. I doubt if the boy cares very much
about this. He is no stickler for beauty. Questions of comfort
and a good time lie uppermost in his mind. Nature's shifting
forms and colors and movements affect him usually but mildly as
a matter of beauty or sentiment, though in a simple way many
things touch him to a degree; but commonly the phase that pre-
sents itself uppermost is a physical one. The sun shines on the
snow-it blinds his eyes. A gray day is the dismal forerunner of
a storm. Sunsets, unless particularly gaudy, have no interest, except
as they suggest some weather sign. He delights more in days that
are crystal clear, when every object in the distant hills and valleys
stands sharply distinct, than in the mellow days that soften the
landscape with their gauzy blues. He loves action, not dreams.
Boys, like animals, feel a friskiness in their bones on the approach
of a storm. They will run and shout then for the mere pleasure
of it, and play, of whatever sort, gets an added zest. It may be
the dead of winter, but that does not keep them indoors. If the
wind blows a gale and whistles and rattles about the home build-
16 THE FARMER'S BOY.
ings and makes the trees crack and creak, so much the better. Nor
will the onset of the storm itself drive them indoors. The whirling
flakes may increase
in number till they
.1. blur all the land-
scape, and go seeth-
ing in shifting wind-
rows over every hil-
lock; yet it will be
some time before
the children will
pause in their slid-
ing, skating, or run-
ning to think of
the indoor fire.
When they do
go in, it is as if
all the out-of-door
breezes had gained
They all come tum-
bling through the
Hrinigr the clock. door with a bang
and a rush, and
there is a scattering of clinging snow when they pull off their
wraps and throw them into convenient chairs or corners. They
declare they are almost frozen as they stamp their feet about the
kitchen fire, and hug their elbows to their bodies and rub their
fingers over the stove's iron top.
"Well, why didn't you come in before, then ? asks their mother.
"Oh, we was playing," is the answer. "We been having a lots
of fun. The snow's drifted up the road so it's over our shoes now."
You better take off your shoes, if you've got any snow in
'em," the mother says. I declare, how you have slopped up the
floor! And you've made it cold as a barn here, coming' in all in a
lump that way.-Here, Johnny, don't you go into the sitting' room
till you get kind o' dried off and decent."
"I just wanted to get the cat," says Johnny.
"Well, you can't go in on the carpet with such looking' shoes,
cat or no cat!" is his mother's response.
Meanwhile she has taken her broom and brushed out on the
piazza some of the snow lumps and puddles of water the children
The indoor stoves are an important item in the boy's winter
life. It is a matter of perpetual astonishment to him how much
wood those stoves will burn. He has to bring it all in, and he
finds it as much of a drudgery as his sister does the everlasting
washing and wiping of dishes. It is his duty to fill the wood-
boxes about nightfall each day. The wood shed is half dark, and
the day has lost every particle of glow and warmth. He can
rarely get up his resolution to the point of filling the wood-boxes
"chuck full." He puts in what he thinks will do," and lives in
hopes he will not be disturbed in other plans by having to re-
plenish the stock before the regulation time the night following.
THE FARMER'S BOY.
Sometimes he tries to avoid the responsibility of a doubtfully filled
wood-box by referring the case to his mother.
Is that enough, mamma? he says.
Well, have you filled it ?" she asks.
It's pretty full," replies the boy.
Well, perhaps that'll do," responds his mother sympathetically,
and the boy becomes at once conscience free and cheerful.
All through the day, when the boy is in the home neighborhood,
he is continually resorting to the stoves to get warmed up. Every
time he comes in he makes a few passes over the stove with his
hands, and he must be crowded for time if he can not take a turn
or two before the fire to give the heat a chance at all sides. If he
has still more leisure, he gets an apple from the cellar, or a cooky
from the pantry, and eats it while he warms up; or he goes in and
sits by the sitting-room stove and reads a little in the paper. One
curious thing he early finds out is, that he gets cold much quicker
when he is working than when he is playing.
Probably the majority of New England boys spend most of the
winter in school; though in the hill towns, where roads are bad and
houses much scattered, the smaller schools are closed. While he
attends school the boy has not much time for anything but the
home chores; but on Saturdays, and in vacation, he may at times
go into the woods with the men. There is no small excitement
in clinging to the sled as it pitches along through the rough
wood roads amid a clanking of chains and the shouts of the
driver. The man, who is familiar with the work, seems to have
no hesitation in driving anywhere and over all sorts of obsta-
cles. The boy does
not know whether he
is most exhilarated or
frightened, but he has
no thought of show-
ing a lack of cour-
age, and he hangs
on, and when he
gets to the end
of the journey
thinks he has
been having n the fence over the brook.
some great fun.
The boy has his own small axe, and is all eagerness to prove
his virtues as a woodsman. He whacks away energetically at some
of the young growths, and when he brings a sapling four inches
through to the ground he is triumphant, and wants all the others to
look and see what he has done. He finds himself getting into quite
a sweat over his work, and he has to roll up his earlaps and get
his overcoat off and hang it on a stump. Then he digs into the
In time the labor becomes monotonous to him, and he is moved
to tramp through the snows and investigate the work of the others.
There is his father making a clean, wide gash in the side of a great
hemlock. Every blow tells, and seems to go just where he wanted
it to. The boy wonders why, when he cuts off a tree, he makes his
cut so jagged. He stands a long time watching his father's chips fly,
20 THE FARMER'S BOY.
and then gains a safe distance to see the tree tremble and totter as
the opposite cuts deepen, at the base, near its heart. What a mighty
crash it makes when it falls! How the snow flies and the branches
snap! The boy is awed for the moment, then is fired with enthu-
siasm, and rushes in with his small axe to help trim off the branches.
After a time there comes a willingness that his father should finish
the operation, and he wanders off to see how the others are get-
By and by he stirs up the neighborhood with shouts to the effect
that he has found some tracks. His mind immediately becomes
chaotic with ideas of hunting and trapping. Now that he has
begun to notice, he finds frequent other tracks, and some, he is
pretty sure, are those of foxes and some of rabbits and some of
squirrels. Why, the woods are just full of game!-he will bring
out his box trap to-morrow, and the certainty grows on him that
he will not only get some creatures that will prove a pleasant
addition to the family larder, but will have some furs nailed up
on the side of the barn that will bring him a nice little sum of
That evening he brought out the box trap and got it into
practice, and made all the younger children wild with excitement
over the tracks he had seen and his plans for trapping. They all
wanted a share, and were greatly disappointed the next day when
their father would not let them go too.
The boy set his trap, and moved it every few days to what he
thought would prove a more favorable place, but he had no luck
to boast of. Yet he caught something three times. The first time
he had the trap set in an evergreen thicket in a little space almost
bare of snow. He was pleased enough, one day, to find the trap
sprung, and at once became all eagerness to know what he had
inside. He pulled out the spindle at the back and looked in, but
the tiny hole did not let in light enough. Very cautiously he lifted
the lid a trifle. Still nothing was to be seen, and he feared the
trap had sprung itself. When he ventured to raise the lid a bit
more, a little, slim-legged field mouse leaped out. The boy clapped
the lid down hard, but the mouse hopped away, and in a flash had
Rubhing, l down O/l Rillv.
22 THE FARMER'S BOY.
disappeared in a hole at the foot of a small tree. The boy was
disappointed in having even such a creature escape him.
The next time, whatever it was he caught gnawed a hole through
the corner of the box, and had gone about its business when our
A drink of sap.
boy made his morning visit to the trap. Then he took the trap
home and lined the inside with tin.
He had no luck for some days after, and finally forgot the trap
altogether. It was not till spring that he happened upon it again.
He felt a tingle of the old excitement in his veins when he saw
that the lid was down. He opened it with all the caution born
of experience, but the red squirrel which was within had been long
dead; and when the boy thought of its slow death by starvation
in that dark box, he felt that he never would want to trap any
more in that way.
The boy finds the woods much more enjoyable than the wood-
pile when it is deposited in the home yard. He knows that as
long as there is a stick of it left he will never have a moment of
leisure that will not be liable to be interrupted with a suggestion
that he go out and shake the saw awhile. The hardest woods, that
make the hottest fires, are the ones that the saw bites into most
slowly and are the most discouraging. The best the boy can do
is to hunt out such soft wood as the pile contains, and all the small
sticks. He makes some variety in his labor by piling up the sawed
sticks in a bulwark to keep the wind off, only it has to be acknowl-
edged that he never really succeeds in accomplishing this purpose.
But the unsawed pile grows gradually smaller, and his folks are
not so severe that they expect the boy to do a man's work or
to keep at it as steadily. He stops now and then to play with
the smaller children, and to go to the house to see what time it
is or to get something to eat. Besides, his father works with him
a good deal, and if there are times when the minutes go slowly,
the days, as a whole, slip along quickly, and, before the boy is
aware, winter is at an end if the woodpile isn't.
WITH the coming of March comes
spring, according to the almanac,
".'- but in New England the snow-
storms and wintry gales hold sway
t- often to the edge of April. Yet
you can generally look for some
vigorous thaws before the end of
Sthe month. There are occasional
S days of such warmth and quiet that
S you can fairly hear the snow melt,
and the air is full of the tinkle of
running brooks. You catch the sound
of a woodpecker tapping in the orch-
ard, and the small boy tumbles into
the house, jubilant over the fact that
A ,,7, pic tuPaper. he has seen a bluebird flitting through
the branches of the elm before the house. All the children make
haste to run out into the yard to see the sight. Even the mother
throws a shawl over her head and steps out on the piazza.
Yessir! there he is!" says Tommy, excitedly. "That's a blue-
bird, sure pop!"
Puddles have gathered in the soggy snow along the roadside,
and the little stream in the meadow has overflowed its banks. When
the boy perceives this, he becomes immediately anxious to get into
his rubber boots and go wading. His mother has a doubtful opinion
of these wadings, but it is such a matter of life and death to the
boy that she has not the heart to refuse him, and contents herself
with admonitions not to stay out too long, not to wade in too deep,
not to get his clothes wet, etc., etc.
The boy begins with one of the small puddles, for he has these
cautions in his mind, but the scope of his enterprise continually en-
larges, and he presently finds himself trying to determine just how
deep a place he can get into without letting the water in over his
boot-tops. He does not desist from the experiment until he feels a
cold trickle down one of his legs, from which he concludes that he
got in just a little too far that time, and he makes a hasty retreat.
But he has made his mind easy on the point as to how deep he
can go, and now turns his attention to poking about with a stick
he has picked up. He is quite charmed with the way he can make
the water and slush spatter with it. When he gets tired with this,
and the accumulating wet begins to penetrate his clothing here and
there, he adjourns to the meadow and sets his stick sailing down
the stream there. It fills his heart with delight to see the way it
pitches and whirls, and he slumps along the brook borders and
shouts at it as he keeps it company. Later he returns to the road-
way and makes half a dozen dams or more to stop the tiny rills
that are coursing down its furrows. He does this with such
serious thoughtfulness and with such frequent, studious pauses
THE FARMER'S BOY.
as would well fit the actions of some of the world's great phi-
No doubt the boy is making discoveries and learning lessons;
for the farm, with varied Nature always so close, is an excellent
kindergarten, and the farm child is all the time improving its oppor-
tunities after some fashion.
When our boy goes indoors his mother shows symptoms of
alarm over his condition. He thinks he has kept pretty dry, but
his mother wants to know what on earth he's been doing to get
"Ain't been doin' nothing, says Tommy.
"Well, I should say so!" remarks his mother. "Here, you let
me sit you in this chair to kind o' drean off, while I pull off them
She has to wring the mittens out at the sink before she hangs
them on the line back of the stove. Next she pulls off the boy's
boots, and stands him up while she takes off his overcoat, and lastly
pushes him, chair and all, up by the fire, where he can put his feet
on the stove-hearth. Tommy did not see the necessity for all this
fuss. He felt dry enough, and all right; yet, as long as his mother
does not get disturbed to the chastising point, he finds a good deal
of comfort in having her attend to him in this way.
It was on one of these still, sunshiny March days that it occurred
to the oldest boy of the household that it was about time for the
sap to begin to run. He does not waste much time in making
tracks for the shop, where he hunts up some old spouts and an
auger. He will tap two or three of the trees near the house, any-
way. There is no lack of helpers. All the smaller children are on
hand to watch and advise him, and to fetch pans from the house
and prop them up under the spouts. They watch eagerly for the
appearance of the first drops, and when they sight them each tells the
rest that "There they are!" and It does run !" and they want their
older brother to stop his boring at the next tree and come and look.
But William feels that he is too old to show enthusiasm about such
things, and he simply tells them that he guesses that he's "seen sap
'fore now." The children take turns applying their mouths to the
end of spout number one to catch the first drops that trickle down
it. In days following they are frequent visitors to these tapped
trees, with the avowed purpose of seeing how the sap is running;
THE FARMER'S BOY.
but it is to be noticed that at the same time they seem always to
find it convenient to take a drink from a pan.
In the more hilly regions of New England most of the farms
have a sugar orchard on them, and the tree-tapping that begins
about the house is soon transferred to the woods. The boy goes
along, too-indeed, what work is there about a farm that he does
not have a hand in, either of his own will or because he has to?
But the phase I wish now to speak of is that found on the farms
that possess no maple orchard. The boy sees that the trees about
the house are attended to, as a matter of course, and he guards the
pans and warns off the neighbors' boys when he thinks they are
making too free with the pans' contents. Each morning he goes
out with a pail, gathers the sap, and sets it boiling in a kettle on
the stove. In time comes the final triumph, when, some morning,
the family leaves the molasses pot in the cupboard, and they have
maple sirup on their griddle-cakes.
It is not every boy whose enterprise stops with the tapping of
the shade trees in front of the house. On many farms there is an
occasional maple about the fields, and sometimes there are a few in
a patch of near woodland. In such a case the boy gathers a lot of
elder-stalks while it is still winter, cleans out the pith, and shapes
them into spouts. At the first approach of mild weather he taps the
scattered trees and distributes among them every receptacle the
house affords that does not leak, or whose leaks can be soldered or
beeswaxed, to catch the sap. After that, while the season lasts, he
and his brother swing a heavy tin can on a staff between them and
make periodical tours sap-collecting. These frequent tramps through
A hillside sheep pasture.
mud and snow in all kinds of weather soon become monotonously
wearisome, and the boys usually find one season of this kind of ex-
With the going of the snow comes a mud spell that lasts fully a
month. It takes you forever to drive anywhere with a team. It is
drag, drag, drag, and slop, slop, slop all the way. Even the home
dooryard is little better than a bog, and the boy can never seem to
step out anywhere without coming in loaded with mud-at least, so
his mother says. She has continually to be warning him to keep
out of the sitting-room, and at times seems to be thrown into as
much consternation over some of his footprints that she finds on
the kitchen floor as was Robinson Ciusoe over the discovery of that
lone footprint in the sand. Just as soon as she hears the boy's
shuffle on the piazza and catches sight of him coming in at the
kitchen door, she says, There, Willy, don't you come in till you've
wiped your feet."
I have," says Willy.
"Why, just look at 'em!" his mother responds. "I should
think you'd got about all the mud there was in the yard on
I never saw such sticky old stuff," says Willy. Your broom's
most wore out already."
Well," remarked his mother, what are you getting' into the mud
for all over that way, every time you step out? Pa's laid down
boards all around the yard to walk on. Why don't you go on
"They ain't laid where I want to go," replies Willy.
30 THE FARMER'S BOY.
"Anyway," is his mother's final remark, I can't have my kitchen
floor mussed up by you trackin' in every five minutes."
But the really severe experiences in this line come when the barn-
yard is cleaned out. For several days the boy's shoes are "a sight,"
and his journeyings are accompanied with such an odor that his
mother warns him off entirely from her domains. He is not allowed
to walk in and get that piece of pie for his lunch, but has it handed
out to him through the narrowly opened kitchen door. When meal-
time comes he has to leave his shoes and overalls in the woodshed,
and comes into the house in his stocking feet. Even then his
mother makes derogatory remarks, though he tells her he "can't
It is astonishing how quickly, after the snow goes, the green will
clothe the fields, and how, with bursting buds and the first blossoms,
all Nature seems teeming with life again. I think the sentiment of
the boy is touched by this season more than by any other. The
unfolding of all this new life is full of mysterious charm. It is a
delight to tread the velvety turf, to find the first flowers, to catch the
oft-repeated sweetness of a phoebe's song, or the more forceful trill-
ing of a robin at sundown. It is at nightfall that spring appeals to
the boy most strongly. He can still feel the heat of the sun when
it lingers at the horizon, and in the gentle warmth of its rays en-
joys a run about the yard, and claps at the little clouds of midges
that are sporting in the air. As soon as the sun disappears there
is a gathering of cool evening damps, and from the swampy hol-
lows come many strange pipings and croakings. The boy wonders
vaguely about all the creatures that make these noises, and imitates
their voices from the home lawn. When the dusk begins to deepen
into darkness he is glad to get into the light and warmth of the
To tell the truth, our boy is rather afraid of the dark. Just what
he fears is but dimly defined, though bears, thieves, and Indians are
among the fearsome shades that people the night glooms. It does
not take much of a noise, when he is out alone in the dark, to set his
heart thumping, and his imagination pictures dreadful possibilities
32 THE FARMER'S BOY.
in the shapes and movements that greet his eyesight. This fear is
not confined to out-of-doors. He has a notion that there may be a
lurking savage in the pantry, or the cellar, or the dusky corners of
the hallways, or, worst of all, under his bed. Those fears are most
vivid after he has been reading some tale of desperate adventure or
of mystery, dark doings and evil characters. Very good books and
papers often have in them the elements that produce these scary
effects. These are the sources of his timidity, for dime-novel trash,
although not altogether absent, is not common in the country.
The boy does not usually acquire much of his fear from the talk of
his fellows, and his parents certainly do not foster such feelings. It
is undoubtedly his reading, mainly. He rarely feels fear if he has
company, or if he is where there is light, or after he gets into bed-
that is, unless there are noises. What makes these noises you hear
sometimes in the night ? You certainly don't hear such noises in
the daytime. The boy does not mind rats. He knows them. They
can race through the walls, and grit their teeth on the plastering,
and throw all those bricks and things, whatever they are, down
inside there that they want to. But it's these creakings and crack-
ings and softer noises, that you can't tell what they are, that are
the trouble. The very best that you can do is to pull the covers
up over your head and shiver into sleep again. But if the boy
has frights, they are intermittent, for the most part, and soon
With the thawing of the snow on the hills 'and the early rains
comes, each spring, a time of flood on all the brooks and rivers that
no one appreciates more than the boy who is so fortunate as to have
a home on their banks. Water, in whatever shape, possesses a fas-
cination for the boy, if we except that for washing purposes. It
does not matter whether it is a dirty puddle or a sparkling brook or
the spirting jet at the highway watering-trough-he wants to paddle
and splash in every one. He even sees a touch of the beautiful and
sublime in water in some of its effects. There is a charm to him
in the placid pond that mirrors every object along its banks, or, on
brisker days, in the choppy waves that break the surface and curl
up on the muddy shore. He likes to follow the course of a brook,
and takes pleasure in noting the clearness of its waters and in watch-
ing its crystal leaps. When spring changes the quiet streams into
34 THE FARMER'S BOY.
muddy torrents, and they become foaming and wild and unfamiliar,
the boy finds the sight impressive and exhilarating.
But it is on the larger rivers that the floods have most meaning.
The water sets back in all the hollows, and broadens into wide lakes
on the meadows, and covers portions of the main road. The boy
cuts a notch in a stick and sets his mark at the water's edge, that
he may keep posted as to how fast the river is rising. He gets out
the spike pole and fishes out the flood-wood that floats within
reach. If he is old enough to manage a boat, he rows out into the
stream and hitches on to an occasional log or large stick that is
sailing along on the swift current. For this purpose, if he is alone,
he has an iron hook fastened at the back end of the boat that he
pounds into the log. It is hard, jerky work towing a log to shore,
and he does not always succeed in landing his capture. Sometimes
the hook will keep pulling out; sometimes the thing he hitches
onto is too bulky or clumsy, and, after a long, hard pull, panting
and exhausted, he finds himself getting so far downstream that he
reluctantly knocks out the hook, rows inshore, and creeps in the
eddies along the bank back to his starting place. There is just one
trouble about this catching flood-wood-it increases the woodpile
materially, and makes a lot of work, sawing and chopping, that the
boy has little fancy for.
In the early spring there is sometimes a long-continued spell of
dry weather. In the woods the trees are still bare, and the sunlight
has free access to the leaf-carpeted earth. At such a time, if a fire
gets started among the shriveled and tinderlike leaves it is no easy
task to put it out. Whole neighborhoods turn out to fight it, and
The opening of the fishr season.
several days and nights may pass before it is under control. The
boy is among the first on the spot with his hoe, and immediately
begins a vigorous scratching to clear a path in the leaves that the
fire will not burn across. The company scatters, and sometimes the
boy finds himself alone. Close in front, extending away in both
directions, is the ragged fire line leaping and crackling. The woods
are still, the sun shines bright, and there is a sense of mystery and
danger in the presence of those sullen, devouring flames. Now
comes a puff of wind that causes the fire to make a sudden dash
forward and shrouds the boy with smoke. He runs back to a point
36 THE FARMER'S BOY.
of safety and listens to the far-off shouts of the men. The fire is
across the path he hoed, and he picks a piece of birch to eat while
he clambers up the hill to find company.
When night comes the boy wanders off home, to do his work and
eat supper. If he is allowed, he is out again with his hoe in the
evening. The scene is full of a wild charm. From the somberness
of the unburned tracts you look into the hot, wavering line of daz-
zling flames and on into regions where linger many sparkling embers
which the fire has not yet burned out, and now and then there is a
pile of wood that is a great mass of glowing coals, and again the
high stump of some dead tree that burns like a torch in the black-
ness. The boy thinks the men do more talking and advising than
work. He does not accomplish much himself. The men keep to-
gether, and he hangs about the dark, half-lighted groups, listens to
what is said, and with the others does some desultory scratching to
keep the fire from gaining new ground at the point they are guard-
ing. By-and-by there comes a man hallooing his way through
the woods to them, who has brought a milk-can full of coffee.
Every man and boy takes a drink, and they all crack jokes and ex-
change opinions with the bearer till he starts off to find the next
group. Some of the men stay on guard all night, but the boy and
his father, about ten o'clock, leave the crackle and darting of the
flames behind them, and take a gloomy wood-road that leads toward
home. There has been nothing very alarming in the day's adven-
tures, but the boy never forgets the experience.
Fire is fascinating to the boy in any form. He burned his
fingers at the stove damper when he was a baby. He likes to look
Leap-frog in the front yard.
at the glow of a lamp; and a candle, with its soft flicker and halo,
is especially pleasing. Then those new matches his folks have got,
that go off with a snap and burst at once into a sudden blaze-he
has never seen anything like them. They remind him of the de-
lights of Fourth of July.
A chief event of the spring is a bonfire in the garden. There is
an accumulation of dead vines and old pea-brush and apple-tree trim-
mings that often makes a large heap. The fire is enjoyable at what-
ever time it comes, but it is at its best if they touch it off in the
evening. The whole family comes out to see it then, and Frank
fixes up a seat for his mother and the baby out of a board and some
blocks, and invites some of the neighbors' boys to be on hand. He
puts an armful of leaves under a corner of the pile and sets it going
with some of those parlor matches. The neighbors' boys stand
around and tell him how, and even offer to do it themselves. When
the blaze fairly starts and begins to trickle up through the twigs
above it the smaller children jump for joy and clap their hands, and
run to get handfuls of leaves and scattered rubbish to throw on.
Frank pokes the pile this way and that with his pitchfork, and the
neighbors' boys light the ends of long sticks and wave them about
in the air. Even the baby coos with delight. The father has a rake
and does most of the work that is really necessary, while the boys
furnish all the action and noise needful to make the occasion a suc-
cess. When the blaze is at its highest and the heat penetrates far
back, the company becomes quiet, and they stand about exchanging
occasional words and simply watching the flames lick up the brush
and flash upward and disappear amid the smoke and sparks that
THE FARMER'S BOY.
rise high toward the dark deeps of the sky. The frolic is resumed
when the pile of brush begins to fall inward, and presently mother
says she and the baby and the smallest children must go in. The
latter protest, but they have to go, and not long after the embers of
the fire are all raked together, and Frank and the neighbors' boys
fool around a little longer, and get about a half-dozen final warm-
ing-ups and then tramp off homeward in whistling happiness.
On the day following the garden is plowed and harrowed. Then
the boy has to help scratch it over and even it off with a rake, and
is kept on the jump all the time getting out seeds and planters and
tools, that never seem to be in the right place at the right time.
Meanwhile he induces his father to let him have a corner of the
garden for his own, and gets his advice as to what he had best put
in it to make his fortune. He scratches over the plot about twice
as fine as the rest of the garden, and won't let any of the old hens
that are hanging around looking for worms ccme near it. He has
concluded that peas are the things to bring in money, but he is
tempted to try three or four hills of potatoes between the rows
after he has the peas in. He has saved space for a hill of water-
melons, and, just to fill up the blanks, which seem rather large with
nothing yet up, he puts in as a matter of experiment a number of
other seeds here and there of one sort and another. He puts these
in from time to time along when it comes handy and the thought
occurs to him. He was somewhat astonished at the way things
came up. Indeed, he thought they would never get done coming
up, and they were pretty well mixed in their arrangement. He got
so discouraged over the things that kept sprouting in one corner
that he hoed the whole thing up on that spot and transplanted a
few cabbages on it. He used to get his mother to come out and
look at his garden-patch, and he enjoyed telling her his plans; but
he left that off for a while when the things became so erratic, and
waited till he could thin them out and bring their proceedings within
It is in spring, more than any other season, that the boy's ideas
bud with new enterprises. He forgets most of them by the time
he has them fairly started, and none of them are apt to have any
pecuniary value. But that never damps his enthusiasm in rushing
into new ones. The hunting fever is apt to take him pretty soon
after the snow goes, and he makes a bow and whittles out some
arrows and turns Indian. He may even visit
the resorts of the hens and collect enough
feathers to make a circlet to wear round
his head. Then he goes off and hunts
bears and things, and scalps the neigh-
bors' boys. Sometimes, instead of
e being an Indian, he gets his father
to saw out a wooden gun and
turns pioneer. Then savages and
wild animals both have to catch
it. He will skulk around in the most
A blossom for, the baby. approved fashion and say Bang!" for
his gun every time he fires, and he will like enough kill half a hun-
dred Indians and a dozen grizzly bears in one forenoon. He is
fearless as you please-until night comes.
40 THE FARMER'S BOY.
Not all the boy's hunting is so mild as to stop at the killing off
of bears and Indians. Sometimes he shoots his arrows at real, live
things, or he has a rubber sling, or he practices throwing stones; and
does not resist the temptation to make the birds and squirrels, and
possibly the cats and the chickens, his marks. It is true he rarely
hits any of them; and the sensitive boy, if he seriously hurts one
of the creatures fired at, has a twinge of remorse. But there are
those who will only glory in the straightness of their aim. There
is something of the savage still in their nature, and they feel a
sense of prowess and power in bringing down that which, in spite
of its life and movement, did not escape them. It is to them a
much grander and more enjoyable thing than to hit a lifeless and
The boys-at any rate many of them-are at times, in a thought-
less way, downright cruel. See how they will bang about the old
horse upon occasion! They have no compunctions about drown-
ing a cat or wringing the neck of a chicken, and will run half a mile
to be present at a hog-killing. They have barely a grain of sym-
pathy for the worm they impale on their fish-hooks; they kill the
grasshopper who will not give them "molasses"; they crush the
butterfly's wings in catching it with their straw hats; and they pull
off insects' limbs to see them wriggle, or to find out how the insect
will get along without them. I will not extend the horrible list,
On the way to pasture.
THE FARMER'S BOY.
and I am not sure but that most boys would be guiltless of the
majority of these charges. However, they are much too apt to
play the part of destroyers. This spirit is shown in the way the
boy will whip off the heads of flowers along his path, if he has a
stick in his hand, and the manner in which he gathers them when
gathering happens to be his purpose. He never thinks of their life
or of their beauty where they stand, or of the future. He picks
them all, snaps off the heads, pulls them up by the roots-any way
to get the whole thing in the shortest possible time. If the boy was
as thorough as he is ruthless, you could never find more flowers
of the same sort on that spot. This does not argue a total
disregard for the flowers, but it is a pity to love a thing to de-
The first token of spring in the flower line that the boy brings
into the house is probably a sprig of pussy-willow. The fuzzy catkins
are to his mind very odd and interesting and pretty. The ground is
still snow-covered, and they have started with the first real thaw.
Before the pastures get their first green the boy goes off to find the
new arbutus buds, that smell sweetest of all the flowers he knows,
unless it may be honeysuckle, that comes later. Already by the
brook are the queer skunk-cabbage blossoms, and the boy some-
times pulls one to pieces, and even sniffs the odor, just to learn how
bad it really is. Hle may find a stout, short-stemmed dandelion thus
early open in some warm, grassy hollow, and a few days later the
anemone's dainty cups are out in full and trembling on their slender
stems with every breath of air. In pasture bogs and along the
brooks are violets-mostly blue; but in places there are yellow and
Discussing the colt.
white ones, ready to delight their finder. The higher and drier
slopes of the pastures are in spots sometimes almost blue with the
coarse bird-foot violets, while lower down the ground is as white
with the multitudes of innocents as if there had been a light snow-
fall. Along the roadways and fences the wild-cherry trees are
clouded full of white petals, and in the woods are great dashes of
white where the dogwoods have unfurled their blossoms. By the
end of May the meadows are like a night sky full of stars, so thick
are the dandelions, and on the rocks of the hillside the columbines
sway, full of their oddly shaped, pendulous bells. In some damp
woodpath the boy is filled with rejoicing by the finding of one of
the rare lady's-slippers where he has been gathering wakerobin. The
only other spring flower I will mention as of special interest to the
boy is the Jack-in-the-pulpit, and that hardly seems a flower to him,
it is so queer.
Spring has three days with an individuality that makes them
stand out among the rest. The Ist
of April is "April Fool's Day. The
only idea the boy has about it is
that the more things he can make
the rest of the world think on that
day are not so, the better. It has -
to be acknowledged that most of
the tricks are not very clever or
commendable, and the boy himself i ''
feels that he is sometimes getting --
uncomfortably close to lying. The A little w'seikeefer.
44 THE FARMER'S BOY.
common form of fooling is to get a person to look at something
that is not in sight.
See that crow out there!" says the boy to his father.
Where ?" asks his father, when he looks out.
"April fool!" shouts the boy, and he is pleased with the "slick"
way he fooled his pa, for about half an hour, when he discovers that
he has been walking around for he doesn't know how long with a
slip of paper on his back that his sister pinned there; and what he
reads on it when he gets it off is "April fool!" He does not feel
so happy then, but he saves the paper to pin on some one else. All
day his brain is full of schemes to get people looking at the imagi-
nary objects he calls their attention to, and at the same time he is
full of suspicions himself, and you have to be very sharp and sudden
to fool him. When night comes he rejoices in the fact that he has
got one or two fools off on every member of the family, and there
is no knowing what a nuisance he has made of himself among the
rest of his friends. It gives him a grand good appetite, and he feels
inclined to be quite conversational. His remarks, however, assume
a milder tenor when he bites into a portly doughnut and finds it
made of cotton. He is afraid his mother is trying to fool him. He
wouldn't have thought it of her!
Soon after this day comes Fast Day. School "lets out," and
there's meeting at the church, but most folks do not pay much
attention to that, and, it being a holiday, they eat rather more
than on other days, if anything, and they joke about its being
"fast" in the sense that it is not slow. Our boy does what work
he has to do, and then asks the privilege of going off to see some
Somne fun in a boat.
other boy and have some fun. However, that is a thing that hap-
pens on all sorts of days. He is always ready with that request
when he has leisure, and makes it oftentimes, too, when he has no
leisure in any one's opinion but his own.
The 3oth of May is Decoration Day, and a company of sol-
diers will come with a band and flags, and will decorate the graves
of the soldiers in the little cemetery, and there will be singing
and other exercises, and everybody will be there. The boy has his
bouquet, and he is on the spot promptly and chatting with some
of his companions. It may be the quiet of the early morning that
is the appointed time. There are lines of teams hitched along the
roadside, and two or three score of waiting people have gathered
near the entrance. The occasion has something of the solemnity
of a funeral, and even the boys lower their voices as they talk. The
sound of a drum and fife is heard around the turn of the road; the
soldiers, under their drooping flag, approach and file into the ceme-
tery. A song, an address, and a prayer follow-all very impressive
to the boy, out there under the skies with the wide, blossoming
landscape about. Finally, he lays his flowers with the others on
the graves, the soldiers form in line, the fife pipes once more, the
drum beats, and off they go down the road. Then the people
begin a more cheerful visiting, and there is a cramping of wheels
as the teams turn to go homeward. The boy, with his friends,
pokes about among some of the old stones, and then lingers along
in the rear of the scattered groups that are taking the road that
leads to the village.
T HE boy feels that summer has really come about the time
be gets a new straw hat and begins to go barefoot.
When he first gets on the earth without shoes and stock-
ings he is as frisky as are the cows when, after the winter's sojourn
in the barn, they are let out to go to pasture for the first time.
The boy remembers very well how he nearly ran his legs off on
that occasion, for the cows wanted to career all through the neigh-
borhood, and they kicked and capered and ran and hoisted their
tails in the air, and were as bad as a circus broke loose.
The boy would have gone barefoot some weeks before, only
he could not get his mother to understand how warm the earth
really was. It is cooler now than he thought, but he gets into a
glow running, and in a few days the exposure toughens his feet so
that he can stand almost anything-anything but shoes and stock-
ings. He hates to put those uncomfortable things on, and, when
he does, is glad to kick them off at the earliest opportunity. Even
the first frosts of autumn do not at once bring the shoes out. He
will drive the cows up the whitened lane, and slip shivering along
in the tracks brushed half clear of frost by the herd, certain that
he will be entirely comfortable a little later when the sun gets
But the joy of bare feet is not altogether complete even in
summer. About half the time the boy goes with a limp. He has
hurt his toe, cut his heel, or met with some like mishap. There is
something always lying around for him to step on, and in the late
summer certain wicked burs ripen in the meadow that have hooks
to their prickles, that
hurt enough going in,
but are, oh, so much
worse pulling out .
The boy never likes to _
walk on newly mown
land on account of
the stiff grass stubs
that cover it. Yet he
can manage pretty well
by sliding his feet .' ?,
along and making the :
stubble lie flat when he -
steps on it. However, -
the gains of bare feet
certainly much more- '
than offset the losses,
AiMbsing /lie hirrd Ioy.
to his mind; for he
can tramp and wade almost everywhere and in all kinds of weather,
with no fear of tearing his stockings, muddying his shoes, or "get-
ting his feet wet."
He appreciates this going barefoot most, perhaps, after a rain-
THE FARMER'S BOY.
storm. You have no idea, unless you have been a boy yourself,
what fun it is to slide and spatter through the pools and puddles
of the roadway. There is the boy's mother, for instance-she fails
to have the mildest kind of appreciation of it. She has even less,
W:.'. for the dinner horn.
if that is possible, when the boy comes in to her after he has
astonished himself by a sudden slip that seats him in the middle
of one of these puddles.
When the air, after a storm, is very still, the boy is sometimes
impressed by the apparent depth of these shallow pools. They
seem to go down miles and miles, and he can see the clouds and
sky reflected in their clear deeps. He is half inclined to keep
away from their edges, lest he should fall over and go down and
down till he was drowned among those far-off cloud reflections.
Another roadway sentiment the boy sometimes entertains is con-
nected with the ridges of dirt thrown up by the wagon-wheels.
Their shadows make pictures to him as of a great line of jagged
rocks-like the wild coast of Norway in his geography. He feels
like an explorer as he follows the ever-changing craggedness of
I mentioned that the boy had a new straw hat with the be-
ginning of summer. You would not think it two days afterward.
It had by then lost its store manner and had taken to itself an in-
dividual shape all its own. It did not take long for the ribbon to
begin to fly loose on the breezes, and then the colt took a bite
out of the edge, and a general dissolution set in. The boy used
it to chase grasshoppers and butterflies with, and one day he
brought it home half full of strawberries he had picked in a field.
On another occasion he utilized it to catch pollywogs in when he
was wading, and he hastened its ruin by using it as a ball on sum-
mer evenings to throw in the air. He thought, one night, he had
put it past all usefulness when, not thinking where he had placed
it, he went and sat down in the chair where it was. You would not
have known it for a hat when he picked it up, though he straight-
ened it out after a fashion and concluded it would serve for a
while longer, anyway. But things presently got to that desperate
pass where the brim was gone and there was a bristly hole in the
top, and the folks" saw the hat could not possibly last the
summer through, and the next time his father went to town he
50 THE FARMER'S BOY.
Eating clover blossoms.
bought the boy a new one. Of course, he told him to be more
careful with this than with the old one, when he gave it to him.
The summer wvas not far advanced when the boy became anx-
ious as to whether the water had warmed up enough in the streams
to make it allowable to go in swimming. As for the little rivers
among the hills, they never did get warmed up, and in the hottest
spells of midsummer it made the boy's teeth chatter to jump into
their cold pools. But there was a glowing reaction after the
plunge, and if he did not stay in too long he came out quite en-
livened by his bath. The bathing places on these woodland streams
are often quite picturesque. It may be a spot where the stream
widens into a little pond hemmed in by walls of green foliage,
whose branches in places droop far out over the water. It may
be in a rocky gorge strewn with bowlders, where the stream fills
the air with a continual roar and murmur as it dashes down the
rapids and plunges from pool to pool. On the large rivers of the
valleys the swimming places have usually muddy shores and a
willow-screened bank, and there are logs to float on or an old boat
to push about. In favorable weather the boys will go in swimming
every evening, and they make the air resound for half a mile about
with their shouts and splashing.
THE FARMER'S BOY.
June comes in with lots of work in the planting line. The boy
has to drop fertilizer and drop potatoes some days from morning
till night, by which time he is ready to drop himself. In corn plant-
ing he has his own bag of tarred corn and his hoe, and takes the
row next to his father's. For a spell he may keep up with the
rest, but as the day advances he lags behind, and his father plants
a few hills occasionally on the boy's row to encourage him. One
of the things a boy soon becomes an adept at is leaning on his hoe.
He naturally does this most when he is alone in the field and not
liable to sudden interruptions in his meditations. At such times
he gets lonesome and has "that tired feeling," and gets to wonder-
ing why the dinner horn doesn't blow. You would not think a hoe
an easy thing to lean on; but the boy will stand on one leg, with
the hoe-handle hooked under his shoulder, for any length of time.
The corn is no sooner in the ground than the crows begin to
happen around to investigate. They will pull it even after it gets
an inch or two high and snap off the kernel at the roots, and it
seems sometimes as if they rather liked the flavor of the tar put
on to destroy their appetite. The boy's indignation waxes high.
and he wishes he had a gun or a pistol, or something, to fix those
old crows. His mother does not like firearms. She is afraid he
will shoot himself; but she gives him some old clothes, and he
goes off to the shop to tack a scarecrow together and stuff him
with hay. When his father appears and pretends to be scared by
the scarecrow's terrible figure, the boy is quite elated. After supper
he and his mother and the smaller children go out in the field
and set the man up, and the boy shakes hands with him and
Cutting their names in a tree-trunk.
holds a little conversation with him. His small brothers and sis-
ters are sure the crows won't dast" to come around there any more,
and they are kind of scared of the old scarecrow themselves.
The days wax hotter and hotter as the season advances, and the
boy presently gets down to the simplest elements in the clothing
line. Indeed, if his folks do not insist on something more elabo-
rate, he goes about entirely content in a shirt and a pair of over-
alls. His hair is apt to grow rather long between the cuttings his
mother gives it, and about this time he looks up an uncle or a
cousin who is an adept in the hair-cutting line, and gets a tight clip
that leaves him as bald as his most ancient ancestor. He feels
delightfully cool, anyway, and looks don't count much with him at
As soon as the first plowing was done in the spring the onions
were sowed. Their little green needles soon prickled up through
the ground, and now they had the company of a multitude of
weeds, and must be hoed and weeded out. One thing the boy
never quite gets to understand is the curious fact that weeds, at
first start, will grow twice as fast as any useful crop. He wishes
weeds had some value. All you'd have to do would be to let them
grow. They'd take care of themselves.
In the case of the onions the hoeing-out part is not very bad,
but when you get down on your hands and knees to scratch the
weeds out of the rows with your fingers your trouble begins. The
boy says his back aches. His father comforts him by telling him
that he guesses not-that he's too young to have the backache-
that he'd better wait till he's fifty or sixty, and his joints get stiff
THE FARMER'S BOY.
and he has the rheumatism; then he'll have something to talk
But the boy knows very well that his back does ache, and the
sun is as hot again as it was when he was standing up, and his head
feels as if it were going to drop off. He gets up once in a while
to stretch, and to see if there are any signs of his mother's wanting
him at the house, or hens around that ought to be chased off, or
anything else going on that will give him a chance for a change.
He bends to his work again presently, and tries various changes
from the plain stoop, such as one knee down and the other raised
to support the chest, or a sit down in the row and an attempt to
weed backward. When left to himself he takes long rests at the
ends of the rows, lying in the grass on his back under the shadow
of an apple tree, or he gets thirsty and goes in the house for a drink.
He is afflicted with thirst a great deal when he is weeding onions,
and gets cooky-hungry remarkably often, too.
His most agreeable respite while weeding occurs when he dis-
covers that the neighbor's boy has come out and is at work just
over the fence. He throws a lump of dirt at him to attract his
attention, and then they exchange "hulloes!"
They soon come together and lean on the fence and compare
gardens, and likely enough get to boasting and on the borders of a
quarrel before they are through. Our boy goes back to work in
time, and his aches are not so severe afterward-at least, so long
as he has the neighbor's boy over the fence to call at.
When the boy's father goes away from home, to be gone all
day, he is apt to set the boy a stent."
You put into it, now," he says, "and hoe those eighteen rows
of corn, and then you can play the rest of the day."
The boy is inclined to be dubious when he contemplates his
task; it doesn't look to him as if he could get it done in the
whole day. But he makes a start, and concludes it is not so bad,
after all. He keeps at work with considerable perseverance, and
only stops to sit on the fence for a little while at the end of every
other row, and once to go up the lane to pick a few raspberries
that have turned almost black. As the rows dwindle he becomes
increasingly exuberant, and whistles all through the last one; and
when that is done, and he puts the hoe over his shoulder and
marches home, he has not a care in the world.
He made up his mind early in the day that he would go fish-
THE FARMER'S BOY.
ing when he was free, and now he digs some worms back of the
shop, gets out his pole, and hunts up his best friend. The best
friend is watering tobacco. He can't go just then, but if Tommy
will pitch in and help him for about fifteen minutes, he'll have
that job done and will be with him.
The boys make the water fly, and it is not long before they
and their poles and their tin bait-box are at the river side. The
water just dimples in the light breeze. The warm afternoon sun-
light shines in the boys' faces and glitters on the ripples. They
conclude, after a little while, that it is not a good afternoon for fish-
ing, and think wading will prove more profitable. As a result, they
get their pants wet and their jackets spattered, though where on
earth all that water came from they can't make out. They thought
they were careful. They are afraid their mothers will make some
unpleasant remarks when they get home. It seems best they
should roll down their trousers and give them a chance to dry a
little before they have to leave. Meanwhile they do not suffer
for lack of amusement, for they find a lot of rubbish to throw into
the water, and some flat stones to skip, and some lucky-bugs to
catch, and lastly Charlie Thompson's spotted dog shows himself
on the bank, and they entice him down to the shore and take
to wading again, and have great fun, and get wetter than ever.
As they walked home, Tommy said, Let's go fishing again,
some day," and Sammy agreed without any hesitation.
They caught not even a shiner this time, but on some occasions
they brought home a perch or two and a bullhead and a sucker,
strung on a willow twig. Rainy days were those on which they
Working out his "stent."
were freest to go fishing, and on such days the fish were supposed
to bite best. The boy seemed perfectly willing to don an old coat
and an old felt hat and spend a whole drizzling morning at almost
any time slopping along the muddy margin of the river. No one
could accuse him of being over-fastidious.
At some time in his career the boy was pretty sure to bring
home a live fish in his tin lunch-pail and turn him loose in the
water-tub at the barn; and he might catch a dozen or two min-
nows in a pool left landlocked by a fall of the water, and put
those in. He would see them chasing around in there, and the
old big fish lurking, very solemn, in the darkest depths, and he fed
THE FARMER'S BOY.
them bits of bread and worms, and planned for them a very happy
and comfortable life till they should be grown up and he was
ready to eat them. But they disappeared in time, and there was
not one left. The boy has an idea they must have eaten each
other, and then the cow swallowed the last one. If it wasn't that,
what was it?
In the early summer strawberries are ripe. They are the first
berries to come that amount to anything. You can pick a few
wintergreen and partridge berries on the hillsides in spring, but
those hardly count. The boy always knows spots on the farm
where the strawberries grow wild, and when, some early morning,
he goes up with the cows and is late to breakfast, it proves he
has been tramping in the pasture after berries. He has pushed
about among the dew-laden tangles of the grass until he is as
wet as if he had been in the river, but he is in a glowing tri-
umph on his return over the red clusters he pulls from his hat
to display to the family.
Probably some farmer in the neighborhood raises strawberries
for market, and pays two cents a quart for picking. If so, the boy
can not rest easy till his fclks agree to let him improve this chance
to gain pocket money, which is a thing he never fails to be short
of. He will get up at three o'clock in the morning and carry
his breakfast with him in order to be on hand with the rest of the
children on the field at daybreak. His eagerness cools off in a few
days, and it is only with the greatest difficulty that the employer
can get his youthful help to stick to the work through the season.
They have eaten the berries till they are sick of them; they are
tired of stooping, and they have earned so much that their longings
for wealth are satisfied. They are apt to get to squabbling about
rows while picking, and to enliven the work on dull days by
"sassing one another. The proper position for picking is a stoop-
ing posture, but when the boy comes home you can see by the
spotted pattern on the knees and seat of his trousers that he had
made some sacrifices to comfort. The proprietor of the berry fields,
and all concerned, are glad when they get to the end of the season.
When the boy got up so early those June mornings he was in
time to hear the air full of bird-songs as it would be at no other
time through the day. What made the birds so madly happy as
60 THE FARMER'S BOY.
soon as the east caught the first tints of the coming sun? The
village trees seemed fairly alive with the songsters, and every bird
was doing his best to outdo the rest. Most boys have not a very
wide acquaintance with the birds, but there are certain ones that
never fail to interest them. The boy's favorite is pretty sure to be
A faithful follower.
the bobolink-he is such a happy fellow; he reels through the air
in such delight over his singing and the sunny weather. How his
song gurgles and glitters How he swells out his throat! How pret-
tily he balances and sways on the woody stem of some tall meadow
flower! He has a beautiful coat of black and white, and the boy
wonders at the rusty feathers of his mate, which looks like an en-
tirely different bird. As the season advances bobolink changes, and
not for the better. His handsome coat gets dingy, and he loses his
former gayety. He has forgotten almost altogether the notes of
his earlier song of tumbling happiness, and croaks harshly as he
stuffs himself on the seeds with which the fields now teem. Ease
and high living seem to have spoiled his character, just as if he had
been human. Before summer is done the bobolinks gather in com-
panies, and wheel about the fields in little clouds preparatory to
migrating. Sometimes the whole flock flies into some big tree, and
from amid the foliage come scores of tinkling notes as of many tiny
bells jingling. The boy sees no more of the bobolinks till they
return in the spring to once more pour forth their overflowing joy
on the blossom-scented air of the meadows.
One of the other birds that the boy is familiar with is the lark,
a coarse, large bird with two or three white feathers in its tail; but
the lark is too sober to interest him much. Then there is the cat-
bird, of sleek form and slatey plumage, flitting and mewing among
the shadows of the apple-tree boughs. The brisk robin, who always
has a scared look and therefore is out of character as a robber, he
knows very well. Robin builds a rough nest of straws and mud in
the crotches of the fruit trees, and he has a habit of crying in sharp
notes at sundown, as if he were afraid sorrow was coming to him in
some shape. The robin has a caroling song, too, but that the boy
is not so sure of separating from the music of the other birds.
He always knows the woodpeckers by their long bills and the
way they can trot up and down the tree trunks, bottom-side up,
THE FARMER'S BOY.
or anyhow. He knows the bluebird by its color and the phoebe
by its song. The orioles are not numerous enough for him to have
much acquaintance with, but he is familiar with the dainty nest they
swing far out on the tips of the branches of the big shade trees. He
sees numbers of little birds when the cherries ripen and the peapods
fill out that are as bright as glints of golden sunlight. They vary
in their tinting and size, but he calls them all yellow-birds, and has
a poor opinion of them, for he rarely sees them except when they
Along the water courses he now and then glimpses a heavy-
headed kingfisher sitting in solemn watchfulness on a limb or
making a startling, headlong plunge into a pool. Along shore the
sandpipers run about in a nervous way on their thin legs, always
teetering and complaining, and taking fright and flitting away like
a shot at the least sound. On the borders of the ponds the boy
sometimes comes upon a crane or a blue heron meditating on one
leg up to his knee in water. Off he goes in awkward flight, trailing
his long legs behind him. On the ponds, too, the wild ducks alight
in the fall and spring on their journeys South and North. There
may be as many as twenty of the compact, glossy-backed creatures
in a single flock, but a much smaller number is more common. The
swallows, on summer days, are to be found skimming over the
waters of the streams and ponds, and they make flying dips and
twitter and rise and fall and twist and turn, and seem very happy.
They have holes in a high bank in the vicinity, and if the boy
thinks he wants to get a collection of birds' eggs he arms himself
with a trowel, some day, and climbs the steep dirt bank to dig them
out. The holes go in about an arm's length, and at the end is a
rude little nest, and some white eggs with such tender shells that
the boy breaks many more than he succeeds in carrying away.
Two who have been a-borrowing.
He stores such eggs as he gathers from time to time in small
wooden or pasteboard boxes, with cotton in the bottoms, until too
many of them get broken, when he throws the whole thing away.
THE FARMER'S BOY.
His interest has been destructive and temporary, and he would
much better have studied in a different fashion, or turned his talent
to something else.
Several other birds are still to be mentioned that get his atten-
tion. There are the humming birds, that are so small and that
buzz about among the blossoms and prick them with their long
bills, and poise so still on their misty wings, and have hues of
rainbow in their feathers, and flash out of sight across the yard
in no time when they see you. There are the barn and chimney
swallows that you notice most at twilight, darting in tangled
flights in upper air or skimming low over the fields in twittering
alertness, How they worry the old cat as she crouches in the
hayfield! Again and again they almost touch her head in their
circling, but they are so swift and changeful that the cat has no
chance of catching them. Then there is the kingbird the boy
very much admires. He is a vigorous, well-looking fellow, with
an admirable antipathy for tyrants and bullies. Size makes no
difference with him. He puts the crow to ungainly flight; he fol-
lows the hawk, and you can see him high in air darting down at
the great bird's back again and again; and he does not even fear
the eagle. In corn-planting time the whip-poor-will makes the
evening air ring with his lonely calls, and the boy has sometimes
seen his dusky form standing lengthwise of a fence rail just as he
was about to flit far off across the fields and renew more distantly
his whistling cry. The most distressing bird of all is the little
screech-owl. His tremulous and long-drawn wail suggests that
some one human is out there in the orchard crying out in his last
feeble agonies. To put it mildly, the boy is scared when he hears
The great and only holiday of the summer is Fourth of July.
The boy very likely does not know or especially care what the
philosophic meaning of the day is. As he understands it, the occa-
sion is one whose first requirement is lots of noise. To furnish this
The Fourth of July.
in plenty, he is willing to begin the day by getting up at midnight
to parade the village street with the rest of the boys, and toot horns
and set off firecrackers, and liven up the sleepy occupants of the
houses by making particular efforts before each dwelling. They
have a care in their operations to be on guard, that they may
hasten to a safe distance if any one rushes out to lecture or chas-
tise them; but if all continues quiet within doors they will hoot
THE FARMER'S BOY.
and howl about for some time, and even blow up the mail-box
with a cannon cracker, or commit other mild depredations, to add
to the glory of the occasion. When some particularly brilliant
brain conceived the idea of getting all the boys to take hold of
an old mowing machine and gallop it through the dark street in
full clatter, it may be supposed that the final touch was given to
American independence and liberty. It was not all the boys that
went roaming around thus, and it was the older and rougher ones
who were the leaders. The smaller boys did not enter very heartily
into all of the fun, though they dared not openly hang back; and
when the stars paled and the first gray approach of dawn be-
gan to lighten the east, the little fellows felt very sleepy and
lonely in spite of the company and noise. They were glad enough
when, soon after, the band broke up and they could steal away
home and to bed. The day itself was enlivened by much popping
of firecrackers and torpedoes in farm dooryards by a village
picnic, in the afternoon, and by a grand setting off in the even-
ing of pin wheels, Roman candles, a nigger chaser, and a rocket.
After the rocket had gone up into the sky with its wild whirr and
its showering of sparks, and had toppled and burst and burned
out into blackness, the day was ended, and the boy retired with the
happiness that comes from labor done and duty well performed.
The work of all others that fills the summer months is haying.
In the hill towns the land is stony and steep, and much of it is
cut over with scythes, but the majority of New England farmers
do most of their grass-cutting with mowing machines. A boy will
hardly do much of the actual mowing in either case until he is in
his teens; but long before that he is called on to turn the grind-
stone--an operation that precedes the mowing of each fresh field.
He gets pretty sick of that grindstone before the summer is
He likes to follow after the mowing machine. There is some-
thing enlivening in its clatter, and he enjoys seeing the grass
tumble backward as the darting knives strike their stalks. He
does not care so much about following his father when he mows
with a scythe; for then he is expected to carry a fork and spread
Geltinzg ready t0 Mo0U.
the swath his father piles up behind him. On the little farms
machines are lacking to a degree, and the boys have to do much
of the turning and raking by hand. Finally, they have to borrow
THE FARMER'S BOY.
a horse to get it in. The best-provided farmer usually does some
borrowing, and there are those who are running all the time-that
is, they keep the boy running; boys are made for running. The
boy does not like this job very well, for the lender is too often
doubtful in his manner, if not in his words.
On still summer days the hayfield is apt to be a very hot
place. The hay itself has a gray glisten, and the low-lying air
shimmers with the heat. It is all very well if you can ride on
the tedder or rake, but it makes the perspiration start if you have
to do any work by hand. You do not have to be much of a boy
to be called on by your father to rake up the scatterings back of
the load, and you find you have to be on the jump all the time
On the haiiy teeldde'
to keep up. If you can rake, you are large enough to be on the
load and tread the hay into place as it is thrown up. It is not
till you are pretty well grown that you have the strength to do
the pitching on. Whatever the boy does in the field, in the barn
his place is up under the roof mowing away." The place is dusky,
and the dust flies, and a cricket or some uncomfortable many-
legged creature crawls down your back; it is hot and stifling, and
the hay comes up about twice as fast as you want it to. Before
the load is quarter off you begin to listen for the welcome scratch
of your father's fork on the wagon rack that signals the nearing
of the bottom of the load. Even then you have to creep all
around under the eaves to tread the hay more solidly. You are
glad enough when you can crawl down the ladder and go into
the house and give your head a soak under the pump, and get a
drink of water. There's nothing tastes much better than water
when you are dry that way, unless it is sweetened water that you
take in a jug right down to the hayfield with you.
I do not wish to give the impression that having is made up
too much of sweat and toil, and that the boy finds it altogether
a season of trial and tribulation. It is not at all bad on cool
days, and some boys like the jumping about on load and mow.
There is fun in the jolting, rattling ride in the springless wagon
to the hayfield, and when the haycocks in the orchard are rolled
up for the night the boys have great sport turning somersaults
over them. Then there are exhilarating occasions when the sky
blackens, and from the distant horizon comes the flashing and
muttering of an approaching thunderstorm. Everybody does his
THE FARMER'S BOY.
best then; you race the horses, and the hay is rolled up and goes,
forkful after forkful, twinkling up on the load in no time. But
the storm is likely to come before you have done. There is a
spattering of great drops, that gives warning, and a dash of cold
wind, and everybody-teams and all-will be seen racing helter-
skelter to the barns. You are in luck if you get there before the
whole air is filled with the flying drops. It is a pleasurable excite-
ment, anyway, and you feel very comfortable, in spite of your wet
clothes, as you sit on the meal-chest talking with the others, listen-
ing to the rolling thunder and the rain rattling on the roof and
splashing into the yard from the eaves-spout. You look out of the
big barn doors into the sheeted rain that veils the fields with its
hurrying mists, and see its half-glooms lit up now and then by the
pallid flashes of the lightning. Then comes a burst of sunlight,
the rain ceases, and as the storm recedes a rainbow arches its
shredded tatters. All Nature glitters and drips and tinkles. The
trees and fields have the freshness of spring; the tip of every leaf
and every blade of grass twinkles with a diamond drop of water.
The boy runs out with a shout to the roadside puddles. The
chickens leave the shelter of the sheds, and rejoice in the number
of worms crawling about the hard-packed earth of the dooryard,
and all kinds of birds begin singing in jubilee.
But whatever incidental pleasures there may be in haying, it
is generally considered a season of uncommonly hard work, and
at its end the farm family thinks itself entitled to a picnic and a
season of milder labor. The picnic idea usually develops into a
plan to spend a whole day at some resort of picnickers, where you
have to pay twenty-five cents for admission-children half price.
Of course, there are all sorts of ways that you can spend a good
deal more than that at these places, but it is mostly the young
men, who feel called upon to demonstrate their fondness for the
girls they have brought with them, that patronize the extras. The
The boy rakes after.
farm family is economical; it carries feed for its horses and a big
lunch-basket packed full for itself, and simply goes in for all the
things that are free; though Johnny and Tommy are allowed to
draw on their meager supply of pocket money to the extent of
five cents each for candy. There are swings to swing in and tables
THE FARMER'S BOY.
to eat on in a grove, and, if it is by a lake or river, there are boats
to row in and fish to catch, only you can't catch them. Meanwhile
the horses are tied conveniently in the woods, and spend the day
kicking and switching at the flies that happen around. Toward
evening the wagon is backed about and loaded up, the horses
hitched into it, and everybody piles in and noses are counted, and
off they go homeward. The sun sets, the bright skies fade, and
the stars sparkle out one by one and look down on them as the
horses jog along the glooms of the half-wooded, unfamiliar road-
ways. Some of the children get down under the seats and croon
in a shaking gurgle as the wagon jolts their voices; and they shut
their eyes and fancy the wagon is going backward-oh, so swiftly!
Then they open their eyes, and there are the tree leaves fluttering
overhead and the deep night sky above, and they see they are
going on, after all. When they near home they all sit up on the
seats once more and watch for familiar objects along the road.
There is the house at last; the horses turn into the yard; they all
alight, and in a few minutes a lamp is lighted in the kitchen. A
neighbor has milked the cows. There are the full pails on the
bench in the back room. The children are so tired they can hardly
keep their eyes open, but they must have a slice of bread and but-
ter all around, and a piece of pie. Then, tired but happy, they
bundle off to bed.
Not every excursion of this kind is to a public pleasure resort.
Sometimes the family goes after huckleberries or blackberries, or
for a day's visit to relatives who live in a neighboring town, or
to see a circus-parade at the county seat. The family vehicle is apt
A summer evening game of tag.
to be the high, two-seated spring wagon. It is not particularly
handsome to look at, but I fancy it holds more happiness than the
gilded cars with their gaudy occupants that they see pass in the
The strawberries are the first heralds of a summer full of good
things to eat. The boy begins sampling each in turn as soon as
they show signs
of ripening, and
on farms where
children are nu-
merous and fruits
are not, very few
things ever get
ripe. You would
not think, to look
at him, that a
small boy could
eat as much as he
can. He will be
JVac&'): --/hJl' wet ther "'pan/s."
chewing on some-
thing all the morning, and have just as good an appetite for
dinner as ever. In the afternoon he will eat seventeen green
apples, and be on hand for supper as lively as a cricket. Still,
there are times when he repents his eating indiscretion in sack-
cloth and ashes. There is a point in the green-apple line beyond
which even the small boy can not safely go. The twisting pains
get hold of his stomach, and he has to go to his mother and
74 THE FARMER'S BOY.
get her to do something to keep him in the land of the living.
He repents of all his misdeeds while the pain is on him, just as he
would in a thunderstorm in the night that waked and scared him;
and he says his prayers, and hopes, after all, if these are his last days,
he has not been so bad but that he will go to the good place.
When he gets better, however, he forgets these vows and does
some more things to repent of. But that is not peculiarly a boy-
ish trait. Grown-up people do that.
BY September you begin to find dashes of color among the
upland trees. It is some weakling bush, perhaps, so
poorly nourished, or by chance injured, that it must
shorten its year and burn out thus early its meager foliage; but as
soon as you see these pale flames among the greens, you feel that
the year has passed its prime.
Grown people may experience a touch of melancholy with the
approach of autumn. The years fly fast-another of those allotted
them is almost gone; the brightening foliage is a presage of bare
twigs, of frost and frozen earth, and the gales and snows of winter.
This is not the boy's view. He is not retrospective; his interests
are bound up in the present and the future. There is a good deal
of unconscious wisdom in this mental attitude. He looks forward,
whatever the time of year, with unflagging enthusiasm to the days
approaching, and he rejoices in what he sees and experiences for
what these things then are, and does not worry himself with
The bright-leaved tree at the end of summer is a matter of
interest both for its brightness and its unexpectedness. The boy
will pick a branch and take it home to show his mother, and the
next day he will carry it to school and give it to the teacher. He
THE FARMER'S BOY.
would be glad to share all. the good things of life that come to
him with his teacher. Next to his mother, she is the best person
he knows of. He never finds anything in his wanderings about
home or in the fields or woods that is curious or beautiful or good
to eat but that the thought of the teacher flashes into his mind.
A voyage on a log.
His intentions are better than his ability to carry them out, for
he often forgets himself, and eats all the berries he picked on the
way home, or he gets tired and throws away the treasures he has
gathered. But what he does take to the teacher is sure of a wel-
come and an interest that makes him happy, and more her faithful
follower than ever.
Summer merges so gently into autumn that it is hard to tell
where to draw the line of separation. September, as a rule, is a
month of mild days mingled with some that have all the heat of
midsummer; but the nights are cooler, and the dew feels icy cold
to the boy's bare feet at times on his morning trips to and from
Yet, if you notice the fields closely, you will see that many
changes are coming in to mark the season. The meadows are
being clipped of their second crop of grass; the potato tops have
withered and lost themselves in the motley masses of green weeds
that continue to flourish after they have ripened; the loaded apple
trees droop their branches and sprinkle the earth with early fallen
fruit; the coarse grasses and woody creepers along the fences turn
russet and crimson, and the garden becomes increasingly ragged
The garden reached its fullness and began to go to pieces in
July. First among its summer treasures came a green cucumber,
then peas and sweet corn and string beans and early potatoes.
The boy had a great deal more to do with these things than he
liked, for the gathering of them was among those small jobs
it is so handy to call on the boy to do. However, he got
not a little consolation out of it by eating of the things he
gathered. Raw string beans were not at all bad, and a pod
full of peas made a pleasant and juicy mouthful, while a small
ear of sweet corn or a stalk of rhubarb or an onion, and even
a green cucumber, could be used to vary the bill of fare. Along
one side of the garden was a row of currant bushes. He
THE FARMER'S BOY.
was supposed to let those mostly alone, as his mother had
warned him she wanted them for "jelly." But he did not
interpret her warning so literally but that he allowed himself
to rejoice his palate with an occasional full cluster. It was
when the tomatoes ripened that the garden reached the top
notch in its of-
.. fearing of raw deli-
cacies. Those red,
full skinned tro-
phies fairly melt-
ed in the boy's
mouth. He liked
them better than
were the hardest
e s r s- things to manage
of all the garden
Potato-bugging. vegetables he was
sent out to gather
for dinner. His folks had an idea that you could dig into
the sides of the hills and pull out the big potatoes, and then
cover up and let the rest keep on growing; but when the boy
tried this and had done with a hill, he had to acknowledge
that it didn't look as if it would ever amount to much after-
The sweet-corn stalks from which the ears were picked had to
be cut from time to time and fed to the cows. It was this thin-
ning out of the corn, as much as the withering of the pea and
cucumber vines and irregular digging of the potatoes, that gave the
garden its early forlornness.
By August the pasture grass had been cropped short by the
cows, and the drier slopes had withered into brown. Thenceforth
it was deemed necessary to furnish the cows extra feed from
other sources of supply. The farmer would mow with his scythe,
on many evenings, in the nooks and corners about his build-
ings or along the roadside and in the lanes, and the results of
these small mowings were left for the boy to bring in on his
Another source of fodder supply was the field of Indian corn.
Around the bases of the hills there sprouted up many surplus
shoots of a foot or two in length known as suckers." These were
of no earthly use where they were, and the boy on a small farm had
often the privilege, of an afternoon, of cutting a load of these suckers
for the cows. Among them he gathered a good many full-grown
stalks that had no ears on them. Later there was a whole patch
of fodder corn sown in furrows on some piece of late-plowed ground
to gather from. lie had to bring in as heavy a load as he could
wheel every night, and on Saturday an extra one to last over
The cows had to have attention one way or another the year
through. They were most aggravating, perhaps, when in September
the shortness of feed in the pasture made them covetous of the con-
tents of the neighboring fields. Sometimes the boy would sight them
THE FARMER'S BOY.
in the corn. His first great anxiety was not about the corn, hut as to
whether they were his folks' cows or some of the neighbors'. He
would much rather warn some one else than undertake the cow-
chasing himself. If his study of the color and spotting of the cows
proved they were his, he went in and told his mother, then got his
stick and took a bee-line across the fields. He was wrathfully in-
clined when he started, and he became much more so when he found
how much disposed the cows were to keep tearing around in the corn
or to racing about the fields in as many different directions as there
were animals. He and the rest of the school had lately become
members of the Band of Mercy, and on ordinary occasions he had
a kindly feeling for his cows; but now he was ready to throw all
sentiment overboard, and he would break his stick over the back of
any one of these cows if she would give him the chance, which
she very unkindly would not. He had lost his temper, and now he
lost his breath, and he just dripped with perspiration. He dragged
himself along at a panting walk, and he found, after all, that this
did fully as well as all the racing and shouting he had been indulging
in. Indeed, he was not sure but that the cows had got the notion
that he had come out to have a little caper over the farm with
them for his personal enjoyment. All things have an end, and in
time the boy made the last cow leap the gap in the broken fence
back into the pasture. They every one went to browsing as if
nothing had happened, or looked at him mildly with an inquiring
forward tilt of the ears, as if they wanted to know what all this
row was about, anyway. The boy put back the knocked-down
rails, staked things up as well as he knew how, picked some pep-
permit by the brook to munch on, and trudged off home. When
he had drunk a quart or so of water and eaten three cookies, he
began to feel himself again.
Besides all the extra foddering mentioned, it is customary on
the small farms to give the cows, late in the year, an hour or
A chipmunk up a tree.
two's baiting each day. The cows are baited along the road-
side at first, but after the rowen is cut they are allowed to roam
about the grass fields. Of course, it is the boy who has to watch
them. There are unfenced crops and the apples that lie thick under
the trees to be guarded, not to mention the turnips in the newly
THE FARMER'S BOY.
seeded lot, and the cabbages on the hill that will spoil the milk if
the cows get them. The boundary-line fences, too, are out of re-
pair, and the cows seem to have a great anxiety to get over on
the neighbors' premises, even if the feed is much scantier than
in the field where
they are feeding.
SThe boy brings
out a book, and
he settles himself
with his back
against a fence-
post and plans
for an easy time.
The cows seem
to understand the
Baiting the cows by te roadside. situation, and they
go exploring round, as the boy says, "in the most insensible
fashion he ever saw--wouldn't keep nowhere, nor anywhere else."
He tries to make them stay within bounds by yelling at them
while sitting where he is, but they do not seem to care the least
bit about his remarks unless he is right behind them with a stick
in his hand. The cows do not allow the boy to suffer for lack of
exercise, and the hero in the book he is reading has continually to
be deserted in the most desperate situations while he runs off to
give those cows a training.
There is one of the cow's relations that the boy has a particular
fondness for--I mean the calf. On small farms the lone summer
calf is tethered handily about the premises somewhere out-of-doors.
Every day or two, when it has nibbled and trodden the circuit of
grass in its tether pretty thoroughly, it is moved to a fresh spot.
The boy does this, and he feeds the calf its milk each night and
morning. If the calf is very young it does not know enough to
drink, and the boy has to dip his fingers in the milk and let the
calf suck them while he entices it, by gradually lowering his hand,
to put its nose in the pail. When he gets his hand into the milk
and the calf imagines it is getting lots of milk out of the boy's
fingers, he will gently withdraw them. The calf is inclined to re-
sent this by giving a vigorous buck with his head. Very likely
the boy gets slopped, but he knows well enough what to expect,
not to allow himself to be sent sprawling. He repeats the finger
process until in time the calf will drink alone, but he never can get
it to stop bucking. Indeed, he does not try very hard, except
occasionally, for he finds this butting rather entertaining, and
sometimes he does not object to butting his own head against the
calf's. He and the calf cut many a caper together before the sum-
mer is through. Things become most exciting when the calf gets
loose. It will go galloping all about the premises. It has no regard
for the garden or the flower plants, or.the linen laid out on the grass
to dry. It makes the chickens squawk and scamper, and the turkeys
gobble and the geese gabble. Its heels go kicking through the
air in all sorts of positions, its tail is elevated like a flag-pole, and
there is a rattling chain hitched to its neck that is jerking along
in its company. The calf is liable to step on this chain, and then
it stands on its head with marvelous suddenness. The women