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july 15

Morning came with my father's rough whisper at the doorway of the room I share with my two brothers and four sisters "Joseph, wake up." Quickly and silently I moved from the bed onto the hard cement floor and padded out through my parents room to the porch. My father met me out there and greeted me with a glance.

"Today we have to mend the fence at the west end of your uncle's pasture. Wake up Jim and get dressed and grab yourself a biscuit. Hurry up, we have to get working before Elmer moves his herd in."

Taking a moment to breathe in the crisp, chilly morning air, I strode over to the pump and pumped some water into the bucket. Splashing the cold water on my face, I walked back into the house and into my bedroom. Reaching across the bed, I shook my little brother, "Jim, we got to get up and fix the fence with Pa." He groaned and rolled over, almost on top of our sister Jessie. She elbowed him and he sat up on his arms and blinked several times.

"What fence are we fixin' today?"

"Elmer's west fence needs work, and we got to hurry, before he sets out the herd to graze." I reached into the dresser and pulled out a crisp, starched white shirt and canvas trousers. "Come on, hurry up. Grab yourself some food and meet us on the porch." Back in my parents room now, I reached in the cupboard and untied the handkerchief with the biscuits in it. Taking one for myself, and one for Jim, I retied the knot and closed the cupboard. I handed Jim the biscuit and the two of us headed out to meet Pa.

The sun was just rising as the three of us headed down the road to the pasture. I was carrying some barbed wire, John was carrying some nails and our hammer, and Pa had hefted some four or five posts over his shoulder. As the three of us walked the quiet, flat landscape, Pa explained the job to us, "Seems as though that windstorm last evening took out a section of the fence over by the Lofquist's pond. Your Uncle needs to get the cattle in that pasture to graze before noon today so we've got to have it fixed for him by then." We walked on in silence until Jim asked Pa to tell him about Grampa Leatherman. Grampa Leatherman had served with General Grant and Jim and I never tired of hearing about him. Pa talked quietly about him and the days growing up on his farm until we reached the pond.

We set to work clearing the tree that had torn down the fence and setting the posts in the ground and stringing up the wire. Just before we finished, Pa stood, brushed the dust off his hands and said to me, "Joeseph, I have to go to town to see about getting some things for your mother. You and your brother finish this up and then go help your uncle move his cattle in here. Be home before supper, to see if your mother needs any help around the house."

I nodded solemnly and we continued on with our work as Pa headed back down the road. Jim and I finished up quickly and headed over to Elmer's farm. By the time we arrived, Uncle Elmer and the Allyn boys had already left to heard the cattle out to pasture and we were invited in by Aunt Bessie for the noon meal. I was asked to lead the family in saying grace and I delivered it the way my mother taught me,

"Kind Heavenly Father,
We thank Thee for this food,

And for Thy Heavenly Blessing.
Be with each member of our family
And all those that need thee,
Guide us and keep us,
And forgive us our sins
these things we ask in Jesus' name and for his sake,
Amen."

Jim and I ate the meal Bessie had prepared; beef stew, green beans, potatoes, wheat bread and milk. She had cooked for her children and all the farmhands so there was plenty to go around. She gave us a satchel filled with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes to take back to our mother and sent us on our way.

Since Elmer had already moved the cattle into the pasture, Jim and I headed home to drop off the stuff Bessie had given us and grab our fishing poles. Ma and Jessie were on the porch sewing up some of Pa's pajamas, the other boys were at the Allyn's putting up a new chicken coop and the girls were out back working in the garden.

Ma took the vegetables, "I won't be needing you boys until supper, but before you go off fishin', make sure that Elmer's got all the help he needs." Jim and grabbed our poles and the tin can and spade for worms and headed over to the Lofquist pond.

When we got there, Elmer was checking his cows for colic and the Allyn boys were already down at the pond. We waved hey to him and he called us both over to give us each a piece of honeycomb for fixing his fence. "You boys did a wizz-bang job on this fence here. You do your father proud." We thanked him in turn for the noon meal and he told us, "You boys tell your mother that new minister at the Cleveland Church wants her to join the choir cause she's got that beautiful voice. And everyone loved her cobbler she made for that picnic last weekend." We nodded and thanked him for the honeycomb and headed down to the pond to join the boys fishing.

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