Hard Work and Birthdays
That first summer was very busy. After the old house was torn down and cleared away they moved our little trailer onto their property to live in until they got a house built.
Daddy was always looking for work to add to their meager income, and since they had moved he took any small job he could find, for several weeks he worked at a vineyard, and whenever Wixson’s Honey needed him he would work there, but they still had to struggle to make ends meet. Then one day a big burly logger stopped in and asked if he could split firewood for him. Daddy was happy to do it and so they brought big dump truck loads of firewood and dumped it behind the house and Daddy set to work swinging a big heavy ax. I loved watching him as he worked in a steady rhythm, every blow of the ax split a chunk of wood down the middle then he would split each of the halves yet. Hour after hour he would work, without rest, whistling as chopped wood for $4.00 an hour, happy to be providing money for his family.
After splitting wood all day Daddy would try to clean up around the property in the evenings, he managed to build a fence around the pasture to keep our horse. Up until then we had to stake Jim out to a new patch of grass every day.
After several months of splitting wood, the logger offered Daddy the job of working for him in the woods for a much better salary. Daddy accepted, and it wasn’t long before they had saved up enough money to build a little white barn with a green tin roof..
John and I enjoyed playing in it. There was a stall for Jim, a pen for a cow they hoped to buy someday, and another pen for a few pigs. There was room to park our spring wagon, the top buggy, and our little open buggy, and a ladder that led up to the hay loft. We were not allowed to climb up to the loft unless Daddy was with us, but we didn’t mind, there was enough fun to be had in a new clean barn without that.
One day we were playing in the barn, when we heard a horse and buggy drive in. When we ran outside to see who it is, we saw Aunt Vernie sitting beside Grandma Mast who was driving their open buggy with Grandpa sitting on the back holding a rope leading a cute Jersey cow.
Mom came running out of the trailer to meet them and Grandpa handed the rope to her and said “Happy Birthday”. Mom was delighted and hardly knew what to say. Her voice sounded funny as she thanked Grandpa.
We followed her as she led the cow into the barn and put her in the pen Daddy had made. Then we helped her give it some hay. Grandpa tied his horse to the hitching rack and then they came into the barn too. Grandma gave Mom a shiny new milk bucket. It was the most beautiful pail I had ever seen. Shiny stainless steel that worked as a mirror. John and I sat down and made funny faces and watched as the reflection in the pail was contorted to make them look even funnier. Aunt Vernie joined us and we giggled and laughed for quite awhile until Grandma asked Vernie to take the birthday cake into the house. We all went inside and Grandma starting making a birthday supper for Mom, Vernie set the table and then helped us color in our coloring books.
Throughout the next hour or so all the aunts and uncles and cousins that lived in the area arrived bringing desserts along for supper.
Everything was ready to eat when Daddy came home from a hard day in the woods, his boss dropped him off at the end of the driveway and Daddy went to the back of the truck and got several big boxes off the back and set them on the ground. John and I and all our little cousins ran out to meet him. Daddy gave us a big hug then sent me to tell Mom to come outside to see her birthday gift. I ran inside and found Mom among all the other women and told her Daddy has a lot of birthday gifts for her and that he wants her to come see them now.
We went back outside where everyone was waiting to see what is in these big boxes and John was telling Daddy about the cow in the barn and the shiny new pail. Daddy made us all stand back and watch as Mom opened the boxes, we could hardly contain our eagerness and were thrilled when Mom lifted out a black speckled hen. We crowded around the boxes then and admired the 23 others that were still in the boxes.
Mom and I went back into the house and the uncles came and helped Daddy quickly build a small chicken coop from lumber that had been left over from our barn. And then everyone enjoyed a big birthday supper.
The evening was soon over and everyone went home, as Daddy tucked me into bed I thought there couldn’t be anyone as happy as we were. A new chicken coop filled with hens, and our own little brown cow, and the prospects of another exciting day tomorrow.
Want to read more? Visit Mary Ann Kinsinger’s blog A Joyful Chaos.
Mary Ann Kinsinger was raised Old Order Amish in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. She met and married her husband, whom she knew from school days and started a family. After they chose to leave the Amish church, Mary Ann began a blog, A Joyful Chaos, as a way to capture her warm memories of her childhood for her own children. From the start, this blog found a ready audience and even captured the attention of key media players, such as the influential blog AmishAmerica and the New York Times. She lives in Pennsylvania.