This is my day today:
help Missus Mary with the breakfast;
clean up the dishes when we are done;
send the younger boys off to school;
go out to the garden
and pick beans and squash for dinner;
feed the chickens.
Missus is working in the fields
with the older boys,
so I will feed the hogs today.
I hate feeding the hogs.
Prepare lunch, and take it out to the field.
They’re working in the far field today—
maybe I’ll dip my feet in the creek on the way back.
Mr. John has been gone hunting for days.
We expect him back today.
I’ll make some coffee for him.
I made some biscuits—I know he’ll like that.
Missus complains when he’s gone;
says she doesn’t understand
why he likes to be away so long.
But she knows his wounds still cause him pain,
so he can’t do the hard work of the farm.
Mr. John told me he likes the quiet of the prairie,
lying out under the stars at night.
Says he needs to be alone sometimes;
needs to get away from people.
I asked him what he does all day when he’s gone.
He said he checks his traps,
does some hunting or fishing,
but mostly just sits and thinks and listens.
I think he can’t get the war out of his head.
Pa said men were like that when they came back.
Some got better, some started drinking;
some, like Mr. John, just became sad or angry.
Here comes Mr. John now,
leading his mule down the lane.
Looks like he got a deer.
He’s bent to the side more than usual,
and he’s limping—
his hip and back must really be hurting.
I’ll get an extra cushion for his chair
so he can be comfortable
when he sits and talks with me.
I love it when he talks about the stars,
and all the plants on the prairie,
or about the years before the war,
when there was hardly anyone living here,
and there was nothing but a sea of grass.
Oh, how beautiful that must have been.
He was one of the first settlers here,
him and the others from Ohio.
He told me they surveyed their own farms,
laid out lots for the town, built the mill.
I think he wants to go back
to those days before the war.
I can see it in his eyes—
he doesn't seem so sad
when he talks to me.
I think he likes to talk with me,
maybe 'cause I listen,
and of course I don’t tell him
what he should do.
I try to help him feel less sad.
I wish there was a way I could ease his pain.