Page images
PDF
EPUB

with the sweet, foamy milk, Maggie turned to Susan, and with a deep sigh, said: "Oh, Susan! Thank God we don't have to milk Mary."

The next morning, and in fact for several mornings thereafter, I had to assist the girls at dressing.

A few days after our removal to the ranch Susan had occasion to drive into town for some grain. She decided that Mary was not clean enough to be seen on the road, so with a sponge, a scrubbing brush and some castile soap she and Maggie proceeded to give her a sponge bath. She seemed to enjoy the wash immensely and took a nap or two during the procedure. After

We soon discovered that we were considered quite important personages by the neighbors. The fact that we were trained nurses, and had served in the army in the Philippines, placed us in their highest esteem, but they could not understand how it was that we could contentedly live on a chicken ranch.

Of course, they could not know what peace it was to us to own our very own little home, after having spent years in "bumping" around the world as nurses do. We gradually learned that our neighbors on all four sides were bachelors, and very quiet ones they proved to be. Adjoining the place at the back lived

[graphic]

Feeding the hens.

A visitor in the hen yard her mane was combed and her tail trimmed, she really presented quite a respectable appearance.

On the return home, and within two miles of the ranch, one of the wheels locked. There was no monkey wrench in the wagon and no grease handy, but Mary pulled the heavily-laden wagon home, despite the fact that the road was deep with sand. Since then, Susan would have no other horse on the place, and all thought of trading Mary off was set aside.

At the extreme end of the ranch was a grove of beautiful oaks, and from that we decided to name the place "The Oaks."

old Mr. Buckley, eighty years of age, and with a cataract growing over each eye. How he managed to take care of chickens was a mystery to us. At our left lived Domingo Parado, a Portuguese, who spoke no English, so we had no acquaintance with him.

At our right lived Chris Schwartz, a German. He deviated from the the usual plan of Chickenville ranchers, and instead of raising chickens, he grew grain and potatoes. He said: "Chickens were too noisy and they made him nervous."

During our first week at the ranch we were kept wondering why it was that he would continually walk up

[blocks in formation]

Several ladies from the district. called upon us, but the first, a native of Ireland, was by far the most interesting.

Mrs. Maloney called, so she said, "because she read in the Argus that three dress-makers, school-teachers, or 'something,' had bought the Murray ranch, and were living there alone, with no man about. She did not believe that three lone wimmen would stay alone, on a ranch, especially at night, so she came to find out for herself. Then she thought that if we were dress-makers we might be able to help her some with her spring sewing."

We informed her that we were neither dress-makers, nor schoolteachers, but were "something," and that we were not afraid to stay alone on the ranch at night. Thus assured she poured forth in our unwilling ears all of the gossip of the neigh

borhood.

The walls of our reception room were hung with Filipino mats, hats and baskets, Suddenly she turned Suddenly she turned her attention to these, and in great wonderment asked: "What are all iv thim things hanging on the wall? Be they for sale?"

After asking us our age, the price we paid for the ranch, how many eggs the hens laid each day, what we sold them for, and various other personal questions concerning our family and previous abode, she took

her departure, promising to come again soon.

Other ladies called and all were most willing, and in fact eager, to give us pointers on poultry raising. We learned that no two ranchers fed their hens alike, but all agreed upon what we called the "stuffing plan." plan." That is, they fed the hens all that they could possibly eat, of a variety of foods, some keeping it before them all the time, in self-feeding hoppers. They claimed that what extra food the hen ate, aside from the amount necessary to nourish her body, went to aid in the formation of eggs.

We thankfully accepted all suggestions, and were aided quite materially by following some of the good advice given.

The day that the chicks were to hatch was a red letter day at the ranch. The last night we all took turns at sitting up to watch the thermometer. Susan was not quite sure when to add moisture, nor was she positive as to the amount necessary. "Oh, fill the pipes full, if that will hurry the chickens along," was the advice Maggie gave.

Imagine our delight when, during the next twenty-four hours, two hundred little, miserable-looking, wet chicks worked themselves free from the shells despite the fact that we had been of the opinion all along that the birds had been both frozen and roasted several times over, so unruly had been the thermometer.

In two more days the downy balls of white were transferred to their warm brooder, and the incubator was cleaned and closed for all time. We could find no outlet for the water in the pipes, so by suction and a sponge Maggie managed to make them quite dry.

We decided that if we wanted to raise any more chicks we would buy them from ranchers, who made a practice of hatching them and selling at the rate of ten dollars per one hundred, minus the cripples. We

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

already had as much night duty as we cared for.

Mr. Henry seemed to have considerable business in this vicinity, and he called quite often. Almost every time we happened to to look toward the road, we could see him, driving by with a surrey full of people, and pointing out this place to them. He seemed to use us for an advertisement.

We were not, then, in the least surprised, when he one day told us. that he had sold several ranches in the neighborhood since. we had

moved there. We then came to the conclusion that there was some commission due us. Maggie seemed charmed by Mr. Henry's voice. She said she could listen to him talk all day. I was quite sure I couldn't. It was one of those deep kind that comes from the cellar and rattles the attic rafters. We were curious to know what his given name was. Maggie said she felt it was Charles. Susan declared it must be August, because one day when he called he read the German inscription on her stein, and she declared only a German could have read it as he did. We didn't like either of those names, so Maggie and I decided to speak

of him as Paul.

In due time we decided to have a vegetable garden. One morning Susan hitched Mary to the plow, and proceeded to prepare the earth for the seed. For some reason the plow seemed to go in the opposite direction from that taken by Mary, which resulted in a furrow resembling Chinese designs. It was then agreed that Susan would guide Mary, while Maggie steered the plow. The start was fairly made when suddenly Maggie seemed to lose control of her feet. She ran a short distance with the plow, and then with shouts of "Whoa, Mary, whoa!" her feet suddenly stood straight up in mid-air, her hands still clutching the plowhandles. It was the prettiest bit of

gymnastics I had ever seen Maggie perform.

Mary lazily looked around to see what the commotion was about, then with a switch of her bob-tail, she closed her eyes and proceeded to take a nap, a habit she has whenever she stands. After several attempts, the plow was finally made to follow Mary, and before many days the seed was planted.

It often became my privilege, shall I say, or duty-it certainly was not a pleasure to push Mary into town, to carry the eggs to market and to purchase household supplies. I cannot say I drove her. I simply pushed and used the whip so freely that my arm would ache until the next time. She is a good plow horse, but as a roadster-never. And she backs exactly like a carabao.

Paul wanted to exchange her for us, but the girls would not talk about it. I nodded my head vigorously in the affirmative at him from behind their backs, but all to no avail. He could not persuade them to part with her.

One Sunday we were surprised to have Mr. Henry call with two strange gentlemen, whom he said. were eager to meet us. He introduced them as Judge Cyrus Noble and Dr. Williams. The three kept bachelor quarters in town. The Judge, a rather portly gentleman, seemed from, the first to be very faforably impressed with Susan, and appeared quite delighted when she suggested showing him around the ranch.

The doctor, a handsome, though rather quiet young fellow, insisted upon seeing Maggie's vegetable garden, of which she had been telling him.

Thus, Mr. Henry and I were left alone. I was sitting at the piano, and at his request I played "Anona," one of the latest Indian ballads. He sang it in his rich bass voice, and then it was that I changed my mind. I knew that I, too, could listen to him talk every day for all time. Dur

[graphic][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »