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   Chapter 25 THE BARBECUE

Hiram the Young Farmer By Burbank L. Todd Characters: 9696

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


On the seventeenth day of June Hiram had "grappled out" a mess of potatoes for their dinner. They were larger than hen's eggs and came upon the table mealy and white.

Potatoes were selling at retail in Scoville for two dollars the bushel. Before the end of that week-after the lowland corn was planted-Hiram dug two rows of potatoes, sorted them, and carted them to town, together with some bunched beets, a few bunches of young carrots, radishes and salad.

The potatoes he sold for fifty cents the five-eighth basket, from house to house, and he brought back, for his load of vegetables, ten dollars and twenty cents, which he handed to Mrs. Atterson, much to that lady's joy.

"My soul and body, Hiram!" she exclaimed. "This is just a God-send-no less. Do you know that we've sold nigh twenty-five dollars' worth of stuff already this spring, besides that pair of pigs I let Pollock have, and the butter to St. Beris?"

"And it's only a beginning," Hiram told her. "Wait til' the peas come along-we'll have a mess for the table in a few days now. And the sweet corn and tomatoes.

"If you and Sister can do the selling, it will help out a whole lot, of course. I wish we had another horse."

"Or an automobile," said Sister, clapping her hands. "Wouldn't it be fine to run into town in an auto, with a lot of vegetables? Then Hiram could keep right at work with the horse and not have to stop to harness up for us."

"Shucks, child!" admonished Mrs. Atterson. "What big idees you do get in that noddle o' yourn."

The girls' boarding school and the two hotels proved good customers for Hiram's early vegetables; for nobody around Scoville had potatoes at this time, and Hiram's early peas were two weeks ahead of other people's.

Having got a certain number of towns folks to expect him at least thrice a week, when other farmers had green stuff for sale they could not easily "cut out" Hiram later in the season.

And not always did the young farmer have to leave his work at home to deliver the vegetables and Mrs. Atterson's butter. Sister, or the old lady herself, could go to town if the load was not too heavy.

Of course, it cost considerable to live. And hogfood and grain for the horse and cow had to be bought. Hiram was fattening four of the spring shoats against winter. Two they could sell and two kill for their own use.

"Goin' to be big doin's on the Fourth this year, Hiram," said Henry Pollock, meeting the young farmer on the road from town one day. "Heard about it?"

"In Scoville, do you mean? They're going to have a 'Safe and Sane' Fourth, the Banner says."

"Nope. We don't think much of goin' to town Fourth of July. And this year there's goin' to be a big picnic in Langdon's Grove-that's up the river, you know."

"A public picnic?"

"Sure. A barbecue, we call it," said Henry. "We have one at the Grove ev'ry year. This time the two Sunday Schools is goin' to join and have a big time. You and Sister don't want to miss it. That Mr. Bronson's goin' to give a whole side o' beef, they tell me, to roast over the fires."

"A big banquet is in prospect, is it?" asked Hiram, smiling.

"And a stew! Gee! you never eat one o' these barbecue stews, did ye? Some of us will go huntin' the day before, and there'll be birds, and squirrels, as well as chickens in that stew-and lima beans, and corn, and everything good you can think of!" and Henry smacked his lips in prospect.

Then he added, bethinking himself of his errand:

"Everybody chips in and gives the things to eat. What'll you give, Hiram?"

"Some vegetables," said Hiram, quickly. "Mrs. Atterson won't object, I guess. Do they want tomatoes for their stew?"

"Won't be no tomatoes ripe, Hiram," said Henry, decidedly.

"There won't, eh? You come out and take a look at mine," said Hiram, laughing.

Of all the rows of vegetables in Hiram's garden plot, the thriftiest and handsomest were the trellised tomato plants. It took nearly half of Sister's time to keep the plants tied up and pinched back, as Hiram had taught her.

But the stalks were already heavily laden with fruit; and those hanging lowest on the sturdy vines were already blushing.

"By Jo!" gasped Henry. "You've done it, ain't you? But the cannery won't take 'em yet awhile-and they'll all be gone before September."

"The cannery won't get many of my tomatoes," laughed Hiram. "And these vines properly trained and cultivated as they are, will bear fruit up to frost. You wait and see."

"I'll have to tell dad to come and look at these. I dunno, Hiram, if you can sell 'em at retail, but you'll git as much for 'em as dad does for his whole crop-just as you said."

"That's what I'm aiming for," responded Hiram. "But would the ladies who cook the barbecue stew care for tomatoes, do you think?"

"We never git tomatoes this early,

" said Henry. "How about potatoes? And there ain't many folks dug any of theirn yet, but you."

So, after speaking with Mrs. Atterson, Hiram agreed to supply a barrel of potatoes for the barbecue, and the day before the Fourth, one of the farmers came with a wagon to pick up the supplies.

Everybody at the Atterson farm would go to the grove-that was understood.

"If one knocks off work, the others can," declared Mother Atterson. "You see that things is left all right for the critters, Hiram, and we'll tend to things indoors so that we can be gone till night."

"And do, Hiram, look out for my poults the last thing," cried Sister.

Mrs. Larriper had given Sister a setting of ten turkey eggs and every one of them had hatched under one of Mrs. Atterson's motherly old hens. At first the girl had kept the young turkeys and their foster mother right near the house, so that she could watch them carefully.

But poults are rangy, and these being particularly strong and thrifty, they soon ran the old hen pretty nearly to death.

So Hiram had built a coop into which they could go at night, safe from any vermin, and set it far down in the east lot, near the woods. Sister usually went down with a little grain twice a day to call them up, and keep them tame.

"But when they get big enough to roost in the fall, I expect we'll have to gather that crop with a gun," Hiram told her, laughing.

Many of the farmers teams were strung out along the road long before Hiram was ready to set out. He had made sure that the spring wagon was in good shape, and he had built an extra seat for it, so that the four rode very comfortably.

Like every other Fourth of July, the sun was broiling hot! And the dust rose in clouds as the faster teams passed their slow old nag.

Mrs. Atterson sat up very primly in her best silk, holding a parasol and wearing a pair of lace mits that had appeared on state occasions for the past twenty years, at least.

Sister was growing like a weed, and it was hard to keep her skirts and sleeves at a proper length. But she was an entirely different looking girl from the boarding house slavey whom Hiram remembered so keenly back in Crawberry.

As for Old Lem Camp, he was as cheerful as Hiram had ever seen him, and showed a deal of interest in everything about the farm, and had proved himself, as Mrs. Atterson had prophesied, a great help.

Scarcely a house along the road was not shut up and the dooryard deserted-for everybody was going to the barbecue. All but the Dickerson family. Sam was at work in the fields, and the haggard Mrs. Dickerson looked dumbly from her porch, with a crying baby in her scrawny arms as the Attersons and Hiram passed.

But Pete was at the barbecue. He was there when Hiram arrived, and he was making himself quite as prominent as anybody.

Indeed, he made himself so obnoxious finally, that one of the rough men who was keeping up the fires threatened to chuck Pete into the biggest one, and then cool him off in the river.

Otherwise, however, the barbecue passed off very pleasantly. The men who governed it saw that no liquor was brought along, and the unruly element to which Pete belonged was kept under with an iron hand.

There was so little "fun", of a kind, in Pete's estimation that, after the big event of the day-the banquet-he and some of his friends disappeared. And the picnicking ground was a much quieter and pleasanter place after their departure.

The newcomers into the community made many friends and acquaintances that day. Sister was going to school in the fall, and she found many girls of her age whom she would meet there.

Mrs. Atterson met the older ladies, and was invited to join no less than two "Ladies' Aids", and, as she said, "if she called on all the folks she'd agreed to visit, she'd be goin' ev'ry day from then till Christmas!"

As for Hiram, the men and older boys were rather inclined to jolly him a bit. Not many of them had been upon the Atterson place to see what he had done, but they had heard some stories of his proposed crops that amused them.

When Mr. Bronson, however, whom the local men knew to be a big farmer in the Middle West, and who owned many farms out there now, spoke favorably of Hiram's work, the local men listened respectfully.

"The boy's got it in him to do something," the Westerner said, in his hearty fashion. "You're eating his potatoes now, I understand. Which one of you can dig early potatoes like those?

"And he's got the best stand of corn in the county."

"On that river-bottom, you mean?" asked one.

"And on the upland, too. You fellows want to look about you a little. Most of you don't see beyond the end of your noses. You watch out, or Hiram Strong is going to beat every last one of you this year-and that's a run-down farm he's got, at that."

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