Page images
PDF
EPUB

Jackson they had seen, they felt like going back to meet him again; for no mere passing salutation would have sufficed to show their loyalty to the general.

There is no doubt that hordes of Indians have threaded the woods that once covered all the land on which the old homestead now stands. It has been one of the traditions hereabouts that an old Indian, of the Miamis, and not so many years ago at that, used to come back and visit certain families—especially those of hunting proclivities-and stay again for a while among the scenes and hills that he had loved so well.

After the wedding, on January 15, 1822, grandfather took his wife in front of him on horseback, and they thus made their honeymoon together to the cabin; and there, and in the homestead, they lived together for over fifty years. My father, when a lad but eight or ten years old, until the country was opened up, followed, in company with his sister, a blazed trail made by grandfather through a woods three miles to school; and it was a dark and lonesome trip, with the experience, too, of occasionally getting lost, while the reports of panthers traveling westward at the time made the danger seem much greater. Mush and milk was a common diet; and the boys' clothes in grandfather's time used to be homespun, made of wool sheared from his own sheep, which he drove down and washed in the river, four miles away. The fleece was made into rolls at the carding mill down by the river, and then spun into thread by grandmother at the homestead, and finally woven into patterned cloth for them at the fuller's. Grandmother used to spin flax also, and trousers and coats were made of the tow for the boys. All the blankets on the farm were of home manufac

ture, and she knitted their own socks. Grandmother herself would ply the wheel, with its distaff and spindle, and sing the ballad of "Barbara Allen" and the other tunes of long ago. It is not often that an old-time spinning wheel is seen nowadays, at least in operation. The one used by grandmother is still kept at the homestead, as a sort of relic, or reminder, of the days that have gone. Their life seems free and beautiful, as we look at it, in those olden days. I think of Priscilla and John Alden. Yet theirs was but one of numerous other such pioneer experiences out here in the Western wilderness.

The house-like "Clovernook," and not far from it was built of bricks made from clay dug on grandfather's own land, a stone's throw from the site of the building. Oxen turned the great poles and wheels in the mixing. They were large bricks, of the old-fashioned kind; and the foundation walls, too, came from the farm, and the lumber for the woodwork, and the big rough stones that flag the porches' entrances. Grandfather had his own lime kiln, and burnt the stones from the brook for the lime for his mortar. The date of the erection, 1834, was graven on the lintel, above the doorway-not so very ancient, it is true, but still far enough back to leave an atmosphere of romance and old-time ways lingering about the place and curling up in the fragrant wood-smoke from the chimneys. Threads of poetry twine about it with the woodbine which clambers over the walls and waves its sprays across the windows. Within its ivy-mantled sides one may get a glimpse of the older generations and their life, now almost passed away. The old homestead itself seems almost a thing of the past, so linked

are all its associations with the times of sixty years ago. There is an atmosphere of age about it which makes it exceedingly restful in these rushing times of to-day. It is like a cool, mossy spring beside a dusty road.

We can see it, as we approach, by the tops of the spruces, or the big black walnut out by the gate. The place is surrounded with evergreens and maples, and there was a large hemlock at one time near a summerhouse bowered in roses. Two enormous Mayduke sweet cherry-trees formerly grew in the front yard, one with great expanding limbs, like an oak, and with a trunk diameter of close to thirty inches-the wonder, and, in cherry time, the envy, of all who saw it. Myrtle spreads beneath the spruces; two dogwoods, planted years ago, blow masses of white in springtime; petunias and roses paint the walks; hollyhocks border the buildings; nasturtiums nod and sprangle in the rockery; wild flowers and ferns from the woods droop and play in under the cedars; and a bed of red lilies colors the way to the garden. With its broad open

[graphic][merged small]

lawn, 't is a place for archery; a spot, too, for boxwood hedges and a sundial. Croquet, however, has had its innings as the favorite outdoor amusement, and

[graphic][merged small]

many a stiff game of quoits has been pitched across the sward with horseshoes.

Waxwings build their nests amid the cedar boughs that brush the house; a bluebird yearly has its home in the hollow limb of a dead sweet cherry; the little nests of song sparrows are well concealed there among the blackberries; and English sparrows chirp and twitter about the eaves, and long straws from their nests hang from the corners. In the days cardinals and robins and many other beautifully colored birds come whisling and fluting about it; toward nightfall swallows dart and soar above, and bats flutter and girate to and fro, while katydids rasp away in the maples, and the crickets drone out in the fields; and later, in the dusky places, the whip-poor-wills and screech owls cry, while round about whispers the never-ending soughing of the pines and spruces.

Formerly great flocks of wild pigeons used to fly over the farm, sometimes even darkening the sun in their flight-pigeons, pigeons everywhere, as far as the eye could reach. Wild turkeys piped through the woods, and wolves came up back of the barn at night and howled. But these have all gone, and it is a rare thing nowadays to see even a single little flock of a dozen wild pigeons, and the people remember the year when they see them.

Around upon the estate are various orchardsapples, pears, quinces, apricots, peaches, cherries, plums; and many kinds of berries-strawberries (of which, 't was said, so tells old Izaak Walton, that "doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did"), red and black raspberries, blackberries, and, some time past, a patch of dewberries

[graphic][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »