Historical Fiction Sad Bedtime

Today was the long awaited day for this part of the harvest season. The rice would be gathered and hopefully provide enough sustenance for the winter season. The murky stream was soft and clear and remained the perfect setting for their hoped for bounty. The McInnis family remained thankful that this plentiful area was maintained by the elderly gentleman who lived in the home prior to their arrival.

Gordon, father of the clan McInnis, had attended to the horses and let them out to pasture on this sunny fall day. The carriage was in need of a step to be repaired and made sure his youngest son, Benjamin, would be the one to attend to this. He laid the tools out in order of the task and would only supervise when necessary. His boys were becoming more diligent in what was asked of them and he made sure to appreciate their efforts to help when needed.

He waved to his daughters in the distance when he spied them outside the homestead. They were on the way to pick apples from their small orchard. Their mother, Elizabeth, made sure they each wore an apron to carry their bundle. The amount needed would be in preparation for the applesauce cakes to be made for the Sunday church luncheon. Hannah and Emma waved to their father and skipped down the field to the apple trees. Emma and Clara followed but looked back to where the boys had wandered. They were on task to help with the rice harvest as they saw the way their father demonstrated the process using two sticks. They’ve all helped before but each needed a reminder on the right way to do this. Chopping the rice stalks was not the best way the sticks were used, but instead a slow weaving manner caused the rice to cascade into the dinghy.

Clara stopped and quickly waved to Emma and motioned her over to where she stood. The tiny boat waited for the boys to come retrieve it for their task but Clara wanted to have a little fun. She convinced  Emma to hop in with her a play a game. They decided on a prop, grabbed a stick, and tied a piece of cloth to it.

They stood and with hands on hips Clara called to her brothers, “Ahoy to you Maties!” She waved the stick like a flag. “We’ve come to sail with you to a new land of plenty!”

Their father laughed at his littlest munchkin. She always knew how to make his day a little brighter. All his daughters were the life of the family. He was thankful and happy at this moment in the unique fashion that they took to make light of a day filled with mundane chores.

Edward tossed the rice sticks to his brother and quickly walked up to his ‘seafaring’ sisters. He added his own humor by talking and acting like a pirate. “Argh!” he shouted. “The wind will knock you right out of the boat. So be off with you!” He waved his coat and swirled it to create a mock wind gust. They yelled, then laughed and rushed out of the little dinghy and down into the field.

Mother greeted her cheerful daughters as they made their way into the kitchen. They were happy with their full basket of ripe apples. Peeling, slicing and having some to sample was a good reward. Soon the lovely smell of spices, and fruit baking in the oven would fill the air.

I could only imagine, as I stood in the empty house, how life was back in the day. The wooden beams in the front room were intact, as was the heavy stone mantle around the fireplace. However, the wide wooden floor boards were scattered with evidence of the recent owner’s collection of old magazines, and trash bags of discarded waste. The colonial cape-style house had aged over time but still had strong bones. Doors were left unlocked which led me in as I needed to take a moment to come to grips with what was soon to take place. The property and house had recently been sold.

For years we had assisted the owner with the outside maintenance of her property. From plowing the snow from her driveway, and shoveling walkways to maintaining the garden areas, we kept on task. It was the neighborly thing to do. But she finally decided it was time. Time to move on, to leave this house and everything the property had ever brought to this woman which seemed to have lessened over the years. The apple trees had long been removed, the black raspberries were still prolific as were her bounty of lilac bushes gracing the perimeter of the house. I think about the native plants that were all around the area and some most likely would never be seen again. The rhubarb thrived heavily in one corner of the property. Walking into and down the back yard brought me along the stone walls and straight into the wooded area which still has a road way carved through the forest. It is a slice of heaven back here where I have walked many times with my dog.

In short order the trees were cut. Truck load after truck load, leaves with their heavy burden destined for another purpose, yet there is a part of the New Hampshire woods that disappears forever. I am witness to the loss moment by moment as each day brings a sense of closure to what once was a lovely homestead. The barns, stone foundations and ancient relics buried within, are removed never more to be reminded of what was. The ground is remade into a flatland and raised in areas to disregard what once was a thriving nutritious rice crop. Over and over the ground is remade, the acres of dirt recreated for what was to be new houses. How many was anyone’s guess. The final day happened that brought the inevitable to a close once and for all; a house, a home, an era of local town history and a reminder of the families that settled here with a sense of place that will never be thought of again.

I watched with rapt attention to what was going on across the street. The house was staged and set up. I had no idea of what was going on or what was next to happen so decided to leave and take a walk out into the woods behind our house. I was gone only for a short while and returned to find the house had been razed. It was a pile of rubble. Nothing left to let one know that it was a house. How did that happen so quickly? I was saddened to say the least. It took TEN MINUTES. Ten minutes and the house was gone. Never more an establishment built to face the proper southerly direction to take advantage of the sun in winter time. A small family farm with barns, an ice house, apple trees, and the rice field. Time to stop, look and rethink the land.

March 19, 2021 20:41

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Stevie B
21:40 Mar 24, 2021

Debbie, reading your work really put a smile on my face. Thank you for graciously sharing your talent.


Debbie Curtin
17:11 Apr 07, 2021

Thank you for the comment. I appreciate your kind words.


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