Only three more short chapters until the story of Winter Wheat is over. I hope you are still with me, and that you are still enjoying the story. I must admit I have kind of got a kick out of posting this story every day, it makes me want to do what I had originally intended to do with this story...write a sequel. I'll have to give it some serious thought in the days to come... maybe I could actually write it from scratch here... no that would be too painful for you to read...
Anyway here is the last little bit of Chapter 21 , and on to 22...
They continued their teasing banter, as they investigated the town at leisure. They strolled the streets; purchased candy sticks and comic books for the children at the general store; sampled creamy vanilla ice cream cones at the diner; idled the isles of the hardware store, and swung on the wooden swings in the local playground. They returned to the hotel and ate a dinner of wild duck, served with boiled potatoes, peas and carrots, followed by fresh peaches in cream. When there was absolutely nothing else they could think of doing, they quietly slipped upstairs to their room.
The soft click of the door closing was the only sound to break the sudden silence between them. After months of living under the same roof, suddenly they both felt shy and more than a little bit nervous. Emilie walked to the window, and drew the heavy curtains aside, so she could see down to the street below. She still clutched her purse tightly in one hand and her Beret was still jauntily resting atop her head.
“Emilie?” Karl’s deep voice finally pierced the silence, and the uncertainty she heard there made her love him more.
She placed her purse on the small table in front of the window, and reached to remove her beret and placed it carelessly on top of the purse. She turned to her husband of a few hours, and approached him boldly.
“I want to be your wife, Karl,” her breathless admission clung to the air around them. She reached for the tie at his neck and started tugging at the knot. “Won’t you please make me your wife?”
She should have listened more carefully to Annie’s instruction, Emilie thought to herself as she stood in front of the mirror and hastily French-braided her hair before winding the long rope of braid around and around her head and jabbing three large hairpins in it to hold the coils in place. Had she paid closer attention perhaps the first day of threshing would have gone a much smoother for everyone.
Today was day two, and although she was sure she could do better than yesterday, Emilie worried about the embarrassment that Karl must have experience on her behalf.
One minute she and Karl had been having a quiet breakfast, and the next minute their yard had become a parade of vehicles of every size and description until their yard resembled a small army camp. First to arrive was the caboose. It resembled a thin house on wheels and Karl explained that this was where the workers of the threshing gang would sleep at night. Behind the caboose was eight stook wagons that would hold and transport the grain stooks to the threshing machine. Next came a puffing, snorting steam engine which so resembled a locomotive that Emily wondered if indeed it was one. Karl told her the steam engine was the most important piece of equipment in the whole threshing process. It was the engine that would run the threshing machine so the grain could be separated from its stalk. Without the steam engine, nothing would get done.
The threshing machine was pulled behind the steam engine and both were followed by a huge tank loaded onto a flatbed that held the water needed to run the steam engine.
As Emilie sat in stunned silence, twelve men approached the house and barged into her living room while Karl talked with the crew boss and decided where best to place the caboose and all the machinery - and still she sat as they all left the house and moved off the yard to set up for the start of the upcoming harvest.
What followed was one disastrous event after another, beginning with a lunch that had been grossly inadequate for a crew of hungry men, and ending with an overcooked supper served at eight thirty in the evening, which not only fell short of servings but tasted as appetizing as shoe leather. It had not been her fault that she’d no idea what time the men would be done work for the day so the meal which she would have normally have served at six had sat in the oven for an additional two hours. It had also not been her fault that she had not known that she was supposed to provide washing facilities for the dirt-covered, sweat-soaked men who in all likelihood had not seen a bath tub in weeks. By the time they had finished washing up in her kitchen, her floors looked like a herd of cows had traipsed across them and her kitchen towels were as black as the soil in Karl’s fields.
Her house smelled like the immigrant ship she had come to Canada upon. Instead of the homey aromas of fresh baked bread mixed with fresh outside air from open windows, her house smelled of perspiration and flatus that permeated every nook and cranny of her pristine little home. So it was also not her fault that by the time she was serving the over cooked supper to the strangers who had invaded her home she was more than a little rude if not down right uppity to the men gathered around her kitchen table.
She vowed day two would be different as she lit the coal-oil lamps and set the table for breakfast. It was three thirty in the morning and she had much to do, but she was determined that this day she would do her husband proud.
She set a kettle of water to boil on the stove for rolled oat cereal; fried three pans of new potatoes, four dozen eggs, and two full slabs of bacon; sliced five loaves of bread, filled two platters full of cake, poured two quarts of canned fruit into a bowl and made her largest copper kettle full of hot tea. By five she was serving the twelve strangers, Karl and Charles their breakfasts, and by six when the whistle blew for the workday to begin, she was left with what would be the first of four huge loads of dirty dishes.
At eight o’clock that morning she had already washed all the dishes, woke and fed the children, set the table for dinner, dug, washed and peeled a pail of potatoes, and another of carrots and placed three large roasts of beef into the oven. At nine she made six apple pies; at ten o’clock she baked the pies and mixed two cakes, and by eleven o’clock she was ready once again to serve the men their dinner.
This time when the men approached her house she redirected them to the boiler of hot water waiting on the porch for them, along with strong lye soap and an ample stack of clean rags. She caught Karl’s saucy wink, just before she turned to go back into the house, where she filled the dinner table with potatoes, meat, vegetables, canned fruit, cakes, bread and tea, enough to make sure that no man would leave her table hungry.