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Hiram the Young Farmer By Burbank L. Todd Characters: 8637

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

That afternoon Hiram hitched up the old horse and drove into town.

He went to see the lawyer who had transacted Uncle Jeptha Atterson's small business in the old man's lifetime, and had made his will-Mr. Strickland. Hiram judged that this gentleman would know as much about the Atterson place as anybody.

"No-Mr. Atterson never said anything to me about giving a neighbor water-rights," the lawyer said. "Indeed, Mr. Atterson was not a man likely to give anything away-until he had got through with it himself.

"Dickerson once tried to buy a right at that corner of the Atterson pasture; but he and the old gentleman couldn't come to terms.

"Dickerson has no water on his place, saving his well and his rights on the river. It makes it bad for him, I suppose; but I do not advise Mrs. Atterson to let that fence stand. Give that sort of a man an inch and he'll take a mile."

"But what shall I do?"

"That's professional advice, young man," returned the lawyer, "smiling. But I will give it to you without charge.

"Merely go and pull the new posts up and replace them on the line. If Dickerson interferes with you, come to me and we'll have him bound over before the Justice of the Peace.

"You represent Mrs. Atterson and are within her rights. That's the best I can tell you."

Now, Hiram was not desirous of starting any trouble-legal or otherwise-with a neighbor; but neither did he wish to see anybody take advantage of his old boarding mistress. He knew that, beside farming for her, he would probably have to defend her from many petty annoyances like the present case.

So he bought the wire he needed for repairs, a few other things that were necessary, and drove back to the farm, determined to go right ahead and await the consequences.

Among his purchases was an axe. In the workshop on the farm was a fairly good grindstone; only the treadle was broken and Hiram had to repair this before he could make much headway in grinding the axe. Henry Pollock lived too far away to be called upon in such a small emergency.

Being obliged to work alone sharpens one's wits. The young farmer had to resort to shifts and expedients on every hand, as he went along.

The day before, while wandering in the wood, he had marked several white oaks of the right size for posts. He would have preferred cedars, of course; but those trees were scarce on the Atterson tract-and they might be needed for some more important job later on.

When he came up to the house at noon to feed the stock and make his own frugal meal in the farm house kitchen, the posts were cut. After dinner he harnessed the horse to the farm wagon, and went down for the posts, taking the rolls of wire along to drop beside the fence.

The horse was a steady, willing creature, and seemed to have no tricks. He did not drive very well on the road, of course; but that wasn't what they needed a horse for.

Driving was a secondary matter.

Hiram loaded his posts and hauled them to the pasture, driving inside the fence line and dropping a post wherever one had rotted out.

Yet posts that had rotted at the ground were not so easy to draw out, as the young farmer very well knew, and he set his wits to work to make the removal of the old posts easy of accomplishment.

He found an old, but strong, carpenter's horse in the shed, to act as a fulcrum, and a seasoned bar of hickory as a lever. There was never an old farm yet that didn't have a useful heap of junk, and Hiram had already scratched over Uncle Jeptha's collection of many years' standng.

He found what he sought in a wrought iron band some half inch in thickness with a heavy hook attached to it by a single strong link. He fitted this band upon the larger end of the hickory bar, wedging it tightly into place.

A short length of trace chain completed his simple post-puller. And he could easily carry the outfit from place to place as it was needed.

When he found a weak or rotting post, he pulled the staples that held the strands of wire to it and and then set the trestle alongside the post. Resting the lever on the trestle, he dropped the end link of the chain on the hook, looped the chain around the post, and hooked on with another link. Bearing down on the lever brought the post out of the ground every time.

With a lo

ng-handled spade Hiram cleaned out the old holes, or enlarged them, and set his new posts, one after the other. He left the wires to be tightened and stapled later.

It was not until the next afternoon that he worked down as far as the water-hole. Meanwhile he had seen nothing of the neighbors and neither knew, nor cared, whether they were watching him or not.

But it was evident that the Dickersons had kept tabs on the young farmer's progress, for, he had no more than pulled the posts out of the water-hole and started to reset them on the proper line, than the long-legged Pete Dickerson appeared.

"Hey, you!" shouted Pete. "What are you monkeying with that line fence for?"

"Because I won't have time to fix it later," responded Hiram, calmly.

"Fresh Ike, ain't yer?" demanded young Dickerson.

He was half a head taller than Hiram, and plainly felt himself safe in adopting bullying tactics.

"You put them posts back where you found 'em and string the wires again in a hurry-or I'll make yer."

"This is Mrs. Atterson's fence," said Hiram, quietly. "I have made inquiries about the line, and I know where it belongs."

"No part of this water-hole belongs on your side of the fence, Dickerson, and as long as I represent Mrs. Atterson it's not going to be grabbed."

"Say! the old man gave my father the right to a part of this hole long ago."

"Show your legal paper to that effect," promptly suggested Hiram. "Then we will let it stand until the lawyers decide the matter."

Pete was silent for a minute; meanwhile Hiram continued to dig his hole, and finally set the first post into place.

"I tell you to take that post out o' there, Mister," exclaimed Pete, suddenly approaching the other. "I don't like you, anyway. You helped git me turned off up there to Bronson's yesterday. If you wouldn't have put your fresh mouth in about the horse that gal wouldn't have knowed so much to tell her father. Now you stop foolin' with this fence or I'll lick you."

Hiram Strong's disposition was far from being quarrelsome. He only laughed at first and said:

"Why, that won't do you any good in the end, Peter. Thrashing me won't give you and your father the right to usurp rights at this water-hole.

"There was very good reason, as I can see, for old Mr. Atterson refusing to let you water your stock here. In time of drouth the branch probably furnished no more water than his own cattle needed. And it will be the same with my employer."

"You'd better have less talk about it, and set back them posts," declared Pete, decidedly, laying off his coat and pulling up his shirt sleeves.

"I hope you won't try anything foolish, Peter," said Hiram, resting on his shovel handle.

"Huh!" grunted Pete, eyeing him sideways as might an evil-disposed dog.

"We're not well matched," observed Hiram, quietly, "and whether you thrashed me, or I thrashed you, nothing would be proved by it in regard to the line fence."

"I'll show you what I can prove!" cried Pete, and rushed for him.

In a catch-as-catch-can wrestle Pete Dickerson might have been able to overturn Hiram Strong. But the latter did not propose to give the long-armed youth that advantage.

He dropped the spade, stepped nimbly aside, and as Pete lunged past him the young farmer doubled his fist and struck his antagonist solidly under the ear.

That was the only blow struck-that and the one when Pete struck the ground. The bigger fellow rolled over, grunted, and gazed up at Hiram with amazement struggling with the rage expressed in his features.

"I told you we were not well matched, Peter," spoke Hiram, calmly. "Why fight about it? You have no right on your side, and I do not propose to see Mrs. Atterson robbed of this water privilege."

Pete climbed to his feet slowly, and picked up his coat. He felt of his neck carefully and then looked at his hand, with the idea evidently that such a heavy blow must have brought blood. But of course there was none.

"I'll tell my dad-that's what I'll do," ejaculated the bully, at length, and he started immediately across the field, his long legs working like a pair of tongs in his haste to get over the ground.

But Hiram completed the setting of the posts at the water-hole without hearing further from any member of the Dickerson family.

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