I was thinking about Emilie's horse and wagon ride this weekend as I drove out to a small rural town about 2 hours from Winnipeg to attend a bridal shower.
About 3 yrs ago, a Amish settlement from Ontario moved into the Plumas area. They bought land as it became available and slowly moved families into an area which was dominated by large family farms, mostly still owned by current generations of immigrants from the late 1800's and early 1900's.
The Amish caused quite a stir initially, uproar might be more appropriate - but they have won over their neighbours and seem to have settled comfortably in their new environment. We passed farm after farm where children dressed in long dresses and bonnets, overalls and round black hats played. Some farms the children were working in gardens, on one farm two young lads were on the top of a shed, attaching a roof. Horses attaced to carrages, horse droppings on the highways... all made me think of life years ago.
Certainly we have progressed beyond the way of life of the Amish - but who is to say that our progression has been for the best. It certainly is wonderful to think that in this day and age, there are people who can live life simply in amongst the rest of us who tend to live in Chaos.
Next time I am out in this area of the country, I intend to pull in to one of these yards. I want to meet them, I want to be friends with them, and I want to learn from them. Hummmm..... much to ponder -
Winter Wheat Chapter 3 - beginning
The house they approached was small - smaller than any Emilie had ever seen before. In the dark it appeared more of a cabin than a house; but it seemed sturdy enough, as it stood surrounded by dense bush on one side, and empty space on the other. Emilie wondered if Karl’s home would be a replica of this one, and if it were; would she survive the confines of such a small abode?
While Karl tended to his horses and wagon, Emilie made her way to the tiny cabin-like house. The door flew open as she approached, spreading warmth from inside and lighting the plank stoop where she stood. A small, plump, gray-haired woman held the heavy door ajar, and beckoned with her free hand waving wildly in her excitement.
“Come in, please. Come in dear,” the words were accompanied by a generous smile and a not-so-gentle shove into the room. “You must be Emilie,” the tiny woman quipped brightly. “Welcome to my home. I am Karl’s closest neighbor, Annie. My husband is Fredrich, but he is up at the mountains at this moment, cutting our winter’s supply of firewood.” She said without stopping for a breath.
“I am Emilie Freiheilt, I am happy to meet you Annie.”
“Well Emilie,” the little woman beamed her joy at having another woman in her home, “Get out of those heavy clothes and come and warm yourself over here by the fire,” she pointed to the lively fire that heated the small combination kitchen- dining room.
Emilie removed her heavy coat and dainty boots and handed them to Annie.
“Oh my dear, your feet must be freezing!” Annie inspected Emilie’s inadequate footwear and shook her head. “These boots will have to go Dear, they are not suitable to wear out here on the prairie! Just stay right there, I’ll get you some warm socks for your feet.” Annie tore off into the adjacent room and returned with a pair of heavy gray wool socks large enough to fit a man. She thrust them at Emilie. “Here, put these on dear, they’ll warm your toes in no time!”
Emilie did as she was told and then followed her new neighbor to the low sofa that was placed before the fire. The room was so small that it held very little in the way of furnishings. A small wooden rocker, presumably Annie’s, sat beside a round table, which held only a glowing lamp and a bible. On the floor beside the rocker was a large basket full of colorful yarns with a pair of knitting needles protruding out of the middle of a project already in progress. A colorful rag rug, large enough to cover most of the wooden floor, added a nice homey touch to the room. Above the mantel of the fireplace hung several family pictures and a tin matchbox with peeling green paint.
The other end of the room obviously served as the kitchen and eating area, for there was a huge wood-stove, a cupboard with an attached sink, and several freestanding closets. A large wooden table dominated the space between the stove and where she now sat.
“I saved some supper for you and Karl,” Annie informed her, as she busily went about setting the table and dishing wonderful smelling food into the bowls and plates.
“Where are die Kinder?” Emilie asked, curious to see the young children who would be her responsibility from this day on.
“Oh the children are asleep already. They have been waiting for their Dada to get home and I think they just plumb got tired of waiting,” the little woman chuckled as she continued to set out the supper.
“You verstehe German?”
Annie smiled but shook her head. “No, but I think everyone knows a word or two of the language around here. We have quite a few German-speaking families in the area.”
“Oh . . .”
The heavy door opened and Karl stepped through bringing a cold blast of winter inside with him. He glanced Emilie’s way, and his eyes took in her slender feminine form that was more visible now that her heavy clothing had been removed.
She wore a heavy brown plaid wool dress with a deep pleated skirt that covered her legs to mid calf. The top of the dress was buttoned to the waist, a tiny collar barely covered the scooped neckline, and a matching belt was cinched tightly at her waist. His eyes traveled down her stocking clad legs to the huge gray work socks that obviously belonged to Fredrick and he stifled the chuckle that threatened within as he turned his attention to Annie.
“Greetings neighbor!” Annie rushed to take Karl’s heavy sheepskin coat. “It’s getting mighty cold out there, isn’t it?” She said to the silent man who appeared a giant in the small room. She noticed the long silent perusal her neighbor had made of his new housekeeper, and smiled to herself as she returned her attention to preparing the meal.
“It’s that all right, Annie,” Karl made his way to the sink and lifting the lid on the reservoir on the stove, ladled some boiling hot water into the basin. He added cold water from a pail on the floor and as he washed his hands asked, “Is Fredrich not home yet?”
“No. He must be going to stay longer than he intended.” She glanced at Emilie. “Come Emilie, dinner is set. Come have your meal; you too Karl; sit while it is hot!”
Karl took the nearest chair and lowered his large frame onto it. Emilie stood uncertainly not sure where she was to sit. When no one enlightened her, she took the seat directly opposite him across the table
The food smelled delicious and Emilie’s stomach growled loudly in anticipation.
Karl chuckled softly, “Her stomach has been doing that all the way from town,” he informed Annie, his slow smile spreading across his face with more animation than Emilie had seen from him thus far.
So, he can have fun when it’s at someone else’s expense, Emilie thought to herself. Well, at least now she knew the man was capable of smiling when the mood struck him.
“Go ahead and dig in girl,” Annie ordered happily, “It’s not fancy food, but it’s hot and it’s filling,” she said of her hearty supper of meat stew with potatoes, carrots, turnips, freshly baked bread, pickles and strong hot tea.
Emilie didn’t need to be told twice. She filled her plate and dug into her food like one who hadn’t eaten in days. She ate slowly, relishing each and every bite of the delicious, filling meal.
Karl did the same, and watched with disbelief as the small slip of a girl across the table from him, consumed almost the same portion as he did. “The children behaved for you, Annie?” He asked, while pretending not to watch his new housekeeper too closely.
“Oh they are dears, those two,” Annie brushed away his inquiry. “They are no trouble to me, I love them dearly,” she added, a bright smile lighting her small round face.
“Even so, they can still be a handful sometimes,” Karl insisted.
“No doubt for you they are, Karl; but that is because you have so many other things on your mind. Now that you have Emilie to help, things will be better, you’ll see,” she smiled at Emilie and watched her neighbor’s face form a frown.
“I am looking forward to meeting the Kinder . . . children,” Emilie said cheerfully. “I have heard so much about them from Martha, that I feel I already know them!”
“You will have no trouble with them,” Annie informed her from where she stood at the counter, busily cutting cake for their dessert.
Karl listened to the two women prattling on about the care of his children and wondered how he was going to fare with a complete stranger living under his roof. Lord knew it was hard enough dealing with a woman you knew, let alone having to deal with one you didn’t. His wife had been so moody and depressed for so much of their married life that he couldn’t even remember the happy days any more; if indeed there had been any. It had been so hard to know what her mood was from day to day and in the end he had just given up trying to figure it out. All he knew was that he couldn’t go through that again.
He realized that Annie had asked him a question when two pairs of eyes were trained upon his face, obviously waiting for a response to something that had been said.
“I’m sorry, Annie. What was that you said?” He asked, embarrassed to be caught daydreaming in front of his new employee.
“I was just telling Emilie, that soon you would be going to the mountains to cut your wood as well.”
He looked at Emilie and nodded his head in agreement. “That’s right. I need to be going just as soon as I can get away. Now that you are here, I can go any day soon.”
Emilie put her fork down slowly. “You mean you will be leaving me alone with the children?”
“Well yes! We will need wood for the winter as well!” His tone of voice implied that she should know this simple fact of life. He watched Emilie’s face pale and wondered just what about his proposed trip up to the mountains to cut his wood, shocked her so.