Walking over the rough path to the barn, I nearly slipped and fell several times. More snow had fallen during the night, and it seemed to be getting colder. Rosie and I were on our third day away from home, and Christmas was drawing nearer. This was Friday, and Ma would surely have checked on us by now.
I wondered what she was thinking, and knew she was most likely out of her mind with worry... two of her children had disappeared without a trace, and now, the older two were missing. And what about Sgt. Finley, wasn't he going to come and find us? Had he talked to our Ma yet?
I felt so bad about the whole mess that I had created by coming here, and yet, here we were. My guilt was almost more than I could bear, and yet, we now knew where Les and Marie were. One seemed to balance out the other in my mind. I would just have to depend on God's help in getting the whole matter sorted out, but I was determined to do my part, as well.
I almost passed up the barn in my contemplations, but was brought back to the present by the clucking of the chickens, running up to me and begging for food. Oops! I had forgotten to bring any out. I went back to the porch and got a container full of chicken feed, brought it back and scattered it for the chickens to eat. Then I got the egg basket to gather the eggs.
These chickens were "free range" chickens which meant they could wander over the farm and eat whatever they found. They were kept in the chicken coop at night and then came out the next morning, when Grandda went out and let them out. Sometimes a hen would become "broody", which meant she wanted to hatch a clutch of eggs and she would wander off and make a nest out somewhere on the farm, or she would begin switching nests with the other hens. She had to be isolated and kept for at least ten days. It was all Greek to me.
Anyway, I went into the chicken coop and retrieved all the eggs. The old rooster wandered around, and I soon learned he loved to peck at people's ankles. He scared me good; and I ran from him. My Grandda must have heard the commotion, cause he looked out the barn door. He just laughed and said, "Ignore him, boy! He'll leave you alone when you quit being scared of him."
Somehow, I had a hard time believing that! That rooster gave me the evil eye, turning his head to one side to look at me, and flapped his wings, then crowed, as if to say, "Ah - ha! Scared ya, didn't I?"
I quickly took the eggs into the house and left them on the kitchen table to be put away. That had all been a new experience for me, for sure.
Going back outside, I went into the barn, and saw that Grandda was working on the unfinished bookcase. "Hand me that ruler, boy! I need to measure these boards before I cut 'em."
Handing him the ruler, I went back to asking questions. I admit I was curious about a lot of things. With my first question, he sat down on a sawhorse, and just looked at me.
"Could you please tell me about my Da, and why he drank so much and why he beat us so bad, even when we hadn't done nothing? Do you have any idea why he did that, Grandda?"
"Boy, you ask too many questions! I don't know as I can even answer that one! Who knows why anyone does anything they do?"
"I thought maybe you might have some idea, since he grew up here and you all raised him. What kind of a boy was he? What did he like to do? What did he want to do when he grew up?"
"Ah, well, he wanted to play baseball, come to think of it. That's all he ever wanted to do." The old man moved to the bench and leaned back, as if lost in thought, dropping the ruler where it lay, unforgotten for the moment. "That boy ate, lived, breathed, talking about baseball, and how he was going to be a professional pitcher for the Yankees. I had plumb forgot about that. He didn't want to farm. We had a hard time raising that boy, fer sure. Never wanted to raise a hand helping out here."
"Was he any good, Grandda? Was he a good pitcher?"
"Don't know; never seen him play. I think maybe he played with some friends of his when he could sneak away from the farm. He got to drinking and running around with a rough crowd. Finally ran away from home at the age of fifteen. Wound up never amountin' to much. Ran off up north and after that, a few years later we heard that he got married."
Wow! I heard more than I bargained for. It gave me a lot to think about.
"Thank you, Grandda, for telling me about him. I had always wondered about how he got up there in New York state."
"You keep it under your hat, boy. Your Grandma would have my hide if she knew I was spillin' all that to a kid. None a' yore business, she would say."
"Sure, Grandda." I smiled at him, glad that I had had the courage to ask him. I already had a lot more questions for him, but they would keep for now.