The boy blew hard through his nostrils
the thick-falling cottonwood fluff
dancing too close to his freckled nose.
Shaking loose his jacket
and snatching it up in mid-drop,
he gave it a few swings over his head.
The snowy fluff swirled briefly—
then resumed its casual fall to earth.
A glint of sun off the nearby river blinded him to
the tree-cotton choking the still pool
behind the uprooted cedar at the far shore.
His eyes dropped when he caught sight
of the big white house near that side of the river…
It wouldn’t do to think too hard about that house—
That great big house where he was born
and had lived the first ten years of his life…
--That huge house on the tiny knoll
that became an island when the floods of winter
turned the river into an unruly giant
that only his father could navigate without fear…
(His father could ride a log down the wild river
and break apart a stubborn log jam
with nothing but the pole in his hand
—and he--his son!--couldn’t even swim…)
The boy turned his back on the river
and walked up the gravel road
off the main country lane.
A few more steps and he would be home…
if you could call it a home—
nothing more than a shack of a place—
only three rooms with an outhouse in back.
But it wasn’t going to be HIS home much longer.
That thought sent a little thrill through him.
Here he was, not yet eleven
and about to go to work like a man!
--But then, he wasn’t suppose to know that…
By chance he’d heard his Momma and Daddy
talking low in their bed last night
as he lay tucked under a scratchy blanket
curled up tight on the hard, cold floor:
“There’s not a place here for Bobby to sleep!
I’m glad the girls are both married and gone
—otherwise I don’t know where we’d have put them.”
“Be thankful I have a job, Momma.
Maybe I’ve lost my logging company,
and maybe this new job didn’t come in time
to save our place across the river…
but many’s the man that’s without home or job now.”
“Mark my words, Momma,
my working as a CCC camp foreman
is going to feed us all and then some—
that and your gardening, cooking and canning.
I just wish your aunt—bless her stingy heart—
had been a bit more patient at waiting for us
to pay her back that second mortgage.
But I guess she had to do what she had to do…”
“By the by, Momma, I’ve been meaning to tell you—
and I guess I’ll have to tell the boy tomorrow, too—
I was talking to your Pa, and he made us an offer…
Mind, I didn’t really want to do it,
but your Pa was mighty persuasive.
He wants Bobby to come room-and-board
at his old Home Farm, and help him with the milking
and the milk-delivering this summer.”
“I know your Ma will spoil him rotten,
but your Pa will teach Bobby responsibility.
There’d be plenty of room for him in the farm house,
and always food on their table…
and he’d only be five miles away.”
“But he’s my baby, Daddy!
How can I let him go…not yet eleven
and still wet behind the ears?!”
“It’s the only way, Momma—and don’t worry...
I think I can get a little bigger house
moved here from up the river before fall--
I just got to get some money together.
Now, mind you, there’s still not going to be room
for Bobby to sleep in it nights…
but we’ll keep this here shack for him to bunk in.
It’ll all work out, Momma, you’ll see…”
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