Castle Roland

The Farm Hand

by Rick Beck


Chapter 2

Posted: 2 Jun 16

The Farm Hand

A Rick Beck Story
Editor: Gardner Rust
For David Miller

Farmers & Farms

Grabbing the biggest glass from the cupboard, I pumped the handle, rinsing the glass with cool water before letting it fill to the brim. I spilled a quarter of it before getting it off the porch, not bothering with the stairs.

I noticed Sven's back and shoulders bulging with each of his movements. He was built for digging post holes. Sven seemed content with the task and far better suited to it than I was. He took his time noticing me with the water. He drove the digger into the ground before turning to take the water.

"That's for me?" he asked, meeting my eyes with his for an instant.

"Yeah," I said, failing in my effort to find something witty to say. "My Mama's making sandwiches. I'll bring you one before I take lunch to my brothers."

"Much obliged."

I was still annoyed with the abrupt tone in his voice. I still wanted to know his story, but thinking of a good question wasn't easy. He didn't invite questioning. While he drank, I found myself checking out the torn and worn overalls he wore. The ones Mama brought to my attention.

He handed the glass back to me and took up digging again. He paid me no mind, leaving no room for a question. It was obvious he'd dug post holes. before and his body didn't strain from the labor. It was hot, and sweat came easy on August afternoons. His motion was fluid as he manhandled the digger, yielding up twice the dirt I did in a single effort. I wrestled with it while forcing it to do what I wanted it to do.

"Robert, come get that man a sandwich," Mama said from the back porch, as she wiped her hands on her apron.

Upon hearing her voice, Sven turned from his work to face her, leaving the post hole digger in the hole.

"Sven, ma'am," Sven said politely and like he was giving her something of value. "That's mighty kind of you ma'am. I'll be sure I earn the kindness. Don't be fretting none about that."

"Sven," Mama said, disappearing back into her kitchen before the sound of her voice reached us.

He was a bold one, I thought. Proud enough to want to be called by name. Maybe he thought it might do him some good with Pa if Mama found him agreeable.

"You're Mama's a pretty woman," he said before turning back to the digger. "Women tend to age hard on a farm. Tough job tending their men."

"You best not worry about my Mama," I said, not being sure of how to consider his words.

"Most women her age are plum wore down from making babies and tending to their families," he said without paying any mind to my insolence.

"She only had us three. Couldn't have no more after losing Richard Lee back a spell."

"Sorry to hear! You said you got brothers. No sisters?" Sven inquired with a smile.

"Two brothers, Ralph and Junior. They're up at the meadows cutting the posts for them holes you been digging."

"And you're Robert," he said as a peace offering of sorts. "What have you done to be left digging fence post holes.? Digging holes is a job for hands, not sons. My Pa put us working fence as punishment, when we couldn't mind our manners or some such as that."

"What makes you think I done something?" I argued his logic. "Holes got to be dug to stick the fence posts into."

"I met your Pa. He sent me to relieve you, remember? Just a hunch by how he said what he said. I calculate your Pa not to be a man to be crossed. By your Mama's age you'd figure to be the eldest. Yet here you are doing hired hand work. I put the rest together on my own, figuring your Pa not to be a man who does things without a reason."

"Pa and I don't see eye to eye is all," I explained.

I found his reasoning to be annoyingly close to the truth. I was supposed to be questioning him. He knew the lay of the land without asking questions. That was a neat trick I'd have to learn. He was smarter than he looked.

For such a big man his voice was on the soft side. His eyes seemed to smile with his words. Unloading a pile of dirt next to the old faded fence post, he tilted his head as he grinned with a curiosity of his own.

My eyes were still on him as I pondered how to take what he had to say and how he said it.

"I don't mean to rush you, but that sandwich sure would take the wrinkles out of my belly, boy."

"I'm Robert," I reminded him, picking up the glass to fill when I brought him back the sandwich. "You calculate a lot from one conversation. Most hands don't do much figuring."

"I suppose. Probably best to keep my figuring to myself. I figure you're looking for more, but I'm a bit weak from lack of nourishment right now myself. I'm a better conversationalist when I got something in my belly."

"Pa's a hard man, but he's fair. I'm digging on account he said dig. There isn't a lot of figuring to it," I said after more reflection.

"As much as I enjoy talking, a sandwich would taste mighty good. I only had an apple and a tiny piece of leftover dried beef this morning. More water would be appreciated as well. Don't worry, I'll earn it, boy. I don't take anything I don't earn."

This time he continued facing me as he spoke, maybe thinking that would get me on my way faster. Instead I took advantage of his attention. Even then, I sensed there was a lot more to Sven than what showed. He spoke quite well when he wanted, but he spoke like a farmhand otherwise. I was educated enough to know someone who had some education behind him.

"I'm not worried. Here. String from my Mama's sewing basket. She wants it back," I said, as if he might not recognize it as string. "Where you from anyhow?"

"Over Muscatine way originally. Not far from the river, but not far enough some years."

"That where your farm was?"

He squinted as though he was looking off in the distance and might point to it for me, but instead he aggressively planted the post hole digger back down into the dirt, turning away from me in an unexpected awkward movement.

"Yep, right about there. How about that sandwich, boy?" he said with impatience. "You want these holes dug for you and I need that sandwich your mama made me."

So much for asking him questions. I began with the wing dinger. I knew better than to ask a man who'd been thrown off his farm about the farm. I should have stopped with where are you from. I had insulted him and he'd let me know it by turning disagreeable. It wasn't a big change.

He went back to digging and I returned to the kitchen. One sandwich was on a plate on the table next to the door, ready to be eaten. Mine would be wrapped in newspaper along with a half dozen more for Ralph and Junior.

Mama would tell me to eat up there so I was out of my father's way for a spell. If my brothers helped me load the posts, we'd swim in the pond for a few minutes to cool down before got on with our day.

Our lunch was in a bag on the draining board next to a bottle of lemonade Mama made after breakfast and cooled in the root cellar. Time was a wasting and my brothers would be getting nervous about lunch by this time. I was running behind.

The white shirt Sven was wearing now dangled from a fence post by the time I got back to the kitchen window. The post leaned to one side allowing the shirt to brush the ground in the slight breeze that ruffled the material. The fence once attached to that particular post had fallen on hard times and the wood was feeble, unable to hold the nails that kept the wire in place. There was a role of new wire in the barn, but we weren't far enough along to get it out yet.

The straps that held up his bib overalls hung down in front of him tied together to keep them off the ground. His undershirt adhered to his tight chest. His arms bulged into thick knots when he dug. I looked at my bicep and made a muscle that was more disappointing than usual.

I could see he was taller than he was wide, although his shoulders made mine look like a boy's. He put me in mind of a statue in a museum I'd seen in one of my textbooks. His upper body tapered abruptly into a small firm waistline not visible before he let the bib hang.

His waist looked no larger than my own. I lifted my shirt and watched as I sucked in the shapeless belly to find more disappointment. I could miss a few sandwiches and still have ample girth to hold up my pants.

It was obvious Sven missed a few meals along the road. Asking him about losing the family farm was in poor taste. There were plenty of farmer's sons who suffered the same fate as Sven. Luckily my brothers and I didn't know what that experience was like.

Harvest was still a few weeks off if the weather cooperated. That's when Sven was going to be worth his weight in gold. I wondered if the table my mother set would be enough to hold him here until after the harvest was over? He looked like it might be time to work on fill out his overalls again. After harvest there would be slim pickings for hands.

He'd sure take a lot of chores off me. Pa would spell out the terms over dinner, while Sven was digesting Mama's fried chicken, okra, beans, potatoes, and biscuits. Pa'd shove the platter of chicken in front of Sven, telling him to eat his fill.

Then Pa'd spell out the terms he was prepared to make him. Nothing like buttering up the hired hand. We always had Mama's fried chicken at a time like this. 'The devil with pay. Give me another piece of that chicken.' I was hankering for a piece already and I hadn't eaten lunch yet.

Sven would consider the offer and keep eating at our table until he decide. As long as he kept coming to the table, odds were he'd keep coming back. You can't eat money and hard work is good for the soul. It's a combination farmers keep hand in hand. If you didn't go to work every day before sunrise, what were you good for?

Mama just might go into her change jar before she risked letting Sven go. She'd watch his work from the kitchen window, while I was up at the meadows, and she'd tell my father what she saw. The church money rarely made it to the church and Sven might be a good reason why.

Often you can't tell what kind a worker a hand is. Some times the biggest boys are laziest. A dozen hands came up the drive this year. They were a barometer of tough times. Pa hired one for a day or a week, when he could. Mama fed them all, whether or not we could put them to work.

"There but for the grace of God…," were words often spoken after a hand's departure. Even in hard times, we were luckier than most, sharing what we could because we could, but nothing we did guarantee us next year. If our luck held and the harvest paid the bills, we'd get next year. So far we'd made it through the depression, but early rains, or no rain at all could finish us off no matter what we did.

This was the first year I'd considered those facts in depth. My future was no longer my own and as badly as I wanted off the farm, I wouldn't leave as long as my parents needed me. I'd stay on the farm as long as they needed me to stay. My mistake was letting my father know too soon, I wasn't staying any longer than that. We'd hardly had a civil word between us since.

A dozen farms we knew of had been taken over by the bank. Those families had been scattered around the countryside. Farmer's sons sought work with the farmers who were left and there were fewer each year and each year the farmer's sons had to travel further to find work.

I'd never paid much mind to the hands. They came and stayed for a spell, and then they were gone. This made me uneasy. I didn't like to see misery. Now, it was our farm and each year it brought us closer to ruin. Each year there seemed to be more work and each year the price of corn fell further, like the markets were testing to see just how little money we'd work for.

Sven's muscles were glistening in the afternoon sun, bulging under the labor. I finished my second glass of water and my daydreaming, still watching out the window. I'd never had an older brother. The thought of having one instead of being one appealed to me. Sven would make a fine older brother.

At that time, I wrote off my keen interest in Sven concerning that idea. I didn't know enough to think anything else. Admiring his body because mine lacked shape came naturally. I often admired the boys with better-built bodies at school and Sven's was far better-built than any of them. We were close to the same age, but I didn't know his age.

I shook my head to keep my mind on my business and pumped his glass full to cool it before pumping it full a second time, grabbing the plate on my way out the door.

This time he watched my approach with interest.

"Getting hot," he said, pulling off his undershirt to wipe under his arms and then his face. "Thanks."

He took the water and then all but emptied it in one large long pull. Some of the water ran from the sides of his mouth as he guzzled, leaking generously down on his already damp chest. The little that was left went over his head, plastering the fine blond hair to it. He playfully shook his wet hair, looking at me to make sure some of the water got on me. He smiled as I stepped back to avoid it.

"Sorry," he said, not meaning it.

I spent my time checking out the holes in his overalls that no longer had the undershirt over the holes. He'd covered some with the bib but I found others. They were in serious need of repair. I noticed his white flesh and blond hairs showing through the worn fabric.

"Thanks," he said again, considering me seriously for the first time, while giving me back the glass. "That for me, or you just taking it for a walk?"

"Oh, sorry, I was just thinking that you're big," I said, looking at his chest and finding myself at a loss for words beyond the obvious. He was amused.

Handing him the plate, I felt feeble beside such a powerful man.

"Yeah, the ladies often claim that to be the case. I'm happy to take their word for it and anything else they want to give me. Speaking of big, that's a nice sandwich."

He took several large bites out of one half of the sandwich, unable to disguise his hunger. For a few seconds the sandwich was all that was on his mind. Once the first half was devoured, he paused as I spoke.

"I was referring to your body," I said, trying to explain myself and feeling as if I was failing to communicate.

"What did you think I meant?" Sven asked, sounding surprised that I needed to explain the comment. "The ladies were talking about my body two. Parts of it anyway."

I had a feeling little surprised this hand. I was once more left unhappy by the tone in his voice and the conclusions he drew. Although it wasn't clear to me what was objectionable. I was sure something was.

The words he used irritated me. I was sure he was making fun of me without bothering to laugh. I still wanted to find out about him, but every thing I said seemed to lead away from where I was heading. So far our conversation left me feeling foolish not to mention uninformed.

"Boy that's good," he said after taking a single bite of the remaining half sandwich.

"My name is Robert," I said, turning the tables on his casual wit.

"I wasn't calling you..., but you know that," he said smiling. "You're brighter than you look."

"Yeah," I said. "You knew I was talking about your size…, the size of your muscles. You are a well-built man."

"I did. I was just enjoying the water and sandwich. Nothing I said meant much, because I haven't said anything. Life's too short to read too much into words."

"You're bold and you're smart and that can be a bad combination for a farmhand. You don't want my Pa thinking you're a smart ass."

"Your Pa isn't a man who can be kidded. I work for him, not for you. You look like you could use a little kidding, Robert. We'll talk when work doesn't stand between us. I'd enjoy that."

"I was hoping you'd talk to me about where you've been," I said, and he nodded, as he finished his food.

"In this heat I was feeling a bit weary. You can't pay much attention to anything I say in the heat. Thank you for the sandwich, Robert. Thank your Mama for the kindness and don't worry, young Robert, I'll earn it and I'll be happy to do your fence posting. Feels good putting my back into some work for a change. Haven't done an honest days work in more than a week."

"No kindness involved. She feeds the hands no matter how long they're here. We don't have much but we share it as best we can. You'd a' got a sandwich even if there wasn't work for you."

"I wouldn't feel too comfortable with that arrangement. Always some piece of work needs doing. Can't eat if I don't do something. Not my way," he said, post hole digger already back in his hands.

"You're big and you're strong and harvest is coming. We don't have a lot of money to pay out, but the food can't be beat anywhere in this end of Iowa. You stay and you'll get an even share of the food and as much as we can afford to pay," I said, getting a jump on Pa's speech that would come later.

"Harvest coming. Strong back. Hard worker. Don't take up too much space in the barn, but I do require a fair amount of feeding. For that I'm willing to work from before sun up to after sunset," he claimed. "Missing a few meals reminds a fellow what's really important.

"Having the bank steal our farm out from under us and scattering my family far and wide, I know how tough times are, young Robert. I'm a farmer's son too and I'd dry up and blow away if I didn't get in on a harvest somewhere. This seems like somewhere to me. I don't require much."

"Times are hard. We might not be able to keep a hand around while we wait for harvest," I said.

"Your Pa said there'd be work. I told him I'd work for food, until the real work starts. He seemed agreeable, but he didn't take as much time looking me over as his eldest son has. Perhaps I don't suit you because I don't bow and curtsy proper?"

I laughed and for the first time it was easy being with him, even if I wasn't supposed to be elsewhere.

"It's between you and him, but we we'll share even with you once the bills are paid. You're fine with me, Sven. I'm not use to being made fun of, but you don't need to please me. My stock with my Pa don't run too high at present. The best favor I can do for you is not recommend for my father to hire you."

"Not my intention to be making fun of anyone. If that's the impression I left with you, I apologize. As I told you, I don't take much seriously. You can't when you're in my shoes. You got what you got, until it's gone. Then, you got nothing. You'll learn to take life less seriously in time, young Robert. It doesn't take us seriously after all."

"I suppose. It's a lesson I haven't had to learn."

"Got to get back to work if there's nothing else? I feel like I can get this fence done before dinner."

"How long since your people lost your farm?"

There was no doubt how he felt about the question. His back stiffened as he let the digger rest under his hands. He looked like he was thinking and realized it wasn't as easy as it should have been to come up with some answer.

The intensity of his look eased some as he considered a response. He took a white handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his face, leaning hard on the digger, almost putting it back to work before relenting. He spoke in sad words.

"It's been a spell. Can't rightly say how long. Seems long, Robert. Two harvests and most of a year I figure, but without being tied to the land, a place, it could be three harvests before this one coming up. That's the best I can do at the moment."

"I'm sorry you lost your farm," I said, feeling sad for him.

"You don't lose a farm. I know right where it's at. The bank came with the sheriff and took it. Ran us off like we were vagrant. That farm was in our family before my father was born. Everyone in our family put their lives into it for over eighty years, and the bank took it, because they have money and times are hard. The river beat us. The rains beat us. The bank stole what was ours."

"Funny," I said without thinking.

"Funny!" he said, the veins straining in his neck.

"No, I meant funny how things work. Pa has a sense. He'll get us all up one morning. 'We're starting harvest today.' No matter what the plan was. Last year the rains came early. We started harvest a week earlier than he planned. The rains came a week early and caught a lot of farmers in the middle of harvest. The year before that it was no rain. He kept waiting. Everyone else in the county had their crop in when the rains came. The whether held and we had the biggest crop we'd had in years. Pa has this sense," I said.

"My Pa had it too, until it failed him one year. It only takes one failure to put you out of business. No matter if you've had 80 harvests, when one goes bust, you go with it. The bank holds all the cards and says, 'get off. It's our farm now.' I'd like to shoot me some bankers.

"Mama says they ought to be forced to work all the farms they take. That would cure 'em of taking farms. Those boys don't want nothing to do with an honest days work. They shuffle money and steal from the people who do work."

"Your mama sounds like a smart woman," I said.

"Bankers will own it all before it's done with. They got the money. They got the laws set on their side of the scale. All a farmer's got is a strong back and a high tolerance for suffering. My mama says that too."

"You ever think of doing anything else?" I asked, as he was about to put the digger back to work.

"Anything else? I'm the son of a farmer's son. No, I've never thought of that. A man's got to dip his hands in the soil from time to time or he withers away and dies. We grow the food. How'd people eat if farmers didn't grow the food?"

"I suppose," I said, not being able to get where he was.

"What is it that so interests you about my clothes?" he asked, as he caught me looking at his overalls again.

"Me?" I asked, thrown off by the blunt inquiry.

"You know," he said in firm words, "a boy shouldn't ought to be looking at a man the way you look at me. Someone might be mistaken about your intention. The underwear was a sacrifice I made while leaving a house sooner than I expected, when a farmer came home early.

"It was a serious loss considering I never finished what his wife so boldly began. Leaving them was considerably more acceptable than losing what the husband of the woman might have cut off me had he caught me in his bed. With the condition of my pants I have nothing to hide from any eyes that wish to pry. Yours have done their share."

"Mine?" I said, not knowing how to answer the accusation.

"You are a most curious lad and you'll find I'm little different than other men once you take a close up look. Let me get to work before your Pa fires both of us."

"You take the wives of men who hire you?" I asked, alarmed by his confession.

"Only those looking to be taken and only after the husband thinks he can take advantage of my labor without the agreed upon pay. One takes compensation when he can. I give a full measure of work and expect the agreed upon compensation. So remember that when you're the farmer."

"As for your britches, Mama mentioned to me that she'd repair them after supper if you like. I was looking to see what she was talking about. I meant no disrespect."

"Your Mama noticed the condition of my pants? I'll have to apologize for being so careless. There are few alternatives to letting them wear themselves out, until I have funds to replace them," he said, with a far more sophisticated lilt to his words. "Haven't had much in the way of cash as of late, as you can tell. A few repairs here and there would suit me fine. We can make arrangements when you show me where I will sleep."

"I wouldn't have taken notice if she hadn't mentioned it," I said, trying to explain myself. "Seems like men's pants all wear out about the same. All of us have patches where you got holes."

"I was more concerned about your interest in certain areas of my pants. Far be it from me to tell another man what he likes. My business here is business, however. I don't want to lose a job over a misunderstanding."

"Rest assured, I want you to stay, because you'll take some of the strain off me. I don't usually get to know the hands. I just happened to be here when you came," I said.

"Well, that does make sense. I don't want to be an imposition on your Mama's kindness. She must have plenty of mending to do with three sons. I don't wish to be more trouble than I'm worth, but I have no wish to embarrass her or myself either."

"Understood and it'll be taken care of after supper."

"I must admit meals have been hard to come by as of late. I should be working not tantalizing lads with tawdry tales of my indecencies. You were taking lunch to your brothers, I believe."

"Well, I haven't had indecencies of my own to brag about. Listening to you offers me hope I might one day."

He laughed and his posture eased up as he leaned on the digger. I sensed a lighthearted nature under the stern exterior.

"You're young. You'll have more experiences than you'll care to admit by the time you're my age."

"How many have you had?" I foolishly asked. "More than you care to admit sounds like a lot to someone with my limited experience."

"About every other farm as of late, I'd say. Not to be worrying, boy, I got the last one. I'll be resting for the next one while I'm here."

"That's not funny," I assured him.

"I only take wives who aren't being loved proper. Those are the ones who turn to the hired hands for service."

"They ask you for it right out? Offer it to you?"

"Some women need more than their husbands can give them. Some simply need some affection no one else will give them. A strong young man comes along. They speak to him of love and romance, once the have his eye. When you are on the road and alone and lonely yourself, the ability to deny yourself the sin of the flesh can be almost impossible. I'd never touch a fair man's wife, no matter the reason, but if a man thinks he's getting more than he's paying for, I can be seduced as part of my pay.

"A wife might see my loins as the answer to her prayers. It's only the answer to mine if the debt I'm owed isn't made good. Many men make promises they don't intend to keep, and at times desirable wives are more than willing to make good on their husband's debt.

"You are full of yourself, aren't you?" I observed. "I bet about half of what you say is true."

"I'll be the first to admit I have little strength when it comes to pleasure. I can tell you it's a long lonely road, Robert, and my back is strong, but I'm not strong enough to resist temptation. I doubt I'm little different from most men in my situation. We all wish to be wanted if only for a few minutes of good hard sweating."

"You never been caught at it?" I wondered aloud.

"We can talk about this after your Pa tells me he's keeping me on. You should know better than to distract me by getting me telling you naughty tales of my past. Besides, my experiences are likely tame in comparison to a handsome young lad such as yourself in spite of your denial," he said. "We can talk of my dalliances later on if that's your interest. Right now I need to get to digging."

"He's gone. I'm in charge," I said with unusual authority in my voice. "Like you said, I'm curious and rarely hear from someone with so much to say. You might not be here later."

"In that case the answer is no, I never got caught. I did lose that underwear. That's the risk you take, when you take that risk. At times it's more adventure than I need. She was young and fair of face. My mind was on her when it should have been on work."

"The husbands don't suspect you?"

"No, I'm careful enough to be sure he's far enough away to allow for a proper bedding. While staying longer would be a luxury, it's one I don't allow myself often."

"I thought marriage was about faithfulness. Why betray that?"

"You need to ask the wives. Spending a lot of time figuring out the why can ruin the experience or prevent it."

"What about farmers' daughters. I've heard stories at school about lust girls cavorting with the hands. Most boys I know claim to have been with more than one farmer's daughter."

"You do persist. Well, you are the boss. It's not smart to talk about the yearnings of young ladies who have larger appetites than the sense to govern them. Of all the temptation that's the most dangerous. Unrestrained desire is a certain recipe for disaster."

"I'll keep that in mind the next time some young girl throws herself at me. They've managed to resist my so far."

"Many a day was spent recovering from a night in the hay with the farmer's daughter. They stay longer than discretion allows, come more often than is wise, and won't take no for the answer, once you give them what they want."

"You said of all the temptation there is out there. We've got wives and daughters so far. Do tell. What else is there?"

"Let's see, what's left?" he asked himself thoughtfully. "Wives? Daughters? Ah, and farmer's sons are the biggest bother of all. They are unrestrained on a farm and endlessly curious. They speak with their eyes before asking lurid questions, seeking answers that stimulate their fertile imaginations," he spoke in a flourish of words that were aimed directly at me. "Once stimulated a farmer's son will mount almost anything. You give them details with stories of lustful pursuits and some can't keep their enthusiasm contained in their trousers, but I'm sure you know plenty about farm boys. You are one, after all, and I'm telling you nothing you don't already know. Now, can I get back to work or do you want something more of me?"

"You are full of yourself," I said, feeling my face flush as I realized he was patronizing me.

"You asked and I should not lie to the farmer's son. Farm boys have something other than love on their minds, when they ask about my love life, but unlike women, they aren't particular and don't need to exercise caution with the hired hands, who'll be gone in a day or two and keep their secret."

"It's not funny," I declared. "I've never heard such as that. You're making it up to get a rise out of me. I'm on to you."

"Ah, you've found me out. Being a good hand, I try to give what's expected. You seem to expect stories. How can I resist entertaining you with mine? You'll have to decide for yourself what's true."

"Well, I suppose that about covers it all?" I said with disdain.

"In personal experience, yes. Farm animals were never my style, but I can tell you what a few of the bolder farm boys told me about such experiences if you like? Three was one lanky lad who had a thing for his favorite pig."

"Very funny. I've got business to tend to," I said. "You've got fencing. I think I've heard enough for the time being."

"Yes sir, boss. I'll save those stories for after supper. There's one about a lamb I think you'd like. I'm still not certain if that one is true or not. Farm boys do like to stretch the truth to be entertaining."

"I stand by my previous observation. You're full of yourself and too bold for your own good," I said.

"I'll be needing to wash up before supper, Robert," Sven reminded me. "A towel and some soap would be helpful. You can show me where when next we speak."

"There's a pump behind the barn where we wash up out of sight of the house on account Mama don't want to see a bunch a bare butts and all."

"As it should be, a lady shouldn't be exposed to the likes of us. You'll come show me when the time comes? I don't wish to miss a meal or a chance to rinse off the day's dirt."

"Sure, I'll take care of it when I bring my brothers back from the meadows," I said, as he put his back into his work and I put my curiosity to rest for the time being.

He was full of himself. I wondered what I'd be like after being on the road for too long to remember how long.

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